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Vintage jets have been banned from performing aerobatics over land and all Hawker Hunter fighters have been temporarily grounded in the U.K. following Saturday's crash of a Hunter at the Shoreham Air Show in southern England. The Civil Aviation Authority announced Monday that "high energy" aerobatics will be outlawed for jet warbirds at most airshows and they will be restricted to flypasts until further notice. The CAA is also going to look at the flying plans for all forthcoming shows to do "extra risk assessments" to see if more precautions are necessary. “All air display arrangements, including the pilots and aircraft, must meet rigorous safety requirements," the CAA said in a statement. "Individual display pilots are only granted approval following a thorough test of their abilities.” There was no indication of when the aerobatics ban might be lifted but authorities have been quoted as saying the investigation into the accident will take years. 

Politicians have stepped into the issue with Labour MP Grahame Morris suggesting that airshow acts be allowed over water only while his colleague Graham Stringer, the former chairman of Manchester Airport, said "there should be a serious look at the regulations with a view to tightening them up." The RAF Association, which sponsored the Shoreham show, said everything was by the book at its airshow and all safety precautions were followed. "At Shoreham, we have always taken those safety arrangements very seriously," the association said in a statement. Meanwhile, authorities are now saying the death toll will likely remain at 11 following earlier speculation it might increase as high as 20. Hunter pilot Andy Hill is now in an induced coma as part of his recovery from serious injuries resulting from the crash. His family issued a statement saying they were "devastated and deeply saddened for the loss of life."

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The Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Transportation Department has released three reports that are critical of how the FAA has managed pilot records and the costs and technology for air traffic control, and said it also plans to examine the FAA’s procedures with regard to drones. The OIG found the FAA has made “limited” progress in developing a pilot-records database that was mandated by a 2010 law, and the database probably won’t be fully implemented until 2020. Meanwhile, the OIG said, airlines don’t have access to the records they need when hiring new pilots. The other audits looked at the uneven cost of air traffic control towers and the slow deployment of better tools for use by air traffic controllers.

The control-tower report found that although total air-traffic operations handled by the FAA declined by 19 percent from 2004 to 2013, the agency’s operations budget increased slightly. The audit found that costs vary significantly from one tower to another, and concluded the FAA needs to do a better job of analyzing performance data and develop a plan to bring inefficient operations up to speed. A third report found the FAA hasn’t provided air traffic controllers with the automated tools and training they need to make effective use of performance-based navigation strategies that could enhance efficiency and capacity at busy airports. Those audits all were initiated by requests from Congress, but the OIG said it is now initiating a new audit on its own. The OIG says it will scrutinize the FAA’s procedures for exempting civilian drones from certification requirements, and also will examine its safety oversight process for allowing drone operations in the national airspace.

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A controller who was trying to help a Bonanza pilot in distress directed him to a runway that no longer exists, according to an NTSB preliminary report posted this week. According to the report, the pilot of the Beech C35 Bonanza had taken off from Westhampton Beach, New York, on Sunday, August 16, on an air-taxi flight, and was headed to Morristown, New Jersey, with one passenger on board. He was flying at 6,500 feet, about 8 nm from Farmingdale, New York, when he reported to ATC that he was "having a little bit of a problem" and may need to turn back and land at Farmingdale. The pilot then said he couldn’t make it to FRG, and the controller suggested he try “Bethpage strip,” which was a closed airport but there was a runway there. The pilot searched for the runway but couldn’t find it, and crashed on railroad tracks. The pilot was killed, but the passenger survived. The NTSB said “an examination of the area of the former Bethpage Airport revealed that industrial buildings occupied the former runway surface area.”

The NTSB said several transmissions between the controller and pilot revealed that the pilot was unable to see the runway, while the controller continued to provide heading and distance to the Bethpage runway. The passenger told investigators the flight was in cruise when he heard a loud "pop" sound, with a flicker of light from the engine area, followed by an "oil smell." The engine then began to "sputter" and lose power. The pilot attempted to restart the engine without success. The pilot, age 59, held a commercial pilot certificate and had completed a Part 135.299 check ride on June 18. The main wreckage was found inverted and burned on the railroad tracks for the Long Island Rail Road, about 0.25 nm northwest of the former runway's approach end.

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The last project standing in what was once a crowded field of proposed single-engine personal jets hit a milestone Tuesday that could lead to certification by the end of the year. The FAA granted type inspection authorization (TIA) to Cirrus's Vision SF50 single-engine jet. TIA is the approval for FAA inspectors to start flying the conforming prototypes to validate the test flight data gathered by Cirrus pilots. Assuming the numbers are repeated, type certification will follow. Before the TIA was issued, the FAA analyzed the paperwork and did a physical inspection of one of the prototypes. "The accumulated test hours and results deemed it safe to fly by the FAA and ready for compliance validation, a clear indicator of substantial progress along the Vision SF50’s multi-year march toward first customer delivery," Cirrus said in a news release. Cirrus began production of the jet in April and now has three customer aircraft under construction.

While having FAA inspectors in the air is a big deal for the project, there's another test coming up that is sure to attract a lot of attention. The SF50 will have the largest whole-plane parachute ever installed and the first airborne deployment is scheduled for sometime this fall. The chute itself has already been tested using weights. Because of the aircraft's mid-ship engine design, the parachute is in the aircraft's nose. After a rocket pulls the parachute pack from the nose compartment, about three feet ahead of the cockpit, straps concealed by break-away moldings along the top and flanks of airframe pull free and the suspend the aircraft below the two-stage canopy. AVweb had a look at the Cirrus jet production facilities in April and prepared this video.

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After several years of work by the Recreational Aviation Foundation, an old turf runway has been restored and reopened on North Fox Island, in Lake Michigan. The 3,000-foot runway has displaced thresholds on both ends, and is surrounded by trees up to about 60 feet high. The island, which comprises about 820 acres, is owned by the State of Michigan and is managed for wildlife and game. “This is a spectacular recreational aviation destination that fits right in with the mission of the RAF,” said Brad Frederick, who oversaw the project for RAF and is serving as the airport manager. “Restoration of the airfield, cones, windsock, and mowing equipment have all been done by a group of tireless volunteers.”

Pilots are allowed to camp on the airstrip, with their airplanes, year-round, Frederick said. “Please remember this is a wilderness area with an emphasis on primitive,” he added. You must bring what you need, and leave nothing behind. No wheeled vehicles are allowed on the trails or beaches. He also noted that the island is far out in Lake Michigan, and pilots should anticipate that the conditions can be “wicked.” Cellphones don’t work, and satellite phones are recommended. Pilots should bring life rafts and life jackets. Pilots also should be sure to announce on CTAF, he said, since the tall trees obscure the views from the ground. He asked all pilots to “please treat the island with the greatest respect, and assure that we will be able to renew the lease for the future."


A few months have gone by since the B-29 Superfortress known as “Doc” rolled out of its hangar in Wichita, and the restoration team says the countdown is on for the first flight, which they hope will take place before the end of the year. Before that flight can take place, the FAA must issue an Airworthiness Certificate to Doc’s Friends, the nonprofit group behind the restoration effort. The next step will be to seek approval from the U.S. Air Force to use McConnell Air Force Base for flight testing. The group also is planning to launch a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign to help raise funds for the flight-test program.

Since the rollout, in March, the team has partially fueled the aircraft and checked for leaks — and didn’t find any. The fuel system is being fine-tuned prior to pressurization and first engine start. Turbocharger casings have been installed on all four engines. Work is continuing on the exhaust system and avionics, and the FAA is reviewing the Aircraft Inspection Plan. The project to restore Doc, which was one of a squadron of World War II-era airplanes named after Snow White and the seven dwarfs, has been in the works, off and on, since 1987. Only one other B-29, Fifi, is flying.

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Kitplanes magazine editor Paul Dye is a former NASA flight director, but he's also a passionate homebuilder, currently working on a Dream Tundra.  At AirVenture 2015, he gave us his six top reasons for joining the homebuilt community.


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Daily news comes fast and furious in the aviation world, but some stories deserve a second chance to reach your eyeballs. Below are stories you may have missed recently.

EAA this week announced it will fund a $25,000 innovation prize that aims to encourage the development of new ideas to help reduce the number of loss-of-control accidents in the GA fleet. Sean Elliott, EAA's vice president for advocacy and safety, talks with AVweb's Mary Grady about the rationale behind the prize, the results he is hoping for and how you can participate.


As the world's largest democracy and free market, India may become a fertile place to expand general aviation. And according to S. P. Shukla, head of Mahindra's aerospace division, it's already happening. In this AVweb podcast, Shukla said Mahindra's acquisition of Airvan will allow the company to expand GA both to the personally owned aircraft market and to transportation between large cities and smaller towns.


Electric airplanes have generated a lot of interest for their potential to cut costs and complexity in entry-level GA airplanes. George Bye, CEO of Sun Flyer, says his company has blazed a new path for certification that he believes will enable them to bring to market a two-seat electric trainer with a three-hour flight duration that will sell for about $200,000.  He explains it all to AVweb's Mary Grady.


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The FAA has some serious explaining to do following a tragic accident in Long Island last weekend that killed one person and injured another. As we reported, a Bonanza pilot had engine trouble and the controller vectored him toward a runway at the former Grumman Bethpage airport. Unfortunately, that airport has been closed for some 20 years and the runway hasn’t existed for nearly that long, although pinning down the exact date of its demise has proven difficult. My best guess is 1996. Before forming an opinion on this, I’d recommend you listen to the tape collected by You can hear it here. Scroll to the end of the story.

The controller may come in for some withering criticism but I’m going to step out and disagree with that. First of all, his handling of the flight was timely, helpful and professional. As I’ll mention a little later in this blog, the pilot didn’t clearly declare an emergency, but the controller appears to have handled it as just that, as he is supposed to do. In short order, he transitions into anything-you-want mode for the pilot and I suspect someone was about to get on the landlines to LaGuardia, Westchester and Farmingdale to set things in motion.

Now, about those vectors to a non-existent airport. We won’t know this for a while, but it sure sounded to me like he was vectoring using an icon on the radar video map. So what the hell was that doing there? FAA facilities have people assigned to keeping video maps up-to-date and the FAA does this from its own survey information. Did someone miss the fact that Grumman Bethpage had been plowed up and turned into a Home Depot? We’ll see, but someone in the agency ought to be in the hot seat if that turns out to be the case. This is not a trivial oversight, although it’s unknown if it was a factor in the accident. I asked a controller friend if the New York controller might have been pointing the airplane at where he thought Bethpage was, sans the benefit of an icon. He didn’t think so and neither do I. We’ll see what the investigation reveals. I'm sure the question of whether a controller should know the airport was defunct just because he works in the area will come up. Maybe. But I think that's a reach.

The larger lesson to take away from this right now comes from listening to the tape. Pilots can be notoriously reluctant to declare an emergency and thus they tend toward ambiguous communication. And the accident pilot did exactly that. He first says, “I’m having a little bit of a problem,” then hesitates as though he’s not sure what he wants. Then he says, “I’m going to have to take it down at the closest spot …” To his credit, the controller is already thinking ahead, but listening to the tape, note that the pilot never unambiguously said what he should have said. “I have an engine failure, I am declaring an emergency.” Or, “I need to land immediately.”

Such a declaration with words like that resets the conversation and clears the deck for decisive action aimed at just one thing: saving the people on board. It raises the urgency level with ATC and removes any doubt that the pilot might be just dealing with a minor abnormal, like an alternator light or an open door. Better to declare up front and withdraw it later if you must than blunder through the fog of an uncertain understanding between pilot and controller. And I’m sure I don’t have to write a paragraph explaining why you shouldn’t worry about paperwork and enforcement, so I'll skip that.

Would having plainly declaring an emergency have changed the outcome here? Who can say? But it certainly wouldn’t have made the situation worse. So that’s the immediate takeaway that I hope all of us will remember from listening to that tape. Never, ever be reluctant to declare an emergency if you’ve really, no kidding got one. Or you think you do. The sooner you get into that mindset, the better your chances of survival.

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Elliot Seguin, who works as an engineer at Scaled Composites by day and designs and flies his own racing planes at night, won this year's Spirit of Flight Award, given by the Society of Experimental Test Pilots at EAA AirVenture.  After flying home to Mojave, Sequin talked with AVweb's Mary Grady about what it meant to him to win the award, what he's working on now, and a glimpse of what's coming up on the horizon.

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Pratt & Whitney's venerable PT-6 turbine is one of the marvels of aviation.  But like everything else in aviation, it requires overhaul.  In this engaging video, AVweb's Paul Bertorelli gives us a tour of Continental Motors' United Turbine division, which specializes in the PT-6.

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Jeff Herold has helped to establish a new nonprofit group, the Catalina Island Aviation Foundation, to preserve and promote the island's traditional air show, which is held above the harbor at the tourist mecca of Avalon, 26 miles off the California coast.  Organizing a show on a small, remote island comes with unique challenges, and Herold explains to AVweb's Mary Grady why he thinks it's well worth the effort.

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