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Amazon is joining the commercial space race and hopes to launch paying passengers into low earth orbit by the end of the decade. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced Tuesday that his company Blue Origin is taking over Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral and renaming it Exploration Park. “Residents of the Space Coast have enjoyed front-row seats to the future for nearly 60 years,” Bezos wrote in a statement on Blue Origin’s website. “Our team’s passion for pioneering is the perfect fit for a community dedicated to forging new frontiers. Please keep watching.”

Bezos said he'll build a production facility at the complex to build and rebuild the reusable boosters that are the core of the new business. "Locating vehicle assembly near our launch site eases the challenge of processing and transporting really big rockets," Bezos said. He said the engine that will power Blue Origin launches, the BE-4, will be used for the United Launch Alliance's Vulcan rocket.

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A recent FAA report about a rapid increase in drone sightings near aircraft may have caused alarm, but according to an analysis by the Academy of Model Aeronautics, few of those sightings represented any threat. In a review of the 764 reports compiled by the FAA, the AMA found that only 27, or 3.5 percent, of the records were “legitimately reported ‘close calls’ and ‘near misses.’” Most of the reports were just “sightings,” the AMA said in a news release on Monday. The AMA analysis also found that all of the actual crashes in the FAA database involved drones operated by the military. No midair collisions were reported.

At its website, the AMA says that “while AMA works closely with the FAA … in promoting model aircraft and consumer drone safety, our report concludes that the FAA could have done a better job of presenting their data in a more factually accurate manner.” The FAA used “misleading language” in its news release, the AMA said, and failed to critically analyze the data in its report. The AMA asked the FAA to do a better job of investigating reports and analyzing its data. “Once you have better analysis,” the agency can better decide on what actions to take, Hanson said, “whether that becomes more educational, legislative, or regulatory.”

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A recent FAA Notam about the reliability of ADS-B and TCAS in the southeastern U.S. that raised many questions among pilots has been rescinded and replaced with updated information, according to EAA and AOPA. The original Notam, issued Sept. 1, said the services would be “unreliable” for the month of September, and offered few details. New Notams issued on Sept. 5, 6, and 9 provide specific information about locations, altitudes, time frames and the equipment affected, EAA said. “The FAA may issue further Notams between now and the beginning of October for similar activity,” according to EAA. “As always, pilots are encouraged to keep apprised of Notams for the areas in which they are flying and take the appropriate precautions if their ADS-B or TCAS systems are affected.”

The September 1 Notam said both ADS-B surveillance and TCAS could be unreliable in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida for the month of September as a result of military exercises in the area. Rune Duke, AOPA director of air traffic and airspace, said that the Notam “was causing considerable alarm for pilots.” He added that “we’re optimistic that, since similar activities held over the past decade have not caused problems for civil aviation, there will be no interference. But pilots should still be extra vigilant and report any anomalies with their ADS-B or TCAS systems to air traffic control.”


In its final report last week on a fatal Gulfstream IV crash, the NTSB asked NBAA to conduct a study of flight-crew compliance with checklist procedures, and NBAA has responded that it “stands ready to deliver.” The NTSB asked NBAA to analyze existing data to check for compliance with manufacturer-required routine flight-control checks before takeoff, and provide the results of this analysis to NBAA members. “NBAA appreciates the NTSB’s diligent investigation of this accident, and its recognition of NBAA’s ability to assess and address the hazards of procedural non-compliance within the business aviation community,” said NBAA President Ed Bolen.

The safety board’s investigation found the crew had made a habit of neglecting the pre-takeoff checklists, and attempted to take off with the gust lock engaged. All seven on board were killed. The safety recommendations also included a request to the International Business Aviation Council to establish standards for verifying that operators are using checklists, including the use of the challenge-verification-response format whenever possible. Also, the board asked the FAA to require that the gust lock system on all existing G-IV airplanes be retrofitted to ensure that the gust lock physically limits the operation of the airplane, so the pilot receives an unmistakable warning at the start of takeoff if the gust lock is engaged.

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Five aviation groups have submitted a letter (PDF) to the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs asking it to amend legislation that would cap benefits for veterans who take flight training. Under the bill, which is similar to one being taken up the House, veterans taking flying training would be limited to about $20,000 in annual benefits, the same as those taking degree programs at private colleges and universities. The bills were introduced in response to reports that some flight schools contracting to the colleges and universities were collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in VA benefit money through their training programs. Helicopter Association International has led the backlash against the new rules and it has been joined by EAA, NBAA, AOPA, GAMA and the National Association of State Aviation in the fight. HAI President Matt Zuccaro said the new rules are discriminatory and hurt veterans.

“This is, first and foremost, about giving veterans what was promised to them when they joined the military,” said Zuccaro. “The legislation will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the aviation industry as well. But our primary focus is on doing what’s right for our vets.” He said rather than imposing a punitive regime on all flight training, the emphasis should be on weeding out the abuse and enforcing the existing rules properly. “Let’s identify the real problem with the program and ensure that the VA gives flight training programs uniform interpretations of the rules, and that ongoing audits are performed to prevent any abuses of the system,” Zuccaro said.


A DeHavilland DHC-3T turbine Otter floatplane with 10 people on board crashed about 6:30 a.m. Tuesday in Iliamna, Alaska, killing three people, according to local reports. All three were out-of-state residents, Alaska officials said. NTSB spokesman Clint Johnson said the Otter crashed shortly after takeoff from East Wind Lake. “They were headed to a fishing site from there," Johnson said, according to the Alaska Dispatch News. "There were guests, there were guides, and there were obviously the crew on board.” Two of the survivors were OK, and five were flown to Anchorage for medical care, according to officials. The airplane belonged to Rainbow King Lodge. The plane crashed in trees, not far from a local airport, according to news reports. The weather at the time was reportedly rainy and overcast.

Iliamna is a small community on the northwest shore of Lake Iliamna, the largest freshwater lake in Alaska, about 200 miles southwest of Anchorage. The area is a popular fly-in fishing destination, with wilderness lodges to accommodate visitors. Myrtle Anelon, a local resident, told KTUU she was awakened early Tuesday by someone knocking on the door, asking for flashlights, as villagers rallied to help the survivors. "We went out and turned all our car lights on, and a few minutes later we could see the light from the plane wing," Anelon said. "You could see the wing straight up in the air from here, this morning. People from all over the lake came and helped.” Another turbine Otter crashed in Alaska in June, killing all nine people on board. That flight was carrying cruise-ship passengers on a sightseeing trip.

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Tecnam is now marketing its new P2010 single-engine in the U.S.  AVweb took a flight in the airplane and prepared this flight report video.


To succeed in flight, ya gotta work the angles. Whether plotting a cross-country route or avoiding the many traps in a medical-certificate application, all angles will become right when you ace this gluten-free quiz.

Click here to take the quiz.

(Includes results of the reader survey about flying fantasy destinations.)

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When the investigators get around to completing their probe of the BA 777 fire and evacuation in Las Vegas last week, the look-see into the engine will be interesting enough. But I think I’m going to be just as interested in what they learn about how the evacuation was handled.

Specifically, what role did the crew play in herding the pax toward the slides in an expeditious and safe evacuation and why in the name of all that is holy did so many of them take their carry-on luggage with them? The photo here—credit to Metro UK—shows several passengers standing on the runway or a taxiway with their roll-aboard luggage. The fellow in the foreground has both a roll-aboard and hand luggage.

To this audience, I don’t need to explain the sheer idiocy of such behavior. You could reasonably argue that maybe they didn’t understand the seriousness of their plight because the airplane is so big. They could see neither smoke nor fire. The fallacy of that reasoning is that if the crew has decided it’s necessary to throw your butt down 30-foot inflatable slides, that’s the internationally recognized symbol that you’re in deep enough doo that you leave the luggage where it is and get off the airplane. Ask questions later. 

According to radio transcripts, 40 seconds elapsed from the time the crew determined it had a fire and called for emergency equipment until the evacuation started. The exact duration of the evacuation hasn’t been reported, but getting the fire under control took a number of minutes. I won't be surprised if it took two minutes for the equipment to roll and arrive. The fact that it did shows why during certification, manufacturers have to demonstrate that the cabin can be evacuated in 90 seconds, using half of the available slides. The accident data has shown that fires can go from minor to unsurvivable in mere seconds by filling the cabin with dense smoke and toxic fumes. As with any enclosed space, aircraft cabins are susceptible to flashovers.

I wonder if the accident probe will show that evacuation to have been a near thing. Seconds can separate survival of everyone from multiple fatalities and it’s sheer lunacy to waste even one of them rooting around in the overhead for luggage and then clogging up the aisle or damaging a slide on the exit with a suitcase. Perhaps it’s too much to expect the uneducated masses to make this distinction, since half of them snooze through the cabin briefing or amuse themselves with a smartphone app.

In aviation, we pride ourselves in remaining calm during the course of an emergency and it’s not just to sound good on the tape. Keeping panic at bay helps focus the mind on the decision-making and rapid execution on which survival turns. Perhaps a different standard should apply to cabin crew. Should they be trained and encouraged to say something like, “Leave your ^%$&*& baggage and get off this airplane now! Move now!” A little more R. Lee Ermey, a little less David Niven. 

I, for one, would vote for that.

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Dianna Stanger's unique L-139 won the prize for best jet in the warbird division this summer at EAA AirVenture, and next week it will be flying at Reno, competing in the National Championship Air Races.  Stanger talks with AVweb's Mary Grady about the airplane and her efforts to introduce more women and girls to aviation.

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Most aerial firefighting aircraft are relics of the 1950s and 1960s, but Canadian air tanker modification company Conair is adapting a 21st century design to firefighting work.  AVweb's Russ Niles got a tour of the Avro RJ85 at Conair's Abbotsford, British Columbia headquarters.

What Everybody Ought to Know About the CGR-30P from Electronics International

Lockheed Martin Flight Services is stepping up UAS awareness with its recently introduced unmanned traffic management (UTM) service.  Aimed at increasing situational awareness when it comes to sharing the airspace with commercial drone operations, UTM includes an evolving set of functions and services — including a simplified and automated UAS NOTAM filing process, online graphics (which show their operating position and altitude) — plus plans for future services in preparation for a growing number of drone operations.  In this podcast, Aviation Consumer editor Larry Anglisano speaks with Lockheed Martin's chief architect Mike Glasgow about UTM and what it means for pilots and UAS operators.

The David Clark Ball Cap Is Back! Purchase a DC PRO-X Online and Get Yours Today

Premier Aircraft, a well-known Florida aircraft sales and modification house, is offering a diesel 172 with a diesel conversion. AVweb took a test flight in it recently and prepared this video report.

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