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As a Washington, D.C., court weighs the legality of posting flight sharing offers online, an Arizona Republican has introduced a bill that would compel the FAA to accept services like Flytenow. Flytenow, which hosted a website that allowed pilots to post their planned flights so prospective passengers could come along and pay a share of the expenses, was told by the FAA that their website was illegal. It's legal for passengers in private aircraft to pay an equitable share of the fuel and other expenses on a flight but the FAA said opening that offer to the masses via a website wasn't legal. Flytenow sued the FAA and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has heard both sides of the story and is deliberating. If the Aviation Cost and Expenses Sharing Act gains traction, however, the decision might be moot.

David Schweikert, R-Ariz., introduced the bill a month ago and it's clearly aimed at the FAA's interpretation of the current rules, which say that passengers are allowed to chip in for expenses. The summary of the bill is as follows: "This bill directs the Federal Aviation Administration to issue or revise regulations to ensure that persons who hold a private pilot certificate may communicate with the public in cases where operating expenses of the flight are shared between the pilot and passengers." The FAA contends broadcasting flight availability Uber-style is an abuse of the rule that allows passengers to buy up to half the gas. Flytenow says the FAA needs to keep up with the times. "It's OK for pilots to post a written notice at an airport or a college campus with 10,000 students, but if they post the same message online, the FAA says no. Where do you draw the line?"  Matt Voska of San Francisco, a private pilot and a cofounder of Flytenow, told the LA Times. "What we are doing is permissible."

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The General Aviation Manufacturers Association announced this week that it has created a new "associate membership" category for manufacturers of electric and hybrid propulsion aircraft. The association said it hopes to “better enable the worldwide development, growth, and airworthiness certification of electric and hybrid propulsion technology to benefit the future of general aviation.” GAMA noted that its “core expertise” is working with policymakers and regulatory authorities around the world to bring new products to market. “Our goal with this associate membership is to allow these new technology companies to tap into our resources and expertise,” GAMA President Pete Bunce told AVweb on Tuesday.

"We're very excited about this new emerging technology sector," Bunce said. "The companies working on this now don't qualify for regular membership, because they don't have certified aircraft, or they might not even have products yet." The new membership category will enable them to access GAMA expertise to help with certification and other issues, at a "very low barrier to entry," he said, with lower dues than for regular members. GAMA committees now are working to create all the paperwork needed, and Bunce said they will announce "probably about a dozen or so" associate members early next year.

A number of projects using electric and hybrid propulsion are in the works by manufacturers including Airbus, Pipistrel, and Aero Electric Corp.; and NASA has been funding research to explore the technology’s potential. The GAMA news release states that these new technologies are potentially “very safe, highly reliable, and may dramatically lower the operational costs of flying.”

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The Air Force will pay $1 billion each for the first 21 of its new long-range stealth bombers under a deal announced Tuesday. The Air Force awarded the $55-billion-dollar overall contract to Northrop Grumman, which built the B-2 and is said to be planning a similar-looking aircraft as its replacement. For the first 21 airplanes, Northrop Grumman will be paid $21.4 billion. Lockheed Martin and Boeing put in a joint bid.

Most commentators agree that Northrop Grumman had a leg up in the competition on two fronts. It built the B-2, which the Air Force seems to have been pleased with, and it's a lot smaller than Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Some believe the win for Northrop Grumman was intended to prevent the other two main defense contractors from creating a duopoly. Regardless of the intrigue, Northrop Grumman now has some targets to meet for its breathtakingly expensive airplanes. Still, it's worth noting that the current fleet of about 20 B-2s cost $2 billion each. One B-2 was lost in an accident on Guam in 2008.

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The latest version of Lockheed Martin’s Viper jet, the F-16V, completed its first flight last week, the company said in a news release. The aircraft features a new radar system by Northrop Grumman that Lockheed says “will deliver a quantum leap in capability.” The cockpit also has a new center pedestal display and an upgraded mission computer. “This flight marks a historic milestone in the evolution of the F-16,” said Rod McLean, general manager of the program. “The new F-16V configuration includes numerous enhancements designed to keep the F-16 at the forefront of international security.”

More than 4,550 F-16s have been delivered to date, Lockheed said. The airplane can fly at speeds greater than Mach 2 and has a maximum design load factor of 9 Gs. The new upgrades are available both in new-production airplanes and as retrofits for the existing fleet. AVweb's Glenn Pew took a tour of an F-16 cockpit back in 2009; click here for the video.

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Walmart is now seeking to take part in drone-driven package delivery, joining other high-profile companies such as Google and Amazon. The big-box retail giant this week applied to the FAA for a commercial waiver for drone test flights. It has already begun indoor testing with unmanned aircraft, which does not require FAA approval, and is now ready to move outdoors to further test simulated deliveries and other functions, according to a Bloomberg report. Walmart’s interests with drones include inventory tracking as well as package delivery. “Walmart’s distribution system could become more efficient and consumers could be better served, benefiting the public interest,” the company said in its application. 

Apparently hoping to compete with the likes of Amazon, Walmart hopes to expand its online retail presence with drones and wants to test grocery and home package deliveries using two models of DJI drones from China, according to the Bloomberg report. The FAA has streamlined the case-by-case approval process for commercial use of drones under 55 pounds, but has a backlog of applications -- so it’s unclear when Walmart will get its OK to begin outdoor test flights. More than 3,000 applications have been submitted since May 2014, with about 1,700 approved as of the beginning of the month. Regulations for commercial drones are expected to be finalized in June 2016.

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Now that Avidyne's IFD440 hybrid touch GPS navigator is certified and shipping, the company is putting a sharp focus on the experimental and kit aircraft market. This includes builders with existing Garmin GNS navigators. In this video, Kitplanes magazine contributing editor Larry Anglisano, along with Avidyne's Tom Harper, shows how to transition from an existing GNS430W to a slide-in IFD440, including configuration and setup of the new Bluetooth keyboard.

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AVweb is the world's premier independent aviation news resource, online since 1995. Our reporting, features, and newsletters are brought to you by:

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People who sell things for a living—airplanes, cars, construction equipment, you name it—know that there’s a fine art to convincing a would-be buyer that a used thing is almost always a better value than a new thing. (Car dealers get this because they typically make more margin on used cars than on new.)

Airplane buyers, one might naturally think, should be an easier touch for buying used/refurbed over new. The logic is that people who operate airplanes are necessarily more sophisticated in understanding how they’re built and thus realize that an airframe with, say, 4000 hours, is almost certain to be as structurally sound as a new one. That assumes no significant damage history and reasonable maintenance, which big-ticket airplanes like turboprops and jets are likely to have had. Moreover, the price Delta between new and used in airplanes is now higher than ever.

Although there are other factors driving the new-versus-used decision—tax write-downs come to mind—it turns out that the new-car smell infects high-dollar airplane buyers, too, and they can be just as resistant to price-value entreaties from the most convincing salesperson. This subject came up the other day when I was visiting Nextant Aerospace in Cleveland. I’m sure you’ve read that Nextant has had great success re-engining Beechjet 400As, refurbing the airframes and selling them for half the price of the nearest competitor. Now they’re turning their attention to the King Air C90 series, which I had come out to see and shoot. One of the things they’re doing is replacing the King Air’s PT-6 with the GE H75, which is more efficient. The reman is called the G90XT.

I had a long talk with Nextant’s marketing VP, Jay Heublein, about the equation that flips a maybe new-airplane buyer into a definite refurbed-airplane buyer. I asked if he thought the lower end of the market—specifically piston singles—would respond to such a remanufacturing and marketing initiative. He thinks that it would and if the corporate internal culture supported it, Cessna would be in a commanding position to do this very thing. It has the resources and the facilities, but that’s the easy part. The bigger challenge is retooling the company’s thinking to include both new airplanes and remanufactured ones. If that opportunity hangs out there long enough, someone will capitalize on it.

And, of course, they already are. We’ve reported on AOPA’s Reimagined 152 project and Yingling’s Ascend 172, which came out of the ground at AirVenture last summer. These are small-scale projects thus far, but they could grow. Redbird’s Redhawk is another example and that prompted Heublein, who’s a sales pro from the old school, to observe that diesel conversions probably have a strong future and might be as convincing a sale as Nextant’s King Air and Beechjet 400 projects.

Well, maybe. But when we were going over the numbers, Heublein noted that the Nextant G90XT sells for half the price of an equivalent new aircraft, goes a little faster and climbs higher, carries a little more and is cheaper to operate by dint of longer overhauls. The 172 diesel conversions, on the other hand, are slower, don’t climb as well as the Lycomings, carry less and cost almost twice as much to overhaul as a gasoline engine. In return, they’re cheaper to operate for a buyer willing to run the full life-cycle arithmetic which, surprisingly, many buyers don’t do. In other words, they are entirely different sales propositions and I think I can guess which one is an easier sell.

And that explains, I think, why the diesel sales curve is so shallow and the G90XT won’t be. Both require buyers sophisticated enough to understand the broader economics, but one also requires the buyer to accept less performance in the name of saving money, while the other delivers the same or more performance while saving money. Obviously, this an apples to watermelons comparison in that people on the market for King Airs aren't shopping Skyhawks, too. But the larger point is that in developing this remanufacture market, hitting the sweet spot means picking an airframe where the potential gains of a refurb are undeniable. If Nextant’s numbers prove true on the G90XT, I suspect they’ve done just that. 

Introducing D2 Bravo || More than a Timepiece, Less than a Flight Deck

The Electronics International crew drove down to Arbuckle California to meet up with Pacific Valley Aviation's Darren Miller for two days of filming.  Miller and his crew fly ag planes for a living.  His livelihood depends on speed and dependability, which is why he's chosen to fly with Electronic International's MVP-50T.  The MVP-50T is the engine monitor of choice for both Thrush and Airtractor aircraft. A state-of-the-art digital engine monitor that offers the features pilots need to fly safe and protect their investment, the MVP-50T is a superstar in EI's line-up of products.  Click here to learn more.

Autumn Is in the Air - You Should Be Too || Save Up to $125 on Lightspeed Headsets

The PBS show The Aviators starts its sixth season this week, and producer Anthony Nalli has been at the helm for every episode.  He talks with AVweb's Mary Grady about what makes the show so popular — and what's coming up for this season.

BendixKing || Putting You on Course to Great Value || Save Up to $3,000 When You Upgrade to New Avionics

In this AVweb sponsored video, we take a close look at Dynon's D2 pocket EFIS.

Speed, Precision, Style - The Cessna TTx Becomes You || Textron Pistons
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Picture of the Week

After a long hiatus, "Picture of the Week" is back — and we're kicking things off with a moment of calm green against the backdrop of black clouds, courtesy of Bob Bridges of Ashburn, VA. Click through for more photos from AVweb's readers.

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