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The Senate today approved a new FAA funding bill that is widely supported by GA advocates. NBAA President Ed Bolen said the new bill provides "a smart, targeted approach to funding the FAA's efforts to modernize what is already the world's safest air-traffic control system." GAMA President Pete Bunce also said he was "extremely pleased" with the bill, which he said will "improve aviation safety, make better use of FAA and industry resources, and bolster manufacturing competitiveness." The bill also includes the Pilot's Bill of Rights 2, which would simplify medical certification for many recreational pilots. The Senate approved the bill by 95 to 3, but it still must be reconciled with the House bill, which proposes to shift control of ATC from the FAA to a not-for-profit corporation. The Senate version did not address the privatization issue.

The Senate bill does support Part 23 certification reform, Bunce said. "Throughout the Congress, there is widespread agreement on the need to advance certification reform, which this bill does," Bunce said. "It is time for the U.S. House of Representatives to also move forward in a bipartisan way to address certification reform, providing general aviation manufacturers, their customers, and the entire aviation community greater certainty moving forward." 

AOPA President Mark Baker said the medical reform provisions in the bill would affect hundreds of thousands of pilots. "Getting these reforms is vital to the entire general aviation community," he said. "Add to that the fact that there are no user fees for general aviation in this bill, and there are provisions to continue research into unleaded fuels and increase grants for improvements to GA airports, and it's all good news for GA." The Senate and House have until July 15, when the FAA's current authorization expires, to work out a compromise bill, which then goes to President Obama for final approval.

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As the Aero shows opens today in Friedrichshafen, Germany, organizers are looking for a smaller show—down about 40 exhibitors—but a busy one. AVweb's preview of the show schedule Tuesday revealed a full day of conferences and announcements, including new product information from Continental Motors, Daher, Jeppesen and Siemens. Aero's Roland Bosch told AVweb Tuesday that one reason for the smaller number of exhibitors is that glider manufacturers display every other year and were last here in 2015. But some companies, and Diamond Aircraft is one, also attend Aero every other year, as they did when the show was held on that schedule.

For the 2016 event, we expect much focus to be on Siemens, whose ambitious programs into electric aircraft will be front and center in the main entrance hall area. Already on display is the HYPSTAIR hybrid drive project, an innovative marriage of a Rotax 914 engine with a powerful Siemens electric motor and generator set. But that's not the only hybrid on display here. A company called Eurosport Aircraft is showing another hybrid project, the Crossover, that also uses a Rotax engine plus batteries to drive a pair of electric motors in a pusher arrangement.

Another intriguing airplane that appears to come from the Siemens skunk works is an Extra 330 fitted with a 260-kW brushless DC motor—that's a little over 350 HP—and a giant battery pack between the conventional firewall and the electric motor. We hope to learn more details about these projects as the week progresses. Stay tuned to AVweb for regular news and video coverage.

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An Air Force investigation (PDF) has determined that intentionally jammed controls led to the loss of a C-130J and the deaths of 14 people in Afghanistan in October. The report says a pilot put the hard-shell case for a set of night vision goggles in front of the yoke to get the elevators up and out of the way to allow the crew to load some tall pieces of cargo. The crew forgot to remove the impromptu fix and the aircraft pitched up sharply on takeoff, stalled and crashed into a guard hut. The report says the pilots "misidentified the ensuing flight control problem" which resulted in "improper recovery techniques." The pilots apparently thought the trim was set incorrectly.

The report says jamming the controls is a "non-standard procedure" so it didn't have any recommendations on how to address the resulting safety issue. However, it did note that the plastic case was hard to see on the night takeoff using night vision goggles. The crash was originally blamed on enemy fire from Afghan insurgents. The crash killed six aircraft crew members, five civilian contractors aboard the plane and three Afghan guards on the ground.

file photo: Wikimedia

The captain of a British Airways Airbus A320 flying into London's Heathrow Airport on Sunday afternoon told authorities he believed the front of the airplane was hit by a drone on approach. The airplane landed safely and it was examined carefully by engineers. It hasn't been reported what damage they found, if any, but they cleared the aircraft to take off on its next scheduled flight. "It is totally unacceptable to fly drones close to airports and anyone flouting the rules can face severe penalties including imprisonment," Britain's Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement after the incident.

Paul Rigby, a spokesman for the drone industry, said such incidents are preventable. "We should have geofencing for consumers that are embedded into the drones," he told the International Business Times. "The burden is definitely on the manufacturers to take responsibility for the capabilities they're introducing." Such features could be turned off for trained commercial users. A recent analysis by Bard College found 188 "close encounters" reported by pilots to the FAA between August 2015 and January 2016. So far no drone-aircraft collisions have been confirmed.

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The Martin Mars water bomber, the largest airplane of its kind and the last in its line, will make its first-ever appearance at EAA AirVenture in July, EAA has announced. The bomber will be based at the EAA Seaplane Base, on Lake Winnebago. With a wingspan of about 200 feet, and measuring 120 feet nose to tail, the massive airplane is one of only six that were built. "There aren't many airplanes that have never been to Oshkosh, but this is one of them," said EAA's Rick Larsen. "Among flying boats, only the legendary Spruce Goose is bigger, but the Martin Mars is the largest ever to be operational on a regular basis."

The Martin Mars was originally built as a long-range U.S. Navy troop and freight transport for use in the Pacific, and first flew in 1942. After the war, the airplanes were converted to water bombers. Each bomber can carry 7,200 gallons of water, enough to cover four acres of land in a single pass. "This is the last flying Mars in the world and the largest warbird ever built," said Wayne Coulson, CEO of Coulson Flying Tankers. "We're very excited to bring the Hawaii Mars to Oshkosh." Until recently, Coulson operated two tankers in Canada fighting fires, but over the last few years he has been seeking new clients or new homes for the airplanes.

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A 1997 Citation X owned by Donald Trump has been flying with an expired FAA registration since Jan. 31, according to a story in today's New York Times. Flying with a lapsed registration — which costs $5 for three years — could be a problem in the case of an accident, and also can subject the owner or operator to FAA fines of up to $250,000 and imprisonment up to three years. If the jet is grounded, however, to sort out the paperwork issue, Trump has backup — three Sikorsky helicopters and a Boeing 757.

Trump was warned by the FAA that the jet's registration was set to expire and was informed by the agency when it lapsed, according to the Times. The X flew as recently as Monday, for a campaign event in advance of the New York primary.

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One reason Aero is my favorite aviation show is that it's more changeable than either Sun 'n Fun or AirVenture. Those shows tend to put the same vendors in the same place every year, often with the same booth counters and display items. Given the effort and expense of mounting a show, I can't really blame companies much for canning their displays in a readily transportable box. Aviation companies tend to be small and a week away from the office takes a toll.

Aero, on the other hand, has more surprises or at least variability. There are always a handful of new things that come out of left field and that we, being U.S.-centric, wouldn't necessarily catch on our radar. This year the set-up day stunner is some of the stuff Siemens is showing. I knew about the HYPSTAIR hybrid project because I covered it in a recent Aviation Consumer article. Look for a video on that later today or tomorrow. Siemens is involved with that and Pipistrel in Slovenia is doing the heavy lifting. I got a good long look at in it on Tuesday and the engineering looks superb. I'd expect nothing less from Pipistrel, while admitting I don't understand how such a small company can do the bench R&D they seem to.

But Siemens has a couple of other projects here, too. One is an Extra 330 equipped with what appears to be a pure electric drive—just batteries and a motor. And what a lot of batteries. They've got a transparent cowling on the airplane and based on what I know about the batteries used in aircraft, I'd guess we're talking maybe as much as 15 kWh of total capacity. I'm not sure if the batteries are high energy density or high power density, but I'd guess the latter. For an aerobatic aircraft, you don't need a lot of endurance, but you want a ton of torque available right now. Energy density and power density are mutually exclusive. Electric motors are great for instant torque, but high energy density batteries are a bit tender about discharging fast enough to take advantage of it. Either way, I suspect moving the throttle to full on Siemens' 260-kW motor (max) ought to be quite the thrill. But don't blink. It probably can't last for more than 15 minutes. More on that later.

There's also a Hungarian airplane called the Magnus eFlight, also sporting a Siemens motor with a max output of 85 kW. It's a low-wing design with side-by-side seating and LSA-type weight limits. In addition to that, yet another hybrid is on display using a Rotax engine and a pair of electric motors in a pusher arrangement. The lead company on that one is called Euro Sport Aircraft. The airframe has a high-aspect-ratio wing that's probably adapted from a sailplane of some sort, but I couldn't place it on my first walk through the halls on Tuesday.

The guys from eVolo are here with their electric Volocopter. It recently flew manned for the first time and I'll be talking to eVolo's Stephan Wolf about that later in the week. In the meantime, I spent a fascinating 15 minutes watching them assemble the aircraft, which was shipped in pieces for the show.

Eclipse is here with a new production airframe and Cirrus has their cabin mockup on display. If you've never taken a close look at the seating arrangement, it's really quite generous for a small airplane. I'll try to make time for a video tour of it later in the week.

In walking these halls, there's always something to cause a double take. A couple of years ago, there was the P-51 LSA knockoff by FK Lightplanes. That project seems to have fizzled; haven't seen anything about in a while. This year, there's a Czech company with a scale knockoff at the L-39 Albatross rendered in carbon fiber. It looks for all the world like the real thing and you can imagine it has a little jet engine inside, too. Nope, it's a ducted fan driven by a piston engine. I don't know the details, but I aim to find out because really, if someone can think of such a thing much less actually build it, that's more than worth my time to report on it. 

Last, as I was grabbing some quick footage of one of these airplanes, I noticed a fast-moving shadow drifting across the frame. Can't be a cloud moving that quickly, I thought. I looked up and it was an airship passing over the glass roof in the entrance hall. Oh yeah. Friedrichshafen. That's what they do here. That's what they've always done here.

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Continental's six-cylinder engines are among the smoothest and most economical aircraft engines in the industry.  Now Vitiatoe Aviation is offering improvements for the Cessna 206/207 series engines that include crossflow induction for even smoother and more economical operation.  Here's an AVweb profile of the company.

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At Sun 'n Fun 2016, Just Aircraft is showing off its new Titan-powered SuperSTOL XL. Harrison Smith took AVweb's Paul Bertorelli for a half-day demo flight in the new airplane, and here's AVweb's video report.

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At Sun 'n Fun 2016, David Clark introduced a new mid-priced headset, the One-X. Here's a video review of the new product with Clark's Mark Gardell.

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

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