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General-aviation advocates are confident that medical reform will be a reality soon, after the House last night passed an FAA funding bill that includes changes to the medical certification system for pilots. The Senate is expected to okay the bill later this week, and send it to President Obama for final approval. “This is a major step forward and makes us more optimistic that our efforts can finally reach the finish line,” EAA chairman Jack Pelton said in a statement released late last night. “While there are still some steps remaining, this is absolutely the farthest advance for aeromedical reform in a quarter century of efforts.” Provisions in the bill would eliminate the need for recurrent medical exams for most general-aviation pilots.

“The money and time that pilots and the federal government put into the third-class medical process can now be invested in programs and activities that actually make aviation safer,” AOPA President Mark Baker said last night. After the president signs the bill into law, the FAA will have up to one year to develop and issue regulations before the third-class medical provisions become effective. But the 10-year reachback that will allow many pilots to fly without needing another FAA medical exam will take effect when the bill is signed by the president, AOPA said. In addition to medical reforms, the legislation requires the FAA to develop regulations for marking towers between 50 and 200 feet tall.

Clarification: "The 10-year reachback means that as long as you had a medical in the last 10 years, you don't have to get another one," AOPA spokesman Joe Kildea told AVweb on Wednesday morning. "But while the president's signature will be the day that 10-year period is dated from, the rule still doesn't take effect until the FAA has completed its rulemaking, which can take up to a year." 

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Siemens completed the first public flight of its hybrid-electric motor, which is installed in an Extra 330LE aerobatic airplane, last week, from an airfield near Dinslaken, Germany. "The first flight of our propulsion system is a milestone on the road to electrification of aviation," said Siegfried Russwurm, chief technology officer for Siemens. "To continue this journey successfully, we need disruptive ideas and the courage to take risks." Siemens says the success of this design means “hybrid-electric aircraft with four or more seats will now be possible.” The motor also will be the starting point of the development, with Airbus, of a hybrid-electric regional airliner that can carry up to 100 passengers, by 2030, the company said. Aerobatic champion Walter Extra was the pilot for the July 4 flight.

The hybrid-electric Extra 330LE was created in a cooperative effort by Siemens, Extra Aircraft, MT-Propeller and Pipistrel. Germany's Aeronautics Research Program supported development of the motor. AVweb saw the Extra on display at Aero in Friedrichshafen in April; click here for the video report. Also, a longer video of the first flight was posted online today. Prior to last week’s public flight, the airplane had flown for the first time on June 24.

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Thousands of general aviation aircraft owners have yet to upgrade to the ADS-B units the FAA wants everyone to have by 2020, but after EAA AirVenture, there may be a few who find the change a little easier. Avionics maker L-3 Avionics said this week they will give away 36 NGT-2000 units at Oshkosh later this month, holding a drawing every hour, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at their booth at the show. “We’re setting it up now to enable pilots to enter the drawing online,” L-3 spokesman Larry Riddle told AVweb this week. “They’ll also be able to enter at the booth, during the show.” More details will be posted soon on the company’s website and via its Facebook and Twitter accounts, he said.

The Lynx NGT-2000 is a Universal Access Transceiver that is fully compliant with the FAA’s January 1, 2020, mandate for ADS-B Out, according to the company. The unit features an internal rule-compliant position source (WAAS/GPS), and when coupled with a Mode C or S transponder, it can serve as a straightforward option for ADS-B integration. “It’s more than just minimally compliant,” Riddle said. “Pilots can use it to get free weather, and it also can be displayed on a tablet.” Retail price for the unit is $3,495. Installation price, which is not included in the giveaway, will vary.

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Russian balloonist Fedor Konyukhov took off early this morning from western Australia, near Perth, on a quest to fly around the world nonstop and solo. Konyukhov, 64, an artist, author and adventurer, hopes to beat Steve Fossett’s record, set in 2002, of 13.5 days to complete the journey. He’s flying a Roziere-style balloon, which is a hybrid that uses both hot air, heated by propane tanks, and helium to provide lift. If he succeeds, he’ll be only the second person to complete the solo circumnavigation. As of Tuesday morning, he was flying eastward above the Australian continent.

The planned route for the journey will cover more than 20,000 miles, crossing the southern Pacific Ocean to the tip of South America, then crossing the southern Atlantic to South Africa, and finally flying above the Indian Ocean to land in Australia. Konyukhov’s resume includes climbing Mount Everest, sailing around the world, completing the Iditarod dogsled race and rowing solo across the Atlantic. He and his team have been preparing for the flight for about a year. The 180-foot-tall balloon was manufactured in England by Cameron Balloons.

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Heard on a recent flight

ATC: Skymaster 12345 clear to land

12345: I don't know about a "Master" but my instructor thinks Im a pretty good pilot. Clear to land thanks.

Greg Mills


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Now that the summer ditching season is in full swing, it’s time for my periodic public service announcement to remind you about beach landings. The last couple of weeks saw a bumper crop of unplanned water landings, three off beaches and one on a beach near Galveston, Texas. As I’ve said before, I’ve taken it on as my duty to apprise you of the actual risks of landing in the water compared to landing on the beach so if you’re ever confronted with the latter, you won’t put beachgoers at risk because you’re afraid of the water.

We reported on only one of these events. Last week, the pilot of a Cessna 206 in use for skydiving put the airplane on an unoccupied beach off Galveston, Texas, after the engine quit at 3500 feet. No injuries and no damage. Kudos. Evidently, the pilot was satisfied the beach really was clear of people and he chose it for his landing site. Two others occurred in Rhode Island and there was actually a fifth in Idaho, but it was a land-gear-down accident in an amphib and not exactly relevant to this discussion, but not irrelevant, either, as you’ll see.

The pilot of a Bonanza, Alexander Piekarski, 62, had an engine out in the V-tail on June 18 and successfully put the airplane in the water off a Rhode Island beach. State authorities said this: "The pilot made an attempt to head toward the Westerly Airport but as a result of a loss in altitude, he elected to make an emergency landing into the water to avoid people on the beach." No need to say anything other than well done. He suffered a bump on the noggin for his trouble.

In Texas, on July 2, a recent-model Waco YMF-5 biplane appeared to suffer an engine out over Lake Travis and the pilot put it in the water. Many pilots worry about the airplane flipping on touchdown and the Waco did. See the video here. But as is the outcome in the overwhelming number of such cases, the occupants got out anyway, with only minor injuries. The fourth accident also occurred in Rhode Island on July 4 when a banner tow airplane went into Narragansett Bay for unknown reasons. It’s not known if the airplane flipped, but whether it did or it didn’t, the pilot escaped harm and found his way to dry land. In the fifth incident, the aforementioned amphib mishap, the airplane also flipped as is almost always the case with land-gear-down landings on floats. Still, the pilot egressed and survived. Worth noting is that not all amphib flips are so agreeable; they’re very violent and fatals aren’t unusual. But they also aren’t really ditchings.

Like the broken-record nag I have become on this subject, the PSA moment is that all of these occupants survived, further reinforcing the fact that in controlled water landings, the survival rate is more than 90 percent. And that’s true whether the airplane flips, floats, catches a wing of skips like a stone. If you’ll just remember that single fact, you’ll be properly armed if you ever have the misfortune of staring at a crowded beach through a windmilling propeller and you’ll be able to do the right thing without fear. Watch for a rerun of this message next year.

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At Super Bowl 50 in February, the Blue Angels made the briefest of appearances with a fast flyby with smoke. The team shot some terrific cockpit footage and we're featuring it as this week's AVweb featured video.

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Picture of the Week

Jim Hoddenbach & Mike Creek of Elko, NV treat us to a spectacular contrast this week. Click through to see their photo at full size and to enjoy more pics from AVweb readers.

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Perhaps it's cooler in the southern hemisphere, but here at North 41 degrees 17 minutes / West 93 degrees 6 minutes, it's hot enough to fry an egg on the hangar roof, which will be easier to swallow when you ace this quiz. (Includes results of last month's reader survey on favorite airshow performers.)

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DC One-X from David Clark

Heard anything funny, unusual, or downright shocking on the radio lately? If you've been flying any length of time, you're sure to have eavesdropped on a few memorable exchanges. The ones that gave you a chuckle may do the same for your fellow AVweb readers. Share your radio funny with us, and, if we use it in a future "Short Final," we'll send you a sharp-looking AVweb hat to sport around your local airport. No joke.

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