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image: Steve Eggleston, Monterey Herald

A local newspaper in the Silicon Valley has published photos of a test vehicle apparently under development by Zee Aero, a secretive company reportedly financed by Google founder Larry Page, which is working to develop a VTOL design that could be used as a “flying car.” The aircraft, seen in photos published online by the Monterey Herald, appears to be based on a Tecnam fuselage, with an array of small propellers mounted on booms in front of and behind the wing, and a pusher prop mounted beneath the tail. A knowledgeable source who spoke to AVweb today on condition of anonymity confirmed that the aircraft in the photos is Zee Aero's latest model.

Two workers at DK Turbines, which is based at the Hollister (California) Municipal Airport, told the Herald they saw the airplane hovering above the runway during two short flights in recent weeks, at a height of about 25 feet off the ground. According to the Herald, Page has invested more than $100 million in Zee Aero. At its website, the company says it is working on a “revolutionary new form of transportation ... working at the intersection of aerodynamics, advanced manufacturing, and electric propulsion.” A company official did not respond to an email from AVweb seeking more information about the test flights.

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image: EAA

Bob Hoover, whose extraordinary aviation life included flying in World War II, test-flying for the Air Force and performing a unique airshow act demonstrating the laws of aerodynamics with a twin Shrike Commander, died this morning at age 94. Hoover was widely regarded as "the greatest stick-and-rudder man who ever lived,” as Jimmy Doolittle described him. During his long career, he won a long list of awards and honors, including the National Aeronautic Association's Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy, the Living Legends of Aviation Freedom of Flight Award, the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Trophy, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the French Croix de Guerre and many more.

“We lost a true, one-of-a-kind aviation hero today," said EAA Chairman Jack Pelton. "We all knew of Bob’s incredible aviation career and witnessed his unmatched flying skills. It was Bob Hoover as a person that also made him legendary. He was a true gentleman and unfailingly gracious and generous, as well as a true friend of EAA through the years. We can only hope to use his lifelong example as a pilot and a person as a standard for all of us to achieve.” 

"Bob Hoover has been a source of awe and inspiration," said Ed Bolen, president of NBAA. “He was a national treasure, who was respected and beloved by history’s most significant aviation figures, and the millions who saw his airshow performances or heard him speak ... He was simply the best. Our aviation community has been fortunate to have such an extraordinary person with us for so many decades.”

Mark Baker, president of AOPA, said, "Bob Hoover brought great richness to the aviation experience, and he leaves behind a legacy of heroic caring and sharing with the general aviation community. He will be deeply missed. ... Bob Hoover was so much more than a great pilot. He was a great man and a model for what our community can and should be." 

Other aviation groups expressed similar sentiments throughout the day.

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British Airways isn’t saying much, to the media or to 400 passengers, about why one of its A380s diverted more than 1,000 miles across western Canada Monday night for an unscheduled landing in Vancouver. Part of the mystery is that the story on the cause for the diversion of Flight 286 from San Francisco to Heathrow keeps changing. Adding to the intrigue is that most, if not all, of those whisked to the hospital after the uneventful landing were crew members, who paraded off the plane wearing portable oxygen masks in front of the passengers, who hadn't been told that there was any sort of problem with the air onboard. There were 25 crew on the aircraft and 25 people were taken to the hospital. First reports suggested smoke in the cabin but the emergency seemed to fade as the aircraft made a 90-degree turn over Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (which could have recovered the aircraft, if inconveniently). By Tuesday, BA was saying that an unspecified number of its cabin crew were “unwell” and the diversion was out of an abundance of caution.

The captain initially told passengers they were going to Calgary, which sports a brand-new 16,000-foot runway with a CAT IIIb approach that is intended for big, long-range aircraft, but the pilots apparently didn’t like the weather there (calm, with no precipitation but temperature and dew point matching). So they hopped over the Rockies to Vancouver, which had a 15-knot wind right down the runway and already handles BA A380 flights. The diversion took about two hours and all the people who were taken to the hospital were checked and released. BA staff in Vancouver found hotels and rebooked the passengers, who filtered out on Tuesday morning but criticized the lack of information from the airline.

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Gulfstream has sold its last G450, which will be delivered to a customer early in 2018, the company said recently. The G450 began as the GIV, and evolved into the GIV-SP. All together the company built more than 870 of the airplanes. The jet will be replaced in the company’s line by the all-new G500, now in flight testing. The G500 comes with 19 seats and Gulfstream’s new Symmetry flight deck, featuring sidestick controllers, integrated touchscreens and an enhanced vision system. Five test aircraft have flown more than 1,600 hours, and a simulator already is in use at FlightSafety in Savannah. The company also said it has sold its last G150, which will be delivered in mid-2017.

The company built nearly 120 copies of the midsize G150 since it entered service in 2006. “Our long-range plan calls for us to focus on the super midsize and large-cabin markets,” said Mark Burns, Gulfstream president. “We have an excellent mid-cabin offering in the G280. Since it entered service in late 2012, we have delivered nearly 100 of those aircraft, demonstrating the appeal of incorporating large-cabin-type capabilities into a super midsize aircraft.” Gulfstream will continue to provide support and service for both the G450 and G150 fleets.

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NBAA will host its annual convention and expo next week, Tuesday through Thursday, in Orlando, Florida, with 27,000 visitors expected to attend. The event will feature more than 1,100 indoor exhibits and more than 100 aircraft in two static displays, at Orlando Executive Airport and at the exhibit hall. Dozens of education sessions are scheduled, covering topics of interest to those new to aviation as well as to flight-department veterans. An Innovation Zone will highlight new technologies and ideas, offering a variety of seminars and panel discussions. Industry safety also will be a major topic at this year’s event.

NBAA will sponsor a Single-Pilot Safety Standdown on Monday. The Standdown will feature presentations by experts from the NTSB, training providers and aircraft manufacturers. On Thursday, NBAA will host a National Safety Forum. Both safety events will be webcast live for those unable to attend in person. Other featured speakers during the expo will include David McCullough, author of The Wright Brothers, and political veterans James Carville and Mary Matalin, who will provide their analysis of the upcoming elections. AVweb staff will be on site all week to report on all the latest news from aircraft manufacturers and others in the industry.

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While I genuinely appreciate the job FAA inspectors do, I rarely feel much empathy for them. But imagining what the inspector had to go through to witness the Yellville turkey drop, I'm empathetic to the point of tears. I'm sure you read the story, but if you didn't, here it is. The upshot is that some folks in Yellville, Arkansas, think it's a good idea to drop live turkeys out of Cessnas as part of the holiday festivities leading to Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

Lacking any regulatory authority to do otherwise, since the drop doesn't endanger anyone in the air or on the ground, the FAA had no objections to it. That's the right decision, by the way, because the FAA has no jurisdiction in animal rights, nor would we want it to. Nor does it have any authority over the exercise of criminal stupidity. Again, as citizens in good standing, we're all free to partake in the dumbest things we can possibly think of. And the turkey drop is that, in my estimation.

Without even getting into how this tarnishes the image of people who fly small airplanes, let's consider the larger issue: This is simply cruelty to animals little different than cockfighting, kicking dogs for the fun of it or terrorizing cats. Turkeys aren't accustomed to being heaved out of flying airplanes and they aren't particularly adept flyers either, so the Yellville project managed to kill a couple of them simply through the act of heaving them out the door. Yes, the turkeys will end up on someone's dinner table anyway, but in the commercial poultry business, slaughtering them is far more humane that letting 30 seconds of gravity end a terrified bird's life.

So forget pilots being involved in the act. This is basic decent human behavior. Civilized society demands that we don't torture animals for mere entertainment. So Yellville, how about we let this year's turkey drop be the last. Maybe take up pumpkin chunking instead. 

CORRECTION: Lynn Lunsford contacted me to point out that he is not an inspector, as the blog said, but is an FAA public affairs officer. An inspector was sent to the event but found that the drop represented no hazard. The inspector determined that the drops were occurring where the pilot said they would and found no basis for enforcement. 




Garmin is taking a serious run at GoPro with its new VIRB Ultra 30. In this new AVweb video, Paul Bertorelli explains why the Ultra is an excellent choice for an aviation action camera.


AOPA has been answering questions from aircraft owners about the FAA's new ADS-B rebate program, which offers $500 to those who register online, install the equipment and follow verification procedures to claim the rebate. Rune Duke says AOPA has been clarifying some common issues coming from owners, including how to conduct the required flight test and what to do if there's a problem.

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Picture of the Week

At 500 feet AGL this photo was taken of a Cirrus SR22 flown by Laurence I. Balter Chief Flight Instructor of Maui Flight Academy.


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