Biofuel Powers 182 Flight

Aviation biofuel experiments took another step forward this weekend when a crew from the New Jersey-based Paramus Flying Club flew their Cessna 182 with an SMA diesel engine from Smithfield, R.I., to Kitty Hawk, N.C., on a blend of 50 percent biofuel and 50 percent Jet A. The biofuel, made by SkyNRG in the Netherlands, is refined from recycled cooking oil. "This was the first time this fuel has been used in a general aviation diesel engine," Ross McCurdy, one of the pilots, told AVweb. Before taking off, McCurdy and Chris Howitt, president of the flying club, filled up the 182 on the ramp, and took it for a long run-up and a fast taxi. "If anything, the engine seemed to run better on the biofuel blend," McCurdy said.

Howitt and McCurdy, along with flying club member Jochen Spengler and McCurdy's nine-year-old son Aidan, made the 500-mile trip on Saturday and returned the next day. McCurdy said the engine ran just fine on the biofuel blend. McCurdy, who teaches high-school science in Rhode Island, hopes to take the biofuel airplane on a coast-to-coast flight, perhaps as soon as this summer. His students helped with research and planning of the weekend's flight, he told AVweb, and will also be involved in the next phase. For more of Mary Grady's conversation with McCurdy, click here to listen to the podcast. AVweb Editorial Director Paul Bertorelli flew this diesel 182 in 2010, click here for his video pilot report. For more info and updates about McCurdy's project, go to

Looming Sequester Impacts Remain Uncertain

As all sectors of government scrambled this week to figure out how to operate under the new rules imposed by sequestration, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association said on Tuesday the FAA intends to send furlough notices to all of its employees. "This means that beginning in a month, there will be fewer air traffic controllers in towers and radar rooms helping our national airspace work," NATCA said in a news release. "Consequently, fewer flights will be able to take off and land … Worse, the FAA intends to close many towers." The new federal rules will require $600 million in cuts at the FAA.

Drone Reported In NYC Airspace

A small hovering drone was reported by an Alitalia pilot near New York's John F. Kennedy Airport about 1 p.m. on Monday, officials said on Tuesday. "The FAA is investigating a report ... [the pilot] saw a small, unmanned or remote-controlled aircraft while on final approach to Runway 31 Right," FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown told CNN. The drone came within about 200 feet of the Alitalia airplane, according to the FBI. It was described as black in color with four propellers, and about three feet wide. The sighting was about four to five miles west of the airport at an altitude of about 1,500 feet, the FAA said. That location would put the drone somewhere over Brooklyn, according to CNN. The Alitalia pilot took no evasive action and the aircraft landed safely.

OpenAirplane: More Flying, Less Hassle

Aviation entrepreneur Rod Rakic's idea for OpenAirplane has earned the support of some big names in the aviation industry who believe it could simplify access to aircraft, improve pilot safety, increase profits for flight schools and FBOs, and generally boost the aviation industry -- all by changing how we rent airplanes. OpenAirplane is nearing its public rollout, expected before year-end. If the concept catches on, Rakic believes it won't just put more pilots in the air more often, it will also lower accident rates for a segment of the industry that is notoriously worse than average. And it might just make him rich. Maybe. But Rakic's idea isn't revolutionary or even all that new. His approach might be. And, so far, that's made all the difference.

Airlines Get Airspace Priority For Olympics

Scheduled flights will likely get priority over business aviation if weather or other factors disrupt normal air traffic during the 2012 London Olympics. The Financial Times says government regulators have determined that the country's private air traffic control provider National Air Traffic Services (NATS) already has the flexibility it needs to put airliners ahead of business aircraft without needing an official directive to do so. Officially, NATS operates under a policy of first come, first served, but in unusual circumstances can pick and choose which targets get the limited number of slots. NATS was non-committal on how it would handle those cases, telling the Financial Times only that it would run the airspace "as safely and efficiently as possible."


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