After six weeks of digging in Burma, British aviation enthusiast David Cundall suspended his search for the dozens of pristine Spitfires he believes were buried at an airfield by British troops at the end of World War II. His main backer pulled out when officials limited the crew’s operations and the initial efforts failed to turn up any supporting evidence. “The authorities will not give us permission to dig because of the risk of undermining the active runway,” Cundall said, adding that he’s undeterred and has identified other promising sites.
A leaner Beechcraft Corporation has emerged from bankruptcy protection, and spokesman Shawn Vick said the company is ready to launch new products. Vick said the new company has more than $600 million in capital, and he expects 2013 to be “a very good year for this business.” Beechcraft will continue to produce the King Air turboprops, the T-6 and AT-6 military aircraft and the piston-powered Bonanza and Baron models. It ceased production of jet aircraft but will continue to support the fleet.
After months of delay, driven by widespread privacy fears more than safety concerns, the FAA said it will move ahead with plans to establish six test sites for unmanned aerial systems by the end of this year. “We expect to learn how unmanned aircraft systems operate in different environments and how they will impact air traffic operations,” said Administrator Michael Huerta. The goal is to establish procedures that will enable the FAA to safely integrate drones into the National Airspace System. Several states and research universities have expressed eagerness to develop a test site, citing the potential for economic development.
The General Aviation Manufacturers Association report on 2012 shipments was mixed. Deliveries of piston aircraft were down 2 percent compared to 2011. Business jet deliveries were down 3.4 percent. Turboprops increased 10 percent, eking out an overall growth of 0.6 percent for airplanes. Helicopter sales rose 21 percent, reflecting a growing global demand. GAMA said it expects “resurgence” in the next few years for GA aircraft sales as new technologies are certified and reach the market.
Aviation felt the effects early as the March 1 deadline for mandated cuts to the federal budget loomed over the nation. Air shows at military bases in Virginia, Arizona and North Carolina were cancelled even before the deadline. Officials said dozens of Blue Angels appearances could be grounded. Cuts to the FAA budget threaten to delay the implementation of NextGen technologies and to close towers at smaller airports around the country. Reductions in FAA staffing would make it yet more difficult for flight schools and aircraft manufacturers to access services, officials said.
The 7th Annual CAFE Electric Aircraft Symposium, featuring talks by experts in energy, aeronautics, safety and propulsion, is scheduled for April 26-27 in Sonoma, Calif. CAFE president Brien Seeley said, “Great progress in the much-needed domain of energy storage will be presented.” Among the guests are electric aircraft pioneer Randall Fishman and aviation experts from NASA, Pipistrel, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, IBM, and elsewhere. Bertrand Piccard, who leads the Solar Impulse project, hopes weather will permit an appearance of the Solar Impulse aircraft.
Cirrus is hiring workers in Duluth, Minn., to work on its personal jet, targeting market debut in 2015 … LISA Aircraft found financing from China to complete its amphibious Akoya LSA … Aerion is working with NASA to develop its supersonic wing design for a planned business jet … Bombardier, citing technology delays, pushed back first deliveries of the Lear 85 to summer 2014 … Breaking news in general aviation can be found at www.avweb.com.