Briefing: April 2021



Flying car maker Terrafugia laid off most of its staff at its U.S. headquarters and will move to China. The company, which makes a folding-wing vehicle designed to drive to the airport and take off and land on conventional runways, recently received Special Light Sport Aircraft airworthiness certificate from the FAA but is not yet street legal. Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, a large Chinese conglomerate, bought the company from its founders, a group of MIT graduates, in 2017. It laid off almost 100 people at its Woburn, MA. headquarters and did not immediately comment on the company’s future plans. When it got the FAA approval, the company said it planned to have road approval by the end of 2022.


All the world’s major aviation authorities have recertified the Boeing 737 MAX. The European Aviation Safety Agency was the last to sign off on the aircraft. It also accepted all the FAA’s modification requirements without adding any of its own. “Following extensive analysis by EASA, we have determined that the 737 MAX can safely return to service,” said EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky. “This assessment was carried out in full independence of Boeing or the Federal Aviation Administration and without any economic or political pressure; we asked difficult questions until we got answers and pushed for solutions which satisfied our exacting safety requirements.” EASA did its own flight and simulator tests as part of an independent evaluation of the aircraft, which was grounded for almost two years following two crashes that killed a total of 346 people.


The FAA announced it was investigating the “root cause” of a series of spectacular crashes of SpaceX Starship rocket prototypes, infuriating SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. The FAA delayed the launch of SN9 for a failure to file all the launch permit paperwork. Musk called the interference a symptom of a “fundamentally broken regulatory structure.” The agency announced the investigation when the rocket blew up in a failed landing attempt. Musk had said the crash resulted from the combination of a technical issue and procedural error. One of the engines used for the rocket recovery landing failed to ignite. Musk said all three engines should have been lit and only then could one be immediately shut down.


The NTSB says the lone pilot aboard a Citation 560 that crashed in the Oregon mountains had recently failed a type certification training course. Also, the aircraft is not approved for single-pilot operation. The aircraft took off from the Portland area for Boise and there were numerous communications issues between the pilot and ATC. Controllers had to give several course corrections and issue an altitude alert as the aircraft skirted Mt. Hood below the peak. About 20 minutes into the flight, the aircraft climbed to 31,000 feet and then started a slow spiral descent that ended eight minutes later with the aircraft plunging vertically into mountainous terrain on the Warm Springs Reservation.


Bombardier is ending Learjet production but will continue supporting the fleet “well into the future.” The company was building the iconic aircraft in Wichita and had earlier stopped work on new designs amid falling orders. Bombardier has sold most of its manufacturing assets in the last two years after running into financial problems related to its CSeries airliner program. That line was bought by Airbus and has become relatively successful. Bombardier also sold off its regional jet program and Q400 turboprop airliner along with its extensive railroad business. Only its Challenger and Global large business jet lines remain.


New presidential TFRs get GA “gateways” … EAA says it’s still planning a COVID safe AirVenture … United Airlines orders $1 billion worth of eVTOLs … Mahindra invests in Spike supersonic program … See for breaking news in general aviation.


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