For the second year in a row, the National Transportation Safety Board cited general aviation safety as one of its “10 Most Wanted” improvements. Too many pilots and passengers are “dying due to human error and inadequate training,” the NTSB said. The GA accident rate is six times higher than for Part 135 operations and the GA fatal accident rate has increased 25 percent over 10 years. The board said better training is needed for pilots and maintenance workers. AOPA said the industry has made progress, with fatalities down overall from 596 in 2001 to 444 in 2011.
An argument over airline pilot pay and working conditions continues to play out in the mass media. New rules are expected to take effect next summer requiring first officers to have 1,500 hours, and airline officials say they will be forced to cut back on regional flights for a lack of qualified applicants. Pilot advocates quickly took to the airwaves to respond that there are plenty of qualified pilots who would fill those seats if airline pay, benefits and working conditions would improve. The rule changes stem from the fatal Colgan Air crash in 2009.
FiFi, the B-29 Superfortress operated by the Commemorative Air Force, is the last aircraft of its kind still flying, but it was recently grounded due to an engine problem. According to the CAF, parts needed for the repair could exceed $250,000, which the group hopes to raise in time (www.keepfififlying.org) to get FiFi flying again for next year’s airshow season. Also grounded, perhaps permanently, is Airship Venture’s Zeppelin Eureka, the only airship in the U.S. that offers rides to the public. The company is searching for a flagship sponsor that could save the ship (www.airshipventures.com), but unless one comes forward soon, Eureka will be dismantled and returned to Germany.
Civilian access to airspace continues to be an obstacle for the growth of general aviation in China, but interest in new technology is high nonetheless. At the recent China International Airshow in Zhuhai, Cessna said it will start to build Citation XLS+ business jets in China. The China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Company said it has chosen GE’s new H85 turboprop engine to power a new six-seat single-engine airplane, which will be the first business aircraft manufactured in China. Dassault said it has created a wholly-owned subsidiary in China to create a customer support network there, and CubCrafters said their Top Cub two-seat backcountry airplane is now certified for sales and operations in China.
Plenty of airplanes have folding wings—especially those that land on aircraft carriers—but folding wings for an airliner would be an unusual sight. Boeing’s next big jet, the 777X, might offer that option, according to the Seattle Times. With a long wingspan of up to 233 feet, the folding wings would make it easier to maneuver in the tight spaces around airport jetways. The idea is not a first for Boeing. Folding wings on passenger jets were offered as an option in the past, but there were no takers. The final design for the new jet is still a couple of years away, according to the Times.
Australia recorded its first successful deployment of a Cirrus full-airplane parachute … the FAA says it will miss a deadline to designate six test sites for unmanned aerial systems, citing privacy and safety concerns … a Falcon 20 became the first civilian jet to fly on pure 100 percent unblended biofuel, made in Canada from an oilseed crop engineered to grow in semi-arid environments … a 3-D version of the classic film “Top Gun” may reach theaters early next year … Jonathan Trappe plans to fly across the Atlantic next summer in his unusual aircraft comprising dozens of small helium balloons … The popular SeaRey kit-built LSA amphib will soon be available as a factory-built aircraft … Breaking news in general aviation can be found at www.avweb.com.