Briefing: January 2022


Fuel From Air

Swiss researchers say jet fuel can be made out of thin air but it will take a massively expensive effort to set up the infrastructure. The scientists said they can take water vapor and carbon dioxide from air and crack it into carbon and hydrogen using solar power. The resulting “syngas” can then be turned into a variety of petroleum products, including kerosene. The team says the process is relatively straightforward and the deserts of the world have plenty of room for the massive facilities but they will take a big investment from governments to be built.

Electric Records

Rolls-Royce flew its fully electric “Spirit of Innovation” at what it says is a world record speed of 387.4 mph. The aircraft, based on a Nemesis NXT kit race plane, uses a 400 kW electric propulsion system with what Rolls says is the most power-dense battery made. The aircraft’s first flight was less than two months before the record runs and it was always the company’s intent to set those records. Rolls says it broke three Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FIA) records including top speeds in a 1.86-mile straight run (345.4 mph), a 9.32-mile test course (300 mph), and time to climb to 3000 meters (202 seconds.) FAI still has to verify the records.

Fatal Accidents Down

Flight time was down and so was the overall number of aviation fatalities in 2020. The National Transportation Safety Board says there were 332 people killed in general aviation accidents in 2020 compared to 414 in 2019. Of those fatalities, 21 occurred in Part 135 operations compared to 32 the previous year. But the pandemic-induced reduction in flight activity did not account for all of the decrease in fatalities. The fatality rate also dropped slightly from 1.069 to 1.049 fatal accidents per 100,000 flight hours. Airline flight activity dropped 55 percent in 2020 over 2019 while charter operations dropped 19 percent and private flying decreased 11 percent.

Joby To Certify As Airplane

Joby Aviation says it will put its multirotor aircraft through the existing certification system rather than creating a special category. The company says that will save it time getting the aircraft into commercial service with the goal to “decarbonize and democratize” short hop air travel. “Certifying as a special category means you are starting from scratch across the board,” says Greg Bowles, Joby’s head of government and regulatory affairs. “But at Joby, we had certification, pilot training, and operation in mind from the very beginning. Our aircraft is designed to be flown in today’s system with the ability to adapt to evolve into a future system. From a size, scale and weight perspective, we fit into Part 23. We can glide on the wing, we can take off and land from runways like a conventional airplane, we have airplane-like pilot controls and we’ve designed our aircraft to meet all the performance and structural requirements of an airplane,” he explains.

Impossible Turn Study

EAA has formed a team to study the so-called impossible turn, the attempt to get back on the runway after an engine failure on takeoff. The study will focus on how pilots react to an engine failure on takeoff, stall awareness, recognition and prevention after a loss of power in takeoff attitude. One of the goals is to figure out how to teach pilots how to react to the loss of power taking into consideration aircraft performance and flight profile. “EAA’s action followed a National Transportation Board report that indicates engine failure on takeoff/climb-out was a significant contributor to GA accidents,” the organization said. “The group will study how to incorporate these piloting skills in basic private and sport pilot certification, as well as additional training programs.”


Air Force previews SR-72 “Son of Blackbird” drone … Composite contamination discovered in Boeing 787s … A pilot was killed in the first attempt at night firefighting in a single-engine air tanker … NSTB is establishing a separate process to investigate space accidents … Sun ’n Fu


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