A controversial airworthiness directive that affects certain Superior Air Parts cylinders took effect April 25 despite widespread opposition from the maintenance industry and the manufacturer. The AD grounds any aircraft with Continental 550, 520 and 470 engines with SAP cylinders that have been in the engine for more than 12 calendar years. Beyond that, the AD sets specific inspection and replacement requirements for aircraft with the cylinders, with little wiggle room if any signs of cylinder cracking are present. Superior asked the FAA for changes that would ease the impact on its customers but the agency declined. The FAA estimates the total cost of the AD will be more than $14 million for the affected engines.
Not unexpectedly, Textron found redundancies in merging the staffs at Beech Aircraft and Cessna, and announced 750 job cuts in April. Textron, the parent company of Cessna, Bell Helicopter and Lycoming, bought Beech out of bankruptcy in March. Beech and Cessna will remain distinct brands, the company said, and the new company will provide service and support for the Hawker jet line. Both Beech and Cessna are based in Wichita, Kans.
The first autonomous combat drone for carrier operations, Northrop Grumman’s X-47B, won the 2013 Collier Trophy, the National Aeronautic Association announced in April. The stealthy drone first flew in 2011 and spent much of 2013 in carrier and runway recovery operations. It will become the ancestor of the Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS), which is scheduled to be deployed by the Navy in 2019. NAA Chairman Walter Boyne called the X-47B a “remarkable accomplishment.” Other nominees included NASA’s Lunar Laser Communications demo team, Pratt & Whitney’s PurePower geared turbofan engine, and the Atlas and Gamera human-powered helicopters.
The show season opened in April with Sun ‘n Fun, in Lakeland, Fla., where a full week of dry, sunny weather helped spike the event’s attendance figures. Glasair debuted new diesel and LSA projects. Making their first visit to the show were Eclipse’s all-new 550 jet and Socata’s TBM 900. Redbird debuted a new helicopter simulator. Just a few days later, Aero Friedrichshafen brought the aviation community to Germany. Piper revealed a diesel Archer project, and Cirrus said its training programs have helped to lower accident rates in its airplanes.
The FAA said in April it would start a rulemaking project to explore whether to allow private pilots, in certain instances, to use a driver’s license instead of an FAA third-class medical certificate. “The FAA’s announcement that it will begin the rulemaking process is the next important step along a path that we sincerely hope will allow more pilots to fly without the expense and frustration of the medical certification process,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. AOPA and EAA hope the 10-year safety record for LSA will help convince the FAA the medical certification is more trouble than it’s worth.
FAA has delayed for a year the implementation of new rules regarding helicopter operations…The first officer has retired and the captain is back at work after they landed their Southwest flight at the wrong airport in January…FAA says the hardware for its ADS-B system is now installed nationwide, but won’t be fully operational till 2019…The first official UAS test site, in North Dakota, is now up and running…Eight skydivers died in a crash in Finland…Solar Impulse 2, a solar-powered electric aircraft designed to circle the globe, was unveiled in Switzerland…A mysterious delta-wing aircraft has been reported flying above Texas…A California teenager stowed away in the wheel well of a 767 and survived the flight to Hawaii…Breaking news in general aviation can be found at www.avweb.com.