Briefing: March 2013

Pelton And Friends Promote Remanufactured AirplanesAttendance Up At Sebring LSA ShowVirgin Galactic Launch Expected This YearFAA proposes Ban on Personal Electronics For Airline PilotsTerrafugias Flying Car Continues To EvolveNotams


Jack Pelton, former Cessna CEO and interim EAA president, now is leading a new general aviation business consortium that aims to promote and sell remanufactured aircraft. The Aviation Alliance’s first product is called the Excalibur, which combines the fuselage of a Cessna 421 with two Pratt & Whitney PT6A-135A turboprop engines, an all-new interior, and Garmin avionics, for about $2.5 million. “We’ve assembled a who’s-who of aviation leaders and resources on this team to ensure both our mutual success and our customers’ satisfaction,” said Pelton. A prototype of the Excalibur will be flying this summer and deliveries will start later in the year, Pelton said.

Barely into 2013, the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida, launched the season for general aviation shows. Focused on light sport aircraft, the event aims to draw serious buyers looking for a chance to kick the tires and go for a test flight before buying an LSA of their own. Organizers said attendance was better than last year, despite damp and windy weather that kept some airplanes on the ground. The show also offers a chance to check out new products before they’re unveiled at Sun ‘n Fun, with new ADS-B gadgets and a real-time airplane tracker among this year’s introductions. Officials said about 258 LSA aircraft were sold worldwide in 2012.

Pilots at Richard Branson’s Spaceship Company continue testing Burt Rutan designs that will carry paying passengers into space. The company says SpaceShipTwo will achieve its first space flight by the end of this year. This year’s flights will be for testing purposes, and tourist flights will begin in 2014. “The view will be fantastic,” said pilot David Mackay, in an interview with the BBC. “And of course you’ll be able to experience weightlessness.” The tourist spaceship is based on the Rutan design that won the $10 million X Prize, utilizing a rocket-powered vessel that is carried aloft by a twin-fuselage mothership.

The FAA has proposed banning personal electronic devices, tablets, and laptop computers from the cockpit for airline pilots at all times in response to a single incident in 2009 when two pilots overflew their destination while discussing work schedules using a laptop. The FAA didn’t say how it would enforce that rule. The long-standing “sterile cockpit” rule already bans Part 121 pilots from any non-essential distractions or chatter during takeoff and landing and up to 10,000 feet. The new rule would allow the use of the devices in the cockpit only for work-related tasks. Comments are open on the proposal until March 18.

The design of the Terrafugia Transition flying car may require the development of a third prototype. The company has recently been flight-testing and drive-testing its design, and in a January update said it is considering whether to apply what it has learned to modifications on the current vehicle or to start fresh. The engineering team said it is “very pleased with the [current] vehicle’s flying and driving characteristics, [but] there is always room for improvement.” The design must meet federal standards for motor vehicles as well as for light sport aircraft. No date has been set for certification or first deliveries.

A two-seat version of the E-Volo electric-powered VTOL is in the works, the company said … No Spitfires were found at the first dig site in Burma, but searchers vowed to continue work at a second location … The fatal crash of a helicopter in London during morning rush hour, with an experienced pilot at the controls, raised questions about urban-area operations … Aeros, a new variety of rigid airship, has begun “float testing” inside a California hangar … The FAA and other aviation agencies grounded the global fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners pending an investigation into the safety of the jet’s lithium-ion batteries … For the latest in general aviation breaking news, see


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