Briefing: May 2013

Towers Close As Federal Budget StallsNTSB Issues GA Safety AlertsA New President For CirrusCraig Fuller to Depart AOPACessna 182 Completes Biofuel FlightBoeing Tests Battery Fix, NTSB Scrutinizes TechnologyNotams


With officials in Washington unable to agree on a budget compromise, the stalemate known as the “sequester” resulted in an announcement that 149 contract towers across the country will be closed, starting in April. Although the budget restrictions apply only to this fiscal year, which ends September 30, it’s unclear whether any of the closed towers will be included in the next budget. Some local entities have come forward to fund operations, but many are likely to close through the summer, and perhaps for good. At least a few of the towers are nearly brand-new.

Last year, the National Transportation Safety Board cited general aviation safety as one of its “10 Most Wanted” safety improvements. In March, the board followed through with the publication of five “Safety Alerts” that target the most frequent accident causes. The alerts address risk management, maintenance, flying at night or in reduced visibility, and stalls. One alert reminds mechanics to carefully follow procedures. “We see the same types of accidents over and over again,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman. “What’s especially tragic is that so many of these accidents are entirely preventable.” The alerts are posted online at

Cirrus Aircraft has named a new president, Patrick Waddick, who started with the company in 1988 as an engineering intern. Dale Klapmeier remains in his role as CEO but said he will “hand over day-to-day responsibility of the business to Pat.” Waddick will oversee sales and service, manufacturing and supply chain, product development and administration. Klapmeier will continue to be involved in the jet program and also will spend more of his time developing new markets for Cirrus products.

Craig Fuller, who has been president of AOPA since 2009, has announced he is stepping down. Fuller took over the job from Phil Boyer, who had served for 18 years. Fuller said he will stay on until a replacement is found. In a news release, AOPA said when Fuller took the job, it was for a five-year commitment. He will remain in the post until AOPA completes a search for his successor.

Aviation biofuel experiments took another step forward in March when a crew from the New Jersey-based Paramus Flying Club flew their Cessna 182 with an SMA diesel engine from Smithfield, Rhode Island, to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on a blend of 50 percent biofuel and 50 percent Jet A. The biofuel, made by SkyNRG in the Netherlands, is refined from recycled cooking oil. “This was the first time this fuel has been used in a general aviation diesel engine,” said Ross McCurdy, one of the pilots. After the flight, McCurdy said the engine ran just fine on the biofuel blend.

Boeing’s 787 fleet has been grounded since January after the lithium-ion batteries malfunctioned on two airplanes. In late March the company test-flew a redesigned system that it hopes will meet FAA approval. After two hours of flying, the 787 returned to Paine Field, in Everett, Wash., and landed with no apparent problems, the Associated Press reported. The NTSB has scheduled a forum for a discussion of lithium battery technology and safety for April 11-12.

The U.S. Air Force has chosen Embraer’s entry for a new light-support aircraft (again) and Beechcraft has filed a suit (again)…The Solar Impulse electric-powered aircraft arrived in California and the crew began preparing for a cross-country flight this summer… The Sam LS, a new kit airplane with a retro look, flew for the first time on February 26, near Montreal… Author Richard Bach, known for his aviation stories, has a new book out about a cross-country flight in his seaplane, Travels With Puff… Nineteen tourists died when a hot-air balloon caught fire and crashed near Egypt’s Nile River… Breaking news in general aviation can be found at


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