Briefing: May 2015


New Products Unveiled At Heli-Expo
The first civilian tiltrotor aircraft is now in development and could reach the market by 2017, officials from AgustaWestland announced at Helicopter Association International’s Heli-Expo held in Orlando, Florida, in March. The nine-passenger aircraft will be capable of vertical take-offs and landings, and the engines will then swivel for level flight at speeds up to 250 knots. Airbus Helicopters presented its new clean-sheet medium-class rotorcraft design, the H160, which features the biggest-ever shrouded tail rotor and an all-new “biplane stabilizer” design that the company says will enhance stability. Bell Helicopter also introduced a new model, the 407GXP, an upgrade of its popular 407GX with new Rolls-Royce engines.

NASA At Work On Electric Power For GA
NASA engineers in California are now testing a 31-foot-long airplane wing fitted with 18 small electric motors and propellers, and plan to test the technology on a Tecnam P2006T within the next two years. The project is called LEAPTech, for Leading Edge Asynchronous Propeller Technology. The investigators aim to show that by designing the wing and the engines as an integrated unit, a small airplane can be more efficient and safer. NASA said the project is a key element in its plan to help a significant portion of the aircraft industry transition to electric propulsion within the next decade. Partners in the project include two California companies, Empirical Systems Aerospace (ES Aero) in Pismo Beach, and Joby Aviation, in Santa Cruz.

First Rollout For B-29 “Doc”
A World War II-era B-29 rescued from a California desert more than 15 years ago rolled out of its hangar in Wichita in March, gleaming with four rebuilt engines, ready to advance to the next phase of restoration and start flying. The project has absorbed more than 300,000 hours of volunteer labor and earned support from Wichita’s aviation business community. The nonprofit group Doc’s Friends, said they need to raise about $9 million more to get Doc flying and create a permanent home for the airplane. The airplane was one of a squadron of eight B-29s built in Wichita 70 years ago, and named for Snow White and the seven dwarfs. Only one other B-29, Fifi, is still flying.

Solar Impulse Rounding The World
Solar Impulse, the unique lightweight aircraft powered by solar cells on its wings, is on its way around the world. Swiss adventurers Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg are taking turns flying the aircraft from its launch in Dubai across the Asian continent. One of them will face a five-day solo journey to cross the Pacific to Hawaii. The airplane and crew are spending time at every stop to interact with the local culture and spread their message that clean solar technologies can power the future. After crossing the Pacific, the airplane will stop in Phoenix and New York before the long Atlantic leg. The crew plans to return to Dubai by sometime in July.

Burt Rutan’s Next Airplane
When legendary aircraft designer Burt Rutan retired from the company he founded, Scaled Composites, and left the Mojave desert for the hills and lakes of Idaho a few years ago, it wasn’t too long before dreamed about his next airplane. He is now at work on the SkiGull, a two-seat amphibious airplane designed for leisurely exploration, that could fly for long distances and land safely even in rough seas. Rutan said he hopes to pilot the aircraft on a last “Walter Mitty-like” trip to visit remote areas of the planet. The airplane hasn’t yet flown, but Rutan released some details about it to support a fundraising campaign for a documentary film about the project.

A Germanwings Airbus A320 crashed in a remote mountainous region of southern France, all 150 on board were lost…Gulfstream’s G650 business jet won the Collier Trophy for 2014…Actor Harrison Ford was hurt when he landed on a golf course in Santa Monica after the engine failed in his vintage Ryan P-22 airplane…The World Air Games will be held in Dubai this December…Diamond Aircraft certified the Continental Diesel CD-155 engine for retrofit in its DA42 fleet…A jet engine was built using a 3-D printer in Australia…Breaking news in general aviation can be found at


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