The first FAA-approved commercial drones launched on September 12 from a ship in the Chukchi Sea, off the North coast of Alaska. The ScanEagle unmanned aircraft system weighs just 44 pounds and has a 10-foot wingspan. It will conduct surveys of ice and marine mammals in the vicinity of drilling rigs. The UAS will be allowed to fly 24 hours a day at heights up to 2,000 feet and out of the line of sight of operators on the ground. The U.S. Air Force also said in September it has successfully flown the first of its mothballed F-16 fleet as a drone, which will be used for target practice.
Textron, the parent company of Cessna and Bell Helicopters, said in September it has developed a new military twin-jet tactical aircraft in a joint venture with AirLand Enterprises. The Scorpion jet is designed to be “a versatile Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR)/Strike aircraft platform,” Textron said. The project launched in January 2012 with the goal to produce “the world’s most affordable tactical jet aircraft capable of performing lower-threat battlefield and homeland security missions.” Industry analysts were quick to question the need for such an aircraft and its lack of launch customers, but Textron says: “We believe Scorpion will fill a critical price and performance gap in the tactical military aircraft market.”
Bombardier launched its C Series flight-test vehicle on its first flight September 16, in Montreal. The all-new narrow-body jet, in the works for five years, is designed to carry up to 149 passengers. The company aims to compete with Boeing and Airbus by offering superior economic performance, but so far sales are not keeping up with the company’s projections. The company said it was hopeful the first flight would inspire more buyers to commit. First flight was expected by the end of last year, but Bombardier cited supplier problems and software issues for the delays.
When Icon walked away from EAA AirVenture this summer with a 250-pound weight exemption from the FAA for its A5 amphibious light sport aircraft, based on the safety advantage of its spin-resistant design, ears perked up around the industry. But in September, the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association recommended that LSA manufacturers think long and hard before they apply to the FAA for a weight exemption. LAMA said the FAA is not interested in granting exemptions for standard safety features such as parachutes, since those should be included in the weight allowance. Spin resistance is a different matter because it was not considered an option when the LSA rule was created; but fully documented test results will be required.
Over the summer, the issue of federal budget cuts and their aviation impact seemed to quiet down, as contract towers mostly stayed open, the furloughs of air traffic controllers were put on hold, and most air shows soldiered on despite the loss of military jet teams. But with fall — and the dawn of a new federal fiscal year on October 1 — the same issues are expected to rise again, and perhaps with fewer options. The crunch is reviving interest in privatizing ATC, as has been done in other countries and to flight service facilities in the U.S. “I don’t have the answers, but I do know the current system is broken,” said Paul Rinaldi, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.
An offer to sell avgas for $1 a gallon at Redbird Skyport in Texas for October drew intense interest from across the region…Jonathan Trappe’s attempt to be the first to fly a cluster-balloon system across the Atlantic ended 12 hours after his Maine launch, with a safe landing in Newfoundland…The first all-new-production Eclipse 550 twinjet debuted at the NBAA Convention in October…The FAA committed $40 million to research in aviation technology at 14 universities around the country…Flight tests began for the 266-foot-long cargo airship Aeros, in California…Breaking news in general aviation can be found at www.avweb.com.