Perlan II Readies For Stratospheric Flight
The Airbus Perlan Mission II team, which aims to fly a pressurized glider to a record altitude of 90,000 feet, has been continuing its flight-test program in Minden, Nevada, and plans to relocate to Argentina this summer. “We have a lot of envelope expansion to do on the way up to the higher altitudes, and there are not a lot of wave episodes each season to get us progressively higher, so it is likely to take more than one season to get [to 90,000 feet],” team leader Einar Enevoldson said. He added that once the team reaches its goal, “we do not intend to declare victory and quit.” They will continue to explore the wave fields that form at high altitudes above Patagonia every winter.
GAMA: Aircraft Shipments Decline
General aviation aircraft shipments declined 3.7 percent in the first quarter of this year, compared to the same period last year, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. Piston aircraft remained relatively steady with 191 shipments for the first quarter of 2016, compared to 193 for the same period in 2015. Turboprops saw a 6.8 percent drop with 109 shipments, and business-jet shipments fell 4.7 percent, to 122 aircraft. Rotorcraft shipments fell 18.9 percent. GAMA said a soft global market is among the factors affecting shipments, while in the U.S., the industry anticipates a boost soon from long-awaited regulatory reforms.
Helicopter Team Sets Safety Goals
The U.S. Helicopter Safety Team, an industry-government partnership that launched in 2013, has set a goal of a 20-percent reduction of fatal civil helicopter accidents by 2019. The team said in April its efforts will focus on improving personal protection, aircraft equipage, pilot judgment, and pilot decision-making. Total helicopter accidents already have decreased by 52 percent compared to 10 years ago. In addition, fatal accidents are down 41 percent and the fatal accident rate is down 60 percent over the same time frame. The team said they also plan to enhance outreach to all helicopter industry areas, with special emphasis on personal/private flying, aerial agricultural application, and emergency medical services.
NTSB Raises Safety Concern Over Part 23 Changes
The general-aviation industry has been lobbying for years for an overhaul of Part 23, to make it easier and faster to certify new airplanes and technology upgrades. The proposed revisions were published by the FAA in April, and among the 61 comments logged online, the NTSB weighed in, noting: “We generally support these proposed changes, but believe that the FAA should clearly define the certification levels and how aircraft risk and performance will be assessed.” The safety board urged the FAA “to maintain the necessary level of safety.” A joint letter from GAMA, EAA, AOPA and the Aircraft Electronics Association implored the FAA to act swiftly to implement the proposal “in as short a timeframe as possible.”
Aero Electric Debuts Battery-Powered Trainer
Aero Electric Aircraft Corp. rolled out its solar-electric Sun Flyer airplane, a two-seat low-wing trainer, at Colorado’s Centennial Airport, in May. The airplane is marketed as a low-cost, environmentally friendly option for flight training. AEA said they will start flight tests soon and work toward FAA certification. The airplane features solar cells on the wings, lithium-ion battery packs, and an emissions-free electric motor that AEA says is quieter than conventional aircraft engines. Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which has the first 20 Sun Flyers on order, said it will reserve five additional airplanes.
An EgyptAir A320 crashed in the Aegean Sea in May en route to Cairo, all 66 on board were lost…A hot-air balloon was damaged by a drone shortly after launch; nobody was hurt…A converted Boeing B747-400, “Spirit of John Muir,” is now the largest operating aerial fire-fighting tanker based in Colorado…The FAA certified Robinson’s two-place R44 Cadet helicopter…Diamond flew its Dart tandem turboprop prototype for the first time…Breaking news in general aviation can be found at AVWeb.