Briefing: January 2015


Virgin Galactic Recovers From SpaceShipTwo Loss
The loss of SpaceShipTwo during a test flight in November won’t shut down Virgin Galactic’s space-tourism project, according to CEO Richard Branson. Branson also said he still plans to be aboard the first commercial passenger flight. NTSB staffers said their investigation won’t be complete for about a year, but in the first few days after the accident, they found that the aircraft’s feather mechanism — a rotating tail boom intended to slow the aircraft on descent from high altitudes — was prematurely deployed, and initiated the breakup of the aircraft at about 50,000 feet. Pilot Peter Siebold was injured but survived, and co-pilot Michael Alsbury was killed. A second spaceship is already under construction and is expected to launch in 2015.

Mooney Unveils Two New Designs
Mooney International unveiled two all-new general-aviation designs at the China Airshow, in Zhuhai, in November. Both are diesel-powered composite aircraft. The fixed-gear M10T trainer, powered by Continental’s CD-135 diesel, will provide what Mooney calls a seamless step up to the M20 line. The retractable-gear M10J will get the Continental CD-155 diesel. Both models seat two up front, with an optional single rear seat. Mooney said prices will be competitive, and certification and deliveries are planned for 2017. Mooney was bought by Chinese interests last year and resumed limited production in Kerrville, Texas, after about five years of dormancy.

GA Concerns Continue Over ADS-B Mandate
Aviation groups are warning that the FAA’s inflexible requirement for ADS-B equipage by 2020 could force an exodus from general aviation. In statements issued at an FAA-hosted “call to action summit” in October, both EAA and AOPA said the costs are too high for the minimal benefits to individual aircraft owners. FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker said revoking the mandate is not an option. Meanwhile, Garmin rolled out a new ADS-B box in October that will interface with its Flight Stream onboard data network, satisfying the ADS-B Out requirement. The device is expected to receive FAA AML/STC approvals early this year and will sell for $3,995.

Progress For Certified Electric Airplanes
A Chinese company announced in October it will start production early in 2015 of an all-new line of electric-powered airplanes. The two-seat Rui Xiang RX1E can fly for about 90 minutes on a fully charged battery, at a fuel cost of about $1. Two of the aircraft flew before the crowds at the China Airshow in Zhuhai. “This will be the first electric aircraft to be certified by our civil aviation authority,” Yang Fengtian, of Shenyang Aerospace University, told China Daily. So far no electric-powered aircraft have been certified by the FAA, but at Redbird’s Migration training conference in October, Aero Electric Aircraft Corp.’s George Bye pledged to change that. He said he plans to display a prototype of the two-place Sun Flyer, with up to four hours of endurance, at the 2015 Redbird event. Bye said he hopes the airplane will become the first FAA-certified electric-powered trainer.

First Flying Expo Wraps In Palm Springs
About three dozen aircraft filled one of the main streets of Palm Springs, California, on an October morning as a new aviation show revived a tradition started by AOPA — a Parade of Planes. The Flying Expo featured an exhibit area at the Palm Springs Convention Center, plus a weekend-long program of about 60 forums and speakers and a range of social events. Flying Editor Robert Goyer, ForeFlight CEO Tyson Weihs and OpenAirplane founder Rod Racik opened the weekend with a panel discussion on disruptive technologies. Former SR-71 pilot Brian Shul provided the keynote address. Goyer said the show was a success and will return to Palm Springs in October 2015.

AeroMobil, based in Austria, unveiled version 3.0 of their two-seat flying-car prototype…Fantasy of Flight, in Florida, has re-opened on a limited basis, with one hangar open to the public…Barrington Irving’s Flying Classroom project completed an education-oriented flight around the Pacific Ocean in a Hawker 400XP jet…Breaking news in general aviation can be found at


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