Briefing: January 2019


Fatal Boeing Crash Raises Questions

When a Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 with only 800 hours crashed into the ocean in November, killing all 189 on board, the event raised a lot of questions. It behaved erratically in flight before the crew lost control, and several crews had reported problems with the airplane in the days before. The event was difficult to handle for Boeing, which faced questions about what crews had or had not been told about how to manage the flight-control system. Whether the fault was in the system, or the documentation, or an error by the crew, is yet to be resolved.

Diamond’s Hybrid Airplane Flies

Diamond Aircraft’s new twin-engine hybrid aircraft flew for the first time, from the company’s headquarters in Austria, in November. The project, in development since 2013, is in partnership with Siemens. The reconfigured DA40 uses a standard combustion engine to power two independent electric drive systems, each consisting of a motor, battery and inverter. “A distributed propulsion architecture opens entirely new possibilities for the design of highly efficient planes,” said Frank Anton, executive vice president for Siemens eAircraft, “and we have now proven its technical feasibility.” The hybrid plane has an endurance of up to five hours.

GAMA: All Aircraft Shipments Are Up

In its third-quarter shipment report, released in November, GAMA reported the overall delivery of airplanes and rotorcraft increased in the first nine months of this year compared to the same period in 2017. “This is one of those few times since the great recession that we have seen all segments up in shipment numbers,” said GAMA president Pete Bunce. “I’m optimistic about our industry’s performance in 2019.” The report found piston airplane deliveries increased by 8.3 percent, to 784 units, compared to the same period last year. Despite the rise in deliveries, billings declined overall, reflecting a trend toward smaller, less expensive aircraft in the jet category, including 41 copies of the Cirrus Vision jet.

New FAA Policy Frees Up DPEs

The FAA has issued a notice removing several restrictions identified as major contributors to increasingly long wait times for pilot practical exams. FAA Notice N8900.485 allows designated pilot examiners to conduct up to three tests and an unlimited number of retests per day, and lets flight instructor applicants schedule practical tests directly with an examiner, without first contacting a Flight Standards District Office. The new policy also allows DPEs to conduct tests anywhere in the U.S., and test citizens outside the country, removing the requirement that they operate within the geographic boundaries of their managing FSDOs. These changes resulted from a meeting held last year between FAA and industry representatives to discuss DPE shortages and practical exam delays.

Aireon Goes Live Worldwide

For several years, Aireon has been working to place satellites in orbit around the Earth, to provide true global coverage of all the airspace, and allow operators to track their airplanes everywhere, all the time. In November, the technology went live worldwide. The system uses FlightAware’s intuitive interface and an aircraft’s ADS-B system to provide trackers with flight data—including origin, destination, flight plan and ETA. “We are extremely proud of the partnership we have cultivated with FlightAware,” said Aireon CEO Don Thoma, “and through this partnership, space-based ADS-B is already operational through many airlines and aircraft operators.” Aireon’s partners, such as Nav Canada, the Irish Aviation Authority, Iridium Communications and others, developed the system mainly with airlines in mind. However, properly equipped general aviation aircraft also will have access to the system.


Dornier Seawings has secured funding to develop the amphibious CD2 Seastar Flying Boat, with first flight by mid-2019…Kirk Hawkins stepped down as CEO of Icon Aircraft, but will stay on in a new role…Bombardier achieved FAA approval of its Global 7500 jet…Breaking news in general aviation can be found at


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