Briefing: June 2018


A Busy, Sunny Sun ‘n Fun

The success of big annual air shows like Sun ‘n Fun depends at least partly on the weather, and this year’s Lakeland, Florida, event lucked out with plenty of sunshine after a wet opening day. Sun ‘n Fun president Lites Leenhouts said this year’s show had higher attendance, more revenue, and increased vendor satisfaction compared to years past. The Thunderbirds, a fan favorite, had to cancel just days before the show after a pilot died during a practice flight. The career fair continues to grow, with interest from both job hunters and companies in search of new hires. Bose introduced a new in-ear pilot headset, Garmin brought upgraded weather and traffic receivers, and the air show welcomed viewers worldwide via a new Internet live stream.

Airline Passenger Dies, First Since 2009

No passenger has died in an airline accident in the U.S. since the Colgan Air crash in 2009 — until this April, when an engine blew apart on a Southwest 737, breaking a window and killing Jennifer Riordan, 43, from New Mexico. The FAA followed up quickly with an Airworthiness Directive calling for enhanced inspections of similar CFM engines, requiring ultrasonic, rather than just visual, inspection of the fan blades. The crew won widespread appreciation for a cool and efficient response to the event, which included a rapid depressurization of the cabin at 32,000 feet. The jet, en route from New York to Dallas, was diverted to Philadelphia and landed safely.

Collier Trophy Goes To Cirrus Jet

The Collier Trophy, widely regarded as among the most prestigious awards in aviation, rarely goes to a contender from general aviation — military and commercial projects dominate. But this year, the judges gave the top honor to Cirrus, for its work bringing the Vision Jet to market. The award recognizes the company for certifying “the world’s first single-engine general aviation personal jet aircraft with a whole-airframe parachute system.” Dale Klapmeier, CEO and co-founder at Cirrus, said the company was “honored and humbled” by the award. The Robert J. Collier Trophy, awarded annually by the National Aeronautic Association, honors the “greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America.”

Electricity In The Air, At Aero

Just a few days after Sun ‘n Fun closed down for the year, the annual Aero aviation trade fair opened at Friedrichshafen, Germany. Electric aircraft were a highlight. Magnus Aircraft, from Hungary, showed its eFusion, powered by a brand-new Siemens hybrid drive, which combines an electric powerplant with a Smart Ecofly diesel engine. The German company Lange Research Aircraft brought its fuel-cell-powered aircraft, still in development, with a goal to support a mission time of up to 40 hours, manned or unmanned. The new aircraft, derived from a glider, is expected to fly for the first time this summer. The show hosted 630 exhibitors from 38 countries.

NASA And Lockheed Martin To Build Supersonic X-Plane

NASA has awarded $247 million to Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works, to build a piloted quiet-supersonic technology demonstrator. The aircraft is designed to deflect the sound waves generated by breaking the sound barrier, with the goal to produce a barely noticeable “thump” for listeners at the surface. NASA hopes the technology will help to pave the way for a resurgence of supersonic civil flight. Peter Coen, manager for the project at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia, said the key element in Lockheed Martin’s design is “a brand-new shape.” The X-Plane will be 94 feet long, and will fly at 1.4 Mach at 51,000 feet, Coen said. Flight testing is expected to begin in 2019.


Volocopter has started serial production of its electric VTOL in Germany…New legislation aims to allow flight-sharing apps…Vietnam-era helicopter crews now have a memorial at Arlington…Two died when a Cessna 150 collided with a Cessna 525 jet on a runway in Indiana…CubCrafters now offers floats for the XCub…reaking news in general aviation can be found at


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