AVweb Flash

  • Spirit Airlines has had to cancel or delay 15% of flights in the last month due to a lack of pilots, according to the airline. Cancellations this week thrust the years-long contract negotiation between the ultra-low-cost carrier and the pilots union into the public eye when a small number of angry passengers started a brawl after threatening Spirit employees. The airline asserts the lack of aircrews is due to organized action by pilots to not pick up voluntary overtime assignments. Spirit in a public statement: "We believe this is the result of intimidation tactics by a limited number of our pilots affecting the behavior of the larger group." U.S. labor laws do not permit employees in critical service public functions, such as airline pilots, to go on strike or participate in work slowdowns.
  • Hilton Goldstein, CEO and Chief Architect of Hilton Software, was named the winner of a Gold Stevie Award for Executive of the Year in the Aerospace & Defense category in the 15th Annual American Business Awards earlier this week. Nicknamed the Stevies for the Greek word meaning "crowned," the awards will be presented to winners at a gala ceremony at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York on Tuesday, June 20.
  • The ICON A5 that crashed on Monday morning killing two company employees, including the highly-respected aerodynamics engineer and test pilot Jon Karkow, was seen maneuvering low-level at cruising speeds seconds before the accident. Peter Knudsen, public affairs officer with the NTSB, told AVweb that a witness saw the aircraft flying 30-50 feet above the water.
  • State and local governments continue to struggle with sensible, much less consistent, regulation of unmanned aircraft systems, according to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. Speaking at the AUVSI Xponential 2017 conference in Dallas this week, Huerta said the FAA is has made understanding what state and local governments want and need to regulate drone operations a priority.
  • While drones can't get spatial disorientation and don't have to worry about seeing a runway in low visibility, weather could still be a significant problem for them in the delivery business. That was at least one sentiment expressed at a technical panel on the technology of drone delivery at AUVSI Xponential in Dallas this week. Xponential is the major U.S. drone and vehicle autonomy exposition.
  • The fourth Cessna Citation Longitude jet flew for the first time last Saturday and joined the test fleet, Textron Aviation said this week. The jet has a fully configured interior, which will be used to evaluate fit and finish as well as environmental controls, pressurization and other cabin technologies. The jet took off from the company's Beech Field in east Wichita for a flight of 3 hours and 20 minutes. The aircraft achieved all of its performance targets, the company said, and is on track to be type-certified later this year.
  • In case you haven't noticed, computer chipmaker Intel is big on drones and automation in general because it wants to sell the chips that will power those devices. But according to Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, it's not so much the gadgets themselves that are important, but the data that they'll generate and how it will be used in the future. Speaking at a dazzling opening day keynote presentation at the AUVSI Xponential show in Dallas, Krzanich said that "data is the new oil" and will shape the century ahead.
  • The FAA funding bill passed by Congress and signed by President Trump last week is good news for general aviation, according to analyses of the plan by several GA advocacy groups. "We appreciate the strong support shown by Congress in this omnibus measure for general aviation, especially in the critical areas of safety, certification and the transition to an unleaded avgas," said GAMA President Pete Bunce. He added that the bill also raises "strong concerns about the attempt to remove the U.S. air traffic control system from the FAA," which is in sync with GAMA's view that ATC privatization would be a bad idea.
  • The restored B-29 Doc made its airshow debut on Saturday, in the Defenders of Liberty Airshow at Barksdale Air Force Base, in Louisiana. "What was really special for us, we were able to meet up with a B-52 in flight, over Oklahoma," Josh Wells, spokesman for Doc's Friends, told AVweb this week. "That was majestic. Doc's first assignment, in 1945, was Barksdale, so to come screaming down across the airfield with those bombers, that was special. We got a hero's welcome."
  • While autonomous vehicles of all kinds, but especially cars, seem to be just around the corner, they won't see wide acceptance unless they're perceived to be at least as safe as airplanes. That's the thinking in the budding autonomy industry, according to Chip Downing of Wind River, an Intel subsidiary the specializes in embedded software for automated and other industrial systems.
  • The X-37B, an orbital unmanned spacecraft developed by the U.S. Air Force, has landed safely in Florida after completing its fourth mission, spending nearly two years (718 days) in space, the Air Force said on Sunday. "This mission once again set an on-orbit endurance record and marks the vehicle's first landing in the state of Florida," said Lt. Col. Ron Fehlen, X-37B program manager. Previously, it landed in California. "We are incredibly pleased with the performance of the space vehicle and are excited about the data gathered to support the scientific and space communities."
  • In the world of drones, BLOS--for beyond line of sight--is a Holy Grail of sorts because it can untether unmanned aircraft from ground stations and remote operation, paving the way for true autonomous flight. However, thus far, aircraft manufacturers haven't developed robust detect-and-avoid technology to allow drones to see other aircraft, including other drones.
  • An Icon A5 amphibious light sport aircraft crashed about 9:20 a.m. on Monday along the shore of Lake Berryessa in Napa County, California, local officials have confirmed. Icon employees Jon Karkow, 55, the pilot in command of the aircraft, and Cagri Sever, 41, who was a passenger, both were killed. It's the first fatal crash for the design. Last month, an aircraft was damaged in a hard landing, but the pilot and passenger escaped unharmed. Authorities have reached the wreckage via boat. The FAA and NTSB are investigating.
  • Back before Houston's Hobby airport was given a Class B veil, I had my single engine Beechcraft based there. It was a busy mix of private planes and Southwest Airlines jets. One afternoon, as I was returning to the airport, I was directed to overfly the field and turn final to runway 17. At Hobby, runways 17 and 13 join at the northwest corner, so an aircraft could use either one from the starting point. As I crossed over, I heard the following communications between the control tower and a Piper twin obviously unfamiliar with the airport … Tower: Piper 123, cleared for takeoff runway 17, right turn out approved … The Piper acknowledged the clearance but started toward runway 13 instead … Tower (seeing the mistake): Piper 123, you were cleared to 17, but you are using 13. (brief pause) But, that's okay, continue on 13 … The pause was just long enough for the Piper to make a hard right turn toward 17 before hearing the revised clearance … Tower: Piper 123, okay, now you are using 17. Go ahead and continue … Too late, the Piper swung into a left turn back to 13 … Tower: Ah, Piper 123 now you are back to 13, okay, cleared for takeoff … Again, the confused Piper swung back toward 17 … Tower (in exasperation): Uh sir, Piper 123, pick a runway, either runway and just take off!
  • With drones, as with most things, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. That's a principal finding of a report by the FAA's Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE) which involved 23 universities flinging drones at crash test dummies.
  • Russian pilots have sent a petition to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) alleging Rosaviatsiya, the government agency responsible for crew certification, is canceling the credentials of hundreds of pilots who trained at private schools rather than those run by the government department.
  • China's long-awaited C919 single-aisle airliner flew for the first time on Friday and completed an 80-minute low altitude and low-speed loop around the Yangtze River delta area before landing in Shanghai. The Chinese government, which built the airliner through its wholly-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) issued a statement saying the flight went well and all systems worked.
  • Boeing is looking at offering derivatives of the 737 MAX to replace NATO militaries' fleets of aging and thirsty Boeing 707s, according to a report by Aviation Week. The Boeing 707 was the starting airframe for 140 special observation aircraft still in use around the world (including the E-6, E-3, E-8, RC-135, OC-135, and WC-135). The most produced military variant of the 707, the KC-135 Stratotanker, is being replaced by the Boeing KC-46A, which is derived from the Boeing 767 platform. Many of the Boeing 707 variants entered service in early 1960s.
  • The SolarStratos prototype electric aircraft made its maiden voyage Friday morning with test pilot Damian Hischier at the controls. Rapahel Domjan, the project's founder, hopes the 81-foot wide, 1,000-pound plane will ultimately climb as high as 75,000 feet with pilots wearing pressurized space suits.
  • On Thursday, the Senate Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security grilled United Airlines President Scott Kirby and Chicago Department of Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans about the dismal state of commercial air travel generally--at least for economy class passengers--and in specific the incident on April 9 in which Dr. David Dao refused to be bumped from his United flight and was forcibly removed by Chicago Department of Aviation security personnel.

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