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Alaska pilots aid flood watch Next time you’re telling your non-pilot friends what general aviation does, here’s a service to add to the list: flood-watch prediction in Alaska. Alaska pilots took these pictures with digital cameras as part of the River Watch Program and e-mailed them to the National Weather Service Alaska-Pacific River Forecast Office in Anchorage.

Alaska pilots aid flood watch

Next time you’re telling your non-pilot friends what general aviation does, here’s a service to add to the list: flood-watch prediction in Alaska. Alaska pilots took these pictures with digital cameras as part of the River Watch Program and e-mailed them to the National Weather Service Alaska-Pacific River Forecast Office in Anchorage. The photos were taken during spring break-up of ice on rivers across the state by pilots on a volunteer basis as they flew on routine flights. The River Forecast Office was pleased to receive more than 100 pilot reports this year that helped expand their network of observations.

Synthetic vision in a portable

After a long absence, Honeywell Bendix/King is jumping back into the portable GPS market with an ambitious pair of synthetic vision products the company plans to begin selling at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh.

The “AV8OR” and “Vision” handhelds combine three-dimensional synthetic vision with weather, traffic, and terrain warnings, which have only recently become available in high-end, integrated cockpits that cost tens of thousands of dollars. The new portables also provide “highway in the sky” flight paths for pilots to follow on instrument approaches, instrument approach plates, and airport diagrams.

The AV8OR has a seven-inch (diagonal) color screen and will sell for between $4,500 and $5,000 depending on options. The ruggedized Vision has an 8.4-inch color screen and carries a retail price of $6,900 to $7,900. Both carry internal, backup batteries that last about 4.5 hours.

Like other portables, the AV8OR and Vision aren’t certified as standalone instruments for IFR flight. But they can be used for flight planning and enhanced situational awareness.— Dave Hirschman

Avidyne Envision approved for Cessna twins

Avidyne and Southern Star Avionics of Mobile, Alabama, have received FAA approval to install the Envision integrated flight deck aboard Cessna 400-series piston twins. Aircraft approved under the supplemental type certificate (STC) include the Cessna 401A/B, the 402A/B/C, the 414A, and the 421A/B/C.

As installed on the 414A used to obtain the STC, Envision includes a single EXP5000 primary flight display, an EX5000 multifunction display, and an S-Tec Fifty-Five X autopilot. Options include the TAS600 traffic advisory system, MLB700 broadcast datalink weather, and the TWX670 lightning detection system.

The Envision system is also STC-approved for the Beech King Air 90 and 200, and the Cessna 441 Conquest II.— Paul J. Richfield

By day, a mild-mannered engineer; on weekends, super photographer

Kevin Dobler can be found by day in the structural integrity group of Cessna Aircraft Company, which means he’s around jets a lot. He is a designated engineering representative on the Citation X, Sovereign, and XLS programs, the guy who says whether or not they can fly. Currently he is supporting the Citation X winglet supplemental type certificate and the Citation XLS+ programs. He’s also a flight instructor in the employee flying club.

He is also an instructor in his other job, that of a nationally prominent landscape photographer working for the Digital Landscape Workshop Series. There he joins three other photographers who have shot for dozens of magazines and the Audubon calendar. Dobler is a published wildlife photographer and operates a wildlife fine art business at Like engineering, he has pursued photography since college and was mentored by internationally prominent nature photographer Moose (yes, that’s correct) Peterson.

For now, Dobler shows no signs of quitting his day job and eloping to the photographic art world—good news for Cessna customers.

Aviation in the movies again

A new movie called The FlyBoys is about two kids from different sides of the track who sneak aboard a Beech 18 to check out the cockpit. When some mob-types come on board with guns, the kids are forced to stow away in the luggage compartment. After the airplane takes off with them still on it, the kids are shocked to find that the entire crew has parachuted out, leaving them alone to land the airplane...with a bomb on board.

See the Web site for more information.

Record-breaking chopper does it again

It did it in 2006 and now it has done it again in 2008. A Robinson R44 owned by USA Academy of Aviation near San Diego completed a world record-breaking flight April 8 from California to Georgia and back again.

Instructor Johan Nurmi, a private helicopter pilot, and two students completed the run from Brown Field in San Diego to Savannah/Hilton Head International and back to Brown Field in 70 hours and 19 seconds, including several hours delayed by weather at Hilton Head. The average speed was 59.51 mph. Except for those weather-delay hours, Nurmi stayed awake the entire trip while the other three alternated as pilots or slept in the back two seats.

Nurmi said the record for class E-1c piston-engine rotorcraft has been verified by the National Aeronautic Association. The same helicopter set a national record of less than 89 hours in 2006 flying a route from Los Angeles to Hilton Head.

The pieces are coming together

Bombardier has selected Pratt & Whitney Canada’s PW307B engine to power the new composite Learjet 85 midsize business jet. The PW307B turbofan engine, rated in the 6,000-pound-thrust class, is the newest member of the PW300 family.

The Learjet 85, touted as the next generation for the series, will use Grob Aerospace to build the first four primary and secondary structures for the jet. It features an all-composite structure and will be built to FAR Part 25 standards (airworthiness standards for transport category airplanes).

It offers a standup cabin for eight passengers (eight passengers and two pilots) and a target high-cruise speed of Mach 0.82. With four passengers and two pilots, it will target a 3,000-nautical-mile range. An estimate on range with eight passengers was not disclosed.

Premier II goes higher, farther, faster

In a way the press release sounds like the opening line of the old television show The Six Million Dollar Man. Hawker Beechcraft has launched the Premier II, and compared to the Premier 1A, the new single-pilot jet will go higher (to 45,000 feet), 20 percent farther (1,500 nm with a pilot and four passengers), and faster (465 knots at typical cruise altitudes). The maximum takeoff weight will increase from 12,500 pounds to 13,800 pounds, providing a 900-pound payload with full fuel. The first flight of the aircraft is scheduled for April 2009 with FAA Certification planned for the second quarter of 2010. European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) certification is expected in the fourth quarter of 2010. A spokesman said the company does not yet have a price for the aircraft.

Good news and bad as investor money becomes scarce

You can look at economic news coming from the general aviation industry lately and take it either way, good or bad.

It’s good news that Commander Premier Aircraft has completed its assembly line and is ready to manufacture whole airplanes. But the bad news comes from being unable to find the $5 million or so needed to actually start up production, so the company is now for sale.

It’s bad news that True Flight Aerospace in Valdosta, Georgia, has had some delays in building its manufacturing plant needed to return the Tiger aircraft to production. But it’s good that the investment money is coming from private sources and is not subject to the whims of a shaky economy.

It’s good news that DayJet has proven its business model and achieved 80 percent of its goals in terms of numbers of customers desired at this point for its Eclipse 500-based air taxi service. That shows the idea will work. But economic conditions have made it impossible to find the $40 million needed for the next phase that calls for a rapid buildup in equipment and service. DayJet has had to lay off employees and put much of its fleet under lease agreements to other operators.

Aerion Corporation has 40 deposits of $250,000 each on its $80 million Mach 1.6 business jet that can whisk 12 passengers to their destination before the client has time to say “No.” That’s the good news. It isn’t necessarily bad news that company officials have no manufacturing partner to build it, but if they find one by the end of the year (or by the National Business Aviation Association convention in October?) it will be good news.

de Havilland Beaver flies into a winning sunset as June winner

Brothers Colin and Ghyrn Loveness captured a perfect picture of their de Havilland Beaver flying into the Seattle sunset. While Ghyrn flew the subject airplane, Colin took the winning shot from a Cessna 172. The brothers have been flying since they were kids—both soloed in a J-3 Cub at age 16. Seems aviation is a family affair: Dad used to fly, and mom and sister are both pilots.

Join the contest for a chance at cash prizes and publication in AOPA Pilot. Get inspired! See the 2008 monthly contest winners and click on “2007 winners” to view last year’s grand finale and a slideshow of honorable mentions. This year’s contest runs through September 2, 2008.

This month in aviation history

Compiled by Kathrin Opalewski

August 14, 1958 | First flight of the Gulfstream I twin turboprop.

August 23, 1958 | President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs the Federal Aviation Act creating the FAA.

August 10, 1961 | For the first time the federal government employs armed guards on civilian airplanes.

August 13, 1961 | Standard instrument departure (SID) procedures go into effect at New York International Airport.

August 20, 1963 | The BAC 1-11 flies for the first time.

August 31, 1965 | The world’s largest cargo plane, the Aero Spacelines B-377SG Super Guppy, completes its maiden flight.

August 7, 1967 | The FAA sets equipment and procedural standards allowing general aviation pilots operating properly equipped airplanes to land under Category II weather minimums—a 1,200-foot runway visibility range and a 100-foot decision height.

August 30, 1971 | The FAA requires all occupants on U.S.-registered civil aircraft to fasten their seatbelts during takeoff and landing.

August 22, 1973 | The Learjet 35 completes its first flight.

August 5, 1974 | President Richard M. Nixon signs the Anti-Hijacking Act.

August 5, 1981 | President Ronald Reagan fires 11,359 striking air traffic controllers.

August 23, 1982 | United Parcel Service begins “Next Day Air” package delivery between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

August 28, 1988 | Three Italian air force jets collide during an airshow at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, killing 75 and injuring 346 in the worst airshow disaster to date.

August 17, 1994 | President Bill Clinton signs the General Aviation Revitalization Act.

August 30, 1994 | Lockheed and Martin Marietta merge, creating Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor.

August 1, 1995 | The Department of Transportation announces the availability of a Global Positioning System (GPS) signal specification, defining performance standards for civil aviation use.

August 17, 1996 | To combat the hazard of wake turbulence, FAA implements the new separation standards for aircraft.

August 11, 2003 | Skip Holm, flying the P-51D Dago Red, sets a new closed-course piston-engine speed record of 507 mph.

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