What do you need to know about UAS?



For those pilots who haven’t noticed it, there is an emerging trend in aviation that is sure to impact most Americans — whether they know it or not — and most assuredly will impact the general aviation community.

BarnhartThe Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), as it is known in the industry, is a technology developed primarily to support military operations and help keep humans out of harm’s way in the operational theater. Now there is a growing call for this technology to be used at home for similar purposes. Although pilotless aircraft have been around for decades, their use has been restricted primarily to restricted airspace as they served as aerial targets or carried airborne cameras. Now, whether in support of law enforcement, firefighting, or for routine aerial surveillance, these vehicles are being eyed as an efficient way to accomplish many of the same tasks as manned aircraft, while keeping humans away from the dull, dangerous, or dirty missions (the 3 Ds or realms of potential UAS mission suitability), which means they will need to be safely integrated into our National Airspace System (NAS) in the coming months and years. Not limited to aerial use, unmanned vehicles are making their debut in virtually all modes of transportation, including on the ground (Unmanned Ground Vehicles-UGVs), on the water (Unmanned Surface Vessels-USVs), or under the water (Unmanned Underwater Vessels-UUVs) for many of the same reasons.

For many pilots, the obvious concern centers around the anticipated hazards of sharing the skies with “flying robots,” so to speak. It is important to note that the word “unmanned” is really not the best choice to describe how these systems function. There is already a move afoot to a more appropriate term, such as the word “drone,” which is already accepted in much of the English speaking world.

On average, there are more people directly involved in the operation of UAS than are typically involved with almost any general aviation flight.

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Students restoring Stits Skycoupe

Working on the restoration of Stits Skycoupe are (left to right) Leland Spearman, Alex Lemke, Nathan Sandoval, Christian Krause, Al Gester, and Jonathan Lane. Not shown are Kyle Appleberry and Jacob Hilger.

For the past two years, a group of seven high school students has gathered nearly every Saturday at a small hangar on Flabob Airport (RIR) in Riverside, Calif., to work on restoring a 1963 Skycoupe.

Working on the restoration of Stits Skycoupe are (left to right) Leland Spearman, Alex Lemke, Nathan Sandoval, Christian Krause, Al Gester, and Jonathan Lane. Not shown are Kyle Appleberry and Jacob Hilger.

Working on the restoration of Stits Skycoupe are (left to right) Leland Spearman, Alex Lemke, Nathan Sandoval, Christian Krause, Al Gester, and Jonathan Lane. Not shown are Kyle Appleberry and Jacob Hilger.

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RIP: Will 94 UL be DOA?

Here is a thought experiment about the future of avgas.  The conclusion is fairly obvious if you do the numbers: The US consumed somewhere around 135 billion gallons of auto fuel in 2009.  The last annual figures I have are for 2008 at about 138 billion and declining. General aviation consumes less than 300 million gallons of avgas. The last annual figure I have is for 2007 and is declining.

Therefore it appears that avgas represents less than 1/4 of 1% of the gasoline consumed in the US.  It makes you wonder why the refineries even bother, especially when you consider they have to deal with Tetraethyl Lead (TEL) and then distribute the product with special processes so that it doesn’t contaminate the unleaded gasoline infrastructure, which means they certainly don’t distribute it through pipelines, the cheapest transport method.

One other fact that should be kept in mind about avgas:  A number of sources (mainly AOPA) maintain that 30% of the GA fleet has to have 100LL and uses about 70% of the 100LL consumed, while 70% of the GA fleet consumes about 30% of the 100LL — and most of them do not need it — they could be using 91 AKI premium unleaded auto fuel under STCs.  These figures go back to a survey done about 2003.

One should also keep in mind that only about 3% (123 out of 3,658, according to AirNav) of the FBOs in the country sell unleaded auto fuel on an airport and the number is declining. This is a very important statistic affecting the future availability of 94 UL. Ever get the feeling that everything about GA is declining?

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Operation Phenomen takes off to Haiti with John Travolta as pilot


travoltaIn continuing efforts to send aid to Haiti, a late night flight piloted by John Travolta took off from Tampa Jan. 26 carrying 50 doctors and more than 7,000 pounds of medical supplies, according to officials with the Embassy of Haiti and the Greater Washington Haiti Relief Committee. On the return trip, Travolta brought Haitian-Americans home to the United States to reunite them with their families.

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Rotax lifts TBO to 2,000 hours


No one doubts the leading position of Rotax engines among LSAs. Of course, most European producers use the Austrian brand, but so do many U.S. builders, even Van’s Aircraft. However, despite their dominance, some GA pilots have scoffed at the brand, saying it isn’t a “real” aircraft engine partly as it didn’t match the 2,000-hour TBO (Time Between Overhaul) common to American brands like Continental or Lycoming.

Well, that argument has evaporated. Rotax not only upped the TBO on its flagship four-stroke 912 engine, the company even made it retroactive. Those following an optional Service Bulletin issued Dec. 14 can increase the life of the 912 they already own by performing what is essentially a detailed inspection; some older models may require some updates. The change applies to the 80-hp model, the popular 100-hp version and the turbo-charged 914 model.

As the company gained more field experience, it gradually increased the TBO. Given the considerable cost of overhauling, a TBO increase represents a gain in value for all owners. In fact, used airplane prices depend heavily on remaining time before overhaul; the longer the time remaining, the more value in the airplane. Finally, as the long-term supply of 100LL fuel falls increasingly in doubt, the company notes, “The Rotax is designed to burn Premium 91 octane auto fuel with ethanol.”

For more information: Rotax.com.

Conch Republic Air Force makes relief flight to Haiti

(Front Row) Raymond Cabanas, Fred Cabanas (Back Row) Les Weston and Todd Stuart in front of Stuart's Shrike Commander
(Front Row) Raymond Cabanas, Fred Cabanas (Back Row) Les Weston and Todd Stuart in front of Stuart's Shrike Commander

(Front Row) Raymond Cabanas, Fred Cabanas (Back Row) Les Weston and Todd Stuart in front of Stuart's Shrike Commander

The Conch Republic Air Force delivered antibiotics and baby nutritional supplies to Haiti on Saturday, Jan. 23. Pilots Fred Cabanas, Todd Stuart, Les Weston and Raymond Cabanas made the flight from Key West to Haiti, where they were met by representatives from Albert Schweitzer Hospital Haiti. Susan Cabanas and Dr. Mike Whitley coordinated the collection of supplies.

Cabanas, an air show pilot and general of the Conch Republic Air Force, said “We hope these supplies, in the hands of the doctors at Albert Schweitzer Hospital, will save lives and help feed hungry babies.”

“We are just doing our small part to help our neighbors in need following this tragedy,” added Stuart.

Paul dePoo provided use of his Baron and Stuart his Shrike Commander. Other contributors included Steve and Sandi Burns of VP Race Service, Dennis Pharmacy, The Todd A. Stuart Foundation, Dr. Mike Whitley, Bill Murphy of Fairvilla Megastore and Jagermeister. Many donations were also received from the Key West Community.

For more information: ConchRepublicMilitaryForces.com

Avemco lowers renters premiums while increasing coverage

Avemco Insurance Co. has reduced premiums for non-owned single-engine aircraft while doubling the coverage options for aircraft damage liability (ADL) insurance.

“Our expanded ADL limits make Avemco’s non-owned insurance offering the most extensive available in the industry,” said Jim Lauerman, president. “Now pilots who operate GA aircraft they do not own can customize their insurance to fit their specific needs – whether they’re borrowing a friend’s aircraft or renting from a flight school or fixed base operator that dictates certain coverage amounts.”

Non-owned insurance is important to pilots who fly rented or borrowed aircraft since the FBO’s or aircraft owner’s policy most likely won’t protect a renter’s interests, Lauerman said. “Some of the saddest events we see in the training world are pilots who are forced out of aviation after they have had an accident and did not have the insurance to pay the claim,” he said. “These new and lower cost coverages will go a long way to help people avoid this unfortunate fate.”

For more information: Avemco.com

US Aviation installs stainless steel fuel tanks


US Aviation at Denton Municipal Airport (DTO) in Texas has become the first FBO in the USA to select fuel storage tanks with stainless steel liners instead of the traditional epoxy-coated tanks. The use of stainless liners is new to the fuel storage industry, coming with a longer warranty, assuring a safer, unpolluted product, while reducing environmental impact, according to FBO officials.


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Wicks offers Clarity Aloft headsets


Pro_HeadsetClarity Aloft Professional Headsets are now available through Wicks Aircraft Supply for $695.

The secret ingredient in Clarity Aloft Headsets are the patented Comply Canal Tips, according to Wicks officials. Made of the viscoelastic foam, the same material used with hearing aids, the tips of the headsets are designed to be inserted into the outer ear canal where they will expand slowly in response to body temperature. Once the tip complies to the shape of the individual’s outer canal, it will hold its seal while a person talks, laughs or chews, officials note.

Wicks offers the Classic model at $595, in addition to the Professional TSO’d unit.

For more information: WicksAircraft.com or 800-221-9425.