Bibb County Airport (0A8) in Centreville, Alabama, is a “total loss,” according to the city’s mayor, after a tornado destroyed aircraft and structures. The tornado touched down and roared through the county Thursday afternoon. According to AirNav, there are 10 aircraft based at 0A8, which has a 4,200-foot runway and sees about 68 operations per week. Video shows extensive damage to multiple aircraft, including several homebuilts, some of which were blown out of their hangars and into the woods.
EAA’s Boeing B-17 Aluminum Overcast’s 2021 air tour was interrupted after the four-engine Flying Fortress apparently struck a bird on its way to the first stop at Lawrenceville, Georgia. The minor damage wasn’t discovered until after landing. EAA headquarters mechanics and volunteers from Chapter 690 worked to patch the leading edge skin between the engines on the right wing and get the World War II aircraft back in the air.
A series of fatal accidents involving Part 91 revenue-producing flights prompted the NTSB to recommend a clamp-down. Balloon rides, helicopter tours, warbird “living history” flights, parachute drops, cost-share trips, and other operations came under scrutiny after 47 people died in accidents involving such flights over the past several years. Recommendations include tighter rules on pilot training, maintenance, and increased FAA oversight.
The FAA has updated the sample questions from its written tests for private, instrument, commercial, flight instructor and airline transport pilots. To be in effect beginning March 29, the updates include tests for airplanes, rotorcraft and gliders. They’re part of a long-term revamp of the written tests that began in 2011, and the agency said a more comprehensive update is scheduled for June 28. There’s further information here on the FAA website.
Textron Aviation has announced it has begun planning for the 2022 Special Olympics Airlift, supporting the Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, Florida. Textron hopes that owners and operators of up to 400 turbine-powered Textron aircraft will volunteer for “Dove” flights to transport athletes and coaches from around the country to compete in the games. The airlift has been a GA tradition since the first volunteer effort in 1986.
With the 2021 edition of the Sun ’n Fun Aerospace Expo just a few weeks away, exhibitors are planning scaled-back participation and organizers are reiterating Covid-related precautions. Textron Aviation will have a largely “virtual” presence, for example, while Piper and Tecnam Aircraft will have reduced show teams on the ground at Lakeland Linder Airport in Lakeland, Florida. Attendance will be capped at 30,000 attendees per day and masks and social distancing will be required for indoor activities.
NASA’s Mars helicopter Ingenuity is expected to make its first test flight on the red planet on April 8, and it will be carrying a small piece of fabric from the Wright Brothers’ Flyer that made the first controlled powered flight in December 1903. Ingenuity is to make the first powered, controlled flight on another planet, tentatively in early April.
Piper Aircraft CEO Simon Caldecott will retire April 2 after leading the manufacturer’s management team for the past 10 years. Under his stewardship, deliveries increased from 136 aircraft in 2011 to a high of 290 in 2019, with last year’s Covid-challenged sales still pretty good at 244. Piper says it has been working with its board of directors on a succession plan and “will be announcing the new leadership structure soon.”
Not surprisingly, with all of aviation hobbled by the pandemic, there were fewer air accidents in 2020, but the accident rate increased for airlines, though airline accidents are so uncommon that accident rates are based on very small numbers. In its 2020 Safety Report, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) revealed an accident rate of 1.71 per million flights last year, compared with a five year average rate of 1.38. Airline flight operations were down 53 percent overall in 2020, according to IATA.
Bell Textron has greened up its Bell Training Academy, switching to sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) for its 20 training and demonstrator helicopters. The changeover is part of the company’s commitment to “support the aviation industry in its objective to achieve carbon neutral growth and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 50 percent by 2050.”