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Just the Facts Aviation News Roundup For The Week of October 19, 2020

Validity of LAX jetpack sightings questioned, an owl rides shotgun, safety continues to improve and a cool new model from Tecnam gets approval.


It was a busy week in aviation news, as a number of big stories, including ones involving the return to service of the Boeing 737 Max, a big study on airborne COVID-19 transmission and the release of great news on GA safety, along with that aforementioned badass owl, and much, much  more.

 Several aviation news outlets reported on a theory originally reported by Plane & Pilot that the jet packs seen by airliners near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) were in actuality flying model aircraft made to look like jetpack flyers. The theory was also reiterated by Jetpack president David Maymen.

The risk of contracting COVID-19 on a commercial airliner might be far lower than previously believed. This is according to a study conducted by the United States Department of Defense. The flying tests used a mannequin with a built-in coughing simulator to track the spread of the faux virus particles in a full airliner. United Airlines provided the aircraft for the extensive testing effort. It hailed the report as a game changer on attitudes about commercial flying.

General aviation safety continues to improve, with record-low fatal and accident rates in the most recent years available, 2016 and 2017. This according to AOPA’s Air Safety Foundation Nall report card on aviation safety. The organization also announced that it would improve the report, creating from its extensive data an ongoing trend analysis with a 30-day update cycle.

Tecnam earned EASA certification for its P-2010 TDI diesel-powered four-seat plane. The 170 hp all-purpose high-wing model will burn about 7 gph at high cruise, about a 30% reduction in fuel burn behind its Continental CD-170 turbodiesel engine.

The United States military retired the twin-engine Super Cobra attack helicopter earlier this week. The helicopter, used in several conflicts, was based originally on the UH-1 Huey and the single-engine Cobra, which was developed in the mid-1960s. Bell built more than 1,200 Super Cobras.

A 3-D printed Blackhawk? Kind of. The United States Army in concert with Wichita State University has begun creating 3D printing files for every part in the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, an effort that could become common for older aircraft, especially orphaned ones, whose parts are not necessarily in production.

The European Union’s aviation authority EASA has cleared the Boeing 737 Max to fly in EU airspace. It also wants Boeing to add a third, independent angle-of-attack sensor but has stated that even without it, the plane meets its safety criteria. Boeing is still working with the FAA on finalizing certification of the plane. Shortly after it was launched, it was involved in two catastrophic accidents linked to its MCAS stability augmentation system, which was certificated amidst a program that Congressional investigators found was error filled.

An owl flew into the open door of a UH-1 firefighting helicopter and hung out there for several minutes. This was while the pilot, Dan Alpiner, made fire retardant drops over the Creek Fire in California. The owl left on its own, apparently after determining that Alpiner was as much of a badass flyer as it was.


Redbird Flight Simulations concluded its virtual two-day flight training symposium. The first-ever remote gathering (a phrase that only makes sense in 2020) featured several keynotes, seminars, more than a dozen breakout sessions and more.

A Cirrus SR22 pilot made a chute deployment in Central California farmland. The three people aboard survived without injuries, but that didn’t stop the chute-pull event from being a lightning rod for the ongoing online controversy of when it’s appropriate to pull the chute or not.


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