Today's Upbeat Aviation Report

By James Fallows

After several crash-and-peril mentions a few days ago:

1) The HP-24 Sailplane.

Sailplane.jpg


The story is here. A reader explains:
This guy has been working in his garage for 11 years on a new domestic sailplane. It's an amazing story, a decade of blog posts of a guy trying to revive soaring with his bare hands. Kits are $32K.
I am a powered-flight guy, rather than a glider pilot -- in flying, that's like saying that you really haven't mastered the fine points -- but I really admire the saga documented through 11 years of blog posts. A fascinating account.

2) An automatic landing system, for planes and pilots in trouble, by Austin Meyer, the creator of the famous flight simulator X-Plane. You can get all the details on his site, but in essence  the system is a flight-directing computer that throughout a flight is constantly constantly recalculating the best, safest path to the nearest airport, so as to be ready at any instant of trouble to take over and guide the plane there. Still in the "being worked on" stage but worth checking out. Here is an introductory  video:




3) Vision Jet. An announcement from the Cirrus Aircraft company, which I have written about many times over the years, that it has gotten the funding to go ahead with development of its "personal jet," the Vision SF50.

VisionJet.jpg

For background on the jet, see this item from me in 2008 (and in 2009) and this from Lane Wallace in 2010. The first announcement of the go-ahead decision a few days ago, on the company's site, said that the jet would represent a great "Leap Forward" for aviation. I am sorry I did not save a screen shot at the time, because that term suggested the still-imperfect integration of the Duluth, MN.-based Cirrus workforce with the company's current owners, the China Aviation Industry General Aviation company, CAIGA, of Shenzhen, China. (For the record: the story of the CAIGA purchase is part of my new book.) The quick correction is itself a good sign. UPDATE: Actually, I did get a screen shot, as you can see here.

Congrats on all fronts, and thanks to readers EG and SN for the tips.
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Bonus #4: And, one more, about the Shuttle Discovery fly-by that transfixed Washington last week. A reader in Northern Virginia writes:

I saw the flyby from the roof of a 9-floor parking garage in Reston....

While waiting for the appearance, I was struck by how many people were outside on the roofs of office buildings and other parking garages.  That turned out to be the memorable visual image for me of the day; though we did get a nice view of the Shuttle, especially when it caught the sun and sparkled, drawing a collective 'oooohhh' from us on the roof.  But not as cool as views for the people along the Potomac.

Looking through many images taken yesterday, I don't recall any of people standing outside the Capitol.  Was Congress too shy to be seen outside, where they might be accused of slacking, or worse - supporting the Big Government Agency of NASA?  And all that science stuff?  Maybe - more security theater - photography wasn't allowed in that direction.

I think DC can be proud of all the people who did go out, particularly the ones who made sure their children witnessed this.  I hope they will have a space program they can be proud of, someday.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/04/todays-upbeat-aviation-report/256200/