Top 20 Aviation Stories of 2014

The year 2014 had dizzying highs and terrible lows, including a tragic mystery that was on everyone's minds for months. On the positive side, we saw the introduction of some spectacular new airplanes, the continued development of exciting new technologies, the beginnings of solutions to some of the most vexing problems facing general aviation and some accomplishments that made us all proud.

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Top 20 Aviation Stories of 2014
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20. Challenger 600 Crashes at Aspen
A year that in many ways was notable for an improving aviation safety picture started off with the horrific crash of a Challenger 600 in early January in Aspen, Colorado. Dramatic video captured the crash and ensuing fireball in which one of the pilots was killed and two other crewmembers seriously injured. The National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into the crash continues, but what we do know is that the Challenger crew was making its second landing attempt in strong tailwinds and reported wind shear, conditions that may have played a role in the accident. The NTSB accident report on the crash is expected to be released sometime next year. Read the full story here. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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19. Airbus Partners with Aerion on Supersonic Jet
The dream of a supersonic business jet took a significant step closer to reality with the announcement that Airbus was joining Aerion on development of the AS2, a Mach 1.6 trijet that would whisk passengers in supreme comfort to their destinations in unmatched time. Still unclear is exactly how Airbus's involvement will benefit Aerion, since no announcement about certification or production has been made. Airbus, rather, is providing engineering support in return for access to Aerion's patented natural laminar flow technology. But at the NBAA Convention in October, Airbus Americas Chairman Allan McArtor told reporters the plan was to see the sleek $100 million jet to "the finish line." Read the full story here. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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18. Pilatus Rolls Out PC-24 Prototype
Pilatus, long known for its robust and utilitarian PC-12, will now put those same characteristics to work in a new design — the company's first ever business jet. The PC-24, unveiled earlier this year, will be a twin-jet unlike any other, thanks to its focus on cabin volume, rough-field landing performance and a variety of other traits that will tailor the jet for rugged missions. Customers have already started placing orders for the $8.9 million airplane, which is expected to make its first flight by the end of next year. Read the full story here. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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17. Four Killed in Crash of King Air into FlightSafety Facility
Tragedy struck the GA community on a late October morning this year when a King Air 200 lost an engine on takeoff from Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport and crashed into FlightSafety's on-airport training building, killing the pilot along with three people on the ground and triggering a fire that wiped out a substantial portion of FlightSafety's sim facilities. Approximately 100 people were inside the building when the airplane crashed into it, and the 50 to 60 firefighters who entered to fight the flames were forced to exit due to the instability of the structure. In the wake of the tragedy, FlightSafety has resumed operations in Wichita with the sims that survived the accident, although whether or not the company will rebuild remains yet to be seen. Read the full story here. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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16. Cessna Introduces Diesel 172 JT-A
Textron Aviation, the new owner of legacy airplane manufacturers Beechcraft and Cessna, announced at AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in July that it is developing a diesel version of the world's most widely produced airplane, the Cessna 172 Skyhawk. Like the diesel-powered version of the larger, more powerful Cessna 182, the certification of which has been delayed several times, the new airplane has the designation JT-A. The Turbo Skyhawk JT-A will be powered by a turbocharged, FADEC driven, 155 horsepower Continental CD-155 engine, which will take the Skyhawk to a top speed of 131 knots. The price for the Turbo Skyhawk JT-A is $435,000, $65,000 more than the avgas-powered 172. Textron Aviation hopes to achieve certification for the new Skyhawk in 2015. Read the full story here. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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15. Pilot Incapacitation Suspected in TBM 900 Crash
A TBM 900, an upgraded version of the single-engine turboprop that achieved certification in March, crashed off the coast of Jamaica in September, killing two people on board including the pilot, Larry Glazer, a very experienced pilot and the chairman of the TBM Owners and Pilots Association. Glazer reported a problem in the cockpit and requested a descent. The Atlanta Center controller cleared Glazer from FL 280 to FL 250, but shortly thereafter Glazer became increasingly incoherent and finally did not respond to repeated calls from the controller. An F-15 was dispatched to evaluate the TBM, and the F-15 pilot reported that Glazer was slumped over the controls. The TBM continued its path at FL 250 until it crashed about 14 miles off the coast of Jamaica. Read the full story here. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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14. Mooney Introduces All-New M10 Models
Mooney restarted the production line in Kerrville, Texas, in early 2014, operating under a new name — Mooney International — and backed by a Chinese investor. The first airplane, an Acclaim, was delivered in July at a ceremony at Mooney's AirVenture booth. But the biggest news of the year for Mooney was the introduction of a whole new airplane. The Mooney M10 will be produced in two versions, the M10T — T for trainer — and the M10J, designed as an owner-flown speedster. Both airplanes will be constructed mostly of composites and have two seats with an optional third in back. The T-model will have fixed gear and be powered by a 135 hp Continental CD-135 engine, while the J-model will have retractable gear and run on the more powerful CD-155. Mooney expects the M10J to fly at speeds up to 170 knots. Read the full story here. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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13. Embraer Legacy 500 Certified
Embraer first announced the Legacy 500 in 2007, before the onset of the economic recession that would cripple bizjet demand and take a toll on the entire industry. But despite the challenging financial period, the company delivered on its promises and then some. This year Embraer's ground-breaking jet received the green light from the FAA, paving the way for customers to begin taking delivery of the clean-sheet design. In addition to the fact that the airplane is the first ever midsize bizjet to utilize full fly-by-wire technology, it also features a spectacular 6-foot-tall cabin with a flat floor and a first-rate entertainment system. All in all, it sets a new standard for its peers in the midsize category, both in terms of technology and luxury. Read the full story here. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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12. Cirrus Flies First Production Conforming SF50 Vision Jet
After several years of slowly grinding along on the certification program for its first all-new type since the SR22 was certified in 2000, Cirrus Aircraft has made substantial progress on the Vision SF50 single-engine very light jet. The first conforming production version of the seven-seat, single-engine jet, named C0, made its first flight in March. That airplane is being used to test aerodynamic performance and handling, and by year-end it had accumulated about 220 hours of flight time. A second production version, C1, which will be used for other certification test programs, such as for Flight Into Known Icing (FIKI), also took flight before the year-end. Cirrus hopes to get the coveted certification papers from the FAA in 2015. Read the full story here. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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11. Hanscom Gulfstream IV Crash Kills Seven
The deadly crash of a Gulfstream GIV at Hanscom Field near Boston in May immediately sent a wave of unease through the pilot community when it was revealed that the pilots' controls appeared to have been locked, preventing the jet from rotating on what should have been a routine flight. Instead, the Gulfstream reached a maximum speed of 165 knots before the pilots pulled the power to idle and applied full braking. By then it was too late. The jet went careening off the end of the runway and burst into flames, killing all seven aboard. The investigation into the crash continues, but Gulfstream operators are adhering to guidance related to possible malfunctions of the jets' control gust locks. Read the full story here. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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10. Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 Shot Down Over Ukraine
Just months after a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 disappeared during an international flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, another Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 suffered a tragic fate while en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. The airplane, carrying 298 people aboard, was shot down by a surface-to-air missile while flying at 33,000 feet over eastern Ukraine, a region controlled by pro-Russian separatists and anti-government forces. The preliminary accident report released by Dutch officials did not go so far as to name any party responsible for the incident, but the deadly mid-air breakup escalated political tensions around the world and prompted airlines to reroute future flights to avoid the turmoil-filled area. Read the full story here. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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9. Ride-Sharing Websites Challenge FAA Decision
When online startups Flytenow and AirPooler created websites that would let any private pilot share flying expenses with passengers flying to the same destination, it seemed like a tech-age revolution. After all, FAA regulations allow pro-rata cost sharing for things like fuel and parking fees. Using the Internet to arrange such flights seemed like a no-brainer. That is until the FAA ruled that such sites run afoul of commercial air charter regulations by allowing private pilots to "hold out" for illegal charter services. The companies have threatened to sue the FAA to overturn the decision, but for now both company's high-flying plans are in an indefinite holding pattern. Read the full story here. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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8. USA Today Feature Article Causes Uproar
When USA Today splashed the headline "Unfit for Flight" across its front page atop a photo of burning aircraft wreckage, the aviation world sat up and took notice. By the time GA pilots finished reading the article, it was clear this was just another hatchet job by a publicity-hungry reporter looking to make a name for himself. The writer relied heavily on information supplied by the trial lawyers whispering in his ear, in many instances repeating the same information in multiple places. The journalist followed up with two more features on aviation, but by then few were paying attention. The reporter and his newspaper had been discredited far and wide in editorials, blog posts and articles that exposed USA Today's reporting as sloppy and sensationalistic. Read the full story here. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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7. FAA Begins Unleaded Fuel Testing
The FAA plans to transition the aviation market from the 100LL fuel that piston engine powered airplanes have been using for decades to unleaded fuel by 2018. The project has been named the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative, or PAFI, and it involves a long list of aviation organizations. In September, four out of nine fuel submissions were selected and testing began at the William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in November. The selected fuels were developed by Shell, Total and Swift Fuels, which qualified two candidates. The initial phase, which will test the fuels' compatibility with system components, is expected to take about one year. The fuels that move on to Phase II will be tested in flight. Read the full story here. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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6. Gulfstream Launches G500 and G600
After setting the gold standard in business jets with its G650 two years ago, Gulfstream followed up this year with two new airplanes that will provide the stellar performance the company is known for while adding to the range of options available in its fleet. Powered by P&W 800 series engines, the G500 and G600 will each feature seating for 19 passengers, a range of 5,000 nm and 6,200 nm respectively, and a top speed of Mach 0.925, the same as the G650. The G500 is expected to make its first flight sometime next year, while the G600 is expected to follow in 2017. Development is already well under way, further solidifying Gulfstream's role as the leading bizjet manufacturer of our day. Read the full story here. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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5. Chicago Center Blaze Cripples Air Traffic
An Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) in Aurora, Illinois, experienced a major fire in September, forcing the facility to shut down the airspace in the Chicago area. The incident shut down the busy airspace for hours leading to the cancellation of thousands of flights. The fire was reportedly set by a contract employee who had access to the facility. The computer systems at the facility were damaged and it wasn't until 17 days after the fire was set that ATC services at Chicago Center were back to normal. As a result of the fire, FAA administrator Michael Huerta ordered a safety and security review of the country's ATC facilities. Read the full story here. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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4. FAA Presses Ahead with Commercial Drone Regulations
The FAA has been criticized for its slow progress on the integration of UAS, which was mandated by congress to be completed in a step-by-step process by September of next year. Each deadline in the mandate has been missed. Some progress was made this year, however. Six UAS testing sites were established and the FAA granted exemptions for 11 different operators to conduct commercial UAS flights in areas such as filming, agriculture and mapping. The lack of clear rules has, however, created confusion in the legal system. A case in which the FAA fined a commercial videographer $10,000 after it found he flew his drone recklessly was initially thrown out by a National Transportation Safety Board judge as he determined the FAA lacked the authority over the operation. The NTSB later overturned the judge's ruling. Read the full story here. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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3. GA Slams ADS-B's Slow Progress, High Costs
This year may have marked a tipping point in the debate about the FAA's controversial ADS-B mandate. While the agency says not to expect a delay beyond the requirement's Jan. 1, 2020, start date, aviation interests dug in their heels in 2014 against the equipment mandate. Meanwhile, a scathing Department of Transportation Inspector General report blasted the FAA for slow progress and cost overruns on the NextGen project, which seeks to replace radar air traffic surveillance with a satellite-based architecture. The clock is ticking, and general aviation is left with just five years to convince the FAA to seek ways to ease the cost burden on aircraft owners. Read the full story here. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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2. Textron Merger Brings Together Cessna and Beechcraft
Few would have thought it possible, but 2014 saw the coming together of Cessna and Beechcraft, two of aviation's oldest rivals, when Cessna parent company Textron purchased the assets of the financially troubled Hawker Beechcraft. The new Beechcraft is a leaner company focused on production of its piston and turboprop models after the shedding of its lineup of business jets. Cessna has forged ahead with an entire range of new products, from diesel-powered piston models to several new business jets. Together the companies are well positioned for the predicted economic upturn, which is already seeing rising demand for the Wichita companies' much beloved airplanes, from Skyhawk and Skylanes to Bonanzas, Barons, King Airs and Citations. Read the full story here. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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1. Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 Disappears
On March 8 the whole world took notice when a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 disappeared while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. In the days, weeks and months that followed, authorities and experts explored an endless array of different conceivable scenarios behind the jet's disappearance, including terrorism and mechanical malfunctions, among many others. More than half a year later, rampant speculation still abounds as to what happened to the jet and all 239 people aboard. To date more than 4,247 square miles of the southern Indian ocean have been searched but the 777 remains unfound and its final hours shrouded in mystery. Read the full story here. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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Top 10 Flyings Tips of 2014
Want more? Head over to our "Top 10 Flyings Tips of 2014" to brush up on your pilot skills.