Top 20 Aviation Stories of 2015

Look back at this year's most-read aviation news stories.

This year the general aviation world saw a whirlwind of changes, for better or worse. From long-awaited certifications to new regulations, questions that had gone unanswered started to see some development. Not only that, we saw the introduction of new airplanes, new amazing technologies, and some milestones to remind us just how far aviation has come and why some of the best years are yet to come. Take a look back at the biggest headlines of 2015.

Cirrus Pilot Ditches, Releases Selfie Video
20. Cirrus Pilot Ditches, Releases Selfie Video
Only a few days after news broke of a Cirrus SR22 pilot who pulled the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) while flying over the Pacific — a remarkable event in and of itself — video surfaced from inside the cockpit from the successful ditch of the airplane. Leu Morton, the Cirrus pilot, revealed to be incredibly calm during the whole incident while he filmed the view through an open door and the parachute above the airplane just before it hit the water. In a fuel emergency that could have ended badly, instead it played out in a smooth series of events. Read the full story here.Video Screenshot
SkiGull's first flight
19. Rutan Launches New SkiGull Design
If Burt Rutan's retirement announcement made you believe that the legendary airplane designer was ready to take a rest you were dead wrong. Rutan announced in the spring that he was working on a new design — this one for his own personal use. Named the SkiGull, the airplane is designed to land virtually anywhere — on land, water and snow. Rutan and his team started water testing in early November and the airplane took its first flight just a couple of weeks later. Once the airplane is ready for action, Rutan plans to use it to fly around the world with his wife for the ultimate retirement trip. Read the full story here.antennafilms.com
MH370 Wing
18. Hunt for Missing MH370 Goes On as Wing Part Turns Up
Though it's been over a year since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went missing, the mystery continues as investigators search for answers about what happened to the Boeing 777. A clue finally seemed to surface when a wing part washed up on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean this past July. Boeing confirmed that the wind part belonged to a 777, but current analysis hasn't been able to prove conclusively that it came from the missing jetliner. It would appear the mystery of flight MH370 remains as puzzling as ever. Read the full story here.Xavier Tytelman/PeurAvion
Cirrus Jet Knoxville Facility
17. Cirrus Expands with New Knoxville Facility
In May, Cirrus Aircraft announced it would establish a new campus at Knoxville, Tennessee’s McGhee Tyson Airport (KTYS). The new facility, called the Vision Center, is slated to open in mid-2016 with a focus on customer interactions. Services will include aircraft maintenance, repairs and training — becoming the nexus for SF50 Vision Jet training and housing the level-D flight simulator. The campus will also serve as the delivery center for all Vision Jets and SR20 and SR22 piston singles. Read the full story here.Flying
Cessna Citation Family
16. Cessna Launches Large-Cabin Citation Hemisphere
Cessna and its Citation jets welcomed a new member to the family this year — the Hemisphere. Designed to have the widest cabin in its class, it will be the largest stand-up-cabin bizjet in the Citation family. The jet is designed to travel as far as 4,500 nm, have a max cruise speed of at least Mach 0.9, and slated to have its first flight in 2019. Read the full story here.Textron Aviation
Gemini Diesel Engine SNF15
15. Superior Launches Gemini 100 Diesel Engine
Superior Air Parts surprised the aviation world last spring by introducing an unusual 100 hp diesel engine that takes aim squarely at the market turf dominated by the Rotax 912 series. Adopted from a British-born aero diesel that's been in development for more than a decade, the simplistic configuration features six horizontally opposed pistons housed in three cylinders, each sharing a common fuel injector and glow plug. Intended as a bolt-on replacement for the Rotax 912, the two-stroke, supercharged liquid-cooled Superior diesel weighs about 200 pounds with a projected 4.5 gallon an hour fuel burn. The engines are due to be produced at Superior's headquarters in Dallas. Read the full story here.Gemini Diesel
Pilatus PC-24 First Flight
14. Pilatus PC-24 Flies
Swiss airplane maker of the popular Pilatus PC-12 made significant progress with its PC-24 twinjet. The first test flight took place in May in Stans, Switzerland, for 55 minutes and reported "beautiful handling." Some notable numbers during the flight was the airplane used up less than 2,000 feet of runway and climbed about 5,200 feet in three minutes. The PC-24 has the capability of landing on shorter, rougher airports than most business jets can. Since its first flight, Pilatus has already flown the second test airplane. Read the full story here.Pilatus
Solar Impulse Hawaii Landing
13. Solar Impulse Round-the-World-Flight Suspended
The world watched in wonder as the all-solar-powered Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) made its way around the world in 2015, starting in Abu Dhabi. While there were several weather related delays, things were looking good for the Swiss team after André Borschberg completed the longest leg of the trip, spending 118 hours in flight between Nagoya, Japan and Hawaii, setting a world record for the longest solo flight in the process. While Borschberg fared well, the mega flight was too much for the airplane’s batteries and the remainder of the round-the-world flight was suspended. Si2 is scheduled to continue its journey in April. Read the full story here.Solar Impulse/Revillard
Gulfstream G500 First Flight
12. Gulfstream G500 Flies
At the 2015 European business aviation gathering, EBACE, Gulfstream announced that its G500 bizjet made its first flight. In its initial flight test out of Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (KSAV), the G500 climbed to 10,000 feet, topped out at 15,000 feet and reached a top speed just under 200 knots — much lower than its targeted high-speed cruise figure of Mach 0.9. The G500 will offer numerous upgrades, including fly-by-wire flight control, state-of-the-art cabin connectivity and a new flight deck. Gulfstream anticipates the G500’s certification in 2017, with its first deliveries the next year. Read the full story here.Gulfstream
Siemens Frank Anton eAircraft
11. Siemens Unveils 260 kW Electric Motor
Siemens researchers in Germany achieved a breakthrough in the future of battery-powered flight technology with a new type of electric aircraft motor. Five times more powerful than the previous generation of motors, this new electric motor weighs a little more than 100 pounds and delivers a continuous output of 260 kilowatts, compared with the 60-kilowatt electric motor tested by Siemens, Airbus and Diamond Aircraft in 2014. Because of its improved power-to-weight ratio, researchers say larger aircraft with maximum takeoff weights of up to 4,000 pounds will be able to use the electric motor. Read the full story here.Siemens
Cessna Citation Latitude
10. Cessna Citation Latitude Certified
Textron Aviation continued its rapid succession of airplane introductions with FAA type certification of the Cessna Citation Latitude twinjet in June — the fifth new Citation jet certified in an 18-month period. Improving upon the Citation Sovereign type certificate, the Latitude features a flat-floor, stand-up cabin with room for nine passengers. Among the first customers was NetJets, which ordered 150 of the Latitudes for its fractional ownership business. With a range of 2,700 nm at high-speed cruise, and a long-range cruise speed of 2,850 nm, the Latitude carries a price of $16.25 million. Read the full story here.Textron Aviation
Drone Grounds Firefighting Aircraft
9. FAA Requires Drone Registration
Throughout the year, there were several incidents of drones interfering with firefighters and other critical operations, and many dangerous near misses as UAS got right in the flight paths of commercial airliners. While the FAA has yet to finalize the rulemaking for unmanned aircraft systems, the agency implemented a new rule for registering drones weighing in between 0.55 lbs and 55 lbs. As of December 21 all drone operators are required to pay $5 for a registration certificate that needs to be applied to the drone before they can take their machines to the skies. Read the full story here.San Bernardino County Fire Department
Diamond DA62
8. Diamond DA62 Comes to America
Defying the conventional wisdom in general aviation that has proclaimed the light piston twin segment more or less on permanent hiatus, Austria's Diamond Aircraft has introduced the seven-seat, twin-diesel DA62 to the market, with its U.S. debut coming at November's NBAA Convention in Las Vegas. Powered by a pair of 180 horsepower Austro AE330 compression-ignition engines, the DA62 is capable of cruise speeds close to 200 knots burning well under 20 gallons an hour total. A five-seat version of the DA62 is already certified in Europe. Now Diamond is betting the seven-seat U.S. spec version can change buyers' opinions about twins. Read the full story here.Florian Pfaffstaller/Diamond Aircraft
One Aviation Kestrel Eclipse
7. Eclipse and Kestrel Join as One Aviation
Believe it or not, there are a great many pilots who don't know that the Eclipse 550 very light jet is back in production after the original company founded by Vern Raburn famously imploded. In fact, the reborn airplane with autothrottles, an upgraded avionics suite, anti-skid brakes and more is a much-improved airplane, though the price has risen as well. In April, with the formation of ONE Aviation that merged Eclipse Aerospace with would-be single-engine turboprop maker Kestrel and installed Alan Klapmeier as CEO, the company now has an organizational structure to match a product portfolio that could soon grow from the Eclipse VLJ to a sleek all-composite turboprop, the Kestrel 350, that would be capable of carrying more than the Eclipse jet nearly as fast. Read the full story here.Eclipse/Kestrel
Tecnam P2010
6. Tecnam P2010 Certified in U.S.
A relatively new name to the U.S. market, Italy's Tecnam, succeeded in achieving FAR Part 23 certification late in 2015 for the P2010, a 180 hp, four seater that is the first all new high-wing single to certified in the United States since the 1970s. Carrying a base price of $345,000, the P2010 is also priced slightly lower than the competition, namely the Cessna Skyhawk and Piper Archer. With a composite fuselage and laminar-flow metal wing, the P2010 is faster, can carry more and has greater range, attributes that should put the model on many buyers' radar screens. Read the full story here.Tecnam
Cessna TTx
5. Third-Class Medical Reform Moves Forward
Tireless efforts by AOPA and Experimental Aircraft Association paid off in the letter half of 2015 with passage in the U.S. Senate of the Pilots Bill of Rights 2, legislation that among other things would eliminate the need for most private pilots ever again to obtain a third-class medical. As written, the bill applies to any private pilot flying an airplane with five or fewer passengers seats, below 18,000 feet and under 250 knots. New pilots would still need to take an FAA medical exam once, as would pilots with medicals that lapsed more than 10 years from the bill's passage and special issuance medical holders. The bill now moves to the House. Read the full story here.Textron Aviation
Gyrocopter Doug Hughes
4. Gyrocopter Lands on Capitol Lawn
One of the strangest stories to make headlines this year was in April when a mailman in a gyrocopter landed on the Capitol lawn to hand deliver protest letters to Congress. Doug Hughes, a 61-year-old postal worker from Florida, planned the landing for over two years to bring attention to campaign finance reform. Several videos captured the odd stunt, showing security immediately surrounding the gyrocopter. While most charges were dropped, Hughes recently pleaded guilty to a felony charge of flying a gyrocopter without a license. Read the full story here.Video Screenshot
Germanwings A320
3. Germanwings A320 Crash
In a year marred by a multitude of tragedies inside the world of aviation and out, the deliberate crash of an Airbus A320 into the French Alps by a mentally disturbed copilot punctuated a period filled with grief for so many. The young German copilot, on a flight from Barcelona to Dusseldorf on March 26, locked himself alone in the cockpit of Germanwings Flight 9525 and set it on a course for a rapid descent, killing all 150 people on board including himself. Prosecutors say 28-year-old Andreas Lubitz suffered from depression. The crash has led to closer scrutiny of commercial pilots in Europe and around the world. Read the full story here.Michael Schlesinger/Creative Commons
Icon Aircraft A5
2. Icon Delivers First A5
Another highly anticipated airplane, this one an LSA, also managed to get ready for the market in 2015. The first Icon A5, an amphibious two-seat airplane designed for pure fun, was delivered in July at Icon's EAA AirVenture Oshkosh booth in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Icon's founder and CEO Kirk Hawkins handed over the keys to aerobatic pilot and EAA Young Eagles chairman Sean Tucker as the first airplane went to Young Eagles program. Following that major milestone, the company moved its assets to a big facility in Vacaville, California, a move that has as of yet prevented any further deliveries. Read the full story here.Icon Aircraft
HondaJet
1. HondaJet Certified
Certifying a clean-sheet jet is no easy feat as Honda Aircraft Company has come to find out. But after well over a decade of the company being hard at work on the HondaJet project, the FAA awarded the light twinjet full certification. The company celebrated the occasion with an event in a sizable hangar at the headquarters in Greensboro, North Carolina, where 2,000 Honda Aircraft employees, suppliers, government officials and media were in attendance. The company expects to deliver two airplanes by the year-end and hopes to have its production certificate within a few months. Read the full story here.HondaJet Aircraft Company

Want more top content? Check out our "Top 10 Viral Aviation Videos of 2015" for some of the most-watched aviation videos this year.

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