Surprise, Surprise: Boeing Wins Tanker Contract This Time

Boeing has started proudly announcing their victory in the latest iteration of the USAF's air refueling tanker competition. An analyst named Richard Aboulafia from the Teal Group said the decision was a big surprise. I'm not sure how he thought the competition would go after Boeing successfully contested the last decision, but I didn't expect our politicians to allow any other outcome.

Though I'm not proud of the course the competition has run, I am glad to see that this decision was reached somewhat quickly and that the KC-135 can finally look forward to a firm retirement date.

Why is JCM Farming so Scared of Balloons?

Ballooning has to be one of the most picturesque and adventurous ways we have of flying. As far as displays of aviation beauty go, it's pretty difficult to top a fleet of multi-colored aircraft floating over the countryside on a clear day. As a glider pilot, I take a lot of pride in my ability to read the air and keep my plane aloft by working in harmony with the environment. I have to give more credit to balloonists though. They truly have to understand and work with the conditions around them to navigate safely, let alone getting somewhere on purpose.

I have to wonder why such a benign form of aviation scares JCM Farming so much that they've used lawsuits to put 13 ballooning companies out of business and are continuing to use legal scare tactics to bully aviators and neighbors in California's Coachella Valley.

Southern Pines, N.C., May Have More Smarts than Santa Monica, CA

Just a few days after writing about the ongoing drama in Santa Monica brought on by a negligent city planning, I came across an AOPA article that gives me some hope. It appears that the municipal planning board of Southern Pines, N.C., recently voted to not allow a plan to put over 200 apartments and a large retail area directly off the approach end end of Moore County Airport's runway 5.

Is Your Representative a Member of the GA Caucus?

I just got a note from the AOPA mentioning that with the start of the new Congress, it's necessary for the General Aviation Caucus to be re-established. Congressmen Sam Graves (R-MO) and John Barrow (D-GA) are leading this effort. The AOPA message suggested that I contact my Congressman, Representative Jeff Miller from Florida's 1st district, and urge him to join this effort.

I figured that was a great idea, so I decided to write him. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it took all of about 5 minutes to send him a message and get a reply confirming that my message had been received.

Aviation Wins Again in Santa Monica

The city of Santa Monica, CA, has spent the past few years trying to enact a ban of large (Class C and D) aircraft at the Santa Monica airport (KSMO.) In 2009 the FAA rejected the city's ban and enacted a restraining order that allowed those jets to continue to use the airport. The city tried to appeal the FAA's actions, but their appeal was recently rejected by the US District Court of Appeals for Washington DC.

Make no mistake: this is a win for aviation and a caution to cities that choose to allow development in areas that should be reserved as safety zones around airports.

Piper Abruptly Exits Light Sport Market

I think most of us were pretty excited when Piper entered the LSA market by adopting Czech Sport Aircraft's SportCruiser as their own. Their well-established name gave credibility to the market as a whole and to SportCruiser itself. We were shocked and disappointed to read in Aviation Week and a Piper press release that they have officially terminated their relationship with Czech Sport Aircraft. Piper cites "differences in business philosophies" as the driving reason for this split.

All of Piper's statements now feel like they're trying to distance themselves from Czech Sport Aircraft as quickly as possible. It's a surprisingly rapid turn-around from an advertising campaign that basically named the PiperSport as the successor to the iconic J3 Cub and pictured them next to each other in advertisements.

Flies & Honey: Kestrel's Presence Helping Maine to See the Light on Use Tax

Over three years ago, I wrote about Maine's outrageous Use Tax. The levy up to a 5% tax on any airplane owner whose aircraft spends more than 20 days in the state and hasn't already paid that much tax elsewhere.

The unfair and overbearing tax is a huge deterrent to both business and tourism. Thankfully though, it looks like Maine may be starting to see the light.

Footage of Sikorsky X2 Setting 260kt Speed Record

Jud just pointed me to this video...official footage from Sikorsky of their X2 technology demonstrator setting a record speed of more than 260 knots in a helicopter. The video quality is great and it's interesting to hear the actual cockpit communications and see the cockpit cameras.

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