AVweb AVFlash - Volume 20, Number 8a

August 24, 2013

China's Push For Pilots

photo credit: Bloomberg News

Some Chinese airlines, reacting to rapid industry growth, are seeking to attract experienced pilots by offering salaries and benefits roughly double that of the average U.S. airline captain, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday. Top salaries offered by some Chinese airlines exceed $225,000, and the country's current pay leader, Hainan Airlines, is advertising pay packages up to $270,000 per year. That push is part of a surge that has over the past 18 months seen pay offers to foreign pilots rise by up to 30 percent, the Journal said. But with the pay comes a price.

According to one pilot who worked for a major Chinese airline in 2010 and 2011, the pay comes at the price of some of the longest duty times in the industry. And that situation may continue. China is only part of the Asian-Pacific region forecast by Boeing to need more than 180,000 new pilots by 2031. By Boeing's estimate, the Asian-Pacific region will account for 40 percent of total pilot demand worldwide in the next two decades. And competition for attracting pilots may be on the rise globally. Currently, the foreign presence in China's commercial pilot workforce accounts for only about 6 percent. In the U.S., the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists average pay for pilots serving as captains for major U.S. airlines at about $135,000, but it's not clear if that number, too, may be on the rise. Recent changes to training requirements for airline pilots in the U.S. and forecast pilot retirements may put pressure on U.S. carriers to attract pilots, as well. That could further complicate matters for China, but may also lead to changes in how U.S. carriers seek to attract and retain pilots.

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ECi Cites Support For Cylinders Targeted By AD

ECi is using a new web page to highlight resistance to the FAA's proposed Airworthiness Directive targeting TITAN brand 520/550 series cylinders produced between 2002 and 2009 that may cost $83 million in compliance-associated costs, but the resistance isn't universal. The FAA wants to require initial and repetitive inspections of the cylinders, plus full replacements at reduced times-in-service. ECi maintains that its TITAN cylinders have the lowest failure rate in the industry and the FAA's analysis is flawed. AOPA and EAA both publicly responded to the AD saying that the action would impose a financial burden on pilots, possibly cause a supply problem, and compromise safety. EAA specifically noted that the AD "does not point to a single accident or injury" caused by an ECi cylinder failure. Some overhaul shops contacted by AVweb this month did say they support the AD or have moved away from ECi cylinders because of issues with cracking.

AVweb's Paul Bertorelli reported Aug. 17 that a sampling of overhaul shops showed mixed reaction to the proposed AD. A contact at Certified Engines of Opa-locka, Fla., supported the AD, and a representative of Penn Yan said that the company had moved away from the cylinders due to "quality issues." Meanwhile, at America's Aircraft Engines of Tulsa, Okla., our contact supported ECi cylinders, as did another at Zephyr Engines. The FAA is soliciting comments to its proposed regulation through Oct. 11, and has already collected more than 60. Finding individual comments critical of the FAA's proposed action among those is not difficult and the FAA may still adjust the regulation before presenting a final rule. Phil Stevens of America's Aircraft Engines noted one potential outcome that may come to pass regardless of the FAA's future course of action. "I think it will kill ECi," he said. "And that's bad for the market."

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Aircraft Refurb Market Growing: Report

A new report by marketsandmarkets.com says the aircraft refurbishing and repurposing market will grow to $4.3 billion in 2017, up from about $3 billion in 2012. The report ($4650 for a single download), which covers aircraft from business jets to heavy transport, looks at the existing opportunities and areas of future growth and covers opportunities all over the world. As the world economy continues to improve, operators are investing in their fleets for both operational and economic reasons, the report's synopsis says. "The revenues for aircraft refurbishing market show an increase over the forecasted period and will continue to be a fast evolving market," the synopsis reads.

Among the markets the report identifies for growth are the VIP/business jet sector as businesses recover from the recent economic doldrums. Also, it says many airlines are taking out all or part of their business class seating in favor of larger economy sections. There are also re-engine options for older airframes that will make them more fuel-efficient that some airlines are taking advantage of.

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New airplanes sales may be a little soft, but we're seeing plenty of refurb work -- everything from new panels to fresh paint to full-up interiors. We would like to feature some of these airplanes in the pages of AVweb and spotlight the owners and shops doing the work. If you have photos of your restored aircraft -- single, twin or turbine -- send them to us at refurb-otm@avweb.com. If we select your airplane as refurb of the month, we'll contact you for more information.

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Video: Electronics International Unveils New Multi-Purpose Instrument

While old airframes may keep soldiering on, the instruments and radios in the panels usually don't.  At AirVenture this year, Electronics International rolled out a new instrument designed to replace older instruments, including tachometers, engines instruments, and other indicators.  In this video, EI's Tyler Speed gives us a quick product tour of the new CGR-30P.

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EAA Founder Paul Poberezny Dies At 91

Paul Poberezny, who founded EAA in 1953 and served as the organization's leader for many years, died on Thursday morning, EAA has announced. He was 91 and living in a retirement village in Oshkosh, Wis. The Poberezny family released a statement: "We deeply appreciate all the support shown to Paul and Audrey over the past five months. As Paul often said, he considers himself a millionaire because through aviation he made a million friends." Speaking personally with AVweb, Thursday, EAA media relations director Dick Knapinski said, "You know what stands out to me? When people said it ought to be just about homebuilders ... he'd say, 'so, who do we tell that they aren't invited? Who do we turn to and say you're not welcome?'" Poberezny believed everyone was a positive addition to EAA, said Knapinski. "He was a true original."

The Poberezny family statement also included points that Knapinski echoed. "He leaves an unmatched legacy in aviation and can be best remembered by all the people who discovered aviation through his inspiration to create EAA." Poberezny served as a military pilot and test pilot for nearly 30 years, during both World War II and the Korean Conflict, retiring with the rank of lieutenant colonel. As a youngster, he built model airplanes and at age 16, taught himself to fly in a battered Waco glider he had restored himself. He logged more than 30,000 hours of flight time over more than 70 years of flying, and flew nearly 500 different types of aircraft, including more than 170 amateur-built airplanes. His memoir of his early years, titled Poberezny … The Story Begins, was published in 1996.

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Teen Survives Mountain Crash (With Video)

photo: McKenzie Morgan (from video)

Seventeen-year-old student pilot McKenzie Morgan, while flying part of a long cross country Tuesday, crashed the Cessna 172 she was flying in mountains near Meeteetse, Wyo., not far from a cabin once owned by Amelia Earhart and, fortunately, within sight of two hunters. Morgan told reporters she had become disoriented, flying in nearly the opposite direction of her intended destination. She entered a valley with rising terrain that evolved into a box canyon. The plane eventually impacted the ground near 13,150-foot Francs Peak and the aircraft flipped. Morgan sustained almost no injuries in the crash, extracted herself and then took some rather practical steps. 

After climbing out of the inverted aircraft, Morgan tried unsuccessfully to contact someone using the aircraft's radio. Then, believing that investigators would be able to extract GPS coordinates from digital photos, she took pictures of the crash site and followed those with a short video. The purpose of the video, she told the Billings Gazette, was to prepare for the worst, tell her family that she loved them and apologize for what she put them through. Fortunately, two hunters who saw the plane impact the mountainside had already taken action. They split up. One sought an area with cellphone reception to report the accident, and the other headed to the crash site on horseback, ultimately rescuing Morgan. Morgan told the Gazette she plans to continue flying as soon as possible so that she can earn her private pilot certificate. But she remains unsure of what restrictions she might face from her school and the FAA. 

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Stowaway Survives Nigerian Flight

A Nigerian teenager who survived a stowaway flight in a main gear well of an Arik Air airliner was captured after hopping onto the ramp at Lagos International Airport on Sunday. The flight from Benin to Lagos (153 miles) is a short one and the aircraft only reached 21,000 feet on the 30-minute hop, no doubt contributing to the survival of the boy. He later told police that he was fleeing mistreatment by his family. Whatever inspired him, he upped the ante on the already-risky maneuver by hopping aboard the aircraft on the runway.

Nigeria's Leadership newspaper reports the pilot of the aircraft (type unknown, but the newspaper shows a picture of a 737-700) called the tower to report the suspicious presence of a boy in the bush at the end of Benin's Runway 23 as he backtracked. Although passengers and crew spotted the boy running toward the airplane as he lined up for takeoff, the paper reports that he was assured by controllers that "the situation was under control" and cleared him for takeoff. Ramp attendants in Lagos grabbed the boy after he jumped down from the wheel well and handed him over to security officials. Arik Air Managing Director Chris Ndulue called on the Nigerian airport security organization (FAAN) to tighten up. “We are worried by the incessant security lapses at our airports," Ndulue said.  "We are appealing to the management of FAAN to immediately address the problem.”

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Cessna 140 Sold In Garage Sale

Selling an airplane can be tough but a Minnesota man found a ready market for his 1946 Cessna 140 when he included it in a garage sale he organized for his father. “We just put it in there as a last-minute deal,” Robbie Love, 58, of East Grand Forks, Minn., told GoodMorningAmerica.com. “We were going to have a garage sale for my dad, and I just figured I’d put it in there to see what interest there was in the local area. And geez, I’ve gotten calls from all over.” Love put a sticker price of $20,000 on the mostly polished two-seat taildragger, which he bought in 1978 for $5,500, and made a deal with an unidentified buyer for $17,500. 

Love sold the aircraft because even though it's one of the most affordable aircraft in the air, the cost of flying it was getting out of reach. “When I started flying, we were buying gas for 76 cents a gallon, and now it’s over six dollars,” Love said. The decision to sell wasn't made any easier by the fact that the 140 was converted to hand controls so Love, who has been in a wheelchair since a 1976 car accident, could fly it. “We were just looking for an older airplane we could afford and one that met our criteria, and that’s the airplane we came up with,” he said. “It’s just a good, little flying airplane.” Love and his wife have a more terrestrial passion and will use some of the proceeds from the sale to buy ammunition for trap shooting.

AVweb/Aviation Consumer Avgas/Mogas Survey

As the quest for a replacement for 100LL drags into its third decade, our sister publication Aviation Consumer, is seeking opinions from owners, pilots and aircraft operators on how you think the process is going. The FAA has established a special office devoted to a replacement for 100LL and piston fuels in general. We would like to know if you've followed the process and, if so, what you think of it.

And what what about mogas? In some cases, it's $2 cheaper than avgas. Are you using it? If so, what are your experiences and if you haven't used it, why not? You can take the survey by clicking here. It'll take about five minutes.

We'll compile the results and compare them to the same questions we asked two years ago.

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Short Final

Whilst flying back from Belfast to Blackpool in the U.K. several years ago, I heard a GA pilot behind me cleared for take-off by the tower.  The tower then reminded him of the local noise regulations.  The pilot replied that he understood and added helpfully that he would only be using one engine in this instance.


Allan Denham
via e-mail

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Heard anything funny, unusual, or downright shocking on the radio lately? If you've been flying any length of time, you're sure to have eavesdropped on a few memorable exchanges. The ones that gave you a chuckle may do the same for your fellow AVweb readers. Share your radio funny with us, and, if we use it in a future "Short Final," we'll send you a sharp-looking AVweb hat to sport around your local airport. No joke.

Click here to submit your original, true, and previously unpublished story.

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Why Motion Simulation is Here to Stay

Why hasn’t some simulation enthusiast created a simulator to teach a child how to ride a two-wheeled bicycle? Imagine all the advantages of a simulator like that. You could teach in any weather, day or night, with no more skinned knees or jogging to keep up as they figure it out. And just think of the fun of using the instructor’s panel to throw in a blown tire now and then: “OK, porkchop. What are your memory items?”

The reason it hasn’t been done is the same reason there isn’t a helicopter simulator under a million bucks worth buying, and part of the reason we keep having the same tired argument about whether motion is important to simulation: Motion is hard to do well—and motion is essential to doing it right.

Humor me with the bicycle simulator a bit longer. Developing anything more than a game or traffic-safety trainer would have a cost/benefit or return-on-investment that only a government agency could love. The barrier is simply that a simulator that could help ditch the training wheels would require precise motion beyond what visuals alone could represent. You don’t balance a bicycle by seeing that you are falling; you balance it by feeling that you are falling. 

Learning to ride means making subtle turning motions to keep the bike underneath you; when the bike falls to the left, you turn slightly left, which puts the bike back underneath. Once learned, you do this unconsciously and almost invisibly. Any training device using only visuals would be useless, perhaps even detrimental. By that time you saw you were falling, it would be too late.

Yet learning to ride a bike works because our brains collect all the cues that might be valuable. We watch, feel and listen; integrating whatever information helps us succeed. The brain is lazy—in a good way. Unconscious response to cues frees up the conscious mind for more important tasks. This is millions of years of evolution at work. Integrating physical cues happens whether we want it to or not.

“But wait,” you say, “In real aircraft, you can’t trust your vestibular system for control. That’s why a visible horizon or instruments are required.”

I agree—but this statement completely misses the lesson of bicycle riding. In the airplane, subtle cues alert us to aircraft motion long before it’s detectable on the instruments, or perhaps even the horizon. We learn to respond to the physical cue and look for the correction needed. We learn the feel of that correction being applied.

This inner control loop of responding to accelerations occurs in full-motion simulators and aircraft, but not in fixed simulators. It’s not that fixed simulators teach incorrectly, so much as they teach incompletely. When it comes time for primary pilots to transition to a real aircraft, those with motion experience have an undeniable advantage; they’ve already integrated cues of motion.

The importance of motion for flight training becomes more obvious when we look at helicopters. The bicycle simulator would be for an inherently stable vehicle with only one axis of motion (roll). The helicopter needs roll, pitch, and yaw (like an airplane), but also heave, which is a straight up and down motion. And it must combine them in any combination. And the helicopter is dynamically unstable to boot. It’s like standing on a basketball. Perhaps while bouncing.

That’s the reason no helicopter simulators under a million dollars are worth buying. The three most difficult, dangerous, and time-consuming maneuvers in a helicopter are hovering, ground-reference work, and auto-rotations. All three require motion just as much as a bicycle simulator would because by the time you see the problem, it’s too late.

To be worth the money, helicopter simulators also need superior visuals and control loading in the cyclic. The sub-one-million dollar helicopter simulators lack these as well. The common visual projection systems get so distorted at the edges that it’s impossible to judge how close the skids are to the ground. A cyclic without control loading tells the pilot nothing about the condition of the aircraft or the unseen aerodynamic forces working on it.

Once the helicopter is well into forward flight, it performs largely like an airplane. It’s no surprise fixed simulators handle the task equally well as they do for airplanes, which is to say incompletely.

The FAA’s Human Factors Division and the Department of Transportation’s RITA websites host, among other things, nearly every study ever done by Universities and Governments over the last 40 or 50 years regarding the value, or lack thereof, of motion in simulation. Pick a side on this argument and you’ll find seven studies here to support your point of view.

For example, one of the dozens of studies that support motion’s importance was done by Delft University of Technology for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) entitled, “Visual-Vestibular Interaction in Pilot's Perception of Aircraft or Simulator Motion.” The authors reviewed research done by them and others watching pilot response to maneuvers and turbulence, specifically watching peripheral visual and vestibular motion perception in tasks that require inner-loop stabilization. They concluded that peripheral visual and cockpit motion cues are of paramount importance in actual or simulated manual aircraft control.

Another study for the Journal of Aircraft entitled, "Response of Airline Pilots to Variations in Flight Simulator Motion Algorithms," stated: "... it was found that there was a definite positive effect on how the pilots perceived the simulation environment when motion was present and there was almost unanimous dislike for the simulation environment that lacked motion.” The authors also concluded that, “Motion is more realistic, thus more iterative and more stimulating." Simulation, like theater, is an exercise in the suspension of disbelief. In order for it to work, the pilot (audience) must be given just enough reality to be fully engaged in the training, and motion promotes that engagement.

Now, I could be accused of “cherry picking” studies here, just as we’ve seen from companies that don’t offer motion with their simulators and commentators seeking validation of personal biases. Yet what none of these studies, pro or con, have looked at is motion’s impact on training in small aircraft and—most importantly—in primary training. This is exactly the basis of studies underway at the Skyport laboratory in San Marcos, Texas. The good news is that evidence in favor of motion comes in all three flavors: physical, testimonial, and circumstantial.

When the Skyport laboratory went into full operation in January of 2012, the list of experiments that it immediately undertook were based, primarily, on the data collected as part of an exhaustive 2011 study commissioned by AOPA. It provided a baseline of costs for training, student retention, hours to completion, and dozens of other valuable statistics on the challenges of flight training in the U.S.

The terrible statistics on student retention are well known, but less well known is the amount of money the average student is spending toward a private pilot certificate or the numbers hours in the logbook. The numbers were so surprisingly large, understanding the impact of an experimental simulator-centric, proficiency based curriculum felt more like a public service than an experiment.

The Skyport trained students (laboratory subjects) to proficiency in a wide range of flight maneuvers in a full-motion simulator, measuring the time to proficiency when transitioning to the airplane. The study mixed maneuvers logically suited to benefit from motion cues, such as steep turns, stalls or crosswind landings, and those not normally associated with motion cues, like instrument approaches or holding heading and altitude.

The preliminary results of those studies were released at last fall's Migration Flight Training Industry and Design Conference with more data to be released at this coming fall’s conference. Two of the most notable findings were, first, that time to proficiency dropped all tasks. Interestingly, seeing time to proficiency decrease for an ILS or other “non-motion” maneuvers required adding turbulence to the simulation. While the total training time of motion simulator and airplane combined did not drop, the time in the airplane was cut in half. The result was dropping the cost of a Private Pilot certificate by about $4000.

That savings would be even more significant if we were training in helicopters. I learned to fly helicopters in a Schweizer 300C at a whopping $360 per hour. I’m not the most coordinated human being on the planet, but I’m not Joe Cocker either. It still took three excruciating days and about eight hours on the Hobbs meter to hold the Schweizer in a “sort-of” hover.

That hover cost $2880 plus instructor time. What if we could train a pilot to hover in a simulator in eight hours, and then transition to the helicopter in only four hours? The cost to the hover now drops to $1880 in a 300C. Make that a serious helicopter that might cost $800 per hour and we’re talking thousands in savings.

But that’s only if the sim had the right motion cuing, visuals and control loading, and didn’t cost millions. We know of a new helicopter sim with all three requirements in development that’s expected to sell for less than $150,000 in the U.S. When it starts testing this fall, we’ll see if it has the same impact our motion sims did on reducing time to proficiency, and the associated cost.

The last factor in favor of simulation has nothing to do with time-to-proficiency or motion’s integral role in interpreting the flying environment. It comes under the heading of “Circumstantial.”

A couple of years after Redbird started shipping its FMX full-motion simulator, the bestselling simulator in history since the Link trainer, we noticed a phenomenon later dubbed the “Redbird Effect.” At airports with multiple flight schools, soon after one flight school purchased a full-motion simulator, some or all of the other schools will order their own. The reason is simple: In competitive situations a motion simulator bestows a competitive advantage. 

As evidenced above, the simulator can reduce training costs and better prepare pilots for the multi-sensory world of the cockpit. These students talk and word gets around. But motion is also just cool. It’s what the consumer (student) wants, and who’s to say they’re wrong? So, trot out your fat logbook and your hand-picked studies and tell them that motion doesn’t matter and see what they say.

Students pay obscene amounts of money for a pilot’s license today. They deserve the best, most effective technology we can give them. They deserve the one that most completely prepares them for the cockpit, delivers the most for the money and that reinforces the sheer “cool factor” of learning to fly. They deserve something that makes the skill of flying an unforgettable, permanent part of who they are.

You know, like learning to ride a bike.

Jerry Gregoire is CEO of Redbird Flight Simulations. Don't expect this is the last you'll hear from him.

Join the conversation.  Read others' comments and add your own.

Video: PS Engineering's PAR200 Multi-Function Audio System

There's a need for affordable audio system upgrades for basic aircraft.  PS Engineering attempts to answer the call with the PAR200 -- a three-in-one system that combines an advanced audio panel, a stereo intercom, and a remote comm radio.  In this video, Aviation Consumer's Larry Anglisano takes a look at the unit during it's introduction at AirVenture 2013 at Oshkosh.

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Video: Aerocross's Wearable HUD -- Aviation's Google Glass

At AirVenture, we talked to Aerocross Systems' Tam Pho about a new product the company is introducing.  It's essentially a wearable HUD, consisting of a pair of lightweight glasses with a primary flight display projected directly in front of the eye.  Pho says the system is designed to be practical and affordable.

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