AVweb AVFlash - Volume 20, Number 9a

September 1, 2013

EAA, AOPA Talk "Collaboration"

AOPA incoming President Mark Baker says he's already spoken with EAA Chairman Jack Pelton about future "collaboration" to better serve both organizations and their members. In his first (and, as far as we can tell, only) interview since being named to the post Aug. 22, Baker told AOPA Live host Tom Haines that while it's too early to describe the future alignment of the two organizations, the broad strokes of his discussions with Pelton could see members of each organization benefiting directly from the work of the other. "There's quite a few programs I think we could benefit some of the EAA members more directly from," he said, mentioning by example the insurance and revamped aircraft financing service recently announced by AOPA. EAA, meanwhile, he said, can teach AOPA how to have more fun.

"I think there's some fun factor that we have to learn from EAA and bring back into our business ... in a way our members feel good about." Baker said he wants AOPA to have a "bigger presence" at AirVenture and Sun 'n Fun specifically and be a "bigger part of what's going on where a lot of people are." He also called on AOPA members to do more to introduce people of all ages to aviation. He said the most common piece of advice he's received since the appointment was announced was to "listen to the members." AVweb has asked for a one-on-one interview with Baker but has so far not been accommodated.

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Boeing's Take On The Pilot Shortage

Boeing Thursday released its 2013 Pilot and Technician Outlook that predicts the need for nearly 500,000 airline pilots by 2032, and the company says the number shows an increase over previous forecasts for nearly all regions. The company says the demand is driven by steady increases in airplane deliveries, most of which are single-aisle jets. Worldwide, the demand manifests as about 25,000 new pilots needed each year over the next two decades, according to the company's latest best guess. The Asia Pacific region is expected to provide the highest demand at more than double that of the U.S. over the same 20-year span, with Europe expressing lowest demand. Boeing recognizes the current demand as a "gap in our industry" and expects to see changes that may help "attract and retain young people interested in careers in aviation."

According to Boeing, "The key to closing the pilot and technician gap in our industry is enhancing our training with the latest, cutting-edge technologies." But it's not clear that there is industry consensus on the best approach, moving forward. Boeing's view is that the incorporation of tablets like the iPad, eBooks, and even gaming technology will help attract younger people to the field. Other players, including the vice president of a regional carrier's flight department who spoke with AVweb Thursday, but wished to remain anonymous, believe the problem may be more complicated and the answers may be more wide-ranging. Due to the FAA's mandated increase in flight hours for initial hires to the age 65 rule now encouraging senior pilot retirements, as well as the economic downturn and the complication of mergers, our contact believes carriers may have to change the way they approach hiring in order to attract and retain the qualified pilots they need. Other sources have suggested that creative financing solutions from carriers or other entities may soon evolve to help students live with the burden of debt acquired from attending an accredited flight school. All agree that the forces of supply and demand may soon make life a little easier for young people interested in pursuing a career in aviation. Exactly how that may become a reality remains unclear.

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Turkish Hurkus Military Trainer Flies

Turkish Aircraft Industries has flown the Hurkus, a two-seat tandem trainer that is designed to compete with the Beechcraft T-6 Texan II and Embraer Super Tucano. The aircraft, which is apparently a clean-sheet design but looks a lot like a T-6, was announced in 2007 and flew on Aug. 29 in Ankara. The 33-minute gear-down flight appeared to test basic flight characteristics and was flown by Murat Özpala. Like the T-6 and Tucano, the aircraft will be offered in basic flight trainer and light attack versions on the military market but TAI is also seeking EASA certification for a civilian version.

The civilian aircraft will likely come without the ejection seat, exploding canopy and weapons hard points on the military variants but it will likely include the airframe and engine features that could find a niche market with adrenaline junkies who have cash to spare. The aircraft has a 1,600-shp Pratt & Whitney Canada turboprop that will pull it along at up to 310 knots. It's stressed for +7/-3.5 Gs and will climb at 4,300 fpm. The concentration will be on the military market initially and besides the Turkish air force, Australia and Sweden have expressed interest.

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Predator Drone Enlisted For Yosemite Fire

The California National Guard has deployed an MQ-1 Predator remotely piloted aircraft to support firefighters in their effort to control the Rim Fire threatening Yosemite National Park. Based out of Victorville, Calif., the aircraft is expected to identify key locations of fire activity, where the fire has been controlled, how it moves, and avenues of safe retreat. The aircraft's pilots are based out of March Air Reserve Base in Riverside and remain in contact with FAA air traffic controllers throughout flights lasting up to 22 hours. This isn't the first time an unmanned vehicle has been used in the state to help crews combat a fire. 

Other operations in 2007, 2008 and 2009 involved a range of aircraft including an Air Force drone. In 2007, NASA operated unmanned aircraft while responding to requests from California's Office of Emergency Services and the National Interagency Fire Center. Flights included operation of an Air Force Global Hawk equipped with an infrared camera. NASA was again involved in wildfire-monitoring activities in Southern California in 2008 and 2009 to assess fire damage. Currently, nearly a dozen aircraft are deployed fighting fires in Northern California. Crews working the Rim Fire since Aug. 17 have completed more than 900 drops of water and fire retardant. California Air and Army National Guard are working together with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, with assistance from the U.S. Forest Service, working at least three fires in the state.

Solar Drones

Founded in 2012, Titan Aerospace of New Mexico aims to create solar-powered unmanned aircraft to act as satellites with years-long flight durations. The company has two models in the works: the Solara 50 and the Solara 60, with the numbers referring to each vehicle's wingspan in meters. Both are being designed to fly autonomously at cruising altitudes of roughly 65,000 feet. The company believes it can generate approximately seven kilowatts of power during the day from some 3,000 solar cells on the aircraft's upper wing and tail and fly off stored energy (lithium-ion batteries) at night. With that charging cycle, it hopes to achieve flight durations of up to five years.

The mission profile of the Solara vehicles includes a takeoff after midnight on battery power. Long-endurance flights serving as retrievable in-atmosphere satellites would end with the aircraft's return, upon which it would be salvaged. The company lists the Solara's cruising range at 65 mph and estimates its range at 2.8 million miles, which, in practice, would likely be spent flying in circles over specific observation points or areas to which it may help provide cellphone coverage. For cellphone missions, Titan estimates that 6,500 square miles of geography could be served by one Solara, effectively taking the place of 100 cellphone towers on the ground. Other applications suggested by the company include industrial science, law enforcement and surveillance, and rapid response.

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FAA Direct Chart Sales End Oct. 1

The FAA is sticking to a previously announced schedule and will end direct sales of paper charts on Oct. 1. After that date, all paper charts must be obtained from an authorized dealer. The agency stopped renewing chart subscriptions on July 1 although it will fulfill the subscriptions already on file until they run out. There are no plans to stop printing paper charts. In an online notice earlier this year, the FAA said it was stopping the direct sales to save money. As an alternative, it established a worldwide network of authorized dealers for the charts.

In an update on its own coverage of the chart sales announcement, AOPA said it could identify no real hardships for pilots under the new scheme. “During the FAA’s consideration of this change, AOPA evaluated the impact of the change on pilots and urged the agency to ensure the continued widespread availability of affordable paper aeronautical charts,” said Tom Kramer, AOPA’s manager of airspace and modernization.  “We found that pilots could obtain paper aeronautical charts at prices lower than the FAA, with free shipping, from a variety of online pilot supply shops.”

Wing Walking 93-Year-Old

After an 81-minute-long record-setting wing walking flight, nonagenarian Tom Lackey said he was glad to be down but also that the "very, very cold and very noisy" ride had been "rather refreshing," according to the Telegraph.co.uk. Lackey set a record for the flight and in the process broke his own, which he previously set in 2005 at the age of 85, the last time he became the world's oldest wing walker. However, the 2005 flight included a loop. Lackey flew strapped to a mast atop a 1943 Boeing Stearman biplane and says he made the trip in honor of his late wife.

The flight maintained an altitude of about 1,000 feet, flying from Scotland to Londonderry, taking him across the Irish Sea. And throughout the experience, Lackey carried a picture of his late wife, Isobel, who served in the Royal Air Force. "I mainly think of her and what she would think of me. I do think she would have been very proud. I've been doing all these stunts to keep her memory alive. She was a wonderful person." Lackey is an experienced wing walker but conceded that his latest flight was his most challenging. "It was scary at times," he told the Telegraph, "but it's over with now and I have broken my own record."

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AVmail: September 2, 2013

Letter of the Week:
It's the Instructors, Stupid

I own a small flight school with three to five planes in central Massachusetts.  It's the kind where everyone is always greeted properly when they walk in, the kind the fosters a large pilot community, not just a pilot's certificate.  Otherwise, you'll only watch them leave and their hours dwindle on year two.

But we have a major problem.  It's not bringing students to finish or the so-called "80 percent drop-out rate."  The problem is the lack of good-quality, enthusiastic CFIs.  This past AirVenture, I spent a full day meeting and making contacts with every school at the new College Park section.  (I'd like to see that expanded to flight schools someday, but that's another topic.)

In 2013, I have rejected more instructors than I've hired.  Why is that?  I know I'm very picky, and joining this group requires a fun attitude.  Why can't a licensed pilot who's a CFI land a Skyhawk or feel the need to use a checklist on their interview check ride with us?  How about getting airsick on a reasonably calm day or not speaking English [well] enough so I can understand them?  How did they pass their medical, flight training, and check ride?  I don't get it!

The problem isn't with the students or the planes; it is with the flight instructors' attitudes and enthusiasm and also the school owners.  I expect a lot, as we all should, but I think we get limited qualified CFIs.  We ask ourselves, "Would you let you children fly with him?"  All reasonably good CFIs, please stand up.  Then call me.

Charley Valera
FCA Flight Center
KFIT

It's the Economy, Stupid

I read with horror the recent article on motion and simulators, particularly the part where "everyone" was surprised at how expensive learning to fly has become.  For 30 years I have been speaking with ex-pilots whose fathers used to fly or who quit flying themselves after they started having children.  AOPA has an affordability initiative, but rather than an economic development specialist, it is headed by a marketing ace.

I note that it is only in the past few months that a major conservative think tank has released a paper revealing income inequity to be bad for the economy.  However, their prime focus has not been aviation.

I think it imperative structural economic defects in the wider economy be recognized for the threat that they pose to all of general aviation.  This problem affects ab initio training and the future of recreational flying.

Melvin Allen

Advice for Mark Baker

Regarding the "Question of the Week":

Baker needs to work on two things: facilitating and growing the number of new pilots in training so that the GA pilot community continues to grow and doggedly working on the issues related to the safety of GA flying.  That includes changing the practical test standards to remedy the deficiencies of skills and knowledge that underlie the poor general aviation accident record.

Victor Vogel

I did not find an option that I felt was perfect, although grass roots effort was pretty close.  I think that general aviation needs to be presented to the public on a regular basis, showing that being wealthy isn't necessary to be able to fly.

As it stands, the only time there is media coverage of GA, it is to report, "A small plane crashed."  There should be more coverage of its use to transport supplies, the sick, and as just a fun way to spend an afternoon and really not too different in cost than golf.

B. Jackson

G100UL and Embry-Riddle

I'd have a lot more confidence in Embry-Riddle's done deal with G100UL if I knew that they were testing the product in the high-compression engines that many of us are stuck with.  What's the composition of their test fleet?  No disrespect intended, but 172s and Archers are not representative of the real-world high-compression fleet.

Thomas Yarsley

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Periodically, we run a sampling of the letters received to our editorial inbox. One letter that's particularly relevant, informative, or otherwise compelling will headline this section as our "Letter of the Week," and we'll send the author an official AVweb baseball cap as a "thank you" for interacting with us (and the rest of our readership).

Send us your comments and questions using this form. Please include your mailing address in your e-mail (just in case your letter is our "Letter of the Week"); by the same token, please let us know if your message is not intended for publication.

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Short Final

Editor's Note:  A couple of weeks back, we ran a "Short Final" featuring a fictional genericized squawk code ending in 8 — and boy, did we get letters.  Our favorite, though, was this "Short Final" follow-up recollection.


Your recent "Short Final" reminded me of a funny story I got to participate in about two and a half years ago:

XXX GND:
"Delta 1234, cleared to Yadda via depart heading 320, radar vectors YADDA, then as filed. Maintain 5,000; expect FL260 ten minutes after departure. Departure 123.45; squawk 2108."

DAL1234:
"Roger. Cleared to Yadda via heading 320 on departure, radar vectors YADDA, then as filed. Maintain 5,000; expect FL260 ten minutes after departure. Departure 123.45; squawk 2108."

XXX GND:
"Delta 1234, readback correct. Call when ready to taxi, with Echo."

I sat and waited. And waited. And waited, figuring at least one of them would figure it out, and then I finally couldn't help myself ... .

Me:
"Ground, you sure you want to give him that squawk code?"

XXX GND:
"I'm not sure what you're talking about, but his code is fine."

So I waited about another ten seconds to see if either the controller or the pilot would figure it out. Nope.

Me:
"O.K., sorry about that. I must have some old equipment in this old bird and not one of them newfangled transponders. The digits in my old transponder only go up to 7."

After about a six-second pause:

XXX GND [laughing] :
"Oh, boy. It's been a long night! DAL1234, how about a squawk of something a little different, like how about maybe 2110?"


Don Desfosse
via e-mail

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ECI Cylinder AD: The More You Look, the Worse It Is

Here’s my definition of a bad day: You overhauled your Baron’s IO-520s  a couple of years ago using cylinders from ECI and now the FAA would like you to remove those jugs and replace them with something else. Round it off and call that about $25,000.

That’s the basic gist of a proposed airworthiness directive the FAA announced two weeks ago and about which we’ve been reporting regularly. The AD targets about 30,000 ECI cylinders of various vintages for two kinds of cracking: a failure in the shrink band that holds the head to the cylinder barrel via an interference fit and cracking in the dome of the head. Both flaws can result in catastrophic cylinder failure, but  not necessarily complete engine failure.

On this much, the FAA and ECI agree, but they see eye-to-eye on little else. They don’t agree on the number of actual failures in the field—the FAA says more than 30, ECI says it can confirm 19. Nor do they agree on the failure mechanism. In the AD documentation, the FAA says it doesn’t know what the failure modes are, just the results, while ECI insists that the head/barrel separations were caused by overheating due to pilot engine mismanagement. Maddeningly, the government’s own NPRM process precludes the FAA from supplying specific information on its methodology or the underpinnings of its conclusion to demand removal of these cylinders. The AD docket gives some information, of course, but ECI says it has a lot of questions the FAA isn’t answering. 

In my view, no reasonable person could look at the available data—a combination of Service Difficulty Report analysis, field reports and in-house manufacturing history—and feel confident of having an accurate picture of reality. In short, the data is just too sketchy. It may be biased toward classifying failures that aren’t head/barrel separations or it may very well miss many that are. I'm not sure you can tell which is which from reviewing the data.

Taking the broader view from this too vague compilation of dodgy numbers and unsupported theories, ECI concedes this: When compared to Continental Motors OEM cylinders, its incidence of head/barrel separation is much higher, although just how much higher we don’t know. They don’t either because they don’t have accurate numbers for the Continental OEM cylinder population. ECI says it has about 25 percent of the cylinder market and during the period 2002 to 2012, ECI insists it had 19 verified head/barrel separations compared to 24 for Continental on the same 520/550 cylinders. The raw data ECI provided us showed 36 failures, but the company says many of those were unverified or improperly classified.    

Just to grasp at some kind of solid foundation in a field of numbers that just don’t add up, let’s accept ECI’s 19 failures. As these things go, that’s comparable to the Continental record, except for one thing: it applies to a much smaller population of cylinders, so the rate of failure is at least twice as high, but could be four or more times as high, depending on whether ECI’s estimate of its cylinder market share is accurate. On a rough per engine basis, the 30,000 ECI cylinders under the gun represent 5000 engines, meaning that with 19 incidents, the per engine rate is one failure per 263 engines. For Continental engines, the rate is much lower, perhaps as much as four or more times lower.

Isn’t that damning for ECI? It certainly doesn’t look good. There’s got to be some explanation for ECI’s higher failure rate. And there is, but first, let’s put things in perspective. Worst case, at least from the data we have and with the caveats I’ve described, the percentage of ECI cylinders with head/head barrel separations is 0.12 if you accept the FAA data and about half that if you take ECI’s data. Moreover, ECI's data shows a declining incidence of head/barrel separations, with none at all during the past two years. Its statistical analysis suggests the separations are in decline in the target cylinder population. 

While it’s true that these rates and percentages are worse than for Continental cylinders, we are still talking about very small risks indeed. Could it be that there have actually been many more ECI head/barrel separations than have been reported? Maybe, but if that’s so, why haven’t any of the six engine shops I canvassed two weeks ago seen them? It seems reasonable that if there’s a breaking wave of heads flying off of barrels, at least some of the shops would know about them. They don’t seem to. Nor have we heard from any readers with direct experience following the ECI story.

 As I reported two weeks ago, what some of the shops have seen is what I call pedestrian cracking—cracks around fuel injector bosses, spark plug holes and the like. Some shops think ECI cylinders are more susceptible to this and have stopped recommending them, but that’s an entirely different consideration that has nothing to do with head/barrel separations.

So against this backdrop of uncertain data and a small risk, the FAA proposes the potential of an $83.3 million AD to selectively remove these cylinders from service, the cost to be borne entirely by owners. Given the weakness of the data and the small numbers, this is obviously hitting a small nail with an exceedingly large hammer. Absent better data from the FAA, I just don’t see how this AD is justified.

But that’s not to say nothing should be done. ECI doesn’t challenge the fact that Continental OEM cylinders have a much lower rate of head/barrel separation. Their explanation for this is that their cylinders live in a different market segment that’s heavy on older or aftermarket applications in which pilots don’t have sophisticated engine monitoring and are thus more likely to mismanage engines and thermally stress their cylinders, which ECI says is the failure cause, not manufacturing or quality issues. When I visited ECI in San Antonio last week, they showed me data that clearly showed how cylinder mating threads are stressed by over temping, with the load curve heading straight up above 450 degrees or so.

But I’m not quite ready to buy this argument, frankly. Plenty of Continental OEM cylinders go on older Bonanzas and Cessnas and there’s no reason to believe the pilots of those airplanes are any more or less hamfisted with the mixture knob than are ECI cylinder buyers. And ECI doesn’t have the electronic data from any cylinder failure events to correlate the theory in the real world.

Bottom line, ECI cylinders fail at a higher rate, but not so high as to represent meaningful additional risk worthy of the FAA’s massive AD.  The risk here is too small for the FAA to wade in and dent owners with this kind of overbroad, expensive AD. While the FAA has a duty to protect the public safety, it should do so reasonably and with cost in mind. Small or marginal risks—and this appears to be in that category—should be left up to aircraft owners to judge and mitigate. In my view, a non-mandatory service bulletin that summarizes the data and advises  owners of the failure pattern and rate and how to inspect cylinders for potential cracks seems the fair way to approach this. Owners can then make their own risk/cost assessments, which is what owning an airplane is all about anyway. Then watch the situation for a couple of years and revisit as necessary. Otherwise, the AD ought to be dropped for now.

You can read and comment on the docket here.

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

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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Video: Super Sealane

The Cessna 182 is a great cross-country plane.  Add some power and put it on amphib floats, and you have a wonderful adventure platform.  We take a look at the Seaplanes West Super Sealane.

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Video: Stemme Motorglider at EAA AirVenture

Alexander Papenberg, CEO of Stemme's subsidiary in San Diego, California, tells AVweb about the S6 motorglider on display this week at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

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