AVweb AVFlash - Volume 20, Number 9b

September 4, 2013

Engine Out Caught On Video, Well Performed

A 22-year-old instructor suffered an engine out while flying with his 18-year-old student in a Jabiru J-170 at Victoria Point, Australia, two weeks ago and all ended ruggedly, but well, for the pair in a sequence that was captured by an in-cockpit video recorder. Authorities are investigating the cause of the off-airport landing while onlookers are impressed by the apparent calm displayed in the cockpit as the aircraft descended and the pair made preparations. The flight was a first for student Josh Matica who was at the controls when the aircraft's engine surged. Instructor Doug Field took over and quickly calculated that from their 1,100 foot altitude they'd be on the ground within two minutes. Field not only got off an emergency call, but also prepared his student for a rough landing among limited options.

Field managed to put the airplane down in a pasture, evading a small pond, a tree and a pumphouse but was unable to stop the aircraft after it landed before making contact with a barbed wire fence. Field even managed to retrieve seat cushions from the rear of the aircraft, giving them to his student to shield the student's upper body from direct contact with the aircraft's instrument panel. A statement released by Pathfinder Aviation, which owns the plane, called the event a "textbook execution of the forced landing procedure."

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Feds Fund Grounded Airplane

The U.S. government is paying $6,600 a month to keep an old turboprop it leases grounded in Georgia even though it seems doubtful the Gulfstream G-1 dubbed Aero Marti will ever fly for Uncle Sam again. “The contract now is a ‘non-fly’ [agreement],” Steve Christopher of Phoenix Air Group told the Washington Post. “That’s what the customer wants.” The customer is the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, which has recognized the folly of trying to pour news from the real world into Cuba from above even though the communist country long ago learned how to keep that brand of reality from intruding on its populace. Until May of this year, the G-1, which ironically is roughly the same age as the 50-year-old crisis that keeps it in funded limbo today, was used to beam uncensored television news reports in Spanish to the island nation. The problem is the Cuban government discovered more than 20 years ago (when a hot air balloon was used to carry the transmitters) how to jam the weak signals and it’s estimated that less than 1 percent of Cubans could (or cared to) tune in. And yet the government has paid about $32 million since 2006 to fly the aircraft and, thanks to a convoluted political aberration of sequestration, continues to pay more than $79,500 a year for the plane to be stored at Phoenix Air Group’s headquarters in Cartersville, Ga.

Even though the Office of Cuba Broadcasting asked Congress to stop funding the program, Congress, at the behest of influential Florida lawmakers, kept Aero Marti in the budget. The Florida members, some of Cuban ancestry, apparently believe there is value in the fact that Cuba is jamming the signals. “If it wasn’t important, why would they block the signals? So we know that it’s effective,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., told the Post. With the sequester, the Office of Cuba Broadcasting saw its chance. Its contribution to the austerity program was $1.4 million and it assigned the whole works to Aero Marti. That was enough to eliminate funding for pilots and operating expenses but it wasn’t enough to kill the program entirely. So the G-1 stands ready to broadcast television signals that no one can watch to people who might not watch anyway. Meanwhile, the Office of Cuba Broadcasting has moved on albeit in a sometimes retro way. It's now claiming success in bringing "balanced" reporting to Cubans via the Internet, satellite TV and AM radio.

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Wing Commander, 007 Pilot Ken Wallis, 97, Dies

photo by Dan Gay

British pilot Ken Wallis took his first solo flight in 1937, flew as a stunt pilot and doubled for Sean Connery in 1967, and passed away Sunday at the age of 97, after "a long and successful life doing what he wanted," his daughter told BBC.co.uk. Wallis flew Wellington bombers for his country in World War II, surviving a bomb bay explosion and a midair with a barrage balloon, once returning with 115 holes in his aircraft. He spent 20 years in weapons research for the RAF and later applied his skills for the movie industry. Wallis flew roughly 44 hours and 75 flights to capture the seven-and-one-half minute gyrocopter sequence shown in the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice. At the age of 96, he was recognized for his lifetime contribution to aerospace by the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators. At the time, he was quoted saying, "This award is a great honor, but at only 96 I'm just a beginner."

Wallis set 17 world records in autogyros in two categories (34 total) from 1968 to 2002 and called flying "a family vice." Wallis built his own autogyros, and kept as many as 18. It was one of those chosen for use in the Bond film. In 2010, at the age of 94, Wallis had plans to fly an autogyro to a world record speed of more than 140 mph. He told the DailyMail.co.uk that he'd flown to 136 mph in one of his aircraft but officially held a record set in 2002 at 129.1 mph. As for his age, Wallis said, "I try not to take any notice. So long as I'm busy and able, and can still turn the propeller to start the engine, why should I think about numbers."

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Airbus Wins, VoloCopter Debuts At GreenTec Awards

In Berlin last week, Airbus took home the GreenTec award in aviation for its work in developing fuel cells for use in commercial aircraft. The annual awards are Europe’s "most important environment and business awards," Airbus said in a news release. “Fuel cells are one of the most promising 'step-change' technologies to make our aircraft even more efficient, cleaner and quieter," said Gunter Butschek, COO for Airbus. "The recognition of our fuel-cell project at the GreenTec Awards underlines the relevance of our activities." Airbus is working to not only create clean electricity with fuel cells but also to use the by-products -- water and nitrogen gas -- in various aircraft systems. The technical solution may soon be "widely adopted," one of the judges said. But at the media-friendly awards event, the recently completed e-Volo two-seat Volocopter prototype stole the show, suspended from the ceiling above the crowd.

The first manned flight of the two-seat Volocopter will take place before the end of the year, the company said this week. “We are on schedule with the development,” said e-volo Managing Director Stephan Wolf. The aircraft can fly up to 20 minutes on battery power, the company said. The pilot uses a joystick to control the fly-by-wire system, according to the company website. "Opposed to any other aircraft, the operation is child’s play," the website says. "It takes off and lands vertically and the pilot pays little or no attention to the flight path angle, minimum speed, stall, mixture control, pitch adjustment and many other things which make conventional aviation so demanding. The propellers generate the entire ascending force, and by means of a selective change in rotary speed they simultaneously take care of the steering. Furthermore, as opposed to helicopters, no mechanical pitch control of the propellers is necessary whatsoever." Onboard computers control the rotation speed of each drive separately, the company said. An optional, additional pusher propeller would enable the aircraft to fly faster. The company flew its initial one-seat multicopter in 2011.

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Fall Fly-Ins: Reno, AOPA, NBAA

For pilots in search of fly-in destinations, three big events are coming up for the fall season, and this year all three will be held in the western part of the U.S. The Reno Air Races are, of course, always held in Nevada, and the show starts next Wednesday, Sept. 11. "Jetman" Yves Rossy will be flying above the crowd, in his second U.S. appearance following his debut at EAA AirVenture. The airshow will be missing the fast and loud military teams, like the rest of this year's shows, but the line-up includes aerobatic flyer Mike Goulian, Clay Lacy in a Lear 25, the Patriots L-39 jet team, and more. Of course the real attraction at Reno is the pylon racing, with a variety of classes from jets to biplanes to the famed Unlimited racers.

Last week, AVweb's Mary Grady spoke with Elliot Seguin, a Mojave home-builder who's bringing a new design into the Reno mix this month. Also coming up is the annual AOPA Summit, Oct. 10 to 12, being held for the first time in Fort Worth, Texas. Chris Eads, AOPA director of events, said the site is just a two- or three-hour flight from either coast. "It makes getting to Summit economical not just for the people in the immediate region, but for all our members," Eads said. Later in the month, Oct. 22 to 24, NBAA holds its annual convention in Las Vegas, Nev. About 25,000 visitors are expected, and the show will host announcements for all the latest products and news in the business aviation world.

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AVweb's Aircraft Cylinder Survey: Give Us Your Views

With a massive AD against ECI cylinders in the offing, we would like to know reader experiences not just with ECI cylinders, but other brands as well. If you've got five minutes to spare, you can tell us about your satisfaction--or lack thereof--with aircraft cylinders you've been flying behind. Just click here to take the survey.

We're asking specific multiple choice questions about cylinders, but also soliciting open-ended comments about reader experiences with cylinders. And yes, the proposed AD against ECI cylinders for head-to-barrel separation is definitely covered in the survey. This is your chance to tell us about these kinds of failures, not just on ECI cylinders, but for others as well. We'll publish the results in future AVweb news coverage.

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Limited Super Puma Flights Resume

At least one operator in the North Sea has resumed flights with a Eurocopter Super Puma helicopter this week, the BBC reported on Tuesday, though it's a different model from the one that crashed into the sea on Aug. 23, killing four passengers. That Super Puma was on a normal approach to landing until about three miles from the runway, according to a preliminary report from the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch, "when there was a reduction in airspeed accompanied by an increased rate of descent." The helicopter was "intact and upright" when it crashed into the sea about two miles offshore. Fourteen passengers and the pilot survived.

Operators had voluntarily grounded the fleet, which comprises more than half of the aircraft serving the offshore oil industry in the UK. Bristow, an offshore helicopter operator, has resumed flying with a Super Puma AS332 L, a slightly different model from the L2 that crashed. Britain's Civil Aviation Authority said on Friday it doesn't think the accident was caused by an airworthiness or technical problem, according to Reuters, and the agency supported the operator's decision to resume flights. However, the AAIB said it didn't yet know what had caused the accident. The cockpit voice and data recorder was recovered last week. Industry unions have called for caution in using the fleet, noting that Super Pumas have been involved in five incidents since 2009.

OSHA To Oversee Cabin Crew Safety

The safety of cabin crew in commercial aircraft has always been governed by the FAA, but under a new federal policy, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration now will have oversight over issues such as hazardous chemicals, exposure to blood-borne pathogens, and hearing protection. “Our cabin crewmembers contribute to the safe operation of every flight each day,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We’re taking an important step toward establishing procedures for resolving cabin crew workplace health and safety concerns.” The FAA said it will work with OSHA to ensure that any new requirements will not adversely affect aviation safety. 

The new policy, which was published in August, was required by the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, which took effect last year. “Safety is our number one priority,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "It's important that cabin crewmembers on our nation’s airlines benefit from OSHA protections, including information about potential on-the-job hazards and other measures to keep them healthy and safe.” The Association of Flight Attendants said it has been lobbying for OSHA protection since 1975, when the FAA claimed exclusive jurisdiction over workplace safety and health for all crewmembers while working on board commercial flights.

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Does the Cost of Avgas Really Matter?

It’s an article of faith that one reason flying activity is in the crapper is because avgas costs, on average, about $6 a gallon. Maybe that’s true, maybe it isn’t, but like many of us in the aviation business, I suspect the high price of fuel is just one reason for declining flight activity and it may not be the dominant reason.

As we reported last week, Redbird aims to put some data on the theory with its novel experiment to sell fuel for a buck a gallon throughout the month of October. The logic here is that if flying activity doesn’t increase by a certain amount, that will prove that the price of fuel isn’t the major driver some of us think. The obvious weakness in this reasoning is lack of a baseline at certain price points so we have no idea if demand for avgas is elastic or inelastic. Where does the curve shallow or get steep? Is it $2 or $4.50? There’s simply no data to inform a guess, thus Redbird’s survey questions will need to be cannily contrived to make any sense of this. In the end, it may not be possible to make any sense of it.

From our own recent fuel survey, we may have confirmed the beliefs of those who say fuel price isn’t the driver we think it is. One of the questions on that survey—which we’ll be reporting on shortly—asked about mogas versus avgas. While there is widespread interest and support for mogas, not many owners are actually using it. The survey asked why. Only 5 percent of the respondents cited a lack of enough price difference between mogas and avgas as a factor in not using it.  No surprise that nearly a quarter said they don’t use it because it’s not available on the airport. I’m willing to bet Redbird’s experiment will reveal a parallel finding. Fuel price has an effect, but not to the extent we believe.

On the other hand, even if the Redbird project reveals that fuel price is a bigger factor than we thought, what to do about it? Jet A is a solution, but a slow developing one, given the size of the legacy fleet. Mogas is promising, but remains steadfastly unable to gain traction, despite strong interest in it. (More on that later.)

The fuel survey revealed another thing: Many pilots don’t see why an unleaded replacement for avgas has to be more expensive. Why shouldn’t we expect it to be cheaper? Because there are no visible market forces to make it so. There’s no reason to believe the unleaded replacement will be cheaper to manufacture given how cheap lead is as an octane enhancer. Furthermore, the price you pay for avgas doesn’t have much to do with the cost of producing it anyway. Bluntly, refiners put a fat margin on avgas because the market will bear it and competition, hobbled by limited suppliers and transportation challenges, hasn’t worked to flatten out the price spikes.

Leaded avgas is really more of a specialty chemical than a fuel and that may prove more true of its unleaded replacement. It will likely sell in a market where Jet A will continue to erode the usefulness of aviation gasoline. No part of that equation points to lower prices. But we can all hope the unleaded replacement will bring more players into the market. That’s not impossible, but I don’t see it as likely.

Meanwhile, I’ll be watching Redbird’s loss leader experiment with interest. It may very well be the FBO equivalent of the Charge of the Light Brigade, but it ought to make for some compelling news coverage. We can all use a little more of that.

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: 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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