AVweb AVFlash - Volume 20, Number 11a
September 13, 2013
Malware Mining Civil Aviation Data
A computer security company, TrendMicro, Thursday reported that it has found a particular family of malware gathering information "related to the civil aviation sector." The company says that the intentions of the latest targeted information gathering are not clear, but the programs are "now being used to gather intelligence about the civil aviation sector in the United States." The particular malicious program is called Sykipot, a "malware" program that has been known since 2007, according to the company, and has traditionally attacked other industries including telecommunications. The new attacks "indicate a certain level of expertise and funding," says TrendMicro, which offered basic advice for self-defense.
The best defense against the Sykipot malware is to keep your computer systems updated with the most current security software. Sykipot attacks normally arrive via email attachments that exploit applications like Adobe Reader and Microsoft Office but has evolved to use a target's operating system, web browsers and Java scripts. The security company says that the new attacks are not especially more sophisticated than older attacks associated with the same malware. But they campaign is "just sophisticated enough to be effective." It has been targeting U.S.-based entities and outside of civil aviation the company advises that "other U.S. sectors should also be aware and able to identify it."
Sharp Increase In Reported Near Misses
The FAA says that a sharp increase from 2011 to 2012 in the number of reported incidents involving failure to maintain proper separation of aircraft in flight is likely due to changes in how such incidents are reported and not due to increased risk to aircraft, but not all agencies agree. The year-over-year increase ran the numbers up from 1,895 to 4,394 for consecutive one-year periods ending on Sept. 30, 2012. The FAA's old method of acquiring data relied on reports filed by humans; the new system also relies on humans ... without fear of punishment ... and includes automated reporting at some facilities. While the reported figures are up, the FAA notes that high-risk incidents as a percentage of total incidents declined. The FAA hopes that new technology may also help improve safety. But a recent GAO report shows not all entities are convinced that all the increases in near-miss incidents can be entirely attributed to changes in reporting.
Both the GAO and the Transportation Department inspector general found that error rates also increased at certain centers that used computerized reporting, meaning that the increase was due to other factors. And the use of automated reporting isn't the only factor. The FAA also changed some of the definitions that identify which incidents are reported. And the FAA has added a new ranking system for incidents, which now includes a "high risk" category. The introduction of new terminology and reporting system means it may take some time before any new patterns become clear. For now, reported incidents on the ground and in the air increased last year and facilities guiding high-altitude flights showed a 39-percent increase, according to an IG report. NATCA released a statement Thursday that says in part, "We are proud of the collaborative efforts we have undertaken with the FAA to reduce safety incidents and increase reporting opportunities for controllers and FAA employees."
United Gives It Away (By Mistake)
A computer glitch at United Airlines Thursday led to a yet undisclosed number of passengers gaining access to tickets sold to them for as little as zero dollars, plus fees, and it appears the company has decided to honor those prices. At the root of the problem for United were airfares accidentally filed at $0. When the airline became aware of the error it briefly stopped accepting reservations. Service returned by roughly 2:45 p.m. Central time. One passenger contacted by NBC news said she was able to book a flight from Houston to Washington for $5.
Previous incidents involving fare errors have sometimes been sourced back to mistakes in data entry. A United spokesperson said that the airline didn't yet know how many tickets were sold at greatly reduced prices. The airline's past experience with ticketing errors includes a 2008 incident in which the carrier failed to add fuel surcharges to ticket prices, reducing some fares by more than $125. That was also a single-day event and the company honored those tickets, too. So far, the company is not blaming the latest glitch on its online systems and suspects that the problem was more likely related to data entry.
Unique Transatlantic Attempt Ends In Newfoundland
Cluster balloon pilot Jonathan Trappe landed short of his goal on Thursday when he maneuvered his unique lighter-than-aircraft to a safe landing in a remote area on the western coast of Newfoundland during the last hours of daylight. "Hmm, this doesn't look like France," he posted to his Facebook page. Shortly after, he posted: "Landed safe, at an alternate location. Remote. I put the exposure canopy up on the boat. Will stay here for the night." According to Barcroft Media, Trappe experienced "technical difficulties" that forced him to "abandon his quest."
The landing site, as shown by Trappe's online tracker, is about a mile from the coast, and nearly 5 miles from the nearest road. It's not yet clear if the balloon system is still intact or how Trappe will be recovered by his team. His gondola for the flight is a sturdy sailboat/lifeboat built in Maine, called a Portland Pudgy, and Trappe is well equipped with food and survival gear. From start to finish, his flight covered about 600 miles and lasted about 12 hours. Trappe had spent about two years designing the system and training for the attempt.
Russia's Major Cessna Skyhawk Order
One of the largest orders Cessna has ever recorded was placed at Moscow's JetExpo 2013 for 79 of the manufacturer's Skyhawks (more than half the number of Skyhawks delivered in all of 2012), purchased by Moscow-based operator ViraZH. ViraZH plans to establish the aircraft as trainers and will place them at flight schools throughout western Russia. At list prices, the deal would be worth more than $22 million. The delivery will be fulfilled through the third quarter of 2014, giving the Russian operator, which already operates 11 Skyhawks, one of the largest Skyhawk fleets in the world.
Cessna says the order is encouraging as it represents an increase in the company's global customer base while also increasing accessibility to flight training in Russia. The 172 is now the "best-selling, most-flown single-engine aircraft in the world," according to Cessna, and the latest variants are equipped with an all-glass Garmin G1000 integrated flight deck. Cessna delivered 140 Skyhawks in 2012, according to General Aviation Manufacturers Association data. The company's piston line is now led by the Cessna TTx, which it advertises as "the world's fastest commercially produced and certified fixed-gear single engine aircraft." The four-place low-wing tops out near 235 knots behind a 310-hp Continental TSIO-550-C engine and can cruise for 1,250 nm.
CSeries First Flight Target Monday
Bombardier says it's hoping for perfect weather Monday to enable the first flight of its much-anticipated CSeries airliner. Although the company was targeting a morning flight, the weather forecast on Sunday was favoring an afternoon window. Showers and 10-knot winds were expected to end by noon when the skies were forecast to clear. The first test article has been given a fresh promotional paint scheme and finished high-speed taxi tests last week, hitting V1 on the runway at Mirabel Airport near Montreal. Wheel shimmy tests have also been conducted.
The first flight has been delayed several times, first by supplier problems and later by software issues in the fly-by-wire systems. The aircraft is seen as a huge gamble for Bombardier, which is the third largest manufacturer of aircraft in the world. The CSeries will compete directly in the 100- to 149-seat single-aisle airliner market against Boeing, Airbus and Embraer. Bombardier now has 177 firm orders for the aircraft and company officials have said they're confident that more orders will materialize after the first flight.
Video: Bendix/King KSN770 Flight Trial
Bendix/King designed the hardware and Aspen Avionics completed the user interface for the KSN770 FMS. The end result is a powerful retrofit GPS navigator that has a sharp screen, liberal interface potential and a $13,995 price tag. Aviation Consumer's Larry Anglisano flew with the system to have a look.
Pilot On Circumnavigation Holiday
Flying around the world solo in a light single is a challenge in anyone's books but Calle Hedberg says it's also a great way to relax. The South African IT consultant has taken an eight-month break from work to make the westward trek that is planned to end in February back in his hometown of Cape Town. But unlike most of the just 95 solo/single earthrounders that have preceded him, Hedberg doesn't have a detailed plan or itinerary for his trip. "This is my first holiday in 15 years," he told AVweb in an interview in Kelowna, British Columbia, where he paused for a week to earn a float endorsement. "And I'm just having a great time." After Kelowna, Hedberg headed to Reno for the National Championship Air Races and then he plans to head north again to Alaska for a bush flying course. After that, he's not sure and it will depend mainly on the weather, opportunity and how the spirit moves him.
He has narrowed the crossing of the Pacific to three basic options. He'll either go from California via Hawaii or South America to either Easter Island or the Galapagos Islands. Although the itinerary is loose, the pre-planning was meticulous and even included the choice of aircraft. Hedberg had a Ravin 500 kit aircraft built for him ("There is no 51 percent rule in South Africa," he said) because of its power and range. The aircraft will carry enough fuel in its stock tanks to fly 2,600 nautical miles and a portable tank he can hook up in the back seat will push that to 3,200 nm. He flew 17 hours nonstop on a test flight before embarking on the trip. "The plane has performed flawlessly. I'm very happy with it," he said. He carries a liferaft and survival gear, an HF radio and satellite phone. He said that everywhere he has landed so far he's been offered places to stay and interesting side trips that have added to the experience. His progress can be followed on his Facebook page.
Video: Calle Hedberg -- The Flying Hobo
Many round-the-world pilots are in a hurry to get the trip done, but Calle Hedberg of Capetown, South Africa is taking a different route. He has eight months to do the trip in his kit-built Ravin 500, and he plans to savor every moment. AVweb's Russ Niles flew with him after he got a float endorsement in Kelowna, British Columbia.
AVmail: September 16, 2013
Letter of the Week:
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