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."

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

See our video with Hedberg here.

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.

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AVmail: September 16, 2013

Letter of the Week:
Factoring Human Factors

I was interested in the article on the KSN770 published in the Sept. 13 AVwebFlash, in which it states that "graybeards may still prefer [to use] a transfer key" as opposed to using touchscreen controls. †I'm not a graybeard (is there a politically-correct term for female pilots, too?), but I am a human-factors engineer, and I'm always amazed at the proliferation of touchscreen and data-entry techniques in today's avionics.

For example, the first time I flew in a plane with a "digital" transponder (i.e., one with pushbuttons for the digits rather than the old-fashioned rotary knobs), I thought this was a great idea. †It would be much faster to enter four digits rather than twist a knob four times. †And I thought it was cool to have a specific "VFR" button to change the squawk to 1200.

But then, as I was flying in IMC in moderate turbulence, I got a request from ATC to change my squawk. †I couldn't stabilize my hand to hit the right buttons to get the squawk entered in. †My hand was bouncing along with the plane. †Eventually, I was able to enter the squawk, but it took me quite a long time. †And this is a simple operation, and fortunately one that's not intended to occur all that often.

Consider modern MFDs. †I look at the "soft keys" surrounding the screen and have to laugh. †When I design objects for military and other government systems, I'm required to comply with MIL-STD-1472 human factors designs. †Among other things, these call for all buttons to be at least three quarters of an inch wide. †Some of the MFD buttons are less than half this width, and are separated by only a few millimeters. †How is someone supposed to hit the right button while in turbulence?

My experience with the (poor) avionics human factors design has caused me to make modifications in my own designs: †I include a "perch" for the user to hold onto when selecting a button or a touch-screen to better enable them to accurately enter information in turbulence, whether that turbulence is due to air currents or bouncing down the road in an HMMWV.

But I still wish the avionics companies would hire some good human factors engineers rather than designing stuff that is flashy and looks cool!

Shelley Rosenbaum Lipman

G100UL Is Ready

Thomas Yarsley expressed concern about Embry-Riddle's fuel testing program using G100UL. †Tornado Alley Turbo has been running this fuel in a turbonormalized IO-550 for a couple of years now. †They carry 100LL in one tank and G100UL in the other so the engine monitor can show any differences.

G100UL appears to be a true replacement for 100LL. †It can be made in any refinery, does not require a dedicated delivery system (no lead), and can be mixed in any proportion with 100LL with no ill effects. †The goal is to have it STC'd for a wide range of high-performance engines no later than 2014.

Paul Hekman

Scud Running Memories

I loved your article on scud running. †I purchased a Super Cruiser in 1994 and learned to fly it in Ireland. †I was taught by a crusty old instructor, and scud running was on the syllabus. †About a month before my flight test, with about 50 hours under my belt, I was sent on a solo 80-nm cross country with 800-ft. cloud base and three to four miles visibility. †Every lesson contained in your story was briefed before departure. †It was a very smooth flight.

After getting my test, I was quite a competent scud runner. †Like Hack, I'd usually only do it if the visibility was good (six to eight miles), and if it wasn't, it had to be very stable air. †Ireland is small, so I knew my way around extremely well. †Despite having a GPS, I'd always have a map open and keep my finger on my location on the map.

I've only scud run once in the U.S., following a colleague in close formation through a part of the world he knew well. †Eventually the weather became too low for me, and I just put down in a farmer's field. †He proceeded on. †It helped that I was flying a Cub.

I totally agree that scud running has become very dangerous. †Last time I was in Ireland, wind turbines and cell phone towers were everywhere. †It's just not safe to do it any more.

I really liked the trip down memory lane.

Serena Ryan

No Place for Politics

Rick Durden says "the best piece of legislation ever to pass Congress over the determined opposition of Republicans, the G.I. Bill of Rights." †In fact, Harry W. Colmery, a former Republican national chairman, is credited with writing the first draft of the G.I. Bill. †Furthermore, Edith Nourse Rogers, R-Massachussets, helped write and co-sponsored the bill. †It is true that over the years, Republicans have opposed some amendments. †But Durden's characterization is inaccurate and offensive. †You should publish a retraction immediately.

Geoffrey Beale

AVweb responds:

It was indeed Harry Colmery who came up with first draft of the G.I. Bill introduced in the House on January 10, 1944. †In 1984, it was revamped by Democrat "Sonny" Montgomery, and that revision became the Montgomery G.I. Bill.

And while this information might be interesting, it has nothing to do with scud running, which was the topic of the article. †It should have been edited out.

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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

Mother heard scolding her son at Oshkosh:
"So help me God, if you don't straighten out, I am going to send you home on a commercial airliner!"

Only at Oshkosh!


David Peters
via e-mail

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I Don't Need No Stinkin' Electrical System

When Iím shopping for an engine overhaulówhich Iíve done a half dozen times, I guessóI tend not to dwell on the details. Days of handwringing over which shop to use, fussing over accessories and generally just worrying the decision to death will make you crazy. So I just gather up the available data, sort through it, try to gain some customer feedback and then just get on with it.

This time around, however, as weíre overhauling the Cub engine, once decision point gave me pause. We have the option of upgrading from the installed C-65 to a C-85. Itís basically a bolt-up. Other than a welcome boost in performance, this opens up some interesting options like a starter, an alternator and an electrical system. While we were debating this upgrade, I got a look at a C-85 overhaul for a Champ done by Donís Dream Machines in Griffin, Georgia. It was a perfectly finished little jewel of a thing, fitted out with state-of-the-art electricals, including a lightweight starter and alternator. Very sweet. We could have not just a starter, but a proper radio and even a transponder.

Then the visceral reaction hit me.

I donít want no stinkiní electrical system in the Cub. Donít want a radio either, other than the handheld we already have. Transponder? Forget it. This sentiment stems not from some gauzy romantic nostalgia whereby I imagine myself strutting from the line shack in a leather helmet and jodhpurs. I was born in the year I was supposed to be born, thanks. I have no fantasies pre-dating an era when gas cost a dime and my Mom could drive me around in her Oldsmobile and not risk arrest for letting me stand up on the seat on the ride to the Piggly Wiggly.

I donít think itís related to purity of flight, either. You know, the usual claptrap about a simple airplane being so elemental that youíre at one with the wind, separated by nothing but a thin cloth membrane and sensing the sensation of flight through the sinews of the control cables. Bleeech!

Probably I voted against the C-85 because Iím cheap and it would have cost another eight grand, at least. But really, for me, it gets down to this: I like to prop airplanes. Thatís basically it. So many people are fearful of the simple act of swinging a wooden blade through to start an engine that the contrarian in me absolutely revels in this simple process. Thereís a bit of challenge and art to it and every airplane that requires propping has a different personality. Some like just a shot of prime, some want two. Some will fire on the first blade every time and others will force the hapless pilot through a five-minute symphony of swinging, cursing and farting until theyíll fire and run with a will. Propping forces a certain concentration and focus on the task at hand, because if you do it wrong, you can ruin your day.

A guy who prefers a starter wouldnít necessarily appreciate that and on some days, I donít either. But not enough to spend $8000 to install a starter button.

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

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.

Video: Redbird's Redhawk Diesel -- A Detailed Look

At AirVenture, the really cool airplane wasn't from an airplane manufacturer but from Redbird, the guys who build motion simulators. †They showed off a nicely refurb'd Cessna 172 with a diesel engine from Continental, and they invited us to come fly it at their San Marcos, Texas Skyport. †So we did. †In this video, we offer a detailed analysis of the Redhawk, along with a closer look at the airplane's performance and cost figures.

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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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