Hilton Software, developers of the WingX Pro aviation app, is advising its subscribers not to upgrade their iPads and iPhones to the new iOS 7 operating system because the new operating system has stability issues. The company says it believes its app is fully compatible with iOS 7 but the operating system itself has a variety of issues, including lock ups, random reboots and strange behavior of the user interface. The issues have been reported on the final release of the system and not just the beta version. The company says it has had bug reports from just five of its thousands of customers but issued the warning out of an abundance of caution.
"We're coming at it from a position of reliability; i.e. a crash or a hang is OK while tweeting but not while flying," the company said in its email to customers. Those who reported the bugs with their devices said the hiccups ranged from complete lockups of the screen and buttons to uncommanded reboots to corrupted screens that didn't look or behave properly. WingX says it has been testing iOS 7 on a variety of devices and configurations and it's working fine so far. "We have not seen one single crash attributable to WingX Pro7 on iOS 7.0," the email said. Many pilots have also reported the app works fine with the new operating system but the possibility of problems prompted the warning. "Because of issues we have seen with iOS7 and unrelated to any third-party app, we cannot recommend upgrading your iPhone or iPad to iOS 7 (for now)," the email said. Those who have already upgraded to the new operating system are advised to upgrade as soon as a new version is available.
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The Society of Aviation and Flight Educators (SAFE) says the FAA should be looking in pilots' logbooks to help it curtail the GA accident rate. The organization told a recent meeting on the FAA's data collection process that the agency should "start collecting information on pilot recurrent safety training in addition to the data it already collects on airports, aircraft and aircraft activity," SAFE said in a news release. "Everyone in the industry knows the importance of recurrent training for aviation safety," said SAFE Executive Director Doug Stewart. "But there is almost no data on pilot recent experience, time in type of aircraft or the kind of training being used."
Stewart said that as part of its work on the FAA Loss-of-Control workgroup, his group has noticed that "pilot error" accidents are rarely backed up with documentation on the pilot's currency and recency. "That's why we're asking the FAA to start gathering such data," Stewart said. "It would help immensely in determining why these kinds of accidents keep occurring." Most loss-of-control accidents are fatal.
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A new direct to final rule issued Sept. 16 by the FAA introduces a subtle but substantive change for CFI candidates, and according to NAFI chairman of the board Robert Meder, "This is a good thing." The new rule considers practical tests flown for the issuance of a flight instructor certificate, or renewal of a flight instructor certificate, or the addition of a rating to a flight instructor certificate, or reinstatement of the certificate, as meeting 24-calendar month flight review (BFR) requirements. Without specific conditions, they previously did not. The rule goes into effect Nov. 15, and until then, practical test rides for flight instructor candidates will continue to be treated as different from other ratings. It will not automatically satisfy the requirements of the BFR. AVweb spoke with Meder Thursday, and he was optimistic about the change.
"This alleviates confusion for flight instructor candidates who, until Nov. 15, must still specifically ask that the examiner or inspector also log the ride as a BFR ... something the examiner or inspector could, though perhaps rarely would, deny," says Meder. "This brings the CFI practical into conformity with other practical test rides, and should make life simpler." Again, until Nov. 15, certified flight instructor candidates must ask the inspector or examiner to also provide an endorsement for a flight review upon completion of the practical test. The FAA is accepting comments through Oct.15, 2013. And if the agency receives an adverse comment it may withdraw the rule in whole or in part. For more information, click here.
China is expecting to lead the region's demand for new commercial pilots as it takes delivery of more than 5,500 aircraft over the next two decades, and its current pilot population may already be stretching work hours to meet demand, so changes are likely coming. China's civil aviation had a shortfall of 10,000 pilots in 2012, Zou Jianjun, a professor at the Civil Aviation Management Institute of China, told ChinaDaily.com.cn. The largest gap, Zou said, is with wide-body qualified captains, and air traffic is expected to grow. One pilot told the news agency he's already flying more than 90 hours monthly, "which is near the authority's upper limit of 100 hours." There are solutions in the works. Some bode well for foreign pilots. Others may bode well for foreign manufacturers.
According to Zou, domestic airlines have started recruiting foreign pilots, but he sees this as a stopgap measure. Some Chinese carriers have sought to establish pilot training centers outside of the country because of China's aviation regulations currently make it difficult for new pilots to build flight experience. And that could persuade the country to take action regarding how it grants access to airspace. Says Zou, "The situation will change if low-altitude airspace is opened." In January, the Chinese government said it recognized general aviation as an economic engine and would be providing targeted funding to jumpstart the industry there. The country has been making slow progress, however, with its plans to open airspace below 1,000 meters, and private flights have been hampered by slow infrastructure development and a difficult control structure. The need for pilots may expedite that development.
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Lufthansa and two leasing companies have placed orders at a combined total of roughly $19 billion (not including discounts) for large jets that don't yet exist in Boeing's line-up, the 787-10 and the 777-9X. The jets currently exist only as computer designs. Planned production of the 787-10, which will be the largest of the Dreamliner family and capable of carrying about 330 passengers, was announced this summer. The 777-9X is designed to carry 400 passengers and is expected to compete with Airbus' A350 series planes. Punctuating that point, Lufthansa split its order, requesting 34 777-9X jets from Boeing and 25 of Airbus' slightly smaller A350s. Airbus, however, has acquired more orders for the year, overall, which has become somewhat of a trend.
Comparing order books for the two companies through August, Boeing stood at 786 orders won compared to 902 earned by Airbus. Last year's year-through-August numbers left Boeing with 1,203 to Airbus' 833. The numbers reflected the market's excitement for Boeing's 737MAX. Airbus has been consistently strong for the past decade, more often besting Boeing, but not by much. And Airbus does have a 737MAX competitor in the A320neo, which was announced prior to Boeing's design and has acquired more orders.
The NTSB Thursday announced it has issued a Final Rule applicable to the aviation certificate enforcement appeals process and that it is also issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to extend one of that rule's benefits to pilots involved in emergency enforcement cases. The Final Rule allows pilots subjected to certificate enforcement to appeal to administrative law judges acting under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Federal Rules of Evidence. Litigants may also seek appeals in a Federal district court or Federal court of appeals. Under the final rule, the FAA must also disclose its enforcement investigative report to a pilot involved in an enforcement case. A separate proposed new rule would extend that specific right to pilots involved in emergency enforcement cases.
The NTSB says the proposed rule is the result of public comments. According to the NTSB, the proposal was the result of "substantive feedback and suggestions" received during the Interim Rule's public comment period. The NTSB says it received 10 comments in response to the Interim Rule and those comments were enough to move the NTSB to action. Both the Final Rule and the proposed rule are available online. Find the Final Rule here. And find the proposed rule (applicable to emergency actions) here. Comments on the proposed rule will be accepted through Oct. 21, 2013.
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The Air Force, through Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh, has publicized an account (perhaps the first) involving the engagement of an F-22 Raptor and Iranian F-4s flying within 16 miles of an MQ-1 Predator drone as the UAV flew over international waters off the coast of Iran. Welsh delivered the account Tuesday, saying the event took place in March. According to Welsh, Air Force Reservist Lt. Col. Kevin "Showtime" Sutterfield closed on the F-4s while flying the Raptor. Per the account, Sutterfield flew the jet to well within visual range, unnoticed. He slipped the fighter under the wings of one of the Iranian jets "to check out their weapons load without them knowing that he was there." And then, according to Welsh, Sutterfield "pulled up on their left wing" and "called them and said 'you really ought to go home.'"
Welsh delivered the account before an audience of fellow service members at the Air Force Association's Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition, according to Military.com. The exact location of F-22s deployed in the region has not been released. The military has said instead that Raptors are based in Southwest Asia. Questions surrounding Welsh's account include whether or not other airborne operations vectored or supported the Raptor's approach, allowing it to avoid use of radar and safely maintain stealth while closing on the F-4s, distance between the jets while flying in close formation, and concerns for potential outcomes should the event have become complicated by acts of aggression or error. The Predator, meanwhile, is said to have been conducting reconnaissance while flying over international waters. Earlier Predator flights had attracted airborne response in the form of Iranian jets. Sutterfield's action in March successfully warned them off, said Welch.
To no one’s surprise, Redbird’s Skyport has been inundated with interest in its plan to sell avgas for $1 a gallon during the month of October, as we reported in AVweb two weeks ago. Interest has been so strong, in fact, that the company is setting some limits of both fill-up frequency and volume. Redbird’s Jerry Gregoire told us this week that the company is getting as many as 50 calls a day, with some callers wondering if they can truck in tanks and have them filled at a buck a gallon.
In a word, no. Skyport spokesman Jeff Van West says the point of the cheap avgas is to see if the cost of flying—including the fuel—really is the brake on flight activity that most people assume it is. The company will ask pilots to participate in a brief survey after filling up to illuminate whether cheap gas is really encouraging them to fly more. And there may be a lot of people waiting in line to fill-up, which is why Redbird has set some rules.
Van West says the $1 gas offer remains open to all piston-powered GA aircraft that can fly into the Skyport at San Marcos, Texas under their own power, but only the aircraft’s regular tanks will be filled. Portable fuel systems in trucks or other vehicles don’t qualify for the discount.
The fueling limit with be 200 gallons a day, but owners can purchase additional fuel at the regular price. Anyone who has an aircraft with a capacity of over 200 gallons is perfectly welcome to stay in San Marcos overnight and take another 200 gallons the next day, Van West told us. Normal operating hours during October will be 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Van West says Redbird reserves the right to refuse fueling to anyone it believes is violating the spirit of the cost experiment. For more information and updates on the program, check out this link.
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The old saying of "I can type at 80 words a minute but I can't fly" applies, in my opinion, to a high percentage of airline pilots around the world.
Belatedly, in April of this year, the FAA issued a safety alert for operators, the purpose of which was to encourage operators to promote manual flight operations when appropriate. At least the FAA appears to be the first regulator to take action to tackle the world-wide pilot tendency for automation addiction. This addiction has seen many loss-of-control events that involved pilots being so wedded to the automatic pilot that [pilots] have lost basic instrument flying skills, if they had any in the first place.
Manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus have long realized that pilots who fly their aircraft are not necessarily competent to do so, hence the chase for more automation to minimize the opportunities for pilots to fly by hand, where incompetents are more likely to cause accidents.
While it is easy to say this must be due to poor training, there will always be the politically sensitive issue of ethnic cultural mores. The manufacturers can never admit this since they wish to sell to all customers, including those well known for having a society culture that inevitably clashes with standard flight safety understanding that can lead to a culture of "Real Men Don't Go Around."
Until regulators are convinced that they must initiate firm action to address the ever- widening gap between automation dependency and airline pilots' basic instrument manual flying skills, the risk of loss of control in IMC is bound to continue.
Manufacturers are caught between a rock and a hard place. They have little or no control over individual company training standards or pilot selection criteria. Their flight crew operations manuals rightly assume their aircraft will be flown by competent crews using the most sophisticated automation available. In other words, crews will have a high standard of automation and manual flying skills. The accident record reveals otherwise.
Airline operations departments must in the future pay more than lip service to the need for manual flying skills. This is because a significant number of airline pilots remain apprehensive of anything other than full automation during line flying. Of course, there are occasions when manual flight is inappropriate during line flying. In that case, the skills gap has to be closed by the only other means [available], and that is in the simulator. Extra simulator training may be expensive but nothing like the cost of an accident.
The solution is to schedule a much greater percentage of manual flying on instruments during simulator training than now happens.
To counteract the insidious nature of automation dependency, regulators must lead the way and not assume operators will do it for them. If [a lack of] raw data manual skills are a growing problem, then properly targeted simulator training is essential to stop the rot. Cultural issues cannot be allowed to trump good airmanship.
That problem is that the people who design our devices have little or no actual understanding of the conditions under which they will be used. The Superwhizbang GPS40000XL looks great sitting on the ramp at Reno, with the tech rep pointing out all of the wonderful features ("... and this button lets you find a motel based on the color of their bedspreads ..."), but when the designer puts the most important and frequently used features in a sub-menu, he obviously has no clue about trying to fly in adverse conditions or with an in-flight emergency.
Or consider simple communications. The most important controls on a radio are volume and squelch. You want to be able to instantly turn down the noise or rapidly drop the squelch to hear a weak station, especially with the handheld radio that someone might be carrying into the FBO or after an off-airport landing. Yet at least one major handheld manufacturer uses pushbuttons for volume and hides the squelch control in a menu, making them harder to use.
All of the bells and whistles are nice to have, but not at the expense of basic usability.
Another mistake is made when style overrides simplicity. Somewhere along the way, someone decided that switches are ugly, and actually knowing which control does what is less important than the overall look of a cockpit. Labels became cryptic and difficult to read under perfect conditions, much less at night or in clouds.
Even my Cessna 150 fell victim to this, with important switches hidden under the pilot's yoke, labeled in tiny white characters (at least, they were before the silkscreening wore off) that disappear under anything but optimal lighting conditions. Yet Cessna left 16 square inches of unused panel space below the throttle! And who decided to put the pitot heat switch between the switches for dome lights and nav lights?
It's easier to find your way around the panel of the Apollo Command Module than some of today's planes. Worse is the tendency to camouflage knobs and switches against backgrounds of the same color, especially black on black.
Contrast this to military planes. Not only does every control have a clear, easy-to-read legend, but knobs are in colors contrasting with the background (usually gray on black). Sure, there are a lot more switches and knobs in an F-15 than a 150, but Eagle drivers spend hours learning the position of every control in the cockpit.
The bottom line is that function is more important than feng shui, and the people who design the stuff we use need to keep this in mind.
I thought perhaps you might publish an article with the highlights of the 2013 Air Races, which finished September 15.
We dropped the ball on Reno coverage this year, Pete, and we apologize to all our readers. We'll do better next year.
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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).
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While flying IFR with a student in the Connecticut air space, we overheard a pilot with a Deep Southern accent ask the Bradley controller: "Will you let us go direct to 'HEY DO' today?"
The controller replied: "We call that 'HADUX' up here."
The pilot then answered: "We thought it sounded Cajun."
Multiple laughter was heard on controller's mic as he announced: "Cleared direct, 'HEY DO.'"
Rich Bertoli via e-mail
Heard Anything Funny on the Radio?
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.
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Every year the National Transportation Safety Board allows organizations outside the federal government to enroll students in aircraft accident investigation school. This is not a watered-down version; rather, it’s the same course provided to new investigators. The vast majority of students are representatives of entities whose employees, products, or services are likely to be involved if an aircraft accident occurs. Examples include airframe, engine, and avionics manufacturers. Airlines, unions, and training providers are also represented. Those with technical expertise that may aid the investigative process are allowed to become an interested party. This has innumerable benefits including the ability to see evidence, submit comments, and make arguments for or against a hypothesis. The training is an important prerequisite of what to expect if the bad day ever happens. As an instructor pilot and CRM/Human Factors program manager for a large part 142 school, I was allowed to participate in March of 2013.
Although digital voice recorders, flight data recorders, and radar analysis plots are great technological advancements, there’s still a lot of info gleaned from paint transfers, frayed cables, and compressed metal. Sometimes those are the only things available. The fundamental underpinnings that evolved from the first official investigation in 1908--the one that killed Lt. Thomas Selfridge and injured Orville Wright--are applicable today. An investigator’s job is to identify the origin of the failure and place it within the sequence of the overall event. Ultimately the probable cause has to be determined. It’s often a matter of good old-fashioned detective work. Becoming an expert requires a great deal of hands-on experience. Knowing what to look for is critical.
To facilitate learning, many aviation investigation schools use wreckage from actual accidents. Parts of the aircraft are arranged similar to how they were discovered the day of the event. A mock investigation takes place and students hypothesize what happened. One of the best training tools at the NTSB’s disposal is located at the academy in Ashburn, Va. Painstakingly reconstructed in a position of prominence in the hangar sits a 96-foot section of a severely damaged aircraft. Faint paint markings and a partially scorched logo reveal the origin of the 60,000 pound behemoth: this is the center fuselage section of TWA 800.
Being far removed from where the event occurred does not minimize the experience. Although the tail section, wings, and engines are not present, a very large section of the fuselage still remains. What’s left is a mosaic of nearly 1600 parts reassembled on a steel scaffold. The center fuel tank area is exposed and predictably, draws a lot of attention. Structural failure is clearly evident and the right side exhibits more damage than the left – a telltale sign of initial impact with the ocean.
What sets this reconstruction apart from similar mock-ups is the ability to enter the cabin. Parts of the airplane have been attached to the scaffolding in way that provides a three dimensional perspective. Upon climbing a set of stairs representative of the height of the boarding doors, a sea of passenger seats comes into view. Nearly all the seats in this section of the aircraft were recovered and each has been returned to the original location. The NTSB is sure of this because seats at the time were manufactured with the row number and position on the armrests. I’ve had the opportunity to examine the wreckage three times now, including as a student in the 10-day accident investigation course taught at the academy.
Objectivity is a required trait, but I can’t help but get a little pensive each time I see it. It’s evident that others feel the same. The emotional impact doesn’t fade over time. Walking down the reconstructed aisles of the 747, I visualize the occupants as the aircraft taxied out on a hot summer day in 1996. I’m always mesmerized by the cockpit center console and the positions of the thrust levers. As a pilot, I think about how hard the crew worked to regain control. Given the controversy surrounding the probable cause of the crash, it might have been easier to tuck the remains in a secret location far from view. Instead, the NTSB and the families of the victims decided on a more noble purpose for TWA 800 – to aid in future investigations and develop recommendations to prevent a reoccurrence.
Regardless of one’s personal convictions about the veracity of the origin of the breakup, there’s irrefutable value in the aftermath. Every accident evokes important lessons. Listening and learning is up to us.
On the morning of September 12, 2013, Jonathan Trappe ascended from a field in Caribou, Maine, in an attempt to be the first pilot to fly a cluster balloon system across the Atlantic. Twelve hours later, he landed in Newfoundland.
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.
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.