AVweb AVFlash - Volume 20, Number 13a

September 30, 2013

Citation Hits Hangar At SMO

Photo: Valerie Vanderwest

A Cessna Citation was involved in a landing accident at Santa Monica Airport Sunday evening but details were scant at our deadline. FAA spokesman Ian Gregor told NBC the aircraft ran off the right side of a runway and hit a hangar. There was a significant post-crash fire. Fire officials told the station the crash was not survivable but did not say how many people were on board. The flight originated in Hailey, Idaho. The aircraft is registered to a real estate company whose owner lives in Malibu according to the L.A. Times. Winds were light and skies clear at the time of the accident.

The crash is bound to heat up the debate on the future of the airport, which has been a hot button political issue in Los Angeles for years. While the courts have consistently upheld the urban-locked facility's right to exist, based on its long association with FAA grant money, some local officials have been trying to get it closed for decades, citing safety, noise and pollution concerns. The airport was in a largely undeveloped area when it was established but is now crowded on all sides by homes and businesses.

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Pilot Suffers In-Flight Heart Attack

The captain of United Airlines Flight 1603 from Houston to Seattle died after suffering an apparent heart attack during the flight Thursday evening. “We got a man down,” multiple news outlets quoted audio released by LiveATC.net. “Chest compressions going on right now. I’m not sure too much right now the status.” The first officer diverted the Boeing 737-900 with 161 passengers onboard to Boise, Idaho, and landed normally about 8 p.m. The stricken pilot was taken to hospital in Boise but later died.

United confirmed the incident Friday morning but did not name the pilot. “I am sad to confirm that our co-worker passed away last night. Our thoughts are with his family at this time,” United spokeswoman Christen David said in an email to the L.A. Times. The passengers were transferred to another aircraft for the short flight from Boise to Seattle and arrived early Friday.

Poor Workmanship Behind Southwest Decompression

Photo: NTSB

The NTSB says "extremely poor manufacturing technique" led to the in-flight decompression of a Southwest Boeing 737-300 two years ago but it also appears the shoddy workmanship was an isolated circumstance and not a fleet-wide problem. The board determined that improperly drilled and installed rivets in a misaligned section of the roof skin of the aircraft finally let go in an eight-inch-wide by five-foot gash while the aircraft was climbing through 34,000 feet on its way from Phoenix to Sacramento. “The crown skin panel and the upper left fuselage panel were misaligned, so most of the lower rivet row holes were misdrilled,” the report states.

The crew carried out an emergency decent and landed in Yuma a few minutes later, but not before a flight attendant and an off-duty Southwest employee fell unconscious and suffered minor injuries. The NTSB said Boeing determined the improperly installed piece of skin was added late in the manufacturing process by a mechanic who was conducting a repair, and subsequent inspections found other 737s were put together correctly. Therefore the board determined that it's “unlikely that there was a systemic [quality assurance] error at the Boeing facilities.” Details of the repair can't be determined because Boeing destroyed the manufacturing records after the airplane had been in service for six years, and this aircraft was built in 1996.

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Kestrel Running Rough

Employees of Kestrel Aircraft have begun sharing tales of late paychecks and lost benefits, but Kestrel CEO Alan Klapmeier says the company is now current with payroll and significant funding is expected soon. The manufacturer aims to produce a high-performance composite single-engine turboprop and employs about 100 people split between Brunswick Landing, Maine, and Superior, Wis. Klapmeier hopes to employ scores more. One of those employees, however, Friday told Maine's Bangor Daily News that employee direct deposit checks had been arriving late and his insurance had been dropped. That same employee also said the company Friday told employees that "the company could get funding at any time." 

Kestrel is seeking to attract enough capital to bring its aircraft through the certification process. The company had once hoped to have at least one aircraft flying by 2014, and it appears that hope has faded. Now, Klapmeier says a funding deal is close at hand that would cover major expenses associated with fulfilling that vision, albeit at least one year behind schedule. Until that time, however, Kestrel is not building prototypes and, according to published reports from anonymous sources said to be employees, the company is also behind on payments to vendors, which would mean it may have to use any new money to resolve old problems before moving forward with prototype production.

Two Commercial Space Successes In One Day

The commercial space industry took some giant leaps forward over the weekend with two separate successful missions. On Sunday, Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus cargo ship successfully rendezvoused with the International Space Station, bringing a load of groceries and other supplies. A few hours later, a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster took a Canadian research satellite to orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Both efforts were mostly funded privately and that, says an industry observer, is a good thing. "It shows private industry is motivated to succeed in space, when they get paid for results," James Muncy, an industry observer and space privatization advocate, told the Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

The Cygnus flight had a hiccup. It was parked in orbit for a week while technicians sorted out glitches that prevented the rendezvous, but early Sunday it moved to within 33 feet of the space station and was grabbed by its robotic arm. SpaceX's successful launch marked the first use of more powerful engines in its rocket that the company believes will make it more reliable and increase its payload. Muncy said it's time for NASA to relinquish the relatively mundane chores of space work to civilians while it concentrates on bigger frontiers. "The agency no longer can afford to do it the old way," he said.

NASA Showcases Potential Game Changers

NASA, working with the Lindbergh Foundation, will show off early research that it believes could lead to "potentially revolutionary aviation concepts and technologies" during a three-day virtual seminar held Oct. 22-24. Subjects include ceramic matrix and hybrid composites for next generation aircraft, cooperative gust sensing and suppression for aircraft formation flight, sense and avoid radar for small UAVs, and turboelectric distributed propulsion. Distributed propulsion would replace a single engine with "boundary-layer ingesting propulsors" that could be tailored to provide enhanced aircraft control while increasing overall efficiency. 

A list of times and topics with links to more detail on each subject (click on the titles) can be found online, here. The seminar is NASA's public demonstration of research funded by the NASA Aeronautics Research Institute's Leading Edge Aeronautics Research for NASA (LEARN) Fund. The Fund makes deliberate investments in early-stage aviation concepts researched outside of NASA. The public seminar is designed to increase awareness of the agencies' activities, provide technical feedback and help researchers publicize their findings. The seminar is free and anyone can attend online via their computer or smart phone. For more details, including passcodes, click here.

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Pilot Proficiency Project Expands To Texas And Beyond

The Society of Aviation and Flight Educators is teaming up with Redbird to offer a full weekend of pilot proficiency training at Redbird's Skyport, in San Marcos, Texas, next month. SAFE launched its Pilot Proficiency Project at EAA AirVenture last year, bringing scenario-based training to general aviation pilots using Redbird simulators. Now SAFE wants to bring that training to venues around the country, and the Texas event is their first effort. As an extra incentive to fly in, the date of Oct. 26-27 falls during Redbird's month-long offer to fill up your airplane tank with 100LL for $1 a gallon. The program aims to provide "valuable proficiency training to pilots by combining relevant safety forums, challenging simulator training sessions, food, and camaraderie," according to SAFE.

Forums at Skyport will cover topics such as using the iPad for flight planning, single-pilot IFR, angle-of-attack awareness, advanced GPS navigation, stick-and-rudder skills for glass-cockpit pilots, and more. All pilots also will have a turn in the Redbird simulator to fly one of SAFE's scenarios that were developed to address the most common safety problems for GA pilots. Details about the program and the presenters are posted at SAFE's website, where you also can sign up to attend the event. Doug Stewart, executive director of SAFE, told AVweb in an interview that other PPP events like this one will be planned for venues around the country. The cost for early registration ranges from $90 to $225, including all the forums, sim time, and meals; prices go up after Oct. 19.

Podcast: SAFE Takes Its Show on the Road

The Society of Aviation and Flight Educators (SAFE) is hosting a new weekend event next month at the Redbird Skyport in Texas, with a roster of seminars and simulator time, plus, as an added incentive to boost your proficiency, a chance to fill up your airplane with 100LL for $1 a gallon.  Doug Stewart, executive director of SAFE, talks with AVweb's Mary Grady about what the Pilot Proficiency Program has to offer, why you should go, and how to sign up.

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Aircraft Spruce Customer Appreciation Day

Saturday, Oct. 5, at all three locations (Corona, Ca.; Peachtree City, Ga.; and Brantford, Ontario, Canada) Aircraft Spruce and Specialty Company will host Customer Appreciation Day, offering reduced pricing and representatives from some of aviation's leading product lines. Product demonstrations will be available from Garmin, Lightspeed, J.P. Instruments, Hartzell, Scheyden, PTI, Icom, Dynon and more. Pilots who are able to attend the aviation supply company's event will enjoy promotions, raffles and other events, along with some discounts. They may also be contributing to some good causes. 

Aircraft Spruce is participating in charitable programs through the day's programs -- all proceeds from raffle tickets will go to EAA Chapter 1 and EAA Chapter 468 for Young Eagles. For pilots, Spruce says the event offers "spectacular discounts" on the aviation supply company's most popular products. And even pilots who don't partake can indulge in a free hot dog and soda while meeting other like-minded pilots. Raffle prizes range from items like an Icom transceiver, and Scheyden eyewear, to a Bose Sounddock II, and Speed Clean Plastic Cleaner. For more details, visit Aircraft Spruce online, here.

App Leads Drivers Across Runway

Travelers in Alaska who relied on an iPhone app to lead them to the Fairbanks airport have driven onto the field and across an active runway at least twice in the last three weeks, the Alaska Dispatch reported this week. The iPhone directions led users onto the airport property, and onto Taxiway Bravo. The app doesn't actually direct drivers onto the runway, but from the intersection, drivers can see across to the terminal, with an apparently clear driving route ahead of them. "These folks drove past several signs," said Melissa Osborn, operations chief at the airport. "They even drove past a gate. None of that cued them that they did something inappropriate." The airport complained to Apple, which said it would fix the app, but as of Wednesday, it hadn't. The airport has issued a Notam and put barricades in place.

“As always, please remain vigilant when on the east ramp," reads the Notice to Airmen. "Watch for drivers who appear unfamiliar and report them to the airport." Osborn said she asked Apple to disable the map for Fairbanks until they could correct it, "thinking it would be better to have nothing show up than to take the chance that one more person would do this." However, Angie Spear, marketing director for the airport, told the Dispatch "a lot of legal-speak" ensued. Both runway-crossing incidents happened early in the morning and there were no close calls with aircraft, Spear told The Associated Press. "Obviously, it could have been a very, very, very dangerous situation had they come during a flight departure or arrival," she said.

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Video: A Visit to the Curtiss Museum

AVweb travels to Hammondsport, New York for the 2013 Curtiss Seaplane Homecoming, including a visit to the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum of local history.

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Short Final

Back in the early '80s, I was making a living flying night-time aerial advertising with a "Skycaster" electronic moving-message sign that spanned the wings under the belly of my Cessna 172.

Flying out of CMH, I would circle local communities with ads. My "low and slow," combined with horizontal distance, gave the appearance that the moving lights were traveling in an oval pattern. This would invariably produce calls to the airport that a "UFO" was circling overhead.

One night I left the sign running when approaching to land. I called, "N123 short final." The tower replied, "UFO N123 cleared to land. Please don't cut any crop circles in our runway."


Bob Maroldy
via e-mail

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Redbird's Fuel Fest: Y'all Behave Now

In early 1945, when it finally looked like the fruit of the Manhattan Project would actually yield a workable weapon, none of his fellow scientists appreciated Enrico Fermi’s humor in running a betting pool on whether the bomb would ignite the entire atmosphere. Most of the scientists thought it wouldn’t, but no one knew. What the hell…it was an experiment.

And that’s the thing about experiments. We do them just to see what happens, but spinning out of control is always an option. One hopes the atmosphere will remain intact when Redbird starts selling avgas for a buck a gallon this week at its San Marcos, Texas FBO, but there are hints that a few other unexpected things might happen. As we’ve reported, throughout the month of October, Redbird will be selling avgas for a buck a gallon, the idea being that they hope to learn if cheaper fuel will actually increase flying activity and if so, how and by how much.

As the plan unfolded, it became apparent that this isn’t just an economic experiment, but a sociological one, too. That’s a nice way of saying that such a thing flushes the scam artists out into the light and I suspect Redbird hasn’t seen the half of it yet. When I allowed to my former colleague Jeff Van West, who's the spokesman for the Redbird fuel fest, that I thought he would have an interesting October, he reported he’s already had an interesting September.

Last week, Jerry Gregoire told me they’re getting up to 50 calls a day, including queries about driving trucks in with bladders and even relocating flight schools to San Marcos for the month of October. I suspect some people even think Redbird’s not actually going to do this, but they are.

Even as cynical as I am, what’s left of the burned out core of my youthful idealism allows me to believe that experiments like this—part promotion, part data gathering, part fun, part unvarnished spectacle—will appeal to the better nature of most people. And while that’s probably going to be true, anyone who lived through the Arab oil embargo of 1973 will recall how seriously Americans take their relationship with gasoline. Long lines ignited fist fights, shootings and all manner of mayhem, including attempts at hoarding. If you ask an SUV owner to choose between his firstborn and a fill-up, he’s likely to say…”Give me a minute on that…”

So if you’re headed down to San Marcos for a fill-up, I’d say this: keep your wits and your humanity about you. If you’re thinking of scamming this offer—and I’ll admit, it’s ripe for that—maybe tap the brakes and think better of it. A fill-up at an 80 percent discount is worth at least retaining some of your dignity and self-restraint.

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

Video: Continental's Zulu Flight Center

For more than a year, Continental Motors has been experimenting with a new flight training center based in an upscale mall in Spanish Fort, Alabama.  AVweb recently visited the center and interviewed Gloria Liu for a briefing on the training works.

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Podcast: AOPA's Mark Baker on the Association's Future

In this exclusive AVweb podcast, AOPA's newly installed president, Mark Baker, says the association will adopt an airport-centric means of promoting aviation and will concentrate on a regional strategy to reach the membership.  Baker also told AVweb that all of the association's activities — from fund raising to member support to starting new business lines — will be under review during the coming months.