AVwebFlash - Volume 20, Number 21a

November 23, 2013

Reno Air Races Addresses Financial Difficulties

The Reno Air Racing Association says it has had to cut wages and benefits, furlough staff and eliminate some positions. It also needs to raise $500,000 by Dec. 15. In an open letter, RARA President Mike Houghton said the "agonizing" cuts were made following three years of financial losses in the wake of the crash of Jimmy Leeward's P-51D, which killed 11 and injured 69 on Sept. 16, 2011. Houghton said the cuts and the fundraising are necessary to ensure the long-term financial viability of the event. "As difficult as these steps are, they are intended with the sole purpose of keeping air racing alive and preserving this historic aviation event for our community and the world," Houghton said. 

He said the event is moving forward after the tragedy and the races remain popular, as evidenced by the 50th annual spectacle held last September. "This year’s event marked a recovery from the many emotional, financial and operational challenges of the last three years," he said. "The crowds were back, the weather was good and the racing was thrilling and safe." Houghton said the board of directors is restructuring itself and the fundraising mechanisms and will announce details before Thanksgiving.

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FCC To Propose Cell Phone Use On Planes

The Federal Communications Commission will reportedly propose lifting a ban on passenger use of cellular phone use — both for voice and data connections — above 10,000 feet. Doing so would shift the approval decision to airlines, which would still be restricted from offering that utility while their aircraft operate below 10,000 feet. The FCC has made similar proposals twice before. In 2004 the FCC received thousands of comments to a proposal and a 2007 proposal was withdrawn amid strong objections from flight attendants and passenger groups. A 2012 study offered technical findings that may now lend more support to a change. The issue is now poised to see discussion again this December.

In 2012, an FAA study found “no confirmed occurrences of cell phones affecting flight safety on aircraft with on-board cellular telephone base stations.” An FCC meeting in December will address the issue. If the matter proceeds it will need to clear the hurdle of the Notice of Proposed Rule Making process, which will solicit public comment. That means there will be no action for several months, no matter what transpires. Some carriers are already equipped with technology that allows cellphone use on aircraft, but due to the existing FCC ban, those carriers must turn off their systems when entering or operating in U.S. airspace.

House Addresses FAA Sleep Apnea Policy

The U.S. House of Representatives has created a bill that would require the FAA to open a public comment period and apply normal rulemaking procedures before imposing new policy regarding pilot girth, medical testing, and sleep apnea. AOPA and EAA reacted to the announced policy with strongly worded letters “demanding” that it be suspended. They argued that the policy addresses a problem that exceeds the Federal Flight Surgeon’s mandate, could add a financial burden to the pilot community, and hasn’t been proven to exist. AOPA Thursday expressed its support for the House’s legislation and added some choice words.

AOPA president Mark Baker said, “The policy change is arbitrary and capricious and doesn’t make sense given the data.” AOPA says that a review of ten years worth of general aviation accident data “found no cases in which sleep apnea was a causal or contributing factor.” The policy itself specifies that pilots or controllers with a body mass index of 40 or greater be automatically referred to a medical specialist. AOPA argues that the policy will add to a 55,000-case backlog of special issuance medicals and collectively cost pilots anywhere from $99 million to $347 million in new medical fees. As written, the House legislation ensures that any new or revised requirement be adopted “pursuant to rulemaking proceeding.” Each sponsoring member of the House is a member of the General Aviation Caucus.

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Engine Icing Affects Some 787s, 747-8s

Boeing has told 15 airlines operating certain versions of its 787 and all its 747-8 aircraft not to fly within 50 nautical miles of high-level thunderstorms after six incidents in which their GEnx lost thrust due to ice crystal buildups. Boeing and GE say they are changing engine control software to address the problems. All 747-8s have the GE engines, but Rolls Royce Trent engines are also available on the 787 and they aren't affected by the order. Japan Airlines has pulled 787s from its Tokyo-Dehli and Tokyo-Singapore routes and will replace them with 777s and 767s.“There may be cases where we wouldn’t be able to go all the way round the cloud formation and we’d have to turn back,” Yuichi Kitada, a general manager in JAL’s engineering department, told Bloomberg. “We’re at the first step of discussing a solution to this problem with Boeing and GE.”

So far, most 747-8 deliveries have been the freighter model but Lufthansa has nine of the passenger version. Other airlines affected by the order are Cathay Pacific and United, which have GE-equipped 787s. GE noted the global shift in air traffic in commenting on the issue. “The aviation industry is experiencing a growing number of ice-crystal icing encounters in recent years as the population of large commercial airliners has grown, particularly in tropical regions of the world,” an unnamed GE spokesman told The New York Times.

EAA Adds Recognized Names To Board

Dick VanGrunsven of Van’s Aircraft; Joe Brown, president of Hartzell; and David Pasahow, founder of an executive search firm, have joined EAA’s Board of Directors, EAA announced Thursday. The men were invited to join during EAA’s fall meeting on Nov. 14-15 at Oshkosh. Each will each serve one-year renewable terms on the EAA board. Current EAA Chairman Jack Pelton said EAA is “grateful that each of them has stepped forward to represent our membership and help lead the association as we pursue our mission of growing participation in aviation.”

VanGrunsven is founder and CEO of Van’s Aircraft, which mainly produces experimental kit aircraft and boasts more than 8,500 completed examples, worldwide. He has been an EAA member since 1964 and has received two awards from EAA in recognition of his contribution to experimental aviation. VanGrunsven is also founding member of the industry group Aircraft Kit Manufacturers Association (AKIA), which advocates for experimental aviation in regulatory and other matters. Brown is president of Hartzell Propeller and COO of that business' holding company. Pasahow is founder of Blue Line Advisors, which works in aerospace and transportation to seek executives for leadership positions in the industry. All three men are pilots and Pasahow has previously served on EAA’s board.

Boeing Shops For 777X Sites

Boeing says it has identified 15 locations, including its production home base of Washington, as potential sites to build the next generation 777. According to the Seattle Times, the contenders have until Dec. 15 to submit proposals. It's been widely speculated that Long Beach, Calif., the historic home of Douglas Aircraft and now the site of the soon-to-be-mothballed C-17 factory, has the inside track but analysts also think the site search is a ploy to put pressure on the International Association of Machinists to give up significant concessions to keep the work in Washington. Last week, the IAM voted more than two-thirds to reject a Boeing offer to guarantee the building of the 777X in Washington if the union agreed to have pensions frozen and a new wage structure for new hires that would have slowed the pace of wage increases for those workers.

Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said the company has "no plans to re-engage in contract talks with the Machinists union" but he also didn't rule out trying to cut a deal with the union. “We aren’t going to discuss how these two (the site search and the union stalemate) may factor in as we go into this next phase,” Alder said. The 777X will seat up to 400 passengers and have an aluminum fuselage and carbon fiber wings. It's designed for long-haul flights at high altitudes so the wings are so long (233-foot span) the outer 10 feet will fold up so it will fit standard airport gates. Alder said Boeing is inviting proposals that could include manufacturing the fuselage, wings or both along with final assembly. Among the other potential locations are Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Huntsville and Wichita, all places with existing aviation manufacturing. With the 787, Boeing established a factory in North Charleston, S.C., which did not have any other aerospace manufacturing, and it caused supply chain problems early in the program.

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Unregistered LSA, Fake Pilot

Authorities allege that John Walsh, 46, has been using an unregistered LSA-type aircraft and falsified pilot certificate to fly customers near Key Largo, Fla. Walsh was charged Tuesday with felony operation of the aircraft — an M-Squared Breeze II that would otherwise be an LSA or experimental category aircraft, fitted with pontoons — in a careless and reckless manner and possession of an unregistered aircraft. Authorities say Walsh was in possession of a fake pilot’s license and used Facebook to advertise for customers. They say he was not in possession of a pilot certificate of any kind and an FAA safety inspector reportedly shot video of Walsh flying the unregistered seaplane, exiting the aircraft with a passenger, and soliciting others. 

Walsh was released from custody Tuesday after posting a $10,000 bond. His aircraft has been confiscated, a Monroe County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson told WPTV news. The sheriff’s director of aviation, Brooks Bateman, told NaplesNews.com that Walsh “didn’t have any pilot certification at all.” He added that the aircraft Walsh flew was “falling apart due to saltwater exposure.” Walsh was allegedly filmed soliciting rides for $20 per passenger in the two-seat open-cockpit aircraft.

Non-Certificated Teen Pilot's Commercial Night Ops?

Eighteen-year-old Geoffrey Biteman has been charged in Roseau, Minn., with theft of a 1971 Cessna 150 that he allegedly flew regularly without a pilot certificate, or the benefit of any prior lessons, and later used for unique night operations. The charges bring a potential sentence of 10 years in prison. In separate instances, the young man allegedly accessed the airport with friends and drove the airport’s courtesy car, and accessed the incident aircraft. Later, he allegedly used the aircraft for commercial activities that included landing on an unlit road, at night, and loading the plane with sugar beets for transport, according to police. 

Biteman allegedly first gained access to the aircraft by posing as a buyer and stating that he was both a pilot and aircraft mechanic. The seller allowed Biteman unsupervised access and gave permission for a flight, according to authorities. Then, they say, Biteman began to return for flights, regularly. At least one witness reported seeing Biteman flying the Cessna into and out of a nearby airport, frequently, throughout the summer. The father of the owner of the aircraft told GrandForksHerald.com that the plane flew regularly to three separate airports “all summer long.” The Roseau Police Chief said he learned that Biteman began using the aircraft to fly sugar beets for a local farmer. According to police, Biteman would land on an unlit highway at 10 p.m., to meet the farmer, and during one episode drove — and rolled — one of the farmer’s trucks. Biteman was arrested on Oct. 22, and does have a prior criminal record, having pled guilty to stealing a horse trailer earlier in the summer. 

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AVmail: November 25, 2013

Letter of the Week:
A Technological Solution to a Human Problem?

I have several thoughts about the sudden concern by the FAA over sleep apnea in pilots and controllers.

The NTSB Safety Recommendation was issued August 7, 2009.  Why has it taken more than four years for the FAA to jerk its knee in response?

Has it occurred to anyone at the FAA or elsewhere that there may be a significant relationship between the reliance on autopilots and falling asleep in the cockpit?  Although it's not impossible, it's hard as heck to fall asleep while hand flying.  We already know from the empirical evidence of the last few years that there is obviously a significant loss of hand-flying skill due to excessive reliance on autopilots.  Perhaps all of this is closely related.

With all of the marvelous technology abounding in aviation these days, how about just installing a sophisticated tilt switch in headsets which causes an alarm to sound if the pilot's head remains in a tilted position more than a few seconds?  Most people who fall asleep while sitting literally nod off.  They don't keep their heads upright.  That would directly address the problem of a pilot actually falling asleep rather than this indirect approach of having the pilot jump through a whole bunch of expensive medical hoops, which may or may not result in keeping him awake while flying.

Take it a step further, and, as soon as the autopilot is engaged, so is the headset tilt switch.  Have the system set for 10-12 seconds, plenty long enough to do anything that requires a tilted head in almost any cockpit, which would minimize false alarms.

It's not possible to eliminate human physiology problems that impact the safety of flight, but I have serious doubts that this recent concern, if followed through with new rules requiring expensive medical testing, even addresses those problems to the extent that it will benefit anyone.

Cary Alburn

The BMI was "discovered" in the early to mid-1800s and means nothing.  Muscle mass is not taken into the formula, and most military pilots and  athletes show a higher BMI.  Maybe the FAA should go back to school and stop using junk science to further their agenda against obese people.

Dean Vosler

OMG. Talk about a disease du jour. "Sleep apnea can ... ." "Sleep apnea may... ."

Data? I presume the data is as good as the data on ECI cylinders.

Gennaro Avolio

Your article is headlined "FAA Medical Chief Targets Fat Pilots And Controllers" and states, "... Tilton doesn't say in his brief note what data (how many OSA-related accidents have been recorded, for instance) his staff have used to draft the new rule."  Both the headline and the disclaimer are disingenuous, if only due to ignorance.  A quick Google search for "OSA accident risk" will return many useful hits, including an excellent, well-researched publication by the aeromedical division:

http://www.faa.gov/pilots/safety/pilotsafetybrochures/media/Sleep_Apnea.pdf

This is a very important pubic-safety issue regarding all vehicles and all types of traffic, related to our epidemic of obesity.

You owe your readers a brief article on the actual risks to others of anyone's obesity and sleep apnea.

Dr. Daniel Johnson

AVweb responds:

You just did that for us, Dr. Johnson.  Thanks.

I think what the FAA really wants to say is that they are targeting overweight and unfit pilots.  Let's be honest.  I've seen commercial air transport flight crew colleagues who are really overweight.  I've even wondered if they could move the control column through its full range of travel.

Mauro Hernandez

How Not to Land?

The article on landing tips has absolutely terrible suggestions.  As many instructors tend to do, they teach their students some rote procedure (like the runway through the strut) that will only work under specifics conditions, like in that airplane model with calm winds and no other traffic.  Then, when pilots are flying on their own in the real world, they find the winds may be different, or they may have to approach the runway from a base entry or a straight-in final when instructed by the tower.  They will realize the rote procedure they were taught has now left them without the ability to adjust.

Here's another one:  "Abeam the numbers, pull off the power.  If the power reduction was correct, all you'll need to do is apply the rest of the flaps."  This one can be related to slowing a car from highway speed to city speed.  Imagine if you had to make one change on the accelerator that resulted in a perfect speed reduction from highway speed to city speed without touching the accelerator again.  That is basically what the article's suggestion is: Pull the power on downwind as though this power change should be what will be needed on final.

Flying the airplane shouldn't be a guessing game with the power.  The pilot should be taught to make power reductions initially to establish a smooth and easily manageable transition to approach speed and configuration and then how to make smooth and small adjustments for the rest of the approach in order to maintain a stabilized approach no matter what the variables are.

The next time you transition from the highway to the city traffic, just think about the smooth changes you make with the braking and the accelerator to get stabilized in the city flow.  The airplane is surprisingly similar, and in both cases it is pretty obvious what needs to be monitored.  The article is completely ignoring the fact that pilots, like vehicle drivers, need to monitor the right things and respond on the controls as often as necessary to maintain the desired results as things progress.

Warren Webb Jr.

Flying on Three Engines

Regarding Gregory Myers's comments on the decision by the Emirates A380 to continue across the Atlantic on three engines:  No one will deny that the A380 will safely fly on three engines.  The failure of one engine is not concerning.  Why the engine failed is critical information in the decision to proceed or divert to the closest air field.

I'm not sure if anyone in the decision loop at the moment of failure knew the exact cause.  The cause may start showing up in other systems.  There are many scenarios in which one engine failure could lead to another.

The pilots must have had overwhelming evidence of the exact problem to continue the flight.  Not knowing the exact cause of the engine failure and continuing the flight would be poor decision-making.  Fortunately the engine failure must have been a local problem and did not influence other systems.

With the understanding that two fuel pumps failed, I would then ask why they failed.  If it was contaminated fuel, that could lead to other pumps failing.  Speculating from the cockpit in flight is not what I want my pilots doing.

I find it amazing the thousands of hours spent by the NTSB to find the cause of an airplane crash; however, pilots can make decisions with limited information in just a few minutes whether to continue a flight.  I don't have all of the dynamic information the pilots had at the moment.  However, we now know what failed, and I still would have diverted to the closest air field.

Jeff Bonvallet

In an engine failure, I think the remaining engines are there to assure a safe on-airport landing.  I lost an engine in my Aztec at night in IMC 20 years ago.  After getting to VFR conditions, I was ten miles from an appropriate airport but was tempted to fly to my destination airport, which was 40 miles away.  I decided to land at the closest airport and rent a car to get home.

My feeling was that I did not know for certain why the engine failed.  It could it have been fuel-related, so landing and renting a car to go home seemed like the right decision.

As it turned out, it was not fuel-related.

Howard Schur

I heartily concur with the use of four engines in oceanic flight.  Years ago, I was invited up front in a BA 747 when over Greenland.  (Ah, those days of access to the cockpit.)  When I mentioned to the captain that a friend regularly refueled in Greenland when flying his Twin Comanche across the Pond, he looked up at me and said, "A twin?  If I could have five engines on this, I would."

Paul Treuthardt

The crew complied with regulations because they had not lost 50 percent of their engines. Was it a smart move to pass up airports once they had successfully made the crossing and press on to the Middle East? I don't think so. Not many airports can deal with the A380, but some in Europe can.

It was legal but not prudent. I always said I would never fly over the ocean on less than three engines. I finished up flying the B-767ER across the Atlantic out of JFK, so never say never.

John Anderson

Emergency Procedures

Regarding Rohinton Darukhanawala's letter concerning squawk codes in an emergency:  Transponder considerations in an emergency descent and an engine failure are two separate issues.

Transponders are changed to TA only in the event of an engine failure to prevent a TCAS RA (Resolution Advisory) "Climb, Climb" indication to an aircraft with reduced performance capability and will instead trigger the TCAS RA "Climb, Climb" indication in the other aircraft.

Switching to TA only on the transponder of an aircraft during an emergency descent would inhibit that aircraft receiving a TCAS RA indication for no valid reason.

There's no need to change any manufacturer's checklist.

Individual operators may have edited their own checklist with the approval of the regulator of their country.

Henry Ilg

The recent incident on Jet Blue with a slide inflating in the aircraft is not a new problem.  It has happened many times before and is why, at Northwest, all pilots were advised to carry pocket knives prior to 9/11.

It's time to put aside ridiculous restrictions on crew members carrying the proper tools needed to do their jobs.

Capt. Dave Funk
Northwest Airlines (retired)

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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

Background:

In the C-141 at the time, there was a three-position switch on the right side of the yoke. Up was interphone, neutral was off, and down was transmit on the active radio.

And in a USAF "crew-served" aircraft, you identify yourself by position when responding to a question or checklist item. (I.e., "Ready for take-off?" "Pilot ready." "Co-pilot ready." Etc. In order of precedence: pilot, co-pilot, navigator, flight engineer, load master.)

So:

Many years ago, a new co-pilot (me) on his first operational MAC trip to Hawaii out of McChord Air Force Base had just finished the after-take-off-climb checklist, and ... .

Loadmaster:
"Who wants coffee?"

Pilot:
"Pilot will take Black"

Co-Pilot:
"Co-pilot will take cream and sugar."

ATC:
"Seattle Center will take two black and one with sugar."

Oops!


James Partridge
via e-mail

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Is the Ascendance of Cell Phone Hell Upon Us?

In 1844, Samuel F.B. Morse famously tapped out the first telegraph message, “what hath God wrought?” Were he an airline passenger today ruminating on the FCC’s likely decision to lift the ban on cell phone use in airliners, he would text something along the lines of “what fresh hell is this?”

None of this is finalized yet, but the FCC appears poised to allow cell phone usage in aircraft above 10,000 feet. It’s not clear to me why they have jurisdiction on altitude limits, but that’s a niggle. The ball will now sail across the net into the airlines’ court to decide when or even if passengers will be allowed to use phones in flight.

This makes me nervous. Very nervous. According to Marketplace Business, American and United will wait for the FCC’s decision, but Southwest and Delta say they would consider allowing calls, depending on customer attitudes. The flight attendants union is opposed to the idea and so, evidently, are a majority of consumers. “We’re pretty cramped on planes, “ says Curtis Grimm of the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. He told Marketplace that polls show customers don’t want to see cell phone usage on aircraft in flight.

And therein lies potential gold for the airlines. Customers don’t want baggage fees, long security lines, pecking-order boarding or $15 snacks, but that’s exactly what they’re getting. That’s because the airlines have perversely figured out that passengers, having little choice, will pay to be less miserable. They’ll pay for more legroom, to board the aircraft earlier, for expedited security and, I’m sure eventually, access to the lav. Add cell phone use to the list.

But rather than charge to make calls, what if the airlines hew to recent trends and charge extra for seats where cell phone usage isn’t allowed? You can see the up sell checkbox: $25 to sit in a cell phone-free seating row. Will the revenue opportunity be just too irresistible? I won’t be the slightest bit surprised. I also won’t be surprised if fist fights break out in first class.

Cell phone rudeness is a unique scourge of the modern age. Fortunately, I sense that the world may be realizing this for it’s my distinct impression that I’m encountering less of it than I used to. The last obnoxious experience was sitting on the bus from the NBAA static display last month next to a woman who prattled on for 20 minutes, completely oblivious to the rising ire of everyone within five feet of her. Maybe it’s my imagination, but I think in general, more people are more courteous than they used to be because everyone is so utterly irritated by a loud, long cell phone conversation.

The FAA and FCC are right to lift outdated and pointless rules restricting use of personal electronic devices, including cell phones. From the technical and safety standpoint, there’s no good argument not to do this. But here’s hoping that the airlines do the right thing and prohibit or sharply restrict voice calls. Is that too much to ask to retain a shard of civility in the airline traveling experience?\

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

Video: BendixKing's KT74 Mode S Transponder

Responding to the growing demand for ADS-B-capable equipment, BendixKing is rolling out a new Mode-S transponder called the KT-74.  AVweb got a tour of it at AirVenture last July.

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Video: Pilatus PC-12NG Flight Review

With a cruise speed of around 270 knots and a price tag of nearly $5 million, the 2013 Pilatus PC-12NG isn't the fastest or the least expensive single-engine turboprop on the market.  It is, however, arguably in a class of its own.  That's because it has a cabin that can carry 1,200 lbs. of payload while carrying over 400 gallons of fuel, the ability to operate from unpaved runways, and a huge 53x52-inch cargo door.  In this video, Aviation Consumer's Larry Anglisano takes a look at the airplane.

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