AVwebFlash - Volume 21, Number 1a
December 31, 2013
NTSB Issues Five More General Aviation Safety Alerts
The NTSB has issued its five newest Safety Alerts aimed to help pilots develop mitigating strategies to prevent accidents. These follow five issued in March that focused on the most frequent type of general aviation accidents. ďKnowing these accidents can be prevented is why ĎGeneral Aviation Safetyí is on our Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvements,Ē said NTSB Chair Deborah Hersman. ďAt a time when many people are putting together their list of resolutions for the coming year, these five Safety Alerts remind pilots, mechanics and passengers of the basic safety precautions to add to their checklists to ensure a safe flight for all on board.Ē A Safety Alert is a brief information sheet that pinpoints a particular safety hazard and offers practical remedies to address the issue.
The five safety alerts issued were:
USAF Officials Raise Pilot Shortage Concerns
"We are concerned that there is a sort of perfect storm approaching us in terms of flying retention," acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning told Foreign Policy magazine in a recent interview. "If Iím looking at my jet parked on the ramp instead of flying it, and I can get a job somewhere else flying, then Iím going to do that.Ē Hiring is expected to pick up for the commercial airlines next year, as pilots who got a reprieve when the FAA boosted mandatory retirement age to 65 in 2007 will start aging out of the cockpit. At the same time, federal policy changes mean less flying time for Air Force pilots.
"Pilots like to fly, they like to yank and bank," C.J. Ingram, a program analyst at the Air Force, told Foreign Policy. "They're not getting the flying time, so that's not making them happy." This fall, Air Force officials met for an Air Crew Summit at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland to discuss the potential pilot shortage. "That's the level of attention this is getting," one Air Force official said. The airlines are expected to hire up to 50,000 pilots over the next decade.
Fees Cut For Quiet Grand Canyon Air Tour Operators
An incentive to use technology to reduce overflight noise for Grand Canyon National Park air tour operators kicked in on the first day of the new year. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the eight flightseeing operators have to pay a $25 fee per flight over the Grand Canyon; however, the fee is reduced to $20 for aircraft that meet noise reduction requirements. The FAA determines which aircraft comply through a formula that takes into account flyover noise emission from certification data and number of seats. According to National Park spokesperson Maureen Oltrogge, about 60 percent of the current sightseeing fleet are qualified for the fee reduction.
The National Park Service says the incentive program could save operators as much as $250,000 per year. The program is a result of a provision in a 2012 federal transportation bill to make half of the park free from commercial air tour noise for at least 75 percent of the day. Some nonconforming aircraft may be modified to meet the new standard with different engines and/or propellers. While increasing the number of seats in an aircraft may also allow it to qualify, it may not be possible given gross weight limitations. Quiet technology is in use at other national parks and noise-sensitive flightseeing locations around the country. Incentives in those locations have lead to operators modifying aircraft with quieter engines and propellers or selling their noisier aircraft and purchasing quieter ones.
Kenneth Schechter, Survivor Of Blind Landing, Dies At 83
Kenneth Schechter, who died earlier this month in Fairfield, Calif., at age 83, had been just 22 years old when he survived an unusual blind landing in Korea. Schechter was flying an A-1 Skyraider above the Korean coastline on his 27th combat mission, in 1952, when an enemy shell blew the canopy off his airplane and metal fragments struck both of his eyes. "I'm blind! For God's sake, help me!" he cried into his radio. "I'm blind!" He was answered by Lt. j.g. Howard Thayer, who served with him on the aircraft carrier Valley Forge. Thayer flew close beside him, and talked him all the way down, until 45 minutes later Schechter was able to land safely at a dirt airstrip.
"My†plane hit the ground, lurched momentarily and skidded to a stop in one piece," Schechter wrote, in 2001. "A perfect landing. No fire. No pain, no strain. The best landing I ever made." Schechter regained sight in his left eye but the right eye was permanently blinded.†Schechter wrote (PDF) that he was unwilling to bail out because he'd seen other pilots drown or die of exposure after bailing out into the frigid waters of the Sea of Japan. His immersion suit was damaged and wouldn't protect him from the freezing waters. "To my mind, bailing out meant certain death," he wrote. Schechter worked as an insurance agent after the war. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1995.
FAA Announces UAS Test Sites
Six test sites have been selected by the FAA for working toward the integration of unmanned aerial systems into the national airspace. The six sites "achieve cross-country geographic and climatic diversity and help the FAA meet its UAS research needs," the agency said on Monday. The sites, in Alaska, Nevada, North Dakota, Texas, New York, and Virginia, will help to meet the FAA's research goals, which it has defined as system safety, command and control link issues, control station layout and certification, sense and avoid capabilities both on the ground and in the air, environmental impacts, and aircraft certification. The FAA said it also will establish rules to protect privacy as well as ensure safe operations. The testing will continue until at least February 2017.
The announcement was welcomed by Michael Toscano, president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. "In designating the first UAS test sites, the FAA has taken an important step toward recognizing the incredible economic and job creation potential this technology brings," he said. "AUVSI's economic report projects that the expansion of UAS technology will create more than 100,000 jobs nationwide and generate more than $82 billion in economic impact in the first decade following integration."
Longtime President Axed By Reno Race Group
Citing an ongoing effort "to ensure long-term sustainability," the board of the Reno Air Races Association said on Monday it has eliminated the job of CEO Mike Houghton, and he won't be replaced. "This is an extremely difficult decision but, in light of current circumstances and financial restraints, we felt that it was in the best interest of the Air Races,"†said board chairman Mike Major. The board cited an increase of $3 million in operating expenses in the last two years, mainly due to insurance hikes following the 2011 accident when a pilot and 10 spectators died. Houghton told the local RGJ.com website the decision was "disappointing and devastating," though not a total shock. "The reality of it is tough," he said. "I've been doing this for 15 years and 16 races."
RARA said it has revised its organizational bylaws and restructured its board of directors to allow for more efficient and effective decision-making and a stronger emphasis on sponsorships, coalition building and fundraising. In November, the group said it had cut wages and benefits, and eliminated two staff positions. About two weeks ago, Houghton announced the organization had successfully raised its target of $500,000 to meet costs for the first quarter of next year. He told RGJ.com this week he was proud of his work at the air races. ďI can proudly say I played a role in keeping the event alive when many said it couldnít be done,Ē he said, but now he'll look for another job. ďThatís all you can do, is take it one step at a time,Ē he said. ďIíve given my blood, sweat and tears to the air races and now itís time to find something else.Ē Going forward, RARA's board of directors will fulfill the CEO roles and responsibilities.
Video: Borescoping the Cub
With the average age of the light aircraft fleet north of 40 years, it's a challenge to keep older aircraft maintained. †In this video, Cub owner Paul Bertorelli shows how the shop uses a borescope to see deep inside the aircraft to detect any issues before they become serious.
For 2014: ATP, Glider or Something Else?
Accidents, like elections, have consequences. And as youíve probably read, a consequence of one accident is that the ATP will soon rise to the level of unobtanium, so if you always wanted one, 2014 is the time to act. And better be quick about it.
The accident, of course, is the Colgan Air crash in Buffalo in 2009, where the Captain stalled a Dash-8 Q400 on approach and spun the airplane in, killing 49 on the airplane and one on the ground. The consequences are that First Officers on such operations have to have an ATP and after July of this year, if you want an ATP, youíll need to complete 30 hours of ground school and up to six hours in a level C or D sim.
Yeah, those are the sims whose per-hour cost rivals that of flying an actual turboprop twin, a concept that itself is becoming more rarified. Sometimes I wonder if we should just develop simulators for the passengers, too and save everyone money. On further thought, maybe thatís what teleconferencing is.†
But back to the ATP. Is it worth having one just as wallet candy? Or to pursue the rating in lieu of a flight review? I could follow the usual Boy Scout aviation journalist doctrine and say yes, if you earn the rating, youíll be a better pilot. But Iím pretty sure thatís BS, so Iím going with the notion that itís a $1500 flight review and probably a waste of money, unless you need it for the type of flying you do or just want it for the recurrency. But a year from now, it will very likely be a $10,000 rating so youíre getting a discount price. Maybe your insurance company will be impressed enough to give you a lower premium. In any case, that much money spent on sim time or dual might be a better value.
I got an ATP purely as a coincidence 20-some years ago. I was doing the multi-engine instructor ride and the DPE suggested I combine it with the ATP. All Iíd have to do was take the ATP written, which is no big deal if you donít mind grinding through a dozen weight-and-balance calculations for a DC-9. After the ride, I had exactly the same skills as before the ride, unless you consider the ability to pencil whip 400 pounds of bags from one station to another a skill. I needed the rating exactly once, when I flew some scheduled charter work. But otherwise, wallet candy.
The new rule will require six hours in a high-level sim which, if youíre about to apply for an airline job, might prove useful in keeping you from blowing the screening ride in the airlineís sim. Iím just wondering how many people are going to look at the cost of an ATP and measure it against the miserably low starting salary for an airline job they might not even get. Maybe a career in the bail bond industry isnít such a bad deal after all.
The worst part of the new requirement isnít the sim workódespite the cost, itís at least funóbut the 30-hour ground school requirement. Thirty hours? Although this wonít have so much as a speck of influence on safety, the upside is that the course developers may come up with a sleep aid thatís less habit forming than Ambien. Maybe Fred Tilton will sign it off as a sleep apnea cure. Add another 10 hours, and you could get a medical degree, for Peteís sake.
So the next time I flash my totally impressive ATP and someone asks me if they should bother to get one, Iíd say maybe consider a glider rating instead. Thatís my plan for 2014. As you approach your dotage, you wonít need a medical and itís an altogether more peaceful pursuit than load testing your VISA every time you tank up your airplane. Adhering to consistency here, I wonít pretend that a glider rating makes you a better pilot. It just makes you a glider pilot. And the only way to get one is to actually fly a machine above the surface of the earth. I know itís a shocker, but itís still permitted, at least until next July.
Video: Two New Satellite Receivers for Cockpit Tablets
The internal GPS receiver in some tablets doesn't always provide reliable lock-on in all aircraft cabins. †Two new satellite receivers -- from Bad Elf and Global Nav Systems -- solve this problem. †Aviation Consumer's Larry Anglisano has a look at them in this AVweb video.
Video: Clay Lacy and the Amazing Human Fly
In 1976, famed aviation businessman and movie pilot Clay Lacy was asked to fly one of the strangest stunt acts in aviation: The Human Fly. In this exclusive AVweb video, he explains how the project came into being.