AVwebFlash - Volume 21, Number 2b

January 8, 2014

SAFE Urges FAA to Rescind Flight Simulator Policy Change

The Society of Aviation and Flight Educators (SAFE) has criticized the FAA’s Jan. 2 Notice Of Policy Change that restricts the use of flight simulators as an action that will adversely affect flight safety. As of Jan. 1, 2015, a maximum of 10 hours of simulator time will be allowed toward an instrument rating. Currently, pilots working on an instrument rating may log as much 20 hours in FAA-approved flight simulators known as Personal Computer Aviation Training Devices (PCATD), Flight Training Devices (FTD) level 1-3, Basic Aviation Training Devices (BATD and Advanced Aviation Training Devices (AATD) under currently issued Letters of Authorization for those devices. “The FAA should be encouraging better pilot training, not discouraging it,” said Doug Stewart, SAFE executive director. “The extra simulator training hours allowed by those LOAs is invaluable.”

The policy change will eliminate all simulator LOAs issued prior to Aug. 23, 2013—requiring most manufacturers to reapply for an LOA. No new LOAs will allow more than 10 hours of simulator time to be credited towards an instrument rating. SAFE’s Stewart went on to say, “FAA officials, understanding the value of simulators in flight training, have been issuing these LOAs since 1980. The proposed policy change will take away much of the incentive for pilots to improve their skills in a better classroom than a noisy cockpit.” The use of simulators has long been recognized to improve flight safety and has cut down on training accidents, as it is far safer to practice certain emergencies in a simulator than in an airplane. Comments on the policy change are being accepted at Regulations.gov.

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Two Military Helicopters Lost: At Least Six Dead

The U.S. military lost two helicopters in two days and the death toll of six may rise. On Wednesday, a Navy CH-53E Sea Dragon, the Navy variant of the Super Stallion, crashed off Norfolk, Va. There were five crew members on board. Four were rescued but two died. There is one still missing. The crash occurred about 18 miles off the Virginia coast. Sea Dragons are used by the Navy as mine countermeasures aircraft and for transport but the nature of the mission on Wednesday wasn't immediately released. The other crash occurred in England and involved an Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk. It killed four service people.

Ironically, that crash occurred in the English region of Norfolk. Stars and Stripes says the crew was conducting low-level flight training when the crash occurred on the coast at Salthouse. The helicopter had 1200 rounds of .50 caliber ammunition on board and that was scattered over the crash site. There were two helicopters on the mission.

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NTSB: 787 Battery Fire Investigation Continues

The investigation into the battery fire aboard a Boeing 787 in Boston a year ago should be done by the end of March, the NTSB said on Wednesday. The board will then need more time for analysis and writing, and a final report will be released to the public in the fall. The board is investigating the Jan. 7, 2013, fire aboard a parked and empty Japan Airlines Boeing 787 at Logan International Airport. The fleet of 51 Dreamliners was grounded in mid-January after a second fire aboard an ANA 787 in flight above Japan. The airplanes have been back in the air since last April, after the FAA approved a modification to the battery system that aims to both "prevent and isolate a fault should it occur," according to Boeing.

Members of the NTSB investigative team have been conducting work in Japan, France, Taiwan and the U.S., the board said. Parties to the investigation so far have included Boeing, the FAA, the Japan Transport Safety Bureau, the French aviation safety bureau, and technical advisors from Japan and France. Investigators have disassembled the incident battery from the Boston airplane and completed radiographic studies, including more than 200,000 CT scan images. Some of the work still under way includes systems-level testing of the 787 battery and charging system. This work, which is being done under contract by Underwriters Laboratories, includes characterization of the thermal and electrochemical properties of the battery and oscillatory testing, and is expected to be complete in February. Data from the ongoing NTSB investigation is posted online.

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GAMA, Build A Plane Launch Second Design Challenge

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association and Build A Plane teamed up last year to bring four high school students to the Glasair factory to build a Sportsman, and this year they are doing it again. "Having worked side-by-side with the students for two weeks last summer and seen how the competition not only improved their skill sets but convinced almost all of them to enter the aviation field, I’m thrilled to be going back to our wonderful hosts at Glasair for another build in 2014," Pete Bunce, president of GAMA, said this week. The program aims to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education in high schools across the country.

Any school that wants to compete will receive a free six-week "Fly to Learn" curriculum, which comes with flight simulation software powered by X-Plane. The project guides students through the science of flight and airplane design. Each class will modify the design of a Glasair Sportsman while flying a specific mission profile. The schools will then compete in a virtual fly-off, which will be scored on aerodynamic and performance parameters. Judges from GAMA will select the winning team, which will receive round-trip airfare to Glasair's factory in Arlington, Wash., in June. Hotels, meals and field trips to nearby aviation sites are provided. Schools must register for the program by Feb. 14. For more info or to register, go to GAMA's website.

Spitfire Search Resumes In Burma

David Cundall, an aviation enthusiast from the U.K., is back in Burma searching for buried Spitfire airplanes, with a new sponsor, according to recent news reports. Cundall returned to Burma last month to search for pristine Spitfires he believes were buried there at the end of World War II. His previous sponsor, the Belarussian video gaming company Wargaming.net, withdrew support for the project last February after evidence of Cundall's theories failed to materialize. The Claridon Group, a British freight-handling business with an office in Burma, now is backing the project. Chris Scott, managing director of Claridon, said that after meeting Cundall, "and seeing his deep-rooted passion for preserving part of our history and heritage for generations to come, we just had to get involved."

At the Claridon website, Scott said, "We will be supporting David every step of the way and look forward to bringing the Spitfires back home for him." Cundall said he hopes to find the lost Spitfires this time and ship them back to the U.K., where "they will find homes in museums up and down the country." Claridon didn't say how much funding it would supply to the effort, or for how long. Cundall told his local U.K. newspaper, The Birmingham Mail, that he has found new evidence to bolster his search since he was last in Burma. “I have an expert who has confirmed evidence that shows there are large metallic objects at depth in the same place as eyewitnesses saw Spitfire boxes being buried," he said. "I have a bore hole machine that will cut through concrete and steel and we will then place a camera down a hole and capture the images." He believes up to 36 airplanes might be awaiting discovery.

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A Note to AVweb Readers

Beginning next Monday, AVweb will transition to three-times-a-week publication, with a news e-letter on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Each issue will contain the breaking and spot news readers have come to rely on from AVweb and on Wednesday, we'll continue to offer our business coverage, albeit in expanded format with additional video segments and commentary. 

Our Friday issue will also have expanded news coverage and the features, columns and the Refurb Aircraft of the Month will appear throughout the week, rather than just on Friday. Let us know what you think of the new format and if you have any coverage, feature or newstip ideas, send them along. We're always happy to hear from readers.

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Guest Blog: NTSB Responds on Sleep Apnea

In an AVweb Insider blog a month ago, we observed how the FAA got rapid and intense pushback on its proposal to require sleep apnea diagnosis for pilots with BMIs of 40 or higher. In this guest blog, the NTSB's Mark Rosekind explains that the agency has given this topic more than a passing glance. 

The National Transportation Safety Board mission is focused on enhancing safety and the agency’s interest in obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is to address a known and established safety risk.  For example, on February 13, 2008, a go! airline flight in Hawaii overflew its destination airport by 18 minutes and 26 miles when both pilots fell asleep.  Based on its investigation, the NTSB identified excessive daytime sleepiness due to fatigue resulting from the captain’s undiagnosed sleep apnea as contributing to this incident.

Among the recommendations issued, the NTSB included three to address the safety risks specifically associated with sleep apnea and are directed to all pilots required to obtain an FAA medical certificate in every aviation class.  They are to: 

Modify the application for airman medical certificate to elicit specific information about any previous diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea and about the presence of specific risk factors for that disorder (A-09-61).

Implement a program to identify pilots at high risk for obstructive sleep apnea and require that those pilots provide evidence through the medical certification process of having been appropriately evaluated and, if treatment is needed, effectively treated for that disorder before being granted unrestricted medical certification (A-09-62).

And third, develop and disseminate guidance for pilots, employers, and physicians regarding the identification and treatment of individuals at high risk of obstructive sleep apnea, emphasizing that pilots who have obstructive sleep apnea that is effectively treated are routinely approved for continued medical certification (A-09-63).

The full Safety Recommendation with extensive background information can be found here. These NTSB recommendations were issued to ensure the safety of the traveling public because sleep apnea leads to excessive daytime fatigue, increases the risk of accidents, impairs cognitive skills, elevates the likelihood of critical errors and falling asleep, and because many individuals who have the disorder do not know they have it.  With treatment, sleep can be improved, OSA symptoms reduced, and adverse effects reversed, leading to a return to normal duty for most civilian pilots.

Clearly, the NTSB has more than “opined” on the subject of OSA, its adverse effect on sleep, and the significant safety risks associated with human fatigue in transportation operations.  For more than 40 years, the NTSB has identified fatigue as a problem.  OSA is a common fatigue-inducing disorder that affects many pilots and it often remains undiagnosed, creating a hidden safety risk that can be managed effectively if identified.

Mark Rosekind has been a member of the NTSB since 2010 and is recognized as one of the world's foremost human fatigue experts. Prior to his joining the board, he was a consultant in human fatigue management.

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Video: Mooney Gears for Aircraft Production

There are cars in the parking lot and 46 employees working at the Mooney International plant in Kerrville, Texas as of Jan. 3, thanks to fresh investment from its new Chinese owners.  AVweb's Russ Niles was there and talked to Director of Engineering Bill Eldred about getting the production line going again.

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Video: Cub Theatre -- The-Not-That-Impossible Turn

In this week's Cub Theatre installment, AVweb's Paul Bertorelli provides a video examination of the runway turnback or the so-called "impossible turn."  Well, it's not impossible at all, although it's not necessarily easy.  If you want to try it, you'll need to practice it first.  And think about making the turnback decision before you take off, not when the engine crumps at 500 feet.

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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.

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