AVweb Biz - Volume 12, Number 2
July 16, 2013
ELT May Have Caused 787 Fire
Investigators are now looking at the ELT aboard the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787 as a possible cause for the fire that heavily damaged the airliner at Heathrow Airport last week. The ELT is located in the area that was scorched by the fire. The ELT has a non-rechargeable lithium manganese battery made by Honeywell. The ELTs are in widespread use on airliners. On Monday, the U.K.'s Air Accidents Investigations Branch confirmed it had invited Honeywell to take part in the investigation, noting it's far too early in the investigation to determine the cause.
Honeywell echoed that sentiment in a statement and noted its ELTs have a flawless record. "Our ELT products have been certified by the FAA since 2005, are used on a number of aircraft models, and we've not seen nor experienced a single reported issue on this product line," the company said. The British investigators have ruled out any involvement of the large lithium ion rechargeable batteries. Two fires involving those batteries resulted in the grounding of the Boeing 787 fleet earlier this year while Boeing worked out a fix.
IFR Proficiency Promoted At AirVenture
IMC Club has partnered with Hartzell to help IFR pilots be at the top of their game when they leave AirVenture this year. Hartzell is providing a tent for the club to host an IFR Proficiency Center from July 29 to Aug. 2. The tent is on the flight line and the daily sessions will begin at 10:45 a.m. The sessions will include interactive forums, prominent guest hosts and lunch. They're open to IFR pilots and students in training.
IMC Club President Radek Wyrzykowski said IFR pilots are always working on their skills and the forums at Oshkosh are just another enjoyable venue for that. “Most IFR pilots strive to improve their professionalism as they build time. It takes work to get better and learning from others is essential," Wyrzykowski said. " At club meetings, we call this 'hangar flying'. Our daily program at AirVenture will reflect the same kind of IFR problem solving and thinking skills that we sharpen at our monthly chapter meetings.”
Precision Airmotive Acquired
The assets of Precision Airmotive have been acquired but it will continue under the same name and maintain its production facilities in Marysville, Wash. The company, which makes aircraft fuel injection systems, has been purchased by Turn and Bank Holdings, of North Carolina. Precision Airmotive filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last December citing product liability litigation costs from its former carburetor line. At the time it told customers the fuel injection line remained viable and would continue. Turn and Bank President Mike Allen said the plan is to reorganize Precision Airmotive but continue the business as usual. "We are excited about the opportunity this reorganization presents the global general aviation marketplace," said Allen.
Precision Airmotive makes RSA fuel injection systems for the certified market and Silver Hawk EX systems for the experimental market. It also does factory rebuilds and overhauls and supplies parts. "Manufacturing and customer support operations will be conducted under the newly reorganized Precision Airmotive," the company said in a statement.
GA Crash Leads To Safety Product
John Guimond, an airport manager in Maine, and Ron Cote have responded to a fatal aircraft accident by working to develop a fixed-base audio recorder for the purpose of capturing radio transmissions at small airports. Inspiration for the unit that they call the General Audio Recording Device (GARD) came from the November 16, 2012, collision of a landing Cessna 172 and an airport service vehicle at Knox County Regional Airport, Maine. In that incident, all three aboard the aircraft were killed. Both vehicles carried radios but in the aftermath of the crash, which was relatively local to Guimond's airport (Augusta State), there were no audio records to review. Guimond and Cote's solution is designed to capture those transmissions at any given airport without recording lengthy silent gaps. The pair has set a (perhaps surprising) price for their device and may have already earned support from Maine's DOT and the FAA. Safety isn't the only angle they're playing and several airports are already testing units.
The two men say they can sell the units for between $2,000 and $3,200, depending on how each unit is equipped. And a spokesman for Maine's Department of Transportation told local news that the agency would pick up half the cost of installation at any of the 42 public airports in the state. Cote and Guimond have successfully installed the product at five airports there. They plan to next branch out to New Hampshire and Massachusetts and say that the FAA has also expressed interest in the device. Aside from allowing for review of transmissions relevant to an accident near or on a small airport, Cote and Guimond believe their recorder could also prove useful for training. Guimond says he's already used the device for that purpose at Augusta State -- specifically, to review an airport worker's transmissions and help him learn how to more precisely convey his position on the airport. The two say they are looking into patents and are pursuing grant money to fund future development.
WingX Pro7 Product Tour
Aviation Consumer's Paul Bertorelli walks through the features of Hilton Software's latest release of WingX Pro on the iPad.
Safe Flight's Angle of Attack Indicators
Safe Flight Instrument Corporation is in the process of achieving FAA certification for their new angle of attack and speed control system for Part 23 aircraft. Aviation Consumer's Larry Anglisano flew with the system in Safe Flight's Beech Baron. This video features a tour and wring-out of the new system.
My Friend Mike
I have spent a lifetime fooling around in high-risk sports—flying, skydiving, motorcycles. It follows that I have a lot of friends who do the same and a few weeks ago, I lost one of them. In any high-risk activity, there are always people who rise to the top and stand apart from the rest and who, by dint of experience, competence and aura, are the last people you’d ever expect to die in an accident. Yet one did. Mike Truffer was a pilot and skydiver and well known in the sport, involved in all levels of it for many years and for many of those years, he was publisher of Skydiving magazine, the sport’s independent voice. Mike died over the Memorial Day weekend following unsurvivable injuries from a hard parachute opening. He was 63.
Mike and I shared a friendship based not just an intersection of interest but also of professions. He was an Aviation Consumer reader and we traded off expertise. If there was anything Mike didn’t know about skydiving—its history, trends and industry dynamics—I’m quite certain I never discovered what it was. I would occasionally call him to ask about some obscure parachuting subject; he’d call me to ask about aviation topics since, as editor of Aviation Consumer, I was supposed to know such things.
He owned at least a couple of airplanes during the time I knew him, including a vintage twin—a Travel Air, I think or maybe an old Baron—with tapped out engines that he once called to ask me about. Mike’s humor could be almost as black as mine, so when we ran through the numbers and I darkly suggested that maybe a hangar fire might be the most economical option, he got the joke. Not everyone does.
If Mike were here now, he’d roll his eyes if I fell into the trite prose of the typical memorial hagiography by suggesting he touched many lives, so I won’t do that. Respect and fondness for a person is usually erected on a foundation of specific memories and in Mike’s case, I recall two.
In 2005, through the lens of skydiving, a conversation we had reset my thinking on aviation risk assessment and how I analyze and write about it. Most skydivers these days use something called an automatic activation device or AAD. It will automatically deploy a reserve parachute if a skydiver fails to deploy on his own below a certain altitude and airspeed threshold. I have one and assumed Mike did, too. But quite purposefully, he did not. His reasoning, as it always was, was old school, but sound. AADs protect against a small slice of risk—distraction and/or failure to pull or incapacitation in free fall. These are exceedingly rare events. But AADs have been known to malfunction, deploying when you least want them to. We agreed that we had no reliable numbers on unintended activations and measured against bona fide saves, Mike figured the risk was about a wash, so he didn’t use one. You probably know people like Mike, who like to push back against the accepted wisdom that accrues from group think, not to mention marketing boilerplate.
I continued to use an AAD, conceding to myself that the real risk mitigation, as Mike maintained, was probably more between the ears than real. But isn’t that usually the case? The very same logic applies to some aviation equipment many of us have come to believe is indispensable. Not having an AAD, by the way, had nothing to do with Mike’s accident.
Mike and his partner Sue Clifton retired from publishing Skydiving in 2009 and shuttered the publication. It is missed mightily, for every discipline and interest benefits from having an independent news outlet. Mike got that. I did some writing for Skydiving and one of the things we covered was a certain type of reserve parachute that clearly had a design defect. It had a degree of longitudinal instability that made it all but impossible to flare. I had personally seen two skydivers stall it and suffer identical injuries as a result. When I approached Mike about reporting this, he didn’t flinch, despite the reserve’s manufacturer being an advertiser. All publishers should do so well. And it wasn’t an isolated example, either. Mike had that rarest of qualities: advocacy uncompromised by obsequious glad-handing. When you asked him a question, you’d get an unvarnished answer, usually based on first hand knowledge. I don’t know about you, but I value this in human character above all else.
In the wake of a tragic accident like Mike’s, we sometimes soothe our grief by drawing from it some lesson that may save a life in the future, but there is no such lesson here. The reality is that high-risk activities always involve a degree of randomness that respects no person and defies the prepared, the skilled, the competent.
Mike knew this because he and I talked about it. Of course, in the end, it’s just words on a page, none of which make it any easier to accept his passing. For me personally, there simply are no words for that.