AVweb Biz - Volume 12, Number 12

October 1, 2013

Government Shutdown Will Affect Aviators

Pilots operating in the national airspace after today's shutdown of the federal government should notice little impact, but the aviation industry as a whole will be affected in a number of ways. For those who are flying, air traffic control towers will be staffed as usual, since controllers are exempt from the furloughs. Airman medical certification also is unaffected. Aircraft certification services, however, will be limited, and fewer aircraft accidents will be investigated by on-site teams. Aviation safety inspectors will be furloughed. Their union, Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, said it is "outraged." Furloughing these workers "is neither in the best interest of the economy nor the oversight of this country's aviation system," said PASS.

Safety seminars and other events hosted by the FAA's Safety Team may be cancelled or postponed "with little or no advance notice," the team said in a notice on Tuesday. Aviation manufacturers also will feel the impact of the shutdown, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. "The government shutdown will interrupt the flow of innovation, as the hundreds of FAA engineers who oversee and certify general aviation products will be sent home," said GAMA President Pete Bunce. "We hope that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle will recognize this impact, among many others, and move quickly to end the shutdown."

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Jet Crash Fuels SMO Debate

Opponents of the Santa Monica airport are calling again for its closure following Sunday evening's fatal jet crash. "It is time to shut this airport down," Los Angeles city councilman Mike Bonin said in a Twitter post. "There have been more than 80 crashes related to this airport since 1982. Meanwhile, nearby residents are suffering from harmful jet fuel emissions." Residential neighborhoods have grown around the airport since it was built in 1917, and surround the runway on all sides. On Tuesday morning, the local coroner said four bodies had been found in the wreckage of the Cessna Citation CJ2, which crashed into a hangar while attempting to land at the airport. The airport remained closed on Tuesday as investigators examined the site.

Although no official announcement has been made regarding the victims' identities, a construction company based in Santa Monica said on Monday it believed that its chief executive, Mark Benjamin, 63, the owner of the CJ2, and his son Luke, 28, were on board the airplane. Some reports said Luke Benjamin's girlfriend might also have been on board. At least one aircraft and several other vehicles were destroyed in the hangar fire. NTSB investigators had to wait for two cranes to arrive at the airport to remove parts of the hangar before it was possible to gain access to the jet's cabin and the cockpit recorders on Tuesday. Despite frequent protests from neighbors and local officials, the FAA has supported keeping the Santa Monica airport open, citing a 1948 agreement that says the city will operate it "in perpetuity."

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Citation Crash "Unsurvivable"

image: CBSLA

A Cessna Citation 525A (CJ2) that crashed into a hangar at Santa Monica Airport at 6:20 p.m. on Sunday was engulfed in flames by the time emergency crews arrived, Santa Monica Fire Department Capt. John Nevandro told reporters on the scene. The crash was "unsurvivable," he said. "The building actually collapsed and wrapped itself around the plane," he said, making it impossible for rescuers to reach the cabin. Local news reports said the airplane had landed normally when a tire blew out and the jet veered off the right side of the runway and into the hangar. Shortly afterward, witnesses said, there were flames and then several large explosions. The jet had departed from Hailey, Idaho, close to Sun Valley, but it is not yet clear how many passengers were on board or who was flying the airplane. The airplane can seat up to eight, including the pilot.

There may have been other airplanes and equipment in the hangar that contributed to feeding the fire, according to the local CBS affiliate. The jet was manufactured in 2003 and is registered to an address in Malibu. The corporate owner listed on FAA records is Creative Real Estate Exchange, based in Birmingham, Ala., and Atlanta. The NTSB is investigating.

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Piper, ATP Introduce iPad POH

First there were charts and then moving maps and a plethora of other weather and navigation-related items for the iPad and now pilot operating handbook apps have been developed for some of Piper's products. The company said it will unveil electronic POHs for its M-Class and twin-engine aircraft at AOPA Summit. The apps are part of the HubConnect app developed by Aircraft Technical Publishers  and mean the days of updating paper publications can be over for operators of those aircraft. "Our collaboration with ATP gives the owners and operators of Piper airplanes the most up-to-date, convenient and proven access to data necessary for the safe and efficient operation of their aircraft," Piper VP of Sales and Marketing Drew McEwaen said in a news release.

The basic POH database will be updated daily to include ADs, service bulletins, and special airworthiness information bulletins along with providing advisory circular maintenance alerts and the AIM. "The HubConnect App for iPad from ATP is the first of its kind app for general aviation that provides access to both the pilot operating handbook as well as all supplemental documentation necessary to support the safety and compliance efforts of owners and operators," ATP President Rich Marino said in the release. A library of all maintenance publications and regulatory documents relating to the aircraft types is also included.

Latitude On Track For 2014 First Flight

Photo: Cessna

Cessna mated the wing to the fuselage of the first prototype of its new Latitude mid-sized business jet last week and says the aircraft is on track to fly in early 2014. Cessna announced the Latitude at the 2011 NBAA convention in Las Vegas as a direct challenge to the Embraer 450 and so far the schedule seems to be getting met. “It is very rewarding to see an aircraft take shape that, until now, you’ve only seen on paper, and the Latitude team is enthusiastically looking forward to the prototype’s first flight in a few months," said Terry Shriner, who's in charge of the Latitude project.

The Latitude is Cessna's biggest Citation and has a wingspan of more than 72 feet and a 77-inch wide stand-up cabin (six feet) that is the widest Cessna has ever built. It'll climb with nine passengers to 43,000 feet in 23 minutes and is among the most long-legged types in its category. The 2,500nm-range will get it from L.A. to New York on a tank of fuel and other city pairs include Rome to Dubai, Houston to Bogota and Singapore to Beijing.

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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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Futility Defined: Teaching Judgment

Did you know there’s a multi-billion dollar industry devoted entirely to sleep disorders? If only they knew that the rock-solid way to bring on the deepest of sleeps is to enroll in a Flight Instructor Refresher Course. Let the serious snoring begin.

I know this because I’m now in the midst of my tenth or so FIRC, this time using AOPA’s newly revised online e-FIRC. Actually, it’s not bad and may be the best of its kind I’ve ever taken. So we’re making progress, one embedded video at a time.

One of the FIRC’s modules deals with teaching weather judgment and/or judgment in general. This is always tricky territory and the more I see it attempted, the more convinced I am that it can’t be done, or at least done effectively enough to make a difference. I’m convinced that you’re more or less equipped with your risk assessment switches at birth and no amount of persuasion, lecturing or admonishing from flight instructors and pious aviation magazines will change that. If you’re a hanky twisting Aunt Jane when you start, you’ll finish that way. At the opposite end of the continuum, the wild-eyed lunatics may live or die on luck alone, but they’re not often dissuaded by the voice of reason. And who gets to claim to be the voice of reason, anyway?

But it’s entertaining to see attempts at this. The weather judgment series in this course is set up with several scenarios, one of which involves a flight from the east coast to the Midwest in a known-ice Cirrus during the winter, when ice is in the forecast. The course confronts the viewer with various decision points during the flight and data available includes a look at datalink weather, the OAT and access to the radio for PIREPS. Based on the information you gather by clicking on these sources, you’re asked to pick a decision from a list of three or four options.

The flaw in this approach is that someone has to decide what the best or right decision is for the given circumstances, as though there’s an agreed upon standard of some sort. The underlying assumption, although unstated, is that you’d never make such a trip in a non-de-iced airplane. This springs from the Boy Scout end of the risk spectrum and doesn’t reflect the way pilots actually use GA airplanes. Experienced IFR pilots depart into cold clouds all the time without benefit of de-icing. They mitigate the risks by assessing how likely ice is to actually occur and by having plausible outs. Right or wrong, this is just the way the real world operates. Some people are just more risk tolerant than others, but that doesn't make them crazy.

Scenario-based training like this introduces a level of mind gaming to the process that I think is counter to the intent of the training. For example, one of the questions had the Cirrus in flight at 10,000 feet with the OAT a couple of degrees above freezing. One of the choices was to continue the flight or descend to 6000 feet. Confronted with this question, I found myself conflicted between picking what I’d actually do and trying to figure out what the program thinks is the right decision. Predictably, the program tilts toward the more conservative decision, subtly suggesting that this is always the better course when we all know it isn’t always.

In this case, the best decision was to descend to 6000 feet, the idea being that you must avoid even a trace of icing onset in a de-iced airplane. But that wouldn’t have been my decision. I’ve seen enough ice not to freak out when the first trace of it appears and I have to decide what’s next. All things considered, I’d rather be higher than lower in IMC, measured against a few whiskers of rime popping up.

To be fair, the quizzes associated with this training—which you have to pass—have factual, not judgment-based questions, so the judgment section is obviously intended as a thought provoker. Given the limitations of judgment training, I thought the modules, which were done by ASI, were better than any I’ve seen, but still fall short because they’re trying to teach the unteachable. I think anyone trying to construct such training would reach the same conclusion, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be done.

Risk assessment evolves from a complex admixture of personal experience, training, information gathering habits, analytical capability, creativity and raw nerve—or lack thereof—that are different for everyone. That blows a hole in the assumption that everyone looks at the same data, the same situation and reaches the same conclusion. Since not everyone is comfortable with higher risk decisions, that necessarily argues for more conservative ones as the make-happy common denominator. Is that the way to a lower accident rate? I’m not so sure. Accident avoidance isn’t just about the most conservative decisions, but also about learning to think and recognize those decisions which will inevitably lead to bent metal. You can’t learn about risk without occasionally taking it.

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

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.

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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