AVwebFlash - Volume 13, Number 47b

November 22, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
 
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News from the Northwest back to top 
 

Cirrus Won't Bid On Columbia Assets

With the bankrupt Columbia aircraft company due to go up for sale on November 27, Cirrus CEO Alan Klapmeier told AVweb on Tuesday that his company won't be making a bid after all. "We have done our due diligence, and we think there are a lot of problems that would have to be solved," he said. "They wouldn't be in bankruptcy, if that wasn't true." A buyer would have to take on those problems, plus all the warranty costs for the current fleet, he said. Taking on the Columbia product line would divert a lot of financial and engineering resources that could be better invested in developing The Jet, Klapmeier said. With Cirrus out of the running, that leaves Cessna as the most likely buyer, although other companies remain in play. But if Cessna does acquire the Columbia line, Klapmeier says he can live with that. "We are quite comfortable with our product offerings, and quite willing to compete," he said. He added that he sees plenty of growth potential in the GA market and expects there will be more than enough buyers to keep everyone busy. Other companies that have expressed an interest in acquiring Columbia are Versa Capital Management and Park Electrochemical Corp.

Three Survive Tacoma Midair

All three occupants of two Cessnas that brushed each other over Commencement Bay, off Tacoma, Wash., on Tuesday walked —and swam— away from the mishap. Cessna 182 pilot Bud Williams said he felt a thud that sent his charts and paperwork flying all over the cabin and looked out to see another aircraft in a circling descent to the ocean below. Williams said he quickly determined his aircraft was controllable. "I figured my plane was in flyable condition. Everything checked out," Williams, 63, told the Seattle Times. He followed the other aircraft and watched it ditch under control. He called 121.5 to give the coordinates of the ditching and then headed to a nearby airfield where he made an uneventful landing. His aircraft suffered damage to the right wheel pant, fuselage and a wingtip. Meanwhile the two unidentified occupants of the other aircraft, a son taking his mother for lunch at nearby Gig Harbor, clung briefly to the sinking Cessna before it sank in 200 feet of water. A family out for a cruise in their 46-foot boat saw the accident from three miles away and headed for the ditched airplane. "I put my throttles down as far as we could go and headed toward it. It probably took us 10 minutes to get there," boat owner John Farrell told the Times. "When we got there, the pilot was treading water with his mother in his arms." The boat’s passengers stripped the wet clothes off the pair and wrapped them in blankets. They were checked in to the hospital and released. Other pilots interviewed by the Times said Tuesday was unusually busy for small aircraft traffic because weather had improved from the previous few days. Lingering low clouds forced pilots to fly at low altitude, congesting the airspace further.

 
Zulu Time ... From Lightspeed
The new Zulu headset looks different because it is different. Made with magnesium, stainless steel, and four types of composite plastics, it's extremely durable and yet weighs just over 13 ounces. Rather than concentrating purely on cutting decibels, Lightspeed engineers looked at how pilots perceive noise at different frequencies. You get broader noise attenuation over the entire audible range. Zulu has more total noise cancellation than any headset on the market. Click here for a dealer near you.
 
The High Cost of Making Parts back to top 
 

Carburetor Line Sold

Precision Airmotive has reached a tentative deal with "a group including Tim Henderson, President of Aero Accessories, and others involved in the manufacture of the Tempest brand of general aviation products," to buy Precision’s line of MSA aircraft carburetors, according to a news release from Aero Accessories/Tempest issued Monday. The group says it plans to move the manufacturing facilities for the carbs to a facility in an undisclosed location in North Carolina. Precision announced earlier this month that it was suspending manufacture and distribution of the carbs and parts after it was unable to obtain product liability insurance. There’s no mention of the insurance issue in the Henderson Group’s release. Precision has been involved in several high-profile lawsuits concerning the carburetors and the company said it was unable to get insurance coverage, at any cost, necessary to continue supplying carbs. MSA carburetors are used in most normally aspirated Continental, Lycoming and Franklin engines. There is an inventory of carbs and parts available. The deal with the new group is expected to be finalized by the end of January.

Manufacturer Wins in Lawsuit Stemming from 1999 Crash

When a Beech Baron crashed into a New Jersey neighborhood in November 1999, killing the pilot and his wife and child, as well as one person on the ground, many lawsuits followed. This week, one of those suits was resolved in favor of S-Tec Corporation, based in Texas, manufacturer of the airplane's autopilot. The case was significant for general aviation, according to lawyer David Zeehandelaar, who led the defense team for S-Tec, because "the conventional wisdom is that it's tough for a manufacturer to win in a product liablity case." The NTSB had determined in July 2000 that the probable cause of the accident was the pilot's failure to maintain aircraft control. Factors in the accident, the NTSB said, were failure of the horizontal situation indicator for undetermined reasons and the pilot's use of inappropriate medication. Zeehandelaar told AVweb on Wednesday that although the NTSB report was not admitted in court, his firm argued that the HSI that failed was not part of the S-Tec autopilot system, and also that the autopilot wasn't being used at the time of the crash. "We had radar data that showed the final turn was made at a rate of 6 degrees per second, which is not standard rate, and would require pilot input," Zeehandelaar said. The trial lasted for eight weeks and included testimony from approximately 30 expert witnesses on topics including piloting, aerodynamics, engineering, meteorology, aeromedical issues, and more.

The plaintiffs in the case were the estates of the three persons on the plane and the owner of one of the destroyed buildings. The city of Newark and about 20 residents of the neighborhood who were affected by the crash sued the pilot's estate and were awarded $2 million in a settlement in 2001. S-Tec also announced this week that it has been acquired by U.K. aerospace firm Cobham PLC for $38 million. The transaction should be completed by the end of this year, subject to regulatory approval, S-Tec said.

 
IFR Pilots: Take Your Flight-Planning Skills to the Next Level
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Bringing Pilots Home Safe back to top 
 

Family Of Lost Pilot Seeks Help Online

When famed aviator Steve Fossett went missing in Nevada last September, the scale of the search was humbling to many pilots who wondered, if I disappear one day, will the whole world come looking? Thanks to the Internet, it's easier for even us regular folks to get the word out when a beloved pilot fails to come home. On Oct. 23, Ron Boychuk, 60, took off in his Cessna 172 from Springbank Airport near Calgary, Alberta, en route to Qualicum Beach, in British Columbia. He never arrived, and after extensive air and ground searches turned up nothing, his family launched a Web site in the hope that folks in the area will remember to keep a lookout. "If you or anyone you know has any information, no matter how small, we want to know, as any info that leads to the finding of Ron will result in a cash reward," the site reads. Boychuk's family has raised about $20,000, according to the Edmonton Sun. His three sons have joined with search and rescue teams and many volunteers to scour the area, but came up with nothing. "Because of the large area and the terrain, there is still sooo much more to search," it says at the site. "His sons will not give up until their father is found."

The site makes no mention of using the Mechanical Turk method that was employed in the search for Fossett, in which hundreds of volunteers worked online to search satellite images. But Fossett went missing over the desert. It seems unlikely the satellite method would help in searching the mostly forested Canada region.

A Rough Day at Work For Two Hijacked Pilots

If you think your flying job is stressful sometimes, consider the Monday morning that two Australian pilots had this week in Papua New Guinea. They were flying a chartered aircraft -- the reports don't specify what kind of airplane -- carrying $2 million in cash for a bank, with two security guards on board. The two guards, however, pointed their guns at the pilots and suggested they should change course. They landed at a neglected World War II-era airstrip on an offshore island near Port Moresby, the nation's capital, where the guards' three masked and armed accomplices were waiting. The pilots, however, apparently managed to signal air traffic controllers of their dilemma. Reports differ regarding what happened next -- it may be that the three masked men armed with shotguns stole a dinghy from island locals and headed for the coast, with the pilots on board, but were captured. But another version says the pilots were found by police, covered in mud and handcuffed to a tree. A gunfight ensued, the police killed one of the guards and recovered the money, but two of the bad guys escaped. "It is only a matter of time before the other two are captured," Police Commissioner Gari Baki told the Herald-Sun.

The U.S. State Department seems less confident of the PNG police. "Papua New Guinea, unlike the United States, does not have a tradition of strong local police authorities," notes the State Department Web site, while advising visitors that random or opportunistic crime is "common."

 
The 2008 Aircraft Spruce Pilot Shop Catalog Is Now Available
Aircraft Spruce & Specialty has published a new, full-color, 88-page pilot supply catalog which is available at no charge. Products in the new catalog include handheld GPS and nav/coms, JPI and Electronics International engine monitors and scanners, headsets, intercoms, flight bags, laminated checklists, folding bikes, oxygen systems, windsocks, survival gear, flight jackets, Scheden sunglasses, weather stations, Jeppesen and ASA flight training products, aviation software and simulators, charts, videos, books, and much more. Call 1-877-4-SPRUCE or visit online.
 
News Briefs back to top 
 

Female Pilots Still Face Obstacles

It wasn't that long ago that female pilots here in the U.S. were an uncommon sight -- and unsettling, to some. Now in other parts of the world, women are just starting to find their way into the front seat, and not everyone is happy about it. In Qatar, the first Arab woman to fly a helicopter has been widely ridiculed and subjected to threatening phone calls after appearing in public wearing her pilot's uniform. "All phone calls had a similar message to convey," Munira Al Dosri told The Peninsula. "People were telling me they felt ashamed to see me without the abaya and veil (Qatari women's traditional attire). They told me they were ashamed of me being a Qatari woman." Qatar, a small country bordered by Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf, is one of the richest countries in the world. Al Dosri works for Gulf Helicopter and plans to continue flying and earning more ratings.

"My family, especially my parents, are very understanding and supportive," she said. "Thanks to them, I am able to carry on with my profession and focus on what I'm doing."

Want to Fly With The Stars? Build-A-Plane eBay Site Can Help

If your holiday wish is to go flying with CNN reporter (and pilot) Miles O'Brien or to have aviation photographer Paul Bowen personally autograph a copy of his classic book "Air to Air" for you, then Build-A-Plane's eBay auction site is the place you're looking for. You can also bid to share a talkative lunch with aviation writer Bill Cox, fly a P-51 Mustang, or take an aerobatics course. Purchases at the site support Build-A-Plane's mission to help kids learn science, technology, engineering and math by building real airplanes. New items are being added to the auction all the time, says Build-A-Plane President Lyn Freeman. "The proceeds from this unique fundraiser, something totally new and different for aviation, will help us continue to help kids," he said.

Build-A-Plane has more than 70 projects in schools across the U.S.

 
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Landing a plane is tough. Flying into unfamiliar runways makes it even tougher — and more dangerous. Ensure you and your crew's safety by downloading these no-cost flash cards today. Each of the 23 flash cards displays an airport sign or pavement marking as well as the required pilot action. Use them as a quick reference before your departure or during your flight. Download the Runway Safety Flash Cards now.
 
Nuisances Out of Control back to top 
 

Pilot Arrested For Alcohol, But Passes Test

After a TSA agent at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport said he smelled alcohol on the breath of a Midwest Airlines pilot last week, airport police arrested him. A breath test registered a blood alcohol level of .016, and the FAA limit for pilots is .04 and eight hours. The airline's own limit is .02 percent. Reports were unclear regarding how long since the pilot had indulged (if he had), but his lawyer said there's enough alcohol in mouthwash to register a .016 level. The pilot was detained by police for three hours, but wasn't charged with a crime. He was taken off flight duty until the airline completes its investigation. Some early reports of the incident noted that the pilot was carrying a gun, for which he was certified, and also mis-reported the alcohol level at 0.16.

The legal limit for driving in Minnesota is .08, more than four times as high as the pilot's test result. Midwest Airlines ranked No. 1 this week in a Zagat survey of customer satisfaction.

Pilot Complains About Airport Noise

Most pilots love the sound of engines in the morning -- and have little patience with airport neighbors who complain -- but in Vancouver, one airline pilot who chose to live close to the airport has had it with early-morning engine tests and middle-of-the-night jumbo-jet takeoffs. "Some areas of [the city] are absolutely blasted," Neil Filipek told Canada.com. "Most airports in the world do a better job addressing complaints than Vancouver." Filipek says the airport should build an engine run-up enclosure to shield neighbors from the noise, and do a better job of addressing complaints. "Other major airports do not allow 24-hour operations," he said. He says he got the brush off from the airport when he made suggestions for improvements. "Officials are used to doing whatever they want because the airport is on federal land," Filipek said. Airport officials told Canada.com they might consider building a noise shelter, and said they are already doing a "really good job" at addressing noise issues.

The airport had an average of 43 takeoffs and landings each night last year.

 
AFSS Is Up to Speed. And Gaining Altitude.
The new automated flight services system is here. Revolutionizing flight service operations. Reducing legacy sites. Bringing 15 upgraded sites and three hubs online. Retaining 1,200 specialists. Marrying local needs with national information sources. The result: ever-improving levels of performance. And a future of efficient, effective service that give general aviation pilots more flexibility than they've ever thought possible. To see for yourself, visit AFSS.com.
 
News in Brief back to top 
 

On the Fly ...

Two pilots were killed and a third seriously hurt when their helium balloon hit powerlines in Iowa last Friday. The basket separated and crashed 60 feet to the ground ...

Liberty Aerospace announced its first U.S. dealer, First Flight Aviation in Fort Smith, Ark ...

Feeling thankful today? The Air Care Alliance can help you find a way to use your flying skills to help people in need.

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

Our best stories start with you. If you've heard something that 130,000 pilots might want to know about, tell us. Submit news tips via email to newstips@avweb.com. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.

 
Over 16,000 Happy GAMIjectors® Customers Can't Be Wrong!
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We Want to Hear Your Voice back to top 
 

Question of the Week: Pilot Job Satisfaction

This Week's Question | Previous Week's Answers

PREVIOUS RESULTS ***

Last week, spurred on by a group of pilots of legislators who are asking for a serious inquiry into the nature of UFOs, we put the question to AVweb readers:  Is it time to get serious about these airborne phenomenon, or are we dredging up an old issue that's long-since been resolved?

63% of those who took time to answer our poll question said that yes, we government agencies should be taking UFO reports seriously, as long as there's credible evidence to back up the reports.

For the complete breakdown of answers, click here.
(You may be asked to register and answer, if you haven't already participated in this poll.)

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***

According to Time magazine, 49% of pilots are "very happy" with their jobs.

What about you?


Have an idea for a new "Question of the Week"? Send your suggestions to .

NOTE:
This address is only for suggested "QOTW" questions, and not for "QOTW" answers or comments.
Use this form to send "QOTW" comments to our AVmail Editor.

 
Collier Trophy Collectible Medallion Series 3 Now Available
NAA's Collier Trophy Centennial Medallion Series 3 is now available for gift-giving or for your own collection, along with Series 1 and 2. A commemorative card encases a heavy metal medallion showing the Collier Trophy on one side and an image of the F-22 Raptor on the reverse. Series 1 reverse shows SpaceShipOne, and Series 2 reverse shows the Eclipse 500. Visit NAA's merchandise section to view and order.
 
New on AVweb back to top 
 

The Savvy Aviator #51: A Mechanic's Liability

If your mechanic seems over-cautious and self-protective in his approach to maintaining your airplane, he has good reason.

Click here for the full story.

Recently, I attended a two-day, FAA-sponsored, aviation maintenance symposium in Southern California, along with a few thousand other A&P mechanics who were there to renew their Inspection Authorizations. The symposium featured many informative presentations by experts in many different facets of aircraft maintenance. One that I found particularly fascinating -- and also frightening -- was a session about mechanic's liability given by two exceptional aviation trial lawyers, Stuart R. Fraenkel and Douglas C. Griffith.

Fraenkel is a founding partner of the Los Angeles office of Kreindler & Kreindler LLP, the largest U.S. aviation law firm representing plaintiffs. He is a maintenance expert, a Marine Corps veteran who served as a crew chief on CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters and A-4 Skyhawk jets, who now makes his living representing plaintiffs in air crash and other aviation litigation, including lawsuits against maintenance shops and mechanics.

Griffith holds a degree in aerospace engineering as well as a law degree. He served as a Marine combat pilot who flew AH-1W SuperCobra attack helicopters in Operation Desert Storm and received the Distinguished Flying Cross, several Air Medals and the Navy Commendation Medal. After leaving active duty, he worked for eight years at large law firms defending airlines, aircraft and component manufacturers, maintenance facilities, pilots and mechanics (against plaintiff lawyers like Fraenkel). Griffith is now in private practice specializing in aviation defense work.

Here were two formidable hired guns -- one dressed in black, the other in white. I just knew this was going to be interesting! Here are some highlights (or lowlights, depending on your frame of reference) of what they talked about.

FAA Sanctions

Mechanics and repair stations that perform improper maintenance have always been subject to FAA certificate actions (suspension or revocation), civil penalties (fines) and lesser administrative sanctions (warning notices, letters of correction, remedial training, etc.). But during the 1960s and 1970s -- the heyday of piston general aviation (GA) -- such enforcement actions against GA mechanics were exceedingly rare. That's no longer the case.

In 1978 the FAA amended its maintenance regulations (14 CFR Part 43) by adding a new rule (§43.12) making it a violation for any person or firm to "... make, or cause to be made, any fraudulent or intentionally false entry in any record or report this is required to be made, kept, or used to show compliance with any requirement under this part [of the FARs]."

Back in the 1980s, the agency had taken steps to soften its traditional bad-boy image, billing itself as "a kinder, gentler FAA that's here to help you." An important element of that facelift was a de-emphasis on enforcement actions. However, all that changed in the wake of the May 1996 crash of ValuJet Flight 592 and the congressional investigations that followed. By the end of 1996, both FAA Administrator David Hinson and DOT Secretary Federico Peña found themselves unemployed, and under new management the FAA added hundreds of additional maintenance inspectors and issued orders to its field offices to start counting noses and kicking asses.

The word went out to the FSDOs loud and clear: No more Mr. Nice Guy. No more singing Kumbaya with certificate holders around the campfire. The unofficial FAA slogan became "we're not happy until you're not happy," and §43.12 became a key weapon in the FAA's new war against rogue mechanics and maintenance facilities.

In plain English, §43.12 makes it a violation for a mechanic or repair station to "pencil whip" a logbook entry, maintenance release, yellow tag, etc. (Believe it or not, there was no explicit regulation prohibiting this prior to 1978!) So if a mechanic or shop makes a logbook entry stating that some airworthiness directive or service bulletin was complied with or that some other work or inspection was performed in accordance with manufacturer's instructions, and if the FAA discovers that the work wasn't actually done as documented, the mechanic or shop is toast.

The penalties for violating §43.12 are extraordinarily severe. An individual mechanic accused of violating it almost certainly faces revocation of all his FAA certificates and will likely be looking for a new career. A repair station can face daunting fines up to $250,000 per violation and/or revocation of its repair station certificate.

How To Avoid Them

That said, it's not all that difficult for an honest and reasonably conscientious mechanic to keep his nose clean and avoid getting in trouble with the FAA. The regulations that govern GA mechanics (Part 43) are vastly more concise and understandable than the ones that govern GA pilots and aircraft owners (Parts 91 and 135). In fact, Part 43 contains a grand total of 13 rules ... that's it! And those rules are remarkably straightforward.

Reduced to their bare essentials, those rules simply require that a mechanic:

  • Do all work "by the book" in accordance with manufacturer's instructions or FAA guidance;
  • Use the proper tools in accordance with manufacturer's recommendations or industry practice;
  • Do all work in such a fashion that the aircraft is safe to fly, conforms to its type design and complies with all applicable ADs and airworthiness requirements;
  • Accurately record and sign off all his work in the aircraft maintenance records; and
  • Get supervision whenever he does work that he's never done before.

Pretty commonsense stuff, isn't it? A mechanic who makes a good-faith effort to comply with these few basic rules is very unlikely to find himself in trouble with the FAA.

Civil Liability

Unfortunately, a mechanic who follows the FAA's regulations to the letter and is right at the top of his Principal Maintenance Inspector's Christmas card list isn't out of the liability woods ... not by a long shot. If an aircraft he works on winds up in an accident, the mechanic may easily find himself hauled into court as a defendant in a civil lawsuit, accused of negligence for allegedly performing improper maintenance and facing ruinous money damages and legal expenses.

A mechanic may be found to be negligent and liable for money damages even if he can prove that his work was in scrupulous compliance with all applicable FAA regulations. That's because most maintenance-related FARs are considered to be minimum standards. The "prevailing standard of care" in the industry is presumed to higher.

Under tort law, there's no need to show that a mechanic violated a regulation in order to find him negligent. It is only necessary to prove that he "failed to exercise such care as would be reasonably expected of a prudent person under similar circumstances," either by doing something a prudent mechanic would not do or by failing to do something a prudent mechanic would do. Furthermore, it is not necessary to prove this "beyond a reasonable doubt," but only by "the preponderance of the evidence" -- in other words, the jury need only be convinced that it's more likely than not that the mechanic acted negligently.

In the context of aircraft maintenance, this "prudent person" standard can be mighty fuzzy. Suppose, for example, the plaintiff attorney representing the widow of an air-crash victim alleges that a mechanic who worked on the aircraft was negligent because he failed to comply with a mandatory service bulletin. We all know that, under FAA regulations, there is no requirement to comply with manufacturer's service bulletins (even so-called mandatory ones) for aircraft operated under Part 91, unless the service bulletin is explicitly mandated by an FAA airworthiness directive. In point of fact, the vast majority of Part 91 operators do not comply with the vast majority of manufacturer's service bulletins.

But can a mechanic be judged to be negligent if he fails to comply with a service bulletin? Would a prudent mechanic have complied with such a service bulletin? What if the mechanic recommended that the service bulletin be complied with but the aircraft owner declined to authorize the work? How do you suppose a jury of citizens who have no background in aviation, aircraft maintenance or FAA regulations would decide these questions?

"Mr. Mechanic, when you performed the annual inspection on the airplane operated by Widow Smith's husband, were you aware of Cessna Service Bulletin SEB76-43 calling for the number two frammis at the distal end of the primary portoflan armature to be replaced with an improved part? Please explain to the jury why you elected to approve the aircraft for return to service without replacing the frammis, contrary to the manufacturer's published instructions?"

If you're a mechanic, this is the stuff that keeps you awake at night.

The GARA Effect

Back in the salad days of piston GA, civil suits against GA mechanics and shops were relatively rare, simply because few GA mechanics and shops had enough assets to make them worth suing. Aircraft manufacturers like Cessna had deep pockets and product liability insurance, so they were the primary targets of air-crash litigation. Even if the cause of the crash seemed unrelated to the hardware (as is usually the case), the aircraft manufacturer would be sued anyway and would often wind up paying substantial settlements rather than incur the huge legal defense costs of going to trial.

Things changed dramatically on August 17, 1994, when President Clinton signed into law the General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994 (GARA), which immunized GA aircraft manufacturers against product liability for aircraft older than 18 years. The GARA immunity is extremely broad and protects the manufacturer from being sued even if an aircraft is proven to have design defects that caused a crash and resulted in injuries or death.

There are a few exclusions from GARA's immunity. Aircraft with 20 or more seats and aircraft engaged in scheduled passenger-carrying operations are exempt. The immunity does not apply to injury or death of medevac patients or persons not on board the aircraft. Nor does it apply if it can be proven that the manufacturer intentionally concealed or withheld information about a known design defect. But for the overwhelming majority of piston GA aircraft flying today, GARA provides the manufacturer with bulletproof immunity against air-crash lawsuits.

At first glance, GARA sounds like a Good Thing (unless you happen to be an air-crash victim or aviation plaintiff attorney). In the pre-GARA era, the GA manufacturers spent hundreds of millions of dollars defending themselves against bogus air-crash lawsuits and that burden was passed on to aircraft owners in the form of higher aircraft and parts prices. Common sense suggests that if an aircraft has managed to fly accident-free for more than 18 years, it seems fair and reasonable to take the manufacturer off the hook. Congress obviously thought so when it passed GARA more than a decade ago.

The rub is that taking the aircraft manufacturers off the hook in most piston GA air-crash lawsuits didn't make those lawsuits go away. It simply increased the liability burden for everyone else involved with the accident aircraft, including engine and component manufacturers, aircraft owners and operators, and especially mechanics and maintenance facilities. In the wake of GARA, there has been an explosion of civil suits against maintenance folks.

Just as with manufacturers, maintainers are now frequently getting sued over air crashes that were almost certainly caused by pilot error rather than improper maintenance (as most crashes are). But the maintainer or his insurance company must still bear the financial burden of defending the suit and must still face the real possibility that a skillful plaintiff's attorney will convince the jury to find the maintainer at least partially liable for the crash.

This litigation explosion has created a nasty second-order problem: Liability insurance for mechanics and shops has become extraordinarily difficult to obtain in recent years. Many underwriters have abandoned the maintenance market, leaving maintainers with few market choices and little competitive pressure to keep premiums affordable. As a result, many shops and most individual mechanics are forced to "go bare" and those lucky enough to be able to find insurance often pay exorbitant premiums for unrealistically low coverage limits.

Nightmare Scenario

To illustrate this risk, Fraenkel and Griffith offer the following nightmare scenario which, while obviously hypothetical, is undoubtedly derived from a composite of actual air-crash cases:

Peter Pilot of Charlie's Charter Service is flying passengers in a 1980 Cessna T210 on leaseback from Oscar Owner and maintained by Mike Mechanic of Aircraft Repair Corp. During approach in IMC conditions and while being given extensive vectoring from ATC, Peter Pilot is twice observed deviating from assigned altitude and heading and has to be given corrections. Shortly after the second correction, the Cessna enters into a spin and crashes, killing all on board. Witnesses report to the NTSB investigator that they heard the engine sputter.

NTSB investigators determine that Peter Pilot's medical expired a month before the crash. The toxicology report showed the presence of antihistamine medication in Peter Pilot's blood. The Cessna's tail section is located approximately 100 yards from the main wreckage. Mike Mechanic of Aircraft Repair Corp. had overhauled the airplane's TCM TSIO-520 engine 10 hours prior to the accident but -- at the direction of Oscar Owner -- did not comply with a TCM mandatory service bulletin.

18 months after the accident, the NTSB releases its probable cause determination: Peter Pilot became disoriented under IMC and lost control of the aircraft. A contributing factor was Mr. Pilot's use of an over-the-counter cold medication.

The families of the dead passengers file a civil suit. Defendants include the estate of Peter Pilot, Charlie's Charter Service, Mike Mechanic, Aircraft Repair Corp., Oscar Owner, Cessna Aircraft Company and the United States government (who provided ATC services). In pre-trial motions, the judge dismisses the suit as to defendants Cessna (because of GARA) and the United States government (because the air traffic controller's actions were deemed to be immunized under the "Discretionary Function" exception to the Federal Tort Claims Act).

The plaintiffs demand a jury trial. By law, the NTSB investigation findings and probable cause determination are inadmissible at trial, so the jury never hears about them.

The end result of the trial is a judgment for the plaintiffs in the amount of $10 million. The jury allocates fault as follows: 10% to Peter Pilot and his employer Charlie's Charter Service; 10% to Mike Mechanic and his employer Aircraft Repair Corp.; and 80% to Oscar Owner.

That does not mean that Mike Mechanic and Aircraft Repair Corp. are responsible for only $1 million, however. State law provides for "joint and several liability" for economic damages, which means that all five of the defendants are equally liable to the plaintiffs to satisfy the entire amount of the $10 million judgment. Conceivably, the plaintiffs could come after Mike Mechanic for the entire $10 million and leave it up to him to go after the other defendants for their share.

Is it any wonder that so many A&Ps seem over-cautious and self-protective in their approach to maintenance these days? (Is it paranoia if space aliens really are after you?)

The A&P's Dilemma

In the good ol' days before GARA, an A&P's maintenance decisions were guided by two principal concerns: (1) Is it safe? (2) Does it comply with FAA regulations? Those are precisely the two considerations a mechanic should be concerned about.

But in today's post-GARA world, the prudent A&P is now forced to worry about a third concern: (3) How will it appear to a civil jury that knows nothing about aviation after being spun in the worst possible light by a skilled plaintiff's attorney? That is a very different standard indeed and has had a tremendous chilling effect on A&P maintenance decision-making.

Consider the following situation: An owner brings his Cessna 310 to an A&P mechanic complaining of nosewheel shimmy. The mechanic investigates and discovers that the cause of the shimmy is that the bolt holes in the upper torque-link attach-lugs in the nose gear trunnion are worn, elliptical and sloppy. The mechanic must now decide how to correct this problem.

The mechanic finds that a new NLG trunnion (p/n 5842000-211) costs $3,151 from Cessna. He locates a used, serviceable trunnion from a salvage yard costing less than half that amount. In either case, the mechanic estimates that replacing the trunnion will require about $1,000 in labor.

The mechanic also considers the possibility of repairing the existing trunnion by reaming the worn attach-lug holes oversize and installing a couple of NAS bushings to restore the bolt holes to their original dimension. Although Cessna has not explicitly approved such a repair, the mechanic believes that it would functionally restore the trunnion to good-as-new condition, and would be a minor alteration that conforms to acceptable industry practices. The cost of such a repair would be $15 for the bushings plus $150 in labor.

The mechanic considers all of these repair options safe and legal. But he worries what might happen should the customer's airplane ever be involved in a nose-gear collapse accident and the mechanic finds himself as a defendant in a civil lawsuit -- perhaps a subrogation action by the aircraft owner's insurance company against the mechanic and his shop.

If the A&P repairs the existing nose strut with bushings, a plaintiff's attorney might well ask him to explain to the jury why he made a repair that was not authorized by the manufacturer. If he replaces the damaged trunnion with a serviceable one from a salvage yard, a plaintiff's attorney might well ask him to explain to the jury why he decided to install "an undocumented part from a junkyard" instead of a proper Cessna part with an FAA Form 8130-3 attesting to its airworthiness.

After due consideration, the A&P decides that his safest course of action is to install a new, documented trunnion from Cessna. The aircraft owner winds up paying $4,151 rather than $165, and is a mighty unhappy camper. The owner quietly vows never to patronize the A&P's shop again. This is not a good outcome for either the A&P or the owner.

A&Ps are faced with such decisions all the time: What to do about an engine that is past TBO that the owner wants to continue in service because it's running fine and not making metal? How to deal with a costly service bulletin that the owner doesn't want to comply with? The A&P believes that keeping the engine in service or ignoring the SB is both safe and legal, but is understandably worried that such actions might not appear reasonable and prudent at trial before a jury of aviation-challenged citizens.

A Possible Solution

During their presentation, Fraenkel and Griffith suggested an approach that mechanics and shops might use to deal with this difficult dilemma: The maintainer should shift the decision-making burden to the aircraft owner (where it belongs) and document the owner's decision to make it clear who it was that made the decision.

For example, the mechanic could record something like this: "On April 17, 2007, I advised the aircraft owner of Cessna Service Bulletin SEB76-43, which calls for the number two frammis at the distal end of the primary portoflan armature to be replaced with an improved part. The aircraft is operated under Part 91 and therefore service bulletin compliance is not required by regulation. After a thorough discussion of the technical and regulatory aspects of this service bulletin, the aircraft owner decided that he did not want this work to be performed, and instructed me not to do it." According to Fraenkel and Griffith, a contemporaneous written record like this, signed by the mechanic, would go a long way toward convincing a jury that the mechanic was not negligent in failing to comply with the service bulletin.

Many A&Ps might be inclined to record such information in the aircraft's maintenance records. However, a knowlegeable aircraft owner would find such a logbook entry objectionable, and rightfully so. FAR §43.9 requires that a mechanic's maintenance record entry contain "a description of the work performed." A logbook entry describing work not performed is neither required by regulation nor appropriate.

A much better way for an A&P to handle this is to document such things in a letter to the aircraft owner. The letter should be signed and dated by the A&P and countersigned by the owner acknowledging receipt and agreement. The A&P should give a copy of the signed letter to the aircraft owner and retain the original for his records. This procedure will protect the A&P without creating problems for the aircraft owner.

This approach is hardly a universal solution to the problem of mechanic's liability and the chilling effect it has on maintenance decision-making. Unless he is blessed with 20-20 foresight, it's not easy for a mechanic to document every possible decision that might subsequently be used as a basis for an allegation of negligence.

Also, many aircraft owners just don't want to get involved in the messy details of maintenance decision-making. They expect the aviation maintenance professionals they hire to make maintenance decisions on their behalf. Such an owner may feel alienated if their mechanic hands them a "CYA letter" placing the burden back on him.

Such an attitude is fine, so long as the owner understands that today's savvy maintenance professionals, if left to their own devices, will usually make decisions that minimize their exposure to civil liability. Such decisions often are very costly to the aircraft owner. An owner who is concerned about controlling his maintenance costs will need to get involved in the decision-making process, and to be willing to accept responsibility for those decisions.

See you next month.


Want to read more from Mike Busch? Check out the rest of his Savvy Aviator columns.
And use this link to send questions to Mike.

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Microsoft Flight Simulator X for Pilots: Chapter 18 -- GPS Approaches -- Part 1

Microsoft Flight Simulator X is one of the most powerful PC simulators available, and practicing GPS approaches with FSX is a great way to prepare for (and decrease expense in) flight in a real plane.

Click here to read this chapter.

[Editor's Note: Recently two flight instructors wrote a book on how to use Microsoft Flight Simulator X (FSX) to enhance pilot training and to provide sim-only pilots a guide to making their flying more realistic. AVweb is reprinting several chapters from this book, the first of which was Chapter 13 -- Weather. To download the FSX files they refer to here, visit the publisher's Web site and click on Downloads.]



No Ground Station Needed

All the approaches you saw in [Chapter 17 in the book] used a signal from a ground-based transmitter. You've already seen how GPS provides for greater accuracy than most VORs, so why not use it for approaches? You can use a GPS for approaches, but the process is a little more complicated because you must load the approaches into the active flight plan of the GPS. Lucky for you, the approaches are kept in the GPS database, so it's pretty easy to get and use them after you know how the system works.

You can worry about how to load and activate GPS approaches while flying the airplane a little bit later in this chapter [Ed.: To be published next month], but you need to review a couple quirks of the GPS approach plate first.

A Basic GPS Approach

The GPS Rwy 23 at Shelton, Wash., (KSHN) is about as simple a GPS approach as you can get (see Figure 18-1). The initial approach fix (IAF) is OYRED. There is no frequency to tune because the location of OYRED is determined entirely by GPS. OYRED is referred to as a waypoint and is the IAF for this approach. The final approach fix (FAF) is also a waypoint. In this case, it's PORSY. If you were receiving vectors to this approach, you would be vectored to intercept the line between OYRED and PORSY at 2,000 feet and be cleared for the approach. After crossing PORSY, you would descend to 860 feet and look for the runway.

The missed approach point (MAP) on a GPS approach is also a waypoint. Usually, this waypoint is at the threshold of the runway and is named for the runway. In this case, that's RW23. So, there is no timing of the GPS approach. Either you see the runway and land before reaching the MAP, or you fly the missed approach.

The GPS provides guidance through the missed approach as well. In this case, it takes you to a waypoint called CARRO. That waypoint happens to be over an NDB with the same name, but you can use your GPS to get you there rather than relying on the less-accurate ADF. (See "GPS for DME and ADF" at right.)

You see a big holding pattern at OYRED. This holding pattern is for course reversal if you are not getting radar vectors for the approach. Note that it is not a procedure turn and, therefore, must be flown as a holding pattern. The procedure would be to cross OYRED and fly either a direct entry or a parallel entry as needed. When you returned to OYRED, you would be lined up with the final approach course and could continue on to PORSY and fly the approach. These "holding patterns in lieu of procedure turns" (HILPT) are standard fare for GPS approaches.

Overlay Approaches

As you saw in Chapter 11 [about the Garmin G1000 panel], you can enter VOR stations into your GPS, and the GPS treats them like waypoints. You can't use a GPS for VOR approaches willy-nilly, however. The approach must say "GPS" somewhere in the title for you to have the privilege of using it. You must also be able to retrieve the approach from the GPS database. The VOR approaches at KPAE and KPUW must be flown with a VOR as your primary navigation source. That doesn't mean you can't use your GPS to help verify that you're in the right place and give you a bird's-eye view on a moving map. But you can't fly the approach using the GPS.

Other approaches give you the option, such as the VOR or GPS Rwy 6 at Hoquiam, Wash., (KHQM) shown in Figure 18-2. Note that because this approach is really a VOR approach that has simply been approved to fly with GPS, it does not show the traditional waypoints you expect for a GPS approach. It shows the VOR and DME information instead.

There is still an advantage of flying this approach with GPS. The approach has two sets of minima. The lower one of 620 feet requires that you can identify four DME from HQM. Without DME on board the aircraft, the lowest you could go is 740 feet. GPS can substitute for DME, however, and D 4.0 should appear as a waypoint when you fly the approach using GPS. The VOR approach requires timing or DME to identify the MAP. The GPS version shows RW06 just like any other GPS approach.


Note: Watch the Notes

The notes for the VOR or GPS Rwy 6 state that the approach is not authorized without a local altimeter setting. It's possible you could get all the way to KHQM and have ATC tell you the ASOS transmitter on the field is busted. Neither you nor they can get the local altimeter, so you can't shoot the approach. Reading notes should be an important step in your pre-approach review.


RNAV Approaches

Although GPS is one way of determining your position without using any ground-based transmitters, several others exist (although they are mostly used by the military or airlines). The FAA has begun renaming GPS approaches as area-navigation (RNAV) approaches. Anyone who has equipment that meets the required RNAV accuracy can fly the approach, regardless of how that equipment gets its position. If it says RNAV in the title, then you can fly it with your GPS -- assuming the approach is in the database, that is.

Take a look at the RNAV Rwy 7 approach to Oak Harbor, Wash., (76S) shown in Figure 18-3. Three possible IAFs are charted for this approach: one at ICILA, one at ORCUS, and one at LUCRI. Notice, too, that LUCRI is marked (IAF/IF). IF stands for intermediate fix. This is because an approach starting at ICILA or ORCUS will still cross LUCRI.

Note as well that WATTR is not labeled as an IAF and doesn't say NoPT. If you are arriving via WATTR, you must cross LUCRI and then fly once around the holding pattern before crossing LUCRI a second time and proceeding inbound. That makes the transition from WATTR a true transition route, which you can see by the thinner arrow used to depict it on the approach plate.


Note: Easy Airspace

The approach plate for Oak Harbor shows three kinds of airspace you like to stay out of: MOAs, alert areas, and restricted airspace. A side benefit of IFR is that ATC takes care of keeping you out of this airspace if it's hot when you're on vectors. During an approach, however, it's up to you to stay on course and away from places you're not supposed to be.


This is also the place to note the difference between the waypoint stars without circles around them and the waypoint stars with circles around them. Ones without circles are fly-by waypoints. This means you may begin your turn before you actually cross the waypoint. The only one with a circle is VUCUS, the MAP. VUCUS is a fly-over waypoint. You must completely cross the waypoint before beginning any turn. MAP waypoints are always fly-over.

The ability to turn early is important on this approach. Imagine you are arriving from ICILA. You have a 90-degree turn to make when you cross LUCRI, and you'll considerably overshoot the segment from LUCRI to JEKPO. A better choice is to begin your turn a bit before LUCRI and roll out on course to JEKPO. Part of the beauty of flying with GPS is that it looks at your ground speed, anticipates how much room you need to make this turn, and then tells you to start your turn at just the right moment.

These approaches where IAFs are arranged in a T-shape are common for GPS/RNAV approaches. (See "More GPS Fun: TAAS and APVS" at right.)

GPS Sensitivity

Ground-based navigational aids radiate a signal from an antenna. This means the closer you are to the antenna, the more accurate the signal becomes. For example, if you intercept a VOR signal 40 miles from the station, you see the CDI needle center slowly. Intercept that same VOR signal 5 miles from the station and the needle centers quickly. Intercept a localizer 5 miles from the source, and by the time you start your turn to intercept, you're already crossing over to the other side of the course.

GPS is different. The sensitivity of the CDI needle is completely arbitrary. A single needle sensitivity won't work for all situations, though. You want sensitivity that isn't too great as you travel the long distances between airports. A super-sensitive CDI needle would just be annoying. For a GPS approach, you want much greater sensitivity because it's more critical that you're exactly on course.

Approach-certified GPS units handle this problem by offering three levels of sensitivity and switching between them automatically (see Figure 18-4). During long stretches between airports, the GPS unit is using en route sensitivity. This means that a full-scale deflection of the CDI needle is 5 miles. If you see a half-scale deflection and the GPS is using en route sensitivity, then you're 2.5 miles off course.

When the GPS unit senses that the aircraft is within 30 miles of its destination, it smoothly transitions to terminal sensitivity with a full-scale deflection of 1 mile. The transition must happen smoothly because if it suddenly switched to 1 mile, one moment it would look like you are on course and the next moment the needle could be half deflected or further.

As the GPS comes within 2 miles of the final approach fix on a GPS approach, it ramps down even further to approach sensitivity. At this maximum sensitivity, full-scale CDI deflection is only 0.3 miles, or about 1,800 feet left or right of course.

The FSX GPS does simulate en route and terminal sensitively realistically, but it switches to approach sensitivity the moment you load an approach rather than as you fly the approach. It also cranks up the sensitivity only on the CDI shown on the GPS map (see "Not Sensitive on the CDI" at right) and not on your HSI needle. We think this is a bug, and we hope it's fixed in a patch.

Using the GPS

We simply can't describe all the features of the GNS 500 here. The GPS article in the FSX Learning Center is a must-read. Note that some of the techniques of the FSX GPS are not quite the same as a real GNS 500. You'll look at the key features in context as you use them on approaches. Here's a quick orientation, though, to get you started.

The Primary Nav Page

You'll have the primary Nav page up most of the time you fly the GPS. You've been looking at it already if you used the GPS for a moving map in the previous chapter. Figure 18-5 notes the key items on the GPS screen. In addition, you should note that the primary Nav page is also a track-up page, with the track of the airplane -- your path over the ground -- always oriented to the top of the page.

Key items on the primary Nav page are the name of and bearing to your next waypoint. Note that the bearing also appears in the map view as a green chevron along the compass rose. That compass rose is also a distance marker. The distance from your airplane to the edge of the rose appears in the left of the map. You control this distance with the range buttons on the upper right of the GPS.

Five fields are shown on the map itself, all of which have a use. Starting in the upper left is Desired Track (DTK). This is the direct route between waypoints when you pressed the Direct-To button or the desired routes between waypoints on an instrument approach. The latter is more important because the purpose of the approach is to have you follow certain routes over the ground at certain altitudes. The DTK is also shown on the map as white or magenta lines. The magenta line is the segment you are currently navigating. Hence, the mantra of GPS flying: "Just put the airplane on the magenta line."

Track (TRK) is the actual magnetic direction your airplane is flying over the ground, including any drift in the wind. Wind might mean that your TRK is different from your heading on the HSI. As an instrument pilot, the actual heading is irrelevant. What you care about is TRK. If your TRK is the same as the course you're supposed to fly for that segment of the approach, you stay on course (presuming the CDI needle is centered, that is). Since your DTK is, by definition, the course you want to fly for that segment of the approach, your DTK should equal your TRK anytime you're not intentionally turning.

This makes wind correction quite easy: Find a heading that makes your TRK what you want, and then keep flying that heading. What could be simpler?

The final three items going clockwise around the display are distance to the next waypoint (DIS), estimated time en route (ETE) to the next waypoint, and ground speed (GS). The latter two are most important to you in IFR flying. ETE gives you a sense of how much time you have to slow down or reconfigure if need be before crossing the next waypoint, and ground speed gives you a good sense of the winds. Ground speed is also handy when shooting an approach that requires timing. You might be flying the approach at 100 knots, but if your ground speed is 90 knots, you use the time for the 90-knot approach. GPS approaches don't use timing, so that's not an issue there.

You access the secondary Nav page by clicking the inner FMS knob one click to the right. It's similar to the primary page but is north-up rather than track-up and without the extra information. It has little practical use in flight training on FSX. (See more GPS info in "GPS Table of Contents" at right.)

The Waypoint Pages

Click the outer knob one click to the right and you get to the Waypoint pages (see Figure 18-6). There are quite a few, and you scroll through them with the inner knob. These offer lots of information about specific airports, frequencies and so on. Since FSX dials frequencies for you automatically, these pages have less use than in a real airplane. The approach page, though, can be handy because it lets you see all the instruments approaches for the airport.

To select a different approach to see, press the center of the FMS knob to activate the flashing cursor. Use the outer knob to scroll to the approach in question. Now click the inner knob to get a pop-up menu of all the approaches, and scroll between them. Click Enter to see one in more detail. You can use a similar technique on the airport pages in the Waypoint group to view details for different runways at a single airport.


The Nearest Pages

Turn the outer knob (without a cursor showing) one more time, and you see the Nearest pages. The most important page in this group is the Nearest Airport page (see Figure 18-7). In an emergency, this list gives you the bearing and distance to nearby airports and tells you their runway lengths and most accurate approach. You can select any one of these airports, push the Direct-To button, and then hit Enter to get guidance directly to the airport.

In the real world, we occasionally use the Nearest VOR page when making a pilot report on weather or the Nearest ATC pages when transitioning from VFR to IFR, but these uses really have no corollary in FSX.


Note: Back To The Map

Anytime you want to get back to the map page, just hold down the CLR button. You can also just click CLR to undo your last button push in many GPS functions.



The Flight Plan Page

Pushing FPL on the GPS opens the flight plan page (see Figure 18-8). Pushing FPL again toggles it off. In the real world, there are often many waypoints here you can edit as you go. In FSX, it shows whatever you entered in the flight planner. This might be direct between two airports, or it might be a long string of VORs and other fixes between your departure airport and your destination.

The FPL page shows your DTK and DIS to all these waypoints, as well as the cumulative distance remaining (CUM).

Unfortunately, you can't edit your flight plans on this page as you do in the real airplane. You also can't select a waypoint along an instrument approach and head there with the Direct-To button. This makes the FPL page most useful for seeing the waypoints along an approach, but that's about it.


Note: Too Many Messages

If you're getting too many messages, such as "airspace ahead," click the MSG button three times. OFF should appear at the bottom of the GPS screen; this tells you the message feature is off. We're not quite sure how to get the messages to come back on, though.



The Direct-To Page

Click the Direct-To button, and you can enter any waypoint and proceed directly to that point (see Figure 18-9). You can also select any airport or nav aid from the Waypoint or Nearest page and press Direct-To to see that waypoint come up as the selected destination. Unlike the real GNS 500, going directly to a waypoint replaces the current flight plan with a new flight plan containing only the direct-to waypoint.

There are other buttons, such as PROC, but you'll look at these in context as you fly some approaches.



[Editor's Note: Next month, AVweb will reprint Part 2 of Chapter 18, which includes GPS flights in the Mooney Bravo with both a six-pack instrument panel and a Garmin G1000 panel.]


To download the FSX files referred to in this chapter, visit the publisher's Web site and click on Downloads.

AVweb will publish several chapters from Microsoft Flight Simuator X for Pilots. If you want to read the whole book, you can purchase it from the AVweb Bookstore.

To send a note to the authors about this story, please click on their names at the top of this page or click here.

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Get into the Cockpit!
Classic Cockpits is a series of high-quality DVDs that put you into the pilot's seat of some of the world's great airplanes. Be there for engine start, checklists, taxi, take-off, climb, cruise, descent, landing, and more. Titles currently available are: Flying the Legendary DC-3, Flying the PBY Catalina, and Flying the De Havilland Vampire. Order your DVD now online.
 
Your Favorite FBOs back to top 
 

FBO of the Week: Antrim County Airport (KACB at Bellaire, MI)

Nominate an FBO | Rules | Tips | Questions | Winning FBOs

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Antrim County Airport at KACB in Bellaire, Michigan.

AVweb reader Stan Prevost flies into KACB several times a year, and he tells us it's always a pleasant experience, accompanied by a warm welcome. Here's how Stan was greeted on a recent arrival:

As we disembarked the airplane, airport manager John Strehl met us at the airplane with two plastic bags, greeted us by name, and told us to help ourselves to tomatoes growing on vines they had planted around the terminal.

Fresh tomatoes! Can't top that!

Keep those nominations coming. For complete contest rules, click here.

AVweb is actively seeking out the best FBOs in the country and another one, submitted by you, will be spotlighted here next Monday!

 
New Gift Ideas Have Been Added to AVweb's Holiday Marketplace
When purchasing gifts for family, friends, and flying buddies, go to AVweb's Holiday Marketplace. AVweb is the perfect place to find perfect gifts for pilots and aviation enthusiasts. And for yourself — forward the link to your family and friends as a hint as to what you want! It's easy online, with AVweb!
 
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Picture of the Week: AVweb's Flying Photography Showcase

Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions | Past Winners

Each week, we go through dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of reader-submitted photos and pick the very best to share with you on Thursday mornings.  The top photos are featured on AVweb's home page, and one photo that stands above the others is awarded an AVweb baseball cap as our "Picture of the Week."  Want to see your photo on AVweb.com?  Click here to submit it to our weekly contest.

*** THIS WEEK'S WINNERS ***

This week's top reader-submitted photos will be going live just as our U.S. readers are busy skipping breakfast so they can eat an extra-large helping of turkey and dressing and grandmother's house.  Yes, it's Thanksgiving here in the States, and in that spirit we have to say thanks to every single reader who's taken time to submit a photo over the past year (and earlier).  Many of you have been featured here (or in the slideshow on our home page), but many more haven't.  Rest assured that even if you haven't won a hat or been lavished praise here in "POTW," your photos have brought us many hours of joy, and we look forward to seeing more of them in the coming year.  (Here's where you send 'em in.)

medium | large

Used with permission of Tom Callahan

"Fat Albert" Is the Max

Tom Callahan of Pensacola, Florida knows his color wheel — and knows when to feature at a too-often-underappreciated subject, too.  "We love the Blue Angels," writes Tom, "but Fat Albert holds a special place in our hearts.  Like the character in the Bill Cosby cartoons, Fat Albert always save the day by doing the heavy lifting."

You said it, Tom.  And we'll say thanks by sending you one of those coveted AVweb hats you read about here from time to time.

 

medium | large

Used with permission of Felix Gadow

Saving Landing Fees

From the "No ... Really?" file, Felix Gadow of Eichenau, Bavaria (Germany) told us this tale:

In Germany, there are always landing fees to be paid. Why not land on top of your truck ... [while it's being] driven down the 9,000-feet long runway?  This could save you money — at least as long as they don’t charge a fortune for the truck to use the runway as an "Autobahn." ...  It took us 23 attempts to find out how to deal with the turbulence created by the truck. Now, it works pretty well. Although, we’ll never try again to do this little stunt with a 15 knots crosswind.

Yikes!  Just in case any of you were thinking of taking this "advice" seriously — DON'T.  This is one of those "trained professionals; do not attempt" deals, O.K.?

 

medium | large

copyright © Christopher Bazeley
Used with permission

Thirsty Bird

We were going to say something very kind about this photo from Chris Bazeley of Blockley, Gloucestershire (U.K.) — but then we started talking about fuel prices and tank sizes, and — well, it's not your fault, Chris.  (We still like the photo!)

 
Warning!  "Doctored" Photos Ahead!

The internet has changed quite a bit since we first started sharing reader-submitted photos here on AVweb — and long-time readers know that we've loosened up a bit when it comes to allowing digitally-manipulated images into our contest.  Still, we do like to distinguish between images submitted "as they were shot" and those that feature obvious manipulations — and we encourage our readers to tell us as much about their photos as they can when they're submitted.

That said, we've got a handful of digitally-altered photos we've been dying to share for a while, and the Thanksgiving holiday seems like a great time to show you a couple.

 

medium | large

Used with permission of Terese Barta

New Gleim Test Preps Released

Terese Barta of Stevens Point, Wisconsin tentatively wondered, "Do I need Gleim's permission?" — but we think the flattery and parody will be appreciated over there.  After all, if there really were a Private Pirate's license, would you risk the FAA Knowledge Test without a Gleim book?!

Arr!

 

medium | large

Used with permission of Paul Sisal

Mystery Formation

Paul Sisal of Chicago, Illinois flies us out with a composite built from two photos he snapped at the Chicago Air & Water Show in 1995.  The funny thing here is that all Paul did was superimpose the geese — maybe they were imitating the Fabulous Thunderbirds?

Or wait — maybe we're imitating them, what with all this "flying" we've starting doing ... !


More new photos are waiting for you on AVweb's home page, in our "POTW" slideshow.  Don't miss 'em!

Look all you want, but don't forget to send us your photos, too!  (Where do you think we get all these cool pictures?)

A quick note for submitters:  If you've got several photos that you feel are "POTW" material, your best bet is to submit them one-a-week!  That gives your photos a greater chance of seeing print on AVweb, and it makes the selection process a little easier on us, too.  ;)

A Reminder About Copyrights: Please take a moment to consider the source of your image before submitting to our "Picture of the Week" contest. If you did not take the photo yourself, ask yourself if you are indeed authorized to release publication rights to AVweb. If you're uncertain, consult the POTW Rules or or send us an e-mail.

 
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Meet the AVwebFlash Team

AVwebFlash is a weekly summary of the latest news, articles, products, features, and events featured on AVweb, the internet's aviation magazine and news service.

The AVwebFlash team is:

Publisher
Timothy Cole

Editorial Director, Aviation Publications
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