AVwebFlash - Volume 13, Number 48a

November 26, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Cessna SkyCatcher HQ to Be Announced This Week back to top 

Cessna To Build Skycatcher Overseas

Cessna CEO Jack Pelton has confirmed what many suspected when the Cessna 162 Skycatcher — and its $109,000 price tag — were introduced earlier this year. In an interview with The Wichita Eagle, Cessna CEO Jack Pelton said that to make that price target "a major part of that content has to be built someplace else." Cessna intends to announce where the little aluminum high-wing will be made at a news conference on Wednesday. The company has searched the world looking for the right manufacturer. Cessna spokesman Bob Stangarone told the Eagle the company has looked at companies in Argentina, Australia, China, the Czech Republic, India and Poland to build the aircraft, which is expected to fly in 2008 and begin deliveries in 2009. "We have looked literally everywhere in the world," Pelton said. Cessna says it has firm orders for 850 Skycatchers. Just what, if any, market impact the outsourcing will have is anyone’s guess but it does cast Cirrus’s decision to adapt an already-flying European design into its Light Sport entrant in a different light. The SRS will be based on the Fk Lightplanes Polaris but will have Cirrus-style modifications, including a parachute, toe brakes and other refinements aimed at the U.S. market.

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More Evidence of the Pilot Shortage back to top 

Pilot Shortage Hits Regionals

American Eagle, the regional subsidiary of American Airlines, has trimmed flights from its winter schedule in part because it doesn't have enough pilots. "It's one of several reasons, but that does play into it," Eagle spokeswoman Andrea Huguely told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "The pilots are crucial, and without them, the planes don't fly." Eagle is one of several airlines that has cut minimum experience requirements by two-thirds to 500 hours to attract more recruits. According to the newspaper, Trans States Airlines, which operates a regional service for American under the name American Connection, briefly lowered its experience requirement to 250 hours during the summer. Although no one seems to deny the value of experience, industry spokesmen contacted by the newspaper seemed to agree that safety is not being seriously compromised.

"Anyone who raises safety as an issue has some other agenda," said Roger Cohen, president of the Regional Airline Association. "The airlines are spending a boatload of money on training and recruiting." Huguely agreed, saying Eagle picks its pilots carefully. "You can't just walk in from the street and say you want to be a pilot." But John Prater, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, says the rush to get new pilots "raises obvious safety concerns. "New pilots today are going straight into the [co-pilot's] seat, and moving into the [captain's] seat in a hurry," he said. "And they're doing it in airplanes that are great machines but can be unforgiving."

Simulator Sales Boom

New Multi-Crew Pilot License (MPL) training standards recently adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) are causing an explosion in flight simulator sales as training organizations and airlines rush to implement the simulator-heavy training regimen. Under the new standards, a student can become a fully qualified first officer with as little as 40 hours of actual stick time and 200 hours in the sim (although real-world beta testing suggests 70 to 100 hours flight time and 330 in front of the screen is more realistic). The new standards cut training costs by as much as half and speed up the process but it won't sacrifice training standards, according to Jeff Roberts, of CAE Inc., one of the world's largest simulator makers. "With the capability and fidelity that exists in simulation today, it's pretty hard to argue that we cannot create a synthetic environment that is as realistic as any physical environment that you can encounter," Roberts told The Canadian Press.

The new standards are expected to greatly streamline the training process as airliners scramble to find people to fill the front seats of their planes. CAE's own MPL training system is expected to create freshly-minted first officers for A320s and Boeing 737s in 45 weeks and within a few years it could be training up to 3,000 cadets a year. So far, there are only four MPL graduates flying. They're Norwegians working for Sterling Airlines and early assessment of their abilities has been favorable. ICAO spokesman Henry Defalque said the new standards should produce pilots better suited to the modern airliner cockpit. "I believe the pilot will be better trained, will be better equipped to cope with the sophisticated environment of modern aircraft than the commercial pilot that has been flying around in a Cessna 150 for almost 200 hours," he said.

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Are Machines Picking Up the Slack for Fewer Pilots? back to top 

Houston, Miami Police Test UAVs

Will news helicopters and traffic spotters soon be mixing it up with police drones? That’s one of many questions that will have to be answered as the FAA asks the Miami and Houston police forces to try out unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) "in urban environments" for tasks like search and rescue and spotting traffic hazards. And since the policy has been to close large tracts of airspace to normal traffic when UAVs are in the air, another question on the minds of pilots in both cities might be how these tests will affect their activities. Whatever the ramifications, the tests are scheduled to last until June and Houston’s assistant police chief Martha Montalvo told the Houston Chronicle they are preliminary. "At this point, the project is strictly on a research level," she said. Montalvo said the project has been turned over to the department’s helicopter pilots in the assumption they’re best suited to the job. "Because of their knowledge base, we thought the training curve would be a lot easier," Montalvo said. There was no word on what the pilots thought of the career change. The aircraft they’ll be "flying" is being provided free by the manufacturer, Insitu Inc., of Bergen, Wash. Insitu makes small UAVs with wingspans up to about 10 feet and all-up weights around 30 pounds.

Turbulence Detection System Works

A system that gives cockpit warnings to pilots about bumpy air has been tested for the past month in some airliners flying east of the Rocky Mountains and feedback from pilots has been favourable. "The messages I've received in the cockpit gave a very accurate picture of turbulence location and intensity," Captain Rocky Stone, chief technical pilot for United Air Lines, told editors at Weatherwise Magazine. "The detection of turbulence intensity provides an unprecedented and extremely valuable new tool for pilot situational awareness." The system uses a formula developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and is called Nexrad Turbulence Detection Algorithm (NTDA). It works by analyzing wind distribution data gathered by radar sites and crunching the resulting numbers into predictions of where the ride will get rough.

The information is then transmitted in real-time graphic form to pilots, airline meteorologists and dispatchers. The nature and cost of the gear required to receive the messages, which are sent out every 15 minutes, isn't clear, nor is it known whether the turbulence maps will be available to general aviation aircraft. However, the plan is to have the system covering the full continental U.S. by 2011.

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Pilots in Trouble with the Authorities back to top 

Flying Fear Cure Gets Pilot Fired

A well-known swashbuckling British pilot has lost an appeal of an earlier decision to fire him for allowing a passenger into the cockpit on a flight last month. As we reported in October, Pablo Mason, a retired RAF Gulf War veteran, whose handlebar mustache and irreverent demeanor have endeared him to many British citizens, also runs a business that tries to cure people of their fear of flying. He claims that's what he was doing when he invited even more famous soccer player Robbie Savage, who's terrified of flying, for a cockpit tour. He admitted to "bending" regulations that ban anyone but the flight crew from the cockpit during flight but said he never put the flight in jeopardy.

The flight was a private charter carrying Savage's team, the Blackburn Rovers, back from Finland. However the airline, MyTravel, said at the time that it has a "zero tolerance" policy on any actions by the crew that might jeopardize the flight and it fired Mason. Mason says he may take the case to a government tribunal.

Virgin Pilot Cleared Of Alcohol Charges

A Virgin Atlantic relief pilot, who was hauled off an aircraft and arrested on suspicion of being drunk, has been cleared of the charges and is expected to return to work. The unidentified 42-year-old pilot, who was to fly as the third crew member on the Virgin A340 from Heathrow to Miami, was arrested Oct. 28 a few minutes before the flight was to leave. Airline policy is to replace the whole crew when that happens and the 266 passengers were delayed almost four hours while three pilots were rounded up. The story changed when it came time for the blood test, however. Although the level of alcohol in his system, if any, hasn’t been released, it was less than .02 percent, the limit allowed for pilots under British regulations (mechanics are allowed .08). "As no offense was committed, no charges will be brought," the airline said in a statement. "The pilot is now expected to resume his duties at the airline." The news from abroad comes days after a Midwest Airlines pilot was also cleared of alcohol charges after being taken off a flight in Minneapolis.

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More Trouble ... And a Happy Ending for One Pilot back to top 

Pilot Faces Charges In Roadway Takeoff Crash

Sometimes things just go from bad to worse. According to the Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal, a 25-year-old Timmins, Ont., pilot faces a fine of up to $10,000 in a chain of events that began with a successful emergency road landing and ended with his badly damaged Grumman American in a ditch after an aborted takeoff. The aircraft apparently had engine problems while on a flight to Thunder Bay and the pilot set it down on a gravel road near the hamlet of Hurkett, Ont., about 80 kilometers east of Thunder Bay. The pilot apparently fixed the problem to his satisfaction and that’s when the real trouble started.

The pilot tried to take off but the aircraft slipped on some ice and slid into a ditch. According to witness Jim White, the plane’s nose gear sheared and there’s damage to the main gear, wings and nose. "It hit (the ditch) pretty good," said White, who helped the pilot push the damaged plane onto his property. The pilot was reportedly shaken but not seriously hurt. To make a bad day worse, police arrived to inform the pilot he’s allegedly violated provincial laws concerning roadway takeoffs. According to Ontario law, before anyone flies off a road, the aircraft has to be checked for airworthiness and police must be called to barricade a section of the road to accommodate the takeoff. The pilot will be in court to face the charges Feb. 25.

Pilot Rescued From Kenyan Wilderness

A Kenya Wildlife Service pilot who survived on his own urine and leaves for eight days in the Kenyan forest told reporters he’ll be back in the cockpit as soon as he’s recovered. Capt. Solomon Nyanjui was flying a Kenya Power and Lighting helicopter when it went down 10 kilometers from Chuka Town, in the Mt. Kenya forest. He broke some ribs and hurt one of his hands in the crash but other than being dehydrated and hungry he was none the worse for wear from his ordeal when he was found on Friday. The previous Monday, Nyanjui sent a mobile phone message to a colleague and searchers used the signal to trace his general whereabouts but bad weather hampered the search. Nyanjui told reporters the helicopter fell through the thick forest canopy and stayed mostly intact so he was able to use it for shelter. He said he had to rest before trying to signal for help. "I could not leave the plane since I was vomiting blood and I needed some time to recover from the shock," he said. More than 100 searchers and seven aircraft were involved in the search.

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New on AVweb back to top 

Probable Cause #46: Miles To Go

An experienced pilot botches a nighttime ILS to minimums. Is that all there is to it?

Click here for the full story.

Having the talent and skill to fly an airplane pretty much when and where we want doesn't mean we should. Any number of factors may, from time to time, argue against making a trip or completing one. Weather, terrain, mechanical shortcomings, time of day and/or some combination of these factors all figure prominently in the go/no-go decision ... and in the decision to keep going. Even though our magic carpets offer us freedom, flexibility and the ability to cover more territory in less time than the option of buying an airline ticket, we still must exercise some discretion and thoughtful planning in how we use them.

Many of us have learned to read and understand weather reports and forecasts -- the exploits of those who haven't are often found in these pages -- but we frequently lack the ability to assess our own readiness for a flight, especially a long one or one involving a series of stops over a single, long day. It's one thing to spend a Sunday afternoon running around town making multiple stops and completing several errands, but it's quite another to spend that same Sunday bouncing around the eastern seaboard in an airplane flown single-pilot. Sometimes, we have to consider that we might be a little fatigued for that last leg, park the airplane and find a good meal and a warm bed.

That option would have been the best one for the pilot of a PA-30 Twin Comanche who died on Oct. 26, 2003, during an ILS approach to the Spartanburg (S.C.) Downtown Memorial Airport.


The accident occurred at 2210 Eastern Time after an IFR positioning flight that departed Evansville, Ind., some two hours earlier. According to AWOS records, at 2141 sky conditions were overcast at 200 feet AGL with visibility of 1-3/4 miles in haze. At 2201, sky conditions were overcast at 200 feet and vis. one mile with haze; at 2221 the overcast remained but visibility had dropped to 1/2 mile in light rain.

The pilot held a Commercial certificate with an Instrument rating and SEL/MEL privileges. The pilot reported 1921 total civilian flight hours on his most recent application for an airman medical certificate.

According to a co-worker, the flight departed Spartanburg (SPA) that morning. The pilot flew the airplane to Lawrenceville, Ga., (LZU) then to Lexington, Ky., (LEX). From Lexington, the Twin Comanche flew to Evansville, Ind., (EVV). The accident occurred at the end of the flight from Evansville.

The NTSB's final report does not include the airplane's departure and arrival times, but we can presume at least 30 minutes on the ground at each destination, plus another 30 minutes or so before the initial takeoff earlier that day from SPA. Further, the great circle distance SPA-LZU-LEX-EVV-SPA is 825.5 nm; at an average groundspeed of 150 knots, that's a flight time of at least 05:30 spread over four takeoffs and landings. Add in at least two additional hours of pre-flight and ground operations, and we've got a 7-1/2 hour "duty" day for this pilot, at a minimum.

And, of course, the weather wasn't too cooperative. According to historical weather data, only Evansville had decent weather on Oct. 26, 2003, and that was late in the day. The other stations generally reported rain, overcast skies and occasional gusty winds throughout the day. Though the available data does not indicate low ceilings, it's likely all four legs were flown in at least some IMC and that the accident pilot made at least one other instrument approach during the day.

According to a family member, the pilot telephoned from Evansville prior to the accident flight to advise he was running late for a birthday dinner they had planned for him that evening. The family suggested to the pilot that he could stay the night in Evansville and visit the following morning instead. However, the pilot elected to return to Spartanburg that evening.

Air traffic control records reveal nothing remarkable about the flight or communications with it. Apparently, the Twin Comanche lacked on-board radar or a sferics (lightning detection) device since the approach controller offered to vector the arriving flight around weather in the Spartanburg area. Soon, the pilot was cleared for the ILS approach to Runway 5 at SPA and released to the local advisory frequency. No further radio contact was made with the flight.

Radar data reveal the flight intercepted the Runway 5 localizer and descended on course toward the airport. At 2208:51, the last recorded radar plot showed the airplane at an altitude of approximately 1800 feet MSL and aligned with the Runway 5 localizer 2.8 nautical miles from the runway threshold. According to ATC personnel, this position is the expected lower limit of the radar coverage for the area.

Witnesses reported hearing a low-flying airplane whose engines "revved up," followed by popping and crashing noises. The airplane was found on the ground in flames.


The accident site was in a wooded area 0.7 nm from Runway 5's threshold and about 950 feet right of the localizer centerline. Wreckage was scattered for approximately 300 feet along a 110-degree magnetic heading. All major components were located within the debris field. No pre-impact anomalies with the airplane or its engines were found.

The published approach procedure for the ILS Runway 5 at SPA is conventional, with a decision altitude of 1001 feet MSL (200 feet AGL) and visibility of 1/2-mile. The missed approach procedure involves a climb on runway heading to 1300 feet msl, then a climbing left turn to 3000 feet direct to the Spartanburg VORTAC and a hold.

The FAA's subsequent inspection of the ILS approach and missed approach reported satisfactory results; inspection of the visual approach slope indicator revealed a glide-path angle of 3.34 degrees.

Autopsy results revealed an 11-percent carbon monoxide concentration in the pilot's blood; various drugs used to combat colds and flu were detected in the urine. A co-worker of the pilot stated he noticed the pilot seemed to have a cold two days prior to the accident; he stated the pilot "seemed fine" the day of the accident.

The NTSB determined the probable cause(s) of this accident to include the "pilot's failure to follow IFR procedures and descent below the glide path, which resulted in an inflight collision with trees during an instrument approach. A factor was the pilot's impairment due to the sedating effects of medication."


Fatigue is just as likely a scenario as to why this pilot lost it in the final few seconds as is the NTSB's finding of medication-induced impairment. The autopsy's carbon monoxide finding is interesting, also. Since he apparently was based at SPA, the pilot had probably flown this approach many times. An ILS to minimums is the last place I'd be relaxed, even at home plate, but maybe he let down his guard at the end of a long day. Maybe he got busy or distracted and let the plane get off the ILS until it was too late.

It's easy for us to suggest that choosing to sit out this flight in a hotel back in Evansville would have prevented this accident, but there's really nothing in the NTSB report that constitutes a smoking gun, including the medications. I've certainly had my share of long days in an airplane, and I can't say I was fully alert and rested at the end of them. Taken together, however, this accident's facts should serve as a "wake-up call" for Part 91 operators, who lack rest period rules.

More accident analyses are available in AVweb's Probable Cause Index. And for monthly articles about safety, including accident reports like this one, subscribe to AVweb's sister publication, Aviation Safety.

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AVmail: Nov. 26, 2007

Reader mail this week about extra-terrestrial visitors, mechanic liability, unleaded avgas and more.

Click here to read this week's letters to the editor.

AVweb's Monday Podcast: Richard Aboulafia on the VLJ 'Explosion'

File Size 6.2 MB / Running Time 6:48

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

As Eclipse Aviation continues to struggle to make its production targets and other players in the very light jet market ramp up production to achieve their modest sales goals, aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia says the impact of the little jets on the overall industry is about what it can and should be. He told AVweb's Russ Niles the VLJ sector is and will continue to be a nice addition to the regular business jet market and that the bold predictions that VLJs would fill the airways will be looked back upon with embarassed nostalgia.

Click here to listen. (6.2 MB, 6:48)

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News in Brief back to top 

On the Fly ...

Officials in Indonesia say technicians failed to properly secure a section of wing cap that came loose from a Batavia Air Boeing 737 last week. The 18 by 24 inch chunk of metal hit a house but no one was hurt and the aircraft landed safely ...

The FAA says it won't reopen public comment on the controversial restructuring of airspace in the New York area. Areas that will see an increase of overflights are outraged by the plan and several lawsuits have been filed. It's because of the pending litigation the FAA won't attend more hearings ...

More detailed inspections of composite rudders on Airbus A310 aircraft are being recommended by Transport Canada following completion of its investigation into the loss of a rudder on an Air Transat A310 over the Caribbean in 2005. The Board determined the plane likely took off with pre-existing damage that hadn't been detected in the normal inspection program.

Did Your Battery Die? Tell Us About It

Our sister publication, Aviation Consumer, will soon publish an in-depth report on aircraft batteries. As part of that report, the magazine would like to hear about your experiences with aircraft batteries -- good, bad or otherwise.

To take part in our online survey, click here.

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.

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Your Favorites FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Monaco Air (DKLH, Duluth, MN)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Monaco Air at Duluth International Airport (KDLH) in Duluth, Minnesota.

AVweb reader Armand Bendersky recommended the FBO for its friendliness and careful preparations, calling Monaco "a first-class operation with first-class folks":

[W]hen I told Holly were we were staying, she gently suggested that we could do better and proceeded to name about four hotels that were much better. Also, she said that Monaco had checked them out and arranged special rates for transient pilots. We got a great rate at her first choice. ... Also, she and the line manager were so helpful on our arrival. Our rental car had been pulled up and was running, as temps were in the teens.

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!

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Video from Around the Web back to top 

Video of the Week: Airbus A380 Low Pass

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

We've all seen some impressive aerobatics at air shows. Usually, there's an F-15 doing rolls and making low passes to give the crowds a thrill, but how often have you seen those same tricks performed in the big iron — like, say for instance, an Airbus A310? Thanks to the internet, you (and we) have a front-row seat waiting for us at the Portugal Air Show '07, where we can see just such a thing. (Hang on to your hat.)

Don't see a video screen?
Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

'Nuff said!

Don't forget to send us links to any interesting videos you find out there. If you're impressed by it, there's a good chance other AVweb readers will be too. And if we use a video you recommend on AVweb, we'll send out an official AVweb baseball cap as a "thank you."

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The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

Overheard in IFR Magazine's 'On the Air' Section
Overheard in IFR Magazine's "On the Air"

With my CFII Jim in the right seat, we were on vectors to Allentown Airport for practice instrument approaches. En route, we heard the approach controller making the following call to another pilot in the area.

Cessna One Three Four, two o'clock, same altitude, have you spotted it?

Cessna 134:
No, I'm under the hood.

Ed Dolezal
Bridgewater, New Jersey

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!
More AVweb for Your Inbox back to top 

AVwebBiz: AVweb's Business Aviation Newsletter

HAVE YOU SIGNED UP yet for AVweb's NO-COST weekly business aviation newsletter, AVwebBiz? Reporting on breaking news, Business AVflash focuses on the companies, the products and the industry leaders that make headlines in the business aviation industry. Business AVflash is a must read. Sign up today at http://www.avweb.com/profile/.

Names Behind the News back to top 

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:

Timothy Cole

Editorial Director, Aviation Publications
Paul Bertorelli

Russ Niles

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Glenn Pew

Features Editor
Kevin Lane-Cummings

Click here to send a letter to the editor. (Please let us know if your letter is not intended for publication.)

Comments or questions about the news should be sent here.

Have a product or service to advertise on AVweb? A question on marketing? Send it to AVweb's sales team.

If you're having trouble reading this newsletter in its HTML-rich format (or if you'd prefer a lighter, simpler format for your PDA or handheld device), there's also a text-only version of AVwebFlash. For complete instructions on making the switch, click here.

Aviate. Navigate. Communicate.