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The FAA moved on Friday to cast doubt on the accuracy of aviation safety data that will be released by NASA today. NASA will release results of four years of telephone surveys with pilots taking part
in the National Aviation Operations Monitoring Service (NAOMS). The report is expected to suggest that close calls in the air and on the ground happen more frequently than the FAA has reported. But in
a news conference with members of the mainstream media on Friday, Peggy Gilligan, the FAAs deputy associate administrator for aviation safety, said the NASA report is based on anecdotal
evidence, not the "hard data" the FAA collects. "We collect hard data, while the NASA study is based on pilot perception," Gilligan said. "They may give the best answer to their knowledge, but it
might not be the way the FAA collects data." The report will be released on New Years Eve to honor a promise made by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin to Congress two months ago. Griffin was
called to testify to a congressional committee about NASAs decision to withhold results of the $11.3 million survey despite a freedom of information request from The Associated Press. NASA told
the AP it wouldnt release the results because doing so might undermine consumer confidence and hit the bottom lines of airlines. Griffin told Congress hed release the survey results by the
end of the year after staff had a chance to go through the data to ensure no ones privacy was violated.
In a 269-page report released last month (28.5 MB PDF), the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) took a
thinly veiled stab at reciprocating engine manufacturers, alleging that industry-wide "poor communication, complacency, lack of knowledge, distraction, lack of teamwork, fatigue, lack of resources,
pressure, lack of assertiveness, stress, lack of awareness, and accepted norms" contributed to 20 engine-failure-related aircraft accidents reported to the ATSB between January 2000 and December 2005.
The report, titled "Aircraft Reciprocating-Engine Failure: An Analysis of Failure in a Complex Engineered System," states that 1,270 reciprocating multi-engine aircraft flew a total of about 220,000
hours during the study period. The events detailed in the report "are dominated by combustion chamber component melting, plain bearing breakup or movement, and the initiation and growth of fatigue
cracking in components that are designed to have a life not limited by fatigue."
Engine reliability has declined, the report suggests, because manufacturers have failed to effectively gather and act upon information on the performance of engine sub-systems and components.
"Recurrent propulsion system failures suggests that system adjustment or correction, through an effective feedback process, is not occurring," the report states. For more information on reciprocating
engine management and the ATSB's history dealing with engine hiccups, read John Deakin's August 2002 Pelican's Perch column. Deakin is a regular
contributor to AVweb.
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Cirrus Design, on Thursday, secured a long-sought-after lease of the former Northwest Airlines hangar at Duluth International Airport (DLH), where Cirrus is based. According to the Duluth News Tribune, Cirrus plans to use the 189,000-square-foot building to design and build
"the-jet." Under the terms of the 25-year proposed lease with the city, Cirrus agrees to create 200 full-time jobs over the next seven years, the News Tribune article stated. The Duluth Economic
Development Authority plans to finalize the lease at its next public meeting on Jan. 3, but Cirrus has reportedly already started moving into the building.
The lease comes on the heels of reports last week that the privately held aircraft manufacturer is considering an initial public stock offering or seeking a new major investor. Cirrus executives
were unavailable for comment over the weekend but according to the News Tribune the company is downplaying suggestions the current lead investor, Bahrain-based Arcapita Bank, which owns 58 percent of
the company, is anxious to divest. "Since day one, we knew that Arcapita would develop an exit strategy at some point. But Arcapita is not looking to pull out of this company any time soon,"
spokeswoman Kate Dougherty told the newspaper.
The first flight of the appropriately named Electra electric-powered open-cockpit aircraft took place Sunday, Dec. 23 at 11:50 a.m. local time at the Aspres sur Buech airfield, Hautes Alpes. The
braced-shoulder-wing taildragger flew a closed circuit for 48 minutes powered by lithium polymer batteries, traveling the equivalent of a little more than 31 miles. (A quick look at the aircraft
suggests the airframe itself was chosen more for expedience than for its high-performance characteristics). Piloted by test engineer Christian Vandamme, the flight was achieved in cooperation with
APAME, the French association for the promotion of electrically motorized aircraft that created it. According to APAME's Web site, "This flight uses
the electrical engine for light aircraft respecting the environmental context and the control of energy costs." It also builds on the success of the Electron Libre ultralight trike (powered
hang-glider), which flew for 22 minutes in calm air on Aug. 25 from Aspres sur Buech airfield.
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A New Zealand helicopter pilot who single-handedly put out a wildfire while flying with night-vision goggles in winds gusting to 40 knots has been awarded the Federation Aeronautique International
(FAI) Outstanding Airman Award. According to the Southland Times, well-known pilot Richard "Hannibal" Hayes
received the honor last week from FAI Chairman Pierre Portman for some pretty tricky flying near Queenstown, N.Z., in November of 2005. More than 100 residents were evacuated as a fire advanced toward
their homes and Hayes was the only pilot available with a night-vision rating. Hayes worked alone through the night and managed to contain the fire. The high winds and heat combined to make the flying
even more dangerous but Hayes dumped load after load of water ahead of the flames to keep them contained. The previous FAI award went collectively to the helicopter pilots who rescued victims of
Hurricane Katrina in September of 2005. Hayes apparently ducks publicity and did not make himself available for comment.
With no prop, no forward visibility and three people in his charge
(one of them, his daughter), 7,400-hour pilot Barry Cox landed a 1988 Piper Malibu at Aspen-Pitkin County Airport Thursday after suffering catastrophic engine failure just minutes into his flight.
Offering up a late nomination for understatement of the year, "It was exciting," Cox told the Aspen
Times. The incident unfolded around 10 a.m., about ten minutes into the flight and only 147 hours after the Malibu's Continental had been remanufactured. Cox had piloted the Malibu out of
Aspen-Pitkin to 16,000 feet and about eight miles north of the airport. It was then and there that oil suddenly turned the windshield an opaque brown, a sight that was followed by a loud sound that
likely signified the propeller's departure from the aircraft. Cox radioed the Aspen tower to inform them of his situation and impending return before offering calming words to his frightened daughter,
"I was just saying, 'We're OK, we can glide from here and make it.'"
Cox told the newspaper that he managed to line up intentionally high and fast, waiting to lower the gear, and landed before the tower-summoned fire department and police arrived. Cox won
handshakes from those present on the ground and accolades from at least one witness who told the paper the landing was "one of the more tremendous things I've seen."
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Targeting aircraft owners, renter pilots, flying clubs, flight schools and FBOs, AOPA has teamed with the TSA to create an online
interactive course to help ensure the safety and security of aircraft and airports. The course acts as an extension of AOPA's Airport Watch program and "will meet TSA's Recurrent Security
Awareness Training requirement for flight and ground instructors, flight school employees and FBOs who have direct contact with flight students." AOPA hopes these efforts help strike a balance that
both fulfills national security needs and protects pilots from security-related incidents. Said AOPA president Phil Boyer, "All pilots have a responsibility to help ensure the safety and security of
our airports and aircraft."
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have found that while the overall rate of airline mishaps between 1983 and 2002 remained stable, the number of those attributed to
pilot error decreased 40 percent. Weather-related pilot mistakes dropped by 76 percent, those attributed to mishandling wind or surface conditions dropped by 78 percent, mishaps attributed to poor
crew communication declined 68 percent, and mishaps during takeoff declined 70 percent. Overall, mishaps during the study's survey period were increasingly attributed to ground crews and "congestion"
on airport taxiways. The largest increase in mishaps was found in handling aircraft near the gate -- when the aircraft was being pushed back or standing still, mishaps more than doubled. Those
increases were attributed to increased airport congestion and pilot error was found to be the least common factor in those situations. The findings, published in the January 2007 edition of Aviation,
Space, and Environmental Medicine, attribute the shift to better training and technological improvements that aid pilot decision-making.
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The Royal Air Force maintains its pilot corps is the epitome of crack professionalism after a pilot trainee was seriously burned at a graduation party when someone set fire to the sheep costume he was
wearing. According to metro.co.uk, the 26-year-old man was celebrating his new wings with other
freshly minted pilots at a "family-oriented" event when a 23-year-old man, who is not a member of the RAF, set him alight, causing burns to 14 percent of his body. No, we dont know what RAF
pilot graduation tradition involves a sheep costume (but we may be willing to be enlightened). The happy news is the young pilot is expected to make a full recovery and return to his unit shortly.
Meanwhile, the RAF is saying this sort of thing hardly ever happens. In a statement, an unnamed spokesman stressed that it was a non-military attendee of the party who is facing charges as a result of
the incident and that such shenanigans are officially frowned upon. "RAF pilots are well disciplined. In this job they have to be. Social events are restricted to a handful each year and all are held
at weekends," the statement read. "The RAF has a strict no-drinking policy during the working day. There is no place for a drinking culture in RAF flying training and I reiterate that no RAF personnel
have been accused of wrongdoing in this case."
Up to 500 passengers were stranded on American Samoa, some for more than a week, after a pilot reportedly flattened a mechanic and the airline they were contracted to, South Pacific Express,
suspended flights. According to the e-Travel Blackboard an altercation between the two on Dec. 21 ended with the
mechanic laid out. The pilot, a first officer, was immediately fired. The mechanic and the airlines chief pilot were "recalled" by the owner of the aircraft, Freedom Air, which forced the
airline to suspend service. That left 500 holiday visitors to the tropical island without a way home. The pax were rebooked on other airlines but their flights were already packed with holiday
travelers. By Dec. 28, there were still about 100 South Pacific Express pax waiting for flights. According to Radio New
Zealand International South Pacific Express has announced a new flight crew will be sent to Samoa today to resume regular service.
A man who was injured and his wife, who was killed, in a Michigan plane crash Thursday were the parents of a young woman killed in a plane crash in 2006. Yatish Joshi and his
wife Louise Addicott were aboard a Cessna 310 that went down near East Bay Township. Their daughter Georgina Joshi, 24, was the pilot of a plane that crashed in Indiana killing all five aboard
The medical bills for the lone survivor of Comair Flight 5191 have topped $1 million and the insurance company covering them is asking for repayment from the airline. First officer James
Polehinke suffered brain damage and various severe injuries in the crash at Lexington, Ky, which killed 49 others on the plane
Gerry Beck, the P-51 pilot killed in a collision with another Mustang at EAA AirVenture last year has been named to the North Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame. Beck was well known for his warbird
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It had started as a run out to the Pilot's Lounge at the virtual airport to check on plans for our annual end-of-the-year bacchanal and ended up with
me wandering into a chance to learn from my betters. Sandy, our airline pilot, lost a friend of hers in a post-takeoff crash a few years back. On this day, she brought in the accident report because
she wanted to show it to Old Hack, our resident curmudgeon and occasional purveyor of aeronautical common sense.
According to the NTSB, Sandy's friend had suffered an engine failure at what witnesses estimated to be about 300-400 feet over the departure end of the runway. Despite the relatively flat ground
straight ahead, the pilot chose to make a turn of about 135 degrees toward another runway that had its approach end adjacent to the departure end of the takeoff runway. The cold truth of the matter
was that Sandy's friend, a pilot with about 3000 hours, stalled the airplane during the turn. The airplane impacted well nose-down. Sandy's friend died in the accident. His passengers, though badly
Sandy had brought the report, along with a couple of academic pieces on whether to turn back for the airport following an engine failure after takeoff, as she wanted to confront Old Hack on the issue.
Hack had recently made the statement that a pilot who knew the airplane could successfully turn back after takeoff from an engine failure at 350 feet AGL and make a landing on the departure runway.
Sandy thought Hack was all wet and she was ready for a fight on the subject. I stood well clear as Sandy opened up on Hack, figuring that staying out of the crossfire was the wise thing to do.
To Sandy's astonishment, Old Hack would not engage. He said, "I think you're right. If the engine craps out at 350 or 400 above the ground, almost every pilot would try to turn back to the runway. I'm
convinced that nearly every one would die in the attempt. However, I think you could pull it off. But I don't think you'd be stupid enough to try. You fly for a living. I've flown with you in that
Citabria of yours and listened to you brief your takeoff every time. You push that throttle forward knowing in your gut that the engine could very well quit, so you won't waste two or 12 seconds
denying that a bad thing is happening ... you'll take action right away. You know where the wind is from, you know what's off the end and to the sides of the runway, you never accept an intersection
takeoff, so you have the maximum runway available, and you have decided what to do in the event of a problem before you started moving. You've planned things out and you'll act. On top of that, you've
maneuvered airplanes down low, something very, very few pilots have done. You are aware how the world looks different when turning at 200 feet than it does at 800; how the horizon seems higher and how
you seem to be going much faster because the ground is closer and is whizzing by the windows."
Sandy stood staring at Hack. She'd been all geared up for a good donnybrook with her ancient friend and he wouldn't give her the pleasure. I thought it was going to spoil her whole afternoon.
Hack continued, "Sandy, in that Super Cruiser of mine, I know for a fact that I can easily make a 180 and then a little more to line up with the runway if I start from 500 feet AGL on a good day, with
good visibility so I have a clear horizon. Without a good horizon, all bets are off. I've also spent a lot of time down low, scud running, and I've practiced that turn. I'm even confident I could do
it from 400 feet AGL and make the runway if I've got about a 10 knot headwind. I probably could do it at 350 feet if I have been warned that the engine is going to quit and took action instantly. The
problem is, I've read some of those papers on the ideal bank angle for a return to the runway and what I get from them is that the question of the altitude needed -- as well as appropriate bank angle
for the wind direction and velocity -- is complex. Right then, you don't have time for complex; what you need is a lot of simple. There just isn't time to do equations and ponder variables when you
have to act instantly. So, I've set myself a hard floor of 500 feet AGL for a turn-back after takeoff. The problem is, I'm not sure I've worked the problem through as well as I could and I prodded you
on this the other day hoping you'd come in here and we could hash this out."
It was about then that the three or four other folks in the room relaxed. I figured we were going to have a chance to learn something, so we sat down and shut up. I took notes.
Sandy had the results of some tests that had been done in simulators and in the real world with different types of airplanes. There were all sorts of turn-back techniques explored, from pitching up
until out of speed and pivoting to holding a constant, very-steep bank angle toward the prevailing crosswind, to using some combination of flaps, ailerons and rudder to enter a steep turn, to even an
incipient spin, rotate a half turn, shove the nose down and flare. The common conclusion was that the turn back to the runway required a change of direction more than 180 degrees because it offset you
from the runway, even if turning into any crosswind; the ideal angle of bank was on the order of 45 to 55 degrees with the speed just barely above stall and then the nose had to be stuffed down hard
to get enough speed to flare and land. The folks organizing the tests found that pilots almost never could make the turn successfully the first time, even if the victim knew the engine failure were
coming. With training, in the simulator, things improved radically, so long as the pilots were ready for the engine failure. Once the element of chance again entered the equation, the rate of success
dropped off badly.
Cosmic Pass/Fail Exam
What struck me as scary about the turn-back scenario was that the accident history and testing exercises demonstrated that there just wasn't a happy medium or an "average" score; one in which the
landing wasn't necessarily beautiful, and the airplane got dinged up a bit, yet everyone walked away. When you look at something like crosswind-landing accident stats, you see that there are one heck
of a lot of loss-of-control accidents in crosswind landings, but most result in a bent airplane and minor injuries at most. For the turn-back-after-takeoff-engine-failure exercise, the result is a
cosmic pass/fail exam. If you do it right, you tend to land more or less on the runway, under control. However, if you fail, you jump right into the dead column. You stall the airplane and hit out of
control, at a steep angle, which just doesn't make for a very survivable impact sequence. The trouble is, according to the studies, pilots who try this exercise the first time almost always drop into
the "fail" column.
It's Different Down Low
I listened as Sandy and Hack talked and went through the materials Sandy had brought with her. Having spent a certain portion of my life flying very low and making turns near stall speed in crop
dusters of marginal power and lots of drag, I listened attentively when Hack raised the point about pilots who practice this sequence up at altitude. He said that they pull the power to idle, count
out loud to let three or four seconds go by -- as they should to simulate the real-life fact that most pilots freeze up for about that long when the engine fails -- and then roll into a steep turn and
try to position for an imaginary runway. They discover that they can do it with an altitude loss of roughly 400 feet, but they also get amazed by the fact that the VSI absolutely bottoms during part
of the turn. Wrapping around in a steep turn near stall speed and then pushing the nose down to get enough speed back to flare, the rate of descent rate will exceed 1,000 fpm for part of the exercise.
Those performing the test always seem to conclude that they could pull it off if it happens for real.
Those who practice at altitude don't understand how the world looks different when trying to do all of the described aggressive maneuvering at 400 feet AGL. Until a pilot has spent time tossing an
airplane around down low, it is hard to explain how the perception is different. The horizon seems higher. The ground is nearer -- dramatically so. In a turn, the ground is a powerfully close blur of
color that is a stunningly integral part of your peripheral vision: It's right there, bigger than life and, by gawd, it's going by fast. That's something one doesn't experience in normal flight, even
when maneuvering steeply at altitude. Up there, the ground is a more remote, abstract concept and it seems to be moving slowly. Down low, with the ground moving fast, and with the groundspeed
increasing while the airplane holds a constant speed near the stall and turns from upwind to downwind, even a pilot with low-altitude experience feels the very powerful sensation of the groundspeed
increase and tends to unconsciously pull back on the yoke to keep the speed under control (and, sadly, despite all training, to try to keep from going down). What makes it even worse is that, when the
nose must be pushed down hard to accelerate to get speed for the flare, all the pilot sees is a windshield full of ground. It takes a lot of training to accept that visual picture long enough to get
enough speed to avoid a stall. When experienced for the first time under the massive stress of an engine failure, it is no surprise that the end is almost preordained even for high-time pilots: a
stall, with the future existence of the pilot and passengers telescoped to mere seconds.
Get The Nose Down Now
Sandy raised another salient point: how very fast the airplane decelerates in climb attitude once the engine quits. I've watched it with students and pilots on flight reviews. When the engine stops,
there is an initial sense of disbelief and reluctance to accept that the nose has to go down, to make a big pitch-change toward the earth to maintain flying speed, as well as stunned incredulity at
just how fast the speed goes away. A friend of mine who took his initial dual in a Stearman told me that, during takeoff engine-failure practice, his instructor required his students to push the stick
forward hard enough to generate negative Gs and shove the occupants hard against the seatbelt. It was necessary on an airplane that is drag incarnate such as the Stearman, but only marginally less so
on a more streamlined machine. Remember that, on some airplanes Vx (best angle of climb speed) is set so as to clear an obstacle but is notfast enough to allow the pilot to lower the
nose quickly enough to have enough speed to flare and land without collapsing the landing gear. Even climbing at Vy or Vy plus 20, you have to actively work to get the nose down
to keep from stalling the airplane. And there is that huge psychological resistance to lowering the nose aggressively, or at all, when close to the ground.
On top of everything else, Hack pointed out that to really hold the ideal speed in the turn back to the runway, one needs an angle-of-attack indicator. Few of our small airplanes have them, so we are
forced to rely on the stall warner, which should be blaring throughout the turn, if we are to do it right. When was the last time you practiced holding speed by aural indications?
Have An Emergency? Why Not Create Another?
Sandy brought it home to me when she said that we all are taught to land straight ahead if the engine quits on takeoff and we're below 500 feet AGL. (Sure, we can make a small turn to avoid hitting
big stuff.) The good thing is that history and accident studies show that landing straight ahead is the way to most effectively reduce the risk of dying if the engine quits on takeoff. She also said
that a steep turn, made near stall speed, near the ground, power off, is something she truly considers to be an emergency procedure. Therefore, what kind of foolish sort reacts to the emergency of an
engine failure on takeoff by ignoring training and intentionally creating another emergency, one he or she has not practiced? Nature has little tolerance for outright stupidity. Maybe, just maybe,
that's why such a high percentage of those who try to turn back after a takeoff engine failure die in the attempt. The sad part from a Darwin-Award perspective is that many take innocent passengers to
the grave with them.
Hack was very interested in Sandy's technique of briefing all of her takeoffs. As he had never had crew-resource training, the briefing concept was new to him when he first flew with her a few years
ago. He immediately came to like the idea. Sandy explained that she generally carried over the procedure from the airline, modified for a single-engine airplane. She assumed that something would go
wrong on the takeoff and she wanted to be ready for it. She also wanted to monitor each step of the takeoff to assure that things were going right and so she might catch a problem before it became
serious. That's why she briefed the runway direction to match the compass, the obstructions around the runway and the wind direction, where the airplane should break ground if it were making power,
and what she would do if the engine failed on the roll, in the air below 500 feet and in the air above 500 feet. She told me that if the engine failed below 500 feet, she had long ago accepted that
the airplane would be a write off and her goal was to impact wings-level, slowly, without stalling, and to fly the airplane all the way through the crash so as to maximize the chance of occupant
survival. She also said she had adequate insurance on the airplane and, with falling airplane values, she consoled herself with the idea she might be able to afford an even better airplane after the
accident. On the takeoff roll, she called out engine rpm at full throttle to assure the engine was making power and also called out when the airspeed needle came off the peg. Otherwise, she kept her
head outside the cockpit and watched to see that the airplane came off the ground about where it should.
In the air, her engine-failure rule-of-thumb was to land on the remaining runway if possible, even if it meant rolling off the end slowly, because the airplane was pretty crashworthy and could accept
a 30-knot impact with a fence better than hitting the ground in a steep turn, nose down, while stalled. Below 500 feet AGL, she figured on landing more or less straight ahead, depending on what
obstructions were present, with a turn up to 90 degrees allowed once over 300 feet. At 500 feet, she normally started her turn to crosswind and, once in that turn, said she would most likely try to go
back to the airport if the engine quit.
Sandy's approach made sense to me. I've had engine failures and I know for a fact that I spent a little time being surprised each time it happened. Having a simple procedure that has been thought out
ahead of time means that the chance of surviving an engine failure down low is good. I'll leave the academic exercises of steep turns down low to the ivory-tower types.
Our best stories start with you. If you've heard something that 130,000 pilots might want to know about, tell us. Submit news
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Attention, Cessna Owners and Pilots! Join the fastest-growing and best association for Cessna Flyers the Cessna Flyer Association (CFA), since 2004 providing same-day parts locating, faster answers to technical
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AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to 1st Class Air at KSPI in Springfield, Illinois.
With storms criss-crossing the U.S. for the last few weeks, many of our most glowing recommendations have come from pilots who found themselves trapped in less-than-ideal conditions far from home.
AVweb reader Scott Bartley was in just such a position, stopping at Springfield because of bad weather a little further north. When weather put the kibosh on his flight, the team at 1st
Class air checked in Scott's crew car and got him a rental, and when he need to get back to the plane a day early (just after Thanksgiving!), 1st Class had it ready for the air. "Everything went
smoothly despite my ever-changing plans," writes Scott. "This FBO will remain on my list of planned stops for all trips north."
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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No more than any other airplane, according to Suburban Air Freight's Geoffrey Gallup. Aviation Safety magazine's Jeb Burnside interviewed Gallup to learn more about recent attention
directed at the Caravan. The January issue of Aviation Safety features an in-depth article on how Cessna, the industry, and the FAA
worked together to better understand how to fly the airplane in winter weather.
Ring in 2008 with a musical melody and a little fun on the runway, courtesy of Chesapeake Sport Pilot's Helen Woods.
(Experienced CFIs, take note of that link they're hiring!) In case you're wondering whether these musical antics are appropriate, we should point out that the, er "stylings" shown herein were
part of a charity fundraising drive to benefit Cancer Research UK.
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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Returning to Princeton, New Jersey in a Seminole, I was proudly clipping along at 140 knots and can only assume that my deep voice and professional-sounding tone led to us appearing to be more
than we were:
"New York approach, Seminole Two Two Eight, 5000."
"Seminole Two Two Eight, Morristown altimeter 30.08. Proceed direct Solberg, maintain 5000. Were you given any speed restrictions? If so, you can resume normal speed."
"Direct Solberg, 5000, Two Two Eight. And we're a Seminole. This is normal speed."
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