AVwebFlash - Volume 14, Number 2a

January 7, 2008

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Top News back to top 

Cessna Responds To "Made In China" SkyCatcher Blowback

Cessna is defending its decision to have its 162 SkyCatcher LSA produced in China after fielding a volume of feedback that has "taken us to task," according to Cessna's interactive SkyCatcher Web site. According to Cessna, much of the feedback was "emotionally charged," and some of it was decidedly negative. "I won't go within 10 feet of one," wrote one commenter upon hearing the news. But Cessna says it will conduct "the complete design for the SkyCatcher and will be responsible for all ASTM compliance." As for build quality, Cessna adds that it has "complete confidence" that Shenyang Aircraft Company will maintain Cessna's own standards of quality and reliability and is willing to stake the aircraft "and our reputation" on it. Cessna employees will be on-site at the production facility in China to oversee manufacturing, quality assurance and technical design. But there are other issues. As for concerns over jobs lost, "we will be adding 1,500 new jobs at our U.S.-based facilities in 2008. This represents a 10% increase in our global workforce." Of course, ultimately, the SkyCatcher aims to provide an affordable flight training platform that Cessna hopes will result in a significant increase in new pilot starts while enabling some of those who may have been priced out of the market to fly new Cessna aircraft. Click here for Cessna's complete comments and your ability to respond to them, online.

Snowfall Brings Windfall For Travelers

Because a lot of snow fell, travel retailer itravel2000.com will be handing out nearly free trips (travelers must pay taxes) to all customers using Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau International airport. The company's promotion gamble hinged on 12.7 centimeters or more of snow falling in Calgary, Halifax, Montreal or Toronto on Jan. 1. The other cities fell short, but a total of 14.8 centimeters fell on Montreal and some travelers will see as much as $7,000 refunded. The snowfall could prove expensive for itravel2000, but in the increasingly competitive travel industry, the promotion was designed to lure travelers to book travel through the post-holiday doldrums. If the promotion proves profitable the company may choose to move it to summer -- with a high temperature instead of high snow levels as a target.

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Missile Defense back to top 

Model Rocket "Fired At" Aircraft

Massachusetts State Police are asking for public help in finding whoever is responsible for allegedly firing a model rocket at an AirWisconsin regional jet on Saturday. FAA spokeswoman Holly Baker told The Boston Globe that the pilot reported seeing a "spark or firework" in front of the plane as he was descending through 500 feet on final for Logan International Airport. Baker told the newspaper the pilot believed the rocket had been intentionally aimed at the aircraft although the newspaper did not elaborate on how that conclusion was reached. The rocket was believed to have been launched from an area called the Belle Isle Marsh Reserve, which is about a half mile northeast of the airport. Police are investigating and are hoping to talk to anyone who saw the rocket being launched.

American Airlines Tests Missile Defense

American Airlines has agreed to have three of its operational Boeing 767s outfitted with missile defense systems. According to The Press Association, the installation, on passenger-carrying aircraft that normally fly between New York and San Francisco, is the last phase of a trial by BAE Systems to protect airliners from missiles, particularly shoulder-launched weapons that could be used against aircraft landing and taking off. BAE won a TSA contract for the program and has been working with American Airlines on the project for a couple of years but this will be the first time they've been put on airplanes in regular service. With BAE's system, when sensors detect the incoming missile, a belly-mounted laser is activated to disrupt the heat-sensing electronics in the missile's guidance system. The system will not be tested with passengers on board. That's already been done with empty airliners. Rather, the systems are being installed to see if they can withstand the rigors of regular passenger service and to see how much of a fuel penalty they exact.

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21st Century Aviation back to top 

Aircraft Pilots Transferred To UAV Duty

Congratulations! Here's your pilot certificate, and here's your desk. About 120 Air Force pilots may be wondering how they're going to "do something amazing" (an Air Force advertising slogan) after being transferred to "fly" unmanned drone aircraft. Unmanned aerial drones have now logged more than 500,000 hours aloft and the swift demand for even more airtime has caused an at least temporary shift in the way pilots are deployed, according to theintelligencer.net. Pilots who once flew missions now relegated to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are being transferred to other bases, sometimes far out of harm's way, where they cater to those aircraft that took their jobs and where the physical requirements of their duty may be significantly different. Behind the shift, some are concerned that not only are highly trained personnel being removed from positions that tax dollars trained them for, but they are arriving into positions for which they may not be especially well-suited.

Glenn H. Curtiss Park Gets Green

Thanks to $900,000 in anonymous donations, an 8-acre plot of land near the spot where Glenn H. Curtiss flew his bamboo-and-fabric June Bug on July 2, 1908 may soon be turned into a park in honor of Curtiss. Curtiss's achievement was the nation's first officially observed flight exceeding one kilometer. The land, within the village limits of Curtiss's hometown of Hammondsport, N.Y., rests on a lakefront that once hosted Curtiss's first seaplane tests and is currently occupied by trees, brush and an abandoned railroad property. Two donations -- a $500,000 sum sent through a California charity and a $400,000 offering by a local benefactor -- combined to fall short of the landowner's (a real estate developer) $1.1 million asking price. But in the end it was enough to succeed where previous efforts failed.

In 2004 a plan to create an 11-acre Glenn Curtis Memorial Park stalled when a referendum to issue $1.3 million in bonds to fund the project failed to win enough votes. Now, a volunteer effort has resolved to set out this spring to clean up the parcel of land, installing a few benches and picnic tables, plus a map of walking trails. Proponents of the program believe the village of Hammondsport's small-town image has remained true to its roots, looking much like it did back in Curtiss' heyday.

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Quotes reprinted with permission. Aviation Consumer, August 2007.
Safety & Maintenance back to top 

Fatal Flight, Las Cruces

Robert Steinmetz, who was identified in the FAA's preliminary report as a "sport pilot," crashed his "Garniss STOL 701" high-wing (experimental aircraft are often registered by builder name followed by aircraft model) into a field near his home on the outskirts of Las Cruces, N.M., Dec. 15, killing himself and leaving family members as witnesses. Steinmetz had purchased the aircraft just two months prior to the accident. AVweb was unable to find a record of Steinmetz in the FAA's online airmen certification database and the aircraft's registration status as of Friday was also unavailable. According to the report, Steinmetz's daughters told the inspector that every time he flew, he would "buzz" his house and "wig wag" his wings. On this particular flight, he was wagging his wings when the left wing struck the ground and the airplane cartwheeled. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. No flight plan was filed.

AVweb's Savvy Aviator Nominated For National Award

AVweb founder Mike Busch, who now pens the popular Savvy Aviator column on aircraft maintenance, has been picked as the FAA Western-Pacific Region's nominee for AMT Of The Year. Busch was chosen over five other nominees on the West Coast and will now go up against AMTs from the rest of the country for the national award, which is presented annually at EAA AirVenture by the FAA administrator. Busch, who's had his ticket since 2001, is humbled by the recognition, saying there are far more experienced candidates likely to be in the running. "I suspect it's unprecedented for the award to go to someone with such a short history as a certificated mechanic, and was quite surprised to hear that I was the Western-Pacific Region choice," he told AVweb. However, we suspect few mechanics have made as much use of their training in spreading the word about responsible aircraft care as Mike has. In addition to his column, he holds regular seminars across the country and at AirVenture where he counsels pilots on all aspects of maintenance-related safety issues. Good luck, Mike!

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Flying for Fun back to top 

Hobby Flying -- India's GA

Commercial aviation in India is booming, as is the demand for professional pilots, but the development of "Hobby Flying" shows that the industry's growth is not restricted to the commercial side. Though infrastructure still serves as the key bottleneck, some 50 private aircraft were added over the last year to the country's flock of 208 general aviation aircraft, according to the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation. Multiple flight schools aim to open this year with at least one resort-style aero-sports club expected to open this month. Dedicated flight schools are encouraging people not only to learn to fly, but to buy, and are seeing uneven interest with "more enquiries from women," according to Anil Thapar, director of Rajasthan Aero Sports Club. The club will serve to train new pilots, with private and commercial classes set to begin in May. As a developing market, general aviation is still perceived to be a very expensive hobby in India, and that is also leading to the development of the microlight market.

Airline Returns Lost Logbook to Pilot

More than a year after unwittingly losing his pilot's logbook in an airport security snafu, a New York man opened his mailbox last week to discover a package containing the precious pad in which he had documented three decades of flying adventures. In October 2006, the pilot -- who asked not to be identified -- boarded a JetBlue flight to Las Vegas to celebrate his 60th birthday there with his daughter, who is also a pilot. The two planned a scenic flight over the Grand Canyon with a local flight school, so the man brought his logbook with him to record the special event. He stuffed some casino cash in between the pages and tucked the book into a pouch in his sole carry-on bag. As he passed through security at John F. Kennedy International Airport, a TSA agent noticed an unauthorized toiletry item in the carry-on bag. They told him he could either toss the item or check the bag, so he chose the latter. In his rush to check the bag at the JetBlue counter and make it back through security in time to catch his flight, he forgot about the pouch until he reached for it while unpacking at his hotel room, only to find it was gone. He immediately filed a claim with the airline but quickly lost hope of ever seeing his logbook again. When he was reunited with the book last week, the cash was gone but the memories were all there--including the first time he took his baby girl (who's now a flight instructor) up for a ride.

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News Briefs back to top 

On the Fly ...

A 20-year-old man bolted through security at Toronto's Pearson International Airport on Saturday and got as far as the cockpit of an Air Canada aircraft getting ready to leave one of the gates. He was subdued by the crew and remains in jail for questioning ...

Four people survived and six died in the crash of a Piper Chieftain into the water off Kodiak Island, Alaska, Saturday. A taxiing floatplane recovered the survivors. The pilot was among those killed ...

The FAA says the Boeing 787's computer systems are vulnerable to onboard hacking. The systems apparently share contact points with systems designed for laptop connections by passengers and that makes them susceptible to hacking ...

Prince William will train as a Royal Air Force pilot. The future heir starts his flying lessons today as Flying Officer William Wales and, if all goes well, will get his wings at a ceremony in April.

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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New on AVweb back to top 

What's New for January 2008

This month, AVweb's survey of the latest products and services for pilots, mechanics and aircraft owners brings you flight jacket made from water-buffalo leather, a book on rigging aircraft, a simulator for Eclipse jets and much more.

Click here for the full story.

Leading Edge #13: It's All About Airspeed

Airspeed control is about a lot more than trying for 1.3 Vso on final approach. AVweb's Thomas P. Turner says airspeed (and angle of attack) is critical in all phases of flight.

Click here to read.

We all strive for precision and safety in our flying. If there is a recurring theme to smoothly lifting off into climb, maneuvering with a safe margin above stall, squeaking the tires onto the runway at our planned touchdown point, and maintaining control and precision even in emergencies, that theme is airspeed control.

Airspeed is a result of power, aircraft attitude and configuration (position of drag-producing devices like flaps). For a given combination of power, pitch and flaps, there will be a single resulting stable airspeed. More correctly, a combination results in a specific angle of attack (AoA), which in turn determines aircraft performance. Angle of the attack is the measured angle between the chord line of the wing and the relative wind. More simply, as Wolfgang Langewiesche put it in the timeless classic Stick and Rudder, "... the angle at which the wing meets the air." AoA drives virtually all aircraft control and performance.

I Warned You

Many military aircraft and business jets have versions of an AoA meter and there is at least one uncertified AoA-sensing device available for experimental aircraft. Stall warning systems -- usually a tab or vane that deflects in the air flow on the leading edge of the wing that signals with a buzzer or light in the cockpit -- are usually thought to go off at an airspeed a few knots above stall. In fact they are direct AoA sensors that sound/flash the warning a few degrees below stalling angle of attack: a true AoA sensor for a small range of angles of attack.

But very few of us have visual AoA indicators unless our airplane is so equipped. So we must accept indicated airspeed as an indirect measure of AoA. Control airspeed and you control safety and performance.

Excessive Speed

Controlling airspeed has a significant role in safety of flight. We spend a lot of time concentrating on airspeed control in the context of stalls and flying too slowly, but there are times that too great an airspeed can be an equally hazardous condition. Take these lessons extrapolated from a series of recent (and common) aircraft mishap reports:

  • Improper airspeed control may contribute to blown tires and/or loss of directional control on landing. When you do touch down, you'll be tempted to brake excessively and risk blowing a tire. If a tire blows, you may not be able to control the direction of rollout. In extreme cases the airplane collides with an object or cartwheels after it leaves the runway ... all because of a few extra knots on final approach.
  • You may land hard by trying to "force" the airplane down where you want it despite too great an airspeed, damaging the landing gear on impact. Or you may generate a dangerous "wheelbarrow" (loss of steering from too much weight on a nosewheel). More dangerously, you may "porpoise" (up and down pitching as a result of loss of pitch control or pilot-induced oscillations trying to correct), which can easily lead to landing-gear, tire or propeller-strike damage.
  • Excessive speed on final approach may cause you to overshoot the landing zone entirely, and if you elect not to go around for a second attempt, you risk running off the end of the runway, possibly with enough residual energy (speed) to cause damage or injury.
  • Excessive airspeed may also be a symptom of a configuration error. If you have the proper settings for power, attitude and vertical speed on final approach and your airspeed is excessive, the first place to look to resolve the discrepancy (in retractable-gear airplanes) is the gear-position indicators. In other airplanes, it might be that flaps aren't set where you think they are, and you have a smaller stall margin. Airspeed may be a root cause of mishaps; airspeed may also be a symptom of some other condition like an imminent gear-up landing or mis-set flaps. Don't treat the symptom (by adjusting pitch for airspeed); look for and treat the cause (failure to meet power, pitch and configuration targets).

Too Slow

Besides the obvious stall if airspeed gets too low for the airplane's G-loading (AoA becomes too great), flying within the AoA envelope but slower than optimum creates a big increase in drag, and this in turn reduces performance. Climb at too slow a speed (trying to clear an obstacle or through a gap between clouds, for instance) and the rate of climb will actually be worse. Come in to land below proper final-approach speed and excess drag brings the airplane down at a steeper angle. You may find yourself in the confusing situation where you need to push the nose forward to clear an obstacle, if your speed (AoA) is too great. So in addition to the threat of a stall, reduced airspeed on climbout or landing can cause you to miss performance goals and present a safety hazard.

Strong Or Gusty Winds

Strong or gusty winds can alter the AoA of a landing or departing airplane. I define "strong" as 15 knots or greater, but it's really a matter of the specific airplane's capability and your currency in windy flight. Talk to your instructor to evaluate what defines "strong" wind for you.

Give yourself a greater margin above stalling AoA when taking off or landing in strong or gusty winds. As we've said, there's a hazard of porpoising or wheelbarrowing if rolling on the runway at too great of speed, so establishing this margin on takeoff or using it on landing takes some finesse. I wouldn't delay rotation beyond the "book" takeoff speed, but I also would not use the normal piston airplane technique of easing the nose up at a lower speed and letting it lift off "when it's ready." I also would (and have in training many times) impose a personal limitation against soft- or short-field takeoff technique in strong or gusty winds The mishap record reveals a history of lifting off at speeds below which the airplane (or pilot) can adequately compensate for crosswinds, or rolls resulting from low-level turbulence.

So ... power up, accelerate to liftoff speed (from the Pilots Operating Handbook Takeoff Performance chart or other reference), then bring the nose up deliberately to a lift-off attitude. In most airplanes a little aft pressure on the elevator controls will prevent shimmy or wheelbarrowing as the airplane accelerates, but still provides enough traction to assist in steering and directional control until the flight controls are fully effective.

Normally, you'll "rotate" to a nose-up attitude that results in a VY or VX attitude. In many light airplanes it takes from seven- to 10-degrees of nose up attitude (using the attitude indicator) to hit the VY/VX range. In strong or gusty winds, bring it to about five degrees nose up, or a little less than whatever is normal for your aircraft. This gives you an added cushion below stalling angle of attack, in case of turbulence.

On landing, carry a little extra power and land "flatter," or at a shallower angle. This is where the usual "half the gust factor" recommendation for airspeed increase in gusty winds comes from. The idea again is to maintain a lower angle of attack for stall protection.

Takeoff and landing stall avoidance also implies avoidance of true short-field/obstacle-clearance takeoffs and landings in strong or gusty surface winds. The high angles of attack required don't support the need for a greater stall margin as AoA varies rapidly in the gusts. Soft-field techniques, which put the airplane in the air at a very low airspeed on takeoff and keep it there for a long time on landing, are also counterproductive to stall margins and directional control in strong winds or gusts. Use longer, firm or paved runways in strong or gusty wind conditions, or delay flying until conditions improve.


Airspeed control is essential when dealing with abnormal indications or emergencies. Look at the Emergency Procedures section of your airplane's manual and you'll see that it's all about maintaining precise airspeeds. Fly too slow and control suffers, and you risk a stall. Fly either too fast or too slow and drag builds, reducing available performance. "Best glide" airspeed is actually an indirect measure of the optimum angle of attack for the least amount of drag -- and if the engine quits, this is the speed where the airplane will have the greatest gliding distance.

Almost nowhere is airspeed control more critical than in the event of an engine failure just after takeoff in a piston twin. VMCA is the minimum indicated airspeed at which a multiengine airplane has directional control while airborne in the event of an engine failure under worst-case conditions as identified in the rules for aircraft certification. The same loss-of-control "VMCA effect" exists at lower indicated airspeeds as each of the certification variables change from their most critical conditions. VYSE, or best single-engine rate of climb, is an airspeed approximating the least-drag AoA, and it reduces with the weight of the airplane as well. For any given airplane weight there is a single AoA (referenced as indicated airspeed) that provides maximum available performance with an engine out, with varying but lesser performance available at other AoAs (indicated airspeeds). Control authority is a direct function of air flow over control surfaces, or indicated airspeed (not just AoA). So working to maintain a precise airspeed satisfies both performance criteria to avoid loss of control below VMCA.

Both in single-engine airplanes and twins, airspeed control is the vital element to survival in the event of an engine failure.

Managing angle of attack, indirectly measured as indicated airspeed, is the key to safety and precision in flying. It's all about airspeed. Know the proper airspeeds for normal and emergency flight, and strive to always master airspeed control.

Fly safe, and have fun!

Thomas P. Turner's Leading Edge columns are collected here.

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AVmail: Jan. 7, 2008

Reader mail this week about engine failures, electric airplanes and your selections for the top aviation story of 2008.

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

The AVweb Bookstore, The Most Complete Aviation Bookstore Anywhere
Over 400 titles representing 52 publishers are in stock and ready for immediate delivery — as books, videos, or CDs. 100+ titles available instantly as fully searchable e-Book downloads. Whether you are a pilot, an A&P technician, or a kit airplane builder, if it's worth reading, it's available from the AVweb Bookstore. Click here to visit online.
AVweb Media: Look, Listen, Learn and Laugh back to top 

Exclusive Video: Behind the Scenes of That Amazing Thunderbird Ejection/Crash Photo

Original, Exclusive Videos from AVweb | Reader-Submitted & Viral Videos

When we first saw the photo of Capt. Chris Stricklin's ejection from a doomed U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds F-16 a few years ago, most of us here at AVweb thought it was a fake. But the more we looked at it, the more it seemed possible that someone had actually snapped Stricklin's moment of truth in what must be one of the greatest aviation photos ever shot. Well, it wasn't long before we learned that Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III had actually captured the drama at an air show at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho.

In this week's AVweb original video, Video Editor Glenn Pew looks at the circumstances surrounding the dramatic accident — combining still photos, in-cockpit and outside-of-cockpit video, and narration including the investigation's findings and changes in procedure for the T-birds.

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.

Related Content:
Thunderbirds Crash: Truth in Images

AVweb's Monday Podcast: "Right-Handed" and "Left-Handed" Flying with Pilot's Audio Update

File Size 11.6 MB / Running Time 12:43

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

Why is it that some of us fly better 360° turns to the left, while others ace the right-side turn? And why do some of us prefer a right crosswind, while others do better with one from the left? In this sample from Belvoir's Pilot's Audio Update, Paul Berge argues that it has everything to do with seating posture.

For more on subscribing to Pilot's Audio Update, click here.

Click here to listen. (11.6 MB, 12:43)

So You Think You Are a Safe Pilot!
Aviation Safety magazine will keep your decision-making skills sharp with interesting and information-packed articles. You may find lots you didn't know! Order your subscription online for savings from the regular rate.
Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Prior Aviation (KFBL, Buffalo, NY)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Prior Aviation at KFBL in Buffalo, New York.

AVweb reader John LaCourt recounted his experience at Prior:

On our first flight to my wife's old home town we flew to Buffalo with family friends. With only a hour or so notice, Prior Aviation met us at the ramp, provided two rental cars — one of which was a Red Mustang that made our friends' day. We asked for hangar space due to impending freezing rain and were provided with a heated hangar at less than half the cost of similar space at our home airport. When we arrived ahead of schedule for departure, they had the plane ready, fueled at reasonable rates, and gave us helpful hints as to taxi insturctions we would receive with a clearance. Hats off to Prior; we will certainly use them on future trips!

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!

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"

Many years ago, in Calgary:

Snooty voice:
Ah, tower, Air Canada Two Oh Four. This will be a fully automatic landing if you'd care to observe.

[later ...]

Imitative voice:
Ah, tower, this is Canadian Six Seventy Five [rival]. This will be a fully manual landing, if you'd care to observe.

John Warner

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.