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The FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association announced on Monday that they will work together to implement a new safety plan. The Air Traffic Safety Action Program is designed to "foster a voluntary, cooperative, non-punitive environment for the open
reporting of safety-of-flight concerns by employees of the FAA," according to a joint FAA/NATCA news release. "Creating an atmosphere where controllers and their managers can identify, report and
correct safety issues will go a long way in helping us further improve our safety record," said acting FAA Administrator Bobby Sturgell. On Tuesday, the FAA released a new controller-hiring plan, and said its current plan is on track. The agency hired more than 1,800 controllers last year and expects to hire nearly 1,900
in fiscal year 2008.
The FAA also launched a new Web site that aims to help recruit new controllers. "FAA Air Traffic
Controller jobs are rewarding and the pay is good," the Web site reads. Starting pay for trainees is $17,046, and $33,100 for the first assignment to a facility.
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The federal Bureau of Reclamation, which closed off seaplane access to hundreds of lakes in a 2006 rule, has announced it
will revise that regulation, the Seaplane Pilots Association said last week. The 2006 rule, which cited security
concerns, closed over 400 lakes in 17 Western states to seaplane operations. Many of those lakes had been used by seaplane pilots for years. Hendrik Willems, of the Bureau of Reclamation, said a new
rule will be published within the next two months that will restore access to pre-2006 status. "Todays announcement is a major step toward a satisfactory long-term solution," said James McManus,
executive director of the Seaplane Pilots Association.
"We look forward to continuing to work with the Bureau of Reclamation and Department of Interior as they develop this revised rule to assure fair treatment of seaplanes while ensuring effective
protection of these natural resources."
The annual Archie Awards given out by the National
Air Traffic Controllers Association are a stark reminder that every time we launch into the big sky, we face the unexpected -- and sometimes the voice at the other end of the radio can be a lifeline.
The awards, named after the first air traffic controller, recognize the efforts of controllers who respond to potentially dangerous situations. This year's award winners helped guide an out-of-fuel
pilot to a safe off-airport landing in Alaska, aided a pilot during a two-hour ordeal when his icy airplane wouldn't get stabilized on approach, and directed a confused pilot at night who followed a
controller's vectors to a safe landing.
Video of the award ceremony also will be posted at the NATCA Web site.
Miles Hilton-Barber, 59, an Englishman who has been blind
for about 20 years, on Sunday flew with a sighted co-pilot at speeds up to 1,100 mph over Cape Town, South Africa. The English Electric Lightning jet climbed to 50,000 feet in under two minutes,
according to the BBC. The record-setting event raised £50,000 for the charity Seeing is Believing, which helps blind children in developing countries. "There are 37 million blind people in the world today, and 28
million could see again tomorrow if the money was available," Hilton-Barber said. He previously flew an ultralight from London to Sydney, and has also tried wingwalking and mountain climbing.
"The rush was incredible. It was just wonderful," Hilton-Barber told the BBC. "Of course, I couldn't see anything but my co-pilot told me that when we were flying upside down at 50,000 feet, you
could see the curve of the earth."
A pilot went for a swim and his airplane went flying without him after some unfortunate control inputs during a flight in Florida
last September. According to the NTSB's final report, released on Monday, the pilot flew to Lake Okeechobee to
practice touch and goes in his Aventura II, a light experimental amphibian. When the pilot arrived at the lake, he turned into the wind and the nose of the airplane rose. He over-corrected, and the
abrupt movement jolted his hand on the throttle, causing him to inadvertently apply full power and push the flight controls to the left. The sharp left turn threw him out the right side of the
airplane. Anthony Bencivenga, 67, of Port St. Lucie, told the Palm Beach
Post that a pontoon hit the water, and somehow he accidentally released the buckle of his safety harness. He found himself in the water with no life jacket and no glasses. "I couldn't see a
thing," he said. "I was just praying to Jesus ... I said, if I'm going to die please drown me first before the alligators get me." A friend who was flying nearby spotted him in the water and called
A fisherman came to Bencivenga's aid and brought him safely to shore. The airplane leveled itself off and flew about a mile before it settled down and flipped over in shallow water, the NTSB said.
The probable cause of the accident, the safety board concluded, was the pilot's failure to maintain directional control of the airplane during landing, which resulted in the pilot being inadvertently
ejected and the airplane's impact with the water during an uncontrolled descent.
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Facing a deadline to meet a target on its route from Norwich, England, to Dublin, local airline Flybe paid 172 temp workers to fill the seats, Reuters reported on Monday. The airline
had to transport at least 15,000 passengers on the route in the 12 months ending on Monday, or it would forfeit a 280,000-pound ($550,000) rebate from the airport. The airline tried to negotiate a
partial rebate for coming close, but the airport said it was all or nothing. Flybe also offered free flights to all comers via its Web site, but when it still came up short, the temps were enticed
with an open bar. Richard Jenner, managing director of the airport, called the airline's strategy "ludicrous" and said the target had to be met by regular fare-paying passengers, Reuters
"The ludicrousness is on the Norwich side, who in essence have tried to hold us to ransom, putting at risk routes into Norwich," Flybe Chief Commercial Officer Mike Rutter responded. Environmental
advocates attacked the unnecessary flights as "absurd," and called the airline an "environmental vandal," according to the UK Press.
"This is an incredibly dark day for Hawaii," said David Banmiller, Aloha Airlines' president and chief executive officer, as the airline completed its last flight on
Monday, after 61 years of operation. "We simply ran out of time to find a qualified buyer or secure continued financing for our passenger business," he said. Banmiller blamed "unfair competition" for
driving the airline out of business. Mesa Air Group's go! airline started up operations in Hawaii two years ago, offering inter-island fares as low as $19 each way. The Aloha shutdown will affect
about 1,900 employees, although many of them may continue working in Aloha's air cargo unit while the U.S. Bankruptcy Court seeks bids from potential buyers. The last flight was flown from Kahului
with the company's most senior pilot and most junior pilot in the cockpit.
The airline's worst accident occurred in 1988, when a part of the fuselage ripped away in flight. A flight attendant was killed, but the crew was able to safely land the airplane. A video report about the incident is posted online.
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The aviation season gets off to a running start in Lakeland, Fla., next week with the opening of the annual Sun 'n Fun fly-in, Tuesday through Sunday. AVweb will be there with daily news reports, video, and podcasts. Light sport aircraft will get
lots of exposure, with an expanded LSA Mall located right near the main entrance. The Commemorative Air Force will fly in about a half dozen antique aircraft. The seaplane splash-in is moving this
year to the lake adjacent to Kermit Weeks' Fantasy of Flight aviation museum. All the big aircraft manufacturers will be there, with new products and special deals, and we'll be there to keep you in
the loop every day.
The VOR/DME-A approach into Weatherford, Texas, contains a specific missed-approach procedure, as do all instrument approaches. The concept is simple:
When you get to the missed-approach point (MAP), the plane should be at the minimum descent altitude (MDA) and -- if the airport is not visible or the aircraft is not in a position to make a safe
descent to the runway -- the missed approach must be flown.
Yet on Jan. 15, 2004, the pilot of a Beech B36TC Bonanza failed to do so. In fact, he told ATC that he was "unable to finish the approach ... Need climb out instructions." The airplane crashed shortly
after the Fort Worth Center controller cleared him to fly directly to Odessa, Texas. The pilot, the sole occupant of the aircraft, was killed in the crash.
The Bonanza departed Houston's Hobby Airport at 4:20 p.m. on a 220-nm flight to the Parker County Airport (KWEA) near Weatherford, a small community just outside the 30-nm veil that surrounds the
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. The aircraft had been at Hobby for maintenance and the owner was picking it up to take it back to Odessa, where the airplane was based. The stop at Weatherford
was planned so the pilot could pick up a dog.
Earlier that day, at 9 a.m., the pilot had called the San Angelo Automated Flight Service Station for a weather briefing for the flight. The briefer advised the pilot that an AIRMET for icing for the
entire route of flight had been issued a few minutes earlier. It called for the conditions to continue beyond 9 p.m. that evening.
The prognostic chart showed an area of high pressure in the Gulf of Mexico that was drawing moisture across the state, promising marginal VFR and IFR conditions across the route of flight. A
stationary front in the area between Midland and Lufkin was expected to result in light rain and IFR conditions later in the day.
For the departure, Houston was forecasting ceilings of 800 broken with two miles visibility in light rain and mist, with the surface wind from 100 degrees at 7 knots. En route, the ceilings were
forecast to be between 600 and 1,000 feet overcast with visibilities between three and five miles, and occasionally down to two miles in light rain and mist.
For the stop at Weatherford, the Fort Worth forecast indicated ceilings of 2,500 broken with an occasional ceiling of 1,500 broken with three to five miles in light rain and mist until 7 p.m.
To an experienced instrument pilot, the forecasts would not cause undue anxiety. But experience also provides that whenever the weather is marginal around sunset, expect anything to happen, especially
if there is moisture in the atmosphere. More on that later.
The Bonanza pilot then told the briefer that he would call back before departure to file his IFR flight plans, stating that all of his preflight planning data was in the aircraft and that he wasn't
sure he would be making the stop at Weatherford but that he would know when he called back.
The pilot did so at 1:45 p.m., and filed his flight plan to Weatherford with direct routing at 12,000 feet, listing Odessa as his alternate. However, he did not ask the briefer for an update on the
weather, even though by now nearly five hours had passed since he had first received his weather briefing.
After The MAP
The flight proceeded normally and there were no communications difficulties with the Bonanza. At 5:52 p.m., the pilot was instructed to descend at his discretion and maintain 3,000 feet. That
instruction was acknowledged and at 5:53 p.m. the pilot was cleared by Regional Approach Control for the VOR/DME-A approach into Weatherford.
That approach aligns the aircraft on the 077-degree radial from the Millsap VOR. The approach requires that an aircraft should maintain at or above 3,000 feet until crossing the PANTR final approach
fix (FAF), 11 miles east of Millsap. At that point, the aircraft can descend to the circling altitude of 1,680 feet. The MAP is at the 16-nm DME fix from Millsap and the missed-approach procedure
calls for the pilot to climb to 1,900 feet, then continue in a climbing right turn to 3,000 feet via a 290-degree heading and the Millsap 077-degree radial to PANTR to hold.
When the controller cleared the pilot for the approach, the transmission was properly acknowledged, but then the pilot added, "I'm only gonna make one attempt and at that time ... I want climb-out
instructions direct to [Odessa]." There is nothing unusual about requesting a missed-approach procedure from ATC that is different than what is published, especially if it makes operational sense. But
the new instructions are typically issued before the approach is begun. Also, in this case, deviating from the published missed didn't make much sense, because it required a climb to the west, in the
general direction of Odessa. The controller confirmed the pilot's intention to go to Odessa if he didn't get in but did not issue any instructions as it regarded to the missed approach.
The controller did provide the current weather at Mineral Wells, approximately 19 nm west of Weatherford, which did not have weather reporting capabilities. The visibility at Mineral Wells was half a
mile in fog, with a broken layer at 200 feet and an overcast layer at 1,200 feet. The pilot acknowledged the report and left the frequency for his approach.
At 6:07 p.m. the controller noticed that the aircraft had begun a climb out of the Weatherford area. Shortly thereafter, communication was reestablished with the aircraft and the pilot told the
controller, "I am unable to finish the approach. I need some climb-out instructions direct to [Odessa]."
The controller cleared the Bonanza via a left turn direct to Odessa and told the pilot to maintain 3,000 feet. The pilot acknowledged the clearance, then asked the controller what heading he should
fly. The controller asked the pilot if he was capable of flying direct, to which the pilot answered that he was and that he would do so.
The controller then coordinated with a nearby sector for the aircraft to climb to 6,000 feet, but when he called the Bonanza pilot to issue the clearance, there was no response. No further
transmissions were received from the aircraft.
The aircraft crashed approximately two miles northwest of the Weatherford Airport near the town of Willow Park. There was no post-impact fire. The airplane came to rest in a ditch, which was a roughed
out road for a future subdivision, at an elevation of approximately 840 feet.
The landing gear was found in the extended position, the flaps were extended to 15 degrees and flight control continuity was established by investigators. No evidence was found of any pre-impact
system failures that might have contributed to the accident.
There were two witnesses who lived near the crash scene. One was in his home when he heard the sound of a loud, accelerating engine noise coming from an area directly north of the house. He heard the
sound of the impact, called 911 and then left the house to search for the accident site.
The second witness said it was raining at the time of the accident and that the fog "was so bad you couldn't see anything."
The pilot held a Private pilot certificate for single-engine land and a rating for instrument airplane. His last medical certification was during October 2002.
He had accumulated a total of 997 flight hours, 161 hours of night flight and 130 total hours in actual instrument conditions. He had 700 hours in the same make and model aircraft he was flying.
A radar-data review indicated that the target initially tracked along the inbound course of the VOR/DME-A instrument approach at 3,000 feet. After crossing PANTR, it began a descent to 1,700 feet
before climbing back to 1,800 feet and initiating a left turn to the north-northeast at the MAP. The last 1-1/2 minutes of flight data revealed that after the target turned to the north-northeast it
maintained an altitude of 1,800 feet for about 25 seconds before it made a right turn toward the east, followed by a turn to the north-northwest. The data ended shortly after that turn.
The NTSB determined the cause of the accident was the pilot's loss of control while maneuvering, adding that
the dark night and rain were contributing factors.
What Went Wrong?
The task of investigating a GA accident is an arduous one, especially when the cause is not immediately obvious. In accidents where human error is suspected, the lack of a cockpit voice recorder or
flight data recorder makes finding the cause even more difficult, if not impossible. Without any hard evidence, any plausible scenario that could have led to the accident is just going to be
speculative. Combine that with the limited resources and manpower that the NTSB and FAA have to work with, and you end up with very broad and generic determinations, such as the obvious "the pilot
lost control while maneuvering," but very little else.
So if we want to learn from this accident, all we can do is speculate, based on the scant evidence that is available in the NTSB report. Keep in mind that we are just discussing what could have
happened in this accident, none of which may have had any bearing on the true events of what happened that January night.
Among the evidence that investigators found in the wreckage was a glucose monitor, syringes, lancets and a vial of human insulin. When investigators asked the pilot's family about this, they confirmed
that he was a diabetic. However, the pilot never disclosed this condition to the FAA. If he had, he would have been medically grounded, unable to qualify for the third-class medical certificate that
he had in his possession.
Hypo- or hyperglycemia -- low or high blood sugar -- is a serious medical condition that can result in altered mental status, unconsciousness and even death. The onset can be accelerated by the
stresses you'd find flying an instrument approach in lousy weather.
However, there is no evidence that the pilot's diabetes had any affect on his flying that night. Investigators created a radar plot that showed the aircraft's track in relation to the final approach
course. The plot showed that he was slightly right of the course for most of the approach, but that can easily be explained by the inherent errors that exist in the VOR receiver and the OBS. The plot
also showed that the pilot maintained 3,000 feet until reaching PANTR before beginning a 1,200 fpm descent to around 1,700 feet. Subsequent plots show the airplane at around 1,800 feet but the
discrepancy is likely due to normal radar and transponder errors.
So based on the plot, the pilot flew a normal approach until he reached the MAP, at which time things started to go seriously wrong.
Instead of initiating a climb to 1,900 feet and then a climbing right turn to 3,000 feet as the procedure required, the pilot began a turn to the left and never gained altitude. Neither did he raise
the flaps or landing gear, hampering the aircraft's climb capability.
The question, then, is why did he completely botch the missed approach after flying a perfectly normal approach all the way to the MAP?
One possible clue is the pilot's request, before he even began the approach, for climb-out instructions for a direct course to Odessa. Did he even look at the missed-approach procedure? Did he even
have the instrument procedure with him? For whatever reason, it appears that he was unfamiliar with what the published missed-approach procedure was.
This is where the accident report is lacking. We know the airplane was built in 1985, but the report does not say what types of avionics were on board or under what suffix the airplane was filed. It
did not have a GPS when it rolled off the factory line, but one could have been added later. Or perhaps the pilot had a handheld GPS. The fact that the pilot told the controller he could go direct to
Odessa indicates that he had some form of RNAV capability.
With the little that we know, we can come up with a few hypotheses. One possibility is that during the course of setting up the approach, he dropped the chart and was unable to retrieve it. Armed with
the rudiments of the approach -- like the MDA -- and backed up by GPS, he decided to press on, hoping that he would break out in time to see the airport. However, when he reached the MAP, he was at a
loss since he didn't have the missed-approach procedure. Things unraveled, perhaps he panicked, and he subsequently lost control of the airplane.
The decision to press on may have been driven by the weather forecast he had received earlier that day, which called for better conditions than actually existed. There is no evidence that he contacted
flight service en route for an updated briefing, although the Fort Worth controller did give him the Mineral Wells weather before he began the approach into Weatherford.
Another scenario, although not as likely, plays out along a similar theme. What if the pilot didn't have the approach plate for KWEA? He wouldn't be the first pilot to try to sneak into an airport
with just GPS guidance. It should be noted, too, that the NACO version of the VOR/DME-A approach to KWEA is found in the SC-2 volume, while Odessa and Hobby approach are found in SC-3 and SC-5,
respectively. If he used NACO plates (the NTSB report doesn't specify), it is possible he wasn't carrying the volume with him or did not have access to it. This would be less likely if he was a
This theory also raises another question. If he didn't have access to the approach chart, how did he know the MDA? What if he had just added 800 feet to the airport elevation, with the knowledge that
terrain is not an issue? Granted, that's a big "if," but not out of the realm of possibility. Again, he could have been bolstered by the belief that the weather was better than it really was and he
would break out and complete the approach visually.
The truth is that we'll never know. This accident raises more questions than answers. But it's through discourse like this that we can reduce the chances of repeating a similar event. And while much
of it is conjecture, we can learn from accidents like this.
Preparation is the key for a successful instrument flight, especially when we are flying single-pilot. We know from a comment the pilot made to the Flight Service briefer that he had never been to
Weatherford before, so he was not familiar with the approach or the airport. A complete self-briefing on the approach is necessary. That briefing should include the details of the approach itself as
well as the missed approach.
Once a pilot stops flying the airplane, he is only along for the ride. He will go wherever the airplane goes, not where he wants to go. Riding in an airplane that you are responsible for piloting is
not conducive to a safe landing.
More accident analyses are available in AVweb's Probable Cause Index. And for monthly articles about IFR flying including accident reports like this
one, subscribe to AVweb's sister publication, IFR Refresher.
Be sure to visit our new blog, AVweb Insider, for personal insights and commentary on the aviation industry from our staff of writers and editors. In his most recent post,
Editorial Director of Aviation Publications Paul Bertorelli shares some concerns about the recent incursion by a Pilatus and Beech Premier into a military operations area -- and their subsequent
run-in with an F-16:
I'm trying to be sympathetic here, but as a former F-16 and now airline pilot friend of mine says, if you play in the sandbox, expect to get sand in your shoes. The rules of operating
inside active MOAs are clearly stated in the Aeronautical Information Manual. I won't quote it chapter and verse here, but the upshot is you're permitted to use the airspace, but you do so at your own
risk, unless you're under IFR.
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Last week, we asked how AVweb readers are coping with rising fuel prices.
Nearly a third of you are cutting the number of hours that I fly, which was the single most popular answer to our informal survey.
To see how the other three potential answers (and the ever-popular none of the above and all of the above) ranked, click here. (You may be asked to register and answer if you haven't already participated in this poll.)
THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
As we're packing up to head south for Sun 'n Fun, now's a good time to ask about readers' plans for this (busy-looking) air show season:
Our sister publication, Aviation Consumer, is conducting a survey on aircraft engine cylinder products. If you've done an overhaul during the past several years, the magazine's editors would
like to hear from you on how the cylinders have performed.
Our best stories start with you. If you've heard something 200,000 pilots might want to know about, tell us. Submit news tips
via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.
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The Lockheed U-2 has been in service for over 50 years. It has been at the center of some of the most tense moments in America's history. AVweb's Glenn Pew takes you inside the cockpit on a guided tour with an active U-2 pilot.
Make Plans Now to Attend a 2008 Savvy Aviator Seminar
Mike will be conducting Savvy Aviator Seminars in Chicago, Las Vegas, Norfolk, and Santa Maria. Sign up for one of these classes and learn how to save thousands of dollars on maintenance
costs, year after year. Do it before your next annual inspection!
For complete details
and to reserve your space, click here.
AVweb founder Mike Busch has been selected by the FAA and supporting aviation organizations as the National Maintenance Technician of the Year. Busch will be presented his award
at a ceremony during EAA AirVenture.
Today, AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Landmark Aviation at KORF in Norfolk,
Virginia, which was recommended to us by AVweb readers David & Roberta McKenna, who write:
The line staff and front counter girls were outstanding, giving [us] a truly excellent experience. We were given the AOPA 25¢ fuel discount, a reservation at Windmark Hotel for $68(not a
misprint!), their shuttle to and from the FBO, and a restaurant recommendation. Outstanding service!
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 ***
As you read this, our crack team of editors, reporters, gophers, and ne'er-do-wells are packing their bags, checking their flights, and gearing up for Sun 'n Fun in Lakeland, Florida.
Remember that "POTW" will be on hiatus next week as we struggle to ogle all the cool planes at the show but that doesn't mean you're off the hook, dear readers! We hope you'll continue to submit your photos so we can have a great batch of "Pictures of the Week" when we return from the show.
David J. Benna of Ames, Iowa kicks things off today with a little stormy weather. "There were about seven lightning strikes around the Ankeny
(Iowa) Airport this night," David writes. "It was a great night for this type of lightning."
Great for the lightning, perhaps, but not so great for pilots ... .
Oh, yeah on the EAA's B-17 Aluminum Overcast, the super-photogenic plane that keeps cropping up in our "POTW" winner file! This time, she's captured on film by Nathaniel Minion of Bolingbrook, Illinois, who saw her recently at Lewis Airport.
If you're planning on going to Sun 'n Fun next week, do yourself a favor and spend some time with Overcast. She's usually easy to spot, and you're liable to spot an AVwebber or
two gawking ... .
We started this week with exciting weather, and we're ending it with (slightly less) exciting weather!
Phil Sih (of Cheshire, Connecticut) of Sparks, Nevada writes, "This is the first time I've seen huge lennies like this hanging over Reno like some
kind of alien spaceship. The turbulence was amazing. ... The photo is un-retouched."
Note that we've been having some trouble with the "POTW" archives and will be doing some troubleshooting in there on Thursday, April 3. If you have trouble
accessing the archives, please enjoy the slideshow and check back in a few hours. (Thanks for understanding and a big thanks to those who reported the intermittent problems over the past
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,
send us an e-mail.
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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.
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Editorial Director, Aviation Publications Paul Bertorelli
Editor-in-Chief Russ Niles
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