AVwebFlash - Volume 14, Number 25a

June 16, 2008

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Hiring More So More Can Fail? back to top 
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Controller Wash-Out Rate Added To Push For More Money

After spending roughly $78,000 on each one, the FAA's own projections predict that some 14 percent of new controller hires will elect to do something other than be air traffic controllers this year, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The washout rate more than doubles that of 2006 and is up substantially from the 9 percent who left in 2007. In response, the FAA says it is hiring more people than it needs to stay ahead of retirements and controller departures, but Patrick Forrey, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), says the controller staffing crisis is real ... and it's because of low wages. The Transportation Department Inspector General's (IG) recent report discussed in the House last Wednesday says that top pay for controllers has been cut from $143,984 to $106,200 while starting pay is down to $37,800 from $44,800.

Representative Jerry Costello, D-Ill., said in a meeting last week that the FAA has lost nearly 1,000 controllers since last October resulting in the lowest number of qualified controllers since 1992. The IG reported that the number of controllers in training rose from 2,209 in 2004 to 3584 last year, but that the number of qualified controllers has dropped from 12,328 to 11,026 over the same period. But traffic is down, too. The FAA plans to hire and train 17,000 new controllers by 2017. Placing those that stay and moving veteran controllers has been identified by the IG as a key to maintaining appropriate functionality in the system, which is currently benefiting from an overall reduction in traffic, from airlines to GA.

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User Fee How-To back to top 

AOPA Finds New Threat Of User Fees

AOPA recently announced that a report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) titled Federal User Fees: A Design Guide is a "49-page instruction manual" that teaches Congress and federal agencies "when and how to charge for government 'services.'" While fees are not part of current FAA funding legislation pending before Congress, and the report does not target FAA funding, AOPA warns that there is no long-term protection against fees built into currently proposed FAA funding legislation. AOPA says the GAO's report shows increasing deficits based on current long-term funding solutions for the FAA. The GAO attempts to distinguish between taxes and user fees, but adds that the distinction is not always clear-cut and that when services benefit both users and the general public, both fees and general revenues should be used to supply those services.

The report also notes that the more work the government puts into trying to match fees to the actual cost of providing services, the more expensive it becomes to collect. As for AOPA, "user fees are a threat that will never die," said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. The Association is determined to keep watch and beat that threat back as it recurs.

Australian Push For Aviation Fuel Tax

Proponents suggest that raising fuel taxes on aviation fuel would raise nearly $1 billion for the government and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but opponents say the idea seems unlikely to succeed in its environmental goals. The tax makes no bones about reducing emissions by increasing costs associated with air travel, thereby discouraging it. And therein lies the problem; according to the proposal's opponents, travelers will still be burning fossil fuels to travel. Plus, because of an emissions trading scheme set to be implemented by the Australian government, a cap may be set on overall emissions, but reductions in emissions from one market segment will then be made available as increases from another segment. The end result, opponents of the tax argue, could be a reduction in air travel along with a potential increase in overall emissions and a failure of the planned emissions trading scheme.

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Fuel For Thought back to top 

Gas Prices Stunt Aviation Boom In India

Rising oil prices have India's recently booming aviation industry seeking governmental intervention through application of lower taxes to help stem losses that have been piling up since last year. Fuel accounts for roughly half the cost of operation for Indian carriers, according to some sources, and the steadily rising costs of air travel passed on to their passengers by the airlines has resulted in a slowdown of passenger growth. Going forward an overall loss of $2 billion plus is expected for the 2008-2009 timeframe and that is the amount being sought by a delegation seeking subsidies from the government on behalf of the airlines. The Indian airline industry lost more than $1 billion in the fiscal year 2007-2008. Last week, the Prime Minister refused to announce any immediate relief, but said the government would review the situation Monday (June 16) and hinted that fare structures should be addressed. The trickle down is likely to hit manufacturers as Indian carriers postpone planes for fleet acquisition. The prior boom and hard times may bring about consolidation in the Indian aviation market as well as cost-cutting measures to include fleet cuts, deferred routes and restructuring.

Fuel Theft

A commercial aircraft at New Zealand's Paraparumu Airport suffered the loss of 26 gallons of fuel and theft is the suspected cause. The thief or thieves are suspected to have made off with about $200 worth of avgas. Fuel prices in the area had risen 20 percent in the past month, rounding the figure to a 100-percent year-over-year increase. The pilot became aware of the alleged theft during his preflight inspection when he noticed the aircraft's fuel caps were improperly secured and fuel was splattered on the ground. The theft has raised concerns on the airport over security with one pilot noting that the pre-flight should catch such aircraft tampering, that doesn't mean that it always will. The event is being investigated by local police who are already investigating a theft of 26 gallons from a tanker at a golf club ten days prior.

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News Briefs back to top 

FAA Issues Emergency AD On Eclipse Throttles

The FAA moved quickly on an NTSB recommendation and issued an emergency airworthiness directive (AD) late Thursday requiring inspection of Eclipse 500 throttle quadrants. Eclipse apparently moved quickly, too, and reports indicated all the aircraft were in compliance within a day of the AD's issuance.The AD was issued in response to an incident on June 5 when Eclipse N612KB experienced a throttle failure while on approach to Chicago Midway, resulting in maximum uncontrolled thrust from both Pratt and Whitney Canada PW601F turbofan engines. According to the AD, the pilot firewalled the throttles during a windshear encounter and pushed them past their limits. "...the pilot applied full throttle using enough force against the forward stops to exceed the design throttle position signal maximum range. The associated fault mode held the engine thrust settings at the last known throttle position, which was maximum," the AD says. The aircraft had accumulated 238 hours and 192 cycles since new. The pilots flying the aircraft referenced its handbook and elected to shut down one engine. However, when that engine was shut down, the other engine rolled back to idle power with no response to throttle settings. The pilots declared an emergency and landed without injury to themselves or the two passengers aboard. Subsequent test of the replacement throttle quadrant caused an "R ENG CONTROL FAIL" message to appear on the crew alerting system display. As a result, the NTSB Thursday announced its recommendation to the FAA to inspect all Eclipse 500 throttle quadrants and address the lack of procedures for that failure.

The AD adopts the NTSB recommendations and requires all Eclipse 500s to be checked to ensure that pushing the throttle to the stop will not result in engine control failure. Any units that fail are to be replaced. It also requires flight manual amendments to include procedures to deal with this kind of emergency. NTSB Chairman Mark V. Rosenker said, "This incident demonstrated a technical safety-of-flight issue that we believe needs immediate attention." Some 200 Eclipse 500's have so far been delivered, according to the NTSB, which considers it "still a new aircraft model." The safety board is continuing its investigation.

Cirrus Design Sets Up Shop In Athens

Cirrus Design has opened a sales center in Athens to provide sales and service of its products to the region. The facility's mission is to drive sales growth and showcase Cirrus aircraft to "inspire" and improve the Greek general aviation market, according to Robert Alchanatis, managing director of the new sales center. "We hope to make general aviation more accessible and affordable to Greek pilots," he said, commenting on the company's "innovative" ownership structures. Cirrus sales centers currently nest in North America, South America, Europe, China, South Africa, Australia and the Caribbean with foreign customers now accounting for more than 35 percent of Cirrus' sales. According to Cirrus, Greece offers an accelerating economy, great weather and multiple island destinations.

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New Briefs back to top 


The NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) has gone online. Now from the ASRS website, pilots can receive CALLBACK in their inbox by signing up online. The monthly safety bulletin includes excerpts from ASRS incident reports with supporting commentary as well as occasional research studies and aviation safety information. The ASRS website also offers an online database and Electronic Report Submission portal that accepted 45,000 reports from pilots, controllers, mechanics and flight attendants last year.

Airgyro Markets "Affordable" Light Sport Solutions

Airgyro of Spanish Fork, Utah, intends to focus on the fun and affordability of sport aviation and turn out some sport pilots in as few as 15 days. The company has alliances with Higher Class Aviation, which produces a two-seat tandem light sport aircraft and Australian Light Wing, which produces the Outback SP2000, but it also distributes the Sportcopter 2 gyrocopter. Pricing of aircraft sold by Airgyro starts at $65,000 "for a very well equipped machine," says the company. Airgyro's programs include financing options and insurance, plus fight training and "ongoing support." The company says it wants to bring aviation to a new generation that may have thought recreational flying was simply out of economic reach. Airgyro also offers training "that can go far beyond the Sport Pilot certificate for those pilots interested in pursuing more advanced training and commercial opportunities.

Between Wheels Up and Wheels Down, There Is One Important Word: How
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The Top Reporter on Our Crack Staff ... Is You! back to top 

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

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 newstips@avweb.com. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.

Avidyne Extends Interface Capability for Tactical WX Detection System
Avidyne's TWX670 Tactical Weather Detection System has a Compatibility Mode providing a second output format for display of monochromatic lightning strike and storm cell information on a number of existing lightning detection-compatible displays. The TWX670's normal RS-232 output protocol supports the TWX670's TWxCell™ and Color Strike modes on compatible displays, including Avidyne's EX500, EX5000 and MHD300. With Compatibility Mode, the TWX670 provides an alternate protocol compatible with other manufacturers' displays. Click here for more information.

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New on AVweb back to top 

The Pilot's Lounge #127: Unfairly Maligned Airplanes

Not every challenging airplane is actually a dog. AVweb's Rick Durden thinks some of the blame belongs to clueless pilots.

Click here to read Rick Durden's column.

"You moron."

Visiting the Pilot's Lounge at the virtual airport is usually one of the highlights of my day. That greeting, however, caused me to think that this wasn't going to be one of those days. I'd stopped by to see who was around and found that the column I had written last month about post-war GA airplanes that were not ever going to win "best in show" had not been read with universal enthusiasm. Let's just say there were those who had strong opinions. They were more than willing to express those opinions with some volume. From all directions. It was not pretty and I began to wonder how long it would take to get to the exit.

"Don't you know nuthin'? Where do you get off sayin' bad things about the Beech Duke? It's one of the coolest looking airplanes ever built."

Hey, it does look good, but had the aerodynamics been worked out, it would have been something like 30 knots faster.

"And the Starship; you were nowhere near hard enough on that thing."

Look, it wasn't that bad, it just wasn't that good, and folks did have to lug their baggage all the way down the aisle to put it in the baggage compartment.

"Why didn't you put Piper's Turbo Lance in there? It was a gas-sucking, hot-running pig that wanted to dive for the runway when you added power to make a go around."

Yep, I messed up there. Overlooked the airplane entirely because, as I was going through the Piper line, I only thought of the normally aspirated Lance, which was a pretty good machine with a passenger-pleasing cabin.

"And the Cessna Cardinal -- you should have put that under-powered puppy in there; and the single-engine Grummans because of their twitchy controls; and how could you have said anything negative about the Globe Swift? It was a fantastic airplane ... don't you know nuthin'?"

About that time, Doc Walt and Captain Lee materialized from opposite sides of the room and ran interference for me as I fled. Once we were out of the building, the three of us turned and walked toward my hangar. Captain Lee's mouth was a thin line, a sure sign that she was more than a little angry. "Did you notice that the ones most critical of a particular airplane had never actually flown it? It always amazes me how freely people jump in and criticize a plane with very little actual knowledge. This one pushes some of my buttons, but prejudice fed by ignorance is why perfectly good airplanes get maligned. I am afraid that part of human behavior is that we listen to others and take their opinions as truth rather than find out for ourselves that the opinions are often based on half-truths and rumor."

We walked for a while in silence. Captain Lee was calming down and Doc Walt got that twinkle in his eye he sometimes gets. "Lee, you know as well as I do that anything that takes more than a modicum of skill to fly gets a bad rap pretty quickly from the infidels."

I thought Lee was going to take offense to Doc Walt's tone of voice, but she didn't. She paused briefly and said, "You nailed it; it's how Old Wive's Tales get perpetuated. You just made me think of the Pitts Special; it was not an easy airplane to learn to fly and it was some time before I was convinced that I knew where it was going on landing. But once I got comfortable in it, wow, the stuff I could do with it. It seems to me that a lot of times the airplanes that are a little more difficult to learn to fly are the ones that have the greatest capabilities and reward you the most when you figure them out."

The conversation ebbed and flowed as we walked. We ran into Gladys and Dave and found that they were pretty adamant that a lot of the airplanes with bad reps got them for reasons that reflected more on the capabilities of the pilots who spoke ill of them than on the true natures of the airplanes; a little like the adage that a poor carpenter blames his tools.

Lee, Dave and Gladys all have a lot more flying experience than I and Doc Walt has wrestled some pretty impressive airplanes and I've always valued his opinions. So as the conversation went on, I did a lot of listening. I came up with a list of a few airplanes that somehow got poor reputations but are, in reality, pretty darn-good flying machines. I also had confirmed what Captain Randy Sohn has said for years: Don't put a lot of stock in negative tales of an airplane until you've flown it and can see for yourself.

The Cessna Cardinal

Admit it. You look at a Cardinal -- especially a 1968 model, the first year of production -- and the reaction is to say, "Underpowered." On top of that, you might have a memory of someone saying it had twitchy controls. Those are the two accusations that unfairly dogged the Cardinal line throughout its production history. Only in the last few years has the word gotten out just how far ahead of its time the Cardinal was and what a great personal airplane it is -- and the used prices now reflect that reality. Nevertheless, the old labels are difficult to shed, and get repeated by those who don't know any better, as they hang around the airport and solemnly pass on knowledge they don't possess.

I certainly admit that there have been times when flying, no matter what airplane I was in, that I wished it had more power. However, it sure seems to me that when a particular model airplane out-climbs and out-runs another model airplane that has precisely the same engine and is similar size, claiming that the former is underpowered is a rank distortion of the truth.

And, if you don't read the manual for an airplane, proceed to load it well above gross weight, select an airspeed for climb that is 10 mph below Vy, and then don't understand why it climbs poorly, perhaps the fault might not lie with the airplane.

Few people now recall that Cessna started building airplanes in 1927 and didn't put a wing strut on any of them until the 120/140 series at the end of World War II. By the mid-1960s there was some feeling at Cessna that it was time to go back to the cleaner lines it had been known for with its slick airplanes of the mid-1930s. Step one was to create a cantilever wing for its top-of-the-line single, the 210. Flight testing was completed and the change was introduced for the 1967 model year. The airplane was a great success.

The next logical step was to create a cleaner version of its best seller, the Cessna 172. For the 1968 model year, the 145-hp 172 would cease to exist and the clean-sheet Model 177 Cardinal would take its place. (The 172 had a six-cylinder, 145-hp, Continental engine from its inception through 1967.) Cessna decided to go with a lighter-weight, four-cylinder, Lycoming engine that produced 5 more horsepower for the 177. The 210 wing was lightened slightly for the smaller 177. The resulting Cardinal was far sleeker than the 172, had a wider cabin than even the 182, and a wider, tougher landing gear. Plus, to compete with the Piper Cherokee and Beech Musketeer, the 177 had a stabilator rather than a horizontal-stabilizer/elevator combination. The benefit of the stabilator was reduced weight and drag. The Cardinal was an airplane that just plain looked fast. Testing had gone so well that plans were being made to replace the Cessna 182 with a cantilever-wing Model 187 in model year 1969.

Once the Cardinal was in the hands of owners and renters, however, serious problems arose. Because of the complexity of the airframe, with its compound curves, the 177 was heavier than the 172, so it had less useful load -- but no one seemed to read the owner's manual to figure that out. (No POHs in those days.) It had four seats, so pilots put four people in the airplane. The 177 had nearly 10 gallons more usable fuel than the 172, and pilots filled the tanks along with putting four people in the airplane. With full fuel and four adults, a Cardinal was way over gross. Vy was about 10 mph faster than in the 172, but pilots flew it at 172 speeds. Rather than read the manual, pilots howled about lack of climb performance and whined mightily that the airplane was underpowered; after all, it couldn't be their fault.

Cessna had mistakenly figured that pilots would load their airplanes per the owner's manual. It was one of two errors the company made in assessing real-world behavior of private pilots. The second error was to overestimate their skill once in the airplane, because they made the controls noticeably lighter and more effective than the 172.

The ailerons and rudder for the 177 were light and very effective; a 177 can handle some pretty incredible crosswinds. To harmonize with the ailerons and rudder, the stabilator was made light and effective. The number of degrees of deflection of a stabilator per inch of movement of a control wheel, as well as the force involved, is a decision made jointly by test pilots and engineers during development of any new airplane. Once the effectiveness of the stabilator was set to match the other controls on the Cardinal, it turned out that a significant number of pilots could not cope with a pitch control that remained effective at low speeds. Those pilots were used to making fairly large control inputs when coming down final in airplanes that were not particularly responsive in pitch at approach speeds. When those same pilots got to yanking and shoving on the Cardinal's wheel, the airplane responded. Right now. Pilots overcontrolled in the flare and broke nosewheels off with alacrity. In fact, a prospective buyer of a Cardinal is always warned to check the condition of the nose gear and firewall-attach area.

With the "underpowered" complaints from the field, as well as the cry to bring back the old, familiar boot that was known and loved, Cessna decided to resurrect the 172 in the second half of 1968. The 150-hp engines that were going to go into the Cardinal were diverted to a new model 172. The 172 went on to be the largest selling civilian airplane in history, largely because it will tolerate astonishing levels of abuse from those who may not have kept their skills up to snuff.

Cessna looked at the market and decided that, because it didn't have an airplane in the 180-hp niche and both Piper and Beechcraft did, the logical thing would be to bow to uninformed public pressure (gee, that would have to be a first) and bump the power of the Cardinal to 180 hp. It did so. (Even with 180 hp, there are some who still insist the Cardinal was underpowered.)

What has always struck me as interesting is that if you take a 1968 177 with 150 hp and a 1968 172 with 150 hp, load each to gross weight, and then take off side by side (this has been done and carefully documented and published), the 177 will out-climb the 172. With full fuel in each, the 172 will hold more weight in the cabin; however, the occupants will be squeezed together tighter than in the 177. Once in level flight -- even with the bigger cabin -- at every power setting the 177 is always at least one knot faster than the 172. Yet the 177 got the rep for being underpowered.

Cessna did change the gearing of the stabilator in 1969 and again in 1970, each time slightly increasing the force required for pitch change and decreasing the amount of deflection per inch of travel. However, the claim of "twitchy" control in pitch did not go away until the introduction of the Grumman American Traveler, Cheetah and Tiger, each of which had deliciously quick controls and were even more responsive in pitch than the Cardinal. For the good pilot, the airplanes are a joy to fly; however, and not surprisingly, they are also subject to a high rate of pilot-induced oscillation landing accidents and -- guess what? -- broken nosewheels.

If you get a chance to fly -- or better yet, to own -- a Cardinal, grab it. It was ahead of its time, efficient and capable, and it truly rewards a good pilot who will not overload it and caresses the controls rather than manhandling them.

Luscombe 8

"Yep, you just look at one of those Luscombes and it'll groundloop. Take you right off the runway, probably pick off at least one runway light on the way and leave you sitting among twisted metal somewhere out in the weeds. If you're smart, you won't get near one of them things."

Good grief. If you ever wanted aviation's shining example of poor carpenters blaming their tools, it is the Luscombe.

Don Luscombe left his position at Mono Aircraft, maker of the speedy Monocoupe, in the early 1930s. There are those who assert he was kicked out for shady financial dealings, but that's neither here nor there. His avowed goal in life was to build an all-metal, GA airplane. In 1933 the company bearing his name marketed the Luscombe Phantom, a very attractive, radial-engined, two-place, tailwheel airplane that happened to look a lot like a Monocoupe. Unfortunately, it had such horrible ground handling that, records show, a number of sales were lost when new owners demanded their money back after the first flight. It is perhaps there that the reputation for groundlooping attached itself to the Luscombe line; for some reason, once a dark cloud has been erected over a product in aviation, pilots seem eager to keep it there no matter what improvements or corrections are subsequently made.

The next Luscombe, the Model 4, a scaled-down Phantom, had better ground handling. It was merely lousy. Few were sold.

In the later 1930s, Continental developed what was called the "pancake" engine -- what we now refer to as a horizontally opposed engine -- and encouraged Luscombe to see what sort of airplane could be wrapped around it. The timing was propitious: The flat engine worked well, weighed much less than a radial and was far cheaper to build and operate. Don Luscombe happily developed the two-place Model 8 and, in the process, met his goal of making the first all-metal GA airplane. It was a hit, with hundreds selling before World War II and thousands after.

The Luscombe 8 has rudder pedals with a comparatively short throw for the degree of rudder deflection generated. The rudder is effective. Combine those two with a relatively narrow landing gear and heel brakes that aren't always willing to brake, and you have a challenge on the runway. If a pilot overcontrols on landing rollout or on takeoff, the airplane is less forgiving of error than in perhaps a J-3 or the even more docile Champ. Less forgiving does not mean the airplane will groundloop at the slightest provocation; it just means that one has to pay attention when the airplane is on the ground. After all, thousands of pilots received their flight training in Luscombes and did just fine, thank you. (In fact, if the Luscombe you are dealing with displays a proclivity to aggressively seek out the toolies on landing, there's a good chance that there is a gear misrigging or brake problem.)

In the spectrum of ground handling of tailwheel airplanes, all require a pilot's undivided attention, but if one puts the Champ and Citabria near the most docile end and a Pitts Special near the "Ohmygod, where is this thing going?" end, the Luscombe is slightly on the easy side of the middle of the pack. It's easier to handle on the ground than a Stearman, and has excellent visibility over the nose -- better than almost all tailwheel airplanes. It's not a milquetoast's airplane, but it's certainly not the ogre it's sometimes made out to be.

American Yankee

"Man, you don't want to fly that thing; if you slow it down, it'll fall right out of the sky. God forbid if you stall it, the thing will whip right over into a spin that will go flat quicker than you can say, 'Aunt Sadie' and it's all over."

As one might expect, it just ain't so. The American Yankee Clipper (to give it its full name) was the production version of a two-place, folding-wing, homebuilt known as the Bede-1. Developer Jim Bede, one of the more colorful and -- in my opinion -- affable scalawags in aviation, started his tradition of repeatedly demonstrating that he had the ability to design an incredibly cool airplane and the inability to put it into production with the Bede-1. Once Bede was gone from the scene, the airplane -- now known as the AA-1 American Yankee Clipper -- completed certification and in 1968 began deliveries, marketed both as a trainer and personal airplane. It was faster than its competitors, thanks partially to a wing optimized for low drag at cruising speed. The tradeoff was a higher stall speed than those same competitors. Tied with very light, responsive controls, particularly in pitch, inexperienced or not particularly adept pilots could, and did, inadvertently stall the airplane, with sometimes nasty results. While the stall is somewhat abrupt, it is not as sharp-edged as another two-place trainer, the T-6. The Yankee's stall break is definite; however, it also "unstalls" easily and definitively if the wheel is moved forward. It does not tend to roll off at the stall unless the ball is not centered.

The spin paranoia came about because the airplane, as with numerous other types, could not meet the requirements for certification for intentional spins. Unlike those others, however, a large-lettered, red, "Spins Prohibited" placard decorated the instrument panel. I do not know why such a sticker was installed, but it got the attention of a lot of pilots and created a lot of negative talk. My guess is that the controls are so utterly delightful that it almost seems a shame that the airplane is not aerobatic and, unless a warning were presented in what might be considered a shout, pilots would try to spin the airplane on purpose.

The Yankee does not have a proclivity to spin and does recover easily from a cross-control stall before anything bad happens. Yet, if you are foolish enough to intentionally spin one, you are unlikely to successfully recover from the maneuver prior to impact. During various certification and other flight tests, pilots involved in attempting spin recovery found the pressing need to make use of the spin 'chute. (A spin 'chute is a parachute attached to the aft portion of the airframe specifically for slowing down the airplane and forcing the nose down if it will not come out of a spin. The parachute is ejected after use and a successful spin recovery). It is wise to keep in mind that such has been the case with a lot of other airplanes that are not certified for intentional spins, yet they are not similarly maligned on the subject with the Yankee.

The Yankee is a tremendously fun airplane. Its higher stall speed requires respect and the cruise-optimized propeller means leisurely acceleration to flying speed, so it is not at home on short runways. It demands a sensitive hand on the controls; however, it is by no means deserving of any rap for poor low-speed handling or stall behavior.

As an experienced Yankee pilot once said, "You fly it like a transport on takeoff and landing and like a fighter once you get to altitude." I've never been able to come up with a more succinct description of operation of the Yankee.

Cessna 411

"Yep, lose an engine on that thing and it'll yaw so violently and then roll upside down and augur in so fast that you won't even have time to feather the prop on the dead engine."

Hoo, boy, is that nonsense.

The Cessna 411 was the first of Cessna's cabin-class, 400-series twins, built to compete with the Beechcraft Queen Air. It came out in 1965. To get the power needed for the performance desired, Cessna did as Beech had been doing and installed geared engines. In this case, they were among the first versions of Continental's geared series of engines, the GTSIO-520-C, developing 340 hp. As with any early product, the engine suffered from reliability issues; the subsequent versions, developing 375 hp and used on the Cessna 404 and 421, proved longer-lived.

The 411 was fast and had a better single-engine rate-of-climb than almost any other piston twin. It also pushed the technological envelope in a number of areas, which meant that it needed to be maintained aggressively, which was expensive. Two years later, the pressurized 421 -- which looked very similar but with more powerful GTSIO-520-D engines, putting out 375 hp -- debuted and, in the next two years, killed off the unpressurized 411. Cessna did use a fuselage very similar to that of the 411 for its unpressurized 401 and 402.

Owners soon found out that keeping a 411 airworthy was not cheap. For example, the large cowl flaps are operated by specialized electric motors. And they must operate for appropriate cooling in the climb and to allow continued flight should an engine fail: Because of its drag, the cowl flap on a dead engine has to be closed or it is unlikely the airplane can hold altitude even with its otherwise stellar single-engine rate of climb. When a cowl flap motor gives up the ghost, a replacement -- when it can be found -- costs thousands of dollars. The result is predictable. Over the years, when I've looked at 411s sitting on the ramp, I often see the cowl flaps wired into a 3/4 open position because the owner did not replace the operating motor when it wore out. The downside is two-fold: The engine overheats in climb and, should it fail, it pretty much dooms the pilot to a forced landing.

The 411, as with any high-performance twin, demands that an engine failure be handled correctly: The offending engine has to be identified, its propeller feathered and the cowl flap closed. Rudder forces are relatively high, although within GA limits and well below those of transport-category airplanes. By regulation, a transport-category airplane can require a maximum of 180 pounds of rudder force at Vmc (minimum single-engine control speed), while a GA airplane has an upper limit of 150 pounds. The only GA airplane that hits the 150 pound number is the Beech Duke. The 411 comes in just below at 145 pounds.

There were a number of lawsuits against Cessna on the 411 in the 1980s and a lot of arm-waving about single-engine handling, partially based on arm-chair aerodynamicists saying that the high-aspect-ratio rudder was too "skinny" to control the airplane. The FAA got involved and did a complete set of recertification single-engine-handling flight tests. They gave the airplane a clean bill of health, but, the OWTs live on.

The reality is that the 411 set the tone for 400-series handling. If you have ever flown a 401, 402, 404, 411, 414 or 421, you have experienced some of the most pleasant-to-fly GA airplanes ever built. I've flown the 411 with one engine caged. It is like about any other piston twin. It is fully controllable down to Vmc (in my flights, I was able to fly it below published Vmc without any problem) and can make turns in either direction on one engine. Whether it climbs or descends on one engine depends on the loading, altitude, air temperature and whether you have followed the checklist.

The current problem is that the engines have a relatively short TBO and the systems are expensive to maintain, so the selling price is so low you may be able to buy one with a credit card. Those who succumb to the siren call of a low purchase price rapidly discover that $600 per hour probably won't come close to covering operating expenses, so maintenance gets deferred, as does training. And when the ill-maintained, overheating engine fails, the pilot struggles to do single-engine work he hasn't practiced recently, can't close the cowl flap because the motor died months ago, pulls the nose up vainly trying to climb and gets well below Vmc and crashes, there is an unfortunate tendency to blame the airplane.

Let's put these OWTs to bed.

Then again, maybe we shouldn't get rid of the OWTs. I'm hoping to buy an airplane in the next year or so, and if people keep bad-mouthing good airplanes, maybe I'll be able to afford one that I might not otherwise be able to buy. OK, now class, remember: The Luscombe ground-loops without provocation, the Cardinal is under-powered, the Yankee ...

See you next month.

Want to read more from Rick Durden? Check out the rest of his columns.

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Learning From Mistakes

Our writer cleanses the soul about some of his flying misadventures. He obviously walked away from them, but not before learning some valuable lessons.

Click here for the full story.

Throughout more than 8000 hours and 20 years of flying, I have, like most of us, had numerous opportunities to scare myself and marvel at my own incompetence.

Flying -- and especially instrument flying -- is such a complex endeavor that, given enough time, it's inevitable that we all do something that's ... well ... not so smart. It's a process that's unavoidable and one that strikes even the best of us.

The uptick is that each misadventure can serve as a lesson for the next pilot. I've learned more about staying alive from hangar flying sessions than anything I've read in a flight-instruction book. So, to the old-timers who loved to spin a yarn, I'm forever grateful.

Since we can learn from each other's mistakes, I've decided to 'fess up about some of my personal misadventures. These occurred when I was freightdogging it in light, piston airplanes. Perhaps you've already been in similar situations. If not, hopefully you'll recognize them as they happen and take a better course of action. I learned from these lessons. Maybe you will, too.

A Day At The Beach

I'm assigned to fly a Cheetah on one of my favorite routes, which will take me from Raleigh, N.C., to Wilmington and the North Carolina coast, back to Raleigh, then on to Roanoke, Va., before returning to Raleigh to finish the day. The morning brings the promise of a beautiful summer day, confirmed by the forecast I get from the briefer at the Raleigh Flight Service Station.

The reason I like this trip is that there is a long sit in Wilmington. Fortunately, the company has left a rattletrap car for us to use, and I spend the down time at the beach working on my tan. In KRDU it's a quick turn, where I offload the bags before I continue on to Roanoke. A quick mental calculation tells me that I have enough fuel for the trip there plus the requisite IFR reserves. No sweat.

But half an hour later, I am indeed sweating. The Roanoke ATIS is calling it right at the minimums for the LDA RWY 6 approach, the lowest one available. Somehow fog has formed in the valleys and it's not local, either: Lynchburg, 40 nm to the east, is calling for the same conditions. It, however, has an ILS with lower minimums. I am now faced with a dilemma. Because the Roanoke forecast I received early in the day called for good weather, I hadn't planned for an alternate. I can reach Roanoke and hold for 45 minutes, but then I wouldn't have enough fuel to proceed to an alternate. For a minute I play with the idea to going directly to Lynchburg, but Roanoke is closer, so I elect to proceed there. If I go missed at Roanoke, I will immediately turn towards Lynchburg and land there.

The controllers give me a big U-turn onto the localizer. At least the setting sun is on my back so I won't be staring into it on the approach. I slow the Cheetah more than I normally do and remind myself to look left at decision height to find the landing runway. But at minimums, I have no luck. I climb away and advise tower of the missed. Suddenly, there's a break in the clouds and I see that I'm right over the runway. I get a hurried new landing clearance and sideslip the airplane to get down, using up almost every inch of the pavement. The wet air feels refreshing as I slowly taxi to the FBO.

Conclusion: I failed to get an update on the Roanoke weather, assuming it was still OK, because the TAF indicated so earlier. As a former Air Force meteorologist, I, of all people, should have had the sense to know how finicky the weather in the mountains can be.

I have seen this in myself and in others since then, especially in pilots flying slow airplanes where one doesn't cover much distance on each leg. After a couple of sunny hours on the beach, my mind was subconsciously programmed to take for granted that this would last for the rest of the day and flight.

I've also revised my personal fuel reserves, realizing that the FAA-mandated ones are just that -- minimums. I don't plan to ever land with less than an hour in the tanks, irrespective of the circumstances. Worse weather mandates more padding and this has done wonders for my ulcer.

Wrong Number

This is another trip that starts benignly enough. I pick up the Raleigh ATIS and note that the pressure has changed little since the airplane -- in this case, a Baron -- was flown last the previous day. I barely need to twist the altimeter to set it. Elevation checks and preflight checks complete, I blast off on my way to the coast.

This Baron's got new engines and it feels powerful on takeoff. The standard level-off at 2000 feet comes much quicker than normal. Checking in with Departure, I'm cleared up to 4000 feet, with the added instruction to proceed on course when leaving 3000 feet. As I read back the clearance, I notice I'm already at 3000 feet and start to make the turn. Hmmm, they never do this. I'm about to cross the final for the intersecting runway.

Then it hits me! ATC gives the altimeter setting to someone else before I can ask, but I realize I'm an inch off. My altimeter is set to 30.50 inches and not 29.50 inches that the ATIS called for. I'm 1000 feet lower than what the altimeter is indicating. I'm shaking with anger at myself and the day is totally ruined. Of course, it rained on the coast.

Conclusion: The pressure had dropped almost exactly an inch since the plane was flown the previous night but I had adjusted only the last two figures off the ATIS, not catching the thousand-foot pointer 1000 feet high. This was obviously extremely sloppy behavior on my part. Had I written the ATIS down, as is standard operating procedure, I would have been more inclined to catch the discrepancy.

On a deeper level, this is a situation of letting your mind wander at the start of a very simple and routine flight. It is also a matter of "seeing what you want to see." A further lesson learned is something that I've come to realize more and more through the years: If you have a gut feeling that something is wrong, it probably is.

Wind And Water

The weather at the coast is terrible and I end up holding over the airport waiting for a thunderstorm to move away. It doesn't look bad visually and it is only moderately bumpy; but according to the AWOS, the winds are all over the place and the visibility is below minimums. After a while, the storm moves away enough for the conditions to go above the legal limits and I shoot an approach to Runway 17 with a circle to Runway 5. I break out at the missed-approach point and proceed for a tight circle in the hail and rain, feeling relieved on short final that I've made it.

Well, it ain't over 'til the fat lady stops squawking. With higher-than-normal approach speeds due to the gusting crosswind, I touch down a few hundred feet further down than normal, at which point the airplane hydroplanes and starts to veer into the wind. Full control deflections make it go straight again but there's no braking action. With the end of the fairly short runway rapidly approaching, I think for a split second of trying to steer the Baron on to the grass for a softer stop. Then suddenly the tires start to grab the pavement and I come to a shaky stop, having used the entire runway.

Conclusion: I concentrated on the problems of shooting a difficult approach to the exclusion of anticipating a difficult landing situation. With a thunderstorm just having moved off the field, I should have known that there'd be a significant accumulation of water on the runway, making the possibility of hydroplaning highly likely.

Iced Up And No Place To Go

There is ice forecast and reported for the flight up to Richmond, so the regular Piper Lance is substituted for an icing-certified Piper Seneca. Since I'm an instructor in the Seneca and the regular pilot -- let's call him Homer -- is scheduled to transition to the twin, I feel that this will make a good training flight.

It's snowing heavily as we taxi out and Homer's really gunning the throttles to keep us moving. I soon realize he's riding the brakes, his subconscious showing discomfort with the situation. Dragging brakes is always bad, especially so in winter.

We pick up a fair amount of ice in the climb, most of which is duly shed as advertised, although the airspeed settles at some 15 knots below normal. Engines are also running rather hot, so the cowl flaps stay open and leaning is less-than-optimum. It now dawns on me that we're in a short-range Seneca. Hmmmm. "It's just an hour's flight, anyways," says one side of my brain. "You sure?" asks the other.

When I ask Homer what he's filed for an alternate, he tells me Charlotte. "Everything around here is pretty bad," he says. I don't even need to ask him how he figured that one out. It's an hour up to Richmond, two to Charlotte, plus 45 minutes reserve. That would work on a good day, but this isn't one. Legal it is, but safe it isn't.

My brain has now definitely shifted out of neutral. I suggest to Homer that we should check the weather at different locations to have an out in case we need one. Much unfolding/folding of charts and flipping of plates commences, confirming my sneaky suspicion that things are going downhill fast. Not only is Richmond reporting an RVR of 1600 feet in heavy snow showers, all the satellite airports are equally unpromising.

We're being given several long vectors while picking up more ice, and we're now more than one and half hours into the flight. Once on the localizer, Homer never gets fully established and we go missed. We come back for a second try and I'm thinking to myself that if he screws up again, I'll take the controls. We really need to get down now. This time bright red flags greet us and I'm guessing that the localizer antenna is frozen over. Great. We go missed again.

Homer's sweating bullets and I'm not too happy myself. A one-hour flight has become a two-hour flight, most of it with higher-than-normal fuel flows. A decision to divert someplace must be made right now ... the question is to where? Since nothing nearby is anywhere near non-ILS weather, I decide to stick with Richmond. I brief Homer that we'll fly the exact GPS course for that runway down to localizer minimums and hope that the ILS comes back up at that point, which is what happens a mile or so from the threshold. Either some ice melted off the antenna, the signal became strong enough or both.

Homer pulls off a greaser -- how could you not with a foot of loose snow on the runway? -- and we taxi slowly to the FBO. "We sure handled that pretty well!" says the now very cocky Homer. I walk away in disgust.

Conclusion: This was mostly a classical mistake of two experienced pilots (Homer was an ex-airline guy) flying together, both assuming that the other knew what he was doing.

Weather can be worse than forecast and unusual things happen, but it's up to the PIC to plan accordingly, and when absolutely necessary, improvise. This requires intimate knowledge of weather and the limitations of your equipment -- what it can do, and most importantly, what it can't.

More articles to help you become a better pilot are available in AVweb's Airmanship section. And for monthly articles about IFR flying, subscribe to AVweb's sister publication, IFR Refresher.

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AVweb Insider Blog: The Gate To Stupidity

Forget User Fees and High Gas Prices...if GA gets done in, it will be because of the utter stupidity of stuff we voluntarily put up with. And we seem to experience more of it every year. Read this week's AVweb Insider blog by Paul Bertorelli, who's off on a tear about small airport security.

Read more.

The Five (5) Things No Pilot Should Take Off Without!
Dr. Blue discusses what he believes are the five essentials every pilot should have on board for a safe and fun flying summer. Click here to see what Dr. Blue carries in his airplane!
Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: AAR (Will Rogers World Airport, KOKC, Oklahoma City, OK)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to AAR's location at Will Rogers World Airport (KOKC) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

A couple of weeks ago, AVweb reader Mitch Hargrave found himself in the vicinity of Oklahoma City, checking the local weather reports:

I checked the weekend weather, and the chance for thundershowers was quite low for the OKC area. But, wouldn't you know it, three hours after arriving I could see storms brewing out to the west. As the evening wore on, they intensified and were moving toward Will Rogers, where our beloved N33V was sitting out on the ramp. Feeling not a little uneasy, I called AAR. I was told not to worry — 33V was [already] in the big hangar! That, my friends, is service. Needless to say, I slept soundly that night.

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!

Find Your Next Aircraft on ASO!
When you search for used aircraft on ASO, you get the most complete picture of the market available anywhere. View thousands of listings with detailed specs and photos or use ASO's advanced search tools to quickly find your next aircraft. Best of all, know that every ad is current and no time is wasted on stale listings. If you're ready for your next aircraft, it's ready for you — on ASO. Visit ASO.com today!
AVweb Media: Look, Listen, Laugh and Learn back to top 

Dick Knapinski Promises Big Things for AirVenture '08

File Size 5.9 MB / Running Time 6:28

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

The folks at EAA are always coming up with ways to keep AirVenture fresh, and this year is no exception. From rock concerts to rocket planes, this year's event promises plenty of entertainment value, and there will be lots of product and technology announcements, too. AVweb's Russ Niles spoke with EAA's Media and Public Affairs Director Dick Knapinski about the summer's most exciting event.

Click here to listen. (5.9 MB, 6:28)

Video of the Week: Air Show Fly-Over Grinds to a Halt in Heavy Wind

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

Our latest "Video of the Week" is one that's actually been sent to us several times over the last few months, especially when high winds and difficult landings take the spotlight here on AVweb. And to be honest, we're a little surprised to discover that we haven't shared this one yet, so here goes — heavy winds bring an air show fly-over to a seeming standstill, much to the delight of the crowd below.

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If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

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."

Exclusive Video: B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber Crash Technical Report

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

The crash on takeoff of a 509th Air Wing, Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber, February 23 operating at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, was caused by water in the aircraft's sensors, according to an Air Combat report issued Thursday. Specifically, moisture in three port transducer units "distorted data introduced by a B-2 Spirit's air data system" which led to flawed information entering the bomber's flight control computers. The aircraft was reacting to inaccurate airspeed and a "perceived" negative angle of attack. This resulted in an "uncommanded 30 degree nose-high pitch-up on takeoff," according to the Air Force.

The video has more detail, but you can also click here for the full story.

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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.
The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

This is an exchange that happened ... on a trip from Las Vegas (Henderson) to Oklahoma City (Sundance Air Park). We were level at 15,000 and just handed off from Las Vegas TRACON to LA Center. We had been at 15,000 for a few minutes and were definitely hungry to get to our final altitude of FL270. The busy airspace due to a NASCAR race complicated matters for everyone.

Starship XXXX (me):
"LA Center, good afternoon, Starship XXXX level at one five thousand, direct cowboy, looking for higher."

"Starship XXXX, LA Center. Maintain one five thousand MD-80 traffic in your six o'clock position in a very slow climb. I need to keep you at one five thousand until clear of traffic."

Starship XXXX:
"LA Center, Starship XXXX, maintain one five thousand.


"LA Center, Starship XXXX, no contact with traffic."

ZLA (without missing a beat):
"That's the idea."

Christopher Dean
via e-mail

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

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