AVwebFlash - Volume 14, Number 45a

November 3, 2008

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Top News: Pilots Survive N.C. Collision back to top 
Sponsor Announcement

Another Midair Ends Favorably

Two aircraft collided Saturday, Nov. 1, in the air near Plymouth Municipal Airport, N.C., and though "one plane was in a tree and the other was in a river," according to Kathleen Bergen of the FAA, "both pilots survived." The midair collision took place about 9:30 a.m. local time and involved a Piper PA-28 and a Piper PA-32. Separate callers then reported plane crashes: one in the Liverman Heights area and, ten minutes later, another in the Roanoke River, some distance from the Plymouth waterfront. Early reports indicate that one pilot was hospitalized, but the other was not injured. A weather report for Roanoke Shores, Plymouth, N.C., for Nov. 1, showed a temperature/dewpoint spread of about 10 degrees and diverging, light winds and no rainfall. The cause and circumstances of the accident are yet unreported. On Oct. 22, a Cessna 180 and a Cessna 210 collided near Grand Junction in western Colorado. One of the aircraft was operated by a Colorado sheriff and was delivering inmates to a corrections facility. In that case, the two aircraft landed safely (although one ended up inverted) and all six people aboard both aircraft survived.

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Quotes reprinted with permission: Professional Pilot, 2007 Headset Preference Survey, 12/07; Aviation Consumer, 8/07.
Search for Missing Aviator Drawing to a Close back to top 
Sponsor Announcement

Fossett Remains "Most Likely" Found

One part of the complex mystery of Steve Fossett's disappearance 14 months ago may have been solved with the discovery of bones, a pair of shoes and his driver's license. "We talked to the family and advised them that we possibly, most likely, found the remains of J. Stephen Fossett," Madera County Sheriff John Anderson told a news conference Thursday.

Fossett disappeared in September of 2007 while on a flight to scout locations for a land speed record attempt. The wreckage of his Super Decathlon was found a month ago and a bone fragment was also found at the wreck. It turned out to be from an animal. DNA tests are being conducted on the bones.

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The Modern Face of Flying back to top 

Nuclear-Powered Passenger Planes?

Nuclear-powered aircraft will be carrying millions of passengers around the world before the end of this century, according to Ian Poll, head of technology for a U.K. government-funded project to reduce the environmental impact of air travel. Poll, a professor of aerospace engineering at Cranfield university (Bedfordshire, U.K.), offers that experiments performed by both the then Soviet Union and the United States during the 1950s demonstrated that the development of nuclear-powered aircraft is possible. The U.S. has long ago flown a B-36 carrying a nuclear reactor -- and a lead-lined cockpit -- to prove the crew could be protected. It has also tested nuclear-powered jet engines on the ground. In an interview with The Times UK, Poll said the idea "was proved 50 years ago, but I accept it would take about 30 years to persuade the public of the need to fly on them."

The big challenge is demonstrated safety. Poll theorizes that reactors should be engineered into the wings along with the engines and that the risk of crash-damaged reactors could be lessened "by jettisoning them before impact and bringing them down with parachutes" ... which may or may not bring comfort to doomed passengers watching from inside the aircraft's powerless cabin, but likely to any person living within a two- or three-mile radius. Alternately, nuclear-powered unmanned aerial vehicles could be used for reconnaissance or in combat without the need for heavy reactor shielding, according to proponents.

Beyond Fly By Wire

Even before fly by wire becomes the standard, companies have been exploring the next steps to remove hydraulics from the aircraft control equation. In mid-October, Gulfstream successfully demonstrated primary aircraft flight-surface control using "fly-by-wireless" technology. And, last week, Bombardier announced it had executed a first test flight with an all-electric Meggitt braking system, called EBrake. For the earlier test, Gulfstream outfitted a GV test aircraft with mechanical, fly-by-wire, fly-by-wireless, and fiber-optic fly-by-light systems to control ailerons, outboard spoiler, mid-spoilers and inboard spoilers respectively. Pilots noted consistent handling regardless of the applied control-actuation technology and Gulfstream noted that test results make fly-by-wireless -- and its benefits of reduced complexity and weight -- a potential backup for other flight control systems. Bombardier's test of the EBrake system during normal, emergency and parking-brake functionality showed improved control in normal and emergency modes "resulting in tight centerline control even during maximum brake applications," according to test pilot Gary Bruce. The system couples brake-by-wire control with electric brake actuation and removes relevant hydraulically actuated control systems, with the benefits of increased reliability and (fire) safety, decreased maintenance and associated costs. Both Gulfstream's fly-by-wireless and Bombardier/Meggitt's EBrake systems could reduce system weight on aircraft while removing toxic hydraulic fluids and therefore can claim environmental friendliness as side benefits to improved performance.

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Keeping 'Em Flying back to top 

Boeing Machinists Strike Settled

Some 27,000 of Boeing's machinists, who walked off the job on Sept. 6 after contract talks failed to adequately address their interests, should be back at work after an agreement was reached on Oct. 27. The contract doesn't just keep, but increases, pension payments, brings wage increases totaling 15 percent and preserves health-care benefits while addressing the key issue of job security, according to MarketWatch.com. It also adds lump-sum payments for each employee totaling $8,000 per worker over four years ... and, by ending the strike, makes the future of some of Boeing's suppliers more certain. Boeing said in a statement that the new agreement "addresses the union's job-security issues while enabling Boeing to retain the flexibility needed to run the business." The company, which during the strike faced losses estimated at $100 million per day along with production delays, has amassed an order backlog worth $349 billion. It expects production to reach pre-strike efficiency within two months.

Boeing now faces negotiations with 21,000 engineers, scientists, technicians and other members of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace whose contract expires on the first day of December. Over the past decade, Boeing has lost 203 days of production to work stoppages, according to a report by the International Herald Tribune.

Sting LSA Picks Up Straight & Level Button

Recently made famous in general aviation through the Cirrus' Perspective avionics package (AVweb video), a similar little blue button has been introduced on the Sting S3 LSA's instrument panel and it aims to provide pilots with similar results -- wings-level, fixed-heading and fixed-altitude flight -- at the touch of a button. The Sting S3 light sport aircraft already offers multiple safety features, like AmSafe inflatable safety harnesses, Zaon collision avoidance (Aviation Consumer video), and a full plane parachute. The Straight/Level system is intended to add to that score. Employed by a blue button on the avionics panel labeled S/L, the system commands the autopilot to level the wings, lock the heading and altitude, and allows the pilot time to reassess matters in the event he or she recognizes signs of spatial disorientation or experiences some other duress. Of course, should the pilot be somehow incapacitated, the S/L button also lowers the demands on a passenger who needs to become a quick study. Bill Canino, president of SportairUSA (which distributes the S3), says his company provides the system "at no additional cost on all of our TruTrak EFIS/autopilot equipped Stings." Those aircraft are priced close to $125,000, according to the company's Web site. According to Canino, his company's goal is to provide an aircraft that "is fun, safe, and responsive" and "with backup systems that are easy to deploy."

More than 500 Sting aircraft have been delivered worldwide and the "continuously improved" design offers a salvo of safety features that include a whole plane parachute, PCAS collision avoidance avionics, full-time carburetor body heat, and AmSafe air-bag type seat belt restraints, in addition to the new Straight/Level system.

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News Briefs back to top 

Europe's Aerial Firefighting Conference

The first European Aerial Firefighting Conference was held Oct. 21 and 22 in Athens, Greece, and it collected operators and suppliers from 22 nations running in association with the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. Primarily formed to address technologies and techniques to improve the efficacy and safety of aerial firefighting, the conference has been hailed as highly successful and marks the first in a series of such meetings to be held at other locations around the world. Panel sessions hosted in Athens by the EU Civil Protection Directorate's Chris Allen, at the Aerial Firefighting Conference, debated whether Europe should finance a cross-border aerial firefighting squadron. The conference's many interagency meetings covered topics from aerial firefighting management to shared knowledge systems and was dominated by safety management and technologies and an exhibition of some of the world's leading operators. Here in the U.S., the California Department of Forestry this year has made use of Canadian-owned Bombardier 415 "Super Scooper" aircraft that have already flown to combat this season's southern California wildfires. Upcoming events announced in Athens include another conference to be held in Anaheim, Calif., on February 19 and 20, 2009, and another to be held in mid-June in Sydney, Australia.

The Ballad Of Flight Service

Probably one of the most surveyed subjects in general aviation in the U.S. is the effect of competitive outsourcing of the Flight Service Station system. Some said it was long overdue but it seems like there is a constant buzz of discontent from all corners on how the system delivers services. Lockheed Martin, which now runs the system, politicians, aviation groups, the media and pilots have all had their say in various forums, including AVweb. The only voices that haven't been heard are those of the diminished ranks of flight service specialists, who aren't allowed to comment publicly under their contracts. However, they do chat amongst themselves and one or more of them have come up with a song that the specialist who shared it with us says sums up their feelings.

Download the MP3 (7 mb) here.

Technical Difficulties

If today's issue of AVwebFlash seems a little later than usual, that's because it is.

We experienced some problems with the server overnight, but everything is back to normal now.

AOPA Expo 2008 — Destination for the Latest in Aviation Products & Services
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New on AVweb back to top 

Leading Edge #23: Stabilized Approaches in Light Airplanes

The airplane may not know it's dark, but the pilot does, and the accident record shows it. AVweb's Thomas P. Turner helps reduce the risk of night flight.

Click here to read.

One of the hardest parts of flying instruments is making the transition from on-the-gauges to visual flight at the missed approach point. Visual and instrument pilots also have difficulty at times landing in the proper touchdown zone because they're too fast or too slow on final. One way to make safe, consistent landings, and to fly to tighter instrument tolerances, is to fly a stabilized approach ... modified for the realities of flying light airplanes.

What's a Stabilized Approach?

We hear the term a lot, but it's not precisely clear what is meant by a "stabilized approach." The strict definition of a stabilized approach is somewhat elusive; most educational materials focus more on what is not "stabilized" than what is. For example, the Flight Safety Foundation's (FSF) Approach and Landing Accident Reduction (ALAR) Briefing Note 7.1 -- Stabilzed Approach (65 KB PDF) nods to the fact that "stabilized" means different things to different operators, saying,

An approach is stabilized only if all the criteria in company standard operating procedures (SOPs) are met before or when reaching the applicable minimum stabilization height.

FSF's Briefing Note calls unstabilized approaches those "conducted either low/slow or high/fast." It provides a recommendation that the airplane be stabilized within 1000 feet of the ground in IMC or 500 agl in VMC. FSF cites unstabilized approaches as being a "causal factor in 66 percent of 76 approach-and-landing accidents and serious incidents worldwide in 1984 through 1997."

The airline pilot chat lines -- filled with commentary by pilots whose work evaluations hinge on whether an approach is stabilized -- show that even the pros are confused about what the term means.

A stabilized approach to most pilots means something that looks like the figure at right. The aircraft is put into landing configuration (gear down and flaps set) prior to reaching the let-down point (final approach fix or leaving the traffic pattern altitude), and airspeed is reduced to VREF or some target just above VREF. When time comes to descend, the pilot flying (we're talking primarily large, turbine airplanes here) adjusts attitude and power to establish a descent while maintaining airspeed. The aircraft is flown in this configuration and attitude all the way to touchdown (no wonder airliners often have such "firm" arrivals).

Although this technique may be desirable in turbine airplanes, small airplanes don't fly like large, jet transports. And weren't we taught something about a "round-out" and flare that is more appropriate in light aircraft?

A Better Approach

The FAA's Airplane Flying Handbook (AFH) provides this definition of the stabilized approach:

A stabilized approach is one in which the pilot establishes and maintains a constant-angle glidepath towards a predetermined point on the landing runway ... the point on the ground at which, if the airplane maintained a constant glidepath and was not flared for landing, it would strike the ground.

Aha! The AFH is giving us a different concept of what it means to be "stabilized." This is not a criticism of airline operations or the stabilized approach concept -- as we'll see in a moment, it saves lives -- but instead points out that the concept as commonly described does not apply directly to flying light airplanes. AFH's Figure 8-9 (below) shows how an approach may be flown stabilized to the point where the flare begins.

Airplane Flying Handbook Figure 8-9

Why Everyone Talks About Stabilized Approaches

Airline-style or lightplane-appropriate, why does everyone talk about stabilized approaches? The concept evolved to meet these goals:

  • Predicting aircraft performance by using the same technique every time;
  • Increasing situational awareness by allowing the pilot to focus on instrument or outside references, as appropriate to conditions, instead of diverting attention to changing trim, power and configuration settings during final approach;
  • More easily detecting and correcting for glidepath deviations;
  • Increased ability to establish crosswind corrections; and
  • Landing in the touchdown zone at the proper speed to ensure landing performance.

Common accidents where a stabilized approach is not flown include controlled flight into terrain (CFIT), landing short, landing long and running off the far end of the runway, and stalls. Stabilized approaches, especially in heavy, inertia-ridden transport aircraft, save lives. Notice that these causalities are related to distraction and improper airspeed control -- two things a stabilized approach are designed to avoid. The stabilized-approach philosophy in airline operations appears to have saved lives.

Stabilized Approaches In Light Airplanes

So how can we gain the benefits of the stabilized approach concept while flying with the characteristics of light airplanes? First, consider that the goal is to arrive at a known position relative to the touchdown zone while at a known configuration and airspeed. We want to be established in the known configuration and on that known airspeed in time to reach that final, known position where the flare begins.

Instrument Approaches: On an instrument approach, fly in a stabilized condition from just inside the final-approach fix (FAF) to the missed-approach point (MAP). You may decide to become stabilized outside the FAF -- the difference is primarily when you'll extend the landing gear in retractable-gear (RG) airplanes. I personally teach extending the gear at the FAF as the means of initiating final descent. So many times pilots forget to extend the landing gear, and if you're conditioned to initiate descent with a power reduction, on the day you forget the landing gear you'll have nothing to directly remind you at this point (in all fairness, almost no gear-up landings happen out of an instrument approach). You may fly a type of airplane that extends gear asymmetrically, with varying drag causing yawing motions when the gear is in transit. In such airplanes, it's probably better to extend the gear outside the FAF to be stabilized for the remainder of the approach. That's OK, too. What's more important is that you remain in a single configuration as you descend down the glidepath until you either break out to land visually or power-up to miss the approach.

When "going visual" out of the approach, you'll be in a known configuration at a known speed, as well as a known (from the instrument approach procedure flown) position relative to the runway. If you have enough altitude to transition to a new, stable, visual, approach configuration, that's great. Some pilots like to maintain the configuration used for the approach all the way to landing to minimize pitch and trim changes before beginning the flare. That's fine, and may even be the best way to go if you break out right at minimums. Remember: You'll probably use more runway than in a visual landing if you use this technique.

Visual Arrivals and VFR Traffic Patterns: When arriving visually, whether as part of an instrument arrival or by flying a VFR traffic pattern, aim to be stabilized on configuration and final-approach speed within about 400 to 500 feet of the ground. This is the usual height when rolling out onto final approach, unless a control tower directs a wide pattern or a straight-in approach. This is the point where I'll usually extend the last notch of flaps, confirm my gear is down (in RG airplanes), and aim for the "book" final approach speed.

The Ultimate Unstabilized Approach

Many airline pilots and GPS developers will tell you that step-down instrument approaches are patently unsafe. They fly in the face of the stabilized approach concept, because they require a power change and interrupt the constant-angle-of-descent-to-touchdown precept. Historically, airline crews have had difficulty with step-down approaches in the turbine era; the whole idea of GPS WAAS glidepaths is to do away with "dive and drive" approach profiles in the hope this will reduce CFIT accidents in all classes of airplane.

You can still think of the step-down approach as being stabilized, however, in the manner addressed in the Airplane Flying Handbook. The airplane is placed in configuration and on speed prior to reaching the FAF. A fairly big power reduction is necessary to descend to the minimum descent altitude (MDA), and power must be added to level off at MDA. The airplane is still on speed and in configuration, with power being the only variable. At the MAP the pilot must do one of two things: Reduce power, if the runway environment is in sight and a landing can be made using "normal" descent technique; or miss the approach if either of those criteria are not satisfied. However, if arriving visually, the airplane is in a predictable position relative to the runway, while at a predictable airspeed and configuration that allows a stabilized descent from there to the point where the flair begins. Viola! It's not as "unstabilized" as it seems.

Even a circling instrument approach should be flown "stabilized" if we define stable as being on speed and configuration to the MAP, and then again within 400 to 500 feet of the ground when on final approach.

Semantics, or Safety?

Are we concentrating too much on a buzzword, or is a stabilized approach -- as defined for lightplane flying -- a better way to go? Flying on speed and configuration from the FAF to the MAP when in IMC makes it far less likely you'll deviate from the approach course or bust altitude. Once going visual -- or if you're making a VFR arrival -- establishing a stable final-approach speed and configuration from when about 400 to 500 feet of the ground until the point you begin your flare makes it far easier to touch down where you want at a speed that permits easily stopping on the runway. If you find you are unstabilized inbound from the FAF or within a few hundred feet of the ground when visual, miss the approach or go around and set up for a stable approach next time.

Flying stabilized approaches in all classes of airplane results in smoother, easier, more passenger-friendly flight ... and more importantly, it's safe.

Fly safe, and have fun!

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

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Dr. Blue Says, "Be Smart — Carry a PLB!"
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AVweb Media: Look, Listen, Laugh and Learn back to top 

AVweb's AOPA Expo 2008 Video #1: Meet the Garmin 696

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

Meet Garmin's 696 portable GPS, making its debut at the AOPA Expo in San Jose this week. AVweb and Aviation Consumer's Paul Bertorelli walks you through the basic functionality of the unit and helps you get acquainted with it. (Video by Glenn Pew.)

This video is brought to you by Lightspeed Aviation and WxWorx XM WX Satellite Weather.

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Time for a Private Space Race?

File Size 13.2 MB / Running Time 14:31

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

Governments have done their job in man's initial forays into space, and now it's time for the private sector to take over, according to the latest space tourist, Richard Garriott. Garriott, who helped found Space Adventures and whose father was a NASA astronaut, spoke with AVweb's Russ Niles about the promise and the wonder of space exploration.

Click here to listen. (13.2 MB, 14:31)

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Winnemucca Flying Service (KWMC, Winnemucca, NV)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Winnemucca Flying Service at KWMC in Winnemucca, Nevada.

AVweb reader Mick Collins told us about the FBO last week:

We had a group flight (eight planes) land at KWMC ... for an overnight. Buster and his crew performed flawlessly in supporting all our various needs and wants, even loaning us his personal car to run folks into town. (We had already commandeered the courtesy van!) I highly recommend anyone looking for top-notch service and the chance to meet some good folks stop in at Winnemucca Flying Service!

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!

Dual Antenna Traffic Systems Simply Perform Better
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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.

Understanding Your Airplane's Mechanics Could Save Your Bank Account
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The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

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

Heard on the Detroit approach frequency while flying just north of Detroit City Airport one Sunday evening:

"Airliner XXXX, turn left heading 350. Direct Flint when able."

Airliner XXXX:
"Left three-fifty, direct Flint."

"Airliner YYYY, proceed direct Salem when able."

Airliner YYYY:
"Direct Salem."

Airliner XXXX:
"Airliner YYYY — hey, Dave, is that vou? How's it going?"

Airliner YYYY:
"Yeah. That you, Bud? Just fine ..." (and other pleasantries)

"How about I go and work another frequency and let you guys chat?"

Airliner XXXX:
"That'll work."

Andrew C. Taylor
Ann Arbor, Michigan

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

Scott Simmons

Jeff van West

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.