AVwebFlash - Volume 15, Number 15a

April 13, 2009

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Top News: Investigating Medical Flight Accident back to top 

Did Missed Switch Bring Down Medical Flight?

The Detroit Free Press is reporting that the copilot of a Cessna Citation carrying an organ transplant team may have mistakenly turned on the aircraft's autopilot instead of its yaw damper, possibly leading to the crash of the aircraft in Lake Michigan off Milwaukee on June 4, 2007. Both pilots and the four members of the University of Michigan medical team were killed. The paper quotes a report from the NTSB's Recorded Radar and Airplane Performance Study Group, which did a computer simulation of the flight, as saying the results of the simulation are "consistent with the copilot inadvertently pushing the autopilot button instead of the yaw damper on the airplane center console." Shortly after takeoff, the cockpit voice recorder captured comments from the pilot that he was "fighting the controls" and blaming the problem on runaway trim. But the NTSB team says the results of the simulation "do not appear consistent with a pitch trim runaway."

The research team said that when they simulated runaway trim it didn't result in the rolling motions the pilot reported as he fought for control. According to the interim factual summary, the control problems started 18 seconds into the flight and the pilot is heard to say: "I'm fighting the controls. It wants to turn left hard" and "…she's rolling on me. Help me help me." The simulation report is one of many that will be taken into consideration when the board meets later this year to determine probable cause.

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Some Days Are Better than Others for Airliners back to top 

ASA CRJ Holed By Fire

While we like a good story as much as anyone, those facts are pesky things. Some remarkable pictures making the rounds on the Internet show a big hole burned in the skin of an Atlantic Southeast Airlines CRJ 200 and attribute the cause to an inflight lightning strike, which, considering the location behind the captain's head, conjures up some pretty interesting scenarios, much more interesting than the mundane reality. Within hours of running a photo and the lightning strike speculation, an AVweb reader delivered the straight goods by way of NTSB file number DCA09FA033, which suggests the cause was an electrical fire while the aircraft was being preflighted in Tallahassee for a trip to Atlanta last March 1.

According to the report, only the captain and a flight attendant were on board when external power was plugged in. The fire started shortly afterward and they both got out on the airstair. Neither was injured. There's not much detail in the NTSB report, which is preliminary, but it's been suggested that a breach in an oxygen line helped fan the flames and create the aluminum-melting temperatures.

"Tailstrike" May Write Off A340

An Australian newspaper is reporting that a $180 million Emirates Airbus A340-500 may be beyond repair and the 225 people who were on it last March 20 are lucky to be alive after a nasty scrape at Melbourne International Airport. New details have emerged about the mishap, which has been declared an accident by the Australia Transport Safety Bureau and resulted in the resignations of both pilots aboard. According to the Sunday Herald Sun the aircraft was bound for Dubai when it failed to get airborne before the end of Melbourne's 12,000-foot runway. The paper reported the flight crew yanked the big airliner off the overrun, scraping the tail in the process. It appears, from the description, the 340 flew in ground effect about two feet off the ground for about 400 yards, wiping out three approach strobes, which are about 30 inches high, and the localizer antenna, before barely clearing the eight-foot perimeter fence.

The aircraft was able to climb out and the crew was going to dump fuel but according to The Aviation Herald the crew elected to head immediately back for a landing after smoke filled the cabin. The landing gear was reportedly damaged by the heavily loaded aircraft on landing. Other reports suggest the crew was able to dump fuel before returning. Pictures on the Aviation Herald Web site show damage extending at least 30 feet on the underside of the tail. The Herald Sun, citing unnamed sources, said serious structural damage also occurred and it may not be feasible to fix it. Emirates has not commented on the details of the mishap and the TSB's preliminary report is expected within a month. The TSB is reportedly looking into whether incorrect weight data was input into the flight computer, resulting in the computer's selecting an incorrect takeoff power setting.

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Flight 1549: NTSB and Crew Get Back to Work back to top 

NTSB Sets Hudson Ditching Hearing

The NTSB will hear testimony on the ditching of US Airways Flight 1549 on June 9-10 at its Washington, D.C., headquarters. The public hearing is being held to gather more information on the board's ongoing investigation of the mishap. All 155 people aboard survived the dunking in the Hudson River in New York City after the crew reported multiple bird strikes followed by a dual engine failure. In contrast to most NTSB investigations, at least part of this hearing will apparently focus on what went right in the Jan. 15 incident.

In its announcement of the hearing the NTSB said it will call witnesses to discuss crew training in emergency procedures, certification requirements for the A320 related to ditching, bird ingestion standards for engines and new technologies for bird detection and avoidance. Board member Robert L. Sumwalt will chair the meeting and a list of witnesses will be released later.

1549 FO Back To Work

After four months of investigations, public appearances and outright hero worship, the first member of the crew of US Airways Flight 1549 is heading back to work on Monday, almost four months after the Airbus A320 ditched in the Hudson River. First Officer Jeff Skiles told The Associated Press the hiatus is the longest he's spent away from the controls since he was 17 and he's anxious to get back in the cockpit, even though his airline offered him the whole summer off. "I'm the first person to go back. It's not really any psychological reason, at least in my case, it's all these media events have constantly taken up my time -- three, four, five days a week," Skiles said as he prepared to throw the first pitch in the Milwaukee Brewers' home opener near his hometown of Oregon, Wis. "I do miss it and I'm going to enjoy going back."

It was the second brush with the flight crew by the Brewers, who were visiting San Francisco for the Giants' home opener last Tuesday when the left seater on the flight, Capt. Chesley Sullenberger, threw out the first pitch. Sullenberger is from Danville, Calif., about 30 miles south of San Francisco. He wore the number 155 on his jersey for the number of people aboard the Airbus, most of whom walked away without a scratch. There's no word on when Sullenberger will be back at work but he likely still has a full calendar of public appearances. Skiles said all the attention has been gratifying but it's time to get back to his normal life. "I'm regular Jeff Skiles from Oregon, Wis. Right now, just all these amazing things seem to keep happening to me," Skiles said. "But sooner or later, I'm going to go back to what I was before."

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News Briefs back to top 

Wood Airplanes Making Comeback?

A Canadian research organization says wood could be incorporated into next-generation aircraft designs, but don't expect to see two-by-fours in the bulkheads. In his technology blog , Seattle Times writer Brier Dudley reports that a technology forum recently heard from FP Innovations President Jim Dangerfield, who said the firm has applied nanotechnology to cellulose and can extract nanomaterials that, in combination with other materials, could find their way into aircraft. The properties of the materials would depend on the source material, of which there is plenty of variety.

Dangerfield says there are plans on the drawing board for a factory that could create a ton of nanomaterial a day and Gerould Young, director of materials & structures technology at Boeing Research & Technology, noted the evolution of airplanes has always been directly tied to the materials available to build them and ideas like Dangerfield's are part of a coming sea change in the way planes are made. "I think you're going to see really a revolution in that material as you go forward," Young said. "It will be significant over time, what we take out in terms of weight, and ultimately (contribute to) the performance of our aircraft."

Edge Of Space Defined

For decades, the altitude where atmosphere ends and space begins has been pegged at a largely theoretical 100 km., known as the Karman Line. Theodore von Karman picked that value as the point where any aircraft would have to be flying faster than orbital velocity to stay aloft, and it's become the generally accepted line. Well, a team of scientists from the University of Calgary say the theory isn't far from precise reality. The so-called edge of space is actually at 118 km.

The scientists traded their slide rules for something called a Supra-Thermal Ion Imager, which was carried on a NASA rocket on Jan. 19, 2007. As everyone knows, the atmosphere doesn't really have a precise endpoint. It just gets thinner the higher you go. Instead, the device was able to detect where the ionosphere, which is driven by flows in space, and the atmosphere meet. Now that the dividing line is known, it will have a bearing on factors that are affected by the interaction between space and the earth environment ranging from the impact of sunspots to the effects of space weather on satellites and communications.

AOPA Aircraft Financing
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Reader Mailbag back to top 

AVmail: April 13, 2009

Each week, we run a sampling of the letters received to our editorial inbox here in AVmail. One letter that's particularly relevant, informative, or otherwise compelling will headline this section as our "Letter of the Week," and we'll send the author an official AVweb baseball cap as a "thank you" for interacting with us (and the rest of our readership). Send us your comments and questions using this form. Please include your mailing address in your e-mail (just in case your letter is our "Letter of the Week"); by the same token, please let us know if your message is not intended for publication.

Letter of the Week: Bird Problem

I am a long-time pilot and co-own a Bellanca Viking. This aircraft, with my partner at the controls, encountered a large bird shortly after departing Montgomery County Airport (GAI) April 5. We are all very fortunate that Jean Yves maintained his composure and managed to bring the aircraft back safely, a very impressive feat, considering the circumstances!

We all are, of course, very aware of the consequences of bird encounters, especially since Capt. Sullenberger's experience. Now the FAA is telling us that birdstrikes are indeed happening more often these days. It's not our imagination!

Now that this has been brought so close to home, the confidence that my family and friends had when flying with me has been badly shaken. I have to admit that it has shaken me as well.

Is there more that we can learn about the migration of these large birds, and is it at all predictable? Also, perhaps it's time to try to convince our government that something has to be done to trim the ever swelling goose population. The TSA is charged with regulating aviation security and does this with ever-broadening strokes. Nobody seems to get that these birds pose as big a threat as a terrorist might. After all, they managed to bring down an Airbus in the middle of a huge city.

Steve Tobias

Textron Takeover

What [Textron CEO] Lewis [Campbell] fails to talk about is why the company is so top-heavy; Senior Leadership Team, Program Managers, Program Engineers, Dept Project Engineers, Assistant Project Engineers, and Group Leads — this is just a list from the engineering department.

When other companies have executives reducing their pay and giving back their bonuses and employees taking a pay cut to help those at the bottom to make it through the hard times by not laying off (Honda Jet), what sacrifices have Lewis Campbell and all his cronies made to prevent [layoff] notices from going out? To date, Cessna has laid off about 3,600 employees and have announced layoffs of 2,000 more, while for the fat at the top, the bonuses keep coming.

I have been at Cessna for six years and in that time have seen dramatic changes. The one overlying theme is that Cessna, once a family-owned company built around community and kinship, has dwindled to a self-absorbed corporate greed giant. How can a company provide top-of-the-line customer service and focus when the ones who make decisions are self-absorbed and self-centered?

I ask you once again, Lewis, "What sacrifices have you made to prevent [layoff] notices from going out?"

Name Withheld

Security Hysteria

This stolen 172 hysteria is the latest manifestation of our national obsession with fear. This used to be a country of risk-takers and pioneers. Since the Bush-induced terror following 9/11, we have become a nation of cowards instead.

We lose 50,000 lives each year on our highways, over one hundred 747s full of souls, but are focused entirely on the 3,000 or so we lost on that day seven years ago.

We let just about anyone who can fog a mirror buy a handgun, but have to take our shoes off and get our private parts probed to travel by air?

Folks! What are we thinking? This isn't who we are. Let's get over it and get back to living our lives without fear.

Chuck Leathers

Quickie Justice

In your story about the helicopter pilot who had a quickie with a porn star while flying near SAN, you said that the judge recommended that his "right" to fly be permanently rescinded.

I think you meant "privilege." Nobody has a "right" to fly. You are born with a right. You earn a privilege. Too many people are discovering too many "rights" all the time.

Jim Carroll

Read AVmail from other weeks here, and submit your own Letter to the Editor with this form.

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The Top Reporter on Our Crack Staff ... Is You! back to top 

What's New at Sun 'n Fun?

The air show season "officially" starts on April 21 as Sun 'n Fun kicks off in Lakeland, Fla. for five days of showcasing the best in general aviation. If you're a company with something new to introduce at the show, we'd like to hear from you. We'll gladly accept your news releases in advance, on an embargoed basis, so we can give them the full attention they deserve. Simply send them to editor@avweb.com, specifying any embargoes, and we'll take it from there. See you at the show!

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.

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Bendix/King-Honeywell AV8OR Raffle back to top 

Want a Chance to Win an AV8OR GPS by Bendix/Honeywell?

All you have to do is click the image at right to enter your name and e-mail address. And no, we're not going to rent or sell your name, but Bendix may send you information on the AV8OR. You may also forward this newsletter to friends and invite them to sign-up for AVweb's Sun 'n Fun coverage and qualify for the AV8OR prizes also. (We won't spam them, either, but we will send them our e-mail news Flashes.)

Deadline for entries is midnight, Monday, April 27, 2009.

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Video Marketplace Spotlight

Bendix/King AV8OR Demo
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New on AVweb back to top 

Brainteasers Quiz #142: Tame That Checkride

Brainteasers All pilots experience the jitters when the Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) slithers into the aircraft and hisses, "Let's see what you know." So let's quell all fears and see what you know about Practical Tests Standards.

Take the quiz.

More Brainteasers

AVweb Insider Blog: Aviation News — Dog Bites Man

Was the stolen Cessna 172 story just media sensationalism? Maybe so, admits AVweb Editorial Director Paul Bertorelli — but readers still wanted to read about it, and that's why we ran it.

Read more in the latest installment of our AVweb Insider blog.

AVweb Insider Blog: Enola Gay — History's Surprises

Front and center at the National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center is the Enola Gay, the legendary B-29 that flew into history in August, 1945. The pilot's seat looks as it did in 1945, except for one important detail. Paul Bertorelli has the story in the latest installment of our AVweb Insider blog.

Read more.

Online Aircraft-Specific Ground Schools
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, through its Office of Professional Education, now offers a series of aircraft-specific ground schools: Boeing 737 Classic — NG, 747, 757, 767 and 777; as well as Airbus 319, 320, 330 and 340; and the Bombardier CRJ 200. For a complete list, visit Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's web site at ERAU.edu/professionaleducation.
AVweb Media: Look, Listen, Laugh and Learn back to top 

Restoring the Enola Gay

File Size 16.7 MB / Running Time 18:20

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

In sheer physical size, the B-29 Enola Gay, which dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945, was the largest restoration project ever undertaken by the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum. In this long-form podcast, NASM's Anne McCombs and Bob McLean explain what it took to get the airplane into the same shape it was when it completed its historic mission.

Click here to listen. (16.7 MB, 18:20)

Q: What's the Difference Between a $10,000 Annual and a $2,500 Annual?

Mike Busch and his team of seasoned maintenance professionals are saving their aircraft-owner clients thousands of dollars a year in parts and labor — not to mention hours of hassle — by providing professional maintenance management for owner-flown singles and twins. Learn how they do it.
Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Atlantic Aviation (KELM, Horseheads, NY)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Atlantic Aviation at Elmira/Corning Regional Airport (KELM) in Horseheads, New York.

AVweb reader Sandra Fox recounted her stellar experience at Atlantic:

My commercial instructor and I flew to KELM for my day dual cross-country (and lunch). ... On arrival, there was someone there to marshall us to parking and someone else to chock the wheels. They immediately asked if we needed gas and were on the way to the truck before we were inside the FBO. While registering the plane I mentioned we had been told the terminal had a small restaurant. The lady behind the desk pulled out the keys to the courtesy van, gave us directions to the terminal and told us how to get the parking ticket validated. When we got back I asked where I could look up the weather. She didn't just direct me down the hall, but escorted me to the room. Everyone at the FBO was friendly and accomodating. They were proactive in asking if I needed anything rather than waiting for me to ask first. I've already recommended KELM as a standard cross-country destination for the flight school.

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!

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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"

One day, while going into Detroit, Michigan, I had this exchange with a controller. They had an intersection MIZAR for many vears and added RAZIM.

"I know where MIZAR came from. What's the origin of RAZIM?"

"That's MIZAR spelled backwards."

"If I were lexdysic, I'd have known that."


Me (to the first officer, not over the radio) :
"He didn't get it."

"Contact the tower. Have a nice yad."

David Gwinn
via e-mail

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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.)

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