AVwebFlash - Volume 15, Number 33a

August 17, 2009

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Top News: Aviation Safety—Hudson Crash, F-16 Spin back to top 

NTSB, NATCA At Odds Over Hudson Midair

Click to watch the NBC video

The NTSB says it's sticking to its version of the events leading to the Aug. 8 midair collision of a Piper Saratoga and a sightseeing helicopter over the Hudson River despite allegations by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association that a press release issued last Friday has a significant error. "We stand by the information we put out on Friday," NTSB spokesman Terry Williams told AVweb on Sunday, adding that he had no further comment. In a podcast interview with AVweb on Sunday, NATCA spokesman Ray Adams said the union has asked the NTSB to correct a statement in the press release that says the Teterboro controller working the Piper had the helicopter on his radar screen before the collision but failed to warn the Piper pilot of the potential conflict. The passage in question says: "At that time there were several aircraft detected by radar in the area immediately ahead of the airplane, including the accident helicopter, all of which were potential traffic conflicts for the airplane. The Teterboro tower controller, who was engaged in a phone call at the time, did not advise the pilot of the potential traffic conflicts." Adams said he's reviewed the tapes and the helicopter doesn't appear until seven seconds after the Teterboro controller handed the Piper off to Newark.

Adams said the union isn't disputing the fact that the controller was on the phone, apparently in violation of FAA policy, but he said it's the union's opinion that the controller carried out his mandated responsibility in handling the flight and that he simply couldn't warn the Piper pilot of traffic that had not yet appeared on his screen. He said he was initially told that the NTSB would recant the statement but it hasn't so far. The FAA has suspended the controller for making the unauthorized phone call but has also said the phone call had nothing to do with the accident.

F-16 Spinning Out Of Control Video

This summer, while visiting with a Canadian Forces experimental test pilot stationed at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California, something interesting happened. Actually, it happened the week before, but the whole event became more interesting while we were there. While flying a test F-16 to evaluate a system software upgrade, a test pilot lost control of and appeared to over-stress the test aircraft. The first part was expected. The second part wasn't. But when the engineers got a hold of the test data things became a bit more interesting. AVweb obtained clearance to run footage of the event and our test pilot tour guide, Major Desmond "Duece" Brophy explained what happened. Have a look for yourself.

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The Ever-Changing Aviation Workplace back to top 

NATCA And FAA "Reach Deal" On Labor Contract

Since 2006, when the FAA imposed work rules and pay cuts on controllers who were seeking a new labor agreement, the relationship between the groups has been marked by a failure to see common ground -- ground they may have just found. Under the terms of a labor agreement reached Thursday, some 15,000 controllers would see an increase in pay and benefits, according to The Associated Press. However, neither the FAA nor the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) has yet stepped forward to reveal the tentative agreement's finer details. A joint statement released by the two states that under the tentative agreement, pay standards will be "more equitable," the FAA will be able to "more effectively" redeploy controllers through the use of incentive pay, and controllers will win greater work schedule flexibility and a new process for the review of grievances. FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt claimed the situation "marks a new day" in labor relations and "a new spirit of cooperation" between the two groups. He also indicated he hoped to move on to other issues. NATCA now has 45 days to ratify the agreement.

The controllers' last contract expired in 2003, but was extended for two years under then FAA Administrator Marion Blakey. In 2006, the FAA and Congress imposed work rules that froze controllers' salaries and reduced the new hires' pay by about 30 percent. Since then, controller attrition, understaffing and safety issues have been talking points for the controllers union.

More Layoffs Loom For Hawker Beechcraft

Hawker Beechcraft has cut 2,800 workers (25 percent of its workforce) since October 2008, but amid a declining backlog and depressed demand company officials expect more cost-cutting and more significant but unspecified job cuts, according to the Wichita Eagle. In the second quarter, the company saw year-over-year delivery numbers drop from 129 to 78. While orders taken from April to June amount to $450 million, cancelled orders during the same period represent $366 million in lost revenue. The route taken in 2009 by NetJets may help explain the market environment that's led Hawker Beechcraft to its latest cost-cutting and cash-conservation plans. NetJets in 2009 cancelled orders for 12 Hawker Beechcraft aircraft and deferred all scheduled deliveries until the end of 2010. "The market conditions remain very challenging," CEO Bill Boisture told analysts. He did not say how many employees he would be laying off or exactly when. But the cuts are coming.

The company's backlog dropped by $500 million from $7.3 billion to $6.8 billion from the end of March to the end of June. The company's sales dropped from $1.03 billion in the second quarter of 2008 to $816.3 million for the same period this year. Meanwhile, lower than expected selling prices on the mid-size Hawker 4000 business jet are expected to push back the new jet line's profitability and break-even point.

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Russian Knights Midair Collision back to top 

Russian Demo Team Planes Collide

The commander of the elite Russian Knights air demonstration team died Sunday after his SU27 collided with another during a rehearsal for the MAKS-2009 air show in Moscow. Col. Igor Tkachenko was among three crewmen who ejected from two aircraft after the collision. The other two were in "satisfactory" condition according to early reports. The jets hit a row of houses and up to five people were hurt, one woman seriously.

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More Background on Hudson Midair Investigation back to top 

Hudson Crash Controllers Suspended, Collision Video Released

The FAA has suspended a Teterboro air traffic controller and a supervisor on duty at the time a Piper Saratoga and a sightseeing helicopter collided over the Hudson River. That announcement came as chilling video from a tourist on a boat on the river was released by NBC News showing the Piper approach the helicopter from the right quarter, bank slightly right and have its right wing severed by the rotor of the helicopter. Two men and a 16-year-old boy died on the Saratoga, and the pilot and five Italian tourists, including a 16-year-old boy, died on the helicopter as both dropped into the river. According to CNN, the FAA says the controller working the Piper was on the telephone conducting an "inappropriate conversation" when the collision occurred. The agency says the shift supervisor was not in the building. The National Air Traffic Controllers Union issued a statement urging there not be "a rush to judgment about the behavior of any controller" before the results of a thorough investigation. FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown told CNN that while the rules were broken, that didn't necessarily have anything to do with the accident.

"While we have no reason to believe at this time that these actions contributed to the accident, this kind of conduct is unacceptable, and we have placed the employees on administrative leave and have begun disciplinary proceedings," she said. NTSB Chairman Debbie Hersman told CNN the Piper pilot spoke with the Teterboro controller after takeoff and had been handed off to Newark tower on its flight to Ocean City, N.J., but never contacted Newark.

NTSB Release On Hudson Midair

The NTSB reported Friday that the Teterboro controller who last spoke with the pilot of the Piper Saratoga that last Saturday collided with a Eurocopter over the Hudson River, killing all nine aboard both aircraft, told the pilot to contact Newark on 127.85 about 40 seconds before the aircraft reached the river and did not warn the pilot of traffic. "At that time," says the report, "there were several aircraft detected by radar in the area immediately ahead of the airplane, including the accident helicopter, all of which were potential traffic conflicts for the airplane." The NTSB adds that, "the Teterboro tower controller, who was engaged in a phone call at the time, did not advise the pilot of the potential traffic conflicts." The Newark tower controller called Teterboro asking that the controller instruct the pilot to turn "to resolve the potential conflicts," but at the time of the call the pilot was confirming with Teterboro the frequency change. The Teterboro controller did then make multiple attempts to contact the Piper, but the pilot did not respond. The collision occurred shortly thereafter, but not before setting off aural and visual "conflict alert" indications at both Teterboro and Newark air traffic control towers. In interviews with the NTSB both controllers stated they did not recall hearing or seeing the alerts.

The pilot of the accident aircraft did not make a call to Newark prior to the accident, according to the NTSB's review of recorded communications. The helicopter, operated by Liberty Tours, followed "the expected path for the tour flight," according to the report. The Teterboro controller called the Newark controller five seconds after the collision to ask about the handoff and was told that the pilot had not called in. Of five controllers staffing Teterboro Air Traffic Control Tower, two were working the tower at the time of the accident. According to the NTSB, "two other controllers were on break and the front line manager had left the facility." The Bureau added, "The role that air traffic control might have played in this accident will be determined by the NTSB as the investigation progresses." Two controllers from Teterboro have already been suspended for their actions during the timeframe of the accident, even though "we have no reason to believe at this time that these actions contributed to the accident," the FAA said in a statement.

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News Briefs back to top 

Pilot Who Crashed After Drinks And Drugs Sentenced

A pilot who on November 15 clipped a house while crashing his Cessna 182 (containing a bag of more than 100 prescription pills), left the scene before rescuers arrived, and was later found to have had cocaine, marijuana, opiates and a prescription sedative in his system has been sentenced to 30 days work-release jail time. Sean M. Oskvarek, 45, also earned two years probation at his sentencing last week and he did lose his pilot certificate as part of the federal investigation of the crash. "He admitted having three or four drinks before he got into the plane," prosecutor Audriana Anderson told Chicago's Daily Herald, but Oskvarek's blood alcohol content was only .010 when they caught up with him. The injured Oskvarek had left his 182 inverted in a residential yard east of Brookeridge Air Park in DuPage County, Illinois, and was arrested after police tracked him down and took him to the hospital.

The pilot had faced a possible sentence ranging from probation to two to five years in prison. The sentence he was delivered will allow him to leave DuPage County jail for the month of his incarceration, to go to work. The Herald reported that Dupage State's attorney, Joseph Birkett, issued a statement that said Oskvarek is "lucky to be alive" and "had he caused injury or death to any innocent people on the ground, he would be looking at a substantial amount of time behind bars."

Speech Commands In The Cockpit

Some pilots swear their airplanes talk to them but now a Troy, N.Y., company has developed a system that allows pilots to talk to their airplanes. VoiceFlight Systems says it has received FAA certification for its VFS101 pilot speech recognition and that it's the first such system to get a supplementary type certificate (STC) from the FAA. Inventor Scott Merritt says the patented system allows pilots to accurately enter flight plans, edit them, make corrections and make changes using voice commands. "The VFS101 uses aviation specific recognition technology to address the challenging conditions found in the aircraft cockpit. It is this technology that allows the VFS101 to meet the rigorous performance requirements of FAA certification," Merritt said in a press release.

Merritt says using the system doesn't require any special training and it doesn't have to be trained itself to recognize specific pilot voices. The spoken commands are read back by the system to ensure accuracy and if the system won't do as it's told the pilot can always revert to the old-fashioned twisting of knobs on the GPS. Merritt says the hands-free voice command system is up to 10 times faster than loading a flight plan manually. The news release did not list a price.

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

AVmail: August 17, 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: Hudson Corridor

Once again, know-nothing politicians are reacting and not thinking. The two river VFR exclusions in New York have been an absolute necessity for helicopter and floatplane ops here for many years, and, as one who has spent thousands of hours in the corridor, flying floatplanes into 23rd Street and Wall Street (when it was open to us), I have strong feelings about any further regulation here. I will say this, though: Except for a fatal mid-air between an NYPD helo and a commercial floatplane in 1982, these accidents in the river have involved "out of town" amateur pilots.

These VFR exclusions are tricky, and this is recognized by the professional pilots in the NYC area who use them. I recall that at least once every year, both helicopter and floatplane pilots attended a briefing at FAA facilities to discuss new or existing procedures involving flying this airspace and the river exclusions. These meetings were invaluable for all of us as we began another busy season flying "down the river."

The only "regulation" that needs to happen here is for [someone to devise] a way to formally educate out-of-town pilots on the nature of conditions and procedures prior to allowing them to penetrate the East and Hudson River Exclusions. We should leave it to the pilot community and FAA to figure out how to really put this into effect, but it would go a long way to avoiding more of these tragedies.

Gayle Michener

You, and all discussants, have missed the point entirely. The Hudson River corridor is an artifact of ATC and the New York airports. Make Class B accessible once in a while, raise Class B to 2,000, 3,000 or something rational rather than forcing traffic into a narrow airspace. What makes Class B sacred? What makes the shape of Class B sacred? I don't fly in the New York area often, but New York ATC is difficult to deal with at best compared to someplace easy like SoCal/L.A. or Chicago. Yes, there are JFK, La Guardia and Newark, but be creative and carve out some routes, even if they are changeable routes, and provide a couple of channels that actually answer the poor flibbers and helo types.

Richard Garcia-Kennedy

FAA Listens

Your August 6 issue claims that no substantial changes were made to AD 2009-16-03 as it was originally proposed. The fact is that a very substantial change was made, and I believe it was made because of numerous valid objections provided during (and after) the comments period of the NPRM.

As originally proposed, the AD would have required that all SAP Millennium investment cast cylinders with more than TBO Total Time in Service (TTIS) would have to be scrapped within 25 flight hours after the effective date of the AD. The final ruling relaxes that requirement so that overhauled Millennium cylinders running in overhauled engines, regardless of their TTIS, are permitted to be run to their next TBO, provided they continue to pass compression checks and inspections at 50-hour intervals. This change to the proposed language was a great improvement and a substantial cost-avoidance provision for those of us with recently overhauled (and thus proven crack-free) cylinders.

For once, the FAA listened attentively to reasonable objections to their proposal.

Hal Beers

Flight 447 Questions

My understanding of the current state of explanation of the Air France disaster over the Atlantic is that the pitot tube information was bad and the flight computer knew it was bad, but without this information, the flight system was incapable of controlling the aircraft.

If the flight computer knows its onboard airspeed data is bad, can't it shift to GPS information? True, GPS will give true velocity relative to ground reference, but can't a sophisticated program go into a "special" state and cobble together last known windspeed and direction and work with a hypothetical set of numbers until the pitot heat kicks in?

Or use GPS groundspeed numbers against known engine and airframe attitude settings to arrive at a workable number?

At present, it isn't clear to me why a plane would be unable to maintain constant flight after loss of pitot information.

Robert Schwebel

Control Issues?

Todd Louis Bohlman's photo (his '69 Citabria 7GCBC in a breakfast flight with a group) shows aileron deflection and zero rudder. If this is a formation flight, it appears the Citabria is slightly out of rig. Wonder if Todd is aware?

Nice shot.

Paul Logue

AVweb Replies:

Click to revisit Todd's pic (and the other "POTW" winners from last week)

Maybe Todd was repositioning a bit for the photo? If he wasn't aware before, he will be now.

Scott Simmons
Webmaster, "POTW" Editor

Shifty Color

Your photo of the Women at Oshkosh has either a serious color shift or was last year's photo. While the text says the gals are wearing blue, the photo clearly shows pink. How can that be? I recall last year they wore pink, but not this year.

Dave Gitelman

AVweb Replies:

"Blue" shirts.

Clearly our gremlins are color blind. We used last year's by mistake.

Russ Niles

No Tunnel Vision

Looks like NASA is attempting to prove once more how a non-thinking bureaucracy functions. The lease on the Langley Wind Tunnel is running out, and it is old, so they want to tear it down. Nevermind the potential for future use and the historical value.

If they can destroy the Saturn 5 blueprints and erase the moon landing tapes, this is small potatoes. Amazing!

R.G. Preston

16,000 MPG

A number of years ago, Karl Striedick was launched on several out and return glider flights of over 1,000 miles. He was launched from his ridge-top field at Eagles Nest, Pa. using a Jeep driven by his wife. As I understand it, they used a pulley system to shorten the Jeep run. He just had to lift over the trees into the wind.

So they maybe used a cup of gasoline to go over a 1,000 miles. That comes out to something like 16,000 mpg. The problems are that there are only a few days a year you can do that and you have to launch from the right place.

Spencer Annear

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

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

NATCA Disputes NTSB Version of Hudson Collision

File Size 6.4 MB / Running Time 7:00

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association says the NTSB has made a big mistake in its early assessment of the midair collision between a Piper Saratoga and a sightseeing helicopter over the Hudson River on August 8. The NTSB declined detailed comment to AVweb, but Editor-in-Chief Russ Niles spoke with NATCA rep Ray Adams, who says that contrary to the NTSB's press statement, the Teterboro controller working the Piper could not have warned the pilot of a potential conflict with the helicopter.

Click here to listen. (6.4 MB, 7:00)

AVweb Insider Blog: Hudson Midair — Let The Howling Begin

Plenty of voices are calling immediate action of some sort in the wake of last week's midair collision over the Hudson River. In the latest installment of our AVweb Insider blog, Editorial Director Paul Bertorelli says New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been a welcome voice on reason amid the clamor.

Read more.

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New on AVweb back to top 

Brainteasers Quiz #145: Speed and Altitude

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AVweb Media: Look, Listen, Laugh and Learn back to top 

Exclusive Video: Loss of Control in an F-16 Fighter, Test Pilot on Yaw Departure

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

At Edwards Air Force Base, they still test F-16 fighters, because each software upgrade and each new weapons package introduces new parameters. Experimental test pilots need to identify the aircraft's performance limits, and they need to know how it will perform before their brothers- and sisters-in-arms take upgraded Vipers into combat. This is one of those tests, and Air Force pilot Desmond Brophy walks us through it step-by-step.

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Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

Related Content:
Don't miss our video tour of the Viper cockpit with Major Brophy.

Hudson River Collision Moment-of-Impact Footage from NBC News

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

Obtained by NBC news, this video shot by an Italian tourist shows the moment of impact between a Piper Saratoga and a Eurocopter over the Hudson River. The accident killed all nine aboard the two aircraft.

Don't see a video screen?
Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

Video: Rowing Team Aids Ditching Rescue

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

A British charity rowing team raced to the scene of a ditching by an Irish pilot in the Irish Sea Wednesday and were in the process of throwing him a line when a rescue helicopter arrived and winched him to safety. One of the rowers had a video camera with him.

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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."

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Jamestown Aviation (KJHW, Jamestown, New York)

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

Our latest "FBO of the Week" was suggested by Luc Premont and the gang at Dream Aircraft, who discovered Jamestown Aviation at KJHW on the way to AirVenture. Luc writes:

On our way to Oshkosh from CZBM (Bromont, Québec, Canada), we decided to go south of the Great Lakes because of bad weather. We stopped at Jamestown Airport for fuel and an update on the weather for our next leg. Leonard J. Nalbone, the general manager, was busy like a bee with a few small jets and crew to take care of — but even as busy as he was, this guy took the time to breif us on the weather that was coming, which was pretty bad, gave us the opportunity to put our two Tundras in a hangar, and even helped us push them there. After all that, he gave us a car so we could head downtown for a meal ... . What a great way to be treated when you get down to the USA from Canada! This guy is a giving us a good reason to fly in the US.

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"

While in the pattern at Islip, New York, during a quiet time, we'd performed about 20 touch-and-goes, each time receiving a bland "cleared for touch-and-go" from the tower. Eventually, a Southwest Boeing 737 called the tower inbound:

"Tower, Southwest Fourteen Thirty-One."

"Southwest Fourteen Thirty-One, cleared for touch-and-go."

Southwest (in a heavy Texas drawl) :
"We'll just make this one a full stop if you don't mind."

Mike Sehlmeyer
via e-mail

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
Mariano Rosales

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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