AVwebFlash - Volume 15, Number 50b

December 17, 2009

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Top News: Apportioning Blame back to top 
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Colgan Blames Pilots, ALPA Cites Training

Colgan Air, in a 67-page statement (PDF) to the NTSB filed last week, blamed the two pilots for the fatal crash of a Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 turboprop near Buffalo, N.Y., in February. "The probable cause of the accident was the flight crew's loss of situational awareness and failure to follow Colgan Air training and procedures, which led to a loss of control of the aircraft," the company wrote. The Air Line Pilots Association, however, filed a statement (PDF) citing problems with Colgan's training and procedures, as well as issues with the aircraft. "Colgan's Internal Evaluation Program failed to identify errors in the Captain's records," according to ALPA's statement. The company flight manual was "incomplete and inaccurate," the crew resource management program was "ineffective and outdated," and the airline's approach-to-stall training "was not accomplished or checked in accordance with the Airline Transport Pilot Practical Test Standards," ALPA said.

Colgan's report notes that the pilots broke the "sterile cockpit" rule while on approach, which "may have distracted the crew from their duties and may have contributed to the cause of the accident." The report also says the pilots failed to plan their personal time properly, so the first officer had to commute overnight to report for duty, and the captain averaged less than six hours of overnight sleep during several days before the flight. Colgan said its system for checking pilot proficiency is "thorough and effective" and its training program is "robust," and the first officer's choice to commute was not influenced by her rate of pay ($26 per hour with a minimum 75 hours per month [PDF]). ALPA also said the FAA should do more to ensure that airline pilots are properly trained, and airlines should be required to "train first officers to the same standards ... as captains." Ratings that allow second-in-command privileges only should be eliminated, ALPA said. The NTSB investigation is continuing and its final report on the accident is expected early next year. The full statements from ALPA and the airline, as well as many other documents, can be found online in the NTSB docket.

Northwest Pilots: 'No Excuse' For Lapse

Both pilots who were distracted on their laptops while flying a Northwest Airbus A-320 off-course in October told NTSB investigators they were sorry and at a loss to explain the lapse. The NTSB's summary of its crew interviews (PDF) was released on Wednesday among a slew of documents from its investigation. In the summary, the NTSB said First Officer Richard Cole told investigators there was no excuse for not monitoring the aircraft and he had to take blame. Both pilots had tunnel vision and were focused on their discussion of a complicated new crew scheduling system, Cole said. "The F/O said he never thought he could be so distracted for so long," according to the NTSB summary. Capt. Timothy Cheney also told the safety board he had "no excuse" for the lapse in attention. "I let my guard down ... I wish I could explain why," he said.

Cheney said that when they began the discussion about the schedule, he expected it would only take 10 minutes or so. He was later "blown away" when he realized how much time had passed. He told investigators he was embarrassed by the lapse. "I was wrong," he said. "I let another force come from the outside and distract me." In 24 years of flying, he had never experienced a similar situation. "You don't know how sorry I am," he said. Northwest Airlines Flight 188 went NORDO (no radio communications) for 77 minutes while flying from San Diego to Minneapolis on Oct. 21. The flight overflew Minneapolis by more than 100 miles before re-establishing radio contact with air traffic controllers and landing at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. There were no injuries to the passengers and crew aboard. Both pilots have lost their jobs and their FAA certificates. The NTSB investigation is ongoing. Click here for the full listing of documents in the docket.

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Proficiency's Magic Number? back to top 

NAFI Hits 1500-Hour Proposal

Requiring 1500-hour ATP certificates for all Part 21 pilots could actually reduce safety according to the National Association of Flight Instructors. In a news release and briefing paper that debunks the impetus behind congressional resolutions that equate the hours required to obtain an ATP with competence in the cockpit. "The emphasis should be on training and quality of training, not just on total flight experience," said NAFI Executive Director Jason Blair. " In most accidents over recent years, this [1,500-hour] requirement would have made no difference at all.

The briefing paper notes that obtaining an ATP requires no additional training beyond that required for multi and IFR ratings and that aspiring airline pilots will almost certainly accumulate the hours necessary for the new regulation in light aircraft, with little applicability to the demands of an airliner cockpit environment. "The result of this proposal will be to increase the number of hours a pilot has gained in experience prior to employment in a Part 121 Air Carrier job, but not necessarily improve the skill sets such a pilot possess, in fact, the potential exists to degrade safety with this proposal," Blair said.

Bill Sets 1500-Hour Minimum For Commercial 121 Pilots (Corrected)

Ed. Note: An earlier story published in AVweb on this topic contained incorrect information. The amended version follows.

Family members of those lost in the fatal crash of Continental Flight 3407 near Buffalo are pushing the Obama administration and FAA chief Randy Babbitt to impose a 1,500-hour minimum for the commercial pilots flying part 121. The crash, which killed all 49 aboard plus one on the ground, has inspired the formation of the group Families of Continental Flight 3407. That group had plans last week to meet with Sen. Charles Schumer, D- N.Y., who has sponsored a bill that would require the 1500-hour minimum. Babbitt is more in favor of changing the FAA's rules regarding training specific to certain types of operations -- particularly, how pilots seeking positions in commercial airliners are trained. As for the hour mandate, Babbitt has said flight hours alone may not guarantee proficiency. Babbitt is already under fire from lawmakers over other concerns.

Some lawmakers believe the FAA has not adequately addressed pilot fatigue. The FAA is expected to issue new rules designed to reduce the threat of pilot fatigue, but final action is still pending. Said Senator Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., the chairman of an aviation subcommittee, "We're just out of patience here." The sentiment was echoed by Margie Brandquist, who lost a sister on the Buffalo flight. "It feels like they are going slow," she told the Washington Post. The NTSB has called the February crash the worst in the U.S. in the past seven years.

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Safety Bulletin for SR22s in Known Icing Conditions back to top 

FAA Issues AD For Cirrus FIKI System

The FAA this week issued a new Airworthiness Directive affecting some Cirrus SR22 airplanes equipped with an anti-ice system approved for flight into known icing. Operators must inspect the compression fittings on the anti-ice fluid distribution lines to be sure they were installed correctly. The AD was issued on Monday without any preliminary notice after an anti-ice fluid line separation was found during a quality-assurance inspection at the Cirrus Design manufacturing plant. The separation could result in a total loss of ice-protection fluid supply to the protected surfaces. That loss would allow ice to build on the airplane and degrade handling qualities and performance, the FAA said. Any fittings that were not properly installed must be repaired, the FAA said. The AD takes effect Dec. 21. Comments may be filed until Jan. 28. Cirrus had issued a service bulletin in November advising owners to inspect and repair the fittings.

If the fittings are not inspected and repaired by Dec. 21, the aircraft must carry a placard on the instrument panel that reads, "Flight into known or forecast icing prohibited," the FAA said.

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The Clock Is Ticking on Your Holiday Shopping back to top 

Year-End Bargains For Aviation Shoppers

With the holiday shopping season in full swing, our inbox is overflowing with aviation-related gift ideas. For those in the airplane-shopping mood, perhaps looking to take the bonus-depreciation tax write-off before the end of the year, Liberty Aerospace, in Melbourne, Fla., is selling eight of its demonstrator airplanes at deep discounts. The XL2 two-seaters are selling for $115,000 to $153,000, marked down from standard prices up to $210,000. Click here for more info. Diamond Aircraft said recently that for a limited time, they will match customer down payments with up to 10 percent of the actual purchase price, plus offer Garmin Synthetic Vision Technology free on selected models. "Combined with bonus depreciation ... this program presents our best retail offer ever," said Peter Maurer, president of Diamond Aircraft Industries. Mooney is offering financing rates as low as 2.99 percent and flexible leaseback options to entice buyers. "This is an unprecedented opportunity to own the best," says Wayne Fischer, director of sales for Mooney. For those with somewhat less to spend on holiday gifts, there are plenty of other options.

One-of-a-kind flight experiences make great gifts for pilots. Waldo Wright's Flying Service offers rides in vintage biplanes at Fantasy of Flight, near Orlando, Fla. A half-hour "hands-on" flight in a Boeing Stearman goes for $229. Airship Ventures offers gift certificates for Zeppelin flights in California, starting at $199. Tickets for next summer's EAA AirVenture at Oshkosh are now for sale online, along with show merchandise and gift certificates for rides in the B-17 "Aluminum Overcast," all available with free gift wrapping; just click here. And for stocking stuffers: A new documentary film about the joy of flight, Barnstorming, is for sale now on DVD for just $19.95. And a 2010 calendar from Powder Puff Pilot celebrates "This Day in Women's Aviation" for $14.95. And for the kid in all of us, check out the annual Norad Tracks Santa project, now upgraded with animated videos from around the world. This one has the best price of all ... free to all comers.

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Safety Foundation
Caught on Tape: Watch Aerial Footage of the Impossible Turn
When his Mooney's engine failed soon after takeoff, Dave Keller needed to land immediately. But rather than seek a landing spot straight ahead or off to the side, he chose to execute the "impossible turn" back to the airport, a maneuver no pilot should ever attempt. With aerial footage captured by Keller's own panel-mounted video camera, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's latest Real Pilot Story: The Impossible Turn puts you in the right seat as the event develops.

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Looking Ahead to 2010 back to top 

FAA Funding Extended Through March

Both the House and the Senate have signed off on an FAA funding bill that extends funding for the agency through March 31. The FAA has been operating under such extensions since 2007, when its last long-term authorization expired. Aviation advocacy groups that have been lobbying for reauthorization and fighting against user-fee proposals had hoped that the new administration, and a new administrator, would help to push through a longer-term plan before the end of this session. AOPA, for example, "maintains that a long-term funding package offers the best assurance of achieving air transportation system modernization swiftly and efficiently. ... The need to pass a long-term authorization is evident." Legislators also are frustrated. "The FAA has been operating under a string of short-term extensions for over two years," said Sen. Jerry Costello, D-Ill., chair of the Senate aviation subcommittee. "Short-term extensions and uncertain funding levels can be disruptive to the aviation industry and communities because they do not allow them to plan for long-term growth. Frankly, every month that goes by without a long-term FAA authorization is a lost opportunity to improve aviation safety, security, and to create and maintain jobs around the country."

The bill provides funding for the Airport Improvement Program and authorizes funding to be continued at current levels for most FAA operations. Current aviation taxes are also extended. The bill requires White House approval to take effect.

Mass DC-3 Arrival At AirVenture

Mass arrivals are nothing new at AirVenture Oshkosh but this will be one for the history books. An organization called The Last Time is inviting DC-3 and C-47 operators to participate in a 25-ship formation to arrive at Wittman Field on the opening day of AirVenture 2010 next July 26. "This historic flight will recreate an image of a time gone by," say the organizers. The huge formation will kick off a week of festivities celebrating the 75th anniversary of the legendary aircraft and the people who served with it in hundreds of different roles. It's being announced today to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the first flight of the aircraft at the Douglas factory in Long Beach, Calif. EAA is hoping for dozens of DC-3s and C-47s to attend AirVenture but there are only 25 slots open for the formation flight and the funding assistance that goes with it.

Through sponsorships and donations, The Last Time is planning to offer cash subsidies to the operators of participating aircraft. The collected pot will be distributed based on the distance each aircraft has to travel to get to the event. The aircraft will meet at the staging point at Rock Falls, Ill. (KSQI) July 24, be available to the media and public on July 25 and start up their radial engines at 2:30 on July 26 for the one hour flight to Oshkosh.

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What You Missed in AVwebBiz This Week back to top 

Boeing 787 Completes First Flight

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At 10:28 a.m. local time on Tuesday, the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner took off from Snohomish County Airport in Everett, Wash., into cloudy skies, before a crowd of about 16,000. The flight was scheduled to last about four hours, but after three hours spent circling above Puget Sound, with weather deteriorating, the crew touched down with a smooth landing at Boeing Field, in Seattle. The test pilots performed a long list of basic tests and systems checks, and they reported that the airplane flew beautifully, with "no surprises." Five more copies of the 787 will be used in the flight test program, which is expected to take about nine months, with first deliveries late in 2010. The company said it has about 840 orders for the airplane, from 55 different customers.

The program has suffered a number of delays and setbacks. First flight was originally scheduled for 2007, then was rescheduled about five times. Some of the composite structures had to be reinforced with titanium, adding weight. But on Tuesday, company representatives seemed buoyant, and hopeful that the program's problems are now over. Click here for the FlightAware track of the flight. A live webcast of the takeoff and landing drew tens of thousands of viewers from around the world. Video of the first flight should be posted online soon; click here for that archive.

Efforts Move Forward To Produce Alternative Aviation Fuels

Swift Enterprises announced this week that its biomass fuel, designed as a replacement for 100LL, has been OK'd by ASTM International for use as a test fuel. "With this approval, we can begin full-scale testing with industry stakeholders," said Mary Rusek, president and co-owner of Swift. Extensive testing of aircraft fuel systems, engines and materials compatibility must take place before 100SF can be fully certified as airworthy. Rusek said once testing is complete, the fuel will be comparably priced to other GA fuels and more efficient. Also this week, 13 major airlines signed on to work with two producers of alternative jet fuel, AltAir Fuels and Rentech. "Our intention as an airline industry is to continue to do our part by supporting the use of alternative fuels," said Glenn Tilton, CEO of United Airlines and chairman of the Air Transport Association. "We urge the U.S. government and the investment community also to do their part to further support this critical energy opportunity," he said. The new agreements are nonbinding, but ATA said they lay "critical groundwork for negotiations over specific alternative-fuels purchase agreements."

The AltAir Fuels project is working to create jet fuel from camelina oils or comparable feedstock, refined at a new plant in Washington State. The Rentech project in Mississippi is working to produce fuel principally from coal or petroleum coke. AVweb's editorial director Paul Bertorelli took a look at the Swift Fuel project back in March; click here for that discussion. Also, the FAA said last week the federal government has awarded more than $600 million to help fund the development of biofuels. "Renewable jet fuels are critical to building the cleaner, more sustainable Next Generation commercial aviation system in the United States," said Nancy LoBue, FAA Acting Assistant Administrator for Aviation Policy, Planning and Environment. "This Administration is committed to establishing domestic renewable jet fuel production [to] address energy security, improve the environment and also create jobs in rural America."

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

Question of the Week: Measuring Competence in Hours

This Week's Question | Previous Week's Answers


Last week, we asked AVweb readers for their opinion on through-the-fence agreements.

Just over half of those who took a moment to answer said such arrangements enhance airport security and should be allowed everywhere. At the other end of the spectrum, only a handful of you called them a bad idea.

For a complete (real-time) breakdown of reader responses, click here.
(You may be asked to register and answer if you haven't already participated in this poll.)


The National Association of Flight Instructors is saying that hours of experience may not translate to a measurable level of skill in pilots. We'd like your opinion on the matter.

Do hours make a difference to safety?
(click to answer)

Have an idea for a new "Question of the Week"? Send your suggestions to .

This address is only for suggested "QOTW" questions, and not for "QOTW" answers or comments.
Use this form to send "QOTW" comments to our AVmail Editor.

Aviation Consumer Survey: Portable GPS Performance

Do you own a portable GPS? Aviation Consumer magazine wants to know how it has held up for you. Does it do everything you need? Was it a good value for the money? Have there been issues with service and support?

Follow this link to our brief online survey and let your voice be heard. It will only take a few minutes, and your comments can be anonymous if you want.

Thanks for helping out, and look for a round-up review of portable GPS products in the February issue of Aviation Consumer. (Click here for subscription deals for AVweb readers.)

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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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: In Their Own Voices — B-17s in IFR

Curious what AVweb Editorial Director Paul Bertorelli is up to at this very moment? Assuming he's not testing a product for Aviation Consumer, eating, sleeping, or putting together some sort of list of things for the AVweb team to do, he's probably reading.

Find out what's keeping him riveted this week in the latest installment of the AVweb Insider blog.

AVweb Insider Blog: The Last Huey

The United States military officially retired one its most venerable and recognizable aircraft this year, Bell Helicopter's UH-1. For many a U.S. veteran, the Huey is nearly synonymous with his tour of duty.

AVweb Editorial Director Paul Bertorelli reflects on the rotored workhorse in his latest post to our blog, the AVweb Insider.

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

Exclusive Video: IFR Magazine Discovers How Cape Air Trains It Pilots

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

Come along with the editors of IFR magazine for a quick tour of Cape Air's pilot training program. The program brings green pilots up to snuff for flying the Cessna 402 in single-pilot IFR and relies heavily on cockpit flows and pilot manuals of Cape Air's own design.

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

Gift Certificates from the AVweb Bookstore
AVweb Bookstore Gift Certificate
The perfect gift for any aviator. Good for how-to books, training manuals, or any printed or eBook from AVweb Bookstore, the world's most complete aviation educational catalog. Order one now in any denomination, and an attractive certificate will be mailed to you for your giving pleasure.
Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Ann Arbor Aviation Center (KARB, Ann Arbor, MI)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Ann Arbor Aviation Center at KARB in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

AVweb reader Armand Bendersky experienced the FBO's top-notch service just last week:

We had a flight of two arrive at ARB last Saturday ... [and] were greeted by a young but friendly and efficient line crew. ... They could not have been more helpful. Not only did they arrange transportation for the group of seven pilots ... [but] they put my plane in a hangar ... with a smile and great efficiency. They fueled our planes while we were in town gorging ourselves at Zingerman's Deli and gave us a 10-cent discount. Great service by nice people. I look forward to visiting them again in the near future.

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 the Perfect Gift (Or Sell Your Gift Item) Here!
Ho, Ho Holiday Gift Guide
It's time to shop for special gift items and stocking stuffers for every pilot or aircraft enthusiast on your list. Click now to visit AVweb's Holiday Marketplace.
Reader-Submitted Photos back to top 

Picture of the Week: AVweb's Flying Photography Showcase

Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions | Past Winners

Each week, we go through dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of reader-submitted photos and pick the very best to share with you on Thursday mornings. The top photos are featured on AVweb's home page, and one photo that stands above the others is awarded an AVweb baseball cap as our "Picture of the Week." Want to see your photo on AVweb.com? Click here to submit it to our weekly contest.


Lots of great photos in our submission box this week! So many, in fact, that we're having a hard time making a final decision on which ones make it into the top slots — and since we're running down the clock on our deadline, we're going to settle on these five. But honestly, folks — you do not want to miss this week's bonus pics. We'll remind you again below the fifth pic, but if you enjoy this feature at all, please don't miss the extra photos we've loaded into this week's slideshow on the AVweb home page.

medium | large

copyright © Eric Cobb
Used with permission

A Good Flying Day

Eric Cobb of Santa Ynez, California is the first to say that "any flying day is a good day" — but the one pictured here looks particularly good.

medium | large

Used with permission of Bill Funk

Winter Cub

Here at "POTW" headquarters, we've already broken out the fingerless gloves and started throwing wood on the fire — yes, we're literally working Bob Cratchit-style in honor of the season — and yet, we've hardly seen any wint'ry landscapes in the submission box this year.

Bill Funk of Steinbach, Manitoba (Canada) fixed that quite handily this week, submitting several chilly photos that'll spruce up our desktop monitor in the as we approach the winter solstice.

medium | large

copyright © Daniel Eckert
Used with permission of
Gilbert Benzonana

The Whale and the Stingray

Gilbert Benzonana of Grand-Lancy, Geneva (Switzerland) submitted this one on behalf of Daniel Eckert, and it's a beauty. (Gilbert tells us this is an interception exercise at Zeltwig, Austria.)

Incidentally, we'd like to welcome the Swiss contributors who've joined the fun over the last couple of weeks. We're loving the infusion of new scenery, so please — keep 'em coming!

medium | large

Used with permission of Gary Dikkers

Charles Lindbergh — University of Wisconsin Rifle Team

Gary Dikkers of Madison, Wisconsin shows us a different side of the world's most famous aviator this week — a photo of Charles Lindbergh from the 1923 University of Wisconsin yearbook. According to the caption, Lindbergh is third from the right, appearing here with fellow members of the university's rifle team. "While at the UW, Lindbergh's main interests were the pistol and rifle teams," writes Gary. "He was the captain of both teams and led the UW to a national collegiate title in 1921."

medium | large

Used with permission of Daun Yeagley

Backyard Mig — Another Take

Ever since we featured this photo from Timothy O'Connor a couple of weeks back, we've been getting e-mails from readers who are curious on the backstory. We haven't had time to dig up the details, but this week sees another Ohioan — Daun Yeagley of Moraine — serving up another angle (and a more definitive ID).

Looks like the kind of shed you'd find on a service lot for your local eletricity co-op — with one exception.

So, Daun, Tim — any more information we can pass on? Let us know if you get a chance.

Remember back at the top when we urged you to check out this bonus pics in this week's slideshow? Well, we're repeating that plea, since there are a dozen photos over there we know you'll want to see. Just visit AVweb's home page and scroll down 1/3 of the page until you see the Dreamlifter or the World War II training poster or the awesome black-and-white tarmac photo or the Boeing team in the shadow of Mt. St. Helens or — oh, just click and check 'em out already!

Still trying to figure out what to get AVweb for the holidays? Click here to submit a photo.

A quick note for submitters: If you've got several photos that you feel are "POTW" material, your best bet is to submit them one-a-week! That gives your photos a greater chance of seeing print on AVweb, and it makes the selection process a little easier on us, too. ;)

A Reminder About Copyrights:
Please take a moment to consider the source of your image before submitting to our "Picture of the Week" contest. If you did not take the photo yourself, ask yourself if you are indeed authorized to release publication rights to AVweb. If you're uncertain, consult the POTW Rules or or send us an 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.)

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.