AVwebFlash - Volume 16, Number 21a

May 24, 2010

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! Recorders in the News back to top 
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Are Traditional "Black Boxes" Obsolete?

Canada's Star Navigation Systems Group Ltd. has created TerraStar, a real-time in-flight safety monitoring system that could make the post-crash search for cockpit voice and flight data recorders -- as well as some crashes -- obsolete. TerraStar tracks, and can continuously encrypt and transmit to ground-based monitoring systems, up to 18,000-plus aircraft parameters per minute. The system filters "out of spec" indications as "alert notifications," which are prioritized in remote aircraft monitoring data feeds that can be accessed in real time, online. In practice, that means that operators on the ground could know about problems with an aircraft before the plane's pilots, or (in the case of distracted or incapacitated pilots) air traffic controllers, observe any symptoms. The company believes that capability could not only vastly improve scheduling and maintenance, but also provide operators with the necessary data to break some accident chains before the crash. And, in the case of Air France 447 and the recent Air India crash, it could have provided more information to investigators, immediately, says the company.

Related Content:
Podcast interview with Star Navigation CEO Viraf Kapadia

Recorders Recovered In Mangalore Crash

Eight people were able to jump through a crack in the fuselage of an Air India Boeing 737-800 and were the only survivors of a crash at the "tabletop airport" in Mangalore, India, early Saturday. The flight originated in Dubai. Weather conditions were apparently benign throughout the early morning period and authorities said visibility was good when the aircraft, with 166 people on board failed to stop, overran the runway, went through a wall of sandbags and 200-300 feet over a cliff. One little girl was pulled from the wreckage alive but died on the way to hospital. Both the flight data and cockpit voice recorders have been recovered. Some reports suggest the aircraft landed about 2,000 feet long and the crew was trying to go around. Others have pointed to Air India's ban on "hard landings" in which the touchdown exceeds 1.65 Gs and pilots are called on the carpet to explain the firm touchdown. There's also the inevitable focus on crew training and experience.

Mangalore is one of those notorious airports where the combination of active weather and the location of the runway makes it considered "difficult" to land at. The main runway 6/24 is 9515 feet long and the aircraft in question was using 24. Some reports say the runway was wet from light pre-monsoon rain. The captain of the aircraft was British citizen of Serbian descent, had 10,000 hours and had landed at Mangalore at least 26 times previously. His first officer had 3,500 hours and 66 landings at Mangalore.

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Long Arm of the Law back to top 

Concorde Trial Prosecutors Seek Sentences, Fines, For Manslaughter

Prosecutors pushing manslaughter charges over the fatal crash of an Air France Concorde near Paris in July 2000 are seeking a fine of $220,000 against Continental Airlines and Friday argued for a two-year suspended jail sentence for an 80-year-old engineer. Henri Perrier directed the Concorde program from 1978 to 1994 and was involved in the first Concorde flight in 1969. He is accused of ignoring a string of evidence prosecutors say laid warning signs before the crash. Perrier has denied the charges, telling reporters, "I will not accept being held responsible for this accident." Continental is blamed by prosecutors for losing a metal strip from one of its DC10s as it departed Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport ahead of the Concorde. Investigators believe the Concorde's tires ran over the strip at high speed during its takeoff roll, initiating the accident chain. The trial in France charges Continental and five individuals with manslaughter. Air France, which operated the flight, paid millions of dollars in compensation to families of the victims but avoided blame from investigators.

The crash killed 113 people on July 25, 2000, after a the forward right tire on the jet's left main gear burst on takeoff, throwing debris into a wing tank. The tank spilled fuel that ignited. This happened after the aircraft had achieved V1. Prior to taking the runway the pilot had broadcast to the tower his emergency procedures, stating that past V1, he would continue outbound. And so it was that the flight was on fire as it left the runway. The crew was alerted to the fire by tower controllers and the flight's engineer identified problems with Engine 2 (of four), and announced "shut down Engine 2." At that time, the jet was operating in a weight, speed, and drag regime that demanded thrust from four engines to climb. When Engine 1 began to lose power, the aircraft crashed into a hotel, killing all 109 on board and four on the ground.

Pilot Arrested For Beach Landing

What started as a nice walk on the beach with his mom ended with a trip to jail for an Arkansas pilot. Mark Jensen thought it might be nice to spend a sunny Saturday on the white sand of Tybee Island, in Savannah, Ga., so he put his taildragger (looks like a Kitfox) down and they got out to spend the day, as they apparently have done at other beaches in the past. However, the local police took a dim view of Jensen's decision to drop in on the popular spot and, ironically, after surrounding the plane with ATVs and a Jeep, charged Jensen with operating a motorized vehicle on the beach and with reckless conduct. Mom, who wasn't named, escaped the handcuffs and was not charged.

Police Lt. Jonathan Hagan told the Savannah Morning News there was no problem with the plane and the landing was purely for recreational purposes. "It's unacceptable," Hagan said. "It jeopardized the safety of our beachgoers." The newspaper didn't report on how the airplane got off the beach.

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NTSB Investigates Professionalism back to top 

NTSB Forum Highlights Training, Flight Hours, Demand

Experts told the NTSB's Safety Forum on Professionalism in Aviation, Tuesday, that future airline pilots will be in short supply and therefore less experienced, but also (according to The Associated Press) less ethical. On ethics, Paul Rice, a pilot and spokesman for the Air Line Pilots Association, was skeptical that the current generation of newly hired pilots was less likely than previous generations to flout authority or break rules. On numbers, Judy Tarver, a former recruiter for American Airlines, told the panel some 54,000 pilots are working for the majors, with some 19,000 at the regionals and roughly 2,500 qualified pilots ready for hire in the U.S. She told the forum that retirements and industry-wide growth will call for some 42,000 new pilots over the next decade and that industry, economic, military and social trends suggest that demand will be met with fewer qualified applicants. That could lead to siphoning of less qualified pilots from the regionals and a cascading effect leading to the promotion of less-experienced pilots to positions of greater responsibility. At the moment, it appears demand for commercial aircraft is at least on the rise.

Boeing announced Thursday that it is "effectively sold out" of commercial aircraft through 2012, that it may again boost production to meet demand, and expects 2011 deliveries to significantly increase. That "increase," however, should be considered relative to the slowdown caused when airlines began deferring deliveries due to the worldwide recession. As for the pilots who will fly those and similar aircraft, calls to increase training requirements for pilots have already resulted in changes for aspiring professional pilots. Meanwhile, industry representatives and legislators continue to debate the real-world implications of quantity of flight hours versus the quality of training and hours flown.

Got Thrust? Start Engine First

As the NTSB continues its discussion of pilot professionalism this week, it might consider the performance of two crews who, on separate occasions, neglected to start the second engine before attempting takeoff. The Wall Street Journal reported that both incidents occurred in regional jets, the first last year as an American Eagle Embraer lined up at Los Angeles for a short flight to San Diego. When the crew advanced the throttles, one engine failed to respond and when they taxied back to the gate to report it, mechanics informed the crew that the engine had never been started. A similar incident occurred last March at Dulles, again in an Embraer operated by Trans States Airlines. Once again, according to the Journal story, the crew noticed the inert second engine only when the thrust levers were moved forward for the takeoff.

To save fuel, some airlines routinely taxi on a single engine, then start the second before takeoff. In the first incident, the second officer evidently became distracted by radio calls during the start sequence and failed to notice that the second engine hadn't lighted. Both airlines were or are investigating the incidents.

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Safety in the Cockpit back to top 

Distraught Pilot Disarmed Before Flight

Police disarmed a distraught pilot who had threatened to "harm himself in a spectacular fashion" about an hour before he was scheduled to take a JetBlue flight from Boston Logan Airport to an undisclosed destination. TSA spokesman George Naccara told WBZ TV the unidentified pilot made the threat in an e-mail to his ex-girlfriend, a flight attendant, who apparently reported it to a federal air marshal. The marshal called the state police and seven troopers confronted the pilot in the pilot's lounge at the airport. He surrendered a handgun but JetBlue would not confirm whether he is a federal flight deck officer and permitted to carry firearms onto aircraft.

Naccara said the threat did not mention harming anyone else. After handing over the gun, the pilot agreed to go with the officers to a local hospital for a checkup. JetBlue has taken him off the flight schedule for "health-related issues."

NTSB Investigates 757 In-Flight Cockpit Fire

United Airlines Flight 27 diverted to IAD and landed safely, but the NTSB is investigating the fire that broke out May 16 on the flight deck of the Boeing 757, absorbed two fire extinguishers, and ultimately cracked the captain's windshield. Early investigation shows the fire consumed elements associated with the windscreen's heating system. The NTSB reported that the captain and first officer were about 30 minutes out of JFK for LAX, at approximately 9:17 p.m., when they noted a "strong acrid smell and observed smoke from the Captain's lower front windshield." The aircraft, with 112 aboard, was level at 36,000 MSL at the time. The crew told the NTSB they immediately donned oxygen masks and smoke goggles and segregated tasks, turning control of the aircraft to the first officer as the captain addressed the fire. Smoke and fire dissipated after the captain emptied a halon extinguisher into the flames, but the fire reignited.

The captain then emptied a second bottle he'd obtained from the flight's purser and the fire remained extinguished for the remainder of the flight. The crew diverted to Dulles and were at approximately 500 feet on final to Runway 19L when the inner pane of the captain's windshield cracked. The aircraft landed safely and was met by fire personnel, but not evacuated. Preliminary investigation revealed that "One of the five terminal blocks attached to the inside of the lower left windshield was consumed by fire and the portion of the wire harness associated with this terminal block was significantly damaged by fire." The NTSB noted that two previous windshield fire events on B757-200 aircraft resulted in a Safety Recommendation (PDF). The board will be working to see if the latest incident is related. Find the NTSB's press release here.

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Surface and Substance back to top 

MIT's Fuel Saving Dream And Bremen's Sharkskin Paint

CNN Thursday highlighted the 70-percent fuel savings of an MIT-designed airliner built at least in part with technology and parts that don't presently exist -- but thanks to another effort altogether, fuel-saving shark-skin paint does. The MIT design would incorporate lifting body aerodynamics to greatly reduce the weighty load-bearing structure of its wings while also increasing stability, thus allowing for more structural weight savings at the tail. One stumbling block stalling production is that the aircraft's engines are based on forecast technology ... as is much of the aircraft's structure and manufacturing process. As for present technology, a team in Bremen, Germany, has designed, created and applied a paint that mimics the exceptionally low drag features of sharks' skin. Taking practical application of the technology one step further, the team has also developed the associated manufacturing technology to apply the paint on a production scale -- right now -- -but some challenges remain.

Yet to be determined is whether the cost of the paint would offset the single-digit efficiency increases it could produce (and the millions of tons of fuel that would save) if applied, globally. The paint's creators believe their product could save nearly 4.5 million tons of fuel per year, if applied to every aircraft in the world. That, of course, would also lower operational costs while reducing CO2 emissions. One key to the paint is the nanoparticles it incorporates to provide sufficient protection from UV radiation, temperature changes and mechanical loads suffered by aircraft as a matter of course. Key to the production level application process is the stencil that creates the sharkskin structure. Complicating factors are the need to evenly apply the paint in the proper level over the stencil, which is detached from the base after UV radiation hardens the paint.

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: UAL27 — A Cheap Lesson in Inflight Fire Consequences

When United Airlines Flight 27 diverted into Dulles last week with a cockpit fire, the crew already had it well in hand. But could you do the same if smoke and flames appeared in your cockpit? In the latest installment of our AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli notes that it wouldn't be so easy for a single pilot — or even two people in a small cockpit. Smoke hoods could help — if you have them.

Click here to read Paul's blog post and add your own thoughts.

AVweb Insider Blog: Alternate Fuels — Give Us Your Views

Have you taken Aviation Consumer's survey on alternative fuels yet? Consumer Editor-in-Chief Paul Bertorelli hopes you will. He's already learned quite a bit from those who have taken a moment to share their opinions — and he shares some of that knowledge in the latest installment of our AVweb Insider blog.

Click here to read more.

Aviation Consumer: Tell Us About Your Opinions on Diesel Engines and Alternate Fuels

Our sister publication, Aviation Consumer, is conducting research on attitudes toward replacement strategies for 100LL.

To take the survey, click this link and let us know what you think.

(The results will appear in a future issue of Aviation Consumer. For subscription information, click here.)

Aviation Consumer's LSA Durability Survey

p>Do you have an LSA at a flight school? Do you rent one? Aviation Consumer needs to hear from you.

Aviation Consumer is looking at the long-term durability of these aircraft when subjected to the rigors of flight training, as well as their cost and ease of repair. Whether you run a flight school with LSAs, own an LSA that you lease back, or just rent them for your flight training, you voice matters.

Click here to participate in our quick LSA durability survey.

(The results will appear in a future issue of Aviation Consumer. For subscription information, click here.)

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

AVmail: May 24, 2010

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: Who Controls Whom?

[Regarding the guest blog by Cleveland air traffic controller Jason Wilson:] Controllers are employed for the pilot's benefit. It is never the other way around. PATCO was a proving point to this fact.

This fact apparently once again needs to made clear to Wilson and the newer controllers' union, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, that, like it or not, when a pilot declares an emergency, the pilot receives everything from ATC, no exceptions. Monday morning quarterback the incident later. Bad-mouth the pilot all you want, but that pilot is the sole reason you are in your government-protected position.

In my 50+ years of aviation, I only "requested" a different controller twice and immediately got a different voice on the radio. I don't recall any emergency that required special handling. But if I had needed special handling, I would not have taken any question or hesitation from some controller.

S. S. McDonald


I think TCM is dismissing too much of the engine market. It's great that 94UL can be used on 80 octane engines, but there are a lot around that don't fit that category. If the replacement fuel can't be burned by everyone the same way 100LL is, I don't think it's going to fly. The days of multiple grades of aviation fuel are gone. (Wish they weren't.)

Joe Fox

An Ox by Any Other Name

Great picture, but your label "... wrangling oxen ..." is incorrect. Those are Muskox (Ovibos moschatus), not oxen.

Cam Roe

AVweb Replies:

The muskoxen in question.

Shoot! Most weeks, I worry about misidentifying a plane — but this week, I learned muskoxen are not a subset of oxen.

Thanks for the note, Cam. I had no idea when I typed that up, and now I'm sure I won't make the same mistake again (lest one of the editors here send me off to drive a herd in the Great White North).

Scott Simmons
"POTW" Editor

Cold War Woopy

The origins of the Woopy-Fly may trace back to 1995, but inflatable wings were operational in 1953 as the first stealth airplanes for use in the Cold War. The air pressure in the wing was surprisingly low but sufficient for the low AIS, and the inflated wing yielded a very low radar image. There were plenty of other inflatable airplanes back then as well.

Jim Kettle

Texas Geography

Regarding the story on drones on the Texas border: Rep. Henry Cuellar should check the Texas map. The border from El Paso along the Rio Grande goes to just east of Brownsville. Cuellar just angered the fine Texans that live in the far south of Texas. A representative from Texas should know there is good flying in the far south of Texas. It's almost like our flying in Alaska: You need an airplane to get anywhere in a timely manner.

John C. Schmitz Jr.

A380 Potential

Regarding the story about problems with the A380 program: I think this article could need more background information on why Airbus has delivered fewer A380s than projected. The reason is not only technical but also a consequence of the economic crisis, which forced airlines to cut costs.

With the recent "adjustment" of the Euro, Airbus will have to ramp up production soon. Personally, I think the current drop of the Euro isn't temporary. It will go down even further, making Airbus planes more attractive price-wise.

Talking about termination of the A380 program would be appropriate if there were a failure comparable to the A400 program, but that's not the case. The airlines want A380s. They attract customers and help cut costs.

Steffan Diedrichsen

FedEx Works

I am a pilot in training and work for FedEx. The question of employee status in the FAA bill is, of course, an emotional issue for me, so first — good job on a fair, unbiased story. "Level playing field" means to UPS the only way they have to cripple FedEx, because we are killing them in the marketplace. We have a business model without the crippling unions. From personal experience as a FedEx driver and countless conversations with FedEx drivers both new and old, FedEx employees do not want a union. We have a rare freedom to move from a driver job up the ladder into any FedEx position, including manager, senior manager, VP of the company, or higher. From a handler or a driver job, a UPS employee cannot do that.

There are people running FedEx who moved up just that way. The UPS driver is locked into his job. He cannot move anywhere, except to pay higher union dues. The UPS lobby in the Congress is arm twisting to cripple an American corporation that actually works. Pray that America stays free.

Peter Zabriskie

AVweb Replies:

NOTE: Shortly after our original press deadline, Mr. Zabriskie asked us to add a note that all views expressed in his letter are his and do no represent those of Federal Express.

Scott Simmons

First flight.

Willing and Able

In response to your "Question of the Week" on International Learn To Fly Day: I made the offer to eight or nine women news reporters. The only one who took me up was the youth editor of the local newspaper, who sent out a junior in high school who seemed to enjoy the opportunity — and she did a great job flying the C172 for her first flight.

Vaughn Henry

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

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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Help Us Celebrate AVweb's 15th Anniversary back to top 

15 Years and Now 15 Grand Giveaways ... It's Your Chance to Win an AV8OR Handheld GPS

CLICK HERE to Register for All 15 Drawings

Win an AV8OR handheld GPS (from Bendix/King by Honeywell) as we celebrate our 15th Anniversary! All you have to do is click here to enter your name and e-mail address. (You only have to enter once, and you'll be entered in our prize drawings for the entire year — so if you've already entered, you're all set.)

And no, we're not going to rent or sell your name, ever. Tell your friends, and invite them to sign up for AVweb so they can qualify for our 15 Grand Giveaways prize drawings, too. (We won't spam them, either — but we hope they will sign up for our newsletters.)

Deadline for entries is 11:59pm Zulu time June 18, 2010.

Click here to read the contest rules and enter.

Congratulations to William R. Smith of Madison, Connecticut, who won a King Schools Get-It-All Pilot Training Kit in our last drawing! (click here to get your own from King Schools)

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

The End of Black Boxes?

File Size 9.5 MB / Running Time 10:24

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

AVweb's Glenn Pew speaks with Star Navigation Chairman and CEO Viraf Kapadia about TerraStar — a system that could ultimately make traditional black boxes (and some accidents) obsolete.

Click here to listen. (9.5 MB, 10:24)

Anywhere Map's Quadra GPS

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

Big things come in small packages — really small in this case. Come see what happens when you try and pack scanned charts, approach plates, and more into a portable GPS that's about the size of a deck of cards, courtesy of Aviation Consumer's Jeff Van West.

If you enjoy this video, be sure to look for the print review of the Anywhere Map Quadra in the June issue of our sister publication, Aviation Consumer.

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.

Woopy-Fly Inflatable Wing Ultralight Aircraft

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

The Woopy-Fly, a sort of paraglider/trike/ultralight hybrid shown on the world stage at AERO Friedrichshafen this April 2010 in Germany, has a wing that folds for storage like a paraglider — because it's inflatable. Currently, it appears the wing itself is only available from distributors in Switzerland, Russia, and Japan. Those wishing to buy the trike (plus wing) can expect a complete kit cost to run about 13,780 Swiss Francs, which currently is about US$12,400 — plus the legal disclaimer that releases the manufacturer of liability.

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.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Sky Harbor Aviation (KCRG, Jacksonville, FL)

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

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AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Sky Harbor at Craig Municipal Airport (KCRG) in Jacksonville, Florida. Here's how they saved AVweb reader Gerry McMunn's bacon a few weeks back:

After departing Winter Haven, we could not retract our gear on our Piper Arrow. We diverted to Craig Muni because of the maintenance facilities. ... Sky Harbor welcomed us in their beautiful office/pilot's lounge and connected us with Northeast Florida Aircraft Maintenance Inc., ... [who] immediately made space for our aircraft and got to work on the problem. John and Duane conducted an extremely thorough and professional investigation, found a broken wire, and repaired it. [They] got us underway within 2 hours — after having removed all luggage, back seats, and interior panels. Their fee was very reasonable. ... This was a very fortuitous stop at a very pleasant FBO and airport. We were under stress upon arrival, but quickly were made to feel welcome and treated very well. Terrific people — all of them.

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!

The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

"Hey, Tower — what's Ft. Myers approach?"

"It's a radar facility north of us to assist pilots through the area."

"Uh, no — I mean, what's the frequency?"

"Oh, that!"

Paul Scott
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.)

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.