AVwebFlash - Volume 17, Number 17a

April 25, 2011

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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737 Crew Got Close To Cirrus: NTSB

The NTSB says a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 came within 100 feet and a tenth of a mile from a NORDO Cirrus SR22 over central Florida March 27 when the crew was asked by air traffic controllers to check on the condition of the Cirrus's occupants. Initial reports said the planes came within 1.2 miles of one another in the incident, which is one of a number of controller-related issues dominating the FAA's public agenda these days. In a preliminary report issued Friday, the NTSB says a fair amount of effort went into the reconnaissance mission.

According to the NTSB, the effort was led by a front-line manager at the Central Florida TRACON, which had been monitoring the silent Cirrus for about an hour. The Cirrus was headed to Kissimmee and eventually landed there as planned. The Southwest flight was about 10 miles from the Cirrus when the TRACON asked the Southwest crew to go and have a look. The crew "obliged" and was vectored to the Cirrus until they reported visual and TCAS contact. The TRACON set up a separate radar monitor and discrete frequency for the operation. After the crew reported the Cirrus in sight, the controller told them to "resume own navigation, get as close as safely possible and report any abnormalities." The NTSB said the airliner pilot flying "maneuvered on his own along side" the Cirrus. The Southwest crew has been suspended pending the investigation but there's no word on the fate of the manager and any other controllers involved. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood last week said the controller involved had been fired, but he was mistaken. A controller in Miami and one in Knoxville were fired last week for sleeping on the job.

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News from the Manufacturers back to top 

Appeals Court Overturns Cirrus Ruling

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has overturned a 2009 ruling that ordered Cirrus to pay $14.5 million to the families of two SR22 crash victims based on the assertion that Cirrus failed to properly train them. The new ruling found that there was "no support in the law" for the notion that it was Cirrus' obligation to train the Cirrus pilot, Gary Prokop, to pilot the aircraft "proficiently" prior to the 2003 crash. Further, it found that proficiency training provided by the company "undoubtedly promoted the safe use of the SR22" and materials provided to purchasers of Cirrus aircraft provided instruction relevant to the circumstances of this case. However, in the court's published opinions, one judge offered clear dissent.

The dissenting judge noted that Cirrus' training included a checklist to be filled out by the instructor. On that checklist, "recovery from VFR into IMC (autopilot assisted)" was left blank. The judge noted that testimony at trial "suggested that the failure to perform this very maneuver led to the fatal plane crash." Citing precedent, the judge went on to note that "in Minnesota, one may assume a duty that does not otherwise exist, and 'one who voluntarily assumes a duty must exercise reasonable care or he will be responsible for damages resulting from his failure to do so.'" According to the judge, "while transition training may not be required as a matter of law, once Cirrus made it a part of the purchase agreement, Cirrus voluntarily assumed a duty to provide the promised training." Based on those facts and others, the judge concluded that the crash was "a direct and foreseeable consequence of appellants' failure to provide the salient portion of the transition training to Prokop." Find the full text here. (PDF)

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Liberty Consolidates Its Facilities

Casual observers at the headquarters of Liberty Aerospace in Melbourne, Fla., Friday may have sparked rumors that the operation is closing down, but Liberty President Keith Markley told AVweb that the company is just consolidating facilities. AVweb spoke with Markley by phone Friday. Markley said Liberty has given up leases (which were expiring) on two buildings to consolidate and lower costs. That means moving from five buildings to three. "It's a big project," he said, adding, "We're open for business, though things may look like they're in disarray for two to three weeks." Markley said he's heard rumors before, and while sales have slowed, industry-wide, year-over-year sales figures are improving. As for Liberty, "We'll continue to operate and do whatever it takes to control and maintain costs," he said. He also noted a bright spot.

"Our business in Asia continues to grow," Markley told AVweb, adding that the company's current business has shifted from outright production-line manufacturing to manufacturing to order. At this time that generally means supporting fleet customers (read: flight schools), he said. While choosing not to renew leases covering the two buildings Liberty is currently vacating, the company still holds a five-year lease covering other facilities at Melbourne.

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Aviation Safety Reports back to top 

Indian Probe Nets 19 Fake Pilots

So far 19 airline pilots, including six captains, have been fired as a result of a government investigation into India's corruption-plagued aviation oversight system and the probe is only half complete. The Indian government is trying to restore confidence in its burgeoning air transport sector with the probe, which has uncovered widespread bribery, cheating and falsification in pilot testing and records. 'You really are messing with people's lives if you are messing with a pilot's licence," Neil Mills, CEO of SpiceJet, told the Sidney Morning Herald. As we reported last month, pilots have been discovered in airline cockpits without the required ratings, but the investigation is revealing the problem is not isolated and may actually be systemic.

In fact, one of the pilots fired by SpiceJet was Garima Passi, who was alleged to have received "preferential treatment" in the granting of her ATP. Passi's father, R.S. Passi, was the director of air safety for the Directorate General of Civil Aviation at the time. He's since been fired, too. Indian officials trying to mop up the mess say they are crippled by a lack of staff to adequately investigate the mountain of allegations in front of them. "It is not the question of just one case, or one DGCA director or one airline, and then we can fix it and get over it," Kapil Kaul, South Asia chief executive for the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, told the Herald. "It is a failure of the entire system."

Training Missile Drops Fin On Truck

The Navy has confirmed that one fin from a captive air training missile came loose from its perch on the wing of an F/A-18C Hornet, fell from the sky, and embedded itself in the hood of an unoccupied truck in Virginia Beach, Va., Thursday. There were no injuries associated with the accident, which took place shortly before noon near an intersection by a shopping mall. The missile itself, which carries no live explosives, fuels or propellants, stayed with the aircraft, which landed safely at Naval Air Station Oceana. Local news outlets were quick to note the episode wasn't entirely unique.

Thursday's event sparked local news outlets to recall a 2007 incident in which a Hornet dropped an inert training bomb onto a wall near a warehouse in North Carolina. No one was hurt in that incident, either. The aircraft involved in Thursday's episode was returning from a training flight when the accident occurred. It is attached to Strike Fighter Squadron 131 and suffered no reported damage. The Navy is investigating.

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Storm Strikes St. Louis STL back to top 

Lambert Field Back In Business, Weather Permitting

St. Louis Lambert Field is expected to be in full operation Monday after a weekend of cleanup from a powerful storm that caused extensive damage and resulted in injuries to at least four people Friday. Notams continue to warn of missing signs and unserviceable equipment but it's a far cry from the mayhem that ensued late Friday. About half the exterior glass of Concourse C was blown in and the roof is missing. Airline gates have been shifted for Monday operations. In the height of the storm, a passenger aboard an aircraft parked at the gate said it was picked up and moved about 20 feet by the winds. Damage is in the millions of dollars and initial fears were that the full schedule of flights wouldn't be restored until mid-week. However by Saturday, Southwest Airlines was back in business and it was almost a normal Sunday, barring the boarded up windows and patio that was once Concourse C. The weather isn't finished with Missouri, though.

Thunderstorm and flash flood warnings were in effect for much of the state late Sunday as another front moved through. Meanwhile, state residents are counting their blessings from Friday's storm, which despite the havoc it raised, didn't result in any deaths. At least eight flights were diverted to Kansas City Friday night and all departures were halted in the wake of the storm. About 500 people were in the airport at the time and some were treated on the scene for cuts from falling glass. Four people had to be taken to hospital.

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News Briefs back to top 

Diabetes Flight Reaches Pole

There's plenty to do flying a Beech Baron to the North Pole, a place where no Baron has been before, but Douglas Cairns had one more hourly task that most pilots don't have. "Another hourly 'cockpit check' was blood sugar testing, and with additional continuous glucose monitoring, I was delighted to see blood sugars remaining in a tight and good range for flying," Cairns reported after completing a 13-hour round trip from Barrow, Alaska, to the Pole last week in his Diabetes Polar Flight. Cairns is a former Royal Air Force pilot who lost that job when he developed Type 1 diabetes. He's since embarked on a worldwide campaign to raise awareness and money for diabetes research. Cairns fought headwinds all the way to the Pole but the weather was otherwise good for the record-setting flight.

After a few laps around the Pole itself, Cairns set the Baron down on an ice runway at a Russian camp near the Pole. "What an amazing place to land! The 900-meter (bulldozed) ice strip was bumpy but I slowed up in good time and after shutting the engines down, it was a truly exhilarating moment to be standing on the polar ice," he reported. Exhilaration turned to concern a short time later when he discovered the door to the Baron wouldn't close but 40 minutes of lubing, pushing, shoving and slamming finally got it latched for the return flight.

Extreme "Unboxing" Video Goes Airborne

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YouTube videos have used aviation to sensationalize unrelated products through viral marketing campaigns and the like, but this "Extreme Unboxing" of a cellphone by TheNextWeb.com takes product description to new heights ... with consequences. For the uninitiated, unboxing videos on the web generally do what they say. Usually, a techno-phile sits at a desk, opens up a boxed product, and describes its contents while (if you're lucky) sharing some insight about the product's specifications, operation, and competition. As such, they tend to be rather dry and of limited appeal. It seems reviewers at TheNextWeb.com have realized this because, instead of a desk, they chose the cockpit of an Extra aerobatic aircraft flying in full-flail mode to unbox a new cellphone. The results are, perhaps, predictable -- we don't learn much about the product and pilots might enjoy the video, anyway.

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: No Good Deed — Cirrus Dodges a Legal Bullet

A Minnesota appeals court recently sided with Cirrus in rejecting the claim of survivors of a pilot and passenger who said the company was negligent in not training the pilot to recover from inadvertent IMC encounters. But a dissenting judge disagreed, saying that the plaintiffs had made the case. On the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli analyzes the case, which clearly shows how manufacturers face liability exposure even when they try to do the right thing.

Read more and join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: Sun 'n Fun Tiedown Tests

When the tornado blew through Sun 'n Fun on April 7, it left a trail of overturned airplanes. Product tester that he is, Aviation Consumer editor-in-chief Paul Bertorelli immediately set about interviewing aircraft owners to find out which tie-downs were used where. After a couple weeks' of analysis of the data, he's concluded there are no definitive conclusions about which tie-down is best — but there are a lot of lessons to be learned. Paul shares a bit of that hard-won wisdom from Sun 'n Fun attendees in the latest installment of our AVweb Insider blog.

Read more and join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: First Lady Airplane Fiasco

So, let's see: A Potomac TRACON controller hands the Andrews Tower a crappy sequence — like that's never happened in the history of aviation. Of course, of all the weeks to do that and of all the airplanes, it has to happen to First Lady Michelle Obama's C-40. The next thing you know, lead item on the evening news. Paul Bertorelli's not-so-suble message for your in our latest installment of hte AVweb Insider blog: People, get a grip.

Read more and join the conversation.

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

Survey: Have You Had a Recent Prop Overhaul or Bought a New Prop?

If so, our sister publication, Aviation Consumer, would like to hear from you. To take part in our propellor overhaul and purchase survey, just click the link:

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AVmail: April 25, 2011

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: Night Shift Is Too Big a Shift

I remember hearing stories of the First World War and the fighting in the trenches and how French officers would tell their troops that if they were caught sleeping they would be shot. It meant nothing to them that the men involved had been awake for days.

The impetus of a threat is limited to the ability of a person to overcome nature. You will probably never hear of a controller falling asleep during daylight hours.

I have worked night shift in a hospital for most of 30 years. Regardless of the amount of sleep obtained during the day, the quality is not the same as what is gained by a good night's sleep. I also ran the sleep lab in the hospital where I work, where I discovered that there are many physiological aspects of sleep disorders, including imposed sleep disorders (like night shift) that the average laymen are unaware of. I have also been in the air traffic control facility in Palmdale, California, and the room where the controllers operate is always dark. Just try sitting in a dark room doing a repetitive task and see how difficult it is to stay awake. In my work environment, I find it necessary to stay on my feet and walk from one area of the hospital to another. I stay awake with no problem, but sit me down at a computer to attend to charting, and I have started nodding off.

It is a very austere measure, resorting to firing someone for sleeping under these conditions. This is typical of the knee-jerk reaction our government is prone to have in order to give the appearance of doing something about a problem. Unless the individual has obtained a pillow of some sort or left his position at the control panel (i.e., showing intent to neglect one's duties by sleeping on the job), they should not be fired. There also may be consideration as to whether the controller has made a habit of sleeping.

Providing adequate and appropriate breaks (which would include a nap) could be a solution, but if I were to nap at work I would only wake feeling stupefied for the rest of the night. Caffeine is a terrible answer to the problem in that it only borrows energy from the body's reserves and renders the consumer unable to obtain quality sleep when it is available.

In essence, this is a problem as old as there has been need of having someone assume a responsibility all night, and it will not go away.

Sleep deprivation is used as torture. Believe me: That is exactly what night shift is.

Sam Glasser

Team Building

I quote from the Miami controller story: "There were 12 controllers and two supervisors on duty at the time. Another controller noticed the sleeping controller and turned him in."

What kind of team relationship do those Miami controllers have? Why didn't the one who noticed the guy sleeping just wake him up?

Chas Davis

Regarding Dudley Johnston's response to your question: He has obviously missed the big picture. This isn't about unions and the federal government. This is about safety in flight and smart staffing practices. Twenty-seven new controllers aren't just going to magically be hired that will cost the country more money. They will come from the current crop of controllers. Shifts will be changed so that there are two [controllers] on staff during the midnight shift. Mr. Johnston needs to take his political posturing somewhere else, as it had no place in this particular case.

Chris Vilardo

First Lady Fiasco

Paul Bertorelli is spot-on in analyzing the fiasco involving the First Lady. I was once qualified on the 737 on all models through the -300. I am retired now, and I understand the wing tip vortices that can make your cockpit life exciting if vectored in too close to a "heavy." As you have expertly pointed out, except for a few aviation experts and a very few savvy reporters that know the problem, most stories were blown way out of proportion due to the five-mile requirement.

In my 50 years of flying Air Force and commercial heavies, I have only once gotten sandwiched behind a 747 requiring a go-around in a 737, which was absolutely necessary. However, I was sequenced in betweeen two aircraft that were a lot closer than three miles, and the wind was calm.

No detail data on the wind condition was discussed. A crosswind will push the vortices away and make the situation less critical. I appreciate Bertorelli's personal and professional in-depth balanced reporting on the matter.

Morgan Barbour

Rain 'n Pain

Having read through the various opinions on the 2011 Sun 'n Fun (or was it Rain 'n Pain?) disaster, I'd like to share my views — having traveled (commercially) over the pond from London, England.

It has to be accepted we have no control over the weather. Therefore, it was mighty unfortunate that so much rain fell in such a short time on hardened ground, with the subsequent mudfest which followed. I visited on Tuesday and Wednesday and noted that the number of visiting aircraft was considerably less than expected, I guess due to the weather system which passed on Monday. Likewise, the usual crowds who turn up to visit such shows seemed less.

It seemed that the tornado which wreaked havoc and the publicity of the destruction were the reason so many folk turned up on Friday! Subsequently, the traffic backed up. Had the organizers been truthful about the state of the car park and chosen to close access by road for that day, maybe the car parks would have been in a better state on the Saturday and Sunday.

What really annoyed me on Friday was the total lack of acknowledgement from the organizers that there was a problem with the car parks. Instead, they blindly broadcast on the AM radio station that all was well when, in fact, it wasn't.

I appreciate that they can only report on what they see. So maybe a trip outside the perimeter fence would have given them a more accurate view on what was really happening!

I spoke to a sherriff who was "directing" traffic who said that they were told things weren't open, and they had no further information on [whether] (or if) it was likely to be opened, either. I decided that after for queueing for two hours that it was clearly evident that the chances of me getting in were only going to be delayed further, if I could get there at all. I also considered that if I got in whether I'd be able to get out at the end of the day. So I turned tail and headed off elsewhere.

It was a great shame, really, as I was unable to visit on Saturday or Sunday — so maybe next year. If the SnF organizers are trying to work out why the attendance figures are down, I suggest you look at the format. Scrap the "air show" during the week and leave that for your weekend visitors. Generally, the Tuesday-to-Friday visitor is more interested in general aviation rather than aerial entertainment.

Dave Campion

Government by Inches

I recently flew commercially to Maine to ferry a PA22 to Florida. While passing through the TSA station, my bag was searched, and the tools I was carrying for the ferry were examined.

After the TSA person examined and measured each item, I was advised that they were longer than the allowed seven inches. Guess I will have to grind and saw the handles to remove the offending 1/2" to 3/4" overage. I explained that I was a pilot and mechanic, and his response was that I should have known better. I guess that a seven-inch hammer will do less damage than an eight- or 10-inch version.

Who makes these rules?

Michael Young

Last-Minute Changes

Here's a safety issue: ATC should be prohibited (except in an emergency) from changing a runway assignment once an aircraft is within a certain distance from the airport, as it doesn't allow sufficient time for the crew to set up for FMSs, radios, airspeed and altimeter bugs, etc. and properly brief the new approach. It also requires a lot of "head down" time to accomplish all this when in a congested area, where you should be "head up," scanning for traffic.

George Spettigue

Misplaced Publicity

Please do not provide any publicity for the hare-brained schemes where kids attempt various aviation "stunts" in order to establish some kind of record.

Paul Valovich

In Support of Inhofe

Why are you taking such a caustic approach to Mr. Inhofe? He is a great guy and has been involved in aviation for years. Rather than vilify a fellow aviation enthusiast, you should be glad he was given a bit of the spirit of the law instead of the "hammer." Hopefully he will continue to be in our corner when it comes to aviation. Or is this just a partisan "cheap shot"? If the attacks continue, I will remove myself from your "forum" and ask the rest of my experimental friends to do the same.

Bruce Crain

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

Video: Practicing Slam-Dunk Approaches with 'IFR' Magazine

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

Eventually, every instrument pilot gets a slam-dunk approach. IFR magazine's Jeff Van West explains how to practice for the slam to remove the guesswork and even add the high-speed technique to your instrument flying toolbox.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: America Jet at SLN (Salina, KS)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to America Jet at SLN. As you've probably deduced, you can find them at Salina Municipal Airport (KSLN) in Salina, Kansas.

AVweb reader Jeremy Phillips recommended the FBO after his visit a couple of weeks back, when "the line and maintenance crew went out of their way to make our trip the best one we ever had. ... They went out of their way to make things really easy for 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!

Reader-Submitted Photos back to top 

Picture of the Week: AVweb's Flying Photography Showcase

This week's winning photo comes from Joel Dacus of Reno, NV. Click here for the rest of this week's submissions.

ICAS Foundation's Kyle & Amanda Franklin Fund

Kyle & Amanda Franklin Fund || Click to Donate via the ICAS Foundation

The aviation community is coming together to help Kyle and Amanda Franklin get back on their feet and eventually back in the air after their mishap at Air Fiesta at the Brownsville/South Padre Island Airport. If you'd like to contribute, click on the banner at right to visit the ICAS Foundation web site.

The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

I was a controller at Albany Georgia tower back in the '70s, and a Cherokee was on downwind, with the instructor introducing his student to radio procedures. Fortunately for me, their intercom locked on for a bit and I got all the dialog between the student and the instructor. It went like this:

"Say 'Albany tower.'"

student pilot:
"Ah — Al-Albany tower?"

"'This is Cherokee 76 Whiskey.'"

"This is — is — Ch-Cherokee — ?"

"'76 Whiskey.'"

"Seven — 76 Whiskey?"

"'We are on left downwind for runway 22, touch and go.'"

"We are on — ?"

"... 'Left downwind for 22.'"

"Left down-downwind —"

"... 'Downwind for 22, touch and go.'"

"I don't want to learn to fly no more!"

Richard Pike
via e-mail

Heard Anything Funny on the Radio?

Heard anything funny, unusual, or downright shocking on the radio lately? If you've been flying any length of time, you're sure to have eavesdropped on a few memorable exchanges. The ones that gave you a chuckle may do the same for your fellow AVweb readers. Share your radio funny with us, and, if we use it in a future "Short Final," we'll send you a sharp-looking AVweb hat to sport around your local airport. No joke.

Click here to submit your original, true, and previously unpublished story.

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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