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Audio recordings released by the FAA last week of Southwest Airlines Flight 812, a Boeing 737 with 118 passengers aboard that suffered rapid decompression in April, detail pilots and controllers
working the problem. The aircraft was at 36,000 feet flying out of Phoenix for Sacramento when a 59-inch-long gash opened nine inches wide in the top of the cabin, with a loud bang. The Southwest
pilots immediately declared an emergency and began a descent to 10,000 feet. As the pilots organized, they formulated a plan to return to Phoenix, but as the situation matured they changed plans and
sought the nearest available airport. That turned out to be Yuma, Ariz.
Click here for the MP3 file. The audio has been edited for time. What's not heard in the edited version is the controllers
working together between locations to coordinate their efforts.
The aircraft was a 15-year-old Boeing 737-300. It landed safely at Yuma with a few minor injuries incurred during the rapid descent. NTSB investigators have since determined that misaligned or
oblong rivet holes allowed stress points to develop along a bond joint in the 737's skin. It's at or near that joint that the skin ultimately failed. The jet had accumulated 48,740 hours through
39,781 cycles (a cycle is one takeoff and one landing). Inspections that were required following the accident turned up four other 737s with crack indications at a single rivet and one with cracking
at two rivets. All of those aircraft had flown between 40,000 and 45,000 cycles, according to the NTSB.
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Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new algorithm that could help to prevent midair collisions between general aviation aircraft, the school announced last week. The new technique, according to lead researcher Maxime Gariel, aims to limit the number
of false alarms typically produced by collision-warning systems. "If half the time it's a false alert, [pilots] are not going to listen to it, or they'll turn it off," Gariel said. His team's research
used a two-tiered alert system -- a moderate alert to warn pilots their trajectories are converging, and a high alert to indicate a severe risk of collision. The system also takes into account the
extrapolated reaction time, depending on speed and trajectory, and adjusts the warning level accordingly. Tests confirmed that the system has a low false-alarm rate.
MIT's system depends on the implementation of NextGen, which will require small aircraft to broadcast their GPS coordinates. According to David Gray, the FAA liaison to the project, the ability to
use the NextGen system for collision avoidance should help persuade aircraft owners that it's worth the cost of adding the required equipment. "One of the key things that we want to provide as part of
this system is additional value to the general aviation pilot," Gray said. "We hope this adds value and tips the scale in the direction of saying, 'Yes, this is something that I want.'" On average
about 11 GA aircraft each year are involved in midair collisions in the U.S. The MIT researchers plan to present their research results at a conference in Seattle in October.
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The European Commission, which acts as the executive branch of the European Union, has invested $6.2 million in myCopter, a project working toward
creating a personal air vehicle (PAV) for public transport in crowded cities. MyCopter, headed by Prof. Heinrich Bulthoff of the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Germany, plans to
test various concepts for a partially autonomous, vertical-take-off-and-landing vehicle, using computer simulations, UAVs, and a helicopter. "We aim to develop technologies that could be used to form
a new transportation system for personal travel that uses the third dimension, and which takes into account questions surrounding the expectations of potential users and how the public would react to
and interact with such a system," Bulthoff told Gizmag.
Research for the four-year project will include the development of new technologies that could be useful for obstacle avoidance, route planning and formation flying in a variety of aerospace
applications, according to the myCopter website. Bulthoff said he hopes to design small PAVs that can carry one or two people, operate as easily as a car, automatically avoid other aircraft, and run
on batteries to minimize environmental impact. There are no major technological barriers to creating the myCopter, he told New Scientist. However, "making it affordable is another question." Other
partners in the project include several universities and technological institutes across Europe.
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Students looking for an aviation career now have four more options for earning a bachelor's degree at Kansas State
University in Salina, Kans. The school announced this week that starting in the fall, four of its certificate programs -- in unmanned aircraft systems, avionics, airport management and air traffic
control -- will expand into full degree-granting programs. Avionics students get hands-on experience working on glass cockpit components. The UAS program uses several unmanned vehicles for training,
and has worked with the Kansas National Guard to develop safety procedures for incorporating the vehicles into the National Airspace System.
Josh Brungardt, director of the K-State UAS program, said cooperation from the military has been an important factor in growing the program. "We have access to restricted airspace, just seven miles
from here, that we can use for training," Brungardt says. Student interns have worked as field operators for several UAS companies. K-State Salina operates a fleet of more than 40 training aircraft.
The campus is sited adjacent to a 12,000-foot runway.
Monday, July 25, opening day at EAA AirVenture, is just around the corner, so flight plans are being finalized, camp sites already are
filling up, and aviators from around the world are on their way to Oshkosh, Wisconsin. EAA is promising an event overflowing with "spectacular attractions," including tributes to Bob Hoover and Burt
Rutan, a celebration of naval aviation, a salute to veterans, a night airshow on Saturday with fireworks and a "wall of fire," musical performers, film nights, and of course thousands of airplanes,
exhibits, forums, and workshops to explore all week long. AVweb staffers will be there every day to provide you with daily news reports, podcasts, and videos.
Some of the showcase aircraft expected at Oshkosh include at least 100 Burt Rutan designs, including Boomerang, an asymmetrical five-place twin; a Boeing 787, on Friday only; a wide selection of electric-powered aircraft; and dozens of military aircraft celebrating the 100th
anniversary of naval aviation. The major aircraft manufacturers and all kinds of gear suppliers will be there to introduce their newest products. Teachers Day on Tuesday provides classroom teachers with ideas about how to use aviation to motivate students to learn
about science; this year's special guest is Jeff Skiles. And every afternoon, the world's best airshow performers put on their best shows, for the best crowds. AVweb's Mary Grady spoke with
aerobatic pilot Mike Goulian this week about what it's like to fly at Oshkosh, "the Super Bowl of airshows"; click here for that podcast.
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Most of us do, but it's not always clear why some pilots are accident-free while others are not. In an effort to learn more about accident-free pilot populations, researcher David Ison is
conducting a survey. It's short, and you can take it by clicking on this link:
For a follow-up article on Thielert-powered diesel airplanes, we would like to hear from owners operating these airplanes. Please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org with contact information, and we'll get back to you.
The results will appear in a future issue of Aviation Consumer. For subscription information, click
Have an idea for a new "Question of the Week"?
Send your suggestions to
NOTE: 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.)
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AOPA President Craig Fuller says he thinks the anti-GA/Bizav posture in Washington will get worse in coming months but that's not necessarily all bad. "We have a rallying point," Fuller told the
Wichita Aero Club in a reportedly spirited address that focused on recent remarks by President Obama that appeared to characterize business aviation as a perk. According to the Wichita Business Journal, Fuller pointed out the remarks contrasted sharply with
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's comments to an aviation forum held in Wichita in which he appeared to affirm the administration's support for GA. "Where they stand on general aviation depends on
where they're standing," he is quoted as saying.
Obama's comments evoked a strong reaction from general aviation groups reminiscent of the battle against user fees of a few years ago. Fuller told the Aero Club that as the 2012 election campaign
gets in gear, GA might face more attacks from the administration. He said the headline-grabbing comments have hurt the industry's recovery from the recession, although there continue to be positive
signs of that recovery.
The pilot of a Pilatus PC-12 that crashed in Montana in March 2009 should have added an icing inhibitor to the fuel system before launching, the NTSB said in its final report on Tuesday. The board
said the pilot failed to take appropriate remedial actions after icing caused low fuel pressure and a lateral fuel imbalance. The pilot then lost control while maneuvering the left-wing-heavy airplane
near the approach end of the runway at Bert Mooney Airport in Butte. All 14 people on board, including 7 children, died. "The pilot's pattern of poor decision-making set in motion a series of events
that culminated in the deadly crash," said NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman. "Humans will make mistakes, but that is why following procedures, using checklists and always ensuring that a safety
margin exists are so essential -- aviation is not forgiving when it comes to errors."
Investigators determined that the pilot didn't add a fuel-system icing inhibitor, commonly referenced by the brand name "Prist," when the airplane was fueled on the day of the accident. The
Pilatus flight manual states the inhibitor must be used for all flight operations in ambient temperatures below 0 degrees Celsius. The NTSB concluded that icing in the fuel system caused a
left-wing-heavy fuel imbalance. The increasing fuel level in the left tank and the depletion of the fuel from the right tank should have been apparent to the pilot because that information was
presented on the fuel quantity indicator. This should have prompted the pilot to divert the airplane to an airport earlier in the flight, as specified by the airplane manufacturer.
Early in its investigation, the board said it had "no working theories" about the crash, but that changed
when an investigator found a small set of microchips from the PC-12's safety warning system that revealed the fuel-icing problem. The NTSB issued recommendations to the FAA and EASA, asking both
agencies to make it mandatory for all aircraft that require fuel additives to place a placard near the fuel filler that notes the limitation. Earlier in its investigation, the board asked the FAA to
require all children over age 2 to have their own seat and an appropriate child restraint system during takeoff, landing, and turbulence. The board's synopsis has been posted online, and a full report will be posted in a few weeks.
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Not a thing, unless you screw up the landing, hit something or otherwise turn what should be uneventful into easy pickings for an enforcement case. On the AVweb Insider blog, Paul
Bertorelli reviews two closed runway takeoff examples, and you can take your pick of what's wrong. Or add your own example in the comments.
I'm somehow not, says Paul Bertorelli on the AVweb Insider blog. On the other hand, perhaps we're supposed to be grateful that something positive came out of Inhofe's inept, embarrassing
display of poor airmanship at Port Isabel, Texas that merited him a peck on the cheek from the FAA after he scattered workers on a closed runway.
In the third chapter of his aviation memoir, Richard Taylor begins flight training in a Piper PA-18 Cub -- including being "kicked out of the nest" for his first solo before he had
10 hours of flight time -- and then moving on to the (comparatively) massive T-6 Texan.
If that tornado at Sun 'n Fun in April didn't get your attention, it should have. With EAA AirVenture looming and storms hammering the midwest, it's time to think about portable
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AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Bismarck Aero Center at Bismarck Municipal Airport (KBIS) in Bismarck, North
AVweb reader David Yost brought BAC to our attention:
On June 23-24, I was part of a team in the Bismarck-Minot (North Dakota) area doing aerial imaging of the flooding. We operated from Bismarck Aero Center and KBIS. Upon arrival, we were promptly met
by a lineman who showed us where to park and supervised our refueling. The plane was hangared for us overnight and promptly brought out for us the following morning. There were even red carpets by
both doors! This facility is clean, modern, and well-equiped, and the staff quickly took care of all our needs. But what impressed me the most was that every employee I encounted was friendly
and seemed genuinely happy to be there. When in Bismarck, go to Bismarck Aero Center!
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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.
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