AVwebFlash - Volume 17, Number 35b

September 1, 2011

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AP: Pilots "Forgetting How To Fly"

The airline industry is suffering from "automation addiction," Rory Kay, co-chair of an FAA committee that is examining pilot training, said in an Associated Press story published on Tuesday. "We're seeing a new breed of accident with these state-of-the-art planes," said Kay. "We're forgetting how to fly." Pilot skills have been cited by investigators in two recent major accidents, the Buffalo crash of a regional airliner in 2009, and the 2009 Air France crash of an Airbus A330. How pilots respond to the sudden loss of automated aircraft systems "is the big issue that we can no longer hide from in aviation," Bill Voss, president of the Flight Safety Foundation, told the AP. "We've been very slow to recognize the consequence of it and deal with it."

Voss said the solution will require changes in cockpit procedures, not just in training, where pilots spend just a few days a year. Paul Railsback, operations director at the Air Transport Association, told the AP that airlines are aware of these issues. "We think the best way to handle this is through the policies and training of the airlines to ensure they stipulate that the pilots devote a fair amount of time to manually flying," Railsback said. "We want to encourage pilots to do that and not rely 100 percent on the automation. I think many airlines are moving in that direction." Kathy Abbott, an FAA researcher studying these issues, found last year that "pilots sometimes abdicate too much responsibility to … automated systems." She added that sometimes pilots don't get enough practice in hand-flying and will hesitate to take control away from the computer in an emergency.

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Revamping Flight Training back to top 

FAA Updates Flight-School Rules

The FAA on Wednesday published a final rule with updates to regulations that affect pilot, flight instructor, and flight-school certification. The rule allows pilot applicants to apply concurrently for a private pilot certificate and an instrument rating, and permits flight schools to apply for a combined private pilot certification and instrument rating course. The rule also allows pilot schools to offer internet-based training programs even if they don't have a physical ground-training facility and revises the definition of "complex airplane" to include airplanes with full authority digital engine control (FADEC). The proposed rule would have replaced the 10 hours of complex airplane time required for commercial pilot applicants with 10 hours of advanced instrument training, but that provision has not been adopted in the final rule.

The FAA published the proposed changes in 2009, and received more than 400 comments. The most significant change from the original proposal relates to the proficiency checks for pilots of experimental turbojet-powered aircraft, taking into account whether or not those pilots fly with passengers. Other aspects of the rule revise the procedures for converting a foreign pilot license to a U.S. pilot certificate. The FAA said it has determined all of these changes are needed to enhance safety, respond to changes in the aviation industry, and reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens.

Flight Schools Now Can Seek Accreditation

Colleges and universities have long participated in accreditation programs that provide an independent assessment of the school, and now a new program promises to do the same for flight training. The Flight School Association of North America, based in Allentown, Penn., recently launched a flight school accreditation program, which it says is the first of its kind. A committee comprised of flight school owners and operators and a variety of industry partners drafted the accreditation standards. Schools will be evaluated on seven core areas: safety, security, risk management, business practices, finance and accounting, education, and customer satisfaction.

For example, the safety standards require the school to have a designated safety officer, a safety committee, and an operations manual; the school also must ensure that every aircraft is equipped with a checklist and POH, all instructors must be enrolled in the FAA's FAASTeam safety program, and more. Fees for the accreditation process are $4,000 for FSANA members and $5,000 for non-members. The approval is good for three years. Accreditation may make it easier for flight students to attain certain loans, FSANA says. The group also hosts an annual conference for flight school operators; the next one is set for April 13-15 in Nashville, Tenn.

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Safety & Security in the National Airspace back to top 

State Department Warns Of Missile Threat

Aviators around the world should be on their guard against small shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles, the U.S. State Department said recently. The weapons, also known as Manpads (man-portable air defense systems), "pose a serious threat to passenger air travel, the commercial aviation industry, and military aircraft around the world," the State Department said. Forty civilian aircraft have been hit by Manpad missiles since 1975, causing 28 crashes and over 800 deaths. All of the incidents, except for an unsuccessful 2002 attempt to shoot down an airliner in Kenya, occurred in "zones of conflict." Only two of the attacks occurred in the Western Hemisphere, one in Costa Rica and one in Nicaragua.

More than 1 million Manpads and missiles have been manufactured worldwide since they were first produced in 1967. Because they are so potentially deadly yet easy to transport, conceal, and use, they are "particularly attractive weapons to terrorists and criminals," the State Department said. Thousands of the weapons are believed to be in circulation on the black market, at prices starting at just a few hundred dollars. For more details about the weapons, plus a list of all the known civil attacks, go to the State Department web site.

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Safety & Security in Your Personal Space back to top 

Man Spots Own Home Burglary From Air

Two men have been charged with residential burglary and theft of property after being spotted by a homeowner who saw the men taking items from his house while he was flying as a first-time passenger in a 1957 Cessna 172. The flight was daytime VFR out and back from Arkansas to Memphis. On the return portion of the trip, passenger Steven Lynn asked his friend, pilot David Hudson, if they could fly over Lynn's house so that he could see it from the airplane. They found the house and saw what appeared to be two men taking things from the home and loading them in a vehicle. Lynn took action.

Homeowner Steven Lynn, while still airborne, first called his uncle (presumably via cellphone) and told him to stop by the house and see what was going on. When the uncle arrived, the men took off. It appears Lynn then called 911 from the aircraft, reported the burglary, tracked the vehicle, and fed on-the-ground law enforcement with the turn-by-turn movements of the suspects. Soon thereafter, the two male suspects were stopped and apprehended by a state trooper. Lynn told local news station KAIT that "when we saw the cops pull up it was just pure excitement." As for his first-time flight, Lynn said, "It was awesome ... I was enjoying it until that happened." As for next time, "I'll be nervous until I see there's nobody there."

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FAA Funding Stares Down a Deadline -- Again back to top 

More Layoffs For FAA Employees?

If Congress fails to act (again) by Sept. 16, the FAA will see another expiration of short-term funding and potentially another round of layoffs. In July, Congress failed to reach an agreement on funding for the FAA before heading for a five-week recess. That caused a temporary limited shutdown of the FAA that led to the two-week layoff of an estimated 4,000 FAA employees and more contract workers, before Congress passed another temporary bill. The shutdown also lost the agency approximately $30 million per day in airline ticket taxes. About two weeks into the shutdown, Congress did act while in recess, providing a funding measure that expires Sept. 16. Certain key figures in Congress say that this time, they're willing to compromise. President Obama has also weighed in.

"I'll compromise in a reasonable fashion," Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman, John Mica, R-Fla., told The Daytona Beach News-Journal Tuesday. President Obama addressed the issue Wednesday, saying "when they [Congress] come back next month, not only do they need to pass the transportation bill, but they've also got to pass a clean extension of that FAA bill -- for longer this time -- and address back pay for the workers who were laid off during the last shutdown."  The House and Senate have been unable to act on long-term funding, largely due to their respective differences on how easy it should be for airline employees to unionize.

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What You Missed in AVwebBiz This Week back to top 

Boeing Launches 737MAX Re-Engine Program

Boeing's board of directors has approved the executive plan to re-engine existing models of the Boeing 737 in response to Airbus's similar plan for its A320. The "new" aircraft will be called the 737 MAX and the zeroes will be dropped from the current 700, 800 and 900 model numbers in the new designations. The aircraft will be powered by CFM Leap-1B engines that Boeing says will make the new 737 4 percent more efficient than the new model A320neo. Boeing wants first deliveries no later than 2017 and is suggesting, but not promising, that it might be ready earlier. Both of its most recent development projects, the 787 and 747-8, are years behind schedule. "Given our recent track record, we are being very prudent and disciplined to make sure that whatever we talk to our customers about, we actually have a plan to deliver on," Nicole Piasecki, the company's head of business development, told Bloomberg.

Landing-gear height was an issue with the engine upgrade, and the fan size of the new engines is marginally bigger than the current 61 inches. Engineers are apparently deciding whether 66 inches is enough or whether to push it to 68 inches. Whatever the decision, it must meet Boeing brass's requirement that no substantial redesign of the airframe be necessary. Boeing had been leaning toward a new design to replace the 737 but risked losing market share during the long development phase. It said it already has commitments for 496 of the new variant. Don't say good-bye to the legacy 737 just yet, though. Boeing has a backlog of 2,100 orders for it and will be building them until at least 2020.

AVwebBiz: AVweb's Business Aviation Newsletter

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Delivered every Wednesday morning, AVwebBiz focuses on the companies, the products and the industry leaders that make headlines in the business aviation industry, making it a must-read.

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: Should Airline Pilots Fly More -- Or Less?

In her latest post to the AVweb Insider blog, Mary Grady suggests it's time to reassess the best use of humans in the cockpit -- and maybe it's no longer working the controls.

Read more and join the conversation.

Question of the Week: How Are Your Pilot Skills?

This one is mainly for the pro pilots in our midst. Bill Voss of the Flight Safety Foundation says pilots are suffering from "automation addiction" and unable to cope with systems loss. What do you think?

Do modern pilots rely too much on the airplane to fly itself?
(click to answer)

Last Week's Question: Results

Want to see the current breakdown of responses? Take a moment to answer the question yourself, and then you can view real-time results.

What's On Your Mind?

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.)

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

Our best stories start with you. If you've heard something 255,000 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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Recent Blog Posts You May Have Missed back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: Tackling Weather in LSAs

LSAs were never intended to be heavy weather airplanes, yet you can equip them with the latest datalink weather capability. Whether you choose to depends a lot on your previous experience, as Paul Bertorelli discusses in his latest post to the AVweb Insider blog.

Read more and join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: Sukhoi's T-50 -- The End of U.S. Dominance?

Maybe, says Paul Bertorelli in his latest post to the AVweb Insider blog -- but the real threat isn't whether the T-50 is competitor to the F-22 but whether the panic that is could set off a cascade of political overreaction.

Read more and join the conversation.

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

Video: Kent Pietsch at Abbotsford Air Show

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

Most of us who go to air shows have seen Kent Pietsch's Interstate Cadet routine. Here's an up-close look at what makes it one of the most impressive flying displays on the circuit.

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If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Arlin's Aircraft Service, Inc. (Belgrade, Montana)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Arlin's Aircraft Service, Inc. at Gallatin Field Airport (KBZN) in Belgrade, Montana (near Bozeman).

AVweb reader C. J. Costanti recommended the FBO:

We had just completed a couple days of fly fishing and visiting family in Bozeman, and while preparing to depart, our Baron developed a significant fuel leak. Naturally, this occurred after hours, when the maintenance staff had gone home for the night. Not only did line service tow us back to Arlin's hangar, but they contacted their mechanic and he was working [on] the problem within minutes. They turned a stressful and unexpected turn of events into a positive experience and outcome. The Baron was buttoned up and ready to go early the next morning on the ramp, and we completed our trip home. Many thanks and kudos to Alan, Clint, and all the folks we met at Arlin's. Great service on arrival and departure, clean facility, and, most importantly, great people. We'll be back.

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 
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.