AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 17, Number 36a

September 5, 2011

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! Revisiting 9/11 back to top 

GA Terror Bulletin Issued

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security have issued a joint bulletin to law enforcement and transportation agencies warning al-Qaida may be hatching a plot to use GA aircraft filled with explosives in attacks on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. The agencies, who, according to Politico, are describing the bulletin as "routine," say the terror organization has been recruiting Western operatives to take flight training. There is apparently no specific threat being mentioned.

Whatever plans may be afoot, the terrorists are apparently budget conscious. Rather than buying aircraft and modifying them at their leisure, the bulletin says they're planning to rent the aircraft. That would also seem to limit the destructive power of any flying bombs that might be created since the vast majority of rental aircraft are light singles. Nevertheless, expect increased security and scrutiny at your local airport as next Sunday gets nearer.

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Aviation Safety back to top 

Midairs In Alaska, Canada

The second midair collision in Alaska in as many months is believed to have killed a young commercial pilot while another managed to land her badly damaged aircraft safely. The Anchorage Daily News reports 24-year-old Scott Veal, of Kenai, is presumed dead after the Grant Aviation Cessna Caravan he was flying was in a collision with a Ryan Air Cessna 207 flown by 26-year-old Kristen Sprague, of Idaho, and crashed Friday near Nightmute on Nelson Island in southwestern Alaska. The pilots were the lone occupants of both aircraft and both were headed to Bethel, about 100 miles east. Weather was reported as overcast with ceilings about 1,000 feet AGL and no fog or rain. Meanwhile, a collision between two sailplanes has killed two Canadian pilots in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia.

The pair apparently launched together Saturday afternoon from Invermere, about 100 miles west of Calgary, and were working the same thermal when the wings of their aircraft touched. Both aircraft went out of control and hit a mountainside. No names have been released but the men, a 50-year-old Calgary resident and a 59-year-old Kelowna, British Columbia native, were described as experienced sailplane pilots who were familiar with the area.

Pilot's Crusade Against "Toxic" Cabin Air

John Hoyte flew for 30 years and says chronic fatigue and memory loss caused by toxins circulated in the air systems of the aircraft he flew forced him to walk away at the age of 49. Now 55, Hoyte wants to lobby the government to force airlines to recognize a link between toxic fumes on their aircraft and negative health effects for pilots. He has set up the Aerotoxic Association based on his belief that exposure to fumes in airliners caused him to suffer neurological damage. Hoyte's belief is generally unsupported by the industry and may be challenged by some studies.

According to an Independent Committee on Toxicity, "fume events" take place on roughly one out of every 2,000 flights aboard jet airliners. A review concluded in 2007 that a link between cabin air and pilot health could not be established. That review stopped short of ruling out the possibility. The Department of Transportation's position is that there is no evidence for pollutants in the cabin exceeding guidelines for health and safety standards. The British Air Line Pilots' Association believes further testing should be conducted. Hoyte says he has been tested along with 26 other pilots as part of a university study and all the participants showed effects from exposure to toxins. He says that after the study he was told he suffered from aerotoxic syndrome caused by breathing oil fumes. A coming University of Amsterdam study will sampling 30 crew members with neurological complaints to see if it can establish evidence of a link to toxins in cabin air.

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Law and Logbooks back to top 

Rendition Flight Details Emerge In Court

New light fell on the U.S. government's rendition program as aviation companies battled in court over fees paid by the government for the service. According to court testimony from an aircraft broker that made jets available, the government was looking for "the cheapest aircraft to fulfill a mission." Those who catered to the government's needs apparently supplied the jets with their typical salvo of fruit plates and wine and billed for that and other services. The court papers show that some jets flew as many as ten landings during a single mission, costing the government as much as $300,000 in fees. One company involved in the court proceedings claimed to have flown 55 missions for the government. How they did it was another matter.

The president of one of the companies involved in the case referred to the flights as "classified" and described passengers as "government employees and their invitees." The flights were operated under State Department transit letters, addressed "to whom it may concern." According to court testimony from a former FAA lawyer, "when you go overseas and show up in somebody's back yard in your private plane working for the U.S. government, that's a diplomacy issue, not a flight issue." The papers provided to the crew were "letters of public convenience" and stated that "accompanying personnel are under contract with the U.S. government." They described the aircraft's travels as "global support for U.S. embassies worldwide." The letters may also have allowed crews to bypass normal flight-hour restrictions, alter flight plans, and earn cooperation from foreign authorities, according to testimony.

MIT Faces Lithium Battery Shipment Fine

The brain trust at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) may be getting a $175,000 lesson in the dangers of lithium ion batteries for a 2009 incident that could have had tragic consequences. Someone at the school packed 33 circuit boards, each attached to a lithium battery into a cardboard box and had FedEx pick it up for delivery to Seattle. The FAA says the box didn't have the required dangerous goods declaration and labeling and wasn't packed to prevent the batteries from short circuiting. It's proposing a $175,000 fine against the august institution. Fortunately, freight handlers at FedEx's sorting facility in Medford, MA discovered the improperly labeled and packed box when it burst into flame on their conveyor belt before being loaded on an aircraft.

The FAA says the MIT staff who packed the box weren't properly trained (!) to handle hazardous material and the FedEx airbill they filled out had the box checked to indicate there were no dangerous goods inside. The agency said that meant FedEx staff didn't know what was inside and when the fire started they tried unsuccessfully to put it out with fire extinguishers. There have been at least two cargo aircraft crashes in which lithium battery fires have been implicated. A year ago, a UPS Boeing 747 crashed in Dubai after a fire erupted on board and in July an Asiana Airlines cargo plane crashed off Korea and lithium cells were also implicated.

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Point A to Point B -- As You've Never Seen It Before back to top 

Matternet's Vision Is A Roadless World

Matternet is a plan to use aviation technology to keep people alive and help them thrive when economic or geographic challenges keep them isolated from streams of commerce and aid, and traditional aviation isn't the answer. Matternet's long-term vision of creating an autonomous transportation network for point-to-point delivery of people and cargo must wait on technology that is not yet proven, but its short-term goals are more in line with technology's present abilities. For that, Matternet hopes to meet the need for quick delivery of medical test results and their associated medications to geographically isolated people. The plan would use small, autonomous, electrically powered quadcopters carrying two-kilogram packages 10 kilometers at a time. If all goes well, that will be just the beginning.

The group expects to build its initial pilot test group with quadcopters and test them in varying weather conditions. Matternet is fully aware that they may need to shift to or integrate fixed-wing vehicles for longer range, heavier payload and more reliable service in inclement weather. Matternet believes they can produce the aerial vehicles for use in round-trip medical missions for less than $2500. If it works, they would then hope to deploy solar-powered ground stations that quadcopters or other unmanned aerial vehicles could use to hopscotch across larger distances. In that vision, the ground stations would be fully autonomous and could swap out the aerial vehicles' used batteries with charged batteries and change payloads as needed. Matternet hopes to deliver the system to areas of need with the help of non-governmental philanthropic organizations, or with the assistance of local governments or communities. The ultimate vision of Matternet is to create an autonomous transportation network capable of delivering goods or people across greater distances, virtually eliminating the need for roads.

Related Content:

Podcast: Matternet's Future Is a Roadless World

File Size 12.9 MB / Running Time 14:08

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AVweb's Glenn Pew speaks with Matternet.net team leader Andreas Raptopoulos about a plan to use aviation technology to change the world — again.

Click here to listen. (12.9 MB, 14:08)

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News Briefs back to top 

Diamond Resumes D-JET Testing

Diamond Aircraft has resumed flight testing of its D-JET personal jet after a five-month break. Diamond suspended testing in late March when it ran out of money to continue the project. It took until early June to secure new financing, including a well-publicized spat with the Canadian government over a federal loan that was ultimately denied. Diamond has not said who the benefactor is for the D-JET program although it has said the funding it received was specifically allocated to the jet.

The first flight, using serial no. 003, was mostly a systems shakedown to make sure everything works after the storage period. The flight was uneventful and paves the way for a resumption of the full certification flight-test program with two test aircraft. The company will also build a production conforming aircraft. "Our team's spirits are certainly lifted with the resumption of flight activities" said Diamond President Peter Maurer. "Being able to bring back part of the team allowed us to resume flight operations and we are looking forward to finishing the campaign with 002 and 003, while in parallel finalizing detail design work and starting the production of conforming aircraft 004."

Still The Best Way To Board An Airliner

The widely used "block" method (boarding an airliner in sections) is among the slowest of methods, while the windows-first method (which we told you about in 2008) has again been proven best ... but carriers still aren't using it. Astrophysicist Jason Steffen's scientifically deduced suggestion (PDF) for the most efficient method of herding people onto airliners made headlines when it was published in 2008. In essence, it is a block method with an added dimension. Steffen loads passengers in groups, window to aisle, back to front, skipping rows to keep people out of each other's way. This June that method yielded the best time when tested for a TV show against five other methods. And it took about half the time of the widely used basic back to front block, or "section" method employed by many airlines today. There may be some simple reasons for why we're not using it.

Challenges to Steffen's system include human personalities and the general ability to hear, understand and follow specific instructions. The method would line people up outside of the aircraft arranged by row and also aisle. The first group onto the plane would be individuals seated at 30A, 28A, and 26A, for example. A byproduct of that method is that it separates people who would be sitting next to one another on the flight. That includes parting loving parents from unruly children and jealous husbands from friendly wives. An argument could be made that it would also separate the organized, sensible and attentive from the disorganized and absent-minded. Ironically, to some extent, those potential complications are also the strength of Steffen's system -- it spreads out individuals and gives them space to place themselves and their baggage with minimal interference. If that's too difficult, Steffen's research and computer modeling has also shown that even random boarding outpaces the block method many airlines use. And the slower the method, the more it costs the airline.

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

AVmail: September 5, 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: Flying the Airplane

I had been flying the Airbus A320 for a supplemental 121 carrier when I was furloughed and had to scramble to find any flying job. I interviewed for a job which required a sim check in a B727 simulator. I had not flown an aircraft with manual thrust levers, a yoke or a trim switch for several years and had never flown a 727 or a 727 sim.

My hand-flying skills were atrocious. I could interpret the steam gauges okay, but I couldn't keep up with the trim, and I ham-fisted the thrust levers badly. Needless to say, I didn't get the job, and I didn't blame them a bit.

Jerry Hart

Regarding the story about cockpit automation and the "Question of the Week": Reliance on automation is a very broad subject.

It's important we don't mix it all up, for we will be killing the patient with the medicine. The use of technology (moving map displays, INS, GPS, Flight Management Systems, FADEC) has increased pilots' situational awareness, aircraft performance and fuel savings by orders of magnitude and therefore incredibly improved aviation safety in all flying activities. There is no question technology's contribution to aviation has been outstanding.

The issues surrounding recent accidents are being incredibly distorted by partial opinions and incomplete reports (in the case of the A330 accident).

The Buffalo accident was at least in part caused by the practice of advanced flight instruction in many flight schools to have multi-engine and complex aircraft "fly out of the stall," as opposed to immediately reducing angle of attack by at least slightly reducing pitch.

I have been subjected to a demonstration by an advanced instructor of how to perform "a stall by ATP standards," in which he basically used power and pitch up to fly out of the stall. This practice is in use today. Some students know enough about aerodynamics to understand angle of attack, but unfortunately many will simply mimic the actions demonstrated by their instructors because this is how they learn (i.e., "by doing" as opposed to by understanding).

The Air France A330 accident investigation has not yet been completed, but it all seems to point clearly in the direction of poor systems design having effectively caused the "blackout" of all speed and attitude indications in the cockpit, rendering the pilots powerless to recover.

The fact that they raised the nose is purely academic, as it can be clearly seen that the pilots (all three of them) spent three or four minutes discussing whether they were going up or down.

Arnold Pieper

I have over 2,500 hours, and, of those, less than 50 are in an autopilot-equipped aircraft. I believe that hours do not give an accurate account of flight experience. Most of my time is crop-dusting. I believe a 2,500-hour pilot can easily exceed the flying ability of a 20,000-hour instrument monitor.

Tom Mueller

There is no question that the new breed of airline pilots relies too much on automation. How many times have I seen their heads stuck in the cockpit programming one thing after another and never looking outside for traffic, etc.? After watching this scenario time after time, I can't help but think of this quote: "Real Pilots Can't Type!"

Capt. Robert Burns

I observed early in a 40-year airline career that some managers assumed that automation was the key to safety. In particular, where those managers' skills were weak, they would try to enforce minimal training and minimal use of basic skills.

After instructing on several generations of jet transports, I would find some pilots who simply refused to fly the aircraft with any automation turned off. Airbus Industry -- and, to a lesser extent, Boeing, Lockheed and Douglas -- have fallen victim to the myth that automation is infallible. Boeing and Airbus are now calling for more emphasis on basic skills, a long-overdue recognition of the problem.

The new multi-pilot licenses are a concern. Some of these pilots have no real experience in basic skills and therefore nothing to fall back on. The recent Air France accident is only one of many where a perfectly flyable aircraft stalled at altitude and crashed because the pilots had no idea how to fly.

Brian Hope

With 42 years of experience, I just recently retired out of the B767. It was always my policy and pleasure to hand-fly the aircraft below 10,000 feet: no auto throttles, no autopilot, no nothing. The airplane was just a pleasure to fly.

When I would suggest it to my first officers, some were very reluctant to hand-fly and others would downright refuse, afraid they would screw up. Some were just too lazy. Yes, in my opinion, the new generation is becoming too addicted to automation.

Frank Perfetti

AVweb Replies:

We received dozens of letters about the topic of automation and would have loved to run them all (though, obviously, we can't). Instead we've tried to pick a representative sampling of the comments that came in.

"Old Eagles" Examined

Flying adults aren't going to change the bleak picture we have for the future. The truth of the matter is that overregulation of the industry has driven the cost of flying well beyond the means of the average guy.

Those with the time and money to fly are generally already flying or they won't start flying because of advancing age and medical concerns.

Young Eagles add to the pool, but not at sufficient rates, mostly because they dream of military flight service or commercial wings. These inspired youth will get in the air regardless, but it will be decades, if ever, before they enter the true ranks of GA.

Sadly, I believe that, as with too many other things in America today, we're presiding over the end of the aviation world as we have known it and as it has been, mostly, since the Wright Brothers.

Bob Greene

The times are tough, and I don't think people can afford to get into an expensive hobby like flying. The expense of flying is its own worst enemy.

Joe Cooper

I don't know where you folks got the idea that the new Young Eagles for adults was intended to increase the number of pilots to solve some "pilot gap" as asked in your "Question of the Week." I don't think this new EAA program is oriented that way at all.

I think the new program is intended to interest adults in the EAA and its signature programs related to Experimental Aircraft activities. To the extent this requires developing an interest in becoming a pilot, the program does do that — but it also is intended to go a lot further than just creating pilots.

The EAA Young Eagles program is oriented toward interesting young people in flying. However, it turns out the payback for the EAA in generating aircraft builders is extremely small and only a possible very-long-term gain. The problem is that children just aren't at a stage in life when building airplanes is a practical activity. They don't have the time, money, experience, and general disposition to take on a project that requires daily attention for many years to complete.

Amateur aircraft building, in my opinion, is an activity that really works best for retired folks. Those who are working full-time and trying to build a family along with improving their careers just don't have enough time to do this kind of intense work. While some working-age people do complete aircraft projects, it puts a heavy load on them.

Retired people who have spent a lifetime in technical activities really benefit from having a hobby that keeps them mentally active rather than having a retirement of fishing and watching TV. It is these people and ones who will soon be in this category that the new "Eagles" program is targeting.

Paul Mulwitz

No Offense Intended

By the title of the article "U.S. Military Runs From Mother Nature," you seem to imply that military pilots are a bunch of sissies. You failed to mention that during the Haiti operation, my squadron was the first on the scene. You also fail to mention that these same men and women that were "running from Mother Nature" don't run away when the RPG and tracer rounds start exploding around them.

What, pray tell, is the point of an article that compares military pilots (whose primary mission is national defense) and civil pilots with a completely different mission?

Enlighten me.

Greg Dugan

AVweb Replies:

We would never imply that you or anyone in uniform a sissy, Greg. The point of the story was to highlight the power of the storm and give some credit to those who volunteered in its aftermath. Certainly, no offense was intended.

Russ Niles

"Piper" Chief

I looked at the included pictures today and saw a brand new airplane. My dad worked at Aeronca from 1937 to 1965 so I was thoroughly familiar with the Aeronca Chief.

I was not aware that Piper built an aircraft called Chief until I saw today's photo of one.

John A. Totten

AVweb Replies:

Actually, John, we hear the Chinese are copying the Chief, too. Nice catch and sorry to all those Chief fans who were confused.

Russ Niles

Banner Week for "POTW"

As a group, the photos this week are the best I've seen in a long time. Usually there are one or two that are very good, but this week brought several oohs and aahs as I sat here at the computer, coffee in hand. Kudos to the editors and the photographers.

Anne Umphrey

787 Photo Confusion

Your semi-weekly issue of AVwebFlash is always informative and accurate. It is by far the best electronic aviation news magazine out there.

This week, there is a photo attached to the article on the 787. It appears to have been taken from the cockpit of a Christen Eagle and is presumably focused on the 787. However, the aircraft in question has four engines. The Dreamliner is a twin-engine aircraft.

Am I missing something here?

Ed Wandall

AVweb Replies:

Just a couple of engines, Ed. The photo does, indeed, show a Boeing 747-8 on final for Paine Field, taken by Robert Bismuth from his Christen Eagle. What we forgot to do was include captions with the photos, which were intended to show the dozens of 787s on the ramp and on one runway awaiting certification so they could be delivered. Our apologies for the confusion and to Robert for not crediting him properly.

Russ Niles

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

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New on AVweb.com back to top 

Brainteasers Quiz #163: Sound Good, Fly Sharp


Flying's easy. Sounding good on the radio while talking to ATC or swapping position reports on CTAF takes panache and a firm grasp of FAA-approved/suggested phraseology. Discover how smooth you sound by taking this quiz.

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: 9/11 Week -- Yes to Commemoration, No to Commiseration

As the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaches, it was inevitable that the media would be filled with retrospectives and reports. We are right to remember the victims who died in the attacks and the servicemen and women who have died since. But we owe it to ourselves not to wallow in the past and to put the risk of terrorism where it belongs -- a worry, yes, but not one that threatens the Republic and far, far down the list of hazards we all face every day. It's time to move on, says Paul Bertorelli in his latest post to the AVweb Insider blog.

Read more and join the conversation.

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.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Hammond Air Center (KHDC, Hammond, LA)

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

AVweb reader William Lahners recommended our latest "FBO of the Week": Hammond Air Center at Hammond Northshore Regional Airport (KHDC) in Hammond, Louisiana. He writes:

We had such a great experience at Hammond Air, we had to nominate them! Erin Pierce, the owner, is one of the nicest and most professional people I have met. Erin is always on-site and truly runs the FBO like a family business. When the rental car company didn't come through, he loaned us his Escalade to use. Since they are brand-new (grand opening is in October) signage is not good yet, but they are on the west side of the field. KHDC, if you are not familiar, has an ILS and 6,500-foot runways and is jet-friendly.

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!

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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The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

Many years ago, I had to make a night flight from Cable Airport to Phoenix in a Cessna 150. The weather was clear, and I filed a VFR flight plan for N51139 and departed at 10:30pm. While climbing out over Ontario VOR (now PDZ), I contacted Ontario Approach (now SoCal) for flight following, got a squawk, and was advised of radar contact, then settled in for the long flight. The frequency was quiet at that late hour, and I guessed the controller was bored. He must have looked up our flight plan, because the next thing I heard was:

"Cessna 51139, are you an orange and white Cessna?"

"That's affirmative for 51139."

"Pretty good radar, isn't it?"

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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