Aircraft Spruce at the Southeast Aviation Show
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In a report (PDF) completed last month, the U.S. Government Accountability Office examined "safety concerns" about the use of
composites in commercial aircraft. Based on research and interviews with experts, GAO investigators identified four key safety-related concerns with the repair and maintenance of composites in
commercial airplanes, but added that none of the experts they talked to believed these concerns were insurmountable or posed "extraordinary safety risks." The FAA is taking action to help address its
concerns, the GAO said, but added that "until these composite airplanes enter service, it is unclear if these actions will be
The four concerns cited by the study are: (1) limited information on the behavior of airplane composite structures, (2) technical issues related to the unique properties of composite materials, (3)
standardization of repair materials and techniques, and (4) training and awareness. Boeing's 787 is the first mostly composite large commercial transport airplane to undergo the FAA certification
process. Since existing safety standards are often based on the performance of metallic airplanes, the GAO said, the agency was asked to review the certification processed used by the FAA and EASA.
The 787 is about 50 percent composite by weight, not counting the engines, according to the report.
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FAA AD Warns Of 757 Stabilizer Control Failure
More than 700 Boeing 757s operated by U.S. airlines will need to be inspected for potential problems that "could lead to loss of control of the horizontal stabilizer," according to a proposed
Airworthiness Directive from the FAA. The FAA says that it is responding to a report of extensive corrosion of a mechanism essential to the aircraft's horizontal stabilizer trim. Failure of the
mechanism (a ballscrew) could lead to loss of control of the airplane like that experienced by Alaska Airlines Flight 261 on Jan. 31, 2000. In that case, a McDonnell Douglas MD-83 suffered failure of
the jackscrew that controlled stabilizer trim by moving the stabilizer itself. The aircraft crashed into the Pacific after flipping inverted, killing all 88 aboard.
The proposed AD would require repetitive detailed inspections to check the 757 ballscrew assembly for measurement discrepancies and freeplay, and requires repetitive lubrication of the part. It is
intended to "prevent undetected failure of the primary and secondary load paths for the ballscrew in the horizontal stabilizer." The FAA is estimating cost of compliance of this AD, which would affect
730 aircraft, at $1,105 per aircraft for inspection and about $2,210 for replacement work (excluding the cost of parts). The FAA is seeking comments by Dec. 9. The full document is available online,
After an extensive investigation and grounding, the Air Force doesn't know why some F-22 pilots have suffered symptoms similar to oxygen deprivation while flying the fighter (including one last
week) and has returned the full fleet to service. During the more than four months that the aircraft was grounded the Air Force failed to find a common thread that linked at least 12 reported
incidents in which pilots reported hypoxia-like symptoms while flying the jet. According to Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz, the oxygen system was not the cause of a fatal crash
during a November 2010 nighttime training mission. Prior reports published by the Air Force Times have stated that tests performed on Raptor pilots have found toxins in the pilots' blood. And reports previously published by the Air Force Times, and an Air Force accident
report, suggest that not everyone is convinced the jet's oxygen system is trouble-free.
A September article published by the Air Force Times
states that multiple sources had said a bleed-air issue led to last November's fatal F-22 Raptor crash. According to the Air Force Times, the Air Force accident report for that crash says the aircraft
suffered a bleed air malfunction that caused both the jet's Environmental Control System and its On-Board Oxygen Generating System to shut down. That report is not publicly available. If those systems
shut down, a pilot flying at altitude would need to switch on an emergency oxygen supply and dive to a lower altitude. According to a source cited by the Air Force Times, it is not clear if the pilot
of the crash aircraft had switched on the emergency oxygen supply. The source says the aircraft's descent rate suggests that, if the pilot had suffered oxygen deprivation, he should not have fallen
unconscious. In that specific case, says the source, the pilot should have been only suffering from symptoms of hypoxia before the aircraft reached safe altitudes.
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Sen. Charles Schumer of New York on Tuesday asked the Senate's aviation subcommittee to schedule a hearing in response to last week's release of email exchanges relevant to the 2009 Colgan Air crash. "The fact that [these emails] were not shared with
[NTSB] investigators compels us to take a closer look at how we investigate crashes to make sure NTSB has the best information possible when making critical safety recommendations," Schumer said. The emails, which were revealed by lawyers researching the case, show that airline staffers had expressed
concern about the qualifications of the captain of Flight 3407 during his training. The airline's parent company, Pinnacle Airlines, said the captain was properly trained and certified.
WGRZ, a news station in Buffalo, N.Y., said Pinnacle sent them a
statement saying it had provided over 400,000 pages of documents to the plaintiffs, including the emails in question, three months ago. "The plaintiffs asked Colgan to reconsider the confidential
designation and we have voluntarily agreed to do so because we remain confident in our full compliance with FAA regulations governing our training processes, then and now," the airline said. The NTSB
completed its 285-page report on the crash in March 2010, but the emails in question apparently were not
among the documents examined by the board. "[Marvin] Renslow had a problem upgrading," stated a supervisor in one email. Another adds, "Anyone that does not meet the mins and had problems in training
is not ready to handle the Q." Fifty people died in the crash of the Q400 in Buffalo, N.Y.
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The Super Tucano turboprop, designed for light attack missions and military training, has been certified by the FAA, Embraer announced on Wednesday. The company said it will now plan a demo tour to
U.S. military bases in an effort to win contracts for the aircraft. More than 150 of the airplanes are flying, and five countries use them in their armed forces. The U.S. military has lobbied Congress
to send some of the Tucanos to Afghanistan, but so far funding has not been forthcoming.
One Super Tucano is in operation in the U.S., with Tactical Air Defense Services, a
defense and aerospace contractor. The worldwide fleet has accumulated over 130,000 flight hours and more than 18,000 combat hours without a single loss, according to Embraer. The airplane can operate
with one or two crew. It has more than four hours of endurance and can support more than 130 different weapons configurations.
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A major Hollywood movie about the Tuskegee Airmen is due in theaters soon, and meanwhile, a small documentary company has released a film about flying paragliders with wild birds in the Himalayas.
Red Tails started production with LucasFilms in 2009 and will open in theaters on Jan. 20. "I've wanted to do this film for a great many years," said George Lucas, executive producer. "The
Tuskegee Airmen were such superb pilots It is an honor to bring to the screen a story inspired by their heroics." The film stars Cuba Gooding Jr.; trailers are online now. Meanwhile, Flight for Survival documents a different world -- the remote Himalayan region
where today a small group of paragliders work to preserve endangered vultures.
The film documents Scott Mason's efforts to promote conservation of the birds and their habitat, and features aerial shots of paragliders and birds flying together amid spectacular mountain
scenery. The DVD is for sale online. "Vultures are notoriously difficult animals to empathize with," the
filmmakers say at their website, but they hope to change that and encourage conservation efforts. The film recently was awarded a prize for "Best Human Adventure Film" at the 29th International Free
Flight "Icarus Cup" Film Festival in France.
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A leading lawmaker says he thinks long-term reauthorization of the FAA is possible before the current interim funding package expires Jan. 31. Rep. John Mica, R-FLa., the chairman of the House
Transportation Committee, says he thinks a four-year deal is possible by the end of the year. But even though the FAA has been without a proper reauthorization package since 2007, Washington observers
are terming Mica's plan "optimistic" because of the politics involved. Mica himself hinted at turning down the temperature on the dispute over subsidizing air service to isolated communities, an issue
at least partly to blame for the impasse that caused a partial shutdown of the agency in July.
Mica said he would accept subsidized flights to airports in communities at least 90 miles from the nearest regularly served commercial airport. When it came up last July, Mica and other Republicans
wanted the subsidies ended for many airports, some of which happened to be located in the areas of prominent Democrat representatives and senators. The airline subsidy issue isn't the only issue that
could get in the way of an FAA deal, however. Labor rules and slot designations at major airports can continue to dog the process.
Boeing will lift the curtain a little today on the financial aspects of its 787 program, but that didn't stop pundits from predicting what it will take to make the world's most expensive civilian
aircraft development program make money. Rather than make its own prediction, Bloomberg tallied up the crystal balling of 18 analysts, averaged them and came up with Boeing's making its first buck on
Dreamliner No. 1101. The magic number was undoubtedly much lower than that when Boeing embarked on the 787 program but a series of problems compounded to create a three-year launch delay. The first
Dreamliner was delivered to ANA last month and was due to enter service today. The company has about 800 firm orders for the mostly plastic jet and based on previous programs should therefore have no
trouble hitting the black.
Boeing will speed up production to 10 787s a month this year, making it the speediest wide-body production line anywhere and making the 1,100 threshold achievable in a little less than 10 years.
Boeing's last clean-sheet offering was the 777 and its break-even point was 250 aircraft. A total of 1,233 have been sold since the design was introduced in 1995. Meanwhile, Boeing says it's earning a
profit on every Dreamliner because it averages the start-up costs over the life of the program rather than addressing them up front and posting a loss on the initial aircraft.
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Fly More for Less
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This week we learned that iPads have the ability to randomly delete files, including your charts and plates. We're
wondering how dependent you've become on tablets, touch screens and other wonder boxes.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.
Is Your A&P Keeping Secrets?
Learn to recognize maintenance issues and take action before they turn into something big. The Light Plane Maintenance Toolbox shows you how.
The transcript reveals confusion and dithering in the cockpit as the crew appears to have held the airplane into a persistent stall for three minutes or longer. On the AVweb Insider blog,
Paul Bertorelli predicts that Air France will have some explaining do to show why its pilots couldn't fly the airplane on raw data well enough to recover a stall.
That's the upshot of Richard Branson's announcement last week that his Virgin Atlantic airline will be testing out and maybe using a synthetic jet fuel made from steel plant effluent. As much as
we cheer the idea, we're less thrilled with his statement that we're running out of oil. In his latest post to the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli stresses that, to remain credible,
opinion leaders should stop saying things like this.
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Video (below) appeared to show that the thrust reversers of American Airlines Flight 2253 were slow to deploy before the 757-200 slid off the runway at Jackson Hole Wyoming last December --
now we know the crew thought so, too. The NTSB Friday released a transcript of the flight's cockpit voice recorder. The airliner had touched down safely under a 1,000 foot overcast with a broken layer
at 400 and 3/4 mile visibility in light snow. At the moment the wheels touched, the flight's captain said "very good." Twenty-seven seconds later, the first officer (who had flown the landing)
expressed his opinion of how events had developed since then by stating, "we're screwed." He then told the tower why: "and American ah twenty two fifty three is goin' off the end of the runway."
None of the 185 aboard were injured. The jet came to rest approximately 350 feet past the runway overrun area in snow. Preliminary reports indicate that the airplane was undamaged, according to the
NTSB. The transcript shows that almost immediately after touching down, the pilots believed they had a problem. The copilot specifically commented that he had "no reverse." The conversation that
followed between copilot and captain as the jet rumbled down the runway focused on efforts to apply brakes and reversers. Eventually, 15 seconds into the landing roll the captain says "alright I got
max brake." It apparently was too little, too late. The crew from a Challenger 30 that landed before the Boeing reported good braking on the first 2/3 of the runway and poor braking on the last third.
After the Boeing came to rest, the crew tended to communications with the tower and emergency personnel and shared this exchange: The captains said, "We got no braking action." The copilot responded,
"We didn't get thrust reversers out." The transcript suggests that wasn't for lack of trying, and the video shows that eventually -- and prior to the jet leaving the runway -- the reversers did
deploy. But the NTSB has yet to release a final report.
AVweb's latest "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to a location that's had the honor in the past Kissimmee Jet
Center at Kissimmee Gateway Airport (KISM) in Florida.
AVweb reader John Wilson explains why KJC is his destination of choice:
Small and friendly with service and prices that can't be beat, Kissimmee Jet Center is our spot when in the Orlando area! We call ahead, our rental car is sitting at a pre-assigned tiedown spot,
[and] a staff member is right there to get us on our way. ... [When we return, it's] to a plane fueled with the lowest-cost gas around. How much better can you get?
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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