AVwebFlash - Volume 17, Number 43b

October 27, 2011

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
 
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AVflash! Revisiting the Safety of Composites back to top 
 
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GAO Examines "Concerns" About Composites

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 sufficient."

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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Aircraft Safety Dominates the Headlines back to top 
 
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FAA AD Warns Of 757 Stabilizer Control Failure

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, here.

F-22's Flying, Not Necessarily Fixed

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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Digging Deeper on the Colgan Crash back to top 
 

Senate Asked To Review Colgan Investigation

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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Embraer's Light Attack Plane Certified back to top 
 

Embraer's Super Tucano Now FAA-Certified

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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News Briefs back to top 
 

Flying Flicks: Red Tails, Flight For Survival

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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What You Missed in AVwebBiz This Week back to top 
 

Mica Says FAA Funding Deal Possible

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.

Dreamliner Break-Even Pegged At 1100

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.

AVwebBiz: AVweb's Business Aviation Newsletter

Have you signed up yet for AVweb's no-cost weekly business aviation newsletter, AVwebBiz?

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.

Add AVwebBiz to your AVweb subscriptions today by clicking here and choosing "Update E-mail Subscriptions."

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

Question of the Week: How's Your Electronics Dependence?

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.

How much do you rely on high-tech tools in the cockpit?
(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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Opinion & Commentary back to top 
 

AVweb Insider Blog: Flight 447 -- Released Transcripts Put Air France in the Hot Seat

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.

Read more and join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: Sir Richard Goes a-Greenwashin'

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.

Read more and join the conversation.

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

Video: DRE's New Portable Intercom

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

Most portable intercoms barely meet the mark for basic cabin chatter. DRE's newest unit may be a bit big, but it performs like a certified panel-mount system.

Don't see a video screen?
Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

Video: AA Jackson Hole Overrun Transcript Released

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

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.

Find the transcript here.

Don't see a video screen?
Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

 
Your Favorite FBOs back to top 
 

FBO of the Week: Kissimmee Jet Center (KISM, Florida)

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

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?

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 Geoff Thomas of Warner Springs, CA. Click here for the rest of this week's submissions.


 
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:

Publisher
Timothy Cole

Editorial Director, Aviation Publications
Paul Bertorelli

Editor-in-Chief
Russ Niles

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Glenn Pew

Features Editor
Kevin Lane-Cummings

Webmaster
Scott Simmons

Contributors
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.