AVwebFlash - Volume 18, Number 15b

April 12, 2012

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! The Next Era of NASA ... back to top 

NASA Makes Progress In Quiet Supersonic Flight

New wind-tunnel tests by NASA of designs by Boeing and Lockheed show it's possible to build jets that can fly at supersonic speeds quietly enough to fly over land, according to the National Business Aviation Association. "The game-changing technology out there is having tools available to design the external shape of the vehicle to give you a low sonic boom on the ground," Tom Jones, project manager for the NASA research team, told NBAA. The latest experiments, which have been heralded as a "breakthrough," show that the aircraft might not create a "boom" at all, or if it does, it would be very quiet.

The designs are likely to be first tried out on business jets, NBAA said, since they are lighter than passenger jets. "The bigger the vehicle, the harder it is to make it quiet, "Jones said. The new experiments also show that it's possible to combine lower noise signatures with low cruise drag, which once was thought to be mutually exclusive, according to NASA. The next step is to test out the theories in flight. "It is my hope and my goal to make sure that we develop an X-plane demonstrator in years, not decades," said Jones.

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... And a Fond Farewell to the Last back to top 

Shuttle Discovery Set For Final Flight

Pilots in the Washington, D.C., area on Tuesday morning, April 17, may catch a glimpse of the space shuttle Discovery taking its final ride strapped to the back of a 747. The now-retired shuttle will be making its move from a storage facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida to Dulles International Airport in Virginia, en route to its final home at the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Center. The modified NASA 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft will depart from Florida just after sunrise on Tuesday and arrive in the Washington, D.C., area about 10 a.m., taking a final victory lap around various landmarks before touching down.

The exact route and timing of the flight depend on weather and operational constraints, NASA said; however, the aircraft is expected to fly near the National Mall, Reagan National Airport, National Harbor, and the Udvar-Hazy Center, at an altitude of about 1,500 feet. Two NASA T-38 jets flew over the area last week to scout out the route, and may join the SCA on the final flight. The aircraft is also expected to execute a low pass over the airport at Dulles prior to landing. The museum has planned a welcome celebration and special events through the weekend. The shuttle will be moved to the nearby museum on April 19. Discovery will replace the shuttle Enterprise, which is currently on display.

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Probable Cause back to top 

Fatal Crash Blamed On Stray Clipboard

A helicopter that crashed in Idaho in 2010, killing the pilot and two wildlife biologists on board, was brought down by a stray metal clipboard that hit the tail rotor, the NTSB said in its final report last week. Two scientists planned to conduct an aerial wildlife survey in a commercially owned Hiller UH 12E helicopter equipped with a three-abreast bench seat and a fully enclosed cabin, the NTSB said. The pilot stowed most of the biologists' gear on the helicopter's external racks, and all three boarded the helicopter, with the biologists in each of the outboard seats. About a half hour later, the pilot broadcast that the helicopter was "landing at Kamiah," about 35 miles short of the planned destination, and moments later, the aircraft began to break up in the air.

The investigators found that the metal clipboard struck the tail rotor and caused it to separate, causing loss of control of the aircraft. Witnesses said the helicopter was rotating as it descended. It left a 1,500-foot debris field and crashed into the driveway of a residence. The investigators weren't able to tell if the clipboard had been part of the gear stowed externally, or if a passenger had opened a door in flight and the clipboard had fallen out. The clipboard also might have been inadvertently left unsecured on one of the external racks. One witness said the right cabin door was open in flight, the NTSB said, but it appeared that both doors were closed at the time of impact.

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CAFE Symposium Just Around the Corner back to top 

Electric Aircraft Advocates To Meet

The 6th Annual CAFE Electric Aircraft Symposium, coming up April 27 and 28 in Santa Rosa, Calif., will feature speakers from NASA, Boeing, Aerovironment, leaders in battery technology, and more, the organizers announced recently. Tine Tomazic of Pipistrel will be there to talk about the Taurus G4, which won last year's $1.35 million Green Flight Challenge. Mark Moore of NASA will discuss advanced concepts in electric propulsion, and Tom Gunnarson of FAA's Small Airplane Directorate will explain the agency's plans for certifying electric aircraft. The weekend is billed as a "graduate-level program" (PDF) in new flight technologies, featuring experts in lithium battery research, design software, UAVs, quiet propellers, and high-lift aerodynamics.

Future Green Flight Challenges will be unveiled at the event, the organizers said. Flight demos also will be held at the CAFE Flight Test Center. Registration is $499 and can be completed online. AVweb's Mary Grady recently spoke with Tomazic about the G4's nomination for the Collier Trophy; click here to listen to that podcast. AVweb's editorial director, Paul Bertorelli, visited the Pipistrel factory on a recent trip to Slovenia; click here to see his video flight trial of the Virus SW, which boasts fuel economy of nearly 50 MPG.

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What You Missed in AVwebBiz This Week back to top 

NTSB Suggests Changes For Reno Races

The NTSB is still working to complete its investigation of last year's fatal crash at the Reno Air Races, but on Tuesday, board chairman Deborah Hersman announced a half dozen safety recommendations that she hopes the race organizers will implement before the races resume in September. "We believe these recommendations can go a long way toward preventing future accidents," she said at a news conference at the Reno airport. The suggestions to race organizers include changes to the course design and layout, improvements to the methods used to track and resolve discrepancies found during pre-race aircraft inspections, required pilot training in G-force tolerance, and better ramp safety, such as keeping fuel trucks farther from the race area and improving the placement of barriers. Hersman also emphasized that pilots should document that highly modified aircraft have been exposed to realistic race conditions -- high speeds and high g-loads -- before the race.

Hersman also asked the FAA to review its publications that provide guidance for air racing, because the FAA order for the Reno race required just 500 feet between the race course and the spectators; however, an FAA advisory circular recommends a separation of 1,000 feet when aircraft are flying faster than 250 mph. The board recommends that the FAA should "reconcile all of the differences between these two documents," Hersman said. She also suggested that race organizers should evaluate the use of g-suits for race pilots, and consider making them a requirement. Hersman said additional recommendations may be issued as the board continues its investigation. The accident in September 2011 killed pilot Jimmy Leeward and 10 spectators, and another 60 spectators were injured.

University Offers Type Ratings

The Florida Institute of Technology says it's the first post-secondary institution to graduate students with type ratings in modern jet airliners. Juan Villa-Navarro and Sidney Callaghan completed the Jet Transition and Commercial Type Rating course as part of their bachelor's degree program at the Melbourne campus. They both earned type ratings in the A320. Type ratings are also available in Boeing 737NG. "The courses will prepare them well and provide all the ratings necessary to go directly to a major airline. This represents the gold standard in collegiate flight training," said Ken Stackpoole, vice president for Aviation Programs and dean of the College of Aeronautics.

The type rating course, which is available as an elective for junior, senior and grad students planning airline careers, is offered in partnership with Aerostar Training Services in Orlando. There are six more students in the pipeline. Most graduates of university-level aviation courses obtain multi-IFR endorsements, but a type rating is required to fly jets. Peter Dunn, the program manager, said the courses were designed specifically in response to what appears to be a looming pilot shortage and new airline pilot standards mandated by Congress. "We are responding to what the new law intends," Dunn said. "We want to give our graduates the ability to compete for major airline jobs."

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New on AVweb.com back to top 

Forty-Seven Years in Aviation: A Memoir; Chapter 12: Boxcars and Albatrosses

Released from active duty in the Air Force and starting a non-flying civilian job, Dick Taylor misses aviation and joins a local Air National Guard squadron. But instead of Stratotankers, he flies Fairchild Flying Boxcars and later, in the Air Force Reserve, Grumman Albatrosses.

Click here to read the 12th chapter.

In late February 1959, having fulfilled my commitment of four years of active duty in the Air Force, we headed north from Tampa, bound for Akron, Ohio, and a major change in lifestyle from military to civilian. We were excited to get home and begin again, so to speak, but we were also reluctant to leave Tampa's year-round warm weather. Some former Florida residents claim "You never get all the sand out of your shoes," which must be true because years later, when time and money made it possible, we began spending a month or two each winter in southwest Florida, a weather break that continues to this day.

Had I known in 1959 that the journey to a successful and satisfying career would take almost seven years with several detours along the way, I would probably have made a significant change in my plans; but as it turned out, each of those detours opened the door to another opportunity, resulting in an eventual happy ending, career-wise.

After struggling through the remainder of 1959 in jobs that had absolutely nothing to do with aviation, I joined the 145th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, a unit of the Ohio Air National Guard based at the nearby Canton-Akron Airport. I was experiencing symptoms of aviation withdrawal and figured part-time flying would be much better than not flying at all. My civilian job (which I couldn't afford to leave at that time) was flexible enough to allow adequate participation as a "weekend warrior" in the Ohio Guard.

The 145th was equipped with Fairchild C-119Js, a direct descendant of the C-82 Packet, also a Fairchild product and also rather ugly; but both of these were purpose-built airplanes: They were not built to look good, they were built for hauling cargo.

Speaking of ugly, Fairchild tried another variation of the basic C-119 design that never got beyond the experimental stage:

The C-82 provided the Air Force with transport service for nine years but several serious design problems surfaced, the resolution of which resulted in the C-119 as we know it today. Significant changes included moving the cockpit forward to provide more cargo space and beefing up the structure to carry heavier loads. This was not a small airplane; in its final version, the C-119 had a maximum takeoff weight of 74,000 pounds:

The C-119s on the ramp at the Akron-Canton Airport were unique in that they were powered by Wright R-3350 compound turbine engines (most 119s had Pratt & Whitney R-4360s). This one-of-a-kind powerplant had three exhaust-driven turbines spaced 120 degrees apart around the engine and mated to the crankshaft with fluid couplings; known as Power Recovery Turbines, they were able to deliver 500 horsepower that otherwise would have been lost. By 1960 the R-3350s had apparently overcome their propensity to self-ignite during engine start, à la the B-29, but I don't recall a single engine fire during the two years and 368 hours I flew the C-119.

Although the C-119 was originally developed to carry cargo (the aft end of the fuselage consisted of two clam-shell doors that opened for unrestricted access to the cargo compartment), it was used extensively during the Korean War to deploy airborne infantry. The Ohio Air Guard C-119Js were "beavertails" (the aft fuselage narrowed to a point from top and bottom and housed a retractable ramp), a modification that provided ample access for wide cargo and patients on litters

My two years with the C-119 were unremarkable from a mission standpoint; a typical flight was two or three hours in length for aircrew training and proficiency, with an occasional weekend cross-country to break the routine. There wasn't much demand (read "zero") for aeromedical evacuation in northern Ohio.

The 145th was disbanded in 1961, its mission was changed to aerial refueling and the entire unit was transferred to Clinton County Air Force Base (a former SAC base) in southwestern Ohio. The C-119s remained in service until March 1962, and several of us who lived in the Akron area carpooled at least once a week for the 160-mile trip to Clinton County. That was a huge inconvenience but in the interest of maintaining currency and building time toward retirement benefits, I commuted for several months.

So much for the Boxcars ... fast forward to mid-summer 1963. I accepted a non-aviation job in Portland, Oreg., and once again we packed up the family, this time headed west, taking a full week for the trip and enjoying the sights along the way. The only disappointment was the cloud cover that obscured the four U.S. presidents whose faces are carved into the face of Mt. Rushmore ... we drove up and down the mountain three times hoping the clouds would break up, but no such luck.

Shortly after arriving in Portland, I was driving along the west side of the Portland International Airport one day and noticed five Grumman Albatross amphibians in Air Force colors parked on the ramp. I inquired about these unusual airplanes and found they were the "rolling stock" of the 304th Air Rescue Squadron, a component of the Air Force Reserve and a unit that just happened to have a slot for another pilot. I signed up on the spot.

With no reservations, I can say I had more fun flying this aircraft than all the others in my 47 years as a pilot. Originally known as the SA-16 (which led to the nickname "Slobbering Albert" after the dripping trail behind the airplane after every water takeoff), the designation was changed in the early '60s to "HU-16" in recognition of the airplane's utility.

The Albatross was sometimes referred to as a "panto-base" ("all bases") amphibian because it could operate from land, water, snow or ice ... and probably wet grass, if push came to shove. Snow and ice operations required a steel skid bolted onto the bottom of the hull to protect the keel and outrigger skids attached to the wing floats for stability. The Albatross was neither a great boat nor an outstanding airplane, but it combined good features of both in what was probably the most versatile aircraft in the Air Force inventory until the advent of large helicopters.

In case you needed to get an Albatross off land or sea in the shortest possible distance, four rocket bottles could be hung on the side doors and, when activated, they provided 4000 pounds of instant thrust -- RATO, or rocket-assisted takeoff (a.k.a., JATO, or jet-assisted takeoff). Four thousand pounds didn't slam you back in the seat, but it was a great help in time of need ... just be sure you were airborne and well above stall speed when the rockets burned out 14 seconds later. The Albatross was designed to handle the beating it would take during the takeoff run in four-foot waves and it could land in more severe conditions, but rocket assist was required for takeoff when the waves rose to eight feet or more; the airplane structure absorbed a lot of punishment ... no wonder the factory was nicknamed "the Grumman Iron Works."

The Albatross was the last of the Grumman amphibians, all of which were named for water birds. First was the Duck, acquired initially by the Navy to serve as a rescue vehicle and later used sparingly by the U.S. Army Air Force.

The next Grumman amphibian was the Goose, about the same size as the Duck but with two engines and a seven-passenger cabin. The Goose was intended for civilian use but the armed forces put a number of them to work as utility transports during WWII.

Next on the Grumman family tree was the Widgeon, smaller than the Goose and designed to carry one pilot and five passengers. In addition to its use by all the U.S. armed forces, the Widgeon also served in the British Royal Navy, where it was renamed "Gosling."

Continuing its line of successful amphibians, Grumman's next product was the Mallard, crewed by two pilots, with seats for ten passengers and an all-up weight of 12,570 pounds. The most noticeable difference when compared to previous Grumman amphibs was the use of tricycle landing gear. Fifty-nine Mallards were built but none were used in U.S. military service.

My first few flights in the Albatross were devoted to familiarization with aircraft systems, procedures and handling characteristics; nothing out of the ordinary except getting accustomed to throttles, props and mixture controls located overhead in the cockpit and -- because of its high profile and slab-sided fuselage -- the airplane would try to turn downwind instead of weathervaning into a crosswind like ordinary flying machines.

Learning to use the Albatross in "boat mode" began on Lake Washington in Seattle. It is difficult to describe the complexity of operating a seaplane because every situation is different. Once in the water and not secured, a seaplane is always moving; every gust of wind, every change in current, every bit of power applied (or not) must be taken into account. A seaplane pilot learns to think far ahead of the airplane.

The Albatross' propellers slipped into and out of reverse almost instantly by pushing the throttle levers upward into a detent; even with the engines idling, the slight thrust they produced (forward or reverse) had to be considered ... a seaplane has no brakes. Selective reverse thrust made for precise maneuvering on the water.

Picking up a simulated survivor in a life raft was perhaps the most demanding and challenging procedure in the training syllabus. The approach began on a track just to the right of the raft, five feet above the water, flaps full, airspeed low enough to feel an imminent stall nibbling at the controls; as you passed abeam the raft you would reduce the power to idle, put the props in reverse and open the throttles momentarily. In the short time required to accomplish that procedure the airplane dropped like a rock and you were in -- not on, in -- the lake with green water coming over the nose. If you did everything right, you'd wind up a short distance beyond the raft. The next part of the procedure consisted of backing down to the survivor, who was no doubt wondering why you flew right on by (the backing maneuver kept the left prop from passing over the raft). Lots of crew coordination was required; the raft wasn't visible from the cockpit and the pilot had to rely on directions from a crewmember in the back of the airplane.

There are very few lakes, rivers and ocean areas in the world that are suitable for a published instrument approach procedure and none that we would ever expect to use to get an Albatross safely on the water in low-visibility conditions. Nevertheless -- and just for fun -- we practiced IFR approaches using a hood so we couldn't see outside. Lining up with a long, straight stretch of boat-free water and following the directional guidance of the pilot in the right seat, we would set up a 500-foot per minute descent at an airspeed of 100 knots or thereabouts and wait, and wait, and wait. On a calm day with a super-smooth surface, the first indication of water contact was the hiss of the keel slicing through the water, followed by a steadily increasing "swish" sound as the power was slowly reduced and the hull settled in. Beautiful ... just beautiful.

A big part of "fun with the Albatross" came from flying close to the ground in the process of learning how to locate missing airplanes or people. For example, the "contour search" began with a relatively tight 360 around the top of a mountain and continued with circles close to the ground at consecutively lower 1000-foot levels until you got to the bottom of the hill or found what you were looking for, whichever came first. On weekends we would occasionally set up simulated airplane crashes in the rugged terrain around Portland and when we found the site we practiced dropping packages to the "survivors" on the ground ... you needed a little bombardier training to do this well.

We often carried paramedics cross-trained as parachutists (PJs) on training flights -- they thought jumping out of airplanes was great sport, but their primary dedication was to the well-being of people in distress. Whenever there were PJs on board, an unwritten rule (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) went into effect: Use of the word "jump" on the airplane intercom was verboten for fear one of those young tigers would think it was an order and be out the door.

In 1964 and 1965 the 304th traveled to Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage, Alaska, for our two-week summer camps. The local flying folks (military and civilian) welcomed us with open arms because we were the only dedicated search-and-rescue unit in the area. Given the relatively good weather and long days of the Alaskan summer, flying activity increased remarkably with an attendant increase in aircraft accidents and mishaps. The squadron flew at least one "hot" mission every day while we were at Elmendorf; fortunately, none of those searches required rescue procedures.

Early in July 1965 I completed all the training to become a Rescue Crew Commander and acquired a crew of my own; it was a short-lived promotion because a month later my civilian employer proposed a transfer back to Columbus, Ohio, with an economic opportunity I couldn't pass up. I had no way of knowing this would be our final move and only one year away from entering on the career path I followed for the rest of my working life.

[Continued next month.]

To send a note to Richard and AVweb about this story, please click here.
More articles, stories and fiction about the joy of aviation are found in AVweb's Skywritings section.
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AVweb Insider Blog: Is the Flying Car Our Moonshot?

Should a practical flying car be the next moonshot? After all, cars that fly have held perennial fascination for both pilots and drivers for decades. Mary Grady examines the idea on the AVweb Insider blog.

Read more and join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: Cockpit Tech Convergence

The futurists all said one day soon, we would all have a single device that did everything from phone calls to medical record retrieval. Is that why, asks Paul Bertorelli on the AVweb Insider blog, he carries around a laptop, an iPhone and an iPad on his business trips? At the AEA show last week, he got the impression that airplanes have become merely 3-D conveyances to fly around iPads.

Read more and join the conversation.

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

Question of the Week: Any Advice for the Reno Air Races?

The NTSB has had its say, and the recommendations are, in some cases, pretty equivocal.

Can an event like this be made safer for spectators?
(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.

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

Video: Cessna 152 vs. LSAs -- Flying School Shootout

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

Which is better for training — a new-age LSA or an old-school Cessna 152? For Texas flight school U.S. Aviation Group, the Cessna wins hands down on economics. It's also easier to fly and solo, but not necessarily more fun.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Arrow Aviation/Executive Air Service (KDXR, Danbury, CT)

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

Some of our favorite "FBO of the Week" nominations begin with an unexpected problem on a long trip. AVweb reader Jerry Quint was on his way home from Sun 'n Fun when he discovered our latest top-notch FBO — Arrow Aviation/Executive Air Service at Danbury Municipal Airport (KDXR) in Danbury, Connecticut. Jerry provided the play-by-play of his exceptional visit:

I stopped for fuel and to spend the night. I was immediately impressed with the professional demeanor of the refueler, Mr. David Clark. When he discovered that I was remaining overnight, he directed me to a convienent tie-down and offered me the use of the pilot's lounge to spend the night. After a lengthy search, he found a key to the shower room. Joanie, who handles the office chores, answered all of my questions and made me feel welcomed. Cliff Brown, a CFI, made sure I had the codes to the doors, in case I wanted to leave the FBO after it closed for the day. Additionally, Cliff introduced me to a Master A&E/IA by the name of Karl Wiemer, who not only restores fabric-covered aircraft but is an expert in chasing down oil leaks.

My SkyCatcher had developed a leak on the way up from Sun 'n Fun, so he met me the next day, after I had a delicious doughnut that Cliff had delivered that morning before his early departure for a trip to Maine. With cylinder pressure testers in hand, Karl checked for the possibility of blow-by. After he determined there was no blow-by causing oil leakage, we started the engine and found the oil was leaking out of the oil filter where the filter and the rounded flange met. Several calls to oil filter suppliers proved to be fruitless, and it was discovered that the oil filters for SkyCatchers are only available at Cessna Dealers. They are very expensive, and there is no authorized subsitute. The nearest Cessna dealer was 40 miles distant, so Karl drove to retrieve it. After his 80-mile trip, he installed the filter, and I was finally on my way.

Of all the ten airports that I have visited in the last two weeks, the folks at Danbury are head and shoulders above them all. I am proud to recommend them for "FBO of the Week."

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!

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Sun 'n Fun and AEA Coverage Recaps back to top 

AEA 2012: Podcasts and Videos

Did you catch our podcast and video interviews from the 55th Annual Aircraft Electronics Association Convention in Washington, DC April 3-6, 2012? If not, click here for Friday's AVwebAudio recapping our media coverage of the show.

Sun 'n Fun 2012: News Coverage Round-Up

AVweb attended the 38th annual Sun 'n Fun Fly-In in Lakeland, Florida from March 27 to April 1, 2012 — and brought back an assortment of news and interviews. Click here for a handy index to all our coverage from the show, including podcasts, videos, and blogs.

Reader-Submitted Photos back to top 

Picture of the Week: AVweb's Flying Photography Showcase

Our latest winning photo comes from Leslie Schroeppel of Washington, DC. Click here for the rest of this week's submissions.

Names Behind the News back to top 

Meet the AVwebFlash Team

AVwebFlash is a twice-weekly summary of the latest news, articles, products, features, and events featured on AVweb, the world's premier independent aviation news resource.

The AVwebFlash team is:

Tom Bliss

Editorial Director, Aviation Publications
Paul Bertorelli

Russ Niles

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Glenn Pew

Scott Simmons

Kevin Lane-Cummings
Jeff Van West

Have a product or service to advertise on AVweb? Your advertising can reach over 225,000 loyal AVwebFlash, AVwebBiz, and AVweb home page readers every week. Over 80% of our readers are active pilots and aircraft owners. That's why our advertisers grow with us, year after year. For ad rates and scheduling, click here or contact Tom Bliss, via e-mail or via telephone [(480) 525-7481].

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