AVwebFlash - Volume 18, Number 18a

April 30, 2012

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Airbus Planning Stretched A380

The director of Airbus's A380 program has told an Australian television station that the company intends to build a stretched version of the world's largest airliner, adding about 100 seats. Richard Carcaillet told Ten News the super jumbo is an "environmentally more responsible" answer to airport congestion because it will enable fewer aircraft to serve the burgeoning demand for airline seats worldwide. "It is a way to grow without adding to congestion," he told the TV station. Airbus is planning first deliveries in 2020, according to the report.

In the usual configuration mixing economy, business and ultra-premium first class, the A380 now carries from 400 to 600 passengers, but if it was set up for economy-only seating the stretched version could conceivably pack in more than 900 people. The technical details of how the increased capacity would be achieved were not discussed in the brief news report.

First Charleston 787 Rolls Out

The first Boeing airliner ever built outside the Seattle area (if you don't count the 717, a renamed MD-95 built in Long Beach) rolled off the company's satellite 787 assembly line in Charleston, S.C., on Friday. The aircraft is destined for Air India and marks the beginning of high-rate production at the plant aimed at helping Boeing catch up with deliveries for the popular Dreamliner, which was three years late getting to customers. Establishment of the plant was controversial among Boeing's highly unionized Washington State operations, with some predicting that it would be impossible to properly train local workers to put the sophisticated airplanes together. However, Jack Jones, Boeing's Charleston plant manager, said there was never any question in the company's mind that it could be done and done well. "I can certainly understand why they might question it," Jones told KIRO TV. "But it was done the right way and the results speak for themselves."

The Charleston plant went from bare earth to first rollout in about 30 months, done mostly with local labor. Jones told KIRO Boeing invested heavily in training for the neophyte aerospace workforce. The initial training for the 787 assembly was three times longer than courses run for Washington State workers and relied heavily on computer simulations to show how the millions of pieces fit together. Boeing has apparently been encouraged enough by the experience to buy another 200 acres near the Charleston plant for future expansion. It will be a while before Charleston or any other location could ever seriously challenge Boeing's vast Puget Sound manufacturing base in any serious way, though. Boeing has already committed to building the 737 MAX and most Dreamliners in Everett and the current backlog for the Washington facilities will keep them working flat-out for 15 years.

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Find of the Century Becomes Fight of the Year? back to top 

Dogfight Brewing Over Burmese Spitfires

British farmer and aviation history buff David Cundall now says there are 124 new Spitfires buried in Myanmar (formerly Burma) and he knows where 60 of them are. As we reported two weeks ago, Cundall stunned the aviation world with news that he had found at least 20 crated, brand-new Spitfires wrapped in protective paper and tar to preserve them. Whether he'll be able to capitalize on his stunning discovery is in question, however, as treasure hunters from all over the world race against each other and the impending monsoon season to dig the pickled aircraft up. In an email exchange a week ago, Cundall told AVweb he was having problems with financial backers who now may be rivals for the treasure trove. Cundall has not returned subsequent email and phone messages from AVweb. He did, however, claim in an interview with the Independent that a British businessman is trying to hijack the project with the help of the country's prime minister.

Cundall told AVweb he had originally struck a deal with an American backer to fund the recovery of the aircraft but it fell through. He was then approached by Steve Boultbee Brooks, a land developer and aviation buff who owns a two-seat Spitfire. He alleges Boultbee Brooks, who accompanied Prime Minister David Cameron on a trade and political mission to Myanmar two weeks ago, used his attendance on the trip to engineer discussions between Cameron and Myanmar President Thein Sein on repatriation of the aircraft. Brooks does indeed appear to be assuming a lead role in digging up the planes.

In an email to AVweb, Brooks' public relations consultant Elizabeth Tagge declined an interview but said there will soon be public access to news on the effort. "The team is entirely focused on the next stage of the project at this point and won't be giving interviews just yet," Tagge said. "However, there should be a Facebook page up soon, which we'll update when there is news to help keep everyone aware of progress."

Meanwhile, Brooks himself told the Independent that he hopes Cundall will be "on board" with the recovery effort. Cundall says he'll be involved all right, as the holder of all the important cards in a high-stakes game that involves cutting the Myanmar government in for 40 percent of the proceeds from the sale of the aircraft. "We were issued a permit to dig, which is still a valid and exclusive agreement," he said. "The President of Burma wants to do business with me." Cundall said he has a buyer who will take all the aircraft at about $1.5 million each. Boultbee Brooks said it would be a shame for the aircraft to end up anywhere but Britain and he noted there are other groups in the U.S., Israel and Australia hoping to claim the aircraft. "What a terrible day this is when the prime minister has gone out and got a British team, we put a British team together, and then we squabble so much that we allow other nations to walk in and take the Spitfires from under our noses," he said.

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Celebrating the B-52 back to top 

This Is The Year Of The B-52

The B-52 first flew 60 years ago in April, it was last produced 50 years ago, it dropped 15,000 tons of bombs on North Vietnam 40 years ago, and now, it is being honored for its (continuing) decades of service with a "Year of The B-52" campaign. The  Commanders Action Group of the Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) began promoting the campaign in earnest this April in commemoration of the first flight of the YB-52 on April 15, 1952. Since then, AFGSC says the jet has served in every combat operation since Vietnam and is still an active element of the U.S. military arsenal. By some estimations, the jet will serve for another 30 years, fulfilling nearly a century of service. AVweb's Glenn Pew spoke with Major David Donatelli for a look inside the campaign and inside the eight-engine, five-person aircraft that AFGSC calls an "icon of American Airpower." Click here to listen to the podcast.

B-52 milestones include non-stop around-the-world flights in 1957 and 1980. In 1962, the Strategic Air Command put B-52 bomber crews on 100-percent alert status for a full month during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Linebacker  and Linebacker II bombing campaigns dropped literally thousands of tons of bombs over North Vietnam beginning in 1972. In 1990, a NASA-operated NB-52B launched the Pegasus missile that placed a Navy satellite into orbit. And beginning in 2001, B-52s in Afghanistan flew bombing missions against the Taliban. Today, the aircraft's service continues.

Podcast: This Is the Year of the B-52

File Size 8.8 MB / Running Time 9:33

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

Sixty years since first flight, every combat operation since Vietnam and still going strong, the Boeing B-52 is an active-duty eight-engine legend. AVweb's Glenn Pew speaks with Major David Donatelli of the Commanders Action Group of the Air Force Global Strike Command about the campaign "Year of the B-52."

Click here to listen. (8.8 MB, 9:33)

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Aviation Safety back to top 

GA Safety Record Holds, Charter Mishaps Jump

General aviation accidents are up but the accident rate and the number of fatal accidents has decreased in the past year, according to statistics released by the NTSB on Friday. The number of GA accidents increased from 1,439 in 2010 to 1,466 in 2011 but the number of fatal accidents dropped from 268 to 263. The total number of fatalities also dropped from 454 to 444. The NTSB says that because the number of flight hours for GA increased in 2011, the accident rate actually dropped. "While the number of general aviation flight hours increased in 2011, the accident rate per 100,000 flight hours decreased from 6.63 in 2010 to 6.51 in 2011," the report says. While GA fared relatively well, on-demand charter operations raised a red flag for the board.

The number of on-demand Part 135 (charter, air taxi, air tour, and air medical) accidents increased from 31 to 50, the number of fatal accidents almost tripled from 6 to 16, and the number of fatalities more than doubled from 17 to 41. By contrast, Part 135 commuter operations recorded only four accidents and none of them were fatal. There were also no fatalities on Part 121 scheduled carriers and only 28 accidents.

Crash-Related Jail Terms Raise Concern

A Greek court has sent ripples through the aviation industry after handing out decade-long jail terms to four individuals associated with the 2005 fatal crash of a Helios Airways Boeing 737-300 that killed all aboard. Three executives of the former airline and a British mechanic will now appeal the court's decision. The crash flight was operating out of Cyprus for Prague and crashed into a mountain near Athens. A final report (PDF) by the relevant investigative authority (the AAIASB) found that the crew was incapacitated due to hypoxia. The report states that the aircraft flew via the flight management computer and autopilot up to FL340, until fuel exhaustion led to the crash. The report's list of direct causes does not include the executives or the mechanic. It includes the position of a cockpit-accessible selector switch. A court in Cyprus had previously acquitted all five defendants charged there in connection with the crash. At least one aviation group is now publicly criticizing the Greek court's decision.

According to Aircraft Engineers International (AEI), the Greek trial's conviction of the mechanic "is based purely on the unproven supposition" that he left the cabin pressurization mode selector "in the incorrect position" after performing work on the aircraft. AEI says that the conviction "makes the ground engineer criminally responsible for the configuration of the controls of the aircraft." And that proposition "runs completely counter to the core proposition of division of responsibilities," for pilots and mechanics. The accident report lists the crew's "non-recognition" of an incorrect setting for the cabin pressurization mode selector switch -- through the preflight, before-start and after-takeoff checklists. It also identifies the crew's "non-identification" of the source of warnings for cabin altitude, oxygen mask deployment, and master caution as a direct cause of the crash. The report's list of latent causes includes deficiencies in the operator's organization, quality management and safety culture.

Student Falls From Hang Glider

Canadian authorities are investigating the death of a Vancouver woman who somehow fell from a hang glider on Saturday. The woman, a Mexican who had lived in Canada for nine years, was on her first flight and was with an experienced instructor. Jason Warner, safety officer for the Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association of Canada, said it's the first time this kind of accident has occurred in Canada. He told the Vancouver Sun that right after launching from a mountain top about 80 miles east of Vancouver, the instructor realized his passenger had come loose from her harness and he tried to hang on to her. She slipped from his grasp and tried to hang on to his feet before one of his shoes came off and she fell about 1,000 feet to a logged-out area below. Her boyfriend was shooting a video of the flight from below.

It was the first time hang gliding for the couple and they were apparently enrolled in an introductory course with a local company. Warner said the instructor has more than 10 years of experience as a pilot and has flown tandem many times. He said the association will review its safety standards in light of the tragedy and has already issued a recommendation that pilots employ a buddy system to double-check gear before flight. "In terms of safety, we're going to be looking at all the standards of practices of the pilots," Warner said. "We're in the midst of making a standardized safety practice that everybody will agree on … now that it's been pushed to the forefront."

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New Business Models back to top 

A New Take On Renting Planes

Startup company OpenAirplane is hoping to launch later this year with a program that would allow participating pilots to rent aircraft from a network of widespread operators based on one annual checkout performed at one location. The company says it has partnered with the insurance company Starr Aviation to create a "standardization and evaluation program." In practice, that program would serve as a keystone for the business, eliminating the barriers of cost and time that "local checkouts" would otherwise impose on a traveling pilot. In theory, OpenAirplane co-founder Rod Rakic expects that the system will also bring other benefits. "We know that pilots who participate in a checkout program like the one we have in mind fly more safely," says Rakic. He is betting that participating operators will also see gains.

Rakic believes that if the program is successful, it will put more pilots into rental aircraft more often and in more locations relative to each pilot's normal home base. Participating pilots could find local airplane availability through any mobile device or computer with internet access and book aircraft online. Participating businesses, Rakic believes, will see an increase in revenue from local pilots interested in the convenience of the single-checkout program. "Aircraft that fly more are more profitable," says the company. The company hopes that the network's success will lead to growth that will in turn increase the opportunities for participating pilots and the benefit to operators. Time will tell.

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: Post-Aero Commentary -- Time for the U.S. to Get Busy

There's a ton of U.S. capital on the sidelines looking for growth opportunities. In Europe, some of it goes into aircraft manufacturing. In special video post to the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli asks, "Why not in the U.S.?"

Read more and join the conversation.

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

AVmail: April 30, 2012

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: How Much Rest?

My answer to the "Question of the Week" on the crew rest issue is that personal sleep needs do vary, according to scientists. This is why they give a range rather than an absolute value.

The challenge with the FAA (the regulator) and the industry (the certificate holder) is that both are looking for the absolute minimum versus the safest solution. Safety does cost. It is like the old motor oil commercial: "You can pay me now or pay me later." The FAA is afraid to institute the requirements that will ensure all pilots get proper rest, stating it is the responsibility of the pilot to report fit for duty. They bend to pressure from the airline and cargo industry who cry it will put them out of business. If the rules are the same for all, the cost is the same for all, so that argument is lame.

Pilots will report for duty fit as long as reporting they are not fit doesn't cost them their jobs. Pilots don't make the schedules; the companies do, which is why the regulator is responsible for making sensible rules to guide these schedules. Put on your common sense hat: Do you really want to put you and your family on a plane flying over the Amazon in the middle of the night knowing that the pilots were not properly rested?

The arguing point is whether four or 12 hours is enough rest to ensure that. Wouldn't you rather bet on the safe side versus the minimum value?

Mike Michaelis
Former National Safety Committee Chairman, Allied Pilots Association

I found early east coast wake-ups as a west coast pilot devastating to my performance. If I showed at the airport at 6-7am Eastern (3-4am Pacific), I would be dopey the entire day.

I could handle reasonable back-of-the-clock flying as long as the flight did not involve an enroute stop or interruption of a few hours. I could handle three or four hours non-stop on the back of the clock, but an all-nighter to the east coast departing at midnight west coast [time] was devastating to my performance in the morning [on the] east coast.

The standard early evening east coast departure for Europe is tough, as is the return from Europe with a morning departure from the continent.

Les Wiley

As a former USAF pilot involved in the Linebacker2 operations in Vietnam in 1972, I can tell you from firsthand experience that our sleep guidelines were waived by command staff and that resulted in several aircraft being lost due to pilot fatigue. Ten hours of rest for people on a regular schedule is essential to safe operations. It is absolutely ludicrous to think that cargo pilots are any different!

Buz Allen

With all due respect, while the answers to various personal rest limits may be interesting, I don't think they are too pertinent to the discussion at hand. Unless you've flown airline schedules, with at least one less-than-nine-hour "rest period" every week and constantly changing days, hours of work, and number of days off, I don't think you can really have a valid opinion. I think the new rest rules are long overdue!

Vijaya Tensei

If you'd allowed for fewer hours than eight, I would have checked [choice] number one. I rarely sleep longer than six hours, and that seems to be just right for me. If I have a long flight ahead, I do need those six hours.

Cary Alburn

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

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

Video: William Rankin, the Man Who Rode the Thunder

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

The story of William Rankin's ejection at 47,000 feet and 500 knots is legendary, not only because the fall took him 40 minutes, but also because he lived to talk about it. There are other and more recent cases of people who have been drawn into thunderstorms under canopy and not every one ends in survival.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Meisner Aircraft (KBUU, Burlington, WI)

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

AVweb reader Gordon Kirsh reminds me that a little trust goes a long way in his recommendation of our latest "FBO of the Week" -- Meisner Aircraft at Burlington Municipal Airport (KBUU) in Burlington, Wisconsin:

I had business in the area but had not visited the FBO previously. I was flying in on a Saturday. I called for the availability of a courtesy car and was told that the FBO was not manned on weekends. They gave me the code to the door and the location where they hid the key to the car. They never met me or asked me to sign or do anything. Fuel was $5.15 a gallon for self-serve 100LL. To have that level of trust in people was terrific.

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!

The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

Overheard flying into Chicago (ORD):

ORD Approach:
"British Airways, can you be down to 4,000 feet by XXXXX?"

British Airways 1234:
"I suppose so, but I don't think I can bring the aircraft with me."

John Finley
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 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].

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.

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