AVwebFlash - Volume 18, Number 23a

June 4, 2012

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! Chasing Storms—On Their Home Turf back to top 

Chasing Tornadoes In A 182

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click for photos

Kansas City, Mo., pilot Caleb Elliott broke what many pilots consider a cardinal rule and he said he hopes to continue doing it for the rest of the tornado season. He and fellow storm chaser Skip Talbot, along with videographer Phil Bates, spent three days at the end of May trying to get as close as they could to tornado-generating super cells in a Cessna 182 piloted by Elliott. "I definitely don't recommend that anyone do this," Elliott said in a podcast interview. He said he's been chasing storms on the ground for almost 20 years and understands how they work, and that's how he and his passengers were able to get as close as a mile to monster cells capable of forming tornadoes without having their aircraft torn apart. Elliott says he hopes to do more flights to help broaden the knowledge of aerial encounters with big storms so pilots can learn how to survive inadvertent encounters with them. Although they never saw a tornado from the air, all the elements for their creation were present in the storms they probed.

The trio crisscrossed the tornado hotbeds of South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas in their hunt for the most dangerous weather. Elliott said the advantage of aerial storm chasing is that it's a lot faster to get to the storms by air, which means a dedicated chaser can visit multiple storms on the same day. He said most pilots know little about severe weather other than to avoid it and he's hoping his weekend work (he flies freight for a living) will get more knowledge to pilots. And in case anyone is wondering, the FAA recommends pilots stay at least 20 miles from thunderstorms, but Elliott said there are no rules against it. In one case, he said, an air traffic controller said he was "crazy" but gave him vectors to get to the storm.

Related Content:

Podcast: Are These Guys Crazy?

File Size 10.9 MB / Running Time 11:55

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

Air traffic control thought so, but Kansas City pilot and storm chaser Caleb Elliott says light aircraft have an important role to play in studying storm behavior. He spoke with AVweb's Russ Niles.

Click here to listen. (10.9 MB, 11:55)

AVweb Insider Blog: Has NEXRAD Eliminated the Thunderstorm Accident?

Maybe not, but we sure see a lot less of them these days. But radar hasn't changed what's probably the nastiest risk in severe storms: hail. On the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli talks about the risks.

Read more and join the conversation.

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Aviation Safety Reports back to top 

MD-83 Crashes Into Nigerian Neighborhood

A Dana Air MD-83 carrying 153 passengers and crew crashed into a neighborhood on the outskirts of Lagos, Nigeria, on Sunday afternoon. All aboard the aircraft were believed to have been killed and there are also an unknown number of casualties on the ground. The flight originated in the Nigerian city of Abuja. The aircraft first hit a furniture shop before plowing through residential buildings in the congested neighborhood. It was the second accident involving a Nigerian aircraft in as many days.

Ten people in a passenger van were killed when an Allied Air Boeing 727 hit the bus while trying to land at Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana, on Saturday. The plane reportedly went through a perimeter fence and ended up on a road outside the airport. The four crew members survived. The flight originated at the carrier's home base of Lagos, Nigeria. Initial reports suggested the accident resulted from an aborted takeoff but most sources are now saying it was a landing accident.

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The Cost of Flying History back to top 

FAA Considering Your Next Warbird Flight

The FAA is now taking comments prior to developing rules that would regulate your ability to fly in (or to fly) certain historic aircraft as a paying passenger, and the deadline to submit comments is nearing. Since the mid-1990s, the FAA has used its Living History Flight Experience (LHFE) policy to address the issue. That policy provides a channel for owner/operators of historic aircraft to conduct certain passenger flights for compensation. But the FAA says some proposed business models, like hands-on simulated aerial combat flights in vintage jet aircraft, fall outside the original scope and intent of LHFE policy. It is now evaluating its policy regarding those and other operations and is seeking public input.

Under LHFE, operators can apply for exemption from regulations that would otherwise prohibit certain passenger flights on certain vintage aircraft. But LHFE exemptions are limited by parameters that include the age, type and origin of the vintage aircraft and the type of operations to be conducted. The FAA would need to make regulatory changes to expand the range of operations allowed. That expansion could address whether non-flight-crew paying passengers will be permitted on the pilot station during flight operations of these historic aircraft. It could also address whether aerobatic operations should be allowed, and with what altitude and weather limitations. Equipment requirements, pilot qualifications, maintenance and other factors are also potential areas where changes may be applied. Comments will be accepted before June 18. Click here for details.

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Life in the Age of Machines back to top 

Robot Can Perch On Landing

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Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign say they're the first to create a wing-flapping micro air vehicle (MAV) that can land autonomously by perching like a bird. The researchers say that while it was the challenge of duplicating such a complicated and precise maneuver that drove them, such a robot could be pretty useful in confined spaces. The MAV has articulating wings with multiple control surfaces that have to work in concert to create the lift and control for the perch. "Of all maneuvers executed by flapping wing aircraft in a gliding phase, a perched landing is arguably the most challenging," said Aditya Paranjape, a postdoctoral scholar working on this project."

While birds make it look easy, the researchers had to break it into pieces and write all the code to get the wings to do the right things. "A typical perching maneuver consists of two phases -- a gliding phase to bring the bird to a suitable position with respect to the landing spot, and a rapid pitch up (usually to a post-stall angle of attack) accompanied by an instantaneous climb and rapid deceleration," the school said in a news release." Paranjape is working on the project with Soon-Jo Chung, an assistant professor in the school's department of aerospace engineering. The project is based on Paranjape's doctoral thesis.

RC Helo Flown From Aircraft In Formation

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While the FAA has spent years trying to figure out how to accommodate unmanned aerial systems in the nation's airspace, if you want to perform a video stunt involving a remote-control helicopter and two Cessna 150s at one of the Philippines' commercial airports, all you have to do is ask. An outfit called Heligraphix has released a video showing what it says is the formation flight of one of the Cessnas with a particularly capable RC helicopter while the model was being controlled from the aircraft. They also claim it's the first time its been done.

While that's remarkable in itself, what's also unusual is that the stunt appears to have been performed at the former Clark Air Force Base, on Luzon Island. The U.S. Air force abandoned the field in 1991 and it became Clark International Airport. In the video, the apparent organizer of the stunt announces that they intend to call the tower to "shut down the international airport" while it is being performed. The RC helicopter is shown launching from a runway and keeping pace with one of the Cessnas (with its flaps partly deployed) for a two-minute flight. Clark International Airport is in the video credits and the video includes a disclaimer that all necessary permissions were obtained.

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Feets, Don't Fail Us Now back to top 

New Human-Powered Aircraft Challenge

The goal is to fly a human-powered aircraft over a 26-mile course that includes an oval and two figure-eight patterns in less than an hour; history says Larry McNay's team might do it and his aircraft could be ready in a few weeks. McNay was part of the Gossamer Albatross team that successfully flew a pedal-powered aircraft across the English Channel in June of 1979. He was 16 at the time. He is now a Lockheed Martin engineer with his sights set on winning the 26-mile Kremer International Marathon Competition to be held this July in the United Kingdom. His team's design, the Wind Rose, has a 60-foot wingspan and is made almost exclusively of advanced composites. But the marathon competition isn't the team's only goal.

The Kremer Marathon Competition requires aircraft to fly a 26-mile circuit that includes two ovals and two figure eights in less than an hour. But McNay also hopes to win the Kremer Human-Powered Aircraft Competition for Sport. That competition requires that the aircraft be trailerable inside a weatherproof container not longer than about 26 feet. Official flights must take place over a triangular course and must begin with unloading of the aircraft. To win the competition, the aircraft must first be unloaded and assembled for flight within 30 minutes. Beyond that, the timing of the Kremer competitions matches well with the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Enthusiasts of human-powered flight hope that attention drawn by the Kremer competition could help their push to turn human-powered flight into an Olympic sport.

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BargainWatch back to top 

SR-71 Vertical Fin On eBay, Condition "Used"?

EBay seller "stevessupercoolstuff" says it's an "original SR-71 Blackbird vertical tail rudder," the "buy it now" price is $1,000,000 (you'd be responsible for shipping and handling), and he or she will accept PayPal. For the asking price, the seller's posting Friday offered one picture and a four-sentence description. Two of those sentences don't describe the item, but the seller is inviting queries via email. The picture shows a fin decorated with a Lockheed Skunkworks insignia and the numbers 17955, which, if authentic, links the part to a specific aircraft and its history.

SR-71s with numbers below 17958 were not used for operational missions, according to the Online Blackbird Museum. According to that source, the aircraft marked 17955 would have been among the first six SR-71As and it would have spent its life as a flight test aircraft operated by the Air Force and Lockheed. The website says that aircraft 17955 was piloted by flight test engineer Donn Byrnes at Edwards Air Force Base for almost its entire career, with the exception of one flight overseas to demonstrate a new radar system. It's not clear from the eBay listing if stevessupercoolstuff is aware of any of that. Other items currently up for auction by the seller include four new lighted crochet hooks. The auction is also accepting offers, presumably of less than $1,000,000, on the tail.

Free Engine Analysis Coming

A web-based platform will be rolled out this July to help diagnose and troubleshoot engine problems, and it will be available free of charge (and ad-free) at SavvyAnalysis.com. The system has been developed by Mike Busch, A&P/IA and CEO of Savvy Aircraft Maintenance Management Inc. It works to graph and analyze piston engine data collected from "virtually all" existing engine monitors, according to Busch. The system is currently in beta testing by a select group of end users, and Busch says the final product aims to be intuitive to navigate, easy for novices to use, and capable of serious analysis work. There is a way to receive notification when the platform opens.

Busch has set up an online registration that allows interested parties to sign up for email notification when the platform goes live. Users will then have access to the platform from any internet-enabled device using a standard web browser. The list of monitors that work with the platform includes those produced by J.P. Instruments, Electronics International, Insight Instruments, Garmin, Avidyne, and Ultar-FEI/AuRACLE. Busch formerly offered his expertise through the Savvy Owner Seminar, which offered aircraft owners a 17-hour "total-immersion" course in how to best maintain their aircraft. He now offers a free maintenance webinar. In 2008, the FAA presented Busch with its National Aviation Maintenance Technician of the Year award. He is also co-founder of AVweb.com. Find him at his current home, SavvyAviator.com.

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New on AVweb.com back to top 

Brainteasers Quiz #172: Go/No-Go


Weather, Class D, Class E — sheesh, someone's trying to take the fun out of summertime flight. Knowing the airspace and weather-minimum rules might not make flight fun, but it will help you ace this quiz. (Contains results of the survey for the best plane and destination for a fantasy vacation!)

Take the quiz.

More Brainteasers

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Reader Mail back to top 

AVmail: June 4, 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: Emergency Kit

Regarding your "Question [of the Week]" about emergency equipment: The first plan of emergency preparedness takes place prior to lift-off. Check the weather, including winds aloft, general forecast, detailed forecast, long-range forecast, icing conditions and the list goes on.

File a flight plan. Use flight following. If mountain flying is encountered (which one should know beforehand) when planning a trip, go around. Gas and time are cheap compared to death. Stay away from those mountain peaks if at all possible, day or night. They're fun to look down on and fly next to but can kill you via mountain wave, winds, storms, up and down drafts, icing, etc.

Use common sense. Don't get get there-itis. Think SDPTC (Slow Down, Plan, Think, Calculate).

Do an honest weight-and-balance. By the way, none of the above adds weight to the aircraft.

Have cell phones charged, buy a tracking device or personal locator, have first aid supplies on board and prepared meals. Have cold weather gear, emergency signal devices and emergency supplies.

Be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Brief all crew on emergency protocol, who hits 911 on Spot, etc. Everyone should have a responsibility during an emergency and know it.

Remember to dial 911 on cell phone if going down and leave the line open. Don't worry about talking unless you have time -- and, lastly, stay calm!

Lt. James G. Feiler
Wyoming Civil Air Patrol

Do I carry a survival kit? Yes, but not one that fits the multiple choice answers to your "QOTW." Mine varies depending on mission, terrain and weather. There's the small kit always, and the more elaborate wilderness survival kit that I augment with water or winter gear or other things depending on where and when I go.

Peter Lloyd

I am an experienced backpacker and have confidence that I can survive if not badly injured. Therefore, I carry survival tools, such as a fire starter, wire saw, and water filter. I don't carry food or fuel.

John Bertrand

When I fly over water, I carry a survival kit and raft. When I fly aerobatics (most of my flying), no kit.

Hank Bruckner

I carry different equipment for each flight but always a warm coat in the cabin. I carry more clothing and water if I'm over unfriendly terrain and, of course, personal PLBs and life jackets if over water.

John Evans

I live in Alaska, and I always fly prepared to spend a night or two out in the bush. I always fly with a good sleeping bag for each person and a satellite phone with me. Each person in my plane has a small knife and a lighter before we leave.

Dan Huttunen

I know the survival situation in my flying area. I've thought about a survival vest, but the 406 MHz ELT is more important.

Ed Hotchkiss

Three people over the mountains of Idaho is a full-performance flight in a 172 -- and that's without the concerns of weather and icing.

Survival gear appropriate to the mission may have tipped the scales in favor of the pilot remaining on the gravel strip he so wisely found as a refuge before he miscalculated and departed into the weather that was to ultimately bring down the airplane.

A night spent sleeping rough in a 172 is not going to be remembered as the best night's sleep, but they'd have lived to tell the tale of an impromptu camping trip instead of surviving a crash.

Survival gear doesn't have to be fancy. You dress yourself according to the terrain over which you will fly -- like boots instead of sandals. To the airplane, you add a couple of old blankets, a pocket knife, a fire-starter, a bottle of water and a few granola bars. A handheld VHF or PLB would have been a bonus.

We don't know what survival gear was on board that airplane, but these few items may have lessened the pressure the pilot likely felt to continue the flight despite the conditions.

Jeffrey Chippentine

Extreme Stunts

Regarding your "Question [of the Week]" about extreme stunts: In an age of Jackass TV and endless YouTube videos, what could possibly be too reckless?

Don Eck

I hope nobody would seriously want to ban the attempt of any new idea, no matter how crazy it may sound, as long as reasonable precautions are taken as were done for this. Bans would stifle innovation and the advancement of ideas.

I once heard that many years ago someone said something like, "Man will never be able to travel faster than about 35 MPH, and any attempt to do so would be lunacy, as everyone knows the vibrations would kill you!" Imagine if the world had listened to that talk and passed laws to prevent attempts.

Shannon Miller

Drive To The Airport

Regarding your "Question [of the Week]" about vehicles pilots drive: It's a mostly male population -- sharp, ambitious, ready to take on anything that comes along. That smacks of a customer who is the perfect candidate for an SUV or pickup.

In seeing the huge percentage of American vehicles reported on the survey, I doubt very many, if any, are sedans. That's the same with the other makes. I drive a BMW SUV, of course! I'd bet if the question were asked, a huge percentage of the respondents drive something other than a sedan.

Pete Jassen

I drive a 2012 Nissan Leaf battery electric vehicle. It's all-electric. I couldn't use gas if I wanted to! I am totally offsetting the 1,500 liters (400 gallons) or so of flying that I manage annually. It's a great car with 200 km range on a good day, 100 km on a cold rainy night.

Frank Ervin

No car. Motorcycle.

Quentin Dunn

I own a Citation jet, but no car. I live in the inner city of Berlin and never saw the need to subject myself to traffic jams and parking hassles. Getting to the airport is just as fast by train, and I can read NOTAMs and weather on the way.

Arno Schoedl

I drive a battered 1963 GMC pick-up truck; no a/c, no power steering, no power brakes. No smog checks either! A pilot has to get his priorities right.

Peter Thomas

I drive an American truck, a 2003 F150 with 202,000 miles.

Dee Ann Ediger

You should have asked what nameplate you drive, as my Honda (Japanese nameplate) is made in Ohio, so I say it qualifies as American more than a Chrysler product made in Mexico or a GM product made in Canada.

Elias Vujovich

Cell Phones on Airliners

I think cell phone use on airlines is a mixed bag to be sure. While it would be convenient to be able to stay in touch with those on the ground, maybe cell phone use should be limited to texting while seated in an airliner so that others don't have to put up with the inevitable rude, long-winded, and/or loud seat mate, and then, for a small fee, have a soundproof "phone booth" available for those who feel they absolutely have to talk.

Dustin Paulson

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

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

Video: Diamond Multi-Purpose Platform DA42

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

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: AeroMark (KIDA, Idaho Falls, ID)

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

AVweb's latest "FBO of the Week" comes to us from reader Sherry Rossiter, who nominated AeroMark at Idaho Falls Regional Airport (KIDA) in Idaho. Sherry writes:

I visited AeroMark for the first time on May 18-19 to attend a regional aviation trade show they were hosting in their 30,000-square-foot hangar. The hospitality of the owners and staff was phenomenal. Visiting this premium, full-service FBO was truly an awesome experience, and AeroMark deserves recognition.

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

En route over central Florida, we heard the following exchange between Jacksonville Center or Approach (can't remember which) and a Cessna approaching its destination:

Jax Center:
"1234AB, do you have information 'Hotel'?"

"Uh, nah, sir, we don't need it. Thanks, but we're stayin' with some friends down in New Smyrna."

Jax Center:
"1234AB, negative. Advise if you have ATIS information 'Hotel,' please."

1234AB (after a pause) :
"Uh, Jax Center, like I say, we don't need any hotel information. We've already got a place to stay down in New Smyrna."

Jax Center:
"4AB, I'm not giving you hotel information. I need you to advise that you have ATIS information 'Hotel' at [landing airport]."

[Several moments of silence.]

Jax Center:
"Cessna 1234AB, Jacksonville Center."

"4AB. Go ahead."

Jax Center:
"Did you copy the request for ATIS information 'Hotel'?"

"No, sir, I did not -- 'cause I don't need it. Like I already told you, we got a place to stay already down in New Smyrna!"

Jax Center:
"1234AB, go to 123.45, listen to the recording you will hear, and return to this frequency to advise you've heard what is on that frequency."

"4AB: 123.45 -- roger. So long, sir."

A frequeny change of our own prevented us from learning if 4AB ever did receive Hotel, but we trust their stay in New Smyrna was a pleasant one.

A. Tipps
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

Scott Simmons

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Glenn Pew

Kevin Lane-Cummings
Jeff Van West

Ad Coordinator
Karen Lund

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.

If you're having trouble reading this newsletter in its HTML-rich format (or if you'd prefer a lighter, simpler format for your phone or handheld device), there's also a text-only version of AVwebFlash. For complete instructions on making the switch, click here.

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