AVwebFlash - Volume 19, Number 1a

December 31, 2012

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! Aviation Safety back to top 

FAA Database: Student Pilot Crashed King Air

A twin turboprop Beechcraft King Air 100 that crashed at night during a snowstorm on Dec. 19 near Libby, Mont., killing both aboard, was piloted by 54-year-old Carl Douglas who, FAA records show as of Friday, held only a student pilot certificate. Douglas was CEO of Stinger Welding and was flying with passenger John Smith, 43. Both men died shortly after midnight when the aircraft hit Swede Mountain three miles northeast of Libby Airport. While the FAA's online database does not show more advanced credentials for Douglas, the event is still under investigation by the NTSB and new facts may emerge. At least one airport official familiar with Douglas has publicly commented on the matter.

A Libby airport official told local media he was surprised by the fact that the FAA's online database of airmen listed Douglas as a student pilot. Ron Denowh, chairman of Libby Airport's governing board, told TheWesternNews.com, "If that's the case, that really surprises me." Denowh said he had seen the accident aircraft fly into Libby "hundreds" of times and had believed Douglas had "been flying all his life." Regarding the online database, Denowh said, "I hate to hear this. If it's true, there will probably be a lawsuit." Douglas was reportedly flying the King Air into Libby from Arizona with plans to attend a Christmas party later in the week. Swede Mountain, where the aircraft crashed, sits nearly 1,700 feet above the elevation of Libby Airport, a few miles away.

2012 Could Be "Safest Ever" For Airlines

In November the International Air Transport Association said 2012 was on track to become its safest year on record and now Ascend, an aerospace analytics service, estimates that airline passenger fatalities and aircraft destroyed could set record lows for 2012 … and that's not all good? Airline fatal accident rates are now twice as safe as they were 15 years ago, according to Paul Hayes, head of safety at Ascend. Fatal accidents now occur once for every 2.5 million flights. Hayes warns the improvement is part of a trend that could have negative effects on the insurance market.

According to Hayes, the concern arises from how a recent trend of improved safety affects premium income. Hayes says that low insurance claims and rising capacity in the market could lead to lower insurance premiums that are "too low to be able to maintain the market in the longer term." Nearly three quarters of airline deaths recorded in 2012 (as of November) were the result of two crashes. One involved a Boeing 737 that crashed in Pakistan in April, killing all aboard. Another accident in June killed all aboard a McDonnell Douglas MD-83 when it crashed in a busy suburb in Nigeria. While safety statistics have improved steadily on average for more than a decade, Ascend warns that "2012 does not represent a new norm for the world airlines."

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Overrun Reports back to top 

Russian Runway Crash Kills Four

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Four crew members died when a Red Wings Tu 204 overran a runway at Moscow's Vnukovo Airport on Saturday. Eight others, all flight crew for the Russian airline, survived the crash but four are in the hospital. There were no paying passengers aboard. Russian media is already quoting government sources as saying pilot error is being investigated as the cause. The aircraft went through a barrier and onto a highway just as Russians were beginning the busy New Year holiday, but no one on the ground was hurt. The aircraft ended up in three pieces.

Russian leaders have pledged improvements in air safety but the focus has been on elderly Cold War aircraft still common in the country's domestic airlines. The Tu 204 is comparable to a Boeing 757 and began service in 1994. It is still in production and the crash airplane was built in 2008. It has an unremarkable service record and the only other serious incident was a premature landing accident in 2010 that injured eight on board.

C-160 Transport Misses Photographers By Feet

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Pictures and video have emerged documenting the final landing of a Transall C-160 twin turboprop last October in Germany that, because the aircraft bounced short, was very nearly the last thing a handful of photographers ever saw. The 17-ton aircraft has a wingspan of 131 feet and can carry more than 90 troops. On Oct. 16, it was being ferried to Ballenstedt Airport, Germany, before a final trip to a local aviation museum. Photographers were allowed to witness the event from a road 100 feet short of, and perpendicular to, the runway. On final approach, the aircraft bounced just short of the raised roadway, kicking up dirt, flexing its wings, and missing a handful of photographers by feet as it hopped over the remaining distance, touching down short of the displaced threshold on the paved runway.

Click for photos.

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The Cloud Comes to the Clouds? back to top 

FCC Pushes Onboard Internet Services

The FCC Friday issued a statement that it has "adopted a Report and Order establishing rules to help speed deployment of Internet services onboard aircraft," to meet with consumer demands and promote economic growth. The action formalizes a license application process for broadband systems and creates standards to establish that they do not interfere with other equipment. The FCC hopes this will help more companies create more in-flight broadband services and products. According to the FCC, the new rules should process approvals for broadband systems "up to 50 percent faster." Under the plan, airlines will be able to test and implement internet systems through a streamlined process with the FCC and FAA.

Formally, the action sets parameters for carriers to operate Earth Stations Aboard Aircraft (ESAA) that communicate with Fixed-Satellite Service locations providing two-way in-flight WiFi services to crew and passengers. The FCC has set the ESAA as a licensed application and established regulations to process the application and ensure that interference does not impact other radio services. The FCC has been pushing the FAA to relax restrictions on the use of electric devices while aircraft are in flight. It shares responsibility for regulation of in-flight communication with the FAA. Find the FCC's news release online, here.

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Long Jump Challenge back to top 

Balloon Pilots Compete For Longest Winter Flight

The Balloon Federation of America has invited balloonists across the country to take part in its annual Long Jump Challenge, an opportunity for pilots to use their skills and equipment beyond the usual treetops-and-champagne flight. The competition, which has been held every year since 1990, is open from November through March, and the idea is to fly as far as possible using no more than 40 gallons of propane fuel. The current all-time record is 693 miles, set by Alvin Hansen in 2003. So far this year, the longest recorded flight was made by Troy Bradley, who took off in New Mexico and landed 175 miles away, in Texas. This year for the first time, pilots can use their flights to help raise money for charity; this year's beneficiary is the American Cancer Society.

The Long Jump rules stipulate that the pilots must land before sunset of the day they launch, said Mark Caviezel, who oversees the event for the BFA. The pilots also must stay beneath 18,000 feet MSL and adhere to all FARs. Most flights last about four to six hours, although some pilots have stretched their fuel to last up to eight hours, Caviezel said. Factors such as ambient air temperature and the size, shape and color of the balloon envelope will affect the duration of the flight. Fast and steady winds are key in achieving distance. AVweb's Mary Grady spoke with Caviezel to learn more about the Long Jump competition; click here to listen to that podcast.

Podcast: Long Jump Challenge for Balloon Pilots

File Size 5.7 MB / Running Time 6:16

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Every winter since 1990, balloon pilots across the U.S. have competed in the Long Jump Challenge, a competition to see who can fly farthest on a standard 40-gallon supply of fuel. Mark Caviezel, manager of the competition for the Balloon Federation of America, talks with AVweb's Mary Grady about the event.

This podcast is brought to you by Bose Corporation.

Click here to listen. (5.7 MB, 6:16)

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Things You Don't See Every Day back to top 

Unidentifiable Flying Object

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Here's one we missed earlier this year but New Scientist's year-end wrap included its April coverage of a novel (and so far useless) method of propulsion the clever folks at German technology company Festo have created. Festo built the SmartBird flapping wing UAV that captured world attention in 2011, but SmartInversion is a bird of a different feather.

The device gets lift from helium-filled panels and it moves itself forward by turning itself inside out. A smartphone has all the computing horsepower needed to control movement within the windless confines of a hangar, but the Festo folks were stumped on practical applications for the somewhat creepy-looking thing. They launched a competition among German engineering students to find a use for it but the competition page has been taken down.

Rare Mosquito To Fly In New Zealand Airshow

A de Havilland Mosquito fighter bomber, the only one of its kind in the world that is flying, will appear at the Wings Over Wairarapa airshow in New Zealand, Jan. 18 to 20. The airplane is owned by Jerry Yagen, owner of Fighter Factory in Virginia Beach, Va. It first flew in September, and news reports at the time said the airplane would soon be shipped to the U.S. Now it will apparently first spend some more time in the country where seven years of restoration work took place. "The legendary Mosquito has a fond place in the hearts of Australian and New Zealand airmen," said Tom Williams, director of the airshow.

Williams said booking the Mosquito was a "major coup" that he was able to achieve through his acquaintance with Yagen, who attended the Wairarapa event in 2008. Having the Mosquito on the flight line is "an enormous achievement," Williams said. "It will provide visitors with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see this unique aircraft fly." The aircraft will be displayed alongside 12 other de Havilland aircraft, ranging from an early World War II biplane, the DH5, to the DH Vampire Jet. Yagen bought the crumbling hull of the Mosquito, which was built in Canada in 1945, from a small British Columbia museum in 2004. He sent it to New Zealand where it was reconstructed by Avspecs, led by Warren Denholm. Workers had to re-create the massive molds used to shape the plywood for much of the airframe.

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: Alternative Fuel Cooperation

Canada's National Research Council and the FAA are collaborating on finding a replacement fuel for 100LL. In a post to the AVweb Insider blog, Russ Niles asks the question, "Where's the rest of the world?"

Read more and join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: You're Worrying About the Wrong Thing

That's especially true if you just sunk several thousand bucks into a traffic box to find airplanes that are unlikely to kill you. In an analysis and commentary on the AVweb Insider blog, resident blogger Paul Bertorelli crunches the numbers and reveals that stalls and stall-related accidents continue to be near the top of a long list of dreary ways that pilots manage to kill themselves. Why can't we do better? Why is it that some pilots seem conceptually unable to grasp that beyond a certain angle of attack, the wing will simply no longer deliver useful lift? We're not sure there's an easy answer -- or maybe any answer at all -- but we do know that owners worrying about mid-airs are suffering from misplaced fears.

Read more and join the conversation.

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

Video: Meet Mid-Continent's SAM

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

As much as we love them, iron gyros are on their way to the scrap heap of history. They're even losing their value as backup instruments to glass panels now that glass itself has become more reliable and affordable enough to replace even analog backup devices. In this new video from AVweb, Aviation Consumer's Larry Anglisano examines a new product from Mid-Continent Instruments and Avonics called the SAM. It fits into a small space on the panel and can be backed up with its own lithium-ion battery. Installation considerations are mimimal, but here's a close look at how the instrument looks and performs.

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Video: L-3's Trilogy Backup Gyro

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

Glass panels have become standard in new aircraft, and now that more legacy airplanes are retrofitted with these systems, there's a growing market for backup gyros. That market has clearly stated a preference: Backup glass units are making inroads. In this AVweb video, Larry Anglisano of Aviation Consumer and Kirk Fryar of Sarasota Avionics give us a tour of the L-3 Trilogy.

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

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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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Wright Brothers Aviation (KMHE, Mitchell, South Dakota)

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

AVweb's latest "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Wright Brothers Aviation at Mitchell Municipal Airport (KMHE) in Mitchell, South Dakota.

A few weeks back, AVweb reader Dr. Steve P. Schoettle knocked us out with his story of WBA's outstanding devotion to service:

Service above and beyond the call of duty! On October 27, after a successful week of pheasant hunting in South Dakota, I prepared to depart back home to Arkansas in my Cherokee Six. To my dismay, N720JB would not crank! Quickly, the line personnel came to my assistance with battery boosts, etc. After no success, Roger the mechanic stepped in. Even on his weekend off, he spent the next six hours diagnosing my failed starter and trying to get it working. After exhausting all possibilities, and unable to find a new starter in the area on a Saturday, he contacted a local plane owner, who graciously "loaned" me the starter from his plane! Roger took that starter and placed it on my plane, even coming in early Sunday morning to finish up and get me in the air The starter has since been replaced and the "borrowed" one returned to the other plane.

Terri and Todd have always run a wonderfully friendly and efficient FBO, but this was truly amazing service. My hat is off to the entire staff!

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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Reader-Submitted Photos back to top 

Picture of the Week: AVweb's Flying Photography Showcase

Our latest winning photo comes from Dave Gardea of Indianapolis, IN. Click here for the rest of this week's submissions.
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The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

Between Houston and Austin on December 18, 2012, I overheard the following breif conversation between Houston Center and another aircraft:

"Houston Center, can you give me a current altimeter setting?"

"At your altitude, it is 29.92."

"Uhhhh -- yeah."

[A brief pause.]

"Guess I will see that one in the back of IFR magazine next month."

Larry Frasier
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

Ad Coordinator
Karen Lund

Avionics Editor
Larry Anglisano

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.

Aviate. Navigate. Communicate.