AVwebFlash - Volume 19, Number 4a

January 21, 2013

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! Dreamliners on Pause back to top 

NTSB: 787 Battery Wasn't Overcharged

The NTSB has cast doubt on Japan's Transport Safety Board's speculation that a charging overload was behind battery fires that led to the grounding of Boeing 787 fleet. In an update Sunday, the NTSB said the flight data recorder aboard the Japan Airlines aircraft whose APU battery burned on the ground at Boston's Logan Airport Jan. 7 showed the battery never exceeded its design limit of 32 volts. On Friday, Japanese officials said they believed overcharging caused that fire and the one in an ANA 787 that was involved in an emergency landing and evacuation last Wednesday. Japan released photos of the battery that burned virtually under the feet of the pilots as they dove for the ground while on a domestic flight to Kaneda. The photo shows a mass of charred wires and cells within a thin case that shows signs of distortion but apparently wasn't breached. For comparison the agency put a good battery beside it.

The Japanese investigators said the ANA battery looks like the battery that fried in the APU bay of a Japan Airlines 787 a week before and they believe both batteries caught fire because they were being overcharged. "If we compare data from the latest case here and that in the U.S., we can pretty much figure out what happened," investigator Hideyo Kosugi told The Associated Press. He said the evidence suggests "voltage exceeding the design limit was applied." The NTSB says it will share the conflicting data from its investigation with the Japanese.

Podcast: 787 -- Too Big to Fail?

File Size 7.1 MB / Running Time 7:45

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

No, says turbine aircraft analyst Richard Aboulafia. Even so, he says he expects Boeing and the FAA to get over the battery issue that is grounding the Dreamliner at the moment. AVweb's Russ Niles spoke with Aboulafia.

Click here to listen. (7.1 MB, 7:45)

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F-35s Grounded, Too back to top 

STOVL F-35 Grounded

The Pentagon has grounded the most sophisticated version of the F-35 after a pilot had to abort a takeoff at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida on Wednesday. An exhaust nozzle actuator line in the F-35B's exhaust system failed. The B model, which will be used by the Marine Corps, uses downward jet exhaust to assist takeoff and allow vertical landings. The Air Force (A model) and Navy (C model) aircraft are not affected. There are 25 airplanes grounded.

"Implementing a precautionary suspension of flight operations is a prudent response until F-35B engineering, technical and system safety teams fully understand the cause of the failure," said Joe DellaVedova, spokesman for the Pentagon's F-35 program office. "Safety of pilots and ground crew is the top priority of the program." Reports say the line detached and that to save weight the actuator uses fuel rather than hydraulic fluid to move the machinery.

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"Less Personally Revealing" Passenger Scans back to top 

TSA Makes Changes To Full Body Scanning

The TSA announced Friday that it will remove Rapiscan full body scanners from airport security stations, but leave others, as it works toward a congressionally mandated deadline to assure the devices produce less personally revealing imagery. The mandate, effective in June 2013, affects both types of body scanners currently used in the U.S. -- X-ray (or backscatter) devices produced by Rapiscan, and millimeter-wave devices produced by L-3 Communications. When used to scan passengers, both types of devices produce images largely recognizable as naked bodies (and whatever they might be carrying). The TSA's action to remove only Rapiscan devices is based on its conclusion that only L-3 will meet the deadline to create software that presents more generic imagery of a human form to the machine's operators, while still fulfilling its security function. The TSA will reportedly still use Rapiscan products at some government facilities.

By the numbers, the TSA removed 76 Rapiscan machines from airports last year and will remove the remaining 174, Bloomberg News reported, presumably before June. Under an agreement with the TSA, Rapiscan will pay for those removals and the TSA may redeploy the devices at government facilities. The TSA will reportedly use 60 of L-3's millimeter wave scanners at the nation's busier airports. They will reportedly be equipped with software that will display passengers as generic shapes (as opposed to naked figures) while highlighting foreign objects on their bodies. The TSA's ongoing relationship with Rapiscan and its parent company OSI will continue in spite of concerns raised by Congressman Mike Rogers of Alabama, who in November said the company "may have attempted to defraud the government by knowingly manipulating an operational test." Rapiscan denied the allegation.

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Aviation Safety back to top 

Fred Cabanas Killed In Crash, A Legacy Of Experience

Key West-based airshow, ferry, and well-certificated pilot Fred Cabanas, 60, was killed Tuesday along with his passenger Jorge Lopez Vives, host of an extreme sports show, while flying near a private airfield in Cozumel, Mexico. According to the FAA, Cabanas held an ATP, multiengine rating, commercial land and seaplane privileges, plus an A&P license and advanced ground instructor certificate. He was also an Aerobatic Competency Evaluator for ICAS as well as an EAA Warbird Evaluator. According to his website, Cabanas had flown for TV and movies and had accumulated 24,000 hours total flight time.

At the time of his death, Cabanas owned Cabanas Aeronautics Unlimited, which offered thrill rides and aerial tours of the Florida Keys. Cabanas' legacy is continued by pilots he touched, including Gary Ward, who credits Cabanas as an inspiration and mentor. As Ward's airshow career developed, Cabanas helped Ward get work, flying with him in the Cayman Islands, Panama, and other locations. One quirky connection won by Cabanas was being credited with reporting a MiG 23 flown by a Cuban military general as it was inbound to the U.S. from Cuba, in 1991. Cabanas performed in the Pitts S-2C, Waco, Cub, P-51 Mustang and other warbirds at airshows internationally. In 2005, he also raced at Reno. He leaves behind a wife, Susan, and their two children. Cabanas' daughter and son are both pilots.

OSU Crash Plane's Control Cables Broken

The NTSB says several of the flight control cables were broken on a Piper Cherokee that crashed, killing four people, including two high-profile college basketball coaches, in 2011. Oklahoma State University Women's Coach Kurt Budke and Assistant Coach Miranda Serna died along with pilot Olin Branstetter, 82, and his wife Paula, 79, when the Cherokee crashed in good weather near Perryville, Ark., Nov. 17, 2011. In the factual report on the accident issued last week, the NTSB said everything else on the aircraft appeared in normal operating condition but the cables were "fractured in multiple places" and that "each fracture was consistent with overload." The impact site suggested the aircraft hit with a 50- to 60-degree nose-down attitude and most of the wreckage was in a hole ten feet wide and three-and-a-half feet deep.

The report (PDF) says the aircraft was level at 7,000 feet heading toward Little Rock on a recruiting trip when it inexplicably entered a descending right turn and disappeared from radar. The NTSB says witnesses on the ground said they saw it at low attitude making turns before it dove into the ground. The pilot had a current medical and clean flying record but medical examiners couldn't determine whether medical incapacitation contributed to the accident. Although by definition a factual report does not determine cause, this report makes a point of noting that Paula Branstetter, also a current pilot, was sitting in the back with Serna and that Budke, sitting in the right seat up front, was not a pilot. Immediately after the crash, OSU tightened standards for aircraft and pilots flying athletic officials. Branstetter, a long-time OSU supporter, was volunteering his personal aircraft and services as a pilot for the flight.

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News Briefs back to top 

Cirrus G5 Ups Gross For 2013

Cirrus Thursday announced an increase in certified gross weight from 3400 to 3600 pounds for its 2013 "Generation 5" SR-series of aircraft, and claimed its now five-seat SR22 and SR22T offer "the highest in-class useful load" available. With all five seats filled, the aircraft offers a range of 700 nautical miles, according to the company. And it is capable of full fuel with four seats filled. Cirrus is also offering a "Generation 5 Vision Inspired Special Edition SR22T" that the company says is "inspired by the upcoming Cirrus Vision SF50 Personal Jet and modern automotive styling." Cirrus says the models have seen some changes from nose to tail.

Cirrus engineers also went over the aircraft from spinner to tail and redesigned or re-engineered as necessary to accommodate the increased airframe load. The carbon fiber spar has been strengthened as has the landing gear and flap system. Pilots can now extend flaps to the first position while flying at 150 knots. As for the parachute, Cirrus says it has increased the canopy size and fitted a new rocket, fired by a new igniter, incorporating "lighter and stronger" construction materials. The company says the system underwent "substantial testing," including a new series of test drops. Available features on Cirrus aircraft include Cirrus Perspective avionics by Garmin, Perspective Global Connect satellite communications, Cirrus Known Ice Protection, 60/40 FlexSeating, and the Cirrus CAPS full airframe parachute system.

No Spitfires Found At First Dig Site In Burma

An internationally supported expedition to Burma to dig up Spitfires thought to be buried there after the close of WWII is quickly drawing skepticism as it has so far found none after one week digging at a primary site, Mingaladon airport. The project's mastermind, British farmer David Cundall, believes there's still hope. Cundall had found eyewitness support of his theory that the British military packed more than 120 Spitfires in crates and buried them in the ground before vacating Burma more than 60 years ago. His evidence drew the assistance of David Cameron and cooperation of the Burmese government in arranging permission for a dig. But after one week digging at Mingaladon airport (now Rangoon International Airport), and with one witness, a 91-year-old British veteran, in attendance, archeologists Wednesday suspended the search on lack of evidence. Counterclaims and alternate theories of explanation are beginning to surface, including one from another witness. Cundall expects to continue.

In a letter published on Jan. 9, by TheTimes.co.uk, Lionel Timmins claims to have served with RAF 81 squadron from August 1946 through February 1948, spending time at Mingaladon "for a substantial part of each year." Timmins states he "neither saw anything of the burials nor did I hear any rumors, which I believe there most certainly would have been had the aircraft been buried." Tmmins wrote at the time that the steel interlocking plates of the airport's then runway could account for the search's initial indications of buried metal. The search itself has since turned up cables and pipes, as well as metal plates used in construction of the earlier airport's runway. It had expected to find as many as 36 Spitfires carefully packed in crates for storage and buried in good condition at the location. Some skeptics now believe witnesses may have confused burial of the planes with the disposal of other equipment while Spitfires were assembled or disassembled nearby. Cundall's project had acquired funding from Wargaming.net, an online gaming company, and the project's spokesman, Frazer Nash, has said the team will continue its investigation at two other sites in Burma.

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: Glider Incident No Threat to Freedom to Fly

An incident involving a glider and a nuclear power plant raised questions about the conduct of some local sheriffs — but, as Russ Niles notes on the AVweb Insider blog, it won't have an impact on aviation in general.

Read more and join the conversation.

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

AVmail: January 21, 2013

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: Safety in Plain Language

I am writing with some thoughts about the Agusta 109 helicopter crash in London last week. One has to fly this particular heliroute (H4) below 1,000 feet due to Heathrow approach traffic and "above the high/low waterline."

I've flown it several times, though not for a few years. The actual location of this crane (nearly 800 feet high) is right on the edge of the river and presents little margin for safety for a pilot constrained to fly below 1,000 feet and over the same edge of the river. The location is featured in a NOTAM, though it is possible that the pilot never read it, as this was an in-flight diversion, not a planned excursion into the London Heliroutes.

The weather was foggy that day with low cloud and seems unlikely to have complied with the mandatory SVFR conditions for the routes. Looking at the NOTAM got me thinking: It specifies the obstacle using the usual Lat/Long:


I don't know any human who can interpret such a location unaided. As this obstacle is bang in the line of a published route, with little vertical margin of safety, wouldn't such a notice be much more effective if instead it read something like:

On the south bank of the River Thames at Vauxhall Bridge on Heliroute H4

Then pilots could immediately visualise the threat.

One has to wonder why it isn't marked on a map — it is nearly 800 feet high! — and pilots told to fly to the north of the river to avoid it?

Bob Gilchrist

787 Grounding

Regarding your "Question of the Week": Although some may argue the grounding is unnecessary, it could be a blessing in disguise for Boeing. (Conspiracy theorists might go so far as to argue that Boeing requested it.)

Imagine the aircraft was allowed to keep flying while the issue was being addressed. A skeptical public (and reporters digging for a story) wouldn't trust Boeing's word, and every little hiccup with the aircraft would be scrutinized. The issue and bad PR for Boeing would linger on.

But with the FAA grounding, Boeing's eventual fix will have the agency's blessing. That helps bring closure and buys public/media trust.

Noel Wade

Ground the airplane! The issues with lithium ion have been known for years. This is just another example of economics overriding sound certification procedures.

It's lucky a crash didn't occur. Then the standard "pilot error" scenario could have been used to cover up the sloppy certification process.

Fred Yarborough

I agree with unequivocally yes, but not for the reason stated. My reason is the nature of the problem, as an inflight fire is about the worst thing that can happen in an airplane and can easily bring it down.

Sam Roberts

I don't have enough information to make a decision on grounding the Dreamliner. I would need detailed engineering drawings of the plane and details of the failures. I have neither, just what I have heard in the media, which is notoriously unreliable.

Richard Jones

You are second-guessing the agency that has all the info and whose job is to make commercial aviation safe? Why would you even be asking such a silly question? There are many, many experts that have a hand in this process. Most of your readers have not even touched a Dreamliner, much less have an expertise on it!

Jim K. Walton

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

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: Mt. Pleasant Regional Airport (OSA, Mt. Pleasant, Texas)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Mt. Pleasant Regional Airport (OSA) in Mt. Pleasant, Texas.

AVweb reader Larry Richardson writes:

At OSA you get great service; a courtesy car if needed; competitive fuel prices; 6,000x100-foot runway; and always a friendly smile.

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

Video: Sebring Sport Expo 2013

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

AVweb was at opening day of the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo show in Sebring on Thursday and filed this video report.

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

Video: Levil Technology's New ADS-B/AHRS

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

The competition in the iPad remote ADS-B and AHRS market is getting white-hot, and now comes Levil Technology with a new device called the iLevil. AVweb took a took at it at the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo show in Sebring.

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

Traditional Tactics Need a Fresh Approach
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The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

On some air bases, the military uses one side of the field and civilian aircraft use the other side, with the tower in the middle serving both. One day, at one of these fields, a call from an aircraft called in asking, "Hey, Tower, what time is it?"

The tower answered, "Who is calling?"

The aircraft answered, "What difference does it make?"

The tower responded with, "It makes a lot of difference. If you are a civilian aircraft, it's three o'clock; if you're an Army aircraft, it's 1500 hours; if you're a Navy aircraft, it's 3 bells; if you're an Air Force aircraft, the big hand is on 12 and the little hand is on 3; and if you're a Marine aircraft, it's Thursday afternoon and 120 minutes 'til Happy Hour."

John Yates
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.