AVwebFlash - Volume 19, Number 22a

May 27, 2013

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! Latest on the Pel-Air Ditching back to top 

Australian Senate: Norfolk Island Crash Investigation Could Lead To Criminal Probe

In a scathingly critical report (PDF) of Australian safety investigators and regulators, the Australian Senate last week found that an investigation into the 2009 ditching of a medical evacuation flight off Norfolk Island was so incompetently handled that it could be referred to authorities for criminal prosecution. The Senate investigation, which began last September, found that during the crash investigation, Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority failed to provide the Australian Transport Safety Board with critical documents and findings concerning the Pel-Air ditching. That information would have revealed, according to the Senate probe, that CASA knew of ongoing systemic shortcomings in Pel-Air's operation that directly contributed to the accident. CASA's action, says the Senate report, may have violated Australia's Transport Safety Investigations Act. "It could be seen as a breach of the Transport Safety Act in terms of obstructing an investigation," said Sen. David Fawcett.

The accident occurred in November 2009 when the twin-engine Westwind ditched off Norfolk Island en route from Samoa with a critical but stable patient. The Westwind's ultimate destination was Melbourne, with a scheduled fuel stop in Norfolk Island. The flight's captain, Dominic James, departed with legally sufficient fuel into a forecast of good VFR. En route, the Norfolk Island weather tanked and after three unsuccessful approach attempts, James ditched the Westwind near the island. All six aboard survived, albeit some with injuries. The ATSB's accident investigation, which took some 1000 days to complete, faulted the crew for not planning the flight in accordance with Australian regulation and Pel-Air operations specifications. It blamed James for not aggressively seeking updated weather reports and for failing to divert to Noumea, New Caledonia, which the Westwind initially had fuel to do.

Following the ATSB's findings, James challenged some of the investigator's findings but his queries were dismissed by the ATSB. The Australian Senate took up James' case last year and its probe revealed widespread flaws in the ATSB's investigatory work. Among numerous findings by the Senate was a report on a CASA review of Pel-Air that "unequivocally concluded … that the Pel-Air Westwind operation was at an elevated risk and warranted more frequent and intensive surveillance and intervention strategies." Yet no mention of this report appeared in the ATSB's findings blaming the pilot. "In other words, Pel-Air was lacking, CASA's oversight of Pel-Air was lacking, and the accident occurred in an environment of serious aviation safety deficiencies," the Senate report said.

Although the Senate investigation stops short of saying the ATSB and CASA colluded to suppress information, it does conclude that the two agencies narrowed the accident investigation focus in a way that excluded larger safety issues. "This inquiry has shaken my confidence in the CASA and the ATSB to the core. I no longer have confidence in them. That's why I think we need an inspector general of aviation," Sen. Nick Xenophone told Australia's ABC News. "This goes beyond Dominic James, which I regard and many regard as a scapegoat for the failings of CASA and the ATSB," he added.

The Senate report makes numerous recommendations to improve the ATSB investigation process, ranging from additional training for investigators, to requiring the ATSB's chief commissioner to have extensive aviation safety experience, to establishing an oversight board for investigations. In one of its sub-conclusion, the Senate pulled no punches in criticizing CASA. "CASA's internal reports indicate that the deficiencies identified would have had an effect on the outcome of the accident in several areas. It is inexplicable therefore that CASA should so strongly and publicly reject witnesses' evidence that they did not think surveillance was adequate, when CASA's own internal investigations indicate that CASA's oversight was inadequate," the report said.

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Engine Fire Puts A319 Back on the Runway back to top 

BA Airbus A319 Engine Fire

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A British Airways Airbus A319 with 80 aboard threw flames from its right engine shortly after departure from Heathrow, Friday, and returned safely, missing cowl components from both engines. The jet, Oslo-bound Flight BA762, departed at 8:16 a.m. and suffered "an engine technical fault" according to an early statement from the carrier. It returned to land less than 30 minutes later. Witnesses and passengers told reporters they heard at least one, and possibly two, loud bangs and saw flames come from the right engine. Photos and video of the jet in the air and on the ground appear to confirm smoke from the right engine and loss of cowling components on both engines.

Fire and rescue met the aircraft on the ground and passengers exited via emergency slides. Following the event, BA shut down all its short-haul flights at the airport until 4 p.m. The incident reportedly caused 186 flight cancellations as Heathrow briefly closed both runways. A reporter for Sky News who was on a different flight inbound to Heathrow said passengers were told they were being delayed due to a bird strike aboard another aircraft. The carrier says it has launched a full investigation working with the Air Accident Investigation Bureau to determine cause.

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Average Safety "Not Acceptable" to Cirrus back to top 

Cirrus Deploys Chute Training

Cirrus says it has made pilot safety its new top priority with a program designed to ensure the pilots of its aircraft know how, and perhaps more importantly when, to use the built-in safety features, including the parachute. In announcing Cirrus Approach, CEO Dale Klapmeier said the Cirrus safety record is "on par" with other designs even though Cirrus aircraft have a host of safety features, like automatic levelers and flight envelope detection and overrides, plus the chute, meaning an average safety rating "is not acceptable to us." He said the Cirrus Approach aims to change that. "If pilots do not utilize these features or are not trained properly on how to use them, then these safety devices are not as effective as they could be," Klapmeier said. "Cirrus Approach is our new commitment to making Cirrus pilots safer."

Although there have been more than 40 intentional deployments of the parachute and 69 lives saved, Cirrus believes there have been many more instances when the handle should have been pulled. "We believe a lack of training and practice are the primary reasons pilots do not use CAPS when they should," said Rob Haig, Cirrus's director of flight operations. The company has created new training materials that it's encouraging every Cirrus pilot to go to.

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Aviation Safety Reports back to top 

Angel Flight NE Aircraft Crashes

A Piper PA-34 Seneca being flown for Angel Flight Northeast crashed in Garoga, N.Y., killing at least two of the occupants and likely the third. The aircraft took off from Hanscom Field in Bedford, Mass., bound for Rome, N.Y., and crashed about 60 miles from its destination. Witnesses reported seeing the aircraft, minus a wing, drop into a reservoir next to a campground crowded for the long weekend. Two bodies were recovered and the third was believed to be trapped inside. Angel Flight Northeast confirmed the crash. "Angel Flight NE staff and volunteers are tremendously saddened by this tragedy and we all offer our thoughts and prayers to the families of those affected," said Larry Camerlin, the group's founder and president, in a statement.

Angel Flight Northeast did not identify the occupants of the aircraft or the nature of the purpose of the flight, although the normal mission is to deliver patients in need of far-flung medical care to the facility that can provide it. "Our volunteer pilots are the most compassionate and generous individuals who donate their time, aircraft and fuel to transport patients and loved ones for free to essential medical care that would otherwise not be readily available to them," said Camerlin. "There are no words that can adequately express our sorrow."

121 Uninjured In 707 Crash

A Brazilian Air Force Boeing 707 went off the runway on its takeoff roll at Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Haiti Sunday but none of the 121 people onboard was injured. One of the engines reportedly caught fire and the aircraft left the runway. The aircraft was totalled. Details are sketchy but the airport was closed for a time and some flights were delayed.

The airplane was reportedly carrying United Nations peacekeepers. It was one of four 707s, designated KC-137s, operated by the Brazilian Air Force.

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Affordable Flying — On Its Way to Oshkosh back to top 

'Most Affordable' LSA Headed To Market

A Utah company says it will introduce the "most affordable" glass-equipped ready-to-fly LSA at AirVenture Oshkosh this year. The SkyCraft SD-1 Minisport is a Czech design that zips its single occupant at 118 mph at 1.8 gph on a 50-horsepower Hirth engine. SkyCraft says the little LSA costs $12 an hour to fly, including the overhaul of the Hirth (1,000-hour TBO). The kit has been available for some time at around $21,000, including engine. The ready-built model will be a hair under $55,000.

That includes a Dynon Skyview with GPS, synthetic vision and collision avoidance, digital engine and fuel monitoring. Options include Mode S and a parachute. It's available in trike or taildragger. The company says the aircraft has "perfect flight history" and is designed for inexperienced pilots.

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News Briefs back to top 

Virgin Galactic Plans 2013 Space Flight

The SpaceShipTwo space tourism vehicle operated by Virgin Galactic is expected to fly into space this year during testing with commercial operations to commence "not too long after," the company said Tuesday. Virgin Galactic is finalizing customer options and says there will be different price ranges for different experiences. Some 580 customers ranging in age from 18 to more than 90 years of age have given the company more than $70 million in deposits for future flights. While Virgin Galactic seems to be on pace to become the first enterprise to offer a space tourism service, XCOR may not be far behind and aims to be far more affordable.

At least 275 people have signed up for paid flights aboard XCOR's Lynx spacecraft, a two-person vehicle that aims to deliver brief space flights for a pilot and one passenger, sometime in 2014. The company created competitive buzz when AXE (a personal care product company) announced in January that it would select 22 people as contest winners to fly aboard Lynx flights. (The contest ended in February.) Virgin Galactic hopes to operate from Spaceport America in New Mexico selling seats aboard its six-passenger vehicle for $200,000 each. XCOR's Lynx flights aim to operate from the Caribbean island of Curacoa, flying passengers for $95,000, one at a time. Lynx is a horizontal takeoff and horizontal landing vehicle that uses reusable rocket propulsion to depart from a runway. XCOR says flights in the Lynx will last roughly one-half hour, reaching altitudes of 330,000 feet and including about six minutes of weightlessness.

Warthog Clips Cables In Missouri

One of two A-10 Thunderbolt II "Warthog" close ground support attack jets Wednesday downed two protective static cables above power lines that cross Stockton Lake, Missouri, the Air Force Reserve has confirmed. Neither pilot was injured and both jets returned safely to the base. The single-seat twin-engine jets were operated by the Reserve's 442nd Fighter Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base. A witness told local KY3 news that the lead jet "went underneath the power lines." The Air Force says the second jet cut through the two static cables with its wing. The aircraft were flying a low-altitude navigational training mission at the time and the pilot of the strike aircraft has been removed from flight duty pending the results of an investigation. Damage to the aircraft was reportedly not severe. Now other aircraft may be required to fix the damage. 

After the wire strike, electrical system monitoring devices sensed an anomaly and shut down power to the three transmission lines located below the stricken cables. The stricken static lines do not deliver power and are used as part of a system that protects the transmission lines from lightning. Without them, the system is considered compromised. Local energy management monitors rerouted power immediately after the strike and have not resumed transmission through the associated power lines. Until repairs are made, the transmission lines are more susceptible to damage from lightning but authorities say there is no immediate risk to the public. No customers have lost power due to the event and officials estimate that repairs to string the cables back across the lake could take up to two months and involve a helicopter. In the meanwhile, boaters will be discouraged from accessing the area of the lake that holds the now-submerged cables.

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New on AVweb.com back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: A Space Flight Veteran Looks at Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic is moving rapidly forward to providing commercial service to space. On the AVweb Insider blog, veteran space shuttle flight director and Kitplanes editor Paul Dye offers some insights on the program, including judging the risk.

Read more and join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: In Search of Airborne Connection

It's been clear for a long time that the pilot population is in decline, but the reasons why and the ways to change the trajectory are less clear. In her latest post to the AVweb Insider blog, Mary Grady points to the recent wave of efforts focused on community-building -- but is this the solution everyone's been waiting for?

Read more and join the conversation.

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

AVmail: May 27, 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: Buyer Beware

Regarding the story about pre-purchase inspections:

We bought a Cessna 172 a few years ago. Our guy was forgiven for not noticing the sluggish performance of the airplane since he flew a PA-32-300 down to Gainesville, GA before checking the 172N out. Back at our home base, we got steady complaints about the aircraft performance since our other C-172M was performing much better. Mechanics looked at everything imaginable until, finally, a borescope inspection revealed that during the last overhaul the cam was installed one tooth off, which caused the engine to perform as though it was firing after top dead center.

During the teardown to correct that problem, it was discovered that a gasket that was clearly marked "this side out" was installed backwards. A hole allowing oil flow to the fuel pump area was blocked, and oil pressure had blown a hole in the gasket, allowing some lubrication. This engine had been overhauled by a shop that was no longer in business, but the mechanic who had signed off on the job was working at another shop in the area.

Should we have reported the problem to the FAA? That was debated, and the idea dropped. Just because a mechanic has experience and a certificate doesn't mean he does good work.

Dennis English

Future Fuel

Regarding the "Question of the Week": I don't expect to be buying any aviation fuel in 10 years. Avgas is outrageously expensive now, and there is zero chance that any replacement will cost less, so I'm convinced that GA as we know it will be gone.

My generation will, for the most part, be too old to fly in 10 years, and the younger, potential pilots see the costs involved and decide to play golf or video games. Besides, flying is "dangerous," and we, as a society, no longer have the ability to tolerate any risk, regardless of the reward. I hope I'm wrong, but I doubt it.

Gerry McCarley

I expect to be using auto gas with anti-detonation injection.

Mark Crapnell

A World Without GPS

Regarding the May 16 "Question of the Week": I would revert quickly and painlessly to pilotage and dead reckoning. After all, neither the rivers nor mountains move much up here in Alaska.

H. Lee Griffin

I always still keep VORs queued up in the 530 and 430, along with triangulating and getting DME info. It keeps me even busier and is for just such an eventuality. I submit that, if able, all pilots should continually be doing this and playing "what if."

Jeff May

It depends on what type of aviation I was committing at the time and where I was flying. On an instrument flight, I would depend on other non-GPS equipment as a precaution, raise personal minimums, file and fly the IFR flight plan (so ATC knows when to expect me if the radios don't work), review the regs again on IFR lost communications, and avoid GPS LIFR in Alaska, Canada, and the northern half of the U.S. The southern half of the U.S. will not likely be impacted.

For a VFR flight, I would get current sectionals. I like dead reckoning and practice it routinely, especially in a glider. I will be wearing more sunscreen. The impacts will be to polar-routed airlines and high-latitude flights.

Scott Wiley

When that happens, I probably wouldn't notice. A paper map and a wet compass are good enough, and neither requires batteries.

Ed Covill

Oh my gosh! I'll look out the window!

Paul Tipton

Windy Weather

Regarding your recent article on "Big Blows": Thank you for a great read on landing and flying in excess wind.

Out in Casper, Wyoming (KCPR), we deal with constant unrelenting winds the entire year.

In fact, Boeing brought their gorgeous 787 Dreamliner to KCPR for flight testing, specifically for landing in high crosswinds.

A scheduled stop here at KCPR had to be cancelled due to "not enough wind." Go figure.

The Boeing crew finally did come into KCPR for Dreamliner testing.

Some pilots stopping in at KCPR for a break, to refuel, etc. ask, "Is the wind always this bad?" Well, yes, that's kind of the norm around these parts. Sorry.

Practice makes perfect in regards to landing in our unusual winds here, and, really, it's not that bad if one flies into KCPR on a regular basis.

Here's to some good slipping and crabbing!

James G. Feiler
Wyoming Wing, Civil Air Patrol

Paying to Fly

Regarding the story on user fees in New Zealand: New Zealanders should consider themselves privileged. The landing fee for the Mooney 201J that I fly at my local airport in southern Germany is $29, although I must admit this is extreme due to lack of noise certificate. A C-172 comes in at half that price. Avgas runs $13 per gallon.

You lucky U.S. and New Zealand pilots!

Juergen Boettcher

406 Makes Sense

Regarding the story on opposition to phasing out 121.5 MHz ELTs: I've had a 406 MHz ELT in my 1963 Cessna 172D for as long as they've been available. Before that, I had taken a lengthy boat trip through the San Juan Islands and Gulf Islands of Washington and B.C. and had installed a 406 EPIRB in my little boat. So I really believe in the technology, and I've often verbally disagreed with AOPA and others who have taken the anti-406 stance, mostly on the economic issue, never mind that 121.5/243 ELTs have proven to be less reliable and are no longer monitored by the satellite-based SAR system.

Now we have some Senators joining the anti-406 folks, ostensibly because 406 ELTs will be made obsolete because of NextGen's ADS-B magic. Come on, people, get real! Here we have proven technology that saves lives and will undoubtedly save many more lives between now and when NextGen is fully implemented and which may very well save the lives of those whose airplanes go down in survivable incidents in areas in which ADS-B and all the other NextGen bells and whistles will not detect them, at all. Not to mention, the real cost of a fully functioning 406 ELT is a whole bunch less than the ADS-B in and out "requirements" of NextGen — which won't be required until 2020, seven years away.

This is nothing but a rehash of the anti-ELT arguments that were instituted after the loss of Congressmen Boggs and Begich in 1972 on a flight in Alaska piloted by Don Jonz, which triggered the single most lengthy and costly SAR efforts in history. The anti-ELT arguments then — "I don't fly in Alaska"; "I don't fly in bad weather"; "I always file a flight plan"; "my wife knows the route I fly and when I'll get there"; "ELTs aren't reliable"; "I'm a good pilot" — were just as fallacious as the anti-406 economic arguments today.

I think these anti- folks should ask themselves this question: "If I am in a survivable crash, do I want to die of exposure because the SAR people can't find me right away?"

Cary Alburn

Executive Privilege

Regarding the story on the auction of former military DC-9s: To the best of my knowledge, being a former controller, there is no such thing as Air Force Two. There are only Air Force One, Marine One, Army One, Navy One. The designation is specifically set aside for any flight with the President aboard; otherwise, if dispatched at his request, it would be Exec One. The Vice-President's flights are known as Exec Two.

Jay Falatko

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

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Survey: Have You Had Engine Shop Surgery?

The engine shop and overhaul market has changed dramatically in the past few years. Aviation Consumer magazine wants to know about your engine overhaul experience and the experience you had dealing with the shop. We'd appreciate you taking a couple of minutes to answer these questions.

Click here to take the survey.

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The results will appear in a future issue of Aviation Consumer. For subscription information, click here.

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

Video: Pilatus Unveils PC-24 TwinJet

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

At the European Business Aircraft Conference & Exhibition in Geneva this week, Pilatus unveiled its design for a new twin-engine jet that can operate from short and unpaved runways.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Copeca Jet Center (TJBQ, Aguadilla, Puerto Rico)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Copeca Jet Center at Rafael Hernandez Airport (TJBQ) in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.

AVweb reader Bruce Huester told us about the FBO:

Copeca Jet Center is a well-run, family-owned and operated FBO on the northwest end of Puerto Rico. We have stopped there several times for fuel and customs. The customs folks are friendly, courteous, and quick! We park right outside the customs office and are typically processed in less than ten minutes. We had a pressurization issue after departure, and when we returned, Copeca was very helpful with lining up a mechanic, arranging accommodations, and providing transportation. I highly recommend Copeca for a tech stop or overnight.

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

I heard the following a few days ago over eastern Kentucky:

Flagship 123:
"Indy Center, Flagship 123 climbing through 12,000."

Indy Center:
"Flagship 123, roger. What was your assigned heading?"

Flagship 123:

Indy Center:

Flagship 123:

Indy Center:
"O.K. Continue present heading."

Dennis Mahan
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].

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