October 17, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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They almost made it. Pilots of a Pinnacle Airlines CRJ2 apparently glided their powerless regional jet for 20 minutes and almost 100 miles before it crashed two miles short of the Jefferson City, Mo., airport late Thursday. Now, the NTSB is trying to figure out why both engines apparently stopped, possibly while the plane was at cruise. The plane was on a repositioning flight from Little Rock, Ark., to Minneapolis. Only the pilots, Captain Jesse Rhodes, of Palm Harbor, Fla., and First Officer Peter Cesarz, of Helotes, Texas, were on board when the regional jet went down in a residential area of the city, narrowly missing several houses. Both pilots were killed but no one on the ground was hurt. NTSB spokeswoman Carol Carmody said flight data recorder information showed the plane was at 41,000 feet, about 100 miles south of Jefferson City, at 9:51 p.m. Four minutes later, both engines quit. Other reports suggest one engine quit at cruise and the other during the emergency descent. The plane crashed at 10:15 p.m. Carmody said 41,000 feet is the maximum altitude for the CRJ2 and told reporters that exceeding that altitude could cause engine failure. She also said there was no clear indication of the cause of engine stoppage and investigators don't know why the plane was flying so high. "That's the most interesting thing," she said. Carmody said the plane had been pulled from a scheduled flight earlier Thursday when an indicator light went on for its bleed air system. Unspecified maintenance was performed before the plane took off later that evening.
Engines have now become at least part of the focus of another unusual crash, this one an MK Airlines Boeing 747-200 cargo plane in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Canadian authorities are trying to figure out why the jumbo jet used practically every inch of runway (scraping the tail twice) and then scraped its tail along the ground for about 200 yards before becoming briefly airborne. It didn't gain enough altitude to clear an antenna on a communications berm about 350 yards from the end of the runway. That's where the tail broke off and the rest of the fully-fueled plane careened into a gravel pit. All seven aboard were killed. On Saturday, Canadian Transportation Safety Board officials confirmed that within weeks of the accident two engines on the aircraft had been replaced. TSB spokesman Bill Fowler said the board is now looking into whether "there's any indication of a systemic issue with this aircraft or these engines." The plane was on its way to Spain with a load of lawn tractors and fish. Heavy rain has hampered the recovery effort.
Fortunately, all that can be harmed are the egos and reputations of a newspaper and an airline in a fracas over an incident in Hong Kong Aug. 30. The London Daily Telegraph, quoting unnamed sources, claimed in an Oct. 14 story that a Cathay Pacific Boeing 747-400 flew "uncontrolled" for three minutes over Hong Kong, almost hit a mountain and nearly stalled while on a go-around at Chep Lap Kok Airport. In a subsequent story in The Standard, the airline insists "the aircraft was never, at any stage, close to terrain ..." and was "always comfortably above any speed which could have led to a stall." One thing the paper and the airline do agree on, however, is that sometime during the missed approach, the autopilot became disengaged. The flight from London was uneventful until about four miles from touchdown when a wind-shear warning went off. The crew aborted the landing and began setting up for a second try. According to the Daily Telegraph story, the crew thought the autopilot was still engaged and wrote off the plane's unusual directional changes to the rough weather. The paper says it was three minutes before the crew realized nothing (or no one) was flying the plane and that in the meantime it had veered almost 180 degrees off course and came close to a nearby mountain peak. The Chinese Civil Aviation Department refuted the claim, saying the plane deviated from its course by 25 degrees in either direction. The department did, however, tell the airline to remind all of its flight crew staff of the correct procedures for a go-around "and the associated use of the autopilot." We can't wait to see the movie.
FROM PORTABLE TO PANEL-MOUNT JA AIR CENTER IS THE PLACE TO BUY GARMIN
The greatest threat to U.S. aviation security may come from cyberspace. According to the Register, a journal of IT-related topics, The Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General has found key air traffic control computer systems vulnerable to hackers. "While having limited exposure to the general public, en route center computer systems need to be better protected," the Oct. 1 report reads. All federal agencies must annually review computer security and this year's report found that while security features are incorporated into the FAA's systems on installation, they don't get updated. "FAA needs to commit to reviewing all operational air traffic control systems -- at en route, approach control and airport terminal facilities," according to the report. The report also criticized the lack of security maintenance on the thousands of computer terminals used by FAA employees throughout the country. It said that although the main servers get regular attention, none of the workstations have been checked for vulnerabilities. The FAA says it's going to review computer security in the wake of the report.
Meanwhile, when it comes to beating airport security, there doesn't seem to be any better strategy than getting thoroughly drunk. Perhaps because of the focus on aviation security these days, maybe we're just hearing about these incidents more, but it seems strange, indeed, that a young man "in a visible state of drunkenness" was able to break into an airport terminal at Coulommiers, east of Paris, and take a single-engine plane for a joy ride. But it gets better (worse). After being intercepted by a helicopter and escorted to Charles de Gaulle Airport, he managed to run away from airport officials who were trying to detain him. However, the man did leave a trail. He left behind a set of keys and numerous fingerprints in the aircraft. Police finally caught up to the man they believe responsible and, at last report, he was giving his side of the story at the Coulommiers police station.
WHAT DO APPLYING FOR LIFE INSURANCE & A RAMP CHECK HAVE IN COMMON?
Common in reviews of flashy new flat-panel cockpit displays (and frequently voiced among those who remember piston airliners) is the notion that while Technicolor screens should be easier to use and generally better-suited for communicating information, they don't seem to be. Science has stepped in to shed some light on this apparent contradiction, which, if taken to heart, could result in a wholesale redesign of the modern cockpit. In a nutshell, say researchers, it appears pilots are better able to process information from monochromatic, flickering, individual sources (like old-fashioned gauges?) than from all-in-one, color-coded screens. Apparently, we are able to look at a lot more than we are able to actually see, due in part to the way humans are wired to cope with visually dependent tasks. There are two basic visual processing systems our brains use to decode the photons hitting our retinas. One works better on single objects with a multitude of information while the other works better on multiple sources of information. The study found that earlier experiments that showed the screen displays improved pilot performance failed to take into account the second type of visual processing, which appears to work better for us in an information-rich environment. So what's it all mean? How about a "glass panel" with electronic renditions of black and white gauges that flicker. The more things change...
They still don't know what caused the fire that destroyed the Yankee Air Museum at Ypsilanti, Mich., last week but there are some grim truths surfacing about the future of the institution. For instance, it's estimated it will cost $5.5 million just to replace the hangar that housed the collection of more than 13,000 aviation artifacts. So far, about $100,000 has been raised through an online donations site. Volunteers managed to get three flyable aircraft, a B-25, a B-17 and a C-47, away from the flames but virtually everything else was razed. Immediately after the fire, museum president Jon Stevens vowed that the museum would be rebuilt. In fact, the museum had already made plans to raise $55 million for a major expansion of the museum. But with the economy in the tank and governments on all levels cutting back on those types of expenditures, Stevens recognizes it won't be easy. "We know it's tough to raise funds in the current fund-raising climate," he told the Detroit Free Press. "But we're getting our name out so when the money starts flowing again, people will know us."
MARV GOLDEN'S OCTOBER SPECIALS AND EVERYTHING FOR PILOTS!
That shiny new Garmin G1000 in your panel (new production Cessna, Mooney, and Diamond aircraft -- just to name a few -- all have a G1000 option) might as well be a DVD player until you get it checked for some capacitors that may have been installed backward. Garmin issued an "urgent notice" to owners of the glass cockpit systems advising them the systems are limited to VFR/Day Only operations until they've been checked for the faulty parts. The good news is that not all G1000s have the potentially faulty parts, but the only way to find out is to have them inspected. The notice covers parts called GIA 63 units, serial numbers 46901800 to 46902817. Garmin is telling owners to contact their nearest Garmin Avionics or other authorized centers for the inspection. If yours has the manufacturing flaw, it has to go back to Garmin for repair or exchange. As expected, Garmin is covering the parts and labor costs on all this.
You can now get an N-number for your ultralight or homebuilt but, ironically, it would mean you can't fly it. The conundrum comes as various parts of the massive Light Sport/Sport Pilot implementation process fail to synchronize in the creation of the new aircraft class. According to EAA, the part of the FAA that deals with registration is ready to go and forms were available on Friday to make the transition. Problem: The parts of the FAA that deal with the necessary licensing and airworthiness certificates won't be ready for months. "With FAA's release of the registration form, it is possible to get an N-number for your ultralight," said EAA spokesman Charlie Becker. "However, EAA is counseling members to wait ... because, without an airworthiness certificate, you're grounded." The FAA won't begin issuing experimental light-sport aircraft airworthiness certificates until Jan. 15, 2005. Once the plane is registered, you need a sport pilot certificate (or better) to fly it. EAA is suggesting that pilots carefully plot out the sequence and timing of the paperwork to minimize the amount of time required to get flying under the new rule. In the meantime, it's suggesting you wait and see how it all develops.
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The test for development of new aircraft appears to be how much governments are willing to ante up. Earlier this week, Bombardier and Airbus both said they were going to the public trough to fund the creation of new products. And in Canada's Ottawa, there appear to be sympathetic ears. Canada's Industry Minister David Emerson indicated to reporters that Bombardier would get help from the government to build a new class of 110- to 135-passenger jets. The company estimates development costs at $2 billion and wants the bill split three ways, with Bombardier putting up $700 million, suppliers a similar amount and the government coming up with $700 million in "loans." Emerson tried to downplay the suggestion that the government's help was aimed directly at one company. "We will meet any timely deadlines that Bombardier has on a variety of issues but this is not a Bombardier strategy, this is an aerospace strategy," he told reporters. Meanwhile, Airbus also has its hand out to European countries to help fund the A350, a direct competitor to Boeing's 7E7 Dreamliner. The French firm confirmed that it will seek $1.2 billion in loans from European governments. Creation of the airliner is expected to cost as much as $3 billion. U.S. trade representatives have been critical of what they term Airbus's dependence on government participation in their business but Airbus maintains it's no different than the tax breaks Boeing gets from Washington State or the lavish defense contracts it receives that indirectly support its civilian aviation work. The Airbus-Boeing issue appears headed to the World Trade Organization.
It depends on how you define your "firsts" but a celebration of one Canadian aviation milestone in Goderich, Ontario, has raised an issue of clarity among the relatives of some aviation pioneers in British Columbia. The town of Goderich is planning an event next August to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first flight of an "amateur built aircraft" in Canada. The good people of Goderich believe this to have happened in 1955 ... but ... folks in Vernon, B.C., would beg to differ. You see, by 1955, Vernon boys Jim Duddle and Eldon Seymour had been flying the plane they built from scratch for almost 20 years and Seymour's grandson Pat wants the record on that point straight. The devil, as always, is in the details. Goderich aviator Keith Hopkinson apparently wanted to do things by the book, except the book didn't exist. With help from EAA founder Paul Poberezny, Hopkinson successfully lobbied Transport Canada to create the Amateur Built aircraft category and his modified Stitts Playboy was the first registered under the new class. Out west, Duddle and Seymour didn't even have pilot's licenses, much less an aircraft registration. Using plans and an engine obtained by mail order, they built the plane in 1937 in the attic of a general store on the outskirts of town and test flew it from a nearby cow pasture. They flew the plane, called the City of Vernon, over the Rocky Mountains to Edmonton, Alberta, claiming to be the "first" to fly a homebuilt over the mountains. Seymour continued flying well into his 80s and died several years ago.
ATTENTION, AIRCRAFT RENTERS:
Small aircraft manufacturers waiting for money to rain down on them from the government will wait a long time. AVweb reported Thursdaythat the Senate had approved tax breaks worth $245 million for plane-makers but it was just the extension of delivery dates, to the end of 2005, on aircraft qualifying for bonus depreciation. Good news, indeed, but nothing really new...
There's a tragic twist to the bizarre death of an aircraft mechanic in Grand Junction, Colo., last week. As we reported Thursday, John Hoffman died when struck by a propeller that broke off a pilotless airplane that taxied into a parked plane. At first, no one knew (or would say) how the plane started but it turns out Hoffman's unidentified son had hand-started the plane and it got away from him...
Albuquerque-based Eclipse Aviation's latest competitor may also soon become a neighbor. Excel-Jet, which is currently located in Colorado, announced it plans to move New Mexico to take advantage of incentives there. The company plans to build a $950,000 single-engine four-place jet called the Sport Jet...
If you've ever landed on a narrow runway, say 50 feet across, you might be able to empathize with these pilots. The plane was being delivered to a museum at the Rand Airport in South Africa. With our thanks to Mark Monse, the original e-mail stakes the claim, "(elevation 5568 feet with 4898 long x 50 feet wide runway!) The 747-200 outer-to-outer main gear tire width is 41.33 ft. Empty aircraft Vref (landing speed) was 115 kts!" The aircraft was delivered in March. Click through, here, for the pictures, and have a nice day ... drenched in humility.
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As the Beacon Turns #82: A Review to Remember
The FAA says a flight review can be conducted mostly at the discretion of the CFI, but that means you could get anything from a "checkride" to a pencil-whipped joyride. AVweb's Michael Maya Charles has a better way -- a way to help the pilot remember the important information -- in this month's column.
From the CFI #3: Practice Does Not Make Perfect
No, we're not saying you shouldn't practice. AVweb's Linda Pendleton takes a crack at another truism of flight training, showing that practicing the wrong thing can be just as bad as not practicing.
Reader mail this week about ATC staffing, presidential pilots, airline woes and more.
ATTENTION, PROSPECTIVE OR CURRENT STUDENT PILOTS!
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