January 2, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Eclipse Aviation's first Eclipse 500 certification aircraft flew twice on Friday, just making the company's own deadline. "As we promised on January 31, 2003, we have resumed flight testing by December 31, 2004, with the PW610F engines," CEO Vern Raburn said in a news release on Friday. Aircraft N503EA, powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW610F turbofan engines, took off from the Albuquerque International Sunport Airport for its maiden flight, which lasted one hour and 29 minutes. After a thorough inspection by flight-test engineers, N503EA was cleared and departed again at 3:59 p.m. The second flight lasted 54 minutes. The aircraft successfully completed all maneuvers in the test area during the flights, Eclipse said. The flights were conducted in a designated test zone located south of Albuquerque. "This is a very important day for aviation and the VLJ [Very Light Jet] market we pioneered," Raburn said. "We are the first manufacturer to fly an FAA conforming VLJ and we are destined to be the first to certify and deliver this new breed of jet into customers' hands."
Friday's flights mark a milestone for the company, which delayed flight testing for almost two years after its first choice of Williams International engines didn't pan out. On Friday, the prototype jet climbed to 16,800 feet and reached 200 knots during the first tests, and completed all scheduled tasks. (See it for yourself: Eclipse has posted several short videos on its Web site.) Basic maneuverability and various aircraft systems were checked, Eclipse said. N503EA is fully equipped with pressurization and climate-control and ice-protection systems. The flights are the first in a 15-month testing program that will involve seven test airframes, more than 3,000 flight hours and several hundred hours of ground testing, culminating in FAA certification in March 2006, Eclipse said. The flight-test program will involve seven pre-production aircraft: one static test airframe, one fatigue test airframe and five additional flight-testing aircraft. The company also said, in celebration of the flight-test milestone, that customers who order an Eclipse 500 by Feb. 28 will receive a free upgrade to the LX Edition.
THE PILOT INSURANCE CHALLENGE
In an unusual move last week, the NTSB issued an Alert Letter directly to pilots, advising them to conduct visual and tactile inspections of airplane wing upper surfaces to check for ice and frost. The safety board said that the Nov. 28 accident at Montrose, Colo., involving a Bombardier Challenger 604 that crashed on takeoff, killing three people, has generated much discussion about the effects of wing upper-surface ice accumulations. The safety board said that many pilots do not recognize that minute amounts of ice adhering to a wing can cause severe aerodynamic and control penalties. The board also said that many pilots have misconceptions about coping with icing, such as that they can "power through" any degradation in performance from ice on the wings. But engine power will not prevent a stall and loss of control at liftoff, where the highest angles of attack are normally achieved, the NTSB said. Although the Montrose crash investigation is still underway, the NTSB said its preliminary findings show that atmospheric conditions conducive to upper-wing-surface ice accumulation existed at the time of the accident. The Alert Letter follows a Safety Recommendation that was issued to the FAA on Dec. 15, regarding icing issues relevant to Cessna Caravans.
Just because you've flown with some ice before doesn't mean your aircraft will take off with what's on the wing, now. Fine particles of frost or ice the size of a grain of table salt and distributed as sparsely as one per square centimeter over an airplane wing's upper surface can destroy enough lift to prevent that airplane from taking off, the NTSB said. This kind of ice may not be seen in a visual check from the cabin, and it is difficult to see from the front or back of the wing. "The Safety Board believes strongly that the only way to ensure that the wing is free from critical contamination is to touch it," the letter says. "The bottom line is that pilots should be aware that no amount of snow, ice or frost accumulation on the wing upper surface can be considered safe for takeoff." Recent accidents indicate that the pilot community still may not appreciate the potential consequences of small amounts of ice, the NTSB said. Besides the Montrose crash, two other such accidents were the Oct. 10, 2001, crash of a Cessna 208 in Dillingham, Alaska, and a Jan. 4, 2002, crash of a Bombardier Challenger 604 in Birmingham, England. However, a careful and thorough preflight inspection, including tactile inspections and proper and liberal use of deicing processes and techniques, can ensure safe winter flying, the safety board said.
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In the aftermath of the devastating tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean coastline last week, military and civilian aircraft from around the world are providing critical relief. Desperately needed helicopters arrived over the weekend in Indonesia, finally bringing help into remote areas where airplanes could do no more than drop supplies. The U.S. aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln arrived off the island of Sumatra over the weekend, and helicopters based on the ship are ferrying supplies in and flying casualties out to hospitals. Villagers mobbed the helicopters as they touched down, desperate for food and water, sometimes preventing them from landing. "They came from all directions, crawling under the craft, knocking on the pilot's door, pushing to get into the cabin," Petty Officer First Class Brennan Zwack told the BBC News. "But when they saw we had no more food inside, they backed away, saying 'Thank you, thank you.'" The Dec. 26 tsunami killed at least 150,000 people in the region, and hundreds of thousands are in urgent need of medical care, clean water and food.
The status of airfields and navaids is uncertain in much of the region, and assessment teams are working to determine the status of facilities. Meanwhile, many aircraft are limited to flying VFR and only in daylight, though many have flown despite pounding rains. At the Port Blair airport in India, half of the 12,000-foot runway was usable. "All the landmarks that normally help us identify the airfield had vanished. We could see no traces of villages or houses. ... I had never seen anything like this before," pilot Ashish Dhawan told The Times of India. Even the coastlines and terrain have changed dramatically. Helicopter pilot Rahul Verma told the Hindustan Times that sandbars pilots once saw from the sky have vanished, and new formations have popped up from the sea. "It's a very strange experience," he said. Helicopters are especially critical to the effort because they can operate in remote areas without airports. New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Pakistan and scores of other nations have been sending cargo aircraft and helicopters to the region, but helicopters have been slow to arrive, because they have limited range and must travel by ship.
"We have a critical need for airplanes and helicopters given the wide geographic expanse and difficult terrain," James Morris, head of the U.N. World Food Program, said Friday. "We would be very grateful if countries were able to urgently help us meet our air transport needs." Yet some pilots who have volunteered to help have been turned away. Mike Smith, an official with the American Red Cross of Alaska, told the Anchorage Daily News he's gotten hundreds of calls and e-mails from pilots who want to help. "But we don't have the mechanism to support them," he said. Relief agencies generally cannot cope with bringing inexperienced volunteers to a disaster site and taking responsibility for their well-being, according to the Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI). However, pilots who want to register their skills for disaster relief can do so online. Registering does not guarantee that a relief agency will send you on a relief assignment, the CIDI says, but it may serve as a resource to make useful information about your skills and experience accessible to relief agencies when they need to find personnel to meet specific emergency needs and they've exhausted their existing rosters. Volunteers generally must be willing to spend at least three months at the disaster site.
RISK MANAGEMENT IS AN AREA OF AVIATION INSURANCE OFTEN OVERLOOKED
A Cirrus SR22 being ferried across the Atlantic ran out of fuel and sputtered to a stop just seconds after landing at Shannon Airport in Ireland late on Friday, The Canadian Press reported Saturday. The safe landing was "a great miracle story at the end of 2004," as well as a feat of airmanship, Royal Air Force rescue squad member Michael Mulford told the CP. "[The pilot] must have judged it right down to the last turn of the propeller," Mulford said. (There were perhaps other considerations.) The pilot had taken off from Newfoundland, and reported that the right fuel tank had started to leak about 400 miles from the Irish coast. The rescue squad had been preparing for a possible ditching in the wintry North Atlantic. Strong tailwinds were cited for helping the airplane make shore. A Nimrod search-and-rescue aircraft, equipped for a sea rescue, followed the Cirrus to its landing.
The airplane had been forced to descend from about 12,000 feet to 4,500 feet after heavy rain and snow showers caused icing on control surfaces. The exhausted pilot, whose name was not available, was taken to a hotel for a rest. "He was sweating. It's only natural coming across like that," airport spokesman Paul Phelan told the Canadian Press. Cirrus spokeswoman Kate Andrews told AVweb yesterday that ferry pilots are contracted by the aircraft owner, not by Cirrus, so she had no information on the flight. "We're delighted that the pilot and airplane are OK," she said, and noted that the glass cockpit in an SR22 is a great aid to the pilot when dealing with difficult situations. "It can provide so much information, on fuel burn, calculating distance to the airport, and so much more," she said. Andrews also said it is customary to fit out aircraft with supplemental fuel tanks before crossing the North Atlantic, but she had no information about this particular flight.
In a demonstration flight last month in the Idaho desert, a small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) carrying a video camera showed that it could help firefighters track the movement of forest fires. "I thought this was possible for a long time," said Everett Hinkley, of the U.S. Forest Service Remote Sensing Applications Center. "This technology could be used to show you what the fire is doing right now, over the hill." The tests were conducted by the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory. The Forest Service plans to test the UAVs with heat-sensing cameras on a fire this spring or summer somewhere in Montana, Hinkley told The Associated Press. Today's big fires are mapped using manned aircraft, fitted with thermal sensors, which fly at night over hot spots and fire perimeters. Data from the plane's sensors are transmitted to staff at fire-management operations centers, who use the information to make decisions on when and where to send in equipment or firefighters. NASA teams from the Ames Research Center and Dryden Flight Research Center are investigating whether it makes sense to use flocks of small, inexpensive UAVs carrying a variety of sensors for such routine surveillance. NASA engineers are specifically interested in coordinated maneuvering, and they envision the UAVs working in concert like a flock of birds or a school of fish.
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The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) confirmed last week that it will expand its Transportation Security Administration Access Certificate (TSAAC) program, which grants increased access to airspace and airports for Part 91 business aviation operators who meet TSA security standards. The concept was tested with 24 operators at Teterboro, N.J.; White Plains, N.Y.; and Morristown, N.J. "Participants at those airports support the TSAAC procedures," said Ed Bolen, president of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA). The TSAAC provides standardized security procedures for personnel, facilities, aircraft and in-flight operations. "This program will further enhance aviation security by helping general aviation operators implement new security measures, such as background checks on flight crews and third party screening of passengers," said Rear Adm. David Stone, TSA chief. The TSA and NBAA are partnering together to roll out the TSAAC to additional airports this year and continue to evaluate and determine the benefits provided to TSAAC holders. In its initial phase, the program enabled operators to fly internationally without having to pass through one of eight "portal" countries. If an operator holding a TSAAC wants to fly directly from Teterboro to Paris, they may do so without having to apply for a waiver, the NBAA said. There are over 10,000 registered business aircraft operators in the U.S., the TSA said.
The FBI is investigating several incidents of lasers shining into the cockpits of airplanes on approach to U.S. airports in the last week. Pilots of six commercial airliners, a police helicopter and a Cessna Citation described seeing beams of green light in the cockpit that originated on the ground. On Saturday, authorities questioned a New Jersey man in connection with several of the incidents, but no arrests were made. No damages or injuries have occurred. The lasers were directed at two airliners in Colorado Springs; a Continental 737 at 8,500 feet on approach to Cleveland; airliners at Houston, Medford, Ore., and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C.; and the Citation and helicopter near Teterboro, N.J. The Department of Homeland Security has said that terrorists might use the lasers as weapons to disrupt or track aircraft. Other authorities said the laser operators may be pranksters, or simply careless.
Authorities said the type of laser used in at least one of the recent incidents was likely a powerful beam used in the construction industry to mark sites. In a June 2004 report, the FAA said lasers in the cockpit can startle, distract, disorient or temporarily blind pilots, and could potentially cause an accident. Hundreds of such incidents have been reported, the FAA said. In September, a Delta Air Lines pilot reported damage to his retina from a laser beam directed into the cockpit during a landing in Salt Lake City, Utah. It's against the law to intentionally shine a laser at a commercial aircraft.
SCOPED OUT NEW AVIONICS & FOUND THEM WAY ABOVE YOUR BUDGET?
2004 was a rough year for most of the major U.S. airlines, and that meant it was a rough year for Boeing as well. The airlines have not been buying, and China announced last week that it won't be needing any new airplanes in 2005. But the plane-maker got a bit of a boost last Wednesday when Continental Airlines became the first major U.S. carrier to place an order for the new 7E7. The $1.3 billion order is for 10 aircraft, with the first to be delivered in 2009. "The 7E7 is simply a game changer," said Gordon Bethune, Continental CEO. "It will position Continental for significant international growth from our New York and Houston hubs over the next decade." The news met a mixed reaction on Wall Street, where Boeing's stock dipped anyway. So far, Boeing has firm orders for about 56 of the 7E7s, mostly from foreign carriers. Boeing says its twin-engine, largely composite 7E7 Dreamliner will burn 20 percent less fuel, carry up to 60 percent more cargo and offer wider seats and bigger windows for passengers.
The FAA's implementation of the Sport Pilot rule will make some advances this month. The very first Sport Pilot Designated Pilot Examiner qualification course will be held Jan. 17-22 in Sebring, Fla. Four more courses will be held from February to May in Sebring, and seven more are scheduled from June to October in Oklahoma City. The FAA also is scheduled to release its new FAA Form 8710-11 this week, which is the official application form for Sport Pilot Airman Certificates. On Jan. 15, the FAA says it will be ready to issue the first certificates for Sport Pilots, Sport Pilot instructors, Special and Experimental Light Sport Aircraft, and Light Sport Aircraft repairmen. EAA said the first eight participants in the FAA's pilot examiner course will be William Bardin, John Beaman, Roy Beisswenger, Robert Bleadon, Brian Carpenter, Eric Johnson, Lawrence Littlefield and George Methvin.
"IT'S LIKE HAVING A NEW AIRPLANE"
Florida airport operators want the business community to help cover expenses to accommodate traffic for Super Bowl week...
FAQs about the coming regulations regarding Terrain Awareness and Warning Systems are available online for AOPA members. Turbine aircraft that carry six or more passengers must comply by the end of March...
Boeing has sold off 46 acres in Renton, Wash., that were previously used for airplane manufacturing, The Seattle Times reported last week.
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RESOLVE TO BECOME MAINTENANCE-SAVVY IN 2005!
Reader mail this week about engine exchange policies, how low is a buzz, and ongoing controversy about controller and pilot retirement ages.
Motor Head #4: Bad Reputations
In the tight-knit world of aviation, reputations can be made or broken with just a few comments about reliability or difficulty. Certain planes -- and engines -- have developed reputations that AVweb's Marc Cook says are undeserved.
2004 Year In Review
Aviation's second hundred years began in 2004, and it was an interesting start, launching at least two vastly different new ventures that could change GA's future. The boosters of the Sport Pilot rule hope that it will open up sport flying to new generations, with a return to aviation's roots -- easy-to-fly and inexpensive -- while making the most of new materials and technology. On the far side of the flight spectrum, SpaceShipOne opened a new frontier of privately funded space travel for the (relatively well-heeled) masses. Plenty of other people and events affected the GA life in 2004; AVweb presents our year-end look at some of the highlights.
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Too much of a good thing? Flight instructors, flight club members (and controllers?) may be able to relate.
Pilot: Tower, Cherokee eight ... no, Cessna seven five ... wait, no ... Cessna one two three four ready for takeoff at one five left.
Tower: Ahhh, so many planes, so little time....
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Fly it till everything stops.
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