February 6, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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The pilot of a Challenger 600 bizjet that ran off the end of the runway at Teterboro Airport claims both he and his first officer were unable to pull the control yoke back, keeping them from raising the aircraft's nose and forcing him to abort the takeoff. And the pilot of a newer Challenger 601 that crashed off the end of a runway in Colorado in November reportedly said he too was unable to pull back on the yoke of the aircraft he was flying, resulting in the deaths of three people. According to The New York Times, the pilot in Wednesday's crash, John Kimberling, told NTSB investigators that with the airplane at takeoff speed on the runway, he could only pull back the yoke about an inch instead of the normal three to four inches of travel.
> In Wednesday's crash, one of the pilots is heard to say "discontinue takeoff" on the cockpit voice recorder before the thrust reversers were deployed and plane tore through a fence, crossed a highway and hit a warehouse. NTSB member Debbie Hersman told reporters the NTSB hasn't reached any conclusions and hasn't ruled out any factor that might have contributed to the accident. No one was killed and all 11 occupants of the airplane were able to free themselves from the wreckage. Nine others were hurt, including the passenger of a car hit by the plane, who is in critical condition with head injuries.
Although it hasn't been ruled out, airframe ice doesn't seem to be a factor in the crash. Witnesses, surveillance videos and ground-crew personnel all seem to indicate the aircraft was ice-free as it departed for Chicago with eight investment bankers, a flight attendant and two pilots aboard. According to Debbie Hersman of the NTSB, one aircraft had been de-iced about an hour before the Challenger departed. It was clear and cold at the time. The baggage on board will be weighed to determine if the plane was too heavy. Bombardier spokesman Leo Knaapen said the plane involved in the Colorado crash was overloaded. "That plane was too heavy, sir," Knaapen told The Associated Press. He wouldn't speculate on what might have caused the Teterboro incident. Kimberling's first officer, Carlos Salaverria, is apparently backing up his captain's version of the events. Salaverria is in the hospital with multiple leg fractures and hasn't spoken with investigators yet but his lawyer, Manuel Epelbaum, said Salaverria told him the captain called for his help and he, too, tried to pull his control yoke back. "When neither of them could pull it back, they decided to abort," said Epelbaum. He added the pilots did everything they could to keep the plane tracking straight so as not to tear the wings off and spill fuel.
Wednesday's crash has given fresh ammunition to airport opponents and politicians who'd like to see operations at Teterboro curtailed. The airport is 12 miles from Manhattan and is consequently among the busiest GA airports in the U.S. On Thursday, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates Teterboro, decided to try to reduce the number of flights at the airport. "We are going to try to improve the safety and the quality of life for residents in and around Teterboro Airport," Acting New Jersey Governor Richard Codey told reporters after meeting with Port Authority officials. The Jersey officials reckon it's an odds game. The fewer the flights, the less chance of accidents. However, they did let it slip that safety wasn't their only concern. Codey said he'd like to see noisier Stage 2 jets banned from Teterboro (the Challenger is a Stage 3 aircraft), which would bring about a 5-percent reduction in flights. But the state and port officials also say only the FAA can make those sorts of decisions and it hasn't shown much interest in the past. "The FAA has been extremely unhelpful," Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) said. "Given their history, they will not reduce flights without extreme pressure."
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It had all the makings of an Ernest K. Gann plot or Steven Spielberg thriller: a lone pilot, over a cold, forbidding sea, defying the odds and a mysterious fuel leak, and bringing his ship home on fumes, the engine stopping on the rollout. If only it were true. "There was no emergency. I just did my job," Allen Walls, of Armstrong, B.C., Canada, told AVweb in an exclusive interview. Walls is co-owner of Ice Dragons International and one of the ferry contractors used by Cirrus dealers to deliver planes to far-flung places. You may recall the breathless media accounts on New Year's Eve (including ours) when the brand-new Cirrus SR22 he was flying to the Netherlands developed a fuel leak over the North Atlantic between Labrador and Ireland. "It was a faulty fuel cap. That's all it was," said Walls. Walls said it's not uncommon for ferry pilots to cope with en route problems such as this, particularly on new aircraft. "We're essentially breaking them in for the customers," said Walls, who has had his share of mishaps as a ferry pilot, including a crash landing in Hawaii after an engine failed on a twin he was ferrying to Australia. In another case, the bottom fuel tank outlet in a plane he was flying became blocked when he was 80 miles from shore. He says he got it to the airport by keeping the aircraft banked in a series of oblong 360-degree turns so fuel would feed through the upper outlet on the tank. These and other incidents just go with the territory, Walls insists.
However, news-starved reporters (New Year's Day is often regarded as the second slowest news day of the year, behind Easter Sunday) apparently didn't see it that way. By Jan. 2, Walls was either a full-blown hero, a "character" with a reputation for taking chances, or incompetent, depending on the account. The saga began when Walls noticed his right-wing fuel gauge dropping even though he was burning off the ferry tank. He shone a flashlight on the right wing and saw the telltale mist of fuel escaping the cap. By wagging the wings, he apparently sloshed the fuel enough to break up a pressurized air pocket within the tank and stop the leak. "I'd lost my reserves," he said. He was about 400 miles from Ireland. As a precaution, he radioed authorities in Ireland (the message had to be relayed by other aircraft because of the distance) and was told that a search-and-rescue Nimrod would meet him and follow him to Ireland. A helicopter would be standing by off the coast, just to be on the safe side. "They said they needed the practice, anyway," said Walls.
Walls calculated that he'd have eight gallons of fuel, or about 40 minutes of flying time, left when he landed in Ireland. He slipped into his survival suit, set the airplane up for best fuel economy and settled in for the flight. He also told Irish authorities that rather than go to his original destination, a GA airport at Galway, he'd head for the longer runway and better equipment at Shannon, about 30 miles farther. Nobody told the people in Galway, however, which was in the middle of a power blackout. Thinking they were the last hope for a pilot in a stricken aircraft, the good people of Galway lined the dark runway with cars, using their headlights to illuminate what they thought was Walls' lifeline. "I didn't even find out about it until three days later," said Walls. He continued to Shannon and landed. The engine did stop on the runway but Walls switched tanks and taxied in. Witnesses reported him being sweat-soaked and exhausted and being escorted from the plane. "Yeah, I was drenched in sweat," said Walls. "I'd just spent two and a half hours in a rubber suit!" As for the escort, Walls said it's common for Irish immigration officials to accompany pilots through Customs. "They're just that friendly," he said. A short time later, he said he was in a pub recounting the experience as revelers brought in the New Year. He resumed his trip to the Netherlands the next day. He said that as more reporters joined the hunt (he was hard to reach because he was flying) the more desperate they became, calling his wife at home and even contacting former business associates and competitors, and a legendary tale was created. "If it wasn't New Year's Eve, nobody ever would have heard about it," he said.
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Interactive briefings over the Internet, e-mail and PDA NOTAM alerts and guaranteed service parameters are all part of the plan as Lockheed Martin takes over the Automated Flight Service Station system. The company won the outsourcing competition for the system last Tuesday and, two days later, met with AOPA executives. "After spending about 90 minutes getting an advance look at a 21st century flight service station and asking hard questions, all I can say is 'Wow!'" said AOPA President Phil Boyer. Lockheed Martin will cut the number of FSSs from 58 to 21 but will introduce the Web and wireless technology to improve service. During interactive online briefings, the FSS staffer and pilot will both be looking at the same charts and documents. If something changes while the flight is in the air, the briefer will be able to send an e-mail alert. One knock on the elimination of FSS facilities is that briefers won't always be familiar with the weather and topography of the regions they cover. Boyer said he was assured by Lockheed Martin that briefers will be trained for local conditions and pilots will talk to staff members who are familiar with their flight's route. Lockheed Martin takes over in October but all phone numbers and radio frequencies will remain the same.
Just in case your FSS briefer misses something, technology continues to trot out new ways for pilots to help themselves. Jeppesen announced this week that it would offer icing and turbulence forecasting to its subscribers. The company says it's the first to offer the services on a worldwide basis. The maps were developed with Norman, Okla.-based Weather Decision Technologies and will be available through Jeppesen applications including JetPlan.com, JetPlanner, FliteStar and OPSControl. Jeppesen says both the icing and turbulence maps use intuitive color scales to show forecast areas of light, moderate and severe conditions. U.S. maps show current conditions as well as 3-, 6-, 12-, 18- and 24-hour forecasts. Outside the U.S. the forecast maps are available in 12-, 18- and 24-hour intervals. Customers can view a variety of flight level increments to allow them to flight plan around areas they want to avoid.
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While most of us could never imagine pulling an ejection handle, imagine what was going through Capt. Chuck Mallett's mind when he reached for it and it wasn't there. "I had time to think about my family and that I may never see them again," Mallett told reporters in his first interview since surviving a midair collision with a fellow Canadian Armed Forces Snowbird pilot in December. Capt. Miles Selby, of White Rock, British Columbia, died in the collision, which occurred near the Snowbirds home base of Moose Jaw, Sask., Canada, last Dec. 10. Mallett, who is now back flying with the team as lead solo, said thorough training and "amazing coincidences of luck" helped him walk away from the accident. Mallett and Selby, the other solo, were practicing a spectacular maneuver called the co-loop in which two aircraft fly loops in opposite directions, crossing at the top and bottom. They were at the top of the loop when something went wrong (the preliminary report on the accident doesn't draw conclusions). Mallett suddenly found himself outside the aircraft, still strapped to his seat. He had to undo his harness while spinning wildly through the air to release the seat and allow his parachute to deploy. Coincidentally, just three days earlier, the team took part in a training exercise that covered the same scenario. After landing, he was driven to the crash scene of Selby's jet where he was told the tragic news. "... Essentially after that my memory is a little more shaky because I pretty much broke down." The Snowbirds have dedicated their coming season to the memory of Selby.
A California man has assembled a vigilante air force and army to patrol an area of the Mexican border used frequently by illegal immigrants. James Gilchrist says that so far 16 pilots have offered themselves and their aircraft to help out the Minuteman Project, which he hopes will embarrass the government into stopping "the endless mob of illegal aliens streaming across our borders like a tsunami." The aircraft and up to 400 volunteers will patrol an area south of Tucson that is considered particularly prone to border jumping. Gilchrist said the volunteers will use binoculars, telescopes and night-vision gear to spot the aliens and report them to immigration officials. They won't try to turn them back themselves. Still, the project's Web site does offer "an enthusiastic invitation" to those with military or law-enforcement experience, particularly those who did tours as reconnaissance and intelligence personnel. Meanwhile, U.S. Border Patrol personnel seem less worried about embarrassment and more concerned about the welfare of the volunteers. "It doesn't take a lot of imagination to picture what could happen," Chief Michael Nicely told The Associated Press. He said alien smugglers are often armed and not shy about confronting even his well-trained and heavily armed officers. "It could be a very [volatile] situation, one that reasonable people ought to avoid."
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It's always nice to have a tailwind but when your destination is your departure point and you're only flying in one direction, it's pretty much necessary. Steve Fossett and the GlobalFlyer crew are awaiting more favorable weather to launch their around-the-world, solo nonstop flight. Earliest date will be Feb. 12 as they wait for a big jog in the jet stream to straighten out and give them the conditions they need to take off. Of particular concern is turbulence during the earlier hours of the flight since the weight of the fuel aboard will already be stressing the airframe to near its limits. Once the flight gets under way, the team is hoping for help in tracking the plane. Everyone from amateur astronomers to missile-tracking specialists are being invited to set up a spotting station if they happen to be along the proposed route. Videos and still photos would especially be appreciated. They'd be broadcast over the Web. The route will take GlobalFlyer over Montreal, London, Paris, Rome, Cairo, Karachi, Shanghai, Tokyo, Honolulu, Los Angeles and Chicago at an average altitude of 45,000 feet. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The words prank and airplane never mix but a couple of wags in Arizona, who undoubtedly had the best of intentions, could pay a heavy price for their afternoon of fun. Joshua Parriott, 29, of Phoenix and his passenger James Klein, 42, of Chandler, face three misdemeanor charges and could face federal prosecution after they allegedly dropped sacks of flour from an airplane over a wilderness area. According to the Scottsdale Republic, they were apparently doing it as a joke on friends engaged in a paintball game in the forest below. However, other residents of the area, who werent in on the joke, thought they were terrorists bent on poisoning the local water supply with anthrax. Although, according to AVweb sources who told us about the story, the duo carefully planned the exercise to ensure no one was hurt, they overlooked a detail. The alleged drops took place on the same day as the elections in Iraq. Witnesses who saw the low-flying plane dispensing white powder well, you know the rest. Parriott was fired as an instructor at a local flight school. FAA spokesman Donn Walker's words did not cast favor on the pilots.
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The General Aviation Manufacturers Association has a new president. He's Pete Bunce, a former Air Force pilot and commander who was most recently the director of the Air Force Congressional Budget and Appropriations Liaison. He takes over April 1...
Two Northwest Airlines pilots, who landed at the wrong airport, will not be sanctioned by the FAA. The pilots put their flight to Rapid City, S.D., down at Ellsworth Air Force Base instead last July. The FAA is putting a note on their files but Northwest fired them...
Aerocomp continues to gain confidence in flying its kit jet. The aircraft was flown to the company's headquarters at Merritt Island after initial testing at Titusville, which has longer multiple runways. Testing will continue off Merritt Island's 3,600-foot strip.
Drop us a line. If it caught your attention, it will probably interest someone else, too. Submit news tips via email to email@example.com.
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Reader mail this week about the mid-air collision between an Air Force trainer and a crop duster, the FSS outsourcing contract, flying with alcohol and much more.
As the Beacon Turns #86: Taking Safety Personally
How many aircraft manufacturers do you know send out safety notices to owners with titles like, "Flying at Night Can Be Fatal," and then provide company-subsidized safety classes to reduce accidents? AVweb's Michael Maya Charles found one -- Robinson Helicopter -- and really appreciated the course.
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Overheard last April near Miami, Florida, just as Sun n' Fun was kicking in...
Pilot: ...request VFR flight following to Lakeland.
ATC: N123, unable at this time...
Pilot: Roger, unable. Any idea when can I expect it?
ATC: Try again ... this time next week.
AVflash is a twice-weekly summary of the latest aviation news, articles, products, features and events featured on AVweb, the Internet's Aviation Magazine and News Service. http://www.avweb.com
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