December 25, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
|This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by ... Pilot Insurance Center (PIC)
FAMILY'S FUTURE TO YOUR LIST OF NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS
Cirrus Design plans to issue a Service Bulletin on all its aircraft in response to a spate of brake fires (the most recent of which occurred Dec. 9) that have caused serious damage to at least five aircraft. The SB will call for the installation of color-changing temperature sensors on the brake components so that pilots can tell -- during the preflight -- if the brakes have been previously overheated. Cirrus spokesman Ian Bentley said overheating can cause failure of an O-ring. Failure of the O-ring allows flammable brake fluid to leak onto potentially hot parts. If they're hot enough, the brake fluid ignites and causes a stubborn fire that can really make a mess of a low-wing plastic airplane. The latest such incident occurred at David Wayne Hooks Memorial Airport in Houston and appears to be typical of the others. According to the NTSB preliminary report, the pilot had taxied almost a mile before stopping for his run-up and that's when the tower called him to tell him the right gear was on fire. He and his two passengers got out and tried to put the fire out with the on-board extinguisher, which apparently was not up to the task. A couple of mechanics from a nearby hangar managed to put the fire out with larger extinguishers but not before both the gear and wing were substantially damaged.
Bentley said Cirrus has studied the incidents extensively and determined there are no design or equipment faults at work, and for Cirrus this leaves only "operator error" as the cause. Unlike many aircraft pilots may be transitioning from, Cirruses have a free castering nosewheel and are steered only with differential braking, plus some positive or negative contribution from the rudder (dependant on relative wind). Bentley said some pilots may have a tendency to overuse the brakes to compensate for excessive power settings or may simply be riding the brakes. Last June, the company e-mailed all its customers (click here for a pdf version) with an owner service advisory that warned them not to overtax the brakes, which Cirrus also says are more than adequate for an airplane with the performance and weight of a Cirrus. Bentley said that after the first reported brake fire, Cirrus and the brake manufacturer, Parker Hannefin, intentionally overheated sets of brakes and cycled them 19,000 times without a failure. Bentley said the components must be subjected to "significant overheating" to cause a fire. Thanks to the multi-function display installed on most Cirruses, Bentley said they have hard data to show how the overheating occurs. The MFD records engine RPM and speed. If the speed drops and the engine RPM stays the same, the only place that energy can go, according to Cirrus, is into the brakes. "This isn't speculation. There's a lot of real information around," he said. In at least one case, it appears the plane was taxied with the parking brake on, says Cirrus.
Bentley said Cirrus is doing everything it can to prevent brake-related fires. "We do take these things very seriously," he said. In most cases, he said, the fires have occurred on club or rental aircraft that see a lot of different pilots (the most recent incident was an exception). Cirrus believes the heat sensors will be most beneficial in those cases because they'll give pilots an indication of whether the brakes have been abused by those before them. And, although Cirrus says the factory-installed brakes are a common installation on aircraft of similar size and exceed design standards, the company will be offering -- as retrofit kits only -- higher-capacity brakes. The larger brakes have bigger rotors capable of dissipating more heat, thus reducing the chance of overheating. Bentley said the kits will likely be most popular with fleet operators, who will see some of that investment returned in longer brake life. The beefier brakes will not be offered as an option on new aircraft, but if you tend to taxi in a fully loaded airplane one mile downhill with a blustery quartering tailwind after landing fast, perhaps the retrofit kit is an appropriate investment.
NEW GARMIN GPSMAP 396 WITH TERRAIN, XM WEATHER, AND MUSIC
The manager of a small airport near St. Louis says he just wants to "try to open up the lines of communication" between local hunters and pilots since a recent confrontation between the two. Tracy Smith, manager of St. Charles County Smartt Airport, said he'll look into allegations that an unidentified man pointed a rifle or shotgun at one of two powered parachutes setting up to land at the field earlier this month. Although he hasn't heard about the alleged incident, Smith said he is aware of some discontent by hunters who claim low-flying aircraft are scaring away (but have not yet become) their quarry. Smartt Airport is in the middle of a duck-rich environment. To the south is a state conservation area and to the north is a private duck-hunting club that lies directly under the approach/takeoff path for the runway. Smith said there's no practical way to avoid overflying either of the sensitive areas.
The pilots in question (we know who they are but have decided not to identify them) claim they were on final approach to the south of the airport, over private property next to a conservation area, when a man standing on a levee pointed a gun at the lead aircraft. "As I was flying over this field at low altitude I noticed a guy standing on a levee about 150 yards in front of me pointing a shotgun or rifle right at me," the pilot of the lead aircraft wrote in an e-mail forwarded to AVweb. The pilot hit the power and turned out of potential harm's way with his flying buddy watching in amazement from about 1,000 feet back. According to the pilot, the confrontation wasn't over, however. The pilots said the man with the gun then met them at the airport and threatened to shoot them if they flew over his property again. As they watched the angry hunter drive away, another vehicle arrived and the occupant identified himself as being with the hunting club at the other end of the runway. The pilots said the alleged club member, who didn't identify himself, said the club didn't want anyone flying over their property and that he couldn't be held responsible if someone was shot. His comments were directed at all aircraft using the airport (including a DC-3), not just the parachutes, the pilots said.
Smith said he's spoken with the parachute pilots about the hunters' concerns and is convinced they are doing everything possible to avoid trouble. He said he's worked closely with them to design safe operating procedures that keep them from conflict with regular aircraft and to his knowledge they've been completely cooperative. The pilots have not chosen to take a literal stance on the procedures and regs and used them as justification for harassing the neighbors, "But they have to come in and land," he said. Since the gun-pointing incident, at least one of the pilots said he's started climbing steeply on takeoff and is avoiding all areas that might cause trouble. When he returns, he said he drops directly into the airport from altitude. Smith said he's been trying to convince his local county council to approve money for a runway extension but he's not sure whether the proposal (which has thus far been rejected) has increased tensions with the hunters. "Unless someone comes out and tells you that, how do you know?" he said.
YOUR HEADSET IS A KEY PIECE OF EQUIPMENT, SO CHOOSE THE PERFORMANCE
While development of Cessna's Mustang entry-level jet appears to be slightly ahead of schedule, Eclipse Aviation has announced another delay in getting its revolution-starting very light jet (VLJ) to market. The FAA granted Cessna Type Inspection Authority last week, several weeks earlier than scheduled. TIA signifies the time when the flight hours accumulated on the test aircraft start counting toward certification. Cessna is now saying first deliveries will be late in 2006. Eclipse has been going through active certification for some time but it's a supplier's certification problems that are forcing a delay, according to Eclipse. The new best guess for first deliveries of the Eclipse 500 is now sometime in the second quarter of 2006 (instead of in the first quarter, as previously planned). In an interview with the Albuquerque Business Journal, Eclipse CEO Vern Raburn said problems with a single supplier are causing the delay. He said the company, which he refused to identify, hasn't been able to certify its production process, which is critical to the overall certification of the aircraft. "They haven't delivered on the schedule they've been contracted to," Raburn said. "Today it is effectively one vendor that's causing the delay" He said the supplier's problems did not concern reliability or functionality issues. Raburn did confirm that the supplier is U.S.-based.
A report commissioned by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association says a user-fee-based system of revenue generation for the FAA could actually hurt the airlines that are campaigning for it. The report, written by Darryl Jenkins, a visiting professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, says that the FAA could actually miss revenue that the current taxation system captures if it goes to a user-fee system. Airline ticket prices are on the rise because of increasing fuel prices and taxes currently assessed on the tickets are rising accordingly. He said all indications are that revenue raised from tickets and fuel taxes will increase in coming years, rather than decrease as the FAA seems to believe. Jenkins also noted that user fees tend to increase when airlines can least afford it. When business drops off because of a soft economy, the costs of running the air traffic control system don't decrease accordingly and the shortfall must be met through increases in the user fees. He said it's already happened in Germany and Canada. AOPA is applauding Jenkins's stance, saying it's similar to what it's been telling the FAA since the term "user fee" was first uttered by FAA officials about a year ago.
ZULUWORKS IS NEW AND IMPROVED!
Chalk's Ocean Airways has grounded its remaining Grumman Mallards after it was revealed that undetected fatigue and stress cracks existed in the wing spar of one of its airplanes prior to the crash a week ago. All 20 people aboard died when the turboprob-powered amphib went down near Miami after the right wing separated shortly after takeoff. Although fatigue cracks were found, NTSB Acting-Chairman Mark Rosenker said not all the cracks in the spar were caused by age. He also said they would have been hard to spot without a dye penetration test and that he presently believes Chalk's didn't know about the cracks. The NTSB has recovered all of the wreckage and the investigation is being moved to Washington. The cockpit voice recorder was recovered but it wasn't readable. Meanwhile, Chalk's and its insurers have given money to the victims' families to cover immediate expenses and will be covering all funeral costs.
EAA AirVenture will offer air show fans the chance to meet and greet their favorite pilots during the 2006 version of the big event. In a news release, EAA President Tom Poberezny said that at various times during the show, which runs July 24 to July 30 at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, pilots will be set up in booths on AeroSell Square, in the heart of the exhibit area. "EAA AirVenture attendees have often asked us for ways to meet their favorite air show pilots in person," Poberezny said. "EAA will host these popular air show pilots and their airplanes, as well as other aviation personalities, at AeroShell Square, which is the true crossroads of the event." As always, the air show lineup is a virtual Who's Who of the show pilot world. Among those confirmed for the daily afternoon shows are Sean D. Tucker, Patty Wagstaff, Gene Soucy, the AeroShell Aerobatic Team, the Red Baron Squadron, and many more. Exact daily performance schedules will be finalized in the weeks prior to EAA AirVenture and will be announced through the event's extensive Web site at www.airventure.org.
WINGS TO ADVENTURE TV MOVES TO PRIME TIME!
A Chicago law firm that specializes in aviation-related suits has announced it's launching an action against both Southwest Airlines and the city of Chicago over an accident earlier this month at Midway Airport (which is owned by the city). The Nolan Group is representing Bonnie James, a passenger on the Boeing 737-700, which skidded off a runway and onto a road while landing in a snowstorm. Attorney Donald J. Nolan said the flight should have been diverted and he also pointed out the absence of a runway overrun arresting system at Midway. "What makes this accident even worse is that runway overruns such as this are preventable with technology already in place at similar urban airports," Nolan said in a statement. "Engineered Material Arresting Systems (EMAS) ... have proven effective in averting such disasters." The soft concrete overruns have trapped three aircraft at Kennedy Airport in New York. A six-year-old boy riding in a car hit by the plane was killed. His family has also filed suit. The plaintiff in this case was among those taken by ambulance to the hospital after the crash. She has not returned to work. Nolan said mild brain trauma is common in people involved in such accidents and, while they might not appear injured, it can cause long-lasting effects. Nolan also said he hopes the suit "will draw attention to the systemic weaknesses in place to protect the safety of our air travelers."
The legal definition of a four-letter word (and not any of those you might be thinking) determined a Michigan truck owner's insurance must pay to replace an airplane that hit the truck while the pilot was trying to land it on a grass strip near Cedar Springs in 2003. According to the Insurance JournalKevin Gould was legally driving the truck, owned by Dean Wall, on a road when the two-place Cessna "bounced "off the truck and flipped over. No one was injured in the accident and the owner of the airplane filed a claim against Wall's insurance company. So far, the $18,000 claim has been upheld by two Michigan courts. The crux of the case has been the definition of the word upon. Under Michigan's no-fault insurance laws, any accident between a vehicle designed for use upon roads with one that is not and which does not occur upon the road, requires that compensation be paid by the insurer of the road vehicle. The airplane owner successfully argued that since the airplane never touched the road (it bounced off the truck and onto the airfield) that the truck's insurer had to pay. Wall, who now has a $59,000 claim on his insurance record (legal fees do add up), called the decision "absolutely absurd and asinine" but the insurance company has decided not to appeal the latest decision.
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AOPA is running five different television ads on the Weather Channel over the holidays outlining the importance of GA and reiterating that it is not a security threat. The ads run through Dec. 31...
Aviation Technology Group, Inc. (ATG), which is building the Javelin personal jet, announced the addition of Brig. Gen (Res) Uzzi Rozzen, IAI Corporate Vice President for R&D and Strategic Planning, and Bendrix Bailey, founder and former CEO of Measurement Computing Corporation, to its board of directors...
The FAA has awarded type certification to the latest incarnation of the King Air. The C90GT climbs and flies faster than earlier models and can still get in and out of short, unimproved strips...
Cirrus is opening a sales center in China. The sales center will open in late February at a general aviation airport in Shanghai.
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The Pilot's Lounge #95: Amazing! There Are TFRs That Make Sense
Turns out there is a procedure in place to allow general aviation aircraft to provide relief in disaster areas, and the folks who created and manage the procedure know what they are doing. AVweb's Rick Durden is already helping plan for the next disasters with this month's column from The Pilot's Lounge.
"BRAND-NEW" OR BUZZ WORDS? NO OTHER WORDS COMPARE TO "BRAND-NEW"!
AVmail: December 26, 2005
Reader mail this week about what you want in your airplane, in your record books, in your restricted airspace and more.
ISN'T IT ABOUT TIME YOU CHOOSE SOMETHING EXTRA?
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ATTENTION, BARON AND CESSNA 310 OWNERS NEWS FROM McCAULEY!
WINGX FOR THE POCKET PC, VERSION 1.7
Slow day at the FSS?
I'm a student at Daniel Webster College, and one particularly nasty winter morning last year I was calling the briefer before my 7AM flight...
Me: Good morning this is N---DW, I'd like a standard VFR brief for the Nashua area and ...
Briefer (cutting me off): You're not going anywhere this morning except back to bed.
... Still want your briefing?
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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