April 24, 2006
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
Scott Crossfield, Final Flight
It should not be taken as fact -- eyewitness reports are rarely as accurate as the term suggests -- but one man who lives a few hundred yards from where the main wreckage of test pilot Scott Crossfield's 1960 Cessna 210 crashed last Wednesday said he saw the plane get hit by lightning just before it went down in mountains. "The plane just lit up, and then it went up a couple thousand feet and wheeled around," Gene Stone, 66, who lives near the border of Gordon and Pickens counties, about 70 miles north of Atlanta, told Cox News Services. "I thought it was heading back to the Gordon County airport, but then it sounded like the engine just cut off, and it went over the top of the pines as fast as it could."
A vicious thunderstorm, with reports of hail as large as golf balls, was reported in the area. Weather at Dalton, GA (DNN) near the route of flight was: wind 120 at 12, gusts to 24; visibility 3/4 statute miles in thundershowers; clouds broken at 400, overcast at 1500 feet. Crossfield had filed IFR out of Prattville, AL (1A9) for Manassas, VA (HEF). The flight plan was for 11,000 feet at 148 kts. Crossfield left Pratville, Ala., about 9 a.m. and dropped off radar screens about 11:14 a.m. Crossfield's last radio transmission was a request to divert south of his intended flight path to avoid weather. According to FlightAware's depiction of his track (free subscription required), he went down just after making the southward turn. FlightAware's data tracking function reports that the aircraft's speed dropped to 96 mph before radar contact was lost. The FAA's preliminary report on the crash notes thunderstorms were in the area with wind gusts up to 24 knots. Crossfield's body was found in the wreckage about 12:30 p.m. on Thursday in a wooded ravine about six miles east of Ranger, Ga. Scott Crossfield was 84.
Gordon County Sheriff's Major Clent Harris told WISTV News that wreckage was scattered over a quarter mile in three debris fields. There were no details on what parts of the airplane were in each debris field. He said the body was with wreckage and was removed after NTSB officials gave the go-ahead. He said he assumed there would be an autopsy, which may be why funeral arrangements had not been announced by our deadline. The NTSB has not commented publicly on the cause of the accident. There's no indication of any fault with the airplane, a first-generation 210A (with wing struts) built in 1960. Crossfield used the 210 to get himself to many of the dozens of personal appearances he gave each year. He'd been in Alabama to speak to a graduating class of Air Force cadets at Maxwell Air Force Base. He was also talking to Civil Air Patrol officials about a national teachers' conference on aerospace education. CAP Outreach Director Judy Rice was with him when he preflighted the aircraft and said he was a meticulous pilot. "He is so sharp. I know how detailed he was," she said. She said he checked the weather before departing.
Air Traffic Control Contract Negotiations, Or Impasse
While tributes to Crossfield and biographies poured in from every corner of aviation (see AVweb's Joe Godfrey's 2001 interview with Scott Crossfield here), one of his peers was suggesting Crossfield was an overconfident pilot whose "complacency" finally did him in. Chuck Yeager told WISTV News that Crossfield would push weather and sometimes "exceeded his capability and got in trouble." And while Yeager, in his autobiography, referred to Crossfield as being among the most arrogant pilots he'd ever met, we can't remember Crossfield offering comment when Yeager's T-6 went off the runway in a routine landing in Georgia in 2003. Yeager, whose 50-year-old speed-record rivalry with Crossfield led to some remarkable achievements for both men, may appear to many as a minority of one in his disparaging comments. You can hear what EAA President Tom Poberezny had to say about Crossfield in AVweb's podcast released last Friday. Perhaps one of the most elaborate remembrances is one put together by NASA. It includes a slide show and video. AOPA President Phil Boyer lauded Crossfield's many accomplishments but also hinted there were lessons to be learned in his death. "And while we don't know yet what caused the accident, it certainly gives us all pause to remember that weather is no respecter of experience or fame," Boyer said.
FAA Administrator Marion Blakey will respond to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) president's formal request that labor negotiations between the two resume. Just what she will say won't be known until sometime today when the FAA releases her letter but the resumption of some kind of dialogue between the two might be taken as a hopeful sign ... others might call it an attempt by the controllers union to stall for time as bills that would affect the outcome of an impasse work their way through legislative halls. On Friday, NATCA President John Carr wrote a conciliatory-sounding letter to Blakey saying he believed that voluntary agreement "remains within the grasp of the parties." At the very least, he said, the two sides should give negotiations one more try "to be able to say with all conviction and honesty that every possible effort was expended by all parties." However, FAA spokesman Geoff Basye told AVweb that he's not sure reopening the talks makes sense. "Nine months of negotiating was more than sufficient time to reach an agreement," he said. "NATCA's dilatory tactics are obvious and the FAA will continue to support the legal framework that has been in place since 1996." The letter came at the end of a turbulent week in which NATCA, in a remarkable example of Washington-style spin, declared that it was accepting the FAA's "invitation" to return to the table. NATCA's spin cycle was revved up by an AVweb story in which FAA chief spokesman Greg Martin said the agency would "welcome" a return to bargaining if the union offered "genuine and meaningful willingness" to move on economic issues. And while there was no such "invitation" in Martin's comments (the way we read them, anyway), the FAA nevertheless felt it necessary to downplay his comments and reaffirm its intention to continue with the impasse process, which began April 5.
Private Jets A Target?
The FAA seemed struck by the almost cordial nature of the union letter and top officials met on Friday to discuss it. Basye told AVweb that while the agency "appreciated" the letter, it didn't agree with Carr's characterization of the final days of mediated bargaining. While Carr seems to think that progress was being made toward a settlement, Basye said NATCA's final offer was actually a step back from earlier positions and that both sides had agreed there was no point in going on. The fundamental issue is pay scale for newly hired controllers and the FAA says it's $600 million apart from NATCA on economic issues. In his Friday letter, Carr says the union will present a new financial package if talks resume. As is frequently the case in Washington, this issue is like a duck on a pond -- most of the real action is below the surface. NATCA is spending millions of dollars on an advertising campaign aimed at convincing the public (and hence their elected representatives) that the impasse process is flawed. Legislation is pending in both houses that would replace the impasse process with binding arbitration but getting it passed by the June 5 expiration of the current impasse (if Congress doesn't intervene by then, the FAA's last offer will be imposed on the union) might be difficult. Convincing the FAA to rescind the current impasse would buy the union more time to lobby for the legislative change. We'll all see today what the FAA has to say.
If you're the owner of a U.S.-registered bizjet, the Transportation Security Administration announced Thursday you should be especially security-conscious, particularly if you're headed overseas in it. The TSA's memo says that on April 13, an Arab Web forum urged all Muslims to destroy American business aircraft: "Destroy private American aircraft ... We call upon all Muslims to follow and identify private civilian American aircrafts in all airports of the world ... It is the duty of Muslims to destroy all types of private American aircrafts that are of the types Gulf Stream and Lear Jet and all small jet aircraft usually used by distinguished (people) and businessmen."The forum also gave pointers on how to identify American-registered aircraft. The call was apparently prompted by reports of the CIA's alleged use of bizjets to transport terror suspects to countries where torture is part of the interrogation handbook. The forum also gave the N-number of a plane suspected of being used in this way.
Although the average American bizjet owner and crew might not be a match for extremists bent on destroying their airplane, there are some common-sense suggestions that could at least make it more difficult for the bad guys. The TSA publishes a list of security precautions that include watching out for strange people, strange aircraft and strange behavior. AOPA publishes a similar list through its Airport Watch program. The alleged terrorist transfer operations, called rendition, have been widely reported in the aviation and mainstream press and some European countries have lodged formal complaints with the U.S. after suspects were allegedly snatched by the CIA on their soil.
It's been widely speculated that the D-Jet was more than a logical business move for Diamond. Company President Christian Dries has apparently driven the project personally because he wanted a jet. Dries did little to dampen that speculation when he took the controls of the prototype on its second flight. "I was particularly impressed by the feeling of space, security and solidity," Dries is quoted in a Diamond news release as saying after his 53-minute hop. "The simplicity of operation, from engine start through take-off, flight and landing was very obvious and reflects my vision of what a personal jet should be." After Dries' April 19 flight, the D-Jet was also in the air on the 20th and 21st. On those days, test pilots added a little throttle and continued their check of its basic flight qualities. The flights are conducted at Diamond's North American headquarters in London, Ont., where the prototype was built. And although the folks in southern Ontario are getting a good look at the jet, there's no word on its official public debut (although Diamond's company profile for the Berlin Air Show on May 16 lists "personal jets" among the company's products). Stay tuned ...
Cures aside, pilots of Airbus A320-series airliners are getting new guidance on what to do if the screens on their electronically biased aircraft go blank. "Checklists will be streamlined so re-booting of power is quicker," an Airbus spokesman told the London Daily Mirror after Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch released a report on an incident aboard a British Airways A319 last October. The plane was carrying 76 passengers to Budapest from London when most of the electronic displays went blank. The crew was able to bring everything back online in 90 seconds and the passengers were blissfully unaware of the glitch. The incident brought to light five similar instances on Airbuses. In the October incident, the plane was over southern England when the crew heard an audible "clunk." Five of six screens went out, the intercom and radio failed, the autopilot and autothrottles disengaged and most of the cockpit lights went out. The captain took over the controls and flew night VFR (fortunately it was a clear night) while he and the first officer sorted out the power failure. The flying pilot's task was further complicated by the fact that the backup analog instruments aren't lit. The AAIB has issued a series of safety recommendations but its final report isn't finished yet.
Owners of EvacU8 and Evac+ emergency smoke hoods have until June 16 to return them (with proper documentation) to Brookdale International Systems for a partial refund after the company recalled the hoods last week. In a letter to customers, the company said that tests confirmed the hoods, which pilots would theoretically don in the event of an in-flight fire, could fail to work properly and expose the wearer to harmful levels of carbon monoxide. The company had earlier recommended that pilots not use the hoods pending the outcome of tests and the recall was announced when the results came in. The hoods have a shelf life and there will be no refunds for those with an expiration date prior to March of 2006. Refunds for the remainder will be prorated based on the time remaining before each hood's expiration date (which seems odd if the company is dissuading use of the hoods at any time before their expiration, anyway). The recall also applies to consumer-oriented products that have a similar function. "Our highest priority is the safety of our customers, and the steps we are taking are a demonstration of that commitment," company president Derrick Russell said in the recall announcement.
Last week, the FAA granted an exception for one aircraft (Czech Aircraft Works "Mermaid"), but an ultralight pilots' group is asking the FAA to allow those with Sport Pilot certificates to operate the retractable gear on all amphibious aircraft that meet the Light Sport Aircraft criteria. The stopgap measure would exist while paperwork to fix the "error" made in the original Sport Pilot rule is corrected. According to Aero Sports Connection (ASC), the FAA has, after almost two years of lobbying by amphibian pilots, agreed to change the rule regarding retractable gear. The way it's written now, those with a Sport Pilot ticket can only use an amphibian as a land or water plane. They're not legally allowed to reposition the gear in flight. The ASC says the rule change is imminent but, after waiting almost two years, pilots wanting to take advantage of the better weather aren't eager to wait through summer for the new regs to make it through the whole rulemaking process. That may be the case if the normal comment and implementation periods are followed. The ASC says it will administer the interim exemption, in which it proposes that Sport Pilot ticket holders be trained in use of retractable gear and the training logged and that amphibious aircraft be placarded to the effect that only those with the applicable training be permitted to operate the gear in flight. There are several LSA amphibians either on the market or on the cusp of FAA approval.
Francie Rehwald's new Malibu digs may be the only house in the neighborhood that comes with a disclaimer that can be read from a passing plane. The Mercedes-Benz dealership heiress is having her $2 million spread built from parts of a scrapped Boeing 747-200. The FAA says the "strewn" design chosen by architect David Hertz will look like a plane crash from overhead and it doesn't want pilots (or passengers) of aircraft headed to LAX to be alarmed. The FAA has asked that "special numbers" be painted on the wings to assure pilots that it's not a crash site (no, we don't know what they're talking about, either). The wings will form the roof of the house and ailerons will control shade on the deck. Other parts, including the meditation temple made from the nose, will be scattered around the property, hence the crash site concerns. The design sprung from Rehwald's direction to Hertz that the house be built entirely of industrial waste in an environmentally friendly manner. "We are trying to use every piece of this aircraft, much like an Indian would use a buffalo," Hertz told Real Estate Journal. Rehwald had other stipulations. She wanted the house to be "feminine" and have curves.
News in Brief
Our sister audio publication, Pilot's Audio Update, is accepting applications for contributors. If you're an experienced CFI and you'd like to provide practical, incisive aviation information in an audio format, contact Richard Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Charlie Victor Romeo, a play whose dialogue is derived from the transcripts of cockpit voice recorders on six crashed airliners, will play Boston and Washington, D.C., in May and June. Have a look at AVweb's review...
A power failure that hit the southern California TRACON didn't affect flights because the center's backup power system kicked in as it should. The power was back on in five minutes but the center kept operating on the generator for 90 minutes as a precaution...
AmSafe has applied to allow installation of its airbag seatbelts on any certified airplane, without the individual testing that has been required for its existing STCs. The FAA seems inclined to go along with the request, based on previous experience, but is inviting public comments because it's a departure from the usual supplementary type certificate process.
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. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.
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The Pilot's Lounge #99: Turn Back? You Bet!
Press on. Finish what you started. You're better than the rest. What do the voices in your head tell you when you're considering turning around in the middle of the flight? AVweb's Rick Durden had to fight those voices during a winter VFR flight, as he tells in this month's The Pilot's Lounge column.
Your Favorite FBO's
Reader mail this week about FAA/NATCA negotiations, Delta pilot negotiations, scud running and more.
Attention, Cessna Owners
AVweb's "FBO of the Week" contest is sponsored by Aviation Safety magazine, the monthly journal of risk management and accident prevention.
Thanks to all the pilots and AVweb readers who took time to nominate their favorite FBOs in our "FBO of the Week" contest. Today's ribbon finds its target in Florida.
AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to FALCON TRUST AIR at KTMB, Kendall-Tamiami executive airport, Miami, Florida.
LILLIAN LEBLANC filed direct, "THIS FBO IS TRULY THE TAJ MAHAL OF GENERAL AVIATION. THE BRAND NEW, MULTIMILLION DOLLAR FACILITY, OPENED IN JUNE 2005, RAISES THE BAR FOR THE ENTIRE INDUSTRY. THIS FBO IS WORTH A TRIP JUST TO TOUR THE FACILITY - BELIEVE ME, THERE IS NOTHING LIKE IT ANYWHERE."
Keep those nominations coming.
Click here to nominate your favorite FBO and here for complete contest rulesAVweb is actively seeking out the best FBO's in the country and another one, submitted by you, will be spotlighted here next Monday!
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Names Behind The News
We were out taking pictures for a safety seminar, and admittedly a bit distracted (no, the irony is not lost on us) when we reported a left base to the tower. That's when things got silly...
Us: Tower, we're high, uh, Cessna 1234, on the left base.
Tower: Sir, you're speaking with ATC, and I'm only qualified to respond to the second part of your transmission. Cleared to land 14.
...that first part sounded more appropriate for someone with the ATF.
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