May 22, 2006
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
Connecting Rod AD Set
The FAA says only about 100 aircraft will be affected by an Airworthiness Directive (AD) that takes effect June 22 concerning certain connecting rods manufactured by Engine Components Inc. (ECi) and installed in Lycoming 360- and 540-series engines. The AD resulted from a single engine failure in a Cessna 172. In the preamble to the AD, the FAA says a faulty grinding machine at ECi's San Antonio plant turned out connecting rods in which the journal bore wasn't a perfect circle. The resulting stresses caused fatigue failure in one of the rods of the engine that failed. The FAA's action has not arrived without controversy. When the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) was released, ECi immediately protested, saying it did not believe there was a flight safety issue and suggesting there were other problems (an oil blockage) with the engine that failed. AOPA also chimed in. AOPA said the aviation community was "blindsided" by the NPRM because the FAA didn't consult with industry before issuing it and that it too had seen no evidence of safety concerns. But the FAA stuck to its guns. "We confirmed that a manufacturing defect existed in the ECi connecting rods," the agency writes in discussing the comments it received on the NPRM. "The FAA has determined that this defect was the most probable cause of an engine shutdown and forced landing incident." The agency also notes that ECi fixed the equipment that was drilling the non-circular holes.
FAA/NATCA Deadline Looms In Congress
If your engine has not been overhauled or had new connecting rods installed since it was manufactured, there is no action required. If it has been opened up since December 2001, however, you'll need to check the engine logs to see if any of these connecting rods got in there. The affected rods are part number AEL11750, having forging part number AEL11488 and lot numbers 1 to 54/6 (54 is lot number, 6 the serial number). If those numbers appear and the rods have 2,000 or more hours on them, they have to be replaced within 50 hours. If they have less than 2,000 hours they have to be replaced at overhaul or at the next repair that gives accessibility to the rod (i.e., removal of a cylinder). The FAA says it will take four hours to replace each rod and the part cost is $450. The FAA rejected the suggestion by some commenters that its repair cost estimate was low (figures were based on a Lycoming service manual). It also rejected suggestions that the problem be addressed by reducing the oil change interval and inspecting the filter for contaminants that would indicate problems.
A couple of House members have launched a last-minute bid to prevent the FAA from imposing a contract on air traffic controllers. Representatives Jerry Costello (D-Ill.) and Sue Kelly (R-N.Y.) have introduced a "discharge petition" to force a vote on bill H.R. 4755, which would send the dispute to binding arbitration. Costello, the senior Democrat on the House Aviation Subcommittee, said the current process is "unbalanced" and he doesn't think Congress is going to act. "A discharge petition is our last opportunity to try to get the two sides back to the bargaining table and arrive at a contract that both sides find acceptable and that best serves the traveling public, particularly as we approach the heart of the summer travel season," Costello said in a news release. A discharge petition is a rarely used mechanism that allows the rank-and-file membership of the House to override the power of leadership members to suppress bills they don't support. Seven days after introduction of the petition, the sponsors can start gathering signatures (in this case on Tuesday) and if they get the support of a simple majority of the House (218 members) then the bill automatically vaults from committee discussion to the floor for a vote. The odds currently look favorable (there are 249 sponsors for the legislation) but there's undoubtedly plenty of lobbying and deal-making going on. Although parallel legislation has been introduced in the Senate, there's no sign of a similar movement to get it to a vote. Both bodies must do something by June 5 or the FAA's last best offer will be imposed.
Fly-In For A Friend
One sign that the back rooms are buzzing is the two cents' worth offered by the Heritage Foundation, a self-described "conservative think tank" that keeps right on top of these sorts of issues. Not surprisingly, Heritage Foundation researcher Ronald D. Utt, Ph.D., says Congress should stay out of the way, keep the process the same and let the FAA's final offer stand as a first step toward radical reform of the agency. The foundation says air traffic control should be completely privatized and the privatization or commercialization of other arms of the agency should also be explored. But the Heritage Foundation isn't the only organization ringing the privatization bell. In his treatise, Utt refers to the budget proposals recommended by the Republican Study Group, a collection of the House's most right-wing members that regularly represents the conservative agenda. In March, the group said wholesale privatization of the FAA should be part of the 2007 federal budget.
"Pilots" from all over the world are expected to converge on the controlled airports in Poland on May 28 in a six-hour effort to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis victims. Each landing will accumulate points toward the cause and the tougher the flying, the more money will be raised. The more adventurous will be heading to smaller Polish airports where non-radar ATC services are in effect (there's a two-point bonus for those) while others might be content to do touch and goes at the country's biggest airports in Warsaw and Krakow. And an army of controllers will be waiting for them, doing their best to manage the traffic but not terribly concerned about crashes. For while the fundraiser is real enough (it's in honor of a young Polish "controller" who died a year ago of CF), all participants will be members of the Virtual Air Traffic Simulation (Vatsim) Network and the only things crashing will be hard drives. The "PapaGolf Fly-In" is being organized by those who "worked" with Pawel Grzadowski, who, despite his disease, progressed through the ranks of Vatsim to become a well-respected virtual controller. Grzadowski soldiered on, looking after traffic in his sector with humor and good will until one day he disappeared off everyone's radar. It was two weeks before a relative logged on and told his online colleagues of his death and the struggle he'd endured with the disease to get through all the training.
Vatsim grew out of the desire of ardent flight sim addicts for more and more realism. Along the way, they've attracted more than 100,000 registrants in a worldwide system that rivals the real air traffic control system in complexity and regulations. Vatsim is not for the casual gamer. It can take up to two years of study, practice and testing before Vatsim superiors will trust a controller to handle live traffic unsupervised. Virtual pilots also go through the full gamut of certificates and ratings that are required of real pilots before they get the keys to a 300-seat airliner. Vatsim is an online club with no membership fees but it has rules and lots of them. As with the real ATC environment, things can get tense and one of the first things new participants are told is to remember that it's all in fun and that it's just good manners to say thank you once in awhile. The group provides free software that realistically simulates everything from flight planning sheets to the controller's view of the radar screen and also sets participants up for voice communication with the other pilots and controllers online at the time. As pilots and controllers gain proficiency, they get promotions and eventually end up as supervisors and instructors.
Cliff Garl satisfied a lifelong dream and may have set a record of sorts last week. The 91-year-old Shoreline, Wash., student pilot soloed for the first time over Arlington Airport. "You go into a nursing home and you'll see people a lot younger than he just sitting there," Garl's 75-year-old instructor Joe Bennett told The Seattle Times. "I actually don't know of anybody, even in their 80s, who's soloed." According to the Times, the FAA didn't have records of any student pilots over the age of 90 in 2004 and showed only 59 in their 80s. Garl told the Times he was nervous before the flight but once in the cockpit of the Cessna 172, the training took over. As might be expected, the medical was Garl's biggest obstacle -- even though he's in good health. Garl's doctor, Dr. Robert Betts, who happens to be an air medical examiner, put him through a very thorough examination and the verdict was clear. "I saw nothing to disqualify him," Betts told the Times. (Garl's blood pressure of 120/70 may more closely resemble that of a healthy teenager.) Still, the medical process took months to complete. "I think it was a question of who was going to outlast who," Garl told the Times. Garl hopes to get his private or recreational certificate.
Congress has trimmed funding for the deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for border patrol duties until someone can explain what caused a Predator UAV to crash a few hundred feet from a home near Rio Rico, AZ, last month. (Thanks to Randy, an AVweb reader, for those details.) As AVweb reported, the UAV went out of control in the early morning of April 25 while scanning for drug runners and illegal immigrants. Cause of the crash wasn't immediately known. According to AOPA, funding appropriations of $6.8 million for 2007 were cut by Congress until U.S. Customs and Border Protection releases a report on the crash. However, funding from the 2006 budget is still in place and UAVs could theoretically be back in the air until Oct. 1, when the new budget takes over. AOPA maintains that until UAVs have the same abilities to see and avoid other traffic as manned aircraft, they shouldn't be mixing with the rest of us. The FAA agrees but its method of ensuring safety is to impose temporary flight restriction (TFRs) over areas in which the UAV is operating, something AOPA also naturally opposes. According to Strategy Page, an online military news service, it will be three or four years before UAVs with sensors advanced enough to meet FAA collision-avoidance standards will be available and it may use tethered aerostats (similar to blimps) to fill the gaps.
Two announcements this week are a case in point for the diversity of the newly regulated Light Sport category of aircraft. Nexaer, of Colorado Springs, announced that its LS-1, an all-composite low wing with a swooping fuselage, is ready for its first flight. Meanwhile, beleaguered Renaissance Aircraft said it's found a home at Flabob Airport in Riverside, Calif., and will produce an LSA version of the Luscombe 8, a 1940's taildragger, there. Nexaer showed its futuristic mock-up at AirVenture last year and the company says it got plenty of response to the design, which looks like it's going fast sitting on the ground. The company says what sets it apart from other LSAs is the 54-inch wide cabin and great visibility. Renaissance has been looking for a home for two years since parting company with the city of Girardeau, Mo., and a deal to build airplanes there. Plans then called for an updated version of the Luscombe with a bigger engine and greater performance and that may come later (along with a trike version). The LSA design will have a Continental 0200 (not much different from the C85s and C90s that power so many Luscombes) and, since the later "high powered" Luscombes had a maximum gross weight of 1,400 pounds, the new version will need to shed a few pounds to sneak under the all-up weight limit of 1320 pounds.
A flight school in the Canadian province of New Brunswick says it will train up to 900 pilots for China Southern Airlines over the next five years. Officials of Moncton Flight College, of Moncton, N.B., say they expect to sign the $70 million deal in the next few days. The deal is the result of more than five years of inspections, negotiations and renovations (the college did a $6 million CAD expansion). "This is part of a very large growth and expansion program over the next five to ten years," Mike Doiron, the school's principal, told the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. "It's really going to place New Brunswick as a key player in the flight training market." There simply isn't enough capacity in Chinese flight schools to meet the explosive need for pilots. "There's an absolutely huge demand in China for pilots," said Mike Tilley, of CANLink Global, a trading company that helped arrange the deal. He said China needs 1,200 new pilots a year and there are more than 50 airports under construction. "It's opened the door for us to be as aggressive that we'd like in our business development."
It's been 16 months of hard work but what a prize Robert Simon got at the end. The Columbus, Ohio, pilot and homebuilder recently flew his Lancair ES-P for the first time. The P stands for pressurized but it could also mean pretty darn fast. Simon reports his four-place, fixed-gear aircraft (Lancair suggests a Continental TSIO-550-E) cruises at 260 KTAS at 25,000 feet with the occupants in shirt-sleeved comfort (Lancair's Web site May 21 said builders should expect 293 miles per hour at 24,000 feet in recommended trim). He says his aircraft has a high-speed range of 1,300 nm (Lancair's Web site currently quotes 1,200 statute miles for its kit). Simon plans to fly the plane to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh this summer, where he expects to have it on display at the Lancair booth. Lancair has long(er) offered its IV-P retract kit, but Simon believes though several other ES-P builders are nearing completion, his aircraft is the first to fly. Simon, who had previously built a GlaStar on his own, took advantage of Lancair's builder assist program for his new bird. "I spent four weeks at Lancair's build shop, then moved into a private hangar where a building buddy and I worked together with a builder assistant," he told AVweb. "We had built my previous plane without assistance but wanted a steeper learning curve and faster build time on this one." Simon said he expects the new model to be an important part of Lancair's future marketing strategy. "Fast-build" kits for the ES-P aircraft run near $117,000 from Lancair.
News in Brief
We like aviation art as much as anyone but we suspect an Italian artist's interpretation of the term could be questionable in the minds of some. Paolo Pivi borrowed an apparently well-used Westland Wessex helicopter and had it placed, greasy side up, in a public square in Salzburg, Austria. The 9,000-pound helicopter comes from what The Helicopter Museum in Somerset, England, calls its "reserve collection" and is a complete aircraft. It will be flopped upside-down on the square until the end of July. At least Pivi didn't stretch too far in naming his "art." He's calling it Upside Down Helicopter In A Public Place. We are having a little trouble nailing down his inspiration for the work, however. It's apparently part of the 200th anniversary celebrations for the composer Mozart. ... An AVweb cap for anyone who can make sense out of that one.
Pilots who have encountered bad weather are being asked to participate in an international study on how those encounters affected them. You can take part online and we hope the organizers of the study have a large inbox...
A Redding, Calif.-area man escaped with a bruised nose after flying his Cessna 210 into Keswick Lake, near Redding last week, after an engine failure. "Any landing you can walk or dog paddle away from, is a good landing," Robert Hicks quipped after his rescue...
A British man nicknamed "The Naked Rambler" took his act to new heights when he stripped off his clothes on airliner. Steven Gough was on his way to Glasgow to fight four contempt charges relating to similar earth-bound incidents. Gough has walked the length of Great Britain naked twice, stopping only to be arrested...
The war on drugs took a twist when the pilot and loadmaster of an Air Force C-5 pleaded guilty to transporting 300,000 Ecstasy pills from Germany aboard the plane. They were arrested loading the pills into the pilot's car...
GlobalFlyer will make its final flight Tuesday when it takes off from its base in Salina, Kan., bound for Washington, D.C., and a spot in the Stephen Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum.
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The Pilot's Lounge #100: Truth -- And Some Opinion
AVweb's Rick Durden has been writing "The Pilot's Lounge" column for eight years, and every one has tidbits of wisdom, advice, or just plane [sic] rumor. For his 100th column, Rick has assembled a bunch in one place.
Your Favorite FBO's
Reader mail this week about Lockheed FSS, English on the radio, preventing mid-air collisions with gliders and much more.
When Was the Last Time Your Plane Recorded Your Flight Times?
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AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to AIATC at KAAF, Apalachicola, Fla.
BILL JOHNSON wrote in to say, "I HAVE BEEN GOING TO APALACHICOLA FOR SEVERAL YEARS. THE AVWEB FBO OF THE WEEK PROGRAM PROMPTED ME TO REALIZE JUST HOW WELL WE ARE TREATED AT AIATC. BILL RUIC AND HIS STAFF ARE FRIENDLY, EAGER TO HELP WITH ANYTHING AND PROVIDE AN EXCELLENT OVERALL EXPERIENCE."
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Names Behind The News
There's a club for that, too...
An exchange overheard between an Australian charter company and ATC. The company was in mid-April flying a DC-3 carrying a wedding party at 2000 feet over Sydney harbour while the nuptials took place. The flight's pilot made sure ATC was aware and ready to coordinate a return to the airport...
DC-3: ...and, Sydney, we'll soon be finished with the ceremony and looking for a higher altitude for the return.
DC-3: (Identifies self) ... So that's it. She does, he does, and that much is done.
ATC: Very well.
You're cleared for the return at 5280 feet. (Laughing) And tell them to make it snappy.
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