AVwebFlash - Volume 13, Number 20a

May 14, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Police Blame Pilots For Brazil Collision

Brazilian police say the failure of two New York pilots to notice that the transponder aboard their Embraer Legacy 600 bizjet was not working amounts to the criminal offense of "placing a vessel or aircraft in jeopardy" and are, according to a Brazilian newspaper, recommending prosecution. Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino were delivering the Legacy from the factory to their employer, ExcelAire of New York, last Sept. 29 when the left winglet and part of the tail struck a Gol Airlines Boeing 737-800. The airliner crashed, killing all 154 onboard, while Paladino and Lepore were able to land the damaged Embraer at a military base in the Amazon jungle. The pilots have steadfastly maintained (and radio transcripts appear to support) that they were at the altitude assigned by air traffic control. The International Airline Pilots Association is criticizing the report, noting that gaping hole in the evidence and also pointing out that the charges belie the fundamental legal tenet that there must be criminal intent involved. "As there does not seem to be any factual support for a finding that there was any intent by the Legacy crew to place their aircraft in danger, there should be no basis for prosecution under Brazilian law," IALPA said in a news release. Meanwhile ExcelAire, Embraer and Honeywell, which made the transponder, are squabbling over whether the device was faulty. Honeywell steadfastly claims that the transponder in the Legacy was fully functional during the accident flight. The pilots have said they'll return to Brazil to face the charges, and there's also a report that the Brazilian Congress wants them to testify before a commission studying the accident.

Controllers Share Blame In Brazil Midair, Too

It now appears that at least three Brazilian air traffic controllers could be charged with involuntary manslaughter for their role in the collision between an Embraer Legacy 600 bizjet and a Gol Airlines Boeing 737, which killed all 154 aboard the Boeing last Sept. 29. Earlier reports from Brazil said a federal police investigation ignored air traffic control’s involvement because ATC is run by the military in Brazil and it would do its own investigation. But a fresh report from the Sao Paulo newspaper O Estado, quoted by Newsday, says the police probe has implicated three of the 10 controllers who were on duty at the time of the collision. The report has not been officially released yet, but O Estado says the police allege that the controllers gave incomplete instructions to the Embraer crew, leading them to believe that they were cleared to fly their whole intended route at 37,000 feet. O Estado says the controllers actually expected the bizjet to change altitudes twice but either didn’t notice or didn’t do anything about it if they did notice.

Groups Fear Effect Of Pilot Prosecution

The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) are calling on Brazil’s federal police to drop criminal charges against two American pilots, in part because of concerns about the effect of the prosecution on future crash investigations. Jan Paladino and Joe Lepore, who flew the Embraer 600 that collided with a Gol Airlines Boeing 737 over Brazil last Sept. 29, will likely face charges based on their alleged failure to notice that their transponder wasn’t working. In a joint news release, NBAA and FSF say the charges are premature because the crash investigation isn’t complete. They also say the decision to pursue criminal charges could put a chill on accident investigations, not only in Brazil but all over the world. "We are deeply concerned that the criminalization of the investigation into the tragic accident of September 2006 could have a negative impact on aviation safety worldwide,” FSF CEO Bill Voss said. While it’s not the first time criminal charges have been laid in relation to an air crash, the news release says this case could be precedent-setting for its international circumstances. The worry is that the specter of criminal proceedings will cause those involved in accidents to withhold information that might be crucial to the prevention of future mishaps. “We are disappointed that Brazilian police officials continue down the road of emphasizing 'criminalization' in the wake of last year's tragic accident, instead of recognizing the premium the international aviation community places on investigating the root causes of an accident, so that safety improvements can be made," said NBAA President Ed Bolen.

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Lockheed Martin Wants More FSS Money

Lockheed Martin is looking for a 10-percent increase in the fees it's being paid to take over flight services. According to a report from the Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General, the company, which was awarded a $1.8 billion contract to assume the function, says it's owed another $177 million, mostly because the FAA didn't supply accurate labor cost information. Lockheed Martin's claims are now being assessed. Meanwhile, the DOT OIG also reported that the FAA has fined Lockheed Martin $9 million for failure to live up to service and performance guarantees. Pilots in the Washington, D.C., area have recently complained that FSS changes have resulted in a sharp increase in dropped flight plans and that briefers, some of whom were in California, didn't know the procedures for operations in the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) that surrounds the capital. The OIG is now preparing a report on FSS operations that will be released later this month. Most of the OIG report delivered Thursday dealt with the FAA's funding request for 2008. The OIG noted the FAA’s funding request has been tailored to fit the new user-fee-based structure being championed by the agency. The OIG doesn't pass judgment on the user-fee structure, but it does say the agency has become noticeably better at managing its money, particularly with regard to large capital projects. It says the agency seems to have curbed the runaway budgets and slipped schedules that plagued projects, but notes it has challenges ahead with the Next Generation Air Transportation System and more mundane projects like an integrated communications system.

Cirrus Issues Service Bulletin After Control Jam

Last week Cirrus issued a mandatory Service Bulletin that requires the replacement of some control system parts that, in specific cross control circumstances, can cause the rudder and aileron controls to jam. The Service Bulletin was issued a month after the controls jammed on a relatively new SR20 as a student pilot was lining up for takeoff at Leesburg, Va. According to the NTSB report, the student had applied full right rudder and full left aileron and both systems locked. His instructor aborted the takeoff safely. Investigators found control system parts tangled together and were able to repeat the jamming action. In its Service Bulletin, Cirrus calls for new parts that will prevent the entanglement and it also notes that the jamming has never been reported in aircraft with properly rigged controls. However, the relatively simple fix for the technical issue could affect a lawsuit stemming from the crash of New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle’s SR20 last October. Although the NTSB says pilot error was to blame and no mechanical irregularities were found in the plane, the lawyer for Lidle’s widow Melanie has filed suit against Cirrus claiming the crash was caused by a failure of the flight controls. The suit alleges the aircraft have a history of flight-control-related crashes. The control inputs that caused the jam on the ground in Leesburg would put the aircraft in a forward slip in flight. Lidle and his flight instructor Tyler Stanger were in a steep left turn when they hit a Manhattan apartment building.

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FAA Fact Sheet Promotes Aviation User Fees

The FAA is painting a dismal picture of its own performance in an unvarnished attempt to gather support for its controversial proposed aviation user-fee funding system. In a fact sheet released last week, the agency ties the funding package directly to modernization of airspace management, which has been nicknamed NextGen. “The Administration’s NextGen Financing Reform Act, sent to Congress in February, will provide a stable, cost-based revenue stream to fund the transition to NextGen,” the fact sheet reads. “The current tax system expires Sept. 30, so Congress must act now.” Without airspace modernization, the fact sheet warns, the system “will reach gridlock by 2015.” The fact sheet says one in four airline flights is delayed nationwide and, at the worst bottlenecks, 35 percent of flights arrive or depart late. It says the current system simply cannot handle expected growth in air traffic that will see the number of passengers increase from the current level of about 750 million annually to a billion by 2015. “Aviation’s ability to continue to play its traditionally dynamic role in our economy will be substantially diminished unless new NextGen technology and procedures are put in to place now,” the fact sheet warns. While virtually no one disputes the need to modernize the system, most general aviation groups -- as well as the DOT Inspector General and Government Accountability Office -- say the current system of fuel taxes on GA and ticket taxes on commercial aviation are adequate fund the transition.

Founder Suing Columbia Aircraft

Columbia Aircraft founder Lance Neibauer is suing his former company for severance and for payment for rights to manufacturing processes he invented when he owned the firm. The company, which makes the certified Columbia 350 and 400 high performance aircraft (and is not to be confused with Lancair, the kit-build company Neibauer also founded) was taken over by its principal investor, the Malaysian government, and Neibauer was kept on as an employee until he was terminated in April 2006. Six months later, according to the Bend Bulletin, Neibauer launched a lawsuit claiming severance of $1.55 million. And in a separate action, launched in the last few weeks, Neibauer is claiming Columbia owes him $100,000 and $400,000 more over the next four years under an agreement signed in 2002. Neibauer claims the 2002 deal entitled him to $500,000 in annual payments of $100,000 on his departure from the company for the rights to composite technology he developed for the aircraft. Neibauer’s suit says the first payment was due at the end of last month. Columbia recently announced it is recalling employees furloughed six weeks ago as the company sold off excess inventory and retooled for more efficient production. It sold 47 aircraft in the first quarter of this year, one more than it did in the same period last year.

European Union To Rescue Galileo

It looks like Europe’s space-based navigation system will be government operated after the consortium of companies that were to build and run it effectively quit the project on Thursday. The consortium, led by Airbus parent EADS, had until May 10 to come up with a plan to get the Galileo project back on track and working toward deployment. But, according to Reuters, the consortium was plagued by infighting and nervous of the $3 billion cost so it let the deadline pass. Shortly thereafter, European Union Transport Commission head Michele Cercone said the government would take over the project. Cercone said the consortium wanted the EU to assume the debt and take all the risk out of deploying the system so it made more sense to assume the project without them. The EU hopes to have the system partially operational by early 2011 and fully operational by 2012.

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Palm Springs TRACON Move Ignites Debate

The FAA seems intent on closing the Palm Springs, Calif., terminal radar approach control (TRACON) in three weeks despite unusually strong public and political opposition. It intends to transfer the workload to the Southern California TRACON near San Diego on June 6. In recent weeks, local, state and federal politicians have asked the FAA to reconsider, citing safety concerns, and there's even a bill pending in the House that would outlaw the move.According to the Desert Sun, a public meeting on Thursday, in which opposition was virtually unanimous, apparently failed to move FAA officials, who insist service will improve. "If you stand back from the emotional for just a second and you look at the facts of what level of service is going to be provided, it's going to be a vast improvement," Walter White, SoCal TRACON's support manager for airspace and procedures, said at the meeting. But opponents say closing Palm Springs will add a specialized workload to the San Diego facility that it's not staffed or trained to handle. SoCal TRACON is one of the busiest, handling more than two million flights a year. Palm Springs sees about 145,000 flights per year. Critics say SoCal is already stretched to the limit by manpower shortages to the point where operational errors are up threefold. They also say the controllers in San Diego aren't familiar with the geography and conditions around Palm Springs. Those points have been made repeatedly by pilots; airport business officials; and civic, state and federal politicians, but the plan remains to make the move June 6. "I have the feeling, sitting here this afternoon, that you're here to tell us something and you're not paying any attention to what we're saying," Mort Gubin, a senior aviation medical examiner, said at the meeting.

Warning System Might Curb Obstacle Collisions

Two Norwegian pilots have developed a system to warn pilots if they’re on a collision course with obstacles like cell towers, wind turbines, radio masts or just about any other thing that sticks up in the air. The difference with this system is that it’s the obstacle itself that broadcasts the warning and there’s no need for additional equipment on the airplane to receive it. According to the Innovations Report, pilots Rolf Bakken and Morten Mork came up with the idea in 1999 and worked with SINTEF to develop it. The heart of the system is smart radar that can tell if an aircraft is on a collision course with an obstacle. The radar is part of a technology bundle that is installed on the obstacle. If the radar spots an airplane moving its way, it activates powerful warning lights mounted on the obstacle when the aircraft is 30 seconds from impact. If the lights don’t get the pilot’s attention, at 20 seconds out a warning signal is broadcast on all VHF aviation radio frequencies. There was no mention of the cost of each system.

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Phenom 100 VLJ Price Rises

If you’re waffling on which very light jet suits you best, Embraer has 130,000 reasons for you to make up your mind by July 1. That’s when the price of its Phenom 100 four-passenger (six-place) jet will go from $2.85 million to $2.98 million (January 2005 dollars). That puts the actual outlay for the Brazilian VLJ a touch over $3 million. The news release announcing the price hike did not explain the reason, though the company did say it has a combined total of 400 orders for the Phenom 100 and its larger stablemate, the Phenom 300. The first Phenom 100 is in final assembly at Embraer’s main plant in São José dos Campos, Brazil. Customer deliveries are expected in about a year. The aircraft is powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PW617F engines and the flight deck features the Garmin G1000 integrated avionics system. The Phenom 300 will follow the 100 into production in 2009. It will seat six passengers.

Spokane FBO Sues For New Quarters

Spokane Airways is taking Spokane International Airport and its board of directors to court, claiming the airport owes it new digs to replace the buildings it was forced to vacate to make way for a new control tower. According to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, the FBO says its deal with the airport stipulates that if it has to move, it’s up to the airport to find comparable space. The business, which has about 100 employees, occupied six buildings that have to be demolished to clear sight lines for the new tower, which opens in August. The company was moved to smaller quarters and says its lease requires "relocation or substitution of other premises be at the expense of the [Airport] Board." The airport says that lease was “legally terminated” and suggests the demand is excessive. The airport’s lawyer, Kevin Roberts, said it would cost the airport up to $15 million to build the kind of facilities the company is demanding, and he insists there’s no requirement in the agreements for taxpayer-subsidized new construction. "They're trying to get something not required under Washington law," he told the Spokesman-Review. A hearing is set for next week, but the airport is trying to get the case dismissed before that.

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On The Fly

Hangar63, Banyan's Aviation Store at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, will hold a customer appreciation day June 2 with special sales, prizes, food and free flying using simulator software in a Gulfstream II fuselage...

Cirrus’s G3 series of turbonormalized SR22s is even cooler now that they’re available with air conditioning. Earlier turbos didn’t offer that option…

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration sent investigators to the New York terminal radar approach control center in Westbury, N.Y., to look into the carbon monoxide incident that sickened some on-duty controllers April 25…

The Air Force says it’s getting close to perfecting sense-and-avoid systems for UAVs, something the FAA says they have to have before they can mix it up with regular traffic.

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Pelican's Perch #85: Where Are The Eyes?

As AVweb readers know, John Deakin loves to get precision out of his airplane using instruments. But not when VFR near an airport.

Click here to read.

eyes are "outside" 100 percent of the time, once the takeoff begins. The oil pressure and temperature have been checked on the runup, and must be ignored until well after liftoff. Absolute attention is required to keep the airplane straight, and to set the angle of the wings to the horizon.

Airspeed? Who needs it? It is a reference only. The instructor might say, "Climb at 50, but look at the angle of the wing, let the airplane stabilize, then check to see if that angle produces the airspeed you want. Get the angle for climb firmly fixed in your mind." Power settings? Surely, you jest. The throttle is set wide open, and it's never enough until you want to level off or descend. Depending on the prop installed (cruise prop or climb prop), the RPM may get too high at some airspeed, and that will require reducing throttle.

In this class of airplanes, we're 100 percent "eyes outside," except for a brief glance now and then to make sure the oil pressure and temperature are OK. Frankly, if things get bad up in front of the firewall, you will probably not catch it with a look at the instruments. Things will sound funny, feel funny, smell funny, or look funny first.

These airplanes will usually have a "slip/skid" indicator, the old ball in a curved tube of liquid. Do we use this to fly the airplane? Of course not. We use that to validate the feeling in "the seat of the pants," or to develop it. Instructors know without looking, or should. But the instructor could lean to the side, allow a peek, and say, "Look at this ball, can't you feel yourself sliding to the right, just like this little ball?" Turns, chandelles, lazy eights, loops, rolls, and other dynamic maneuvers should be done so that the ball never strays very much from the middle, and beginning students tend to focus on it until they learn the "feel." After that, the eyes might glance at the ball, but the primary focus is outside, on the horizon, and looking for other traffic, to include airplanes, birds, balloons and lawn chairs.

Bigger, And More Fun


Take the North American AT-6, the standard trainer once World War II got going. The 600-hp engine had a gear-driven supercharger, capable of developing about 39 in. of manifold pressure (MP) at sea level, but was limited to 36 in. for takeoff. This meant that the pilot had to regulate throttle movement to keep it to 36 in. The T-6 had a narrow main landing gear and a tailwheel. Like all tailwheel aircraft, its natural tendency is to swap ends on the ground, so it is mandatory to keep the eyes outside on the takeoff and landing rolls. At least the student or PIC sits up front in this one!

MP is first set by feel, then the pilot might take a quick glance at the MP gauge to see where it is. Do not try to set it while looking at it; you'll lose the aircraft for sure. The eyes should flick to the gauge and immediately back to the runway, then the brain thinks of the picture it has just seen, and the throttle is moved a bit. In fact, there's more: During that brief glance, the pilot must remain aware of the events unfolding outside the aircraft by a conscious decision to use peripheral vision. I find that I seem to move my head back, and I open my eyes even more widely than normal, to keep that peripheral vision going for me during that very fleeting look at the MP.

Glance at the MP, back outside, set the throttle by feel. Make sure the airplane is going straight, glance at the MP again, back outside. It's a very methodical, planned process at first, eventually becoming second nature. One need not be anal about these settings -- anything within an inch or two will do. Once accustomed to the airplane, a single glance and a singe correction is usually all that is needed.

The T-6 also has a retractable gear, with a big lever down low, well below the left knee. Most of them also have a hydraulic power pack actuator lever, also low on the left side, aft of the gear lever. To move the flaps or gear in any direction, it is necessary to first push the power pack lever to get pressure and then move the gear or flap lever. After a few seconds, the power pack lever moves back to OFF on its own. Woe unto the hapless trainee who looks down to find those levers! I am probably the most laid-back, relaxed instructor I know, but there are a very small handful of things that will make me yell, and this is one. As an instructor, sitting in the back seat, I can tell if the person up front looks down. No matter how much he tries to hide it, there is a subtle movement of the head that gives it away, every time, drawing a scream, "Don't look down!" What the student doesn't realize is that, in addition to the head movement, there is also a stick movement -- forward. Guaranteed, every time. So here we are, about to pull up the gear right after takeoff, and we simultaneously nose down a bit. Do you see what's wrong with this?

During the WWII training, pilots were required to pass a blindfold test before flying the airplanes. They were required to touch and identify every single "thing" in the cockpit, blindfolded. Not a bad test. I now believe the specific intent was to keep them from having to look down in the cockpit to find things when their eyes were supposed to be outside (during formation flight, for example).

Airplanes That Can Bite


Now let's move to the Pitts Special, the single-seat aerobatic airplane first made famous in the early '50s by Betty Skelton in her "Little Stinker." This tiny airplane was a rattlesnake on the ground, with a vicious need to go anywhere but straight. It was also quite blind forward. If you took your eyes off the outside for a split second, you'd lose it. In this one, you'd push full throttle in for takeoff, and never look inside at all. I once flew the tiny "Grey Ghost," a famous Goodyear racer that was even worse.

Modern Aircraft

Now that we've had our little trip down Nostalgia Lane, let's step forward in time to the modern aircraft. Invariably, the tailwheel will be on the wrong end, making it a "training wheel" to us old fossils. OK, I admit that gives superb visibility straight ahead. That's almost cheating. Many of these airplanes will have fancy displays and engine monitors, right up to full "glass" cockpits. Some will have superchargers that can exceed engine limitations if the pilot doesn't limit throttle movement, but many are regulated so that the pilot cannot exceed the preset limit. All have feature-laden panels that are no more useful during takeoff than the Cub's.

Let's start with any typical, small, single or twin, runup complete, taxiing onto the active runway, all checks complete.

As the aircraft lines up with the runway, you should take a very quick glance at the whiskey compass and another at the HSI or heading indicator, and then note that they correspond with each other and the runway you intend to use (see "Wrong Way" at right).

Now, with the runway validated, apply power in the usual manner. If you want to hesitate for a quick check of the engine as you begin to apply power, fine. I don't like it, because the prop will pick up dust, gravel, and debris, eroding the prop. I like to let the airplane roll freely, apply power over a few seconds, take one peek at the engine instrument of choice (engine monitor, in my case), check to see that I've applied the power I want and then ignore everything else on the panel, "eyes outside."

With most of these airplanes, it's possible to "regulate" the power (if needed) with quick glances, while keeping the runway environment in easy peripheral view, no tricks necessary. If full throttle will do the job, set it and forget it. No real need to even check the MP with a normally-aspirated engine. Once the power is set, a quick glance at the engine monitor (graphical view) is a good thing, or at the fuel flow, if installed. You've already set the MP, the prop governor should be controlling the RPM, and at this point, your maximum attention should be on the runway and what's ahead. You may or may not be able to avoid that deer on the runway if you can see him, but you damn sure can't avoid him if you don't!


Far too many pilots begin watching the airspeed indicator, looking for takeoff speed. Bad move, in my opinion. I absolutely do not care what the speed is. My only concern is to allow the airplane to lift off and fly when it wants to. How? In the vast majority of these nosedragger aircraft, if you wait until some decent speed (visually, or by "feel"), then lift the nose until the nose gear strut extends fully, that attitude will serve you well for the liftoff and first few hundred feet of climb. Play with this a bit, see if you can lift the nose, feel where the strut "tops out," then where it actually lifts the nosewheel off. There's a pretty obvious difference in "feel" between those two points. If you do this a couple of times, you will begin to see the exact attitude you need for the liftoff by looking at the cowling and the runway -- while you look on down the runway for that deer, or another airplane pulling onto the runway. Once you know that "picture," you'll use it, and the little "bump" (as the nose strut reaches full extent) out won't be needed.

This doesn't mean you can't sneak a peek at the airspeed, just to make sure it's rising normally, and "looks right." But even that can mislead.

I really hate to see a light-plane pilot watching the airspeed indicator for some certain speed, then "rotating" to take flight. The word "rotation" was coined for a jet maneuver, not for prop aircraft. I consider it inappropriate and an affectation in props. I know a lot of well-meaning folks use it, but shouldn't.

Hold that attitude after liftoff, eyes still outside. Be like Snoopy: "Here's the WWI ace, scanning the skies for the enemy."

When you are sure there will be no further contact with the runway, reach for the gear switch, feel it, think about it, and move it, but don't look at it. If it's a strange airplane, then wait until you have more ground clearance, then "peek for it." Get out of the habit of looking down for it. Stay outside the cockpit. Sometime after the gear is up, and before reaching pattern altitude, glance at the airspeed, and make sure you're roughly at the speed you want. If there's a small error, who cares? If it's larger, then make a mental note to correct that attitude on the next takeoff. If it's really off, you forgot the pitot cover. None of these are problems, for that attitude will keep you out of trouble.

By the way, I'm not going to get into the old argument about when to retract the gear. I don't think it really matters, and I pull it up pretty early, as soon as I'm sure I won't touch down again from a gust, or ham-handedness. If you want to leave it out, be my guest.

One more shot at aviation mythology: VX and VY are speeds for specific purposes in certification. They are not for everyday use, and should never be used unless there is a specific problem that requires them. I cannot recall ever using either in the real world.

In the unlikely event you are executing a zero-zero takeoff (practice or otherwise), then you will indeed start looking at the flight instruments much earlier, but that's a special technique beyond the scope of this column.

If you are launching into low clouds, then all the above applies until you're about to enter them. At that point, you need to transition to instrument flying, with most of your attention on the flight instruments.

But your job of looking outside is not over just because you're in the clouds! More often than not, you will have a mile or more visibility, and will be able to see other traffic before you meet in a most unfriendly manner. It is impossible to judge how far you can see without some known object being in view. It is very possible to be in full VFR/VMC conditions and not be able to see a thing! This is the reason for some of the convoluted language for logging instrument time.

The Jets


As a direct result of this recent exchange, I've looked hard at my own operations on the magnificent Gulfstream IV with a fresh perspective. It's much more complicated than I thought, and I find there's room for improvement in my own techniques.

A takeoff in the G-IV is "sporty," to say the least. Maybe not up to F-16 standards, but things happen about as quickly as in any civilian airplane. The Newhall departure out of Van Nuys is also "interesting," as are the departures out of Teterboro. Both have major restrictions, and the FAA is deadly serious about prosecuting anyone violating them, for good reason. In both places, there is heavy traffic right overhead, also at very low altitudes. An altitude "bust" will not only get you violated, but could get you dead. There are a growing number of airports with RNAV departures that require fancy equipment (dual FMS backed up by dual or triple GPS) and where the autopilot is required immediately after takeoff. Experience has shown that human pilots cannot produce the accuracy required. (Whether it's really required is another story.)

At Van Nuys, the airport elevation is 800 feet, and the mandatory level-off is only 1,700 feet. That's only 900 feet to climb, and it happens really quickly. There's also a noise problem, calling for a rapid, steep initial climb for that 900 feet. It's a challenge. Add to that a lot of GA traffic on the very close parallel runway, and it can be something of a zoo.

There are many different techniques for noise abatement. All reduce safety, some more than others. But we're stuck with them. I try to make the best of them, making them as easy as possible, but some are horrible no matter how they are done.

Where are the eyes in the G-IV? That will be the subject of another column.

Be careful, up there!

More from AVweb's Pelican is available here.


Probable Cause #32: Incomplete Briefing

Complicated weather patterns demand a full and complete weather briefing for anything but a casual flight in the airport vicinity. Here's why.

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severe turbulence. At 31,000 feet there was a 100-percent probability of severe turbulence. The 1900 Upper Air Sounding for Jacksonville showed at 24,100 feet a 100 percent probability of severe turbulence.

There were no pilot reports (PIREPs) recorded over Georgia between 1900 and 0700 in the FAA database. After 0900 there were several reports of light to moderate turbulence reported between FL330 to FL350, and one isolated report of moderate to severe turbulence at 7000 feet over Georgia. A Boeing 727 pilot who was in the vicinity of the accident flight stated he was at FL310 in IMC with light chop and possible light rime icing when he heard the initial "Mayday" call. He was asked by the controller to descend to FL270 feet and attempt to contact the accident airplane. The 727 pilot was unable to contact the accident airplane. He remained in instrument flight conditions with the same approximate flight conditions.

The NTSB's review of in-flight weather advisories revealed there were no areas of organized turbulence forecasted.

The pilot used a DUAT session to file IFR from Mount Pleasant, Tenn., to Titusville, Fla. The pilot listed himself as pilot, checked NOTAMS and terminated the DUAT briefing at 12:39:53. No en route weather information was requested during the DUAT sessions. There was no record of the accident pilot contacting any FAA Automated Flight Service Station to receive a formal weather briefing.



The Airline Transport Pilot had logged 3569.4 hours, of which 35.6 were in the Rockwell 690B. The pilot's first recorded flight in the Rockwell 690B was on October 21, 2002; the pilot had flown the aircraft an additional 10.2 hours between March 7, 2003, and March 23, 2003.

The aircraft had no recorded accident or incident history. The year before, its engines had been upgraded to the more powerful "Dash 10" configuration. The pitot system check and transponder inspection was conducted on April 4, 2002, and the airplane had accumulated some 150 hours total time since the engine refurbishment.

The crash debris was oriented on a magnetic heading of 024 and extended for 8081 feet. The left and right elevators were located 2351 feet down the debris line and 3233 feet to the left. The left outboard wing section was located 4235 feet down the debris line and 16 feet to the right. The vertical stabilizer was located 5839 feet down the debris line and 127 feet to the left of the debris line.

Continuity was confirmed from the broken rudder-cable arms to aft of the cabin area. Continuity was also established from both flight-control yokes to the aileron master-bellcrank aft of the cabin area, and elevator control-cable continuity was confirmed from the elevator bellcrank, also to the aft cabin area. The elevator-control torque tubes were separated between the control columns and the elevator-control bellcrank.

The right-wing-spar upper cap was attached to the wing root, and the right wing was displaced aft. The upper spar cap was bent downward 24 inches outboard of the aircraft centerline. The right wing outboard of the right engine nacelle was bent upward. The left wing was attached to the wing root, and was displaced forward. The leading edge of the left inboard wing sustained wrinkling one foot outboard of the wing root, and a dent in the leading edge with aft crushing was noted four feet outboard of the wing root. The left aileron was not recovered. There were no major discrepancies with either engine.

Two pieces of the left wing, two pieces of the right wing, a piece of fuselage skin, upper and lower pieces of the vertical stabilizer, a piece of rudder, a piece of the left horizontal stabilizer, and a piece of the right horizontal stabilizer were submitted to the NTSB Materials Laboratory for further examination. All fracture surfaces were overstress fractures.

There was no evidence of preexisting cracking or fatigue observed on any fracture surface. Fracture surfaces that were not damaged generally appeared matte gray and were on slant planes. The left wing, and left and right horizontal stabilizer fractured in downward bending. The right wing fractured in upward bending. The vertical stabilizer fractured from the fuselage with the leading edge moving upward relative to the fuselage. The rudder tip fractured moving to the left and aft relative to the rudder.

A number of placards and warnings about flying in turbulence are included in the airplane's Pilot's Operating Handbook. Among them is this note: "Since a finite period of time is required to reduce speed from the onset of turbulence, a speed reduction should be accomplished in anticipation of suspected turbulence, whenever possible."


The NTSB found the probable cause of this accident, in part, to be, "An in-flight encounter with unforecasted severe turbulence in cruise flight resulting in the design limits of the airplane being exceeded due to an overload failure of the airframe."

It's easy to look at the lack of an explicit turbulence warning for pilots flying in this area and blame forecasters for this accident. But, the clues that turbulence was present in the area were there. Whether the pilot could have seen and recognized these clues for what they were if he had obtained a full weather briefing or used his DUAT session to look more closely at the en route weather is anyone's guess.

But even a cursory examination of the weather patterns, high winds at altitude and the unpredictable nature of springtime weather should have merited the pilot taking a closer look at the en route weather he was about to face.

Once a complete briefing is obtained, we need to fly the airplane in a fashion that anticipates what was in the forecast. In this instance, that wasn't possible, since the pilot never obtained a full weather briefing. With an extra five minutes at the DUAT terminal, the outcome could have been much different.

More accident analyses are available in AVweb's Probable Cause Index. And for monthly articles about safety, including accident reports like this one, subscribe to AVweb's sister publication, Aviation Safety.


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AVweb-Exclusive Audio And Video News back to top 

AVweb Audio News

AVweb posts audio news on Mondays, plus a new in-depth interview each Friday. In last Friday's podcast, you'll hear an interview with Teal Group's Richard Aboulafia. And AVweb's podcast index includes interviews with Air Journey's Thierry Pouille; Epic Aircraft's Rick Schrameck; Cessna's Jack Pelton; Embraer's Ernest Edwards; LAMA's Dan Johnson; Piper's Jim Bass; DayJet's Ed Iacobucci; AOPA's Andrew Cebula; Hawker Beechcraft's Jim Schuster; Avfuel's Craig Sincock; Comp Air's Ron Lueck; and VistaNav's Jeff Simon. In today's special podcast, hear David Wartofsky, owner of Potomac Airfield, talk about AFSS problems. Remember: In AVweb's podcasts, you'll hear things you won't find anywhere else.

Exclusive Video Preview of Cessna's NGP Proof-of-Concept Aircraft from Sun 'n Fun 2007

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

Glenn Pew speaks with Cessna vice president of propeller aircraft sales, John Doman, about the company's Next Generation Piston proof-of-concept (NGP POC) aircraft.

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Pilot Journey Isn't Just for Students & Instructors; There's Something for Everyone
You know Pilot Journey's Discovery Flight program converting leads to students. However, all pilots can find something at Pilot Journey: Pilot e-mail accounts, pilot eCards; a pilot cruise with seminars; AvCareers, where position wanted and positions available are listed; and much more. Pilot Journey is the pilot's choice online.
FBO Of The Week back to top 

FBO Of The Week: Million Air KHHR

Nominate an FBO | Rules | Tips | Questions | Winning FBOs

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Million Air at KHHR in Hawthorne, Calif.

AVweb reader Steve Hamerslag couldn't say enough good things about this facility.

"This is a new FBO on the field. When I arrived the ramp personnel were waiting to help with securing the aircraft. I was offered a short lift on their cart to the office, but I elected to walk the short distance. Upon entering the lobby I was helped immediately and efficiently. I was planning on taking a cab to my destination five miles away, but they insisted that they take me in their courtesy van. They even have a free soda machine on top of the normal coffee and tea. When I was departing, the line crew helped remove the chocks and offered me a cold bottled water as I did my walk around. Million Air KHHR has very friendly and efficient staff. The fuel was even reasonably priced!"

Keep those nominations coming. For complete contest rules, click here.

AVweb is actively seeking out the best FBOs in the country and another one, submitted by you, will be spotlighted here next Monday!

Choose the Flight Explorer Edition Right for You
Flight Explorer is an information system tracking commercial and general aviation flights. With the Flight Explorer Personal Edition, view air traffic for the U.S., Canada, or New Zealand and monitor and display real-time delay information, TFRs, SUAs, and more. With the Flight Explorer Pilot Edition, view weather along a route, receive alerts with your preliminary flight plan, and have an e-mail sent to someone on departure or arrival. Click here for more information and to subscribe
Video Of The Week back to top 

Video of the Week: Agrorotors Helicopter Power Line Maintenance

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

Man's best friend is the dog, but the electric companies' best friend may well be the helicopter. Last week, we saw how helicopters do thankless jobs like tree-trimming around power lines. This week, let's take a look at some other (pretty impressive) line maintenance that could only be done with the assistance of pilots. (Courtesy of YouTube user harrison359.)

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Don't forget to send us links to any interesting videos you find out there. If you're impressed by it, there's a good chance other AVweb readers will be too. And if we use a video you recommend on AVweb, we'll send out an official AVweb baseball cap as a "thank you."

The Lighter Side Of Flight back to top 

Short Final

Overheard in IFR Magazine's 'On the Air' Section
Overheard in IFR Magazine's "On the Air"

There is an approach into San Francisco (KSFO) known as the Quiet Bridge Visual. During this approach, commercial operators fly to the bridge and match up with another aircraft for the parallel runway.

NorCal Approach: United Four Five Three, report traffic 10 o’clock one mile, a Skywest Brasilia in sight, and slow to one seven zero.

United 453: Traffic, bridge, airport, parking lot, and my car in sight.

NorCal: United Four Five Three, roger, cleared for the visual two eight right, enjoy your days off, contact tower.

Names Behind The News back to top 

Meet the AVwebFlash Team

AVwebFlash is a twice-weekly summary of the latest news, articles, products, features, and events featured on AVweb, the internet's aviation magazine and news service.

Today's issue was written by Contributing Editors Russ Niles (bio).

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