AVwebFlash - Volume 13, Number 26b

June 28, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
 
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NTSB Wants More Oversight Of Substance-Dependent Pilots

The FAA needs to do more to ensure that pilots dependent on substances such as drugs and alcohol are properly evaluated by aviation medical examiners, the NTSB said on Monday. A number of aircraft accidents have occurred when the pilot's substance dependence was relevant to the cause, according to the Safety Board. The NTSB said the FAA should require pilots to provide copies of arrest reports and court records to their examiner prior to clinical evaluation. Those records, it added, should be kept on file in the Aerospace Medical Certification Division, where they can be accessed in regard to any application for a medical certificate. Also, airmen who have been clinically diagnosed with substance dependence, including dependence on alcohol, should be medically certified only under a special-issuance waiver, the NTSB said. The Safety Board cited several recent accidents in support of its recommendation. In one case, the pilot had reported a DUI conviction to the FAA, but the FAA did not obtain records of that offense. The Board obtained the arrest records and found the pilot had a blood alcohol level of 0.28 percent, a level indicating that the driver had a tolerance, which is evidence of a substance-dependence problem. If the FAA had considered the DUI arrest record as part of the medical certification application process, this pilot would not have been issued a medical certificate.

FAA Confirms Third-Class Medicals Here To Stay

The FAA confirmed this week that it is not interested in eliminating the requirement that private pilots must hold a third-class medical certificate. Despite recent rumors to the contrary, the FAA said that "out of a concern for the potential safety impact of the change given the large number of private pilots, and in the absence of any data to support the change, we are not inclined to change the rule at this time." The statement was part of a listing of responses to comments collected during a review of FAA regulations that began in February 2004. The public was invited to tell the FAA which regs should be removed, amended or simplified. Most of the 97 comments concerned details of air transport operations. EAA asked to simplify the paperwork for registering certain homebuilt aircraft, but the FAA declined.

EAA asked that an applicant for registration of an aircraft built from a kit be allowed to use either a bill of sale or an invoice from the manufacturer. Currently, the regulation requires a bill of sale. EAA said this requirement is burdensome because most kit manufacturers do not provide a bill of sale. The FAA said invoices do not provide proof of ownership. Proof of ownership should include language that shows a sale took place and the signature of the seller. An invoice would be adequate if it has a signature for the manufacturer and some wording such as "sold to [name of buyer]." The FAA will continue to review the regs every three years. A notice requesting public comments for the next review will be published later this year.

 
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Is There A Diesel In Cessna's Future?

Wichita-based Cessna Aircraft on Wednesday announced an agreement to collaborate with Germany's Thielert Aircraft Engines on future programs "centered on the Thielert diesel engine." Cessna said details will be announced later this year -- possibly as early as next month at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis. "We think the Thielert engine may provide a very worthwhile power option for many of our customers since it runs on jet fuel and diesel," said Cessna Vice President of Worldwide Propeller Aircraft Sales John Doman. "We have had discussions with Frank Thielert and his group for some time, and we think the time is right to move forward." Thielert has obtained several European certifications for retrofitting diesel engines into Cessna aircraft, and in March it received an STC from the F AA to re-engine the Cessna 172 with the Thielert Centurion 1.7/2.0.

Columbia Aircraft Back Up To Speed

Columbia Aircraft has restored its production level to three new aircraft per week, and nearly all employees furloughed in late March are now back at work, the company said in a news release on Monday. "We made a lot of dramatic moves earlier this year with the objective of increasing our efficiency and strengthening Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation," said Columbia President Wan Majid. "We've made significant improvements to our production processes and tooling." The returning employees will have plenty to do, said Vice President of Marketing Randy Bolinger. "We don't publish sales or backlog figures, but I can safely say that we're comfortable with the order level of the past few months. We delivered more aircraft during the first quarter than we did during the same period last year and I expect that we'll continue to see strong sales and deliveries." Columbia manufactures a variety of all-composite piston-single aircraft, including the Columbia 400 and the 350.

Honda Aircraft Starts Work On $100M HQ

Honda Aircraft Company on Wednesday morning began construction of its new 369,000-square-foot headquarters and manufacturing facility at the Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro, N.C. "By breaking ground for this new Honda Aircraft facility today, we take the next important step in getting HondaJets into the skies tomorrow," Honda Aircraft Company President and CEO Michimasa Fujino said. "With the warm reception we have received in the Triad, and the great response HondaJet has received from our customers, we are confident of a very bright future here in North Carolina." Phase one of construction will comprise offices, research facilities and an airplane hangar, to be completed next spring. The HondaJet production facility is currently in the design phase. Investment for construction of the headquarters and production facility will be about $100 million, including equipment. About 350 workers will be employed once the entire complex is complete.

 
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Systems Specialists Decry FAA Staffing Plans

Trainees are being left in charge of critical national airspace equipment without the supervision of certified specialists, the Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS) said in a news release on Monday. PASS said that managers plan to leave a single trainee on his own at the Memphis Air Route Traffic Control Center when one of the three certified specialists is on leave this summer. "The specialist in training is being left alone during high-volume traffic for Federal Express," said Dave Spero, PASS regional vice president. "If something were to go wrong, the individual would have to rely solely on the skills and expertise that he brings to the job rather than specific FAA training. Basically, he's doing the best he can with what he's got." PASS also said all three of the certified specialists in Memphis are eligible for retirement, but the FAA has no plan to address their impending departure. "The FAA is clearly making significant changes in how it chooses to operate," said Spero. "It is completely negligent to choose saving a few bucks by not paying qualified and certified systems specialists overtime over the safety of the flying public. We hope the FAA will rethink this dangerous practice by adequately staffing and training employees at the Memphis facility."

Controllers Retiring Faster Than Predicted

For the second time in four months, the FAA has revised its air traffic controller retirement projections for the current 2007 fiscal year, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) said in a news release on Tuesday. According to NATCA, the changes reflect "the agency's continuing inability to get a handle on the alarming rate of retirements that rose after the FAA imposed work and pay rules on controllers against their will last September." FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown told AVweb on Wednesday that predicting retirements "is not an exact science," and the evolving numbers reflect the agency's ability to improve and refine its projections as it collects more data. A year ago, the FAA published a workforce plan that estimated 643 controllers would retire in fiscal year 2007, which runs from Oct. 1, 2006, to Sept. 30, 2007. That estimate was raised to 700 in March, and the agency now has raised its projection to 800, a 24-percent increase. Brown added that if more controllers retire than projected, "we can always ramp up and hire more people ... we have hundreds of applicants for every job we post." The agency has already hired 1,200 controllers in this fiscal year and plans to hire at least 200 more by the end of September, she said. NATCA says a large number of those new recruits will likely never become controllers and those that do will need two to three years to fully train, making them unable to help the staffing crisis until 2009 at the earliest.

 
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Young Florida Pilot Completes Solo Circumnavigation

Barrington Irving landed his Columbia 400 at Florida's Opa-Locka Airport Wednesday at 10:26 a.m., completing his round-the-world flight as -- unofficially -- the youngest person and first person of African descent to fly solo around the world. Irving, 23, launched from Florida in March, and flew up the East Coast and across the Atlantic. He stopped in Europe, the Middle East, India, Japan and Alaska, before heading back across the U.S. He covered about 25,600 miles in just over three months. Irving grew up in Miami but he was born in Jamaica, and Jamaican nationals greeted him at airports around the world. Upon landing Wednesday morning, he was greeted by a crowd that included local politicians and a steel-drum band. At launch, Irving had expected to make the trip in just 37 days, but weather caused multiple delays. He waited in Japan for two weeks for flyable weather across the North Pacific. He wrote in his blog that the delays gave him some time to explore local cultures. Irving is a graduate student at Florida Memorial University and works on Experience Aviation, a Saturday morning program he started to teach children about flying. He has said that he hopes his flight will inspire other young people to resist the negative influences of the streets and work toward their dreams. It's unclear whether Irving has set any "official" records. The National Aeronautic Association does not track aviation records by age or ethnicity.

Cirrus To Unveil Personal Jet

Cirrus Design has so far been coy about the details of its new "personal jet," but a mock-up will be unveiled on Thursday during the annual gathering of Cirrus owners at the factory in Duluth, Minn. AVweb Contributing Editor Russ Niles will be on scene for the event, so keep an eye on AVweb for coverage of all the details. The jet, which so far is called simply "the-jet," is expected to have one engine, cruise at about 300 knots and sell for less than $1 million. Last week, at the Paris Air Show, the Cirrus booth was "swarming with customers," according to Flight Daily News. At the Cirrus Web site, a jigsaw puzzle showing a drawing of the jet has slowly been growing, piece by piece. The complete picture is expected to emerge soon.

 
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Enthusiast Captures Pix Of Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Boeing's first 787 hasn't had a formal rollout yet, but an aviation enthusiast acting on a tip from a blogger caught pictures of the airplane as it was moved to a paint hangar just after midnight on Tuesday morning. Charles Conklin, 30, of Kirkland, Wash., shot with a telephoto lens through a fence from just outside the perimeter of the Boeing facility in Everett, komotv.com reported. Conklin said he picked up a tip from Flightblogger that the airplane might be moved late Monday night, and waited outside the facility for about two hours before the doors finally opened. Jon Ostrower of Boston operates Flightblogger. He said Boeing employees are excited about the airplane's progress and have been keeping him updated. The 787 is scheduled for a formal rollout ceremony on July 8, or what Boeing bills as 7/8/7.

Namibia To Host Africa's Aviation HQ

A new aviation organization will launch in Africa this week that aims to bring the continent's civil aviation standards to a par with those of Europe and the U.S., AllAfrica reported on Wednesday. The new African Civil Aviation Agency (Afro-CAA) will have its headquarters in Namibia, and its staff will work to establish common technical standards and safety regulations for the continent. Mwangi waKamau, who will be the first CEO of the agency, is from Kenya, but lobbied to base the agency in Namibia. "The good transport infrastructure in Namibia and its location, which is within easy reach of other countries, make it ideal to host the headquarters," he said at a press conference. The agency will be officially launched on Thursday. Five regional offices of Afro-CAA will also be established -- in South Africa for the southern African region, Nigeria for West Africa, Cameroon for Central Africa, Ethiopia for East Africa and Libya for North Africa. The agency will work to equip all African airports with air traffic control, radar and communications equipment by 2010. Namibia is just north of South Africa, along the continent's southwest Atlantic coast. (For a refresher on Africa's geography, click here for a PDF map of the continent.)

 
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On The Fly

A Washington Post story finds local pilots cutting back on flying due to high fuel costs...

EAA has announced its lineup for evening programs at AirVenture...

A man died in a 700-foot fall from a hot-air balloon over Colorado Tuesday morning; suicide is suspected...

The Hood blimp that crashed last September has been repaired and will be flying again this summer in New England and New York...

EAA's Rocky Mountain Regional Fly-In broke attendance records last weekend, despite 100-degree heat. Two show announcers died in a crash on Monday...

New rules in Canada will require collision-avoidance equipment aboard commercial aircraft...

A charter operator says its Learjet was a lemon, Bombardier blames "lessee's remorse"; they are working it out in court...

Final standings have been posted online for this year's Air Race Classic cross-country all-women air race, completed last week, from Oklahoma to New Brunswick.

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Pelican's Perch #86: Where Are the Eyes? -- Part 2

Jet pilots don't have the luxury of looking outside as much as piston pilots do during takeoff; but there are ways to do better.

Click here to read.

much greater -- somewhere around 10 degrees due to the higher wing-loading, high-lift devices, and swept wings. If we were to place the aircraft in this attitude too soon, the drag would increase greatly, and in some of the older jets, the high drag will even prevent further acceleration. Since no air is being blown over the wings, there is no additional lift available. Lift can only come from airspeed and angle of attack in the jet. For these and other reasons, you will notice that jet aircraft accelerate in the level attitude (minimum drag), then rotate sharply to fly, lifting off as they pass through about 10-degrees pitch, on the way to 15- to 25-degrees pitch. Certification rules require the airspeed to stabilize in the climb at V2 with an engine out, or about V2+10 with all engines. Very early in the jet age, it was obvious that conditions were so variable, and acceleration so hard to judge, that a new speed was invented called Vr or rotation speed. The theory here is that if a pilot starts the nose up at Vr, and rotates the aircraft at roughly two degrees per second ("rotation" refers to change about the lateral axis), then the aircraft will stabilize at V2 (engine out) or V2+10 (all engines). There is usually 10 to 20 knots difference between Vr and V2.

Jet takeoffs are based on three critical speeds. V1 is the "go or no-go" speed, and must be some above minimum control speed with an engine out. Vr must provide the proper timing to go from level to the attitude at V2 or V2+10, and V2 must provide the certification performance. Each speed can and does affect the others, so rather complex charts (or computers) are used to figure all this out in advance of every takeoff, and most of the time there are many options.

With small, light jets (Citation, Lear, Eclipse), the range of weights is rather small, and these speeds don't change much. Many will just use "canned" speeds for most conditions. With the 747, V1 can range from about 115 (very light) to 160 knots when heavy. Guessing here will not suffice!

Key here is the fact that the takeoff roll and rotation is absolutely mechanical and there is no "feel" or airmanship involved. The crew sets the thrust and watches the fun. Once the airplane becomes airborne, then pilots revert to feel and airmanship to regulate airspeed, attitude, and pitch rate.

[IMGCAP(3)]

How critical is all this? In a Citation, operating off a 10,000-foot runway, it's not critical at all, and pilots could probably just wing it. In a loaded 747, liftoff occurs with the aircraft eating up runway at a rate of 300 feet every second, and runway length is usually critical, so it's very important to be on the numbers.

V1 is not as critical, in my opinion, as most pilots seem to think. Don't get me wrong: A high-speed abort right at V1 on a critical runway is a terrifying thing, but continuing the takeoff from well below V1 is almost a non-event, with plenty of real margin. For this reason, the concept of a "soft V1" has finally come into common use and pilots are slowly coming around to using lower V1 speeds, when available. My personal preference is to use the lowest permissible V1 on all takeoffs, and treat it as a soft V1. The briefing is, "Up to 80 knots, we'll abort for almost anything, from 80 knots to V1 we'll abort only for an item that makes the aircraft unflyable, like uncommanded reverse, engine failure, spoiler extension, etc. Approaching V1, I will take my hand off the thrust levers, and that is the signal that we'll take any problem into the air."

A lot of people in a lot of airplanes have been killed by high-speed aborts, but (with one exception I know of) none have been killed by high-speed "gos." (The exception is AA191, a DC-10 taking off from Chicago O'Hare, May 25, 1979. That one is a case study all by itself.)

We must get away from the old and common attitude, "I'd rather slide off the end of the runway than take an engine failure/fire into the air." Bad thinking!

What on earth has all this performance junk to do with eyeballs? Hang on, there is a point here!

In the jets, someone in the cockpit has to pay pretty careful attention to the airspeed indicators on the takeoff roll and, frankly, both pilots are well-advised to do so. The PFN (Pilot Not Flying) usually monitors and calls out key speeds, often "Airspeed alive," "60 knots," "80 knots, crosschecked," "V1," "Vr" (usually called as "Rotation"), "V2," and "Positive Rate."

If both airspeed indicators don't come alive at about the same time, or if they don't both hit the benchmarks together, it's time to abort before the speed is so high that the runway length becomes critical. There are usually other things that should happen on the takeoff roll, too. So, where are the eyes? In my case, when I'm the PF (Pilot Flying), my attention is inside somewhat and outside a lot, with fairly quick changes, and the runway is always in my peripheral vision when I'm inside (back to the old T-6 in my previous column). At high speeds, a very small deviation in heading will produce a runway excursion -- not normally a good thing -- and I'm watching for other aircraft taxiing onto "my" runway. It's very hard to put numbers on this, but perhaps 80% outside, 20% inside. Heck, it might even be 50/50. The timing as to when we look inside and back out is important, too. If I know I'm past 80, but well before V1, my attention is mostly outside, because by then we've validated the airspeed indications, and there's not much going on inside. As we approach V1, I'll focus on the airspeed, and only peripherally on the runway. When I'm PNF, I'm paying just a bit more attention inside but still keeping an eye on the runway peripherally, to make sure the other pilot doesn't wander too much. That 80/20 is probably reversed for the PNF. It all happens very quickly, of course.

So, for the takeoff roll in the Bonanza, it's balls to the wall, a quick check of ballpark fuel flow and engine-monitor readings very early in the roll, and basically ignore the panel thereafter, until a few hundred feet in the air. With the jet, there's a lot more to look at inside, even if there are two people. Maybe even because there are two!

Rotation Begins

[IMGCAP(4)]

The moment the nose starts up, the PF must focus pretty closely on the flight instruments, because the nose will quickly hide the view of the ground and there is nothing to give a sense of attitude. Pitch too little and the airspeed will run away, perhaps exceeding flap-speed limits, and climb performance will suffer. Pitch too much, and you may lose airspeed, endangering the aircraft. Control of the attitude is fairly critical here, and most jets have flight directors to help with this. The PNF will be monitoring all this, to see that everything is going right, so he'll be mostly looking inside, too. The result is that for the first 500- to 1,000-feet of climb, the typical jet operation is highly vulnerable to "other traffic," be it birds of the feathered kind or birds of the mechanical kind. Van Nuys tower is probably the best in the country, and they are very, very good at handling the mix of light aircraft using Runway 16L, and heavier stuff using 16R. The first few times they cleared me for takeoff with a light aircraft right there, I was a bit nervous, but they handle it so that by the time we'd hit the other aircraft, we're above it. But the thought of a student pilot making an early right turn into us still gives me the willies. Now transfer this operation to a busy, non-towered airport and things get really hairy.

Van Nuys Runway 16R is also a critical noise-abatement runway, which increases the pilot workload immensely if done "The Gulfstream Way," so I won't use it. We rotate briskly to 20 degrees nose up, well above the flight director, and hold that way for just a few seconds. The altitude limit (1,700 MSL) is only 900 feet above the airport, so this one is very easy to blow, and there is that Southwest 737 just 1,000 feet above on the ILS to Burbank. At about 1,100 feet (300 feet above the runway), I lower the nose to the flight director pitch command bars, and this will produce a nice lowering of the nose to catch 1700 feet, while automatically reducing the thrust to hold 160 knots (manual speed). At that point we sail across the far end of the runway and the noise monitors in level flight, very low thrust, on a very precise track. That keeps the neighbors less unhappy (although they'll never be happy).

Len Krugler, too. Who's Len Krugler? He's the noise boss at Van Nuys, and works very hard to keep it as quiet as possible. Good guy. First letter I ever got from him was something like, "Your takeoff the other morning was within limits, but from watching a lot of G-IVs take off, I know it can be done better." I spent the next two years getting the data from every takeoff and experimenting with different techniques. I'm pretty quiet, now. Well, my airplane is pretty quiet; my chief pilot thinks I make way too much noise.

As we taxi into position on 16R, the VOR station is right there at the threshold, so DME is an accurate measure of how far into the takeoff we are. The far end of 16R is about 1.2 DME, and at only 2.2 DME, the procedure is to simultaneously turn left to 110 degrees, climb to 4,000 feet, and switch frequencies to SoCal Departure on 124.7. The PNF has to pull the gear, set that heading, set the altitude, and push the "Flight Level Change" button to give the PF all the proper indications, and change frequencies and talk, too.

All this happens very, very quickly, and is rather carefully choreographed and briefed. It must be flown with precision, which means watching the instruments. There's just not much time left to look outside. I wish it were not so.

I really like hand-flying, and used to do that any time below about 10,000 feet. I've gotten away from that now, and generally turn on the autopilot very early so that it does the precision work while I can divide my attention between making sure it's doing what I intend and traffic watch. This also relieves the PNF of a lot of work, so he can better watch and do his things. Maybe Airbus has this automation thing right, after all. I'm just not quite there yet.

The Departure and Arrival Procedures

[IMGCAP(5)]

There are more pressures to use the automation. Take a look at these "new" RNAV arrivals and departures.

These procedures require very high accuracy (in three dimensions), usually demanding full-up dual FMS systems, backed up by full-time GPS or DME-DME updating. Some operators now require them to be flown on autopilot, and some of the DPs require flipping the autopilot on as low as 500 feet AGL after takeoff. I'm coming to agree with that, as much as I prefer hand-flying.

Does this use of automation free up the old Mark One eyeballs? Maybe. But pilots still need to monitor what's going on, and watching all this magic work is seductive. Even when things are going well, the eyes keep coming back to it -- inside.

The saving grace here is that most of this stuff takes place in positive-control airspace of one kind or another, so "eyes out," airmanship and hand-flying skills have become less important than they used to be. So they say.

Old Instruments vs. New

There are other factors that draw our eyeballs inside too much. With the big, old, individual, mechanical altimeter, I could have my eyes looking outside and see motion on that instrument peripherally without even looking at it, and make a correction. Same for the airspeed and especially for the vertical speed. Now, with the vertical tape and/or digital displays, I have to deliberately look -- and look hard -- at the display and think about what it's trying to tell me. Kind-of like the difference between an old analog watch and a digital. A glance at the hands tells the story, but no one glances at the digits; they must read them. Some of the modern, glass displays have gone back to showing a video presentation of the old style, and I think that's a good thing. It is amazingly difficult to hand-fly a simple traffic pattern in the G-IV. For one thing, since we rarely do it, we don't get the practice, so we're not very good at it. Most end up just setting up the flight director to command heading and altitude, and guess where the eyes go in that situation? Inside, of course.

We do get to take off and land at a few uncontrolled airports, and that is both a joy and a dread. The joy is that we can just fly like the light piston pilots do (eyes much more outside). The dread is that it's entirely up to us to look out for the others.

I promise, I'll try to get my eyes outside more.

Be careful, up there!


More from AVweb's Pelican is available here.
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Probable Cause #35: Beyond The Rules

Although the weather was below minimums, a Part 135 Caravan pilot tries the approach, breaking more than just the regulations.

Click here for the full story.

accident occurred, Birmingham was reporting a few clouds at 100 feet with six miles visibility in mist. Until that report the skies at Birmingham had been clear.

The same could not be said for Bessemer, however, where a dense patch of fog had settled over the airport, reducing the visibility to a quarter mile, sometimes less.

Before departure the pilot probably decided that he had a good alternate at Birmingham should the weather at Bessemer be below minimums upon arrival. Or perhaps he wasn't even thinking in those terms, based on the KBHM forecast and its proximity to KEKY.

The flight proceeded normally from Little Rock, cruising along uneventfully at 9,000 feet. At 1:22 a.m. the flight was transferred from a Memphis Center controller to the control tower at Birmingham. After some initial communications, the Caravan pilot asked the tower controller for vectors to the ILS at Bessemer. The controller responded, "Tell you what, Fast Check 600, I've got all this up in the tower cab now, and this scope is so small it's hard to vector to Bessemer with the lines they've got on it. Maintain 3,000 till Brookwood, cleared ILS Runway Five Approach to Bessemer."

The pilot acknowledged the instructions and at 1:37 a.m. he told the controller that he was intercepting the localizer. The controller cleared the airplane to leave the frequency with instructions that he was to report his cancellation on the ground at Bessemer via the clearance delivery frequency. The pilot acknowledged that transmission and was not heard from again.

Missed Gone Awry

[IMGCAP(3)]

The airplane crashed 0.37 nm from the end of the runway nearly on the centerline. Investigators found that it was in a 24 degree left bank when it impacted trees about 30 feet above ground level. The descent angle from the trees to the ground was calculated to be 22 degrees.

There was no fire and rescuers noted a strong smell of Jet A at the site, indicating that there was fuel on the airplane. The pilot and his pilot-rated passenger, a fellow company pilot, were killed on impact. Investigators spent much time and effort looking at the airplane and its systems, yet they could find nothing that indicated there was a failure that could have caused or contributed to the accident.

A courier who was waiting for the airplane to arrive at the airport heard what he described as a tapping sound on the outside speaker that was tuned to the airport's CTAF. What he probably heard was the pilot turning the runway lights on or attempting to be certain that they were on and as bright as possible.

The courier, who worked for a regional bank, reported that at the time he was waiting for the airplane to arrive, the fog was the thickest he had seen it since he began coming to the airport a year earlier. He told investigators that he heard an engine sound and about two minutes later a noise that he associated with a heavy gauge shotgun. He said it was a sharp noise, followed by silence.

Another company pilot was on a flight from St. Petersburg, Fla., to KBHM, landing there about two minutes before the accident occurred. He told investigators that since he was scheduled to continue on to Bessemer, he checked the AWOS at KEKY when he was about 65 miles from Birmingham and again when he was about 30 miles out. The first time the visibility was less than 1/4 mile with a 100-foot indefinite ceiling. The second time it was 1/4 mile with a 100-foot indefinite ceiling. He said he flew a visual approach to Birmingham's Runway 36, and while he was inbound he observed widespread dense fog and noted he could not see the rotating beacon at Bessemer.

The Caravan pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane single and multi-engine land and instrument ratings. He was 62 years old and had 5,773 total flying hours with 390 hours in the 90 days prior to the accident, 990 hours in the Caravan and an unknown amount of instrument time. He had been employed flying Cessna 206 and 210 aircraft since October 2000 and he had checked out in the Caravan in February 2001.

A review of the approach plate in use at the time of the accident reveals that the inbound heading on the ILS Runway 5 Approach was 050 degrees. An inbound pilot would maintain 2,400 feet until intercepting the glide slope just outside the MEATA Intersection, 6.1 miles from the Bessemer DME. DH for the approach was 900 feet, which was 200 feet above the touchdown zone and 1.1 miles from the Bessemer DME. The visibility requirement for the approach was 3/4 mile.

Radar data indicated that between 1:38:47 and 1:42:11 the airplane was flying on a northeasterly heading and descended from 2,400 feet MSL to 900 feet MSL. At 1:42:11 the airplane was located 0.43 nm from the approach end of Runway 5. The last radar hit on the airplane showed it at 1,000 feet, 0.2 nm from the approach end of the runway. It's not known how accurate the radar positioning is that low to the ground.

We don't know what happened in the cockpit of the Caravan that night that led to the accident, but there are several facts we do know. First, contrary to the FARs that governed the flight, the pilot elected to fly the approach when he should have known the visibility was below landing minimums. Of course, that doesn't mean the airplane should have crashed just because the pilot elected to fly the approach.

In fact, the evidence indicates that the accident may have happened as the result of his attempt to make a missed approach that resulted in the pilot's failure to maintain control of the aircraft. The radar plot shows the aircraft at minimums about where he should have been had he flown the glide slope properly. Then, the radar indicates the airplane started to climb. The post-crash analysis of the aircraft also shows that the flap actuator was found in a position that suggests the flaps were nearly fully retracted.

The missed approach procedure requires a pilot to climb straight ahead to 1,400 feet, then to commence a climbing right turn to 3,000 feet while flying direct to the Brookwood (OKW) VOR. Assuming the pilot began the climb, something must have happened to cause the loss of control. What could it be?

Once the decision to go around has been made there is no reason to look out the window any further to see if the runway comes into view. But many pilots do that anyway. Perhaps they figure that if they see the runway as they pass over it, that it might be worth another approach. But the missed approach requires that you reconfigure the airplane for a climb and concentrate on the instrumentation to insure that it climbs safely away from the earth's hard surface. If you are looking out the window at that point instead of at the instrument panel, it is very easy to become disoriented, even for a seasoned pilot.

Fog creates illusions, especially during nighttime, that hammer away at our senses and leave us disoriented. That may be what happened to the Caravan pilot. Or, he might have seen the runway as he began the missed approach and simply looked outside the airplane too long. Whatever happened, the airplane descended into the ground when it should have been safely climbing above it.

Know The Limits

[IMGCAP(4)]

How do you prevent a similar kind of accident? There is no point in beginning an approach when you are reasonably certain you have no chance of making it in. If you find that your destination airport is below minimums, go to your original alternate or find another close-in airport that has landing minimums or better.

If you fly under Part 91, you can begin an approach even if the airport is below minimums. But unless there is some reason to believe that it will be successful, you might as well save time and fuel and head for the alternate. In this instance, you can see that at Birmingham the airplanes were landing using visual approaches while at Bessemer even the ILS approach was not sufficient to allow the pilot to locate the runway.

Each pilot should have personal limitations that dictate the conditions under which he or she may begin an approach. Certainly, they should dictate that -- if the reported weather is below the minimums for the approach to be used -- the airplane should be flown on to an alternate.

Some will suggest that there is nothing wrong by trying an approach under those circumstances to see if the runway environment might be visible. However, there are too many things that can go wrong during any flight, such as an electrical or avionics failure, landing gear that won't extend properly, or an engine failure, to name a few. You are familiar with all of the potential problems that we train for. Why take a chance on encountering something like that when you know that there is virtually no way you will be able to make a safe landing? Should your engine fail under those conditions, you will be totally at the mercy of the terrain below, because you likely will not see the ground before the airplane strikes it.

Some pilots who fly under Part 135 ignore the rule that says they must have official weather and know that the airport is at or above minimums before they begin an approach. It seems that they feel this is one rule that the FAA looks the other way on. As long as nothing happens, that is.


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

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Leading Edge #6: Instructional Hazards

Flight instruction is pretty safe, but how can any pilot-caused accidents and incidents happen when two hyper-aware pilots are in the front seats? AVweb's Thomas P. Turner has done the research and developed a few theories.

Click here to read.

is bad. With adverse weather all but eliminated from the record, then, what might be the reason so many instructional mishaps take place? I think it's related to two human factors: what I call "instructor-induced stupidity" and flight-instructor complacency.

Instructor-Induced Stupidity

[IMGCAP(2)]

I must credit a student of mine with coining the phrase "instructor-induced stupidity", or IIS, to describe the tendency of a flight student to defer decision-making or responding to aircraft indications when there's an instructor on board. From the student's standpoint it's easy to think, "My instructor will take care of me," or that the CFI has somehow manipulated aircraft indications or maneuvered the student into a decision-making position (such as the need for a go-around) as part of the instructional process.

As my student noted, it's easy for the student in such cases to mentally sit back to see what might happen next. The potential is even more pronounced if the CFI has a lot more experience than the student (an airline captain, for instance) or if the instructor is considered an "expert" in the type. After all, the CFI is usually logging time as pilot-in-command regardless of the student's qualifications.

In fact, the student must be aware that he has definite responsibilities for the safe outcome of the flight, just as does the CFI. No one is perfect, so abdicating responsibility to the person in the right seat can't always be the right thing to do. The CFI absolutely must be vigilant to the safety of the instructional mission -- more on that shortly. But the pilot receiving instruction should act as if he is alone in the cockpit and respond to situations and indications just in case the instructor is distracted at exactly the wrong moment.

It Works Both Ways

[IMGCAP(3)]

There's another side to the "instructional hazards" coin -- instructor complacency. Consider this typical CFI duty day:

Get to the airport at 7:30 a.m. Brief and fly one hour of touch-and-goes in a fixed-gear single with a pre-solo student. Fly with a second student, working on her instrument rating, for a two-hour mission. Perform stalls, ground reference maneuvers and pattern work with two pre-solo students, and then an hour of takeoffs and landings with a student checking out in a retractable-gear airplane. Break for a couple hours and come back to the airport for another instrument dual session. Cap it off with half an hour of night takeoffs and landings with a student preparing for her private checkride. Get up the next day and do it all over again.

Or this instructional mission:

Fly maneuvers, instrument procedures, takeoff and landings and simulated emergencies for five hours in a single day with the owner of a light twin who you've flown with before and who has demonstrated great skill in flying the airplane he's owned for several years.

It's easy after the third or fourth student of the day, or the fifth or sixth trip round the traffic pattern, or with a student you've flown with several times, to become complacent. Trust me, I've been there. It's a nasty wake-up call for a CFI for the student to do something unexpected, or to find yourself thinking something besides what you're doing at the moment. Also, just because the student has a lot of time in the airplane, has professional credentials (in and outside aviation) or a strong personality does not mean that the instructor can be any less vigilant.

A measure of a good instructor is the ability to remain focused on the task under way, as well as see-and-avoid and other aspects of being the flight's designated safety officer. The instructor that detects herself daydreaming or missing radio calls and checklist steps should immediately terminate the instructional flight unless she can return her concentration and discipline to the moment. I've learned that focusing on standard operating procedures and remembering I'm ultimately responsible for the safe outcome of the flight is the best defense against instructor complacency.

Case Study: Cory Lidle

[IMGCAP(4)]

Might instructor-induced lapse of judgment and instructor complacency have played a part in the New York City crash that killed Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and his flight instructor, Tyler Stanger? Although the flight was not "instructional" in the true sense, Stanger was Lidle's CFI and Lidle had told reporters a few days before the crash he was "planning to get up in the air with Stanger [that] week to work on instrument training exercises." So there was a definite student/instructor dynamic in the cockpit of Lidle's Cirrus.

As of this writing (June 2007) the NTSB's final report is not yet posted on-line (although the preliminary report is available), but significant post-crash analysis in the aviation and non-aviation media (like AVwebFlash) support that the Cirrus may have been unable to complete a 180˚ turn to avoid Class B airspace at the north end of New York's East River, after flying up near the river's centerline and then turning left with a significant wind from the right. Without placing blame on either party, it's possible to envision a scenario where Lidle chose to fly up the center of the river and Stanger did not correct him, or that Stanger chose the ground track and Lidle acquiesced given his relationship with the CFI. In either event, my opinion is the student/instructor relationship, left uncorrected, may have played a part in the decisions that ultimate led to their impact with a high-rise Manhattan building.

Overcoming Instructional Hazards

[IMGCAP(5)]

As a CFI, I include the following briefing items on my checklist to review with students before we start up:

  • You will be acting as pilot-in-command of the flight (assuming the student is qualified and current).
  • Fly as if you are alone in the airplane. Don't depend on me to tell you what to do.
  • If you see anything abnormal, or feel the need to go around, miss an instrument approach or accomplish an emergency procedure, go ahead and do so -- you won't be wrong. We may later discuss the indications and options you faced, but always act in the direction of safety.
  • Tell me anything you think should be brought to my attention. This improves safety and also helps me gauge how well I'm getting across the point of the lesson.

I also consider the following for myself as an instructor:

  • I am ultimately responsible for the safe outcome of the flight, regardless of the student's experience, his professional credentials or the force of his personality.
  • Safety is my first responsibility, with instructional goals important but a second priority.
  • My student may point out indications, traffic or other things that I'm not aware of. If that happens, I need to concentrate more on the safety aspect of my job.
  • Diligent adherence to checklists and standard operating procedures will help prevent instructor complacency.
  • If I find myself going off-task in the airplane, it's time to terminate the lesson.

Fly safe, and have fun!


Thomas P. Turner's Leading Edge columns are collected here.

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What's New

NEW PRODUCTS: JUNE 2007
This month AVweb's survey of the latest products and services for pilots, mechanics and aircraft owners brings you prop locks, oxygen systems, tri-color flashlights and much more.

 
EAA AirVenture Oshkosh Is the World's Greatest Aviation Celebration!
It's aviation's family reunion, bringing together the innovation, passion, and pride of every facet of flight. Join EAA at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, on July 23-29 for the people, airplanes, and knowledge that are unmatched anywhere else in the world. For aviators, nowhere else has the magic of "Oshkosh." Be part of it this year! For more information, click here. For more information, click here.
 
AVweb Audio News -- Are You Listening 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 Vince Scott explain how he used a little electronic wizardry when his engine ate an exhaust valve at 7,000 feet in IMC. And AVweb's podcast index includes interviews with Reason Foundation's Robert Poole; SATSair's Sheldon Early; Epic Aircraft's Rick Schrameck; AOPA's Randy Kenagy; Eclipse Aviation's Vern Raburn; Xwind's Brad Whitsitt; BoGo Light's Mark Bent; DayJet's Ed Iacobucci; Pogo Jet's Cameron Burr; Teal Group's Richard Aboulafia; 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; and AOPA's Andrew Cebula. In Monday's podcast, hear NBAA Southeast Rep. Harry Houckes on aviation issues affecting the region. Remember: In AVweb's podcasts, you'll hear things you won't find anywhere else.

 
Attention, LSA Builders & ROTAX 912 Engine Operators
ASA, the industry's leader in aviation supplies, software, and publications, offers the ROTAX Engine Introduction DVD with tips and techniques for trouble-free operation of Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) with the ROTAX engine. This DVD also provides an introduction to the specific concepts important to maintaining the ROTAX 912. Go online for complete details and bonus features!
 
Question Of The Week back to top 
 

Question of the Week: The FAA vs. NATCA — Who's Telling the Truth (or More of It) about the Controller Crisis?

This Week's Question | Previous Week's Answers

PREVIOUS RESULTS ***

Last week, AVweb pointed out that Marion Blakey's tenure as FAA Administrator is scheduled to end in three short months and asked who might make a good replacement.

This proved to be a popular question, drawing more than 5,000 votes over the weekend and even (temporarily) breaking our vote-counting script. When the dust had settled (and even before, to be honest), former NATCA president John Carr led the pack. AOPA President Phil Boyer and Blakey herself drew significant support in our "mock election," but those union guys can really get out the vote, and Carr pulled in more than 80% of our readers' responses.

We also received more than a few e-mails offering up other candidates whom we didn't list — everyone from Boeing's Neil Planzer to Donald Rumsfeld to Bob Barker, including our own Kevin Garrison ("CEO of the FAA"?).

A complete breakdown of the responses can be viewed here.
(You may be asked to register an answer, if you haven't already.)

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) and the FAA for months have been trading barbs about controller staffing, hiring, and retirement. Do you believe NATCA, which says there is a controller crisis looming — or do you believe the FAA, which says that it is staffing facilities to traffic and has adequately planned for hiring and retirements?

Click here to answer.


Have an idea for a new "Question of the Week"? Send your suggestions to .

NOTE:
This address is only for suggested "QOTW" questions, and not for "QOTW" answers or comments.
Use this form to send "QOTW" comments to our AVmail Editor.

 
If You Think "Bargains" Are Something Alien to Aviation — Think Again!
Spending hard-earned money on your aircraft and its avionics can be expensive. But don't think good deals aren't available in today's marketplace. Bennett Avionics provides pilots with quality avionics to meet their needs and maintain their budget. Before you buy anywhere else, check out Bennett Avionics at (860) 653-7295 or online. You'll be glad you did!
 
FBO Of The Week back to top 
 

FBO Of The Week: Great Lakes Air

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Great Lakes Air at K83D in St. Ignace, Mich.

AVweb readers Andrea and Tim Olson said the FBO's staff and service were outstanding.

"We had just touched down and were still rolling out down the runway when we were greeted over the Unicom with a very friendly 'Hello, Welcome to Great Lakes Air, will you be needing any fuel today?' At the fuel pump (with very reasonable fuel prices for the area), the staff was friendly and truly enjoyed talking aviation. The staff brought the courtesy car around to the plane, and even helped me unload the plane and pack the car while my husband, the pilot, 'talked planes.' The courtesy car was available for us to have until the next morning, so we were able to enjoy the Mackinac Bridge, see the area sites, and have a great dinner. Sally, the resident Golden Retriever, was very well behaved and kept our young daughters busy while we paid for fuel. A family friendly, reasonable, well maintained FBO located in a beautiful part of Michigan, in it for the love of aviation."

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
 
Pictures Of The Week back to top 
 

Picture of the Week: AVweb's Flying Photography Showcase

Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions | Past Winners

Each week, we go through dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of reader-submitted photos and pick the very best to share with you on Thursday mornings.  The top photos are featured on AVweb's home page, and one photo that stands above the others is awarded an AVweb baseball cap as our "Picture of the Week."  Want to see your photo on AVweb.com?  Click here to submit it to our weekly contest.

*** THIS WEEK'S WINNERS ***

The run-up to AirVenture has begun!  Getting ready for the big show seems to affect everyone in aviation, including "Picture of the Week" contenders:  Only 64 submissions trickled in this week, but even thought the quantity lagged, quality remained high.  In fact, this is the toughest time we've had picking which photos would make it into the Thursday issue in the last several months.  If you're not already in the habit of visiting AVweb's home page to view the bonus pictures in our slideshow, this would be a good week to start.  There are plenty of great photos to be found over there.

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copyright © Larry Raulston
Used with permission

In the Light of the Moon

The moon was a recurring motif in many of this week's submissions.  Larry Raulston of Neosho, Missouri made several attempts at catching pilot Kyle Franklin silhouetted against the moon before this top-shelf photo caught him by surprise.

 

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copyright © Michael S. Whaley
Used with permission

Powered Parachuting over Melbourne Beach, FL

"These powered parachute pilots were having a ball flying over the beach a couple of months ago," writes Michael S. Whaley of Melbourne, Florida.  "The dome is an Air Force optical tracking station used to track the unmanned and manned rocket launches from Cape Canaveral, which is about 35 miles north."

 

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Used with permission of Vivian Lee

Father's Day Co-Pilot

Nick Pliam took aboard his five-year-old daughter Portia as co-pilot for this Father's Day flight.  "It was hard to say who was prouder," writes photographer Vivian Lee, of Los Altos, California.

 

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Used with permission of Don Rutherford

Up Close and A-O.K.

Don Rutherford of Lake Forest, California snapped this shot of Rob Hayford blind (and possibly over his shoulder) in a Stearman over Corona, California.

 

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Used with permission of Theresa White

The End of the Rainbow

As we come to the end of another edition of "POTW," Theresa White of Midwest City, Oklahoma delivers up our latest pot o' gold.


Remember:  You'll find more reader-submitted photos in the "POTW" slideshow on AVweb's home page.

To enter next week's contest, click here.

A quick note for submitters:  If you've got several photos that you feel are "POTW" material, your best bet is to submit them one-a-week!  That gives your photos a greater chance of seeing print on AVweb, and it makes the selection process a little easier on us, too.  ;)

A Reminder About Copyrights: Please take a moment to consider the source of your image before submitting to our "Picture of the Week" contest. If you did not take the photo yourself, ask yourself if you are indeed authorized to release publication rights to AVweb. If you're uncertain, consult the POTW Rules or send us an e-mail.

 
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 Editor Mary Grady (bio) and Editor In Chief Chad Trautvetter.

Click here to send a letter to the editor. (Please let us know if your letter is not intended for publication.)

Comments or questions about the news should be sent here.

Have a product or service to advertise on AVweb? A question on marketing? Send it to AVweb's sales team.

If you're having trouble reading this newsletter in its HTML-rich format (or if you'd prefer a lighter, simpler format for your PDA or handheld device), there's also a text-only version of AVwebFlash. For complete instructions on making the switch, click here.

Aviate, navigate, communicate.