AVwebFlash - Volume 12, Number 44a

October 29, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Bombardiers Grounded back to top 

SAS Permanently Grounds Q400 Fleet

Bombardier insists its Q400 airliners are safe despite SAS's decision to "permanently" ground its fleet of 27 of the aircraft after a partial gear-up landing in Copenhagen Saturday. The decision came after the airline's third landing-gear-related emergency landing in a little more than a month. But Bombardier said in a statement that Saturday's incident did not appear to be related to the two previous incidents and it advised carriers using the aircraft to continue as normal. The right main gear failed to deploy on the SAS Q400 at Copenhagen Airport. The flight crew was able to slide it safely to a stop on the foam-covered runway with no injuries to the 44 people, including two infants, on board. In a news release, SAS management said the airline and its customers were losing confidence in the aircraft.

"Confidence in the Q400 has diminished considerably and our customers are becoming increasingly doubtful about flying in this type of aircraft," CEO Mats Jansson said. "Accordingly, with the Board of Directors' approval, I have decided to immediately remove Dash 8 Q400 aircraft from service." In mid-September, after two landing-gear-related mishaps involving SAS aircraft, Transport Canada issued an airworthiness directive (AD) ordering inspection of landing gear mechanisms on all aircraft with more than 10,000 cycles. Q400s carried about 5 percent of SAS's passengers and the airline says there will be service disruptions while it redeploys other aircraft and leases planes to fill the void.

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Wildfires and General Aviation back to top 

Southern California G.A. Waits Out Fires

GA pilots have been doing their share in the battle against wildfires in California — largely by staying out of the way. "People are being pretty sensible about it," Roger Griffiths, airport manager at Gillespie Field in El Cajon, Calif., near San Diego, told AVweb Friday Though local pilots have been grounded by temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) in place to support firefighting efforts, the skies above San Diego County are buzzing with activity. Aircraft ranging from helicopters and single-engine air tankers (SEAT) to a DC-10 and a 60-year-old Martin Mars flying boat brought in from British Columbia are being used to attack the fires, which forced the evacuation of more than a million people last week. Griffiths said two of the three runways at his airport were closed and turned into parking ramps for helicopters, as many as 30 at a time.

But not all GA activity has stopped. And even amid the fires, the show must go on. Evelyn Hall, co-owner of Chuck Hall Aviation at Ramona Airport, about 20 miles northeast of San Diego, told AVweb her husband Chuck was able to take off from there in his P-51 to meet up with an F-16 for a heritage flight at an unnamed air show. The couple runs Chuck Hall Aviation, which has been busy fueling tankers and helicopters. Ramona Airport Manager Bo Donovan said the TFR over his airfield was lifted Friday night until daybreak Saturday, allowing GA flights. Donavan said Friday night was the first time the FAA lifted the TFR, saying it's a "good first sign" things will be returning to normal soon.

Fingerpointing Starts Over Firefighting Helicopter Delays

San Diego politicians say foot-dragging by state officials kept 24 firefighting helicopters on the ground for a full day last week, critically hampering firefighting efforts in the early stages as the blazes gathered strength. The helicopters, operated by the military, were grounded because a state regulation requires that all firefighting choppers have a "fire spotter" on board and there weren't enough available. By the time the helicopters were allowed to take off it was too windy for them to fly. On Wednesday the state waived the regulation but now the heat is on state officials to explain the delay in doing so.

"When you look at what's happened, it's disgusting, inexcusable foot-dragging that's put tens of thousands of people in danger," Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican congressman from California, told the London Daily Telegraph. Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Saturday the state will review its policies. "There are things that we could improve on and I think this is what we are going to do because a disaster like this, you know, really, in the end is a good vehicle, a motivator for everyone to come together," he told a news conference. Two Air National Guard C-130s also sat idle because they haven't yet been retrofitted with fire-retardant tanks.

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News Briefs back to top 

Controller Alerts Police To Suspected Impaired Pilot

An air traffic controller called police to report a pilot he believed was drunk at the controls and the cops in Mitchell, S.D., later arrested a 65-year-old man on various alcohol- and drug-related charges. The controller became suspicious of the pilot's slurred speech and his apparent difficulty holding altitude on Thursday. According to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, when police met the Mooney after it landed, they found open liquor in the cockpit, a container of prescription drugs without a prescription and a pilot they allege had obviously been drinking.

The pilot, who is from Flora, Ill., was given a field sobriety test and determined to have been under the influence of alcohol, according to a police statement quoted by the newspaper. "Right now you have to worry about people in motor vehicles that are drinking and one thing we shouldn't have to worry about is the safety of our pilots in the air," Mitchell Police Sgt. Ryan Erickson told Keloland Television.

West Indies Company Plans Unique Commuter Plane

Click for a Larger Image

Integrity Aircraft Holdings Ltd. (IAHL) of Nevis, in the West Indies, recently announced it will develop an 18-20-seat commuter aircraft with a single 1,100-hp Honeywell TPE 331-12 mounted on the tail. The aircraft is similar in appearance to the British-built Britten-Norman Trislander, which has three piston engines, one each on the wings and the third on the tail. In news releases appearing on stock watch Web sites, IAHL CEO Peter Van Dyke said the single tail-mounted turboprop offers numerous advantages over conventional configurations, including the ability to leave the engine running while loading and unloading, thus cutting the number of start cycles on the engine. Van Dyke said he expects to sell the aircraft for $1.9 million and, although it's strictly a paper airplane at this stage, he's hoping for certification sometime next year.

The aircraft appears to be designed for short-haul service between small airports, like those operated by Caribbean airlines. The original name for the aircraft was the Island Hopper but it's been changed to the Integrity. The company claims STOL capability off unimproved strips with a cruise speed of 170 knots. Gross weight is about 10,000 pounds. The company says it has U.S. patents on the design.

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News Briefs back to top 

Flight Schools Gear For Pilot Shortage

Pundits say the traditional training models for professional pilots are changing and there's never been a better time for young people to get in the left seat. In an extensive feature in Florida Today, various institutions say a looming pilot shortage should also make it much easier for students to get the training they need and the jobs that will follow. "It means a big shift, as far as where pilots are trained," Louis Smith, president of the Internet-based pilot information resource FLTops.com, told the newspaper.

Smith said airlines can no long count on the military as the pipeline for turbine-ready pilots because the Air Force and other air arms are realizing the investment they have in those pilots and are offering incentives to keep them flying in uniform. Martha Lynn Craver, an associate editor for The Kiplinger Letter, said airlines will have to start subsidizing training costs and offering job guarantees (not to mention pay rates above food-stamp levels) to attract the new pilots they'll need when the current bubble of baby boomers retires.

Myrtle Beach Votes Itself $7 Million Bill

Keeping up appearances will cost Myrtle Beach-area taxpayers $7 million. The Myrtle Beach Sun-News says the FAA has sent Horry County, which encompasses Myrtle Beach International Airport, a bill for that amount because it didn't go through with a terminal project. The county and FAA spent a total of about $18 million on clearing the site and designing the building before the Community Appearance Board quashed the project last April. The FAA says it paid the money on the condition that the project go through and now it wants it back.

The bill could have been higher, according to FAA officials. The agency also chipped in an unknown amount for buying the property but since it could still be used for the airport in the future it's not asking for that money back. The county has until Dec. 10 to pay the money back but FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Cory said the agency is willing to negotiate a payment plan. County officials say they expected to pay back about $1 million. The full amount is available from airport revenues but that would cut into budgets for future projects, like renovation of the existing terminal.

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More Travel Travails back to top 

JFK Flight Caps Rile New Yorkers

New York politicians, business groups and tourism officials have joined the chorus of opposition to a proposal by the FAA to limit flights into John F. Kennedy Airport to a maximum of 81 during peak hours and 80 for most of the rest of the day. Instead, the "broad coalition" opposing the proposal is saying the FAA should get its own house in order and fast-track modernization efforts, facilities improvements and airspace redesign to reduce the number of flight delays at the airport. "We must act now to reduce delays. However, the solution on which the FAA is currently focused - a cap on the number of flights at JFK - is, in truth, no solution at all," New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine said in a joint letter to Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters.

Opponents to the plan say it will put the number of flights into JFK at the same level as the late 1960s and prevent more than 3.4 million passengers from getting there. The coalition says improved radar, more taxiways, a new westbound departure route and improved "navigation and surveillance systems to reduce spacing between aircraft" should be undertaken instead of simply capping flights.

A380 Beds For Sleeping, Says Airline

Considering the areas of aircraft that have served the carnal desires of their occupants, it would seem likely that the private suite with double bed that Singapore Airlines has installed on its A380 would be creating a little turbulence of its own on every flight. But if the airline has anything to do with it (and good luck with this) the first-class section will not become headquarters of the Mile High Club. "If couples used our double beds to engage in inappropriate activity, we would politely ask them to desist," company spokesman Stephen Forshaw told the Times of London. "There are things that are acceptable on an aircraft and things that aren't, and the rules for behavior in our double beds are the same ones that apply throughout the aircraft."

And that seems a shame say the first occupants of the exclusive space. Tony and Julie Elwood paid plenty to recline in the suite on the A380's first flight from Singapore to Sydney last week and said the accommodations and the rule are at odds. "So they'll sell you a double bed, and give you privacy and endless champagne — and then say you can't do what comes naturally?" Tony told the Times. "Seems a bit strange." Julie agreed. "They seem to have done everything they can to make it romantic short of bringing round oysters."

On the Fly ...

The FAA has imposed a temporary flight restriction (TFR) within the Washington Flight Restricted Zone. The one nm diameter TFR is in effect Tuesday for the demolition of the Woodrow Wilson bridge ... .

Three Calgary, Alberta men died Friday when their Piper Malibu crashed in the Rocky Mountains west of Calgary in an unsuccessful forced landing at a small airport in Fairmont Hot Springs Resort. The aircraft lost power at 21,000 feet and the pilot tried to glide to a landing ... .

A Virgin Airways first officer was detained Sunday after officials suspected he was preparing for a flight from Heathrow to Miami while under the influence. He's been suspended by the airline pending the outcome of the police investigation.

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New on AVweb back to top 

Probable Cause #44: Dark Departure

If humans had been meant to fly at night, they would have been given better internal gyros.

Click here for the full story.

Night flying can be one of the most enjoyable ways a pilot can exercise his or her flight privileges. The air is generally smoother, there usually is less traffic (unless you're flying near Memphis or Louisville) and any traffic will be easier to spot. Too, clear nights away from city lights afford pilots a much clearer view of the moon and stars, which always seem closer.

But night flying brings not only change, but challenge. The same dark conditions that make it easier to spot an illuminated object or aircraft can make it impossible to identify something without lights. That lack of light wreaks havoc on the human eye's ability to detect objects, literally lending motion to fixed objects, changing their color and, at even moderate altitudes, severely limiting our ability to acquire distant or dimly lit objects.

The eye's limitations can be especially insidious when we consider that we need light in the cockpit to read and understand our instruments and charts. Then, we want to minimize that illumination when trying to look outside. When we consider that the human eye can require as much as 30 minutes to become fully adapted to low-light or nighttime conditions, poorly designed cockpit lighting, bright ramp and terminal illumination, and reflections all work against pilots flying at night. That's especially true for pilots unable or unwilling to control the aircraft by referring to instruments, and who may find themselves unable to identify a natural horizon.

The lack of available references a pilot needs to orient himself and the aircraft can be fatal. As the AOPA's Air Safety Foundation (ASF) says, "Humans are VFR-only creatures. The senses we use to maintain our balance and know 'which end is up' are completely unreliable when our bodies are in motion without visual reference to the world around us. Pilots deprived of visual references while flying can quickly lose control of the aircraft and succumb to one of general aviation's killers: spatial disorientation." The ASF goes on to define spatial disorientation as the "mistaken perception of one's position and motion relative to the earth" and notes that "Any condition that deprives the pilot of natural, visual references to maintain orientation, such as ... sky backgrounds with indistinct contrast (such as arctic whiteout or clear, moonless skies over water) can rapidly cause spatial disorientation. Pilots can compensate by learning to fly by reference to their instruments."

Spatial disorientation in so-called "white out" and "black hole" conditions has figured prominently in highly publicized fatal accidents, involving both personal aircraft and transport-category jets.


On Sept. 29, 2003, at approximately 0530 Mountain time, a Beech 35 Bonanza was destroyed when it impacted the ground shortly after takeoff. The accident site was 1.5 miles southwest of the departure point, the Alexander Municipal Airport in Belen, N.M., (E80). The non-Instrument-rated Commercial pilot, the airplane's sole occupant, was fatally injured. Night visual conditions prevailed.

The NTSB used the airplane's GPS navigator to determine the pilot initiated his takeoff roll from Runway 21 at 5:28:53. At 5:30:03, the pilot initiated a right turn and, according to the retrieved data, the airplane's speed increased from 93 mph at the start of the turn to 151 mph at the time of impact.

The pilot turned 113 degrees in 22 seconds with a rate of turn calculated to be five degrees per second, indicating a relatively steep bank; a standard-rate turn is three degrees per second. Albuquerque Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) radar data indicates that the airplane climbed to approximately 300 feet AGL. But that's as much altitude as it got.

The airplane was found almost 12 hours later by an individual driving on a nearby road.

Weather conditions at the nearby Albuquerque International Airport at the time of the accident included wind from 130 degrees at seven knots; visibility 10 statute miles and scattered clouds at 10,000 feet AGL. The moon was at 18-percent visible disk and had set the day before the accident at 2126. The sunrise on the day of the accident was at 0700, approximately 90 minutes before the accident.

The departure airport is a non-towered facility with a single runway oriented 030-210 degrees and equipped with pilot-controlled lights; there are no approach lights. The airport is located three miles west of the city of Belen. To the south, west and north of the airport, it is minimally populated and there are very few lights at night.


The impact site was approximately 4822 feet west of the departure end of Runway 21. The initial ground scar contained part of the right-wing-tip fuel tank; the wreckage debris field extended for 537 feet and was on a 330-degree heading.

All of the airplane's major components were accounted for at the accident site. The right wing was broken from the fuselage at its root, and remained connected only by its control cables. The wing's inboard 40 percent was bent up approximately 75 degrees and the remaining outboard section was separated and oriented downward approximately 75 degrees. The left wing remained attached to the fuselage, but its outer 60 percent was bent up approximately 40 degrees and bent aft. The landing gear was in the retracted position, as were the flaps. The cockpit and instrument panel were severely damaged with few readable components.

No pre-impact engine or airframe anomalies, which might have affected the airplane's performance, were identified.

Similarly, the NTSB could find no evidence of physical incapacitation or impairment of the pilot that would have caused the accident.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determined the probable cause of this accident to be the "pilot's failure to maintain aircraft control immediately after takeoff due to spatial disorientation. A factor was the dark-night light conditions."

That's a succinct, polite way to say the pilot flew the airplane into the ground because he couldn't fly it by reference to the panel-mounted instruments.

Spatial disorientation is a well-recognized and -understood phenomenon. Yet pilots continue to bend sheet metal because of it. For example, in the final report on John F. Kennedy, Jr.'s crash -- the probable cause of which was attributed to spatial disorientation -- the NTSB noted that FAA Advisory Circular (AC) 61-27C, "Instrument Flying: Coping with Illusions in Flight," states that "illusions or false impressions occur when information provided by sensory organs is misinterpreted or inadequate and that many illusions in flight could be caused by complex motions and certain visual scenes encountered under adverse weather conditions and at night."

The NTSB notes that another AC, 60-4A, "Pilot's Spatial Disorientation," states that tests conducted with qualified Instrument pilots indicated that it can take as long as 35 seconds to establish full control by instruments after a loss of visual reference of the earth's surface.

The pilot in this accident flew for longer than that. But not very much longer.

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.


AVweb's Monday Podcast: Secrets from the Tower — And a Few from Author/Controller Bob Richards

File Size 10.8 MB / Running Time 11:53

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

When Bob Richards retired as a controller after 22 years in the O'Hare tower, he had a lifetime of stories to tell, not all of them pretty. He put his fingers on the keys and tried to give an honest account of not just the stress and demands of the job, but the human achievment and sacrifice that go hand in hand with that uniquely challenging lifestyle. What resulted is Secrets from the Tower, a book that's captured the imagination of people from all walks of life and landed Richards on the morning news and talk show circuit. He told AVweb's Russ Niles about how he hopes the book will be an engine for change in the air traffic control system.

Click here to listen. (10.8 MB, 11:53)

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Flying Video from Around the Web back to top 

Video of the Week: Low-Flying Superscooper Fighting Fires Over Malibu

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

We know them as "waterbombers," "superscoopers," and "ducks," but when wildfires burn out of control (as they did this week throughout Southern California), Canadair's CL-series firefighters are nothing short of lifesavers. In this clip from CNN (posted on LiveLeak by user bellava), we see one such scooper flying low over Malibu, fighting out-of-control California wildfires.

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Your Favortie FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Minute Man (Minute Man Airfield at 6B6 in Stow, MA)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Minute Man Airfield at 6B6 in Stow, Massachusetts.

AVweb reader Dick Shafner recommended the FBO after spending some time there and discovering that (for piston pilot at least) "Minute Man Airfield has it all":

[Onwer Don and wife Nancy] still treat each incoming aircraft like it is their first customer. The motto on the Minute Man web site is "Where Piston Pilots Rule", and it certainly is. Fuel is cheap (pay cash and it is even cheaper) and there is always a friendly "hello" on the frequency when arriving or departing. ... And then there is Nancy's Airport Cafe. What a find. Locals consider it "the place to go" for breakfast and lunch during the week, and on Friday and Saturday nights Chef Nancy prepares gourmet meals in a very relaxed cafe setting.

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!

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The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

I do believe I tried to pass on this little edict many years ago without success, and since I never saw a response, I will try one more time, just for my old Yankee mate, Ken Sunderland:

An Aussie grazier flew his antique Auster aircraft to Mascot Airport, Sydney, some time back to enact some business at the offices of business acquaintances. Not being familiar with controlled airspace procedures, although making it safely to the airport, he required and requested guidance to the GA parking area.

Much later, after the completion of his business and returning to the airport, he eventually taxied out to the major runway 16, again guided by ATC to take his place in the queue for take-off clearance. When finally cleared to line up and subsequently cleared for take-off, his instructions were to call "123 airborne" (the departure frequency).

Applying maximum power and concentrating on keeping his aircraft on the centreline on the roll, the tail rose, and soon after the aircraft became airborne, whereupon the pilot pressed his transmit button and called ... "1-2-3 airborne"!

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Help Us Make the News back to top 

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Names Behind the News back to top 

Meet the AVwebFlash Team

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

The AVwebFlash team is:

Timothy Cole

Editorial Director, Aviation Publications
Paul Bertorelli

Russ Niles

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Glenn Pew

Features Editor
Kevin Lane-Cummings

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