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The pilot of a GA aircraft flying to Wisconsin was killed in a crash near Chicago Thursday. The crash set a house on fire in a residential area. Local news reports say the unidentified pilot was the only one on board the plane. The aircraft departed Florida, stopped in Tennessee and was headed for Oshkosh when it crashed in a neighborhood in Plainfield, adjacent to the city of Joliet, according to a CBS report

FAA investigators were on the scene and the aircraft was identified by the NTSB as a Piper PA-30 twin, according to a Chicago Tribune report. There were no reported injuries on the ground and one person who was alone in the house was able to evacuate when the crash occurred about 11:14 a.m., the report said. Residents in the neighborhood found debris scattered around the area, and authorities found debris as far as a mile away. Fire officials believe the aircraft crashed on the ground next to the house, setting it on fire. Also found were an engine, propeller and a fuel tank. Firefighters doused the house fire, which consumed the second floor of the structure.

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Facebook's new high-altitude drone flew for the first time and its mission, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is nothing short of changing the world. But first the frail high-altitude solar electric aircraft had to get off the ground. Zuckerberg was in Yuma, Arizona, on June 28 when Aquila, riding a dolly down the runway, was cut free by some pyrotechnic straps and climbed to 2,150 feet. "It was this incredibly emotional moment for everyone on the team who’s poured their lives into this for two years,” Zuckerberg told The Verge. The plan is for fleets of the ancestors of Aquila to bring really high-speed internet to every corner of the world. It's as ambitious as it is audacious but it's also essential, Zuckerberg said.

“I just felt this is such an important milestone for the company, and for connecting the world, that I have to be there,” Zuckerberg said. The idea is that thousands of relatively inexpensive drones will act as repeaters for the internet and beam AVweb, along with a lot of other stuff, to anyone who wants it for low cost. Zuckerberg said the information and education possibilities will lift billions of people out of poverty and enable the distribution of Facebook's artificial intelligence and virtual reality products. As for the drone, it's designed to cruise on sun power at about 70,000 feet and operate as a flying router, using laser signals to get the bandwidth to the ground, and it seems likely that a company with Facebook's resources will be able to make it work.

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A Pennsylvania pilot is lucky to be alive after his hand-propped vintage airplane spun out of control on the ramp Wednesday morning. WTAE reported that the 72-year-old man was hospitalized with multiple injuries, including to his head. Security cameras at the Joseph A. Hardy airport in Connellsville caught the accident on video, which showed the 1946 Aeronca Champ circling wildly on the ground before it veered off, struck a truck, then crashed into a hangar door. The owner had just started up the taildragger, but apparently didn’t check that the throttle was closed.

Two other men, including the owner of the truck, were on the ramp and ran towards the wayward aircraft as seen on the video, but were helpless as they had to avoid the plane until it came to a stop. “We were chasing it and it was chasing us,” one of the witnesses told the station. The Champ pilot tried to grab on as it began moving, but “it caught him behind the legs and flipped him and he went down,” he said. They stayed with the injured pilot until an ambulance arrived to take him to a local hospital, the station reported.

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The FAA has developed new protocols for ATC to use when telling pilots about runway conditions that might affect their landing. The new standards, which take effect Oct. 1, are meant to reduce the risk of runway overrun accidents and incidents due to runway contamination caused by weather and other factors, the FAA said. The new standards were developed after a committee examined a December 2005 overrun accident at Chicago Midway Airport, when a Southwest 737 ran off the end of the runway and into a street after landing during a snowstorm. A six-year-old boy in a car was killed.

The new standards, called “Takeoff and Landing Performance Assessment,” or TALPA, aim to directly relate to the way a particular aircraft is expected to perform given the actual runway conditions, according to the FAA. “TALPA improves the way the aviation community assesses runway conditions, based on contaminant type and depth, which provides an aircraft operator with the effective information to anticipate airplane braking performance,” the FAA said. More details about the new standards can be found at the FAA website.

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The Weekender's SocialFlight calendar has a full selection of airshows around the country prior to the annual AirVenture event next week in Wisconsin. On Saturday, Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma is celebrating its 75th year of pilot training with a full schedule of performers featuring the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. The Open House Air Show will showcase the Air Force with civilian aerial acts, vintage airplane displays and entertainment. Admission is free.

The Commemorative Air Force and EAA are joining forces for a fourth Heavy Bombers Weekend to be held this year in Janesville, Wisconsin. The three-day event starts Friday, featuring the B-29 Fifi, B-17 Aluminum Overcast, B-25 Yellow Rose, P-51 Mustang, C-45 Expeditor, T-6 Texans and many more.

The North Cascades Vintage Aircraft Fly-In in Concrete, Washington, kicks off Friday for the entire weekend, with awards going to participating aircraft in various categories. Enjoy flying, food and live music in the scenic region of the North Cascade Mountains. Tent camping along the runway is open, with local lodging also available.

The U. S. Navy Blue Angels will headline this weekend's 2016 Sioux Falls Power on the Prairie airshow in South Dakota. This free event and open house for the South Dakota Air National Guard will celebrate the unit’s 70th anniversary with formation flight performances and more, including F-16 and U.S. Marine Corps Harrier jet demos.

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AVweb’s search of news in aviation found announcements from Yingling Aviation, GlobalParts.aero, Gulf Coast Avionics and Dallas Airmotive ahead of next week’s AirVenture 2016 show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. After unveiling the comprehensively remanufactured Ascend 172 light single engine aircraft at last year’s AirVenture Fly-In and Convention, Yingling Aviation has taken another significant step in narrowing the gap between new and renovated airplanes by incorporating a number of customer-inspired enhancements into the 2016 version of the airplane they are displaying at AirVenture. GlobalParts.aero and Interceptor Aviation Inc. have created the Meyers 200 Air Racing Team and are encouraging existing Meyers 200 aircraft owners and operators to participate in the upcoming AirVenture Cup Air Race and three additional events in this summer's Sport Air Racing League (SARL) slate to "get the most out of the performance of the Meyers 200 and enjoy the airplane's design.” 

Rick Garcia, president and CEO of Gulf Coast Avionics, announced that the company has completed an avionics upgrade on a Pilatus PC-9 single-engine turboprop. The updated aircraft will be on display at the Pilatus Aircraft (Main Aircraft Display areas 124-139) pavilion during Oshkosh AirVenture 2016. "This is one of those unique types of projects our engineers and installers really enjoy working on," Garcia said. Dallas Airmotive announced that its new test facility at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport has been correlated for Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) PW200 series engines and Rolls-Royce M250 and RR300 engine lines. It is certified and has begun to test rotorcraft engines. Dallas Airmotive is the only P&WC Designated Overhaul Facility (DOF) for the P&WC PW200 and PW210 engines in the Americas.

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The great book Fate is the Hunter by Ernest K. Gann well describes the grip of fear that most have observed in our fellow pilots and perhaps in ourselves. Fear is of course a primordial, natural, and quite healthy reaction to unknown and threatening situations. Flying perfectly describes such a situation—an obvious venture away from the fundamental bounds of Mother Earth and familiar venues and sensations. For most of us, the initial apprehension of flight is soon overcome by the sheer joys it brings.

Instrument flight adds a completely new layer of psychology to the situation. Not only have we now lost physical contact with the Earth, but also we are no longer even in visual contact with what has provided visual orientation to our brains since birth. Almost completely devoid of reliable sensory inputs, pilots must force themselves to react to—and implicitly trust with their life—the workings of a smattering of little gauges in the instrument panel. For many this is a bigger step than even the first solo flight. 

Examining Fear

It is a sad fact that a majority of instrument rated pilots will never actually get their feet (or rather their airplanes) wet in actual instrument conditions. The result is that general aviation is less safe than it could be—and less useful as an efficient tool of transportation. That and the waste of teaching resources isn’t even half as discouraging as the fact IFR flight can be so much easier, relaxing, and all around more pleasurable than VFR flying under many conditions.

With respect to flying, fear takes several forms and may be called by other names—such as “heightened awareness.” 

Fear of clouds is a form of phobia known as nephophobia, but I don’t believe this psychological quirk has much to do with the problem. There are two distinct areas of concern to the pilot; 1) trust in the equipment and 2) trust in your own abilities to accomplish a complex task.

As a child, I was fascinated by spinning tops and gyros of all sorts. It was (and is) somewhat magical to me the concept of “rigidity in space” that so forcefully resists any attempt at interference. Yet this phenomena (and the even more mysterious latecomers of circling laser beams and vibrating crystals) is of course what keeps the attitude indicators artificial horizon aligned with its unobserved earthly cousin.

And though there is wonderment and awe in this, like so much else the technical and scientific modern life offers, confident and proficient instrument pilots must acquire an intimate knowledge of what they are dealing with—and to become confident with it. It is much easier to develop a trust in a system when you know the ins-and-outs of its function and the various levels of redundancy.

Fear of the unknown represents the weather phenomena that we are challenging. A benign overcast holds little, but a fast moving cold front can present all kinds of surprises.

False Impressions

The fear of the actual tasks of IFR flight rests largely on the misconception, often perpetuated by those who should know better, that flying on the gauges is particularly difficult. Certainly, it takes a dedicated academic effort coupled with appropriate flight instruction to achieve the required skills and techniques. Then it becomes a matter of developing the self-confidence to enter the mist above.

First, the airplane itself doesn’t know nor care if it’s in the clouds or in the clear. Second, most any autopilot connected to the appropriate avionics box can easily and reliably accomplish just about all phases of a typical flight, rain or shine—including what is usually known as the hardest part—an approach to minimums. The fact is most IFR flights are routine, dead simple, and requiring no more than the mechanical tracking of courses, headings, and altitudes by either the smart live pilot or the dumb autopilot.

There are circumstances due to weather, terrain or tasks, such as DME arc to a non-precision approach (in an aircraft without a moving map display), that can be mentally challenging—but these are the distinct exceptions.

Even if you fly most every working day (as I do), I would venture to say that on average, nine of 10 flights either end in a visual approach or a simple instrument letdown to VMC conditions below. How is this difficult? I think the way we train instrument pilots may itself ingrain a subconscious negative mindset.

Some pilots decided to get the instrument rating as an “insurance card” against the future possibility of inadvertently flying into IMC—they would have an increased chance of survival than the VFR-only pilot. Perhaps this accounts for the large number of “unused ratings.”

Training Environment

Typically, the instructor crams as much as possible into each flight hour. If every instrument flight you’ve ever done included several non-precision approaches, flying an often complex missed approach to holding, and then proceeding to an alternate for an ILS to minimums, this could create an aura of anxiety. Is it any wonder that many newly minted instrument pilots feel that getting their rating wet in actual conditions is beyond them?

So what to do? First, it would be nice to desensitize the pilot from the simple fear of flying in clouds. Unfortunately, many pilots earn their instrument rating without spending a single minute inside one. There are parts of the country where flyable IMC conditions may not prevail for weeks—if not months.

In an ideal world, we would start the training with simple, undemanding (read boring) flights with, as is often the case, only the cruise portion being in actual IMC. Of course, in the ideal world, there would always be a convenient cloud layer in which to cruise, with bases at 2000 feet AGL. You would file IFR and drone between two VORs with climbs, descents, and change of aircraft configuration. Then practice some holding, and when done, request a descent into visual conditions and land.

After a few hours of this mind-numbing experience, most pilots will be more comfortable with their ability (and their instrument’s capability) to keep the proverbial shiny-side-up.

The next step would obviously be to find lower ceilings and begin the process of executing instrument approaches to lower and lower minimums—preferably with better weather within range. As time and opportunity permits, you start tackling more challenging weather and types of approaches. Step-by-step you are making yourself a full-fledged instrument pilot and addressing the fear quotient.

Due to the practical constraints of location, cost and time, flight training in this ideal world is rarely possible. Therefore,  most pilots arrive at the end of the instrument check-ride with little or no time logged in IMC—and an unhealthy anxiety factor about flying in IMC.

An Alternative

Because it is doubtful that a prospective IFR pilot could conjure up weather that fits the instrument flight-training program, most proceed with the foggles (rain or shine) and the traditional training program. However, when ready for the checkride—or shortly thereafter—pilots should schedule some flight-time in one of the more IMC prone parts of the country, perhaps the Pacific Northwest for example. Arrange with a flight training operation there for instruction in conditions that will allow you to “see” the inside of a cloud and become comfortable with your newfound skills. There is no substitute for the real thing.

You don’t have to be a neophyte to execute this scenario. If you earned your rating years ago, you might consider taking some update training in a more IMC prone environment to acquire the self-confidence you’ve been lacking.

One more note. Just because you trained to execute a back-course localizer approach with seven DME fix step-down fixes doesn’t mean you have to do it. Let me tell you a little secret. I don’t. My fly-by-wire auto-land capable airliner can do just about anything I ask of it. Still, my employer has decided that there are some things we should not do. That includes dive-and-drive localizer or NDB approaches, or circling approaches in low IMC. Some big-whig in a glass palace has decided that the risk of performing these far outweigh their usefulness.

And, for once I actually agree with management.

Bo Henriksson is a captain with a regional carrier and has more than 15,000 flight hours.

This article originally appeared in the July 2014 issue of IFR Refresher magazine.

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If you didn’t take time to click on and watch this week’s video on a Navy E2C carrier mishap earlier this year, I recommend it. Put yourself in the pilot’s seat of the Hawkeye and you’ll appreciate the remarkable outcome.

As the story explains, the Hawkeye was involved in carrier workups off the North Carolina coast last March aboard the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower when a cross deck pendant parted just after the aircraft trapped and was decelerating. The investigation revealed that the arrestment gear was improperly configured for the weight and type of aircraft, causing the pendant to part.

As the video shows at about 0:30, the Hawkeye catches the four wire, which slows it considerably before breaking. This leaves the airplane in extremis at the very end of the deck, not scooting right along as it would be in a regular bolter. As you can see, the pilot doesn’t have much flying speed before sailing over the bow and disappearing from view, sinking like a stone. It takes no imagination at all to understand what has to happen next. With the airplane short of flying speed and the engines already at full power—carrier pilots are trained to open the throttles on touchdown in case of a bolter—it would take laser-like discipline to let the nose fall through a little to trade altitude for airspeed. But there’s not that much height—about 90 feet on a Nimitz class carrier, depending on the deck pitch state. As the water comes rapidly closer, the urge to pitch up would be overwhelming, countered perhaps by unshakeable faith in ground effect.

The other thing to think about is being run over by the ship if the airplane actually ditches. So would it be worth jinking a little left to get out of the way? I don’t think so. I dragged out my NATOPs manual and it looks to me like unless the airplane plopped right off the angle deck, it would clear the ship’s line of movement on the port side. When recovering aircraft, carriers steam so the wind over the deck is closely aligned with the angle deck. That means that the imaginary line describing the extended approach centerline is constantly moving to the pilot’s right to some degree, requiring a series of right corrections for line up. It also means that the ship would move to the right of an airplane that landed in the water off the angle deck, albeit it would have to be a few hundred feet beyond the bow to have a lot of clearance. 

Looking at the specs for the E2C, it has more than 10,000 HP which, according to Grumman, provides a power loading of 0.19 HP/lb. On paper, that makes it a bit of a hotrod, depending on weight. One airplane you’re familiar with which definitely is a hotrod is the Carbon Cub, whose power loading is about 0.13 HP/lb., but more like 0.15 or 0.16 if really light. A Carbon Cub—and others of its ilk—can power through a near stall condition with the nose high by simply hanging on the prop. Maybe an E2C at a light weight could do the same. But either way, when the Navy said the pilot displayed “phenomenal airmanship” in recovering the aircraft, they could be faulted for understatement.  

Another Ditching

Monday’s news feed brought news of yet another successful ditching, this one off Kona in the Hawaiian Islands. A Piper Apache with two aboard went into the water for unknown reasons. It happened about 3:15 p.m. local time. One of the news reports I saw said the two survived thanks to good equipment and good training. I’d never argue with success, but I’d also point out that perhaps the equipment and training wasn’t as good as it might have been.

Despite a radio call and apparently good position reports to ATC, the pair was in the water for some 20 hours. In other words, they spent a night at sea in life jackets, one of which was leaking. What could have improved their chances? A raft and signaling equipment. Coast Guard pilots will tell you that the probability of detection for a person in the water is quite low. A raft improves that and signaling devices improve it more. It’s not unreasonable to include this equipment on airplanes that are routinely flown over long stretches of open water. Signaling devices in or attached to the life vests are the best bet. (If they had this equipment, it wasn’t mentioned in the reports I saw.) A chem light or a small flashlight will flare like a beacon in the night vision gear search pilots use. 

You may recall that four years ago, I wrote about the ditching of an aeromedical Westwind off Norfolk Island near Australia. The pilot, whom I’ve interviewed several times, successfully got the airplane into the water in fresh seas and low visibility at night and got everyone evacuated. He had injured occupants and a stretcher patient. Quick recovery by boat turned on a small penlight he had in his shirt pocket for signaling. Everyone survived.

The two Hawaii victims benefitted from warm water—about 80 degrees this time of year, which translates to indefinite survival time. Had that happened in the 65-degree water off Bar Harbor or Santa Catalina, surviving overnight would have been unlikely. The accident record is rich with routine flights that started as a sunny afternoon lark and turned into a survival struggle in an eye blink. Survival often turns on the smallest things, like the habit of carrying basic survival and signaling equipment even though you know you’ll never need it. Until you do.

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Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

Mark Espenant of Ottawa, ON (Canada) takes us on a field trip to the CN Tower in our latest "Picture of the Week." Click through for a closer view and a gander at more photos from AVweb readers.

The following was heard as my wife and I were flying our Mooney over the northern tip of the Great Salt Lake a few days ago and communicating with Salt Lake Center.

Transient aircraft: "Center, do you have time for a question?"

SL Center: ”Sure, go ahead."

Transient aircraft: ”OK, this is the $65 question. Looking below, we can see a train track, shoreline and a reddish area with what look like waves. What is that all about?"

Silence for a short while, then a response from an airliner: "My daughter is a PhD biologist and explained to me that the red color comes from Halobacteria growing in the salt water."

Transient aircraft: "Thank you very much! You win the $65 prize and we greatly appreciate the explanation!"

SL Center: "That's a whole lot better than any explanation we could come up with here at Center."

Another short pause

Airliner: ”That PhD cost a lot more than $65."

The exchange is somewhat paraphrased, other than the punchline. We were laughing too hard by the end for me to copy the exact dialogue.


 

Dan Roberston 

 

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At 94, Major Fredric Arnold (ret.), sole surviving member of his WWII P-38 class-of-42J group, is sculpting a monumental bronze sculpture in memory of the more than 88,000 WWII U.S. airmen killed in action.

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