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NASA has chosen five new aviation-related technologies that it intends to study intently over the next two years as part of its ongoing Convergent Aeronautics Solutions project, the agency said recently. The researchers will focus on fuel cells, the use of 3D printing to improve electric-motor performance, energy storage in lithium-air batteries, ways to change the shape of a wing in flight, and a new antenna design based on the use of lightweight aerogel. “These five innovative concepts, in addition to six we selected in 2015, have the potential to help us solve some of the biggest challenges we face in aviation,” said Doug Rohn, NASA’s manager for the research program.

Rohn acknowledged that some of the research efforts might prove to be dead ends. “We're going to ask the questions and see if these ideas are feasible or not,” he said. “A successful feasibility assessment may determine the concept won’t work.” The work will be done by interdisciplinary teams of researchers at NASA centers in Virginia, California and Ohio. One of the research projects, the adaptive-wing concept, shown in this illustration, would enable part of the wing to fold up to a vertical position during the takeoff and landing phase of flight, acting as a rudder, so the tail could be smaller. During cruise flight, the smaller tail would add less drag, so the airplane could use its fuel more efficiently.

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An aerobatic trainer with a pilot and passenger veered off the runway during takeoff in California Wednesday and crashed into a hangar. The two men on board the SIAI-Marchetti SF260 were treated after the incident at Fullerton Municipal Airport for minor injuries, according to the Los Angeles Times. The pilot of the aircraft, operated by Air Combat USA, apparently lost control on takeoff, departed the runway and struck other airplanes before crashing into the hangar, local officials said.

The FAA is investigating. The aircraft and hangar sustained heavy damage, as seen in news photos, showing the SF260 wedged beneath the hangar door and the crumpled nose, which appears to have had a prop strike before it broke off the aircraft. Air Combat USA sells “be a fighter pilot for a day” flight packages in the SF260.

(Clarification: The aircraft nose in the photo appears to be that of the SF260, not a different aircraft.)

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The Airlander 10 made a nose-in landing Wednesday on its second test flight, interrupting the hybrid airship’s development. Hybrid Air Vehicles said in a statement the aircraft went for a 100-minute flight from Cardington Airfield in Bedfordshire. Everything went as planned during the test until the landing. “The Airlander experienced a heavy landing and the front of the flight deck has sustained some damage which is currently being assessed,” HAV said. “Both pilots and the ground crew are safe and well and the aircraft is secured and stable at its normal mooring location.” The company will continue its work and investigate the incident. 

A video on the Independent’s website showed the aircraft approaching for landing, then tipping nose-down.  News photos show the 300-foot-long Airlander on the ground sitting tail-high, intact but for a damaged cockpit. HAV denied reports from a witness that the aircraft had a dangling line that struck a telegraph pole, according to a BBC report. The U.K.’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch told the BBC it’s looking into the cause of the hard landing but did not send a crew to Cardington. The aircraft, which combines engine propulsion with a helium-filled envelope, first flew on Aug. 17.

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The Piper Navajo that crashed in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, this month, killing all six people aboard, had two fuel pump failures in flight. The twin had departed Orlando, Florida, Aug. 14 bound for Oxford, Mississippi. At 11:11 a.m., the private pilot reported a fuel pump failure to ATC and requested a diversion to the nearest airport, according to the NTSB’s preliminary report this week. A controller vectored the Piper to Tuscaloosa Regional Airport. About 10 miles from the field, the pilot reported failure of "the other fuel pump" and the aircraft descended until crashing into trees about 1650 feet from Runway 30 at KTCL, the report said. Investigators found a flight log found in the aircraft showing the pilot had flown the Navajo since March 2016 and logged about 48 hours in it.

The NTSB also released a preliminary report on a Beech Baron crash this month that killed six people in Virginia in what appeared to be a go-around and low-altitude stall. Investigators reported the Beech left Shelbyville, Indiana, on Aug. 12 with two pilots and four others after the owner/pilot purchased fuel. The aircraft flew to Shannon Airport in Fredericksburg, where witnesses reported it “appeared to be high above the threshold and fast.” The Beech floated down Runway 24 “before touching down briefly and bouncing several times,” the report said. It then lifted off again and climbed, drifted right of the runway centerline and turned left about 50 feet off the ground. The report did not indicate whether the twin was producing go-around power. It then pitched up and rolled left before crashing. A post-crash fire consumed the fuselage, the NTSB reported.


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Looking to fly somewhere for free food? has some options plus camp-out events for The Weekender. EAA Chapter 1479 in Missouri will host a fly-in Saturday to kick off the Sound of Speed Airshow and Concert, sponsored by the city of St. Joseph and the 139th Airlift Wing. Fly-in pilots eat free and arrivals can receive a fuel discount. The airspace closes at noon for the show, which runs Saturday and Sunday.  

Join the fun run/walk Saturday at the Air Fair & 5K on the Runway in Eugene, Oregon. The event also features aircraft displays, Young Eagles flights, food trucks, exhibits, an airline ticket giveaway, live music and a beer garden.

Also in Oregon, camp under the wing at Albany Municipal for the Northwest Art & Air Festival, which runs Friday through Sunday. Infinite Air Center will provide a farewell cookout Sunday afternoon for fly-in pilots.

On Saturday in Lexington, North Carolina, the local schools and Fly High Lexington will host the 7th Annual Big Toy Day at Davidson County Airport. Take in a variety of airplanes, cars, boats, motorcycles and more, and enjoy Lexington-style barbecue while there. Fly-ins get fuel discounts, and the first five arrivals receive a t-shirt or hat.

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AVweb's search of aviation news worldwide found announcements from Bell Helicopter, USAIG, Pathways to Aviation and Thrush Aircraft. Bell Helicopter announced its joint participation with sister company Textron Aviation at the 13th annual Latin American Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition (LABACE) held Aug. 30 through Sept. 1 at Aeroporto de Congonhas at São Paulo, Brazil. In static display, Bell Helicopter will feature the Bell 429 MAGnificient, the Bell 407GXP and the Bell 505 Jet Ranger X. USAIG introduced Performance Vector Unmanned, created specifically for policyholders who insure unmanned aircraft systems. It serves to keep safety at the forefront, which is especially critical considering that UAS outnumber registered manned aircraft.  

Pathways to Aviation announced an Aviation Learning Center expansion during the Reno National Championship Air Races to accommodate over 5000 elementary, middle, high school and college students for five days of hands-on learning, exhibits, classes and presentations. This year they are expanding the Aviation Learning Center from 4800 square feet to over 104,000 square feet, over 2 acres, for students to attend during the Air Races. Thrush Aircraft continued its strong commitment to expansion of its factory authorized service center network with the addition of Charles Chalking S.A. to its growing worldwide presence. Located in Paysandú, Uruguay, Charles Chalking S.A. is the country’s oldest and well-respected aerial application company, providing a wide range of services to the agricultural aviation community from extensive aircraft maintenance – including a propeller shop and full aircraft rebuilds – to spray work and even flight training for new ag pilots. 

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Partial panel is often viewed as a loss of vacuum instruments—the gyros. In reality you have a partial panel any time you lose one or more of the required instruments regardless of how they are powered or even their particular function. Losing any instrument deprives you of information that may have a crucial impact on the safety of the flight. Few pilots think of the thermometer as an important instrument but when flying through clouds in the winter, it becomes vital. 

Pilots have become very dependent on the attitude indicator (AI)—probably too dependent. This instrument is critical to the safety of flight in IMC conditions. Pilots tend to forget it is not normally a primary instrument except when establishing a change in attitude for the aircraft. As a refresher, the primary pitch instruments are airspeed indicator and altimeter; primary bank are heading indicator (or mag compass) and turn and bank indicator and primary power are tach/mp gauge and airspeed indicator.

AIs can be vacuum or electrically powered. The emergence of glass panels has given the attitude indicator a new look and feel and (fortunately) a mandatory conventional AI as a backup. With today’s glass cockpits, a loss of the AI is not quite as serious as it is for pilots flying steam gauges.

With almost every cockpit sporting some form of GPS, the loss of a gyrocompass is likewise not as serious as in the past. There is less need to resort to timed turns or compensating for magnetic compass turning errors on the loss of a gyrocompass.

Older cockpits typically do not have all the bells and whistles of the newer cockpits. A vacuum pump failure may not elicit a warning light or a gyro gradually spinning down may not display an error flag. Loss of vacuum may be the more desired scenario since it tends to reveal itself faster than a gradually failing gyro instrument—the most insidious and dangerous type of instrument failure.

Stuff Happens

On a recent IFR trip, I had the displeasure of experiencing the loss of the AI. The symptoms were subtle. According to the AI the nose of my aircraft was slightly high. Cross checking with my other instruments I was flying straight and level. A quick check of the vacuum gauge showed plenty of suction. So, I adjusted the miniature airplane to the artificial horizon. This continued over the next 30 minutes. It was readily apparent something was wrong when I could no longer adjust the miniature airplane to the artificial horizon. During this time bank appeared to function normally on the AI. It wasn’t until the AI bottomed out that the gyro finally tilted over and died.

Fortunately, I had several things going in my favor. First, I had an electrically powered HSI so I retained reliable directional information. While there was no indication of a vacuum pump failure gauges are known to read incorrectly so I was still glad I had the electric HSI. For those with vacuum powered gyrocompasses, crosschecking the gyrocompass frequently with the magnetic compass could help spot a pending failure sooner. While all gyrocompasses precess over time due to internal friction, experientially you have a feel for how rapidly this normally occurs for your particular airplane. 

Providentially, I had just completed an IPC, which included partial panel work. Having that recent experience may have saved my life. When is the last time you flew partial panel? Third, I was already alert that something was not quite right with the AI so I was mentally prepared for its inevitable demise. Fourth, and very importantly, my aircraft was trimmed for straight-and-level flight. I have the good fortune to own a plane that can be trimmed around all three axes. Being in trim makes partial panel flying easier. Lastly, the failure occurred in calm air.

When an instrument fails, maintain the cardinal rule of: aviate, navigate, and then communicate. As often suggested, cover the offending instruments. But how many pilots have something readily at hand to do that? Keep some instrument covers in the flight bag. A small pad of sticky notes works well, but stay focused on flying the aircraft. Since it was night, I loosened the bulb over the AI so while it was still visible it was not nearly as discernible as the other instruments.

Many applications that can run on a tablet or smart phone can provide a pseudo instrument panel. I would not want to trust my life to one of these without thoroughly testing how well it works beforehand. Unless the device is mounted in front of you, it could easily distract from the primary instrument scan and moving your head around in IMC is not a good idea—are you really ready to interpret an artificial AI mounted on the yoke tilted 30 degrees left or right?

One device you should take advantage of is the autopilot if so equipped. Even a simple wing-leveler can reduce the workload and anxiety. You do need to know how the system operates and is configured or you could easily make things worse. In-the-soup is no time to be learning aircraft systems.

In general, pilots are slow to recognize loss of instruments. How many have run out of gas due to a failed fuel gauge? Pilots also tend not to want to confess to ATC that they have a problem. ATC is there to help. Advise you are “no-gyro” rather than “loss of vacuum.” They should understand the former but not necessarily the latter. ATC is in the best position to get you to VMC conditions and can minimize future maneuvering required. They can also help get you to an airport that can offer an Approach Surveillance Radar (ASR) approach. If you have never done an ASR approach, you should experience it. If near a military base, the controllers typically appreciate the opportunity to practice these and some may have a Precision Approach Radar (PAR) approach, which are virtually non-existent at commercial airports. 

The key to survival in a partial panel situation is practice, preparedness, and knowing your aircraft.

Richard Lanning Ph.D. is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a pilot for more than 30 years. He is a FAASTeam member, an active CAP mission pilot, CFII and CFIG.

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

Read more from IFR Refresher, and learn how you can receive a FREE BOOK!

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News reporting is often described as the first draft of history, but for events as momentous as World War II, there may never be a final draft. Decades after the fact, what my parents and my generation knew as simply “the war” continues to generate ever more detailed histories and analysis, as new records come to light and historians employ new methods to find and cross-reference this material for a fresh look.

One such work is a new book on the 1942 carrier-borne attack on Tokyo led by Jimmy Doolittle, a raid that forever after bore his name. The topic has never lacked for attention; I count at least nine books on the subject, plus mention in countless others. James M. Scott’s Target Tokyo builds on the research that went before it and, in exhaustive detail, paints a vivid portrait of the Doolittle raid, its origins, the tactical planning and execution and the overarching effect the raid had, told from both the U.S. and Japanese perspective.

At 648 pages, Target Tokyo will probably stand as the landmark work on the Doolittle raid. Most of us know the story well enough to recite at least the outlines of the raid, but Scott has drilled deeply into the record to reveal details I’ve never read elsewhere. I can’t list them all here, but I found several surprises in the book. One was that post-attack Japanese news reports had claimed the raiders bombed schools and hospitals, something I always took to be Japanese propaganda. But Scott’s review of contemporaneous Japanese records revealed that the raid did cause casualties in schools and hospitals, including Doolittle’s own bombs. That was, of course, unintentional and what we describe today by the discordantly sterile term “collateral damage.”

I also never realized that the Japanese were fully aware that the bombers were on their way to Japan. Some previous histories were vague about whether the patrol trawler the U.S. task force encountered, the hapless Nitto Maru, got off radio warnings before it was sunk by the Navy. Post-action review, classified at the time, left no doubt. The Navy monitored continuous radio transmissions from the trawler for 27 minutes until the ship was sunk. And the Navy had such a time of it, that skipper of the U.S.S. Nashville, a light cruiser, was mortified that 915 rounds were fired at the Nitto, without a hit. Aircraft from the U.S.S. Enterprise sunk the trawler with gunfire.

The 16 carrier-launched B-25s each carried only a ton of bombs, a mix of incendiaries and general purpose ordnance. The raid has often been described as a militarily insignificant pinprick, and while that’s true, the raiders did more damage than I had understood. No fewer than 112 buildings were destroyed and 53 damaged. One of the incendiary-set fires burned for 48 hours, a fact that would portend of worse to come—much worse—when B-29 fire raids commenced in earnest in early 1945. Curiously, in this long form podcast, author Scott told me that those devastating B-29 raids could have destroyed the very records he relied on to examine the Doolittle mission from the Japanese perspective. Luckily, many appear to have survived and Scott relied on a translator to review them.

Even some U.S. records of the raid have been obscure or classified until recently. One of these was a detailed accounting of the raid assembled by Merian Cooper in Chunking, immediately after the raid. “Cooper is one of the fascinating characters in this time period. He was the director of King Kong, the original movie from the 1930s … he ends up being brought in as the briefing officer for the raiders in China. His job was to sit down with each of these raiders and to take their statements,” Scott says. The result was 300 pages of fresh eyewitness accounts never used in previous books on the raid. These records may represent the best accounts of the raid itself.

Scott writes that Japanese records reveal that the raid had consequences far beyond bombed buildings and fires. The Japanese military had assured the population that the country could never be attacked because in two millennia, it had not been. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the architect of the Pearl Harbor attack, knew different and was so shocked and depressed by the Doolittle raid he retired to his flagship cabin for several days.

Yamamoto later used reverberations from the raid to argue for the Japanese assault on Midway, which the Japanese army had been cool to. Obsessed with the destruction of the U.S. Pacific fleet, Yamamoto prevailed and the tipping point of the Pacific war followed in June of 1942 when the Japanese suffered a crushing defeat. History is replete with what-ifs, but had Japan not attacked Midway, the war certainly would have spiraled in a different direction.

These discussions and more are covered in fascinating detail by Scott, in a book that almost reads like a historical novel. History isn’t often chronicled in page-turners, but Scott has definitely written one. Anyone interested in World War II history will want it for the bookshelf. Hear my conversation with James Scott about the research and writing of Target Tokyo here.    

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Author James M. Scott's new book, Target Tokyo, adds fascinating detail and analysis to the famed 1942 air raid led by Jimmy Doolittle. In today's podcast, AVweb's Paul Bertorelli talks to Scott about researching and writing the book. (Thanks to Jay Swindle for audio editing assistance.)

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As part of its retooled line of upper tier single-engine cabin class airplanes, Piper is showing off its new M600 turboprop. Aviation Consumer's Larry Anglisano took a demo flight in the new airplane.

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Picture of the Week

Rick Mullins of New Richmond, OH takes us flying with him this week. Click through to view his photo and others from AVweb readers around the globe.


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