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The Wall Street Journal is reporting the FAA is considering reducing the number of hours military pilots must have before they can be airline first officers. An industry-labor panel has recommended that military pilots with as little as 500 hours be allowed to slide directly into the right seat of airliners. The current minimum is 750 hours, while non-military pilots must have at least 1,500 hours. The panel didn’t make any recommendations to change the current 1,500-hour minimum for airline captains. The group was convened by the FAA to address growing concerns about a shortage of airline pilots. The WSJ got the information from an unnamed source and the report hasn’t been officially released.

The proposal is bound to revive the debate over just what the initial experience and training requirements for line pilots should be. But since the number of pilots coming from the military has dwindled to less than 25 percent and because most retiring military pilots have more than the current minimums this proposal is unlikely to have much impact. The minimum for all pilots used to be 250 hours but the FAA was ordered by Congress to adopt the current 750-1,500 minimum (depending on background and education) after the 2009 Colgan Air crash in Buffalo.

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The producers of “Sully,” the movie based on the ditching of Flight 1549 in the Hudson River in 2009, are apparently so confident of its authenticity they’ve invited a theater full of pilots to a preview screening on Sept. 7, two days before it opens to general audiences. Warner Bros. has given free tickets to hundreds of pilots in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, for the invitation-only preview. “We’re all really looking forward to seeing it. It will be a lot of fun swapping notes,” said Jill Oakes, the Winnipeg pilot who suggested the idea to Warner Bros. “Local airline pilots plus rec pilots are attending so it should be interesting. The room will be overfull, several hundred viewers.” Passes were offered to organizations representing all level of pilots, from ultralights to airline and military, so Oakes is expecting lively discussion after the movie.

There is already Oscar buzz around the film, which stars Tom Hanks as US Airways Capt. Chesley Sullenberger and Aaron Eckhart as First Officer Jeff Skiles. It’s directed by Clint Eastwood and, since it would be hard to get a feature-length film out of the 208 seconds it took the pilots to glide to the successful ditching on the river, the movie concentrates on the investigations and the finger-pointing that followed. Although revered as heroes by the public, Sullenberger and Skiles faced detailed scrutiny about their decisions and actions on that bitter cold morning. Sullenberger and his new friend Harrison Ford reportedly had a lot to say about the accuracy of the scenes. Aviation movies often get a rough ride from those in the industry for their sometimes-painful portrayal of life in the air but the trailers have been given two thumbs up by the aviation community so far. Critics have also given generally positive reviews so far. We’ll let you know what the Winnipeg aviation community had to say.


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The fallout following this week’s fiery destruction of a SpaceX rocket during a test at Cape Canaveral include delayed satellite launches for customers around the world that had hired the company to send equipment into orbit. It was the second total loss of a rocket since June of last year for SpaceX, which had one explode at 150,000 feet due to a mechanical failure. A Reuters report following Thursday's accident says SpaceX is already looking at the possibility of continuing its operations on another nearby launchpad while the one it used on Thursday, Launch Complex 40, undergoes repairs. But for the time being, SpaceX operations have been suspended while the FAA investigates the cause of Thursday morning’s explosion, which burned up the Falcon 9 rocket and the launchpad, Reuters reported. Also destroyed during the test was the rocket’s cargo, a communications satellite that was to be launched Saturday under contract with an Israeli company and used by Facebook to provide internet services in Africa, according to news reports.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk maintained that the burnup of the rocket was "not an explosion," as reported in the Los Angeles Times. Dramatic video of the Falcon 9 rocket in the tower at NASA’s Pad 40 shows a giant fireball and thick black smoke bursting from the assembly. Flames fueled by propellant quickly consume and break apart the tower amid the sounds of several explosions. Minutes later, when it appears the flames are dissipating, another fireball erupts, followed by the sounds of more explosions, leaving the partial skeleton of the pad tower. A NASA official told Reuters the alternate launch site for SpaceX is a viable one and was already going to be used for future tests. The agency appears to be taking the setbacks in stride, tweeting that the accident “reminds us that spaceflight is challenging. Our partners learn from each success & setback.”

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A National Guard Apache helicopter got a little help from a bigger and stronger friend Thursday after it became mired in a muddy rice field near Baytown, Texas. The helicopter was on a training flight late Tuesday when it had what the Guard says was a minor mechanical issue. The pilot put the attack helicopter down in an open area but the aircraft sunk almost to the top of the landing gear in the wet ground and spent a couple of days there. A Chinook helicopter was dispatched and the rescue took some tinkering.

The Chinook crew didn’t like the rigging on the first hoist and had to try a second time. The 11,000-pound load didn’t strain the big twin rotor (it will hoist up to 24,000 pounds) and the second try went smoothly. A drogue parachute was attached to the tail of the Apache to keep it nose first in the direction of travel and it was dropped off at a nearby airfield for repairs.

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The Red Bull Air Race series moves to North America in a few weeks and the last race on its European leg set the stage for drama on this side of the Atlantic. Australia’s Matt Hall won Sunday’s race at EuroSpeedway Lusitz in Germany followed by Germany’s Matthias Dolderer. Canada’s Pete McLeod was third for his first podium finish of the Red Bull season. Sunday’s result sets up a three-way race for the overall 2016 championship. 

Dolderer is in the overall lead with 65.25 points on the season and Hall is second at 48.75 points. Austria’s Hannes Arch is third at 41 points. Only Hall and Arch have a mathematical chance of overtaking Dolderer but American Kirby Chambliss could get into the top three overall with strong performances on his home turf. The next race is Oct. 1-2 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the first time the iconic track has hosted the event. The season wraps up at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Oct. 15-16.

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Every primary student who’s at least been ready to solo has experienced a few stalls and recoveries. If they’re lucky, they also are introduced to different kinds of stalls, and how the ways we enter them can help determine their characteristics. Along the way, we learn ways to recover from them. We learn these maneuvers for three reasons: So we’ll recognize, avoid and be able to recover from them.

At least in my experience, it’s not the simple, straight-ahead, power-off stall that poses the greatest risk to complete loss of control. But when some or all of a wing’s critical angle of attack (AoA) is exceeded in attitudes other than straight and level, stalls get more interesting, Variations on the simple stall—including accelerated, cross-control and elevator-trim—are where the greatest risk of losing control can be found. We’ll call them “advanced stalls.” Also in my experience, pilots are more likely to encounter these stalls than we are the more-benign, straight-ahead, power-off variety.

Common Factors

Of course, stalls occur when we exceed the wing’s critical AoA. One of the characteristics of some advanced stalls is that the likelihood of only one wing stalling is greater than both of them stalling at the same time. That’s because it can be more difficult to maintain coordinated flight when demonstrating an advanced stall, and the tolerances are tighter: Even if a turn is only slightly out of coordination, the effects can be dramatic.

Whichever wing is experiencing the greater AoA will stall first. With the other one developing lift, over you’ll go, rolling in the direction of the stalled wing. One result can be a spin. But if the turn is accurately flown, without yaw, the airplane simply will pitch down as if it were in a straight-ahead, power-off stall.

Another common factor in advanced stalls can be altitude loss. Any time an abrupt maneuver results in a stall, it probably will be with power on, and stalling with power on typically means everything about the stall happens more quickly. This includes losing altitude, especially if an incipient spin develops.

A final thing these so-called advanced stalls have in common can be lack of formal warning. Conventional stall warning devices usually work quite well, but any time you find yourself getting slow, with power on and in, say, 30 degrees of bank or more, you need to stop and think about your wing’s AoA. Moreover, the traditional buffet many airplanes exhibit when nibbling at a straight-ahead stall simply may not occur in an advanced version. That’s because things happen quickly and, when abused, a wing can go from flying to stalled before you realize what’s happening.

Accelerated Stalls

If your first thought upon hearing of an “accelerated” stall was something like, “How can it stall if it’s accelerating?” welcome to the club. In fact, an aircraft experiences two types of acceleration. There’s the acceleration in airspeed, but there’s also accelerated g loading. This is one of the fundamentals of accelerated stalls: The airplane is experiencing higher-than-normal g loading, usually resulting from relatively steep banks or abrupt maneuvering.

The thing with accelerated stalls is they can occur at an airspeed much higher than expected. For reference, the chart on the opposite page describes the relationships between bank angle, g-loading and stall speed. The FAA’s Airplane Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-3A) says, “At the same gross weight, airplane configuration, and power setting, a given airplane will consistently stall at the same indicated airspeed if no acceleration is involved. The airplane will, however, stall at a higher indicated airspeed when excessive maneuvering loads are imposed....” Stalls resulting from “abrupt maneuvers tend to be more rapid, or severe, than the unaccelerated stalls, and because they occur at higher-than-normal airspeeds...they may be unexpected by an inexperienced pilot.”

A traditional accelerated stall demonstration is begun from a level flight attitude at reduced power and at or below VA. Roll to the desired bank angle and smoothly, firmly and progressively increase back pressure to maintain altitude and increase the wing’s AoA until a stall occurs. The turn’s radius will decrease as airspeed drops from the increased g loading.

With the accelerated stall, you’re essentially demonstrating what can happen in an improperly executed steep turn, stall/spin recovery or abrupt pullout from a steep descent. That’s because an accelerated stall can occur any time “excessive back-elevator pressure is applied and/or the angle of attack is increased too rapidly,” according to the Airplane Flying Handbook.

Recovery from an accelerated stall is rather like any other: Release back pressure on the pitch control and increase power. This has the effect of reducing AoA and moving it further away from its critical point. It’s likely a wing will drop, since coordinating such a turn is difficult. If this occurs, add to your recovery procedures a coordinated turn to a wing-level attitude. The idea of an accelerated stall demonstration is to recognize an imminent stall and take steps necessary to prevent it, including relaxing back pressure, rolling wings level and/or adding power.

Cross-Control Stalls

Once at or (preferably) below the airplane’s design maneuvering speed (VA), a classic demonstration of the cross-control stall is to ease in right rudder as you apply left aileron, smoothly reduce power and keep the nose above the horizon. This kind of stall is likely to occur if you get out of shape during a turn from base to final. Once a pilot overshoots the centerline, the correct fix is to increase the turn rate with coordinated control inputs. Or go around.

But a cross-control stall can result if the combination of low altitude and poor training tricks a pilot into holding a constant bank angle while trying to increase the turn rate with additional rudder input. Adding inside—toward the direction of turn—rudder causes the relative wind past the outer wing to increase, creating more lift.

But too much roll is a bad thing. Countering that greater lift and resulting roll moment in the direction of the turn means opposite aileron input. Drag produced by the down-deflected aileron on the inside wing reduces the relative wind’s speed and the lift the wing is generating. The result is a turn with rudder applied in the direction of turn but with opposite aileron, plus additional back pressure to maintain the desired descent rate in the resulting skid.

This further causes the airplane to roll. The roll may be so fast that it is possible the bank will be vertical or past vertical before it can be stopped.

The Airplane Flying Handbook again: “In a cross-control stall, the airplane often stalls with little warning. The nose may pitch down, the inside wing may suddenly drop, and the airplane may continue to roll to an inverted position. This is usually the beginning of a spin. It is obvious that close to the ground is no place to allow this to happen.”

Preventing this kind of stall typically means flying concise traffic patterns. If you get out of shape in the pattern—thanks to traffic, wind or poor technique—the smartest thing to do is execute a go around rather than try to salvage the approach.

Elevator-Trim Stalls

The classic example of an elevator-trim stall is when executing a go-around after a balked landing. The airplane is trimmed nose-up for the approach’s reduced airspeed, and when full or go-around power is added, the nose pitches up, way up. If the pilot doesn’t push—hard!—to get and keep the nose down, an excessive AoA will stall the wing. That’s a bad thing close to ground, as likely will be the case when initiating a go-around.

The cure is two-fold. First, don’t add full or go-around power abruptly when initiating the go-around. Instead, add enough power to arrest the descent and begin climbing, then re-trim the nose down. Once a climb is established, begin adding nose-down trim (or removing the nose-up trim, however you prefer to visualize it) until the pitch angle and control forces return to that used for normal climbs. Second, use both hands if you need them, but the nose needs to come down and stay down. If you’re truly concerned about losing control in this situation, reduce power and trim off the nose-up moment before adding it back and achieving a climb configuration.

An elevator-trim stall is little more than a power-on stall. The essential difference is that, when demonstrating a power-on stall, the nose-up attitude typically is provided by pulling on the pitch control. With a for-real elevator trim stall, that won’t be necessary: The nose-up pitch input is being provided by the trim setting. Get rid of that, or push hard to overcome it, and you easily can recover.

Understanding, recognizing and—ultimately—preventing advanced stalls means not placing your airplane in a position from which it’s easy to enter one. That means no steep turns when flying slowly, always flying with coordinated inputs so no slips or skids can occur, and managing power application with a healthy push on the pitch control when initiating a go-around.

Failure to recognize and recover from one of these stalls can lead to a spin or an unusual attitude. Close to the ground, as some of these recipes for advanced stalls imply, is no place to be out of control.

Practicing Advanced Stalls

If you want to go out and practice advanced stalls, here are a few things to remember:

Slow Down

Unlike with the straight-ahead, power-off variety, practicing an advanced stall usually requires some power and airspeed. As with any maneuver, there can be too much of a good thing. Never set up for one of these stalls at greater than the airplane’s VA for its weight. Ideally, you’ll be even slower, so the stall occurs well before any risk of damaging the airframe from higher-than-normal g loading.

Have Plenty of Altitude

The cross-controlled stall generally is encountered close to the ground, during the turn from base to final, while the accelerated stall can happen any time the airplane is maneuvered abruptly. In any case and thanks to the increased kinetic energy involved, these stalls can result in greater altitude loss than a more benign power-off stall. An extra couple of thousand feet won’t hurt.

Got Approval?

The airplane you’re flying may not be approved for demonstrating these advanced stalls (even if it can get into one), or may be approved only under certain conditions. Check the airplane’s limitations and placarding before heading out.

This article originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of Aviation Safety magazine.

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Family and friends were watching the first takeoff of an experimental home built.As he came down the runway he over pitched then pushed the nose down hitting the runway causing a ground loop off the runway with dirt flying. He then taxied back on the runway.

Tower: "What are your intentions?"  

He said there was no damage and would like to go again. 

Tower: “We will have to check the runway to be sure its clean first." 

Pilot in pattern: “And he'd better check his pants to make sure they are clean."

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As an aviation journalist, my job description isn’t exactly to cheer when a flying machine craters, runs amok, blows up or otherwise goes awry. Hey, two wings, one love, right? So it was with a little guilt when, like a beer burp you can’t quite keep down, I had this moment of so there, when SpaceX’s Falcon 9 blew itself into charred scrap metal last Thursday at Cape Canaveral during a test fire.

Horrible thought, right? I’ll concede I’m defenseless, but I know why that thought darkened my otherwise sunny and nurturing disposition. One reason is the private enterprise space industry’s natural tendency toward hubris and the other was that one purpose of the satellite being launched was to bring Facebook—internet access, really—to Africa. When boy billionaire Mark Zuckerberg reacted to the accident, his tone struck me a little shocked that his rocket could blow up. So, yeah, you’re not NASA, but your rockets can still blow up. Welcome to aerospace. There, got that off my chest.

The AMOS-6 satellite, an Israel Aerospace Industries build, was a multi-purpose satellite with 45 transponders for communication services in Europe and the Middle East, not just Facebook’s internet-to-Africa initiative. Facebook’s Zuckerberg has made it his calling to connect parts of the world that don’t have affordable internet access but his true intentions have been met with suspicion, mainly because single providers threaten the concept of net neutrality.

In India, a group of tech companies and users viewed Zuckerberg’s effort as less altruistic than just another marketing plan. My thought is, do people who don’t have clean water, sufficient food and who are dodging tribal wars really pine for the navel-gazing wonders of Facebook? It’s absurd to think this justifies blowing up a guy’s satellite, it just makes it harder to collapse on the floor in inconsolable grief. Hope they had enough insurance. Also, Facebook plans to build as many as 10,000 Aquila solar-powered drones to beam internet around the world. This is actually more ambitious than the satellite project.

But I know where the real genesis of my feeling is and it goes back to the NASA bashing Burt Rutan did in the early days of Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic space tourism venture. Did I mention that was 12 years ago and Galactic has yet to fly a single tourist? There, got that off my chest, too. (And no, I’ll never get over it.)

If there’s anything useful to be derived from this it’s that private space ventures may or may not, in the long term, have better launch records than NASA or the Air Force. Thus far, before this accident, SpaceX was comparable to the rest of the industry, with about a 93 percent success rate. But it’s not better. SpaceX’s launch costs are the lowest in the industry and expected to get lower with scale and if reusable boosters work out. All good. But it’s always wise to remember this: No matter who you are, your rockets will still blow up. No matter how many likes you have. 

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Mike Busch, the Savvy Aviator and one of the U.S.'s best known aircraft technicians, has been fighting the FAA on what he terms an unnecessary and seriously flawed airworthiness directive regarding barrel-head separations on ECi cylinders for big-bore Continental engines. We've given you two options to learn more from Busch about this controversial move by the FAA. We edited a short-form podcast of the basics of the history and impact of the AD. We've also included an essentially unedited version of the interview where Busch gives the history and context of what he says is a terrible example of rulemaking.

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