Forward This E-mail | Edit Email Preferences | Advertise | Contact | Privacy | Help

  • Text size:

    • A
    • A
    • A

An element of intrigue has been added to the investigation of the explosion of SpaceX rocket on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral last month. The Washington Post, quoting unnamed sources, says SpaceX is investigating the possibility of sabotage in the mishap, which destroyed the rocket and its payload, an internet-beaming satellite being deployed by Facebook. According to the story, SpaceX sent investigators to a building owned by competitor United Launch Alliance about a mile from the launch pad because it noted something odd on the roof of the building in still images taken from video shot at the time of the blast. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has also spoken about the investigation taking some strange turns, particularly where it concerns a mysterious noise heard just before the rocket blows up. “Particularly trying to understand the quieter bang sound a few seconds before the fireball goes off,” he wrote on Twitter. “May come from rocket or something else.”

So far, the investigation has determined that a breach in the helium system used to pressurize fuel being loaded on the rocket caused the blast but they can’t figure out what caused the breach. “We’ve eliminated all of the obvious possibilities for what occurred there,” he told a conference in Mexico. “So what remains are the less probable answers.” SpaceX then issued a statement that seemed to further confirm the conspiracy line. “The Accident Investigation Team has an obligation to consider all possible causes of the anomaly, and we aren’t commenting on any specific potential cause until the investigation is complete,” the statement read. The Air Force is helping the investigation, which is led by SpaceX, but is also not commenting. United Launch Alliance used to have a monopoly on launches for the Air Force but SpaceX earned the right to compete for that business with a 2014 lawsuit against the Air Force.

Sponsor Announcement
Genuine Lycoming Parts || Choose Innovation, Not Imitation

The FAA is demanding proof from the city of Santa Monica that it will be able to legally and safely provide aviation services at Santa Monica Airport now that it has evicted the FBO and flight school on the field. The agency has subpoenaed the city to provide all the relevant documentation (certificates, ratings and endorsements) of all the city employees who will allegedly be filling in for the dozens of employees at Atlantic Aviation and American Flyers, who were told on Sept. 15 they are no longer welcome there. The FAA maintains the city has to keep the airport functional until at least 2023 when obligations relating to federal funding of airport projects run out and that means fixing airplanes, selling fuel and teaching people to fly.

The agency issued a laundry list of requirements in the subpoena, demanding that the credentials of “each and every” city employee keeping those services viable be provided to the agency. The city says the FAA action is an “overreach” and the will of the people will be served. “Our priority is putting the community first and exercising our rights as owner and operator of the airport,” Santa Monica Mayor Tony Vazquez told the Los Angeles Times. “Now the FAA is clearly on a fishing expedition to protect Washington special interests who fear losing corporate profits.”

Sponsor Announcement
DC One-X from David Clark || It's the 'One' ANR Headset for You!

Sierra Nevada Corp., which is testing a reusable space vehicle for future NASA missions, will partner with the United Nations for a low-orbit flight in 2021. The company’s Dream Chaser folding-wing vehicle, which can land on a runway, was selected for the U.N.’s first spaceflight slated to last two weeks in low orbit. A little-known bureau of the U.N. created in the late 1950s, the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs, wants to include developing countries in the growing spaceflight industry. “One of UNOOSA’s core responsibilities is to promote international cooperation in the peaceful use of outer space,” the agency said in its announcement this week. “One of the ways UNOOSA will achieve this, in cooperation with our partner SNC, is by dedicating an entire microgravity mission to United Nations Member States, many of which do not have the infrastructure or financial backing to have a standalone space program.”

Sierra Nevada, headquartered in Nevada with facilities around the country, is among the private companies contracted by NASA to take cargo to the International Space Station between 2019 and 2024. The U.N. partnership will seek sponsors to finance missions while participating countries will pay for prorated costs. Selection of those to take part will be completed in 2018. “At SNC our goal is to pay it forward,” SNC said in a statement. “That means leveraging the creation and success of our Dream Chaser spacecraft to benefit future generations of innovators like us all around the world.”

Sponsor Announcement

Former EAA Chairman and CEO Tom Poberezny joined three others in being inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame on Saturday. Poberezny was joined by Capt. Robert Crippen, the first NASA space shuttle pilot; Christopher Kraft, NASA’s first flight director; and the late Col. Bud Day. The induction was at the Hall of Fame’s facilities in Dayton. Poberezny’s appointment was noteworthy in that he became part of the first father-son team to be honored. EAA's founder, the late Paul Poberezny, was inducted in 1999.

Although Tom Poberezny was best known in his EAA role, he was also an accomplished pilot in his own right. “We at EAA are overjoyed at the recognition for Tom in respect to his long and varied career in the flying community,” EAA Chairman Jack Pelton said in a statement. “That includes his aerobatic skill as U.S. National Unlimited Aerobatic Champion, a member of the American world championship team in 1972, and dazzling air show audiences as a member of the Red Devils and Eagles aerobatic teams for 25 years.

“His leadership as president of EAA also left an indelible mark, including the construction of the EAA Aviation Center in Oshkosh, the growth of the annual EAA fly-in convention as a world-class event, the creation of the Young Eagles program that has flown more than two million young people since 1992, and his leadership that led to the sport pilot/light-sport aircraft category in 2004." We went for a ride with a reflective Tom Poberezny at AirVenture 2015 and the video is below.

Sponsor Announcement

GA pilots have been cited for delaying presidents, clearing the Capitol and stopping missile tests but a Minnesota floatplane owner may be the only one to be detained for interrupting a golf game. The unidentified man and his passenger were rowed to shore by Chaska Police (the motor on their boat failed) after they landed on Lake Hazeltine, the centerpiece of Hazeltine National, site of this year’s Ryder Cup. Landing on a body of water is rather commonplace in Minnesota, which has more than 10,000 lakes, but putting down next to the seventh hole of Hazeltine and dropping anchor apparently violated a bunch of rules, starting with the local ordinance against any activity on the lake during the big tournament. The duo was cited by police for the infraction a day after two canoeists were similarly busted.

That won’t be the end of it, for the duo, though. “But there are more things looming in the pilot’s future,” Chaska Police Chief Scott Knight told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “The FAA Flight Standards division is very interested in him. He’s violated their rules and they will be talking to him on Monday.” It's not clear what violations might have occurred. There was no NOTAM or TFR listed that we could find. Knight called the actions “imbecilic” and the aircraft was effectively impounded because it was left at anchor in the lake. But the aerial-borne golf fans may have had the last laugh. After getting their tickets from the police they were apparently left “afoot” to watch the U.S. team win the prestigious tournament from shore.

Sponsor Announcement
Starr Companies
We Know Aviation Insurance
Do You Know Starr Companies?

Starr Aviation understands how to insure airplanes — and pilots. With Starr, you fly worry-free by purchasing comprehensive insurance coverage for your aviation risk, with the underwriting experience and service you need. We cover owners, renters, flight instructors, clubs, and refurbished and antique aircraft in addition to ag and rotor. Through our national network of aircraft insurance brokers, Starr's financial strength and fast-pay claims service is hard to beat. For details, click here to visit StarrCompanies.com.

Our best stories start with you. If you've heard something the flying world might want to know about, tell us. Submit news tips via e-mail here. (Or send them direct to Newstips at AVweb.com.)

Sponsor Announcement
ALT
Over 24,000 Happy GAMIjectors® Customers Can't Be Wrong!
GAMIjectors® have given these aircraft owners reduced cylinder head temperatures, reduced fuel consumption, and smoother engine operation. GAMIjectors® alter the fuel/air ratio in each cylinder so that each cylinder operates with a much more uniform fuel/air ratio than occurs with any other factory set of injectors. To speak to a GAMI engineer, call (888) FLY-GAMI, or go online for complete engineering details.

AVweb’s General Aviation Accident Bulletin is taken from the pages of our sister publication, Aviation Safety magazine and is published twice a month. All the reports listed here are preliminary and include only initial factual findings about crashes. You can learn more about the final probable cause in the NTSB’s web site at www.ntsb.org. Final reports appear about a year after the accident, although some take longer. Find out more about Aviation Safety at www.aviationsafetymagazine.com.

Czech Aircraft Works SportCruiser
July 1, 2016, Wyoming, Minnesota

At about 2206 Central time, the airplane sustained substantial damage during an off-airport landing on Interstate Highway 35 (I-35). The solo sport pilot received minor injuries. Night visual conditions prevailed for the local flight.

The pilot later stated he could not find his departure point because it was dark. The airplane was low on fuel and he could not see an airport beacon, so he landed the airplane on a road, I-35. During the landing roll, the airplane’s right wing hit a road divider, causing substantial damage.

Cessna 172 Skyhawk
July 1, 2016, Bountiful, Utah

During an introductory flight for two passengers, the pilot flew into a canyon where the airplane encountered an “unforeseen immense downdraft.” He initiated a right turn to exit the canyon but terrain interfered. The pilot then decided to make an emergency landing on a mountain road. After touchdown, the airplane skidded off the dirt road and down an embankment. A post-crash fire resulted in substantial damage to the fuselage and both wings.

Cessna 172RG Cutlass RG
July 1, 2016, Manhattan, Kansas

The pilot was receiving instruction in an airplane with retractable landing gear. The flight instructor was the pilot in command. On final approach, both pilots were on the controls. They first realized there was an issue when they heard metal scraping on pavement. The airplane impacted the runway with its landing gear retracted, causing substantial damage to the fuselage and bulkhead. A post-accident landing gear aural warning horn check/test was conducted, with no maintenance issues found.

Rans S6ES Experimental
July 1, 2016, Bridgeport, California

At about 1040 Pacific time, the airplane impacted terrain about 1 miles north of the intended destination. The solo pilot was seriously injured and the airplane sustained substantial damage. Visual conditions prevailed.

Upon nearing his destination, the pilot flew over his parents’ home to let them know that he was landing at the airport. After passing over the home, he turned sharply to the right then remembers the ground coming up into view. The impact marks were consistent with the airplane colliding with the terrain in a nose-down attitude.

Piper PA-22-150 Tri-Pacer
July 2, 2016, Houghton Lake Heights, Michigan

The airplane was substantially damaged when it collided with a wire fence and terrain while landing. The private pilot and three passengers sustained minor injuries. Visual conditions prevailed for the introductory flight conducted during an event hosted by a local EAA chapter.

While on final approach, as it passed over a tree line, the airplane encountered a downdraft and descended below a normal glide path. As the pilot increased engine power to arrest the airplane’s descent, the main landing gear collided with a wire fence located near the approach end of the runway. The airplane landed hard, collapsing the nose gear, and skidded to a stop on the runway. The fuselage, engine firewall and left wing were substantially damaged.

Cessna 172 Skyhawk
July 2, 2016, Salmon, Idaho

At about 1100 Mountain time, the airplane was force-landed and collided with a fence, sustaining substantial damage. The student pilot receiving instruction and the flight instructor were not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

The flight instructor set the airplane up for simulated engine failure by pulling out the carburetor heat control and reducing throttle to 1200 rpm. The student pilot followed emergency procedures, used the checklist and prepared to land. After the carburetor heat control was pushed back in and the throttle advanced, there was a sudden loss of power; efforts to restart the engine were unsuccessful. The airplane collided with the fence during the landing.

Cessna 182 Skylane
July 3, 2016, Llano, California

During takeoff from a private dirt airstrip with a density altitude near 6100 feet, the airplane became airborne in ground effect but was not able to “build airspeed sufficient to pitch for...best rate of climb.” The pilot reported wind pushed the airplane over an orchard and he intentionally put the airplane into an aerodynamic stall prior to impacting terrain. A post-impact fire ensued and the airplane was destroyed.

During the takeoff roll, the pilot heard a “bang,” which he initially assumed to be a rock hitting the fuselage, but later believed to be an engine failure. The airplane’s propeller, however, exhibited damage consistent with the engine producing power at the time of impact.

Seawind Experimental
July 4, 2016, Buena Vista, Colorado

At about 1128 Mountain time, the airplane was destroyed by impact forces and a post-impact fire, after an apparent forced landing. The solo pilot was fatally injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

A witness reported hearing the pilot declare a mayday on the airport’s CTAF, stating his intention for a straight-in approach to Runway 15, but did not state the nature of the emergency. The entire airplane was almost completely consumed by the post-impact fire. Remnants of all major components and control surfaces were located in the immediate vicinity of the main wreckage. No anomalies could be found with respect to the engine and its accessories, airframe, flight control system or engine control system; however, the extent of fire damage precluded a complete examination and testing of components.

Bellanca 7ECA Citabria
July 4, 2016, Oak Ridge, Louisiana

The airplane was substantially damaged when it hit a ditch during an aborted takeoff and runway excursion. The solo private pilot was not injured. Visual conditions prevailed for the attempted takeoff.

During the takeoff roll, the pilot did not feel the airplane was at the speed it should be when it was of the way down the runway, so he decided to abort. When he applied brakes and full aft input on the control stick, the airplane ballooned. Once it settled back down, he was unable to stop the airplane before it overran the end of the runway. The airplane hit a ditch just beyond the end of the runway, bounced up, hit a second ditch and nosed over, coming to rest inverted in the second ditch. The left wing separated from the airplane, and the fuselage and empennage were substantially damaged.

Cessna 305/O-1 Bird Dog
July 4, 2016, Narragansett, Rhode Island

At about 1250 Eastern time, the airplane was substantially damaged when it was ditched in the Atlantic Ocean after experiencing a total loss of engine power while in cruise flight. The solo commercial pilot was not injured. Visual conditions prevailed for the banner-tow flight.

According to the pilot, he departed with five hours of fuel. About 3.5 hours into the flight, the airplane was flying about 500 feet over the ocean when the engine lost total power. Subsequently, the pilot performed a forced landing to the water. The airplane sank, and came to rest in about 30 feet of water. The pilot egressed and was rescued a short time later. The airplane subsequently was recovered but no reason for the engine failure could be determined.

Forward this email to a friend
Tailor your alerts!
Click here to update alerts preferences.
AVweb Insider

While those of us in the cheap seats uniformly cheer for low oil prices because, well, we can buy more gas and fly more, what if the reverse were true? What if anemic oil prices are the cause of declining aircraft sales? Writing this week in Aviation Week, the Teal Group’s Richard Aboulafia made this very argument, albeit one that applies to high-end business aircraft.

Transposing the curves of global oil prices over those of business aircraft sales, Teal finds a fit. When oil is high, or at least higher than the under-$50 average price now extant, sales of high-end aircraft boom; low oil prices have tended to diminish demand. Indeed, for virtually all aircraft, production has yet to recover to pre-2007 levels and since the last oil peak in 2011 ($119), prices have retreated steadily and sometimes dramatically.

Quoting Bank of America/Merrill Lynch analysis, Aboulafia says there’s a correlation between high-end business jet demand and oil prices. Demand rose after the 2008 economic crash just as oil prices did; now as oil prices retreat, so does luxury jet demand. The underlying support for the argument is that resource-rich countries like Russia Middle Eastern states are prime buyers of large, cabin-class jets and when oil prices tank, so do sales.

The correlation is interesting, but I’m not sure I’m convinced. In any case, it’s marginal to the industry as a whole. According to GAMA figures, overall business jet demand has been essentially flat since 2011, but was slightly higher in 2015 than in 2011. The more bracing eye opener for me is the global volume in billing numbers. In 2008, general aviation delivered 3970 aircraft for $24.7 billion in orders. In 2015, it billed $24.2 billion, almost as much, but for 2331 airplanes, ergo, fewer airplanes for just as much money. That’s the perverse world of aviation supply and demand. When demand goes down, prices go up.

Piston sales have clawed back from a low of 889 in 2010 to 1056 in 2015, but they were higher (1129) in 2014. I couldn’t even venture a guess if oil prices have affected sales. New piston airplanes have become primarily a training market so with oil prices soft, do enough more people buy airline trips to spike demand for more pilot training? Maybe, but that’s a claim too tenuous for even a Sunday evening blog.

In the shorter term, lower avgas prices should, theoretically, increase flight activity which, in turn, should boost avgas demand. If this is true, I’d have a hard time proving it. I had a look at the Energy Information Administration’s graph on avgas deliveries and it was flat through 2015, after a sharp decline since 2012. Not that I’m sure how reliable this data is, anyway. Digging into the source tables, you could once find the underlying data supporting these reports. But for the past couple of years, much of it is being withheld, probably to protect proprietary reporting in a continually declining avgas production ecosystem.

The silver lining, if there is one, is that oil prices, such that they can be reliably forecast, seem unlikely to rise sharply for the short term. Lower gasoline prices have spurred driving demand in the U.S., but overall oil demand remains tepid and supply is fat. OPEC, once the fearsome overload of oil production, recently announced a half-hearted plan to cap production in support of price buttressing. This will cause dancing in the streets in Eagle Ford and Bakken but, I suspect, not much change in overall price.

If I were betting, I’d say avgas prices will remain stable for quite some time. That’s not to say low oil prices are an overwhelming benefit for the world economy, but if I don’t focus on my selfish little self-interest here, I’ll never get rid of this splitting headache.

Night at the Movies

Clinging to the oil topic here, I’ll veer toward the shoulder for a few sentences in noting that Deepwater Horizon, the movie, opened over the weekend. When I was lad growing up in the Texas oil patch, I once witnessed a well blowout. The sight of 30-foot sections of drill pipe arcing through the arid sky tends to stay with you.

In depicting the physics of such a calamity, the filmmakers and script writers deserve a nod for not dumbing it down too much for the audience. I have more than passing knowledge of this technology and I had to pay close attention to keep up with the detail. Even with the inevitable artistic license, it was gripping. It’s worth seeing.

A20 Aviation Headset || Now with Enhanced Features

One of the world's last surviving Battle of Britain vets, John Hart, of Naramata, British Columbia, Canada, went flying to celebrate his 100th birthday. Dave Watson, of Yellow Thunder Formation Aerobatics, took him up in his Harvard, the Canadian version of the T-6.

They say aviation regulations are written in blood, and Alaska pilot Ross Nixon tells a story that makes that clear -- when a family was lost in a California crash in 1957, it was ultimately determined they might have survived if only they'd been found in time. Thanks to that somber event, says Nixon, general aviation aircraft now carry ELTs.

Aircraft Spruce & Specialty Co. Catalog || 2016-17 Edition || Over 100,000 Products || Over 1,000 Pages
Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

Michael Kussatz, of Olathe, KS, captures the essence of grass roots aviation with this image of a Luscombe just waiting to go flying at a grass strip in Kansas. Click through to see our other submissions.

Take the Guesswork Out of Your Aviation-Related Purchases with 'Aviation Consumer' Magazine

AVweb is the world's premier independent aviation news resource, online since 1995. Our reporting, features, and newsletters are brought to you by:

Publisher
Tom Bliss

Editorial Director, Aviation Publications
Paul Bertorelli

Editor-in-Chief
Russ Niles

Webmaster
Scott Simmons

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Elaine Kauh

Contributors
Rick Durden
Kevin Lane-Cummings
Paul Berge
Larry Anglisano

Ad Coordinator
Karen Lund

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? Your advertising can reach over 225,000 loyal AVwebFlash, AVwebBiz, and AVweb web site readers every week. Over 80% of our readers are active pilots and aircraft owners. That's why our advertisers grow with us, year after year. For ad rates and scheduling, click here or contact Tom Bliss: