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The NTSB this week completed its investigation of two fatal midair crashes that occurred in 2015, and on Wednesday they issued a Safety Alert (PDF) urging pilots to make use of cockpit technologies that can help them to see and avoid other aircraft. The alert reviews the two recent crashes as well as two earlier ones, and notes that in each case, the pilot had access to technology in the cockpit that may have helped avert the crash if it had been utilized. The traditional “see and avoid” practice has “inherent limitations,” the NTSB said, including aircraft blind spots, operational distractions and human error, which “leave even the most diligent pilot vulnerable to the threat of a midair collision with an unseen aircraft.” In both midair accidents last year, the pilots were talking to ATC.

On July 7, 2015, a Cessna 150 that had just departed from Moncks Corner, South Carolina, and an F-16 Air Force fighter jet on a training mission collided. An air traffic controller advised the F-16 pilot that the Cessna was a potential traffic conflict. The F-16 pilot was not able to locate the Cessna until it was too late to avoid the collision. The two occupants of the Cessna were killed; the F-16 pilot ejected and survived. In its probable-cause report issued this week, the NTSB determined that the probable cause of the crash was the air traffic controller’s failure to provide an appropriate resolution to the traffic conflict.

On August 16, 2015, a North American Rockwell Sabreliner inbound for landing at Brown Field Municipal Airport in San Diego and a Cessna 172 that was practicing landings at the same airport collided. The four occupants of the Sabreliner and the sole occupant of the Cessna were killed. A cockpit visibility study revealed the fields of view of both pilots were limited and partially obscured at times. The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the accident was the air traffic controller’s failure to properly identify the aircraft in the pattern and to ensure control instructions were being performed.

The Safety Alert to pilots — Prevent Midair Collisions: Don’t Depend on Vision Alone — is available online (PDF). The NTSB also has posted its report, its safety recommendation report and the accident reports. A series of video animations of the two accidents, which includes several besides the two posted here, are posted online.

San Diego

Moncks Corner

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The fatal accident count for experimental aircraft fell in the past year, continuing a downward trend, EAA said Wednesday. There were 33 fatal accidents in this category reported by the FAA for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, a 17 percent drop from 40 accidents for the prior year. The latest numbers also are down from 51 reported for the 2014 fiscal year. Meanwhile, the number of fatal accidents for specialized aircraft flown for racing, exhibition, research and development also dropped in that period, to 49 from 61 the year prior. EAA called the downward trend positive, noting that the latest totals fell under the FAA’s “not-to-exceed” goal of 60 fatal accidents and is among the lowest in recent years for the experimental category, which include amateur-built aircraft.

EAA and other GA organizations have focused in the past two years on promoting loss-of-control prevention, which remains the top cause of accidents.  In 2015, the association launched a competition, the Founder’s Innovation Prize, for new ideas to help pilots avoid loss of control, awarding the first prize to the inventor of Airball, a digital flight data tool for the cockpit. EAA also said enhanced safety outreach efforts and new regulatory measures including the FAA’s approval of a second pilot for flight testing homebuilt aircraft have given pilots more resources to improve safety. “This is tremendous news and this multiple-year trend is a credit to all aviators who are focusing on safety,” said Sean Elliott, EAA’s vice president of advocacy and safety. “The fatal accident numbers again remain lower than other types of popular recreational pursuits, such as paddle sports, horseback riding, and driving all-terrain vehicles. While we can never rest in pursuit of safety, these lower numbers – even with a rising number of flight hours in recent years – show that EAA’s programs, outreach and advocacy is making a difference.”

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EAA Vintage Aircraft Association board of directors member Ron Alexander was killed Thursday in the crash of his recently restored Curtiss Jenny at Peach Tree Airport in Williamson, Georgia. An unidentified passenger was also killed. A local newspaper is reporting that the passenger was an FAA official but that has not been confirmed. Initial reports suggest the aircraft encountered some kind of difficulty on takeoff. It crashed in a wooded area and caught fire. First responders rushed to the scene but were unable to save the occupants.

Alexander founded Alexander Aeroplane Company, which was later sold to Aircraft Spruce. He had restored a Stearman in addition to the Jenny. He also established the Candler Field Museum at Peach Tree Airport. Alexander was an ex-military pilot who retired a captain with Delta after 33 years in 2002.

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House Republicans have approved a bill that would cancel proposed deals for Boeing and Airbus to sell up to 200 aircraft to Iran. Doubts have been raised about whether Iran Air could actually afford the $40 billion in orders but the House vote is a clear challenge to the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran. The bill must now pass the Senate, where it will get a rough ride and if it passes there it would almost certainly be vetoed by the president. Given that the current power structure has only 60 days left in its mandate, the fate of the deal, which was a linchpin of the nuclear agreement, is in doubt.

The House bill, which passed by a 243-174 vote, specifically blocks the Treasury Department from issuing licenses U.S. banks would need to complete the transactions. The current administration already approved the deals in September. The deal with Iran specifically allowed the sale of aircraft to the state-owned airline but included strict conditions against their militarization or transfer to other entities. Boeing would get up to 109 of the orders and Airbus 112. Although Airbus is based in France, 10 percent of the parts for its aircraft are made in the U.S. After decades of trade embargoes, Iran Air's fleet is in desperate need of renewal and now consists mainly of older Airbus single-aisle airliners and ATR 72-600 regional turboprops.

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Developers of the Sun Flyer electric airplane have begun power-on testing with a series of ground, taxi and preflight tests. Aero Electric Aircraft Corp. said this week the FAA also recently granted the prototype its temporary registration, another step in the process toward an airworthiness certificate. "We have been preparing for the power-on tests for months, taking extraordinary precautions to develop comprehensive checklists and safety protocols,” AEAC President Charlie Johnson said. 

The first Sun Flyer, under development to be the first FAA-certified, all-electric airplane for flight training and personal flying, made its public debut in May after the development team completed final assembly at Centennial Airport in Colorado. The two-seat, low-wing airplane features solar cells on the wings, a 400-volt lithium-ion battery pack system and a 100-kilowatt electric motor. In his remarks at the IDTechEx engineering conference Thursday in Santa Clara, California, AEAC CEO George Bye said this kind of technology has the potential to be a common flight training platform in the future. “All this great technology has meaning when you can integrate advanced concepts into a practical configuration with a business solution like Sun Flyer,” he said.

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AVweb's search of aviation news around the world found announcements from Airbus Helicopters, Med-Trans Corp., Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame and EDM. The light-twin Airbus helicopter H135 received the type certificate by the European Aviation Safety Agency for its new Helionix cockpit. The avionics system designed by Airbus Helicopters offers operators increased mission flexibility and safety. Northwest Texas Healthcare System and Med-Trans Corporation have expanded their LIFESTAR partnership with the addition of a state-of-the-art, pressurized turboprop King Air E-90. The twin-engine aircraft, which operates with critical care flight nurses and paramedics from the Amarillo-based healthcare system and flight crews from Med-Trans, is based at Rick Husband Amarillo National Airport.

Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame will induct four new members, and recognize a Belt of Orion recipient, at its 44th annual gala dinner and ceremony, to be held Thursday, June 15, 2017, at Vancouver International Airport. The new members are James Erroll Boyd, Robert John Deluce, Daniel A Sitnam, Rogers Eben Smith and the Royal Canadian Air Force "Golden Hawks" aerobatic team, winner of the Belt of Orion Award for Excellence. EDM, a leading global provider of training simulators to the civil aviation and defense sectors, announced that it will be testing pilot skills with its Mach Loop Challenge at I/ITSEC 2016. During the five-day modeling, simulation and training show later this month, EDM will demonstrate its high-fidelity G-Seat, which will be integrated with a high-definition visual system featuring The Mach Loop.

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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.)

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In his influential book, Stick and Rudder, Wolfgang Langewiesche states the rudder “. . . causes the greatest difficulty for beginners,” and “. . . even the more experienced pilot often has trouble using it correctly.” Commenting on improper rudder use as a contributing factor in accidents, he states, “In the typical fatal accident, which involves a stall and a spin, misuse of the rudder is almost always partly to blame....”

After a short-field takeoff, the Cessna 172 was pitched to a high angle of attack (AoA) to maintain best-angle-of-climb speed (VX). At 100 feet agl, the left wing dropped slightly, then the airplane rolled left, eventually rolling inverted. It crashed in a nose-down attitude, killing the pilot.

How Did That Happen?

Remember the momentary left wing drop? The pilot tried to correct it with right aileron. Rather than correctly employing opposite rudder (pressure on the right rudder pedal in this example) when the left wing first lowered, the pilot incorrectly lowered left aileron when he applied right aileron, stalling the left wing and leading to the inadvertent spin to the left. This hypothetical power-on stall-spin accident scenario illustrates how improper rudder use may have deadly consequences.

During nearly 15 years as a flight instructor, I’ve observed many pilots with poor rudder skills. A large number of them, including student pilots in training, allowed slipping and skidding turns, failed to correct for adverse yaw during turns; and applied insufficient or no right pedal rudder pressure to keep the slip-skid ball centered while pitched up following takeoff and during slow-flight maneuvering. Additional problems include using inadequate rudder to level the wings while demonstrating power-on and power-off stalls, and improper use when performing forward and side slips.

Improper rudder skills may be a contributing factor in many inadvertent stall-spin accidents. For example, the following real-life incident happened to me, contributing to an inadvertent spin. While conducting a flight review in a Cessna 172, I requested the pilot demonstrate a power-on stall. At the time, the airplane was in level flight at 5000 feet agl, airspeed was 110 KIAS, and cruise power was set.

What I expected was for the pilot to first slow the airplane to liftoff speed and then apply no less than 65-percent power, followed by gradually pitching up to the wing’s critical AoA and stalling. Instead, the pilot applied full power and quickly jerked the yoke back fully with no right rudder pressure. With the slip-skid ball far to the right, an accelerated stall occurred while yawing left. The airplane then entered a one-turn spin to the left—spin = stall + yaw. This happened quickly and before I could react.

I took control by applying “PARE” anti-spin flight control inputs, i.e., Power: idle; Ailerons: neutral; Rudder: full, opposite spin direction; Elevator: pitch control nose-down. When rotation stopped, the rudder was neutralized, up elevator pressure was gradually applied, and power was restored as the nose returned to the horizon.

I asked the pilot why the airplane entered a spin; he did not understand how it happened. He did not realize that, in addition to incorrectly beginning the maneuver at an excessively high airspeed and jerking the yoke back—generating positive Gs—an accelerated stall occurred. Nor did he remember that with the nose pitched up and at full power, appropriate right rudder pressure is needed to prevent the nose from yawing left due to asymmetric propeller loading (P-factor).

In addition to coordinating turns and preventing adverse yaw, the rudder alone is capable of making an airplane do other maneuvers. These include turning (albeit in a skid), losing and gaining altitude, increasing and decreasing airspeed and—perhaps most important—leveling the wings.

To demonstrate these maneuvers, let me propose a rudder exercise, designed to demonstrate what the rudder can do when properly and improperly used. Simply fly level at slightly below maneuvering speed for the aircraft's weight. Apply increasing left rudder, no aileron, and observe that it causes the airplane to skid left, then bank left and the nose to drop. Increasing rudder deflection increases the bank and further drops the nose. Next, apply just right rudder. It will stop the bank from increasing. Adding more right rudder will raise the left wing to level flight and the nose will come back up to level flight. The exercise teaches that to raise a lowered wing, opposite rudder is used. The exercise is relatively simple to perform and when properly demonstrated by a flight instructor, easily can be flown safely.

As with all such exercises, its purpose is the transfer of learning from the exercise to flight operations. For example, opposite rudder is used to raise a lowered wing following climbout after takeoff, while in slow flight, and when practicing power-off (landing) stalls and power-on (takeoff) stalls. A nose-high pitch attitude is common to these flight conditions. For them, should one wing suddenly lower due to a wind gust, opposite rudder is used—not ailerons—to raise the lowered wing.

Another example to employ opposite rudder is to correct an unusual attitude. For example, if an airplane is inadvertently rolled right into a bank angle of 60-to-70 degrees by a wind gust, wind shear or wake vortex, then opposite/left rudder is used to lower the raised wing and level the wings. Opposite rudder is also used to stop the autorotation of an airplane during a spin, as previously mentioned.

Raise a Wing With Rudder

Why is rudder preferred when attempting to raise a wing in a high-AoA situation? Lowering its aileron increases a wing’s AoA, possibly beyond the critical angle at which it stalls. That’s the exact scenario described in the accident scenario with which we began this article.

Consider that same 172 performing the same short-field takeoff and pitched up to around 15 degrees AoA to climb over an obstacle, two shy of the wing’s critical AoA, 17 degrees. Perhaps thanks to a gust, the left wing lowers slightly, and in an attempt to level the wings, the pilot applies right aileron, which raises the aileron on the right wing but lowers it on the left wing. This control input increases the left wing’s AoA to beyond 17 degrees, stalling that wing.

Lift is still being generated by the right wing, so the airplane naturally rolls left. Rather than correcting by neutralizing the ailerons and applying opposite rudder, the pilot continues deflecting the ailerons to the right in a futile attempt to raise the lowered left wing. This control input simply aggravates and intensifies the resulting spin.

Instead, the correct flight control input in this situation is to apply an appropriate amount of opposite rudder pressure—on the right rudder in this example—until the wings are level. Then, use only that amount of right rudder pressure necessary to keep the slip-skid ball/indicator centered.

As Langewiesche teaches, the rudder is very important in a stall. Immediately prior to, and when stalled, the airplane becomes latterly unstable, i.e., it wants to roll to the left or to the right. Ailerons simply don’t work well on a stalled wing, and as described above, inappropriate use of ailerons may contribute to a spin. As long as the wings are nearly stalled, only the rudder will keep the wings level or keep it from spinning.

To ensure the safety of our flight operations, proper rudder usage is a required pilot skill. Pilots with poor rudder skills and who want improvement should consider training in an older taildragger, like a Piper J-3 Cub, and a glider. Both types are intolerant of improper rudder use, especially during landings, forcing the pilot to learn to use the rudder properly. These fixed-wing aircraft are much more demanding to fly smoothly and precisely than a more conventional airplane like a Cessna 172 for example.

While performing a crosswind landing in a J-3 for example, in addition to employing a sideslip, a wheel landing is performed. While applying appropriate rudder pressure to maintain runway centerline heading, as well as appropriate stick pressure in the direction of the wind, the wheel touchdown order is upwind main wheel, downwind main wheel, and as the airplane loses lift energy, the tailwheel lowers to the runway. Improper rudder usage during rollout predisposes to loss of directional control and veering off the runway in a groundloop.

Proper rudder use when flying a glider results from the relatively longer wings. Since the ailerons are mounted near their tips, i.e., about as far from the glider’s longitudinal axis as the designers could place them, any adverse yaw is amplified when the rudder is misused. In a long-winged glider—and even powered aircraft with high-aspect ratio wings, entering a turn without applying appropriate rudder pedal pressure may result in significant slipping.

Assessing Your Skills

How can a pilot determine if he/she has poor rudder skills? One way to review/learn proper usage of rudder is during a flight review. As part of the flight review, a pilot should ask the flight instructor to critique his/her rudder skills while performing various maneuvers, especially sideslips and crosswind landings. Also during the flight review, the pilot should request the flight instructor to demonstrate proper and improper usage of rudder. By observing an experienced and knowledgeable flight instructor, a pilot can learn a lot about proper rudder skills. Recurrent training from a flight instructor in the proper usage of rudder promotes flight safety.

Improper rudder use, implicated as a factor in many fatal stall-spin accidents, is a significant flight safety issue for many reasons. Pilots should consider the potentially catastrophic effects that can result from improper rudder use as well as study the writings of respected authorities on using the stick and rudder, like Mr. Langewiesche and Capt. Barry Schiff, both of whom have written extensively on the subject. Also, for those interested in transitioning into taildragger airplanes and seeking excellent explanations on proper usage of rudder, pilots are encouraged to study The Compleat Taildragger Pilot by Harvey S. Plourde or the sections on flying tailwheel in The Thinking Pilot’s Flight Manual Vol 1, by AVweb Features Editor, Rick Durden

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

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So now we have a Republican congress and a soon-to-take-office Republican president. What does this mean for general aviation’s interests? For the airlines? For aerospace in general?

Probably about what it means for every other segment of the economy; no one seems to know enough to hazard a guess. Yet. In theory, the sacred project of the libertarian wing of the party seems within easy reach. That’s privatization and user fees for ATC, in case you weren’t paying attention. With Republican control of both chambers and a president willing to sign legislation they author, doesn’t it seem likely that such a thing might sail through the congress in the first 100 days?

Not so fast. Even if you’re but a casual consumer of news, you probably know the Republican House caucus is fractious and there’s no reason to believe that has changed since the election. Recall that even in a House with a solid Republican majority, Rep. Bill Shuster’s bill to turn air traffic control over to a nonprofit corporation with an 11-member oversight board including seats for the airlines, the pilot unions and general aviation, didn’t fare well. The bill found a wall of opposition before it even got a committee slot.

The reasons are several, but a big one is that for as much as Republicans favor small government and less spending, they value oversight and influence over major slices of the economy a little more. And transportation—and aviation—is a major industry in the U.S. It won’t matter if a President Trump would sign such a bill if it can’t be crafted to satisfy the oversight concerns in the House and Senate. Think more about defending castles and less about high-minded principles.

Ostensibly, the bill’s purpose—formally called the Aviation Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization Act—was to normalize the FAA’s uncertain funding and eliminate the ridiculous breath holding of repeated to-the-brink reauthorizations. Privatization was the bedrock of normalizing the revenue stream and, to an extent, de-politicizing it.  

For what it’s worth, President-elect Trump is a proponent of privatization and it figures significantly in his infrastructure plan. Rather than the government paying for contracts for road and bridge building, he proposed authorizing companies to do the work who would then be promised a revenue stream through tolls … user fees. With RFID technology getting cheap enough for airline baggage tags, you can see the technology is in place to do this easily. This is why the plan is said to be revenue neutral, so no additional taxes are needed. Of course, user fees are taxes by another name, whether for ATC services, roads or bridges.

This is not a new or radical idea. Thirty-three states have passed legislation allowing public private partnerships (P3s) for infrastructure work. Shuster’s bill, in concept, is just another version of a P3.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association supported the Shuster bill, provided its members’ current pay, benefits and worker protections remain in place. But with a new administration, the Civil Service system may find itself under scrutiny. Republican budget plans have included proposals to reduce the federal work force by attrition—Trump said the same—and revising retirement payments and plans, requiring federal employees to pay a higher share toward their own retirement funds. Such details would have to be worked into the fine print of a new bill, but it seems unlikely they won’t come up as discussion points. It’s unknown if the incoming administration will place a priority on FAA reform.

For aerospace in general, Trump’s campaign called for 42 new Navy ships, more active duty troops and 100 more modern fighter aircraft, presumably F-35s. Paced over a decade, that’s not exactly a defense bonanza, but at least it’s not a reduction, either. Defense spending recently peaked at $721 billion in 2010 and declined to $637 billion in 2015, a slight increase over 2014.

Higher defense spending should make Boeing and Lockheed Martin happy, and not just because they’ll build more airplanes. But they won’t be happy about Trump’s attitude toward trade deals, especially the Trans Pacific Partnership, which promised to improve Boeing’s sales prospects in Asia and the Pacific rim. Boeing’s unions opposed it, for the same reason they opposed NAFTA.

For their part, with the exception of Delta, the airlines favored privatization, ostensibly because it gave the FAA a stable funding platform but realistically because the industry would hold sway over ATC and could have overwhelming influence on policy, possibly at the expense of general aviation.  ALPA opposed the Shuster bill, too. Whether a second run at the idea can convince them—or anyone—to give privatization another chance will be sorted out when 115th congress takes its seats.

One thing the airlines should be pleased about but probably are not is President-elect Trump’s promise to pull out of the Paris climate accord and, by extension, a later agreement adopted in Montreal last month. It was a UN agreement that specifically targeted air transportation as a source of greenhouse gasses. It called for voluntary emissions offsets, but would become mandatory in 2027. It didn’t require emissions reductions, but offsets and credits to support renewable energy, forest preservation and other environmental efforts. The airlines supported it because it was a trade with no cap, did them no particular damage and didn’t promise to be that effective anyway.

It’s difficult to see why Boeing would cheer exiting the Paris agreement, however. Its aircraft will still have to compete in a world where climate regulations remain in the fore, especially Europe, so it can’t stop research on more efficient airframes and engines. The airframers would do that anyway in the service of airlines seeking profitability, but increasingly, climate regulation may drive developmental efforts, even if the U.S. abandons any GHG reduction goals.

And here’s a thought: What if President Trump’s EPA Administrator decided tetraethyl lead is not a health hazard and says y’all can go right ahead and keep using it in your avgas.

OMG. 

Saved from an Overdose

As I was approaching a near fatal overdose of election coverage, I finally did a self-intervention and turned off the television and cleared my browser of news sites. A few months ago, I bought an Amazon Fire TV Stick and its vast library of old films saved my sanity.

I found a great movie I'd never seen: Island in the Sky. It's an Ernest Gann story and although I vaguely recall reading the book, I didn't know it had been made into a film. The story is typical Gann: A C-47 en route to Europe encounters heavy icing in Labrador and is forced down on a remote frozen lake. The ship's Captain, Dooley—Gann's characters never to seem to have first names—struggles to keep the crew alive in arctic weather. The story alternates between an inside look at the rescue effort and the man-against-nature struggle of Dooley and his crew.

Like all of Gann's stories, the narrative is exceptional for its realistic detail. Gann came of age between eras, bookmarked by men who flew Ford Trimotors and Fokker F.VIIIs between the wars and sophisticated piston airliners and jets after World War II. His characters are often weather-beaten salts who survived ice and cranky engines before the "new-fangled" DC-3 came along. Improbably, in Island in the Sky, one of these is played by Andy Devine. Yes, the same crackly voiced, rotund Andy Devine who played Jingles P. Jones in Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok, not to mention his wildly popular children's program, Andy's Gang.

Watching Devine, whose character was named Willie Moon, inhabit the cockpit in the film, I thought, wow, he's really pulling this off. In one tight shot, Moon clips a clothespin to the trim wheel and uses it to hold his cigarette. Vintage Gann. No accident that Devine was authentic. He was the real deal. He was an avid pilot and owned a flight school that trained pilots during World War II.

One detail the filmmakers let slip by was describing the BC-778 survival radio the crew carried. They showed how it worked and how the crew set it up. But they missed using the popular term for the radio. It was called the Gibson Girl, for its hourglass figure. I knew that because as a radio-crazed kid, I had a Gibson Girl operating manual. The U.S. stole the design from the Germans, by the way. It saved a lot of downed airmen.

If you're similarly at the precipice with election coverage, I recommend Island in the Sky as an antidote. You'll feel better in the morning.

Lightspeed recently introduced its Tango noise-cancelling headset. The new product is wireless, so there's no hard connection between the headset and the panel. AVweb's Elaine Kauh gave the Tango a wring out and here's her video report.

As GAMA released another disappointing aircraft production report this week, the Teal Group’s Richard Aboulafia recently told the National Air Transportation Association that market data suggests next year won’t be much better. And although Teal says it’s “cautiously confident” that things won’t get worse, Aboulafia told us in this AVweb podcast that we’re far from the disastrous days of 2009.

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Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

We have a soft spot for warbirds and even though this image was Photoshopped (a silo was very well chopped out) it made the grade this week. C-46 Tinker Belle takes off with a load of paratrooper re-enactors during the 2016 Reading, PA WWII weekend. Bamboo provided by the Chinese Nationalist Army. Light and contrast balanced and cropped.

DC One-X from David Clark

The successful aviator needs more than the ability to look good behind overpriced sunglasses. Great pilots know the regulations and how to apply them in all weather, day or night, but especially while acing this quiz. (Includes results from last month's reader survey.)

Click here to take the quiz.

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