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John Glenn, a lifelong pilot and public figure who is best known as the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth, died Thursday at 95. The retired military airman and four-term U.S. senator was hospitalized in Columbus, Ohio, about a week ago in declining health. Glenn, a native of Cambridge in eastern Ohio, is the state's "ultimate hometown hero, and his passing today is an occasion for all of us to grieve," Ohio Gov. John Kasich tweeted. Glenn is a decorated military pilot who flew combat missions in World War II and the Korean War before flying as a military test pilot and joining NASA's astronaut program in 1958.  

During World War II, he flew 59 combat missions as part of Marine Fighter Squadron 155 flying F-4U fighters. He continued flying as a Marine pilot on Guam after the war and later instructed military pilots, according to NASA. As part of Marine Fighter Squadron 311 in the Korean War, he flew 63 missions. For his service in both wars, Glenn received numerous honors including six awards of the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. He went on to fly as a military test pilot and in 1957 set a transcontinental speed record from Los Angeles to New York in a supersonic F8U Crusader.

He joined NASA’s first astronaut program and on Feb. 20, 1962, on board the Friendship 7 spacecraft, he orbited the Earth three times, reaching a maximum altitude of 162 miles and speeds upward of 17,500 miles per hour in a flight that lasted just under five hours. During his orbits he was heard to say, "Zero-G and I feel fine. Man, that view is tremendous." More than 36 years later, in October 1998, Glenn became the oldest astronaut to fly in space when he served as a crew member on the space shuttle Discovery. Glenn was honored earlier this year when Port Columbus International Airport was renamed John Glenn Columbus International Airport. His body will lie in state at the Ohio Statehouse before a public memorial service, and he will be buried during a private service at Arlington National Cemetery, according to The Columbus Dispatch.  

 

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There will be no more rocket launches this year for SpaceX, which announced Wednesday it will not be ready to resume flights on Dec. 16 as the company had intended. The delay marks the second time the California company has had to postpone launch operations as the probe into the Sept. 1 rocket explosion at Cape Canaveral is finalized. SpaceX said it’s still prepping and working on “extended testing” for what it now hopes to be a January launch of 10 satellites under contract with Iridium Communications. According to a CNNMoney report, the company also is waiting for the FAA and NASA to complete reviews of the investigation of the Sept. 1 launch-pad burnup during a test, which appears to have been caused by supercooled liquid oxygen fuel solidifying and then reacting with pressurized helium, causing multiple explosions at Space Launch Complex 40.

“We are finalizing the investigation into our September 1 anomaly and are working to complete the final steps necessary to safely and reliably return to flight, now in early January with the launch of Iridium-1,” SpaceX said in a brief statement. “This allows for additional time to close-out vehicle preparations and complete extended testing to help ensure the highest possible level of mission assurance prior to launch.” The company’s CEO, Elon Musk, had been optimistic soon after the accident that launches would resume by November. Those plans were put off until the now-cancelled Dec. 16 target date as Musk said the investigation revealed a “really surprising problem that’s never been encountered before in the history of rocketry.” SpaceX rockets have suffered a series of destructive incidents including a post-launch structural failure on a Dragon rocket in June 2015, which delayed further flights for six months.

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A Pakistan International Airlines turboprop crashed Wednesday in the country’s northern region, killing all 48 people on board. News reports say there was a fiery explosion as the ATR-42 crashed following a possible engine-related emergency. The airliner was carrying 42 passengers, five crew members and a ground engineer when it crashed in mountainous terrain north of the flight’s destination to Islamabad. Recovery teams are working at the site and have recovered the flight data recorder. CNN is reporting that the pilot declared an emergency due to an engine failure.

Witness video of the wreckage posted by Reuters shows a trail of burning debris strewn along a mountainside. Officials in Pakistan told the news service that “all of the bodies are burnt beyond recognition. The debris are scattered.” Witnesses also reported that “before it hit the ground it was on fire.”

 

There will be no more rocket launches this year for SpaceX, which announced Wednesday it will not be ready to resume flights on Dec. 16 as the company had intended. The delay marks the second time the California company has had to postpone launch operations as the probe into the Sept. 1 rocket explosion at Cape Canaveral is finalized. SpaceX said it’s still prepping and working on “extended testing” for what it now hopes to be a January launch of 10 satellites under contract with Iridium Communications. According to a CNNMoney report, the company also is waiting for the FAA and NASA to complete reviews of the investigation of the Sept. 1 launch-pad burnup during a test, which appears to have been caused by supercooled liquid oxygen fuel solidifying and then reacting with pressurized helium, causing multiple explosions at Space Launch Complex 40.

“We are finalizing the investigation into our September 1 anomaly and are working to complete the final steps necessary to safely and reliably return to flight, now in early January with the launch of Iridium-1,” SpaceX said in a brief statement. “This allows for additional time to close-out vehicle preparations and complete extended testing to help ensure the highest possible level of mission assurance prior to launch.” The company’s CEO, Elon Musk, had been optimistic soon after the accident that launches would resume by November. Those plans were put off until the now-cancelled Dec. 16 target date as Musk said the investigation revealed a “really surprising problem that’s never been encountered before in the history of rocketry.” SpaceX rockets have suffered a series of destructive incidents including a post-launch structural failure on a Dragon rocket in June 2015, which delayed further flights for six months.

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As airlines continue to unbundle what's covered by a basic fare, United Airlines announced this week that it will begin charging for the use of overhead space in its cabins. While discount airlines such as Spirit have charged for the overhead for several years, United is the first major airline to do so. 

The Washington Post reported this week that as part of a new pricing tier, United is introducing Basic Economy for passengers who purchase the cheapest fares. They'll be allowed only one carry-on that fits under the seat. The fare class also restricts seat assignment until the day of the flight. Passengers who purchase higher class tickets will be allowed to stow carry-ons in the overhead, but will still be charged for checked bags. Also, Basic Economy passengers will still be allowed to purchase overpriced food onboard the aircraft. The new fares take effect in early 2017.

Famed aerobatic pilot and aircraft designer Walter Extra has set a new FAI record for time to climb in an electric airplane. According to Extra and Siemens, the manufacturer of the motor used in the Extra 330LE, the climb was 4:22 to an altitude of 3000 meters (9842 feet). That's an average climb rate of about 2300 feet per minute. The record is a new C1b class for light landplanes but it doesn't exceed time to climb performance for piston airplanes in other classes. The record applies to powered electric aircraft with a takeoff weight of 500 to 1000 kg.

The Extra 330LE first appeared last spring at the Aero show in Friedrichshafen, Germany. As part of its regular show coverage of Aero, AVweb prepared this video report. The 330LE was developed by a consortium of companies including Extra, Siemens, MT Propeller and Pipistrel. The motor is a 350-HP brushless DC design that weights only 110 pounds. You can learn about the details in this AVweb video

The flight took place on Nov. 25 at Dinslaken, Germany. Siemen's Frank Anton, head of eAircraft at the company, said, “This is the first time that an electric aircraft in the quarter-megawatt performance class has flown.” He said the new system means that hybrid-electric aircraft with four or more seats will now be possible. However, battery development still lags and this is seen as an essential requirement for practical aircraft, including hybrids.

The Atlanta Technical College, in Atlanta, Georgia, is no longer certified to offer aviation maintenance technician training, the FAA said this week. The FAA issued an emergency order alleging that the college failed to keep proper records for students. Some grade records were incomplete or lacked instructor signatures, the FAA said, and several students who hadn’t made up absences were allowed to advance in the program. ATC surrendered its certificate. The college said in a written statement that it is “on track to become in full compliance with the FAA’s requirements and anticipates the restoration of its Air Agency certificate,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. “We look forward to future inspection of our program by the FAA,” the statement from ATC said. “We will accept students again in the aviation maintenance program once the certificate is reinstated.”

The FAA said ATC hasn’t enrolled any students or conducted any classes in the technician program since May 2014, and the FAA rescinded its curriculum approval in June 2014. However, ATC has continued to administer exit examinations and issued certificates of completion to its former students when it knew it was not authorized to do so, the FAA alleged. Additionally, ATC did not provide the FAA with requested copies of each certificate of completion and a detailed analysis of how students received certificates in the absence of an FAA-approved curriculum, the agency alleges.

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AVweb’s search of news in aviation found announcements from the Unmanned Safety Institute, the Civil Air Patrol, Airbus Helicopters and MAC Air Group. The Unmanned Safety Institute announced that it has launched the first-ever online training course designed by its team of leading aviation safety experts to teach drone enthusiasts how to fly safely and minimize risk. The course, known as SAFEGUARD, is a self-paced online course that is approximately one hour in length and covers essential safety topics, including understanding airspace, identifying and avoiding hazards, weather effects on drones, planning safe flights and FAA regulations. Civil Air Patrol members from across the state of Louisiana gathered Dec. 3 at The National WWII Museum for a ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of the organization’s founding. Louisiana Wing Commander, Colonel Thomas “Doc” Barnard, spoke about Civil Air Patrol’s efforts and commitment during World War II and its present-day mission.

The NH90 Sea Lion naval multi-role helicopter took off on its on-schedule maiden flight at Airbus Helicopters in Donauwörth. Deliveries of NH90 Sea Lions to the Navy will start at the end of 2019. When deployed, it will take on a range of roles including search and rescue (SAR) missions, maritime reconnaissance, special forces missions as well as personnel and materiel transportation tasks. MAC Air Group is honored to have been chosen the New Business of the Year Award for 2016 given by the City of South Portland, Maine. The City of South Portland's Economic Development Committee administers a Business Awards Program that recognizes outstanding businesses within the community on an annual basis. Businesses are chosen based on their accomplishments and achievements and contributions to the community.

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Aeronautical decision-making (ADM) is essentially the mental process of gathering and evaluating information pertinent to a flight; listing the options and their attendant risks; and then choosing the best alternatives. It is an iterative process due to the nature of the changing variables inherent in flight.

ADM is often a relatively simple and subliminal process if we are out for that $100 hamburger on a beautiful Saturday morning. However, when you have a long cross-country and weather ahead of you (and some commitments on the other end), it takes on a far greater significance.

Flying into Oshkosh for my third time kept me on my toes. I want to share some of the challenges and decision making that made for an exciting time in a wonderful environment.

I flew a Mooney Bravo that is normally well equipped. I say “normally” since the oxygen bottle’s 15-year life had run out and the new one was not available prior to my flight. The autopilot was the other inoperative piece of equipment. Many single-pilot IFR folks will attest to the value and workload relief that this wonderful system provides. Fortunately,  I had an AP backup—a long-time family friend Michelle—a 500-hour commercial pilot with instrument rating and about 20 hours logged in this airplane.

The Mooney had the traditional round-dial flight instruments featuring a BendixKing AI and HSI; a Garmin GTN 750 and GTN 650 MFD navcomm, with NEXRAD and Stormscope. I carry an Android tablet with the Garmin Pilot app connected wirelessly to a GDL 39 that provides a link to ADS-B In.

The Plan

Although we had some commitments in OSH, unlike previous years, each could be postponed or even canceled with a simple phone call—this ensured that we were not creating an obligation trap.

The first significant decision came before we left the ground on Saturday due to the airplane being in maintenance. Should we accept a late departure or wait until the next day. We decided that some distance covered was better than none, and launched out of Albuquerque at 1530 local time.

In New Mexico, this means summer thunderstorms need to be addressed carefully and this day was no exception. Looking at the radar it appeared we could work south around the weather; so we filed for V234. However, the clearance received was to fly north on V263 to the Santa Fe (SAF) VOR and then southeast on V62 to join V12 enroute to Woodward, Kansas (KWWR).

We already knew that route was not going to work due to the severe weather we observed but decided to head out and see what would develop or dissipate as we approached SAF.

We had a few options such as continuing north or just coming back to ABQ and trying again in the morning. The GTN and GDL both showed the same severe intensity along our flight path east of SAF with no areas of deviations possible at our legal altitude. ABQ Center confirmed the moderate to extreme precipitation multiple times along our route, and I can take a hint.

I advised  ATC that Plan B was now in effect, which meant we would  head north on V83 to Alamosa, and then east on V210 and V10 to our revised destination of Dodge City, providing we could find a nice gap between the Rockies and storms…talk about a rock and a hard place. We could have had a more direct route over the Sangre De Cristo Mountains at 17,000 but the oxygen was not available and I was already missing it.

Avoiding Heavy Weather

The onboard weather display showed the new route as promising, and we confirmed that when handed off to Denver Center. The Stormscope proved valuable and allowed us to comfortably navigate around the most intense areas of activity at a well-respected distance, with other alternatives available if necessary.

Another cell was hovering near Dodge City and we did not want to further our already long delay that preceded the flight. Our fuel conserving efforts allowed us to again modify our destination to Hutchinson, Kansas (KHUT). Throttling back the Bravo and running a lower RPM, significantly reduced fuel flow and still allowed us to maintain a respectable speed while increasing our range.

The weather in Hutchinson was great and we were lucky to find one sole around past dinner time—a local flight instructor. He was kind enough to offer us the courtesy car for the evening.

A storm passed through our route to Cedar Rapids the next day in the early morning hours before our departure and we beat out the second storm by launching at 0900.

This last IFR leg to Oshkosh started out IMC within a few minutes of our Cedar Rapids departure. I will say that the AP paid for itself on this leg. Michelle worked hard and loved it. Having two pilots was a huge safety factor in this scenario, Michelle did the hard work, and I simply managed the planning, navigation and steward duties.

We monitored the weather in and around Oshkosh and it looked as though we could just make it before the next cell moved in.

We had actually filed to Madison Wisconsin, but 20 miles south we advised Approach that our goal was to press on to Oshkosh and that we would like them to take us IFR as far north as possible—they had no problem with the request.

We were then vectored in and out of IMC for the next 30 minutes until we cleared the clouds at a lower altitude. Once in the clear, we cancelled IFR and went direct to RIPON for the VFR arrival to KOSH. We landed on 36R (a taxiway at other times during the year) with very little taxiing thanks to the FBO sign in the windscreen and that made this portion of our trip come to an end just 45 minutes ahead of the next cell.

The Return Trip

I like to fly my cross-countries IFR and departing Oshkosh was no exception. We read and understood the NOTAM. An e-STMP (Special Traffic Management Program) account is required and the NOTAM provides a link to this.

Once I had my account, I simply logged on and chose our departure airport, date and time. I received a registration number to be noted in the remarks section of the flight plan.

The departure procedure for our route was direct to the Dell Vortac; we then received our clearance “as filed” that would take us to the Kansas City Downtown (KMKC) airport. We took off on a VFR day using the eyeballs for separation services for incoming VFR traffic.

Weather became a factor as we got closer to Kansas City. The NEXRAD and GDL showed a nice horseshoe pattern with much less intensity—nicely timed for our arrival. We asked Center for the lowest altitude they could give us that was 4000 feet; down from 10,000 feet. This allowed us to observe the heavy shafts of rain around us and to keep our distance.

The Stormscope et al. provides great situational awareness, but it’s nice to keep an actual eye on things when you can. ATC advised that our current route was the preferred one for all the deviations they had that morning and that solidified our decisions. A few light-to-moderate rain showers were encountered for about 15 minutes and then blue skies prevailed.

Appreciating The Apps

Another nice feature of the Garmin Pilot app is that you can have it on two devices. I used it on my phone to file and plan our next leg to Amarillo, as my tablet is Wi-Fi only. This is very convenient and it is nice to get that confirmation e-mail stating that your flight plan has been filed and accepted. More than a few times when I call to get a clearance, I discover there is no flight plan on file.

The flight to Amarillo consisted of a few non-threatening cumulous clouds along the way and Michelle was still working tirelessly.

Once we departed AMA, we were in and out of the most beautiful clouds I have ever experienced. The autopilot moved us left and right all the way back to ABQ just so she could hit her favorite formation along the way.

The trip was one of my best flying experiences. I was in good company with a competent pilot and together we made informed decisions. We left with the plan that “we never had to be anywhere” and it worked.

The onboard equipment was invaluable to our decision making and really provided some great situational awareness, which really does help calm the nerves in some of the more stressful situations.

Garmin provides some great tools for flying and I am excited to see what additional creativity comes out of them with the competition in hot pursuit.

TJ Spitzmiller is a CFI, avid IFR enthusiast, and the wayward son of the IFR Refresher editor.

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

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That the death of John Glenn on Thursday came as no surprise made it no less sad. For my generation, Glenn was an indelible figure of towering accomplishment. Given his chosen profession and the risks that defined it, living to the age of 95 was itself a feat, never mind being launched into space twice. His death irretrievably closes the door on an era: He was the last living astronaut of the original Mercury Seven.

As I was reviewing our news brief on Glenn’s passing, it occurred to me that his stature in American life probably has generational resonance. Glenn looms larger than life in my consciousness of aviation history in a way that he is less likely to for someone born around, or after, the time he went into space in 1962. It helps to have lived through the events that put John Glenn on the national stage to understand why he was so revered.

I was seven years old in 1957 when the Soviets launched Sputnik I and my memory of it is so vivid that I even recall the month: October. As kids, we could tell this scared the bejesus out of the grown ups and that in turn scared the bejesus out of us. I guess we thought it meant atom bombs would be hurled from space. The sisters doubled up on our duck-and-cover drills. It didn’t occur to us that Sputnik was the size of a beach ball and weighed 180 pounds. Four years later, we were shocked again when Yuri Gagarin didn’t just poke his nose into space, but orbited the earth. I distinctly remember my father muttering about idiot government scientists who couldn’t even launch small satellites without blowing them to bits in Florida.

Alan Shepard’s measly sub-orbital lob a month after Gagarin’s flight at least put some points on the board, but it seemed a pale, unsatisfying rejoinder. The post-flight loss of Gus Grissom’s Mercury 4 and his near drowning two months later left the country jittery and uncertain of its space prowess. Then came John Glenn. His three-orbit flight in February 1962, after weeks of delays, electrified the country in the way that the lunar landing—just seven years later—did. Yet I think Glenn was treasured to an extent that perhaps even Neil Armstrong was not. If that’s true, it’s probably because Glenn was a single-combat warrior who triumphed in the darkest and most fearful days of the Cold War. We knew Glenn's Atlas was man rated, but the ink on the type certificate was still wet when he wedged himself into Friendship 7. We also knew that Armstrong stood on the shoulders of 400,000 able scientists, engineers and technicians. Glenn was Lindbergh to Armstrong's Donald Douglas.

In the fall of the same year Glenn flew, the Cold War nearly turned hot with the Cuban Missile Crisis. But Glenn never lost his sheen as a steely-eyed hero. So precious was he, in fact, that NASA and the Kennedy Administration determined he was too valuable to lose and struck his name from the astronaut rotation. It’s hard to imagine anyone reaching such vaunted heights today. Glenn resigned from NASA, became a Senator from Ohio, ran for president and flew in space again on the Space Shuttle in 1998, at 77.

Although I never met Glenn, I had a personal connection. When I took over as editor of our sister publication, IFR, in 1991, Glenn was still an active pilot and subscribed to the magazine. I seem to recall he had a Baron. He sent in a couple of On the Air contributions and notes to the editor, with a request to not use his name. I’m not sure why he thought that. It’s not like anyone was about to challenge him.

Glenn was, undeniably, a man shaped by his times. He grew up during the depression, fought in two wars and found himself ideally placed to explore the emerging high frontier. He did so with a professionalism and self-effacing grace that may have been unique to the post-war years. It may seem as unavoidable as it is trite to say it, but Glenn’s backup for the first orbital flight, Scott Carpenter, famously ad libbed over a launch comm link what served him in life and now in death: Godspeed, John Glenn.  

Stemme is planning to deliver its $369,000 next-generation S12 motorglider to U.S. customers this coming December. The new S12 picks up where the Stemme S10VT (which will remain in production) left off. It sports a longer 82-foot wing and an impressive 53:1 glide ratio, more baggage space, an integral tail water ballast system, a Dynon EFIS and autopilot system and variety of other improvements. For this production, Aviation Consumer magazine editor Larry Anglisano flew the S12 with company demo pilot Wes Chumley at Stemme U.S.A.'s Columbia, South Carolina, delivery center.

Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

As aviation photos go, this was the best this week but there are some great beauty shots when you click through. In the meantime, congratulations to Daniel Gillette for this very nice photo he calls Sunset Pitch-Out. The photo is copyrighted by Gillette.

Pilots tend to be optimists. To be otherwise would bring into question our fantasies of cruising above the planet while sporting little more than wings braced with the aeronautical savvy needed to ace this quiz.

Click here to take the quiz.

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