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Surveillance video of Harrison Ford’s miscue at John Wayne International Airport in California last week shows the Husky he was flying clear an American Airlines Boeing 737 by about 50 feet. As we reported last week, the celebrity pilot is under investigation by the FAA for landing on a taxiway instead of one of the airport’s parallel runways. Click through for the video.

In the video, the 737 stops abruptly, perhaps on its way to the hold line for the runway that Ford was supposed to land on, as the little yellow bush plane flies overhead to a wheelie on the taxiway. Ford hasn’t commented publicly about the incident but it has lit up both mainstream and social media and the video has ignited more interest.

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Five occupants of a King Air, including four Americans on a golf holiday, were killed when the aircraft crashed into the roof of a large shopping mall in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday. No one was hurt on the ground, likely because the accident occurred about 9 a.m., just before the mall opened for the day. Most of the aircraft ended going through the storeroom roof of a store in the mall. Staff of the store were not in that area. The pilot was identified as Max Quatermain, a professional pilot with 38 years of experience, who operated the King Air as a charter business. He reported "catastrophic engine failure" in two radio calls after takeoff. The Americans on board have been identified as Greg De Haven, 70, Russell Munsch, Glenn Garland, and John Washburn, 67, all from Texas.

Assistant Commissioner Stephen Leane, of the Victoria (State) Police, said the charter aircraft had taken off from Essendon Airport, a GA airport next to the mall, about eight miles from Melbourne’s city center. The aircraft was on its way to King Island, which is between Melbourne and Tasmania and is a popular vacation spot in the southern summer. Daniel Andrews, the premier of Victoria, said the mishap was “the worst civil aviation accident that our state has seen for 30 years.” The Australian Transport Safety Bureau is expected to release more details as the investigation continues.

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A team of Russian engineers working in San Francisco as Hoversurf have posted a video online showing an indoor flight test with their “hoverbike” design. The vehicle is powered by electric motors that drive four rotors, arrayed vertically at each corner. The pilot sits in a sort of saddle with his legs on either side, and his arms leaning on a control panel. The video shows the vehicle taking off vertically, flying forward and landing under control. The project, which began as a crowd-funded experiment, aims to provide an easy-to-fly vehicle using both manual and automated control, to provide “a thrilling flight experience,” according to the team’s website.

“The Scorpion platform is equipped with a safety system powered by state-of-the-art flight controllers, special logical programing and passive elements with computer-aided speed and altitude limiting,” the website says. In-house custom software aims to provide full manual and automated control. The team says while the hover bike has potential for “extreme sports,” their ultimate goal is to develop a drone taxi to provide urban air transport.

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Pal-V, a Netherlands company that has been developing a two-seat roadable gyroplane, said last week they are ready to start taking orders for the vehicle. “After years of hard work, beating the technical and qualification challenges, our team succeeded in creating an innovative flying car that complies with existing safety standards, determined by regulatory bodies around the world,” said Robert Dingemanse, CEO of PAL-V. The aircraft is designed to take off and land in 650 feet or less, and once on the ground it can be converted to drive mode in less than 10 minutes and travel at speeds up to 100 mph, the company said. Flying cruise speed is about 97 knots, with a range up to 270 NM. The Pal-V uses regular auto gas for fuel.

The company said they will start to build a “pre-production” series of the vehicles later this year. The first commercial model, the Liberty Pioneer, will start deliveries in Europe late next year, at a price of about $600,000 for the first 90 sold. A less-expensive model, the Liberty Sport, will be produced later, for about $400,000, the company said. The company is also taking orders in the U.S. and Canada.

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image: AOPA

Consumer drones have attracted millions of users, and created a conundrum for general aviation — are they friend or foe? On the one hand, many pilots have embraced the technology and enjoy it; on the other hand, the small flying machines can pose a threat to aircraft if operated irresponsibly. AOPA on Tuesday took a step to embrace the drone-flying community, announcing a new line of membership options for drone pilots. The idea, the organization said in a news release, is to “unite manned and unmanned pilots for the common purpose of safe integration of all users.”

“Dividing manned from unmanned aviators would rob both of many benefits, and create unnecessary conflict,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “We believe we are stronger as a united community, and welcome these new pilots with hope that our common goals of safety and freedom to fly will be achieved together.” The FAA estimates it will certify 1.3 million drone pilots by 2020, AOPA said. Within just a few years, they will outnumber pilots of manned aircraft by 2 to 1. AOPA said it will offer an online drone-pilot training course to prepare applicants for the FAA knowledge test, and will feature drone demos and seminars at its regional fly-ins.

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image: Emiquon Wildlife Refuge

Nature-loving pilots in search of an excuse to go flying have a new option thanks to the Recreational Aviation Foundation, which is offering a new fly-in to a wilderness site in Havana, Illinois, to view the spring bird migration. “Canada geese, snow geese, trumpeter swans, pelicans, and ducks numbering in the hundreds to hundreds of thousands” are expected to be passing through the site, RAF says. “This is an unforgettable North American animal migration that must be seen to be believed.” The event launches at 9 a.m., March 11, at Havana Regional Airport (9I0). Guests will be transported to the Emiquon Wildlife Refuge where a wildlife biologist will talk about the migration. Bring your camera. Lunch is provided at a local restaurant. “Weather and birds are unpredictable,” the RAF notes. “Be prepared.” A $20 donation is requested.

Also coming up March 2 to 4 is the annual Women in Aviation conference, at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. It’s not too late to register. The event features keynote speakers, educational sessions, an exhibit hall, scholarship awards and opportunities to meet with people from all areas of aviation. “There's no better place to be inspired, share your enthusiasm and connect with others who share your passion for the aviation industry,” says WAI. Patty Wagstaff will host a Girls in Aviation Day Lunch, and a banquet will honor the inductees to the Pioneer Hall of Fame. Also coming up June 2 to 4 is the second edition of the Modaero Festival, which hopes to draw a millennial crowd into aviation, with a music festival and career fair. This year the festival has added an airshow, and will be held at the airport in Conroe, Texas.

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Heard anything funny, unusual, or downright shocking on the radio lately? If you've been flying any length of time, you're sure to have eavesdropped on a few memorable exchanges. The ones that gave you a chuckle may do the same for your fellow AVweb readers. Share your radio funny with us, and, if we use it in a future "Short Final," we'll send you a sharp-looking AVweb hat to sport around your local airport. No joke.

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What the camera and teleprompter giveth, it can just as rapidly take away. That would be my salient observation from Harrison Ford’s recent dust-up at the Orange County Airport in California. You will not have missed, I’m sure, the story that Ford flew his Husky over the top of a stopped American Airlines 737 and followed that with a landing on a taxiway parallel to the runway he had actually been cleared to land on. Probably a perfect three pointer, too.

I’m less interested in dissecting the why of this incident than I am two other aspects: First, how to avoid such things in the first place and, second, what PR damage is done when a high-profile person like Ford gets involved in an accident or incident. This is the fourth such event for Ford and I’m sure that when EAA declared him to be a Living Legend of Aviation, they weren’t thinking of legendary exploits through the infinite variety of 91.13. But who among us hasn’t been in the barrel?

In aviation, we’re fond of using celebrities who fly as promotional vehicles for the industry. And why not? Ford has shown up to help promote various aviation causes and events and even though I’m not particularly wowed by famous people, I acknowledge that others are. If it sells avgas and flight lessons, I’m all for it. But I’m not particularly convinced such endorsements really achieve much.

The other edge of this blunt, rusty axe, however, is when said celebrity gets into a scrape, it gets a lot of press that, if not negative, isn’t exactly desirable, either. Scanning the hundreds of stories published of Ford’s Orange County incident, I see most of them are straight news, although a few determined reporters got sources to say this was much more dangerous than it in fact was and that he should turn in his certificates. Overreact much? Many news writers cut and paste the phrase that Ford is “an accomplished pilot” then in the very next sentence catalog the other mishaps he’s had.

To be honest, if celebrity promotion of aviation doesn’t do much to help, I don’t think something like this does much to hurt, either. It will spin out the news cycle by next week and we’ll be on to obsessing about President Trump’s palace intrigue.

As pilots, we know stuff like this happens every day, although not necessarily at Part 139 airports like John Wayne. We cover—we meaning AVweb—Ford because the mainstream media does and we have little choice to do otherwise lest we appear to be sandbagging. However, when I taxied the Cub into a Cirrus last Thursday and caused a fire that destroyed three airplanes, we didn’t cover it because I’m not a celebrity. OK, so that didn’t happen, but it could have. And we probably would have covered it because I’d have gotten good video and I’m all about the clicks. Viral gold is just one iPhone clip away.

The lemonade-from-lemons here is just for pilots. It gives bloggers like me grist to grind by pointing out that something like this is just as easily avoided as it is being something that can happen to any of us and probably has for anyone who has flown for many years. I’m sure other people a lot smarter than me will write thousands of words of theory to back up an analysis of why it happened to Harrison Ford. But I think it’s actually a lot simpler than that.

As wisdom seeps into my head despite my clinging to the maturity of a 17-year-old, I am less impressed with the complicated ways we sometimes employ to solve problems in aviation. One that comes to mind—and one I simply detest—is mnemonics like IMSAFE, which we blithely pass along like candy at Halloween. I can’t even remember what the damn letters are supposed to remind me of, so I don’t use it. Is it really just a diabolical short-term memory test?

I have become a big fan of OODA loops and have come to understand they work for everything. Years ago, I was taught this banal trick by a flight instructor named Ed Weber who checked me out in the first retractable I ever flew, a Mooney. Somewhere on final, he said, just say this to yourself: “Final landing check, the gear is down.” To this day, I still do that, usually out loud, and even in a fixed-gear airplane. Although we didn’t call it that then, that’s an OODA loop or perhaps a fragment of one.

What it does is this: It breaks up the target fixation we’re all capable of suffering when making decisions under duress—maybe it’s gusty, the radio is wall-to-wall, there’s a lot of traffic or the weather is low. To complete the desired task—say, landing—you naturally tune out all those distractions, but what also gets tuned out is reserve mental bandwidth to do error checking. In all but the most extreme of circumstances, the motor skills required to fly the airplane are baked in; you don’t need to think about it. That leaves a lot of surplus bandwidth to simply ask, “Have I forgotten anything?” All you need is some little trick to jar you loose from the closed loop of task fixation, a means to momentarily draw back and assess—the observe and orient part of OODA. Observe also means seeing the world as it is, not as you think it should be.  

Some years ago, when I visited the Navy’s LSO school in Norfolk, one of the instructors there mentioned to me something I’d heard several times. He said every LSO had some version of a “sugar call,” a magic word or two or a soothing tone meant to calm a pilot or snap him out of teeth-clenched tunnel vision focused on the deck, the AoA or some other distraction that should only be a piece of the whole picture, not the picture itself. “Final check, gear down” is my version of a self-generated sugar call. I’m sure you could devise your own or some other means of avoiding task fixation.  

Flying more helps, too. These days, some of us are lucky to see 60 hours a year when 100 would do wonders for proficiency. Head tricks like sugar calls and OODA loops may do only so much to avoid bending metal or landing on the wrong runway, but then again, sometimes all you can do is fix what you can with what you’ve got.


Daher's new TBM 930 is equipped with the Garmin G3000, the latest glass panel technology that also includes the most sophisticated electronic stability protection package we've seen. In this AVweb video, Paul Bertorelli checks it out with Daher's Nic Chabbert. 


Heard anything funny, unusual, or downright shocking on the radio lately? If you've been flying any length of time, you're sure to have eavesdropped on a few memorable exchanges. The ones that gave you a chuckle may do the same for your fellow AVweb readers. Share your radio funny with us, and, if we use it in a future "Short Final," we'll send you a sharp-looking AVweb hat to sport around your local airport. No joke.

Click here to submit your original, true, and previously unpublished story.


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