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AOPA has suggested a way to ease the impact of President Donald Trump’s frequent visits to his Palm Beach resort. AOPA President Mark Baker has written Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly asking that “security screening capabilities and gateway operations” be established at Palm Beach County Park/Lantana Airport to allow relatively normal GA operations to carry on when Trump is at Mar-a-Lago. The airport is a reliever to Palm Beach International and home to a host of aviation-related businesses and based aircraft. As we reported last week, the TFRs that result from Trump’s visits to the “southern White House” cost operators at Lantana about $30,000 and it’s devastating their businesses. There are five flight schools and about 20 other businesses at the busy field.

AOPA originally pressed for a cutout in the presidential TFR but the TSA did not authorize it. Lantana is within the inner 10-NM ring no-fly-zone established for presidential TFRs and the Secret Service insists that nobody be allowed to fly in that ring without TSA screening. “A fixed base operator, Stellar Aviation at Lantana Airport, has a 300-square-foot office that is available for passenger and luggage screening and is ready to work with the TSA to implement gateway operations,” Baker wrote. AOPA has also asked Florida senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson and Rep. Lois Frankel to have a word with the TSA.

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The FAA is shooting itself in the foot with its inflexible attitude on medical disqualifications according to veteran instructor and aviation industry leader John King. King, who owns King Schools with his wife Martha, told AVweb in a podcast interview that he’ll be appealing the loss of his medical to an NTSB administrative law judge at a hearing that will likely be held this coming summer. That’s his last avenue of appeal after his appeal to the Federal Air Surgeon was rejected, he says, without due consideration. “The FAA’s inflexibility on this is not only bad for the individual they’re being inflexible toward but it’s also bad for the aviation community and it’s bad for the FAA themselves,” he said. “This has cost them a lot of goodwill with pilots.” That, in turn, has caused congressional action mandating things like third class medical reform, when all the agency has to do is follow its own guidelines in terms of fairness and risk-based analysis.

King said his journey through the FAA medical bureaucracy began when he fell back into bed one morning in 2014 and didn’t come around as fast as Martha thought he should. A trip to the hospital confirmed he’d had a seizure. Follow-up visits with two neurologists didn’t find any clinical cause for the seizure so his doctors wrote it off as a one-off event likely caused by too much coffee, too little sleep and the effects of a medication he was using to fight an infection. King resumed flying and when his medical lapsed he reported the incident and was disqualified. In the case of seizures, the FAA can disqualify for a minimum of two years if the seizure is considered “provoked” but if the seizure’s cause has not been determined the FAA requires a pilot to wait at least four years before reapplying. King maintains his seizure was caused by his physical state at the time and he’s no more likely to have another seizure than anyone else is. He’s had none since. And while he’s anxious to get his flying privileges restored, he’s more interested in having the FAA change its ways in medical disqualification cases like his. He said the agency needs to “become more flexible and follow some of these core values of treating people like individuals and making risk-based management decisions.”

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Veteran airshow pilot Sean Tucker will receive AOPA’s R.A. “Bob” Hoover Trophy on March 8 at a ceremony at Terminal A at Reagan National Airport. The award was inaugurated last year and given to Hoover, who died last year. Tucker, who used Hoover as a role model in developing his own aerobatics career, is the second recipient. In a news release, the selection committee said Tucker was chosen for “demonstrating the airmanship, leadership and passion for aviation that Mr. Hoover exhibited during his distinguished career and life as a pilot and aviation advocate.”

Tucker helped emcee the tribute to Hoover at Van Nuys Airport last November and has been a fixture on the airshow circuit for decades. He is currently serving as chairman of Young Eagles and the AOPA award will add to a long list of accolades. Among those honors is his induction into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2008, being named one of the Living Legends of Aviation and being one of the National Air and Space Museum’s 25 Living Legends of Flight.

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NASA’s Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) preliminary design model is entering an eight-week testing phase at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, the agency reports. The Glenn Research Center wind tunnel will simulate speeds from Mach 0.3 to Mach 1.6 to ensure smooth airflow into the engine during all phases of flight and to confirm that lift, drag and side forces on the airframe at various angles of attack, sideslip and Mach number are within expected ranges.

Supersonic flight by civil aircraft in the United States is prohibited due to the disruptive sonic boom created by existing supersonic aircraft designs. Limitation of supersonic travel to oceanic airspace is thought to be a major factor in the absence of a market for supersonic business aircraft. “Our unique aircraft design is shaped to separate the shocks and expansions associated with supersonic flight, dramatically reducing the aircraft’s loudness,” said Peter Losifidis, QueSST program manager at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. “Our design reduces the airplane’s noise signature to more of a ‘heartbeat’ instead of the traditional sonic boom that’s associated with current supersonic aircraft in flight today.”

Lockheed Martin won a contract to design the QueSST model in February 2016 as the first phase of a supersonic quiet flight demonstrator. If additional funding for the project is approved, NASA says they expect to award an additional contract for final design, build and testing of a flying low-boom demonstration aircraft. NASA hopes to see a QueSST X-plane take flight around 2020. 

Photo Credit: NASA

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Cracks near the wing strut attachment were found in several Cessna 207s belonging to a single operator, leading the FAA to request information from owners and operators to determine how many aircraft have similar damage. The cracks could cause wing deformation leading to unflattering changes in flight characteristics, and, although unlikely, could cause wing failure in aircraft with extremely advanced cracks, according to the FAA. Cessnas with wing struts produced up to 1986 are potentially affected. The FAA has been aware of the issue since at least 1995, when Cessna released a service bulletin (SEB95-19) requiring inspection of the lower forward doorpost every 1,000 hours and installation of a reinforcement kit if cracks are found. The request for additional information through this Airworthiness Concern Sheet suggests the FAA is considering more frequent inspections.

When operators perform the required inspection, the FAA is asking owners/operators to send the results, along with total airframe hours, to the Wichita Aircraft Certification Office. The agency is also seeking information on the time required to perform the inspection to assess the cost of more frequent inspections. The 1995 service bulletin estimates 1.5 man-hours to perform the inspection, which requires removal of the upholstery, heater ducts and floorboard inspection covers near the lower forward cabin doorpost. Cessna budgets an additional 24 man-hours to install the reinforcement kit, if needed.

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Pilots continue to report increasing numbers of suspected in-flight sightings of small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) to air traffic control, says data released Thursday by the FAA. Pilots reported 1,274 sightings of sUAS in areas where those systems are not authorized to operate for the February 2016 through September 2016 reporting period. Those figures are up from 874 for the same period in 2016—an increase of more than 45%.

The FAA cautions that drone sightings should be taken with a grain of salt. What were previously reported as birds, balloons or otherwise unidentified flying objects may now be reported as close encounters with a drone. Although several of the sUAS sightings include reports of collisions with aircraft, the FAA has been unable to substantiate a single incident of a private sUAS colliding with a civil aircraft. “Every investigation has found the reported collisions were either birds, impact with other items such as wires and posts, or structural failure not related to colliding with an unmanned aircraft,” says the FAA in Thursday’s press release.

sUAS systems are not permitted to be operated above 400’ AGL, at night, or outside the operator’s line of sight and may be operated only in Class G airspace. Detailed rules on operation of sUAS can be found here on the FAA website, as well as through an FAA-produced app for iOS and Android devices—B4UFLY.

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A couple of hunters from a small northern Canada village are being called the “luckiest two guys in the Arctic” after an RCAF patrol aircraft happened on them purely by accident and flew them to safety after a tricky landing on sea ice. Eugene Gibbons and Tyler Amarualik, of Hall Beach, a hamlet of 750 people on the 68th parallel in Nunavut, were hunting caribou last Wednesday with Lloyd Satuqsi when their snowmobile broke down. While Satuqsi started walking the 25 miles back to Hall Beach for help, the other two hunkered down in temperatures that reached -40 overnight. Meanwhile, the next day an RCAF Twin Otter, which is normally based at 440 Squadron in Yellowknife, was taking part in a patrol mission as part of a military exercise when one of the crew members spotted one of the men.

The aircraft commander, Capt. Thom Doelman, told the CBC that given the vast open spaces of the Canadian Arctic, the odds of the encounter are incalculable. "You could probably go crazy trying think of all the things that had to line up for us to see these guys out there," he told the TV network. Because the exercise was based out of Hall Beach Airport, the Twin Otter wasn’t equipped with the skis it uses for off-airport operations and Doelman had to land on the ice with wheels. To ensure the ice could carry the weight of the plane, he checked the strength by setting the aircraft down on the main wheels with the nosegear elevated, ready to add power and take off instantly if it showed signs of cracking. The ice held and Doelman was able to taxi up to the hunters’ makeshift camp. They were back in the air a few minutes later where they alerted the local Royal Canadian Mounted Police about the third hunter on foot. He was found in a ground search early the following morning. He was hospitalized with hypothermia and frostbite but the two men rescued by the plane had only minor frostbite.

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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.gov. Final reports appear about a year after the accident, although some take longer. Find out more about Aviation Safety at www.aviationsafetymagazine.com.

Piper PA-28-235 Cherokee 235

November 12, 2016, Taylor, Arizona

The airplane struck a berm at about 1640 Mountain time during a forced landing following a loss of engine power. The flight instructor and student pilot were not injured, but the airplane sustained substantial damage. Visual conditions prevailed.

While the student demonstrated an emergency descent and after descending through about 1300 feet agl, the instructor pushed the throttle forward but the manifold pressure gauge remained static, and the engine did not respond. He “pumped” the throttle, switched the fuel selector valve from the left to right tank, and set the fuel mixture to full rich, with no change. On final approach, the two noticed the berm and a fence obstructing their chosen landing area. The airplane landed hard, separating the nose and right main landing gear, and damaging the aft fuselage and right side of the stabilator.

Flight Design CTSW LSA

November 13, 2016, Port Allen, Louisiana

At about 1608 Central time, the airplane was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain during an off-airport forced landing. The solo student pilot was not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

The student pilot reported he had climbed to about 850 feet agl when he experienced a sudden and complete loss of engine power. He performed the emergency checklist for engine restart, but power was not restored. During the forced landing, the airplane impacted terrain in a recently harvested sugar cane field and came to rest partially inverted, sustaining substantial damage to both wings and the fuselage. There was adequate fuel aboard, but no fuel spill, and no post-impact fire.

Cessna 152

November 13, 2016, Miami, Florida

The airplane was substantially damaged at about 1400 Eastern time during a forced landing following a total loss of engine power. The two private pilots were not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

The airplane was in cruise flight at about 2000 feet agl when the crew noted engine “roughness.” Oil temperature was “normal” but the engine oil pressure indication was “low.” The pilot on the controls turned the airplane towards the nearest airport, which was 18 miles away. Approximately a minute later, the engine stopped producing power, and the two selected a road for the forced landing. During the descent, an engine restart was attempted but was unsuccessful. The airplane touched down prior to the road on soft, wet ground, nosed over and came to rest inverted. Examination revealed large cracks in the engine crankcase in the vicinity of the number 2 cylinder.

Beech Model 95-B55 Baron

November 14, 2016, Plattsburgh, New York

The flight instructor reported that during a full-feathered, single-engine practice instrument approach in visual conditions, the pilot extended the flaps and the airspeed dropped about 20-30 knots. He further reported that the pilot added power to the operating engine and the airplane “veered” to the left and “lost more altitude resulting in a stalled condition.” The flight instructor took control of the airplane, reduced power to idle on the operating engine and attempted to level the wings, but the airplane impacted the airport ramp area with “excessive vertical speed.”

Curtis JN4D Jenny Experimental

November 17, 2016, Williamson, Georgia

At 1809 Eastern time, the airplane collided with terrain shortly after takeoff. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces and fire. The airline transport pilot and pilot-rated passenger were fatally injured. Dusk, visual conditions prevailed.

According to a witness, the airplane took off and appeared to be in a normal climb, the engine sounding “as it always did.” When it was over the departure end of the runway, the witness heard a loud backfire, followed by two “pops” that were not as loud. He then observed the airplane in a left-hand turn. A flicker of flame appeared from the forward left side of the fuselage that progressed into a “raging fire,” with an audible “whoomp” sound. The fire streamed back over the top and left side of the fuselage for about one-half the length of the airplane and persisted until the airplane disappeared behind a tree line and crashed.

Cessna 172N Skyhawk

November 18, 2016, Moss Beach, California

The airplane sustained substantial damage on impacting terrain and obstacles in a residential area at about 1120 Pacific time, following a loss of control while on final approach. The private pilot sustained serious injuries; the passenger was fatally injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

The pilot reported encountering light turbulence at about 500 feet agl on final approach with flaps fully extended and at 60 KIAS. He reduced the flap setting and increased power. He then encountered very strong turbulence, which caused the wings to rock back and forth, followed by a very sudden downward push and a steep bank to the right. Despite applying opposite control inputs and increasing power, the airplane continued in the descending right bank. Shortly, the pilot observed trees and houses in front of him and attempted to slow the airplane by reducing power and pulling back on the control yoke in an effort to minimize impact with terrain.

Piper PA-31T Cheyenne II

November 18, 2016, Elko, Nevada

At about 1920 Pacific time, the airplane was destroyed when it impacted terrain following a loss of control during initial climb. The pilot, two medical crewmembers and one patient sustained fatal injuries. Night visual conditions prevailed. An IFR flight plan had been filed for the Part 135 medical transport flight.

A witness reported the airplane departed and, during its initial climb, made a left turn about 30 degrees from the runway heading, then stopped climbing and made an abrupt left bank and descended out of his line of sight. The airplane sustained extensive thermal damage from the post-crash fire. All major structural components of the airplane were located within the wreckage.

Ryan Navion A

November 19, 2016, New Gretna, New Jersey

The airplane was substantially damaged when it impacted wooded terrain, while maneuvering, at about 1902 Eastern time. The solo private pilot was fatally injured. Night visual conditions prevailed.

Preliminary radar data reveal the accident flight proceeded on a relatively direct course until approximately 1849, when it encountered the leading edge of a cold front. During the following 13 minutes, the flight completed numerous course deviations, including three complete left circuits and two right circuits, before impacting wooded terrain. Weather observed about 14 miles southwest of the accident site at 1730 included wind from 290 degrees at 24 knots, gusting to 31 knots.

Piper PA-28-181 Archer II/III

November 22, 2016, Upland, California

At 0417 Pacific time, the airplane impacted mountainous terrain, sustaining substantial damage. The solo private pilot was fatally injured. Night visual conditions prevailed.

Earlier, after takeoff, the accident pilot contacted ATC and requested flight following. He was assigned a discreet transponder code, and the airplane was radar identified. The pilot made a radio transmission that was unreadable at the same time as radar contact was lost. The wreckage was located on the south face of rising mountainous terrain 3.5 nm north of the departure airport at 2915 feet msl.

Beechcraft Model 200 Super King Air

November 23, 2016, Moorehead, Minnesota

The airplane impacted terrain at 1759 Central time during a missed approach. The pilot initiated a missed approach after losing visual reference with the runway environment during the final segment of a GPS instrument approach. The airplane impacted a field about 0.5 miles short of the intended runway. The pilot and one passenger sustained minor injuries and five passengers were uninjured. The airplane received substantial damage. Night instrument conditions prevailed for the Part 135 on-demand passenger flight.

This article originally appeared in the February 2017 issue of Aviation Safety magazine.

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Here’s an aerospace story that hasn’t generated much notice. The Trump White House is apparently pushing NASA to consider making the first flight of the new Orion manned space system a circumlunar flight, rather than an unmanned test mission. That has a nice, if somewhat melancholy, resonance to it. Fifty years after the fact, we would be repeating Apollo 8.

Reportedly, President Trump is much taken with John F. Kennedy’s bold declaration to put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s decade. He’s applying similar reasoning. Kennedy proposed the moon missions for national prestige and politics and to best the Soviet Union’s impressive space achievements. The worthy science came along for the ride. Trump’s goal is to show the Chinese that the U.S. is still serious about space and he aims to make sure the Chinese don’t seize the lunar high ground. Never mind that China doesn’t plan a manned moon mission until 2036 and has flown but six manned space missions compared to 171 by the U.S.

Does this make any sense? It depends on the risk. Propelled as it was by Kennedy’s end-of-decade deadline, we’ve forgotten how significant and risky Apollo 8 really was. In the fall of 1968, NASA still had problems with the Saturn V booster, the program’s complex service module had only flown once and the deep space communication network was similarly unproven. The decision to switch from an earth-orbit mission to a circumlunar mission was made in a matter of weeks. And Apollo 8 made the trip without the lunar module that proved to be a lifeboat when the flawed oxygen system blew up on Apollo 13. Flying a manned Orion mission to the moon would be even bolder. Apollo had flown one manned mission before 8 launched for the moon and numerous subsystems flights had also been flown.

Spaceflight hasn’t gotten any less risky since Apollo 8, although it could be argued that we’ve gotten better at assessing and mitigating that risk. It’s not a very convincing argument, though. The much-vaunted and high-achieving private sector launch industry, lead by SpaceX, has still suffered failures and, despite its Silicon Valley prowess, its overall record is no better than what went before it. In other words, the risk is what it always was, as is the probability of losing or not losing a crew.

As you’ve probably read, Orion is the follow-on manned system to Apollo and the Space Shuttle. It’s a clean-sheet system capable of carrying four crew on deep space missions. It flew once on a trial mission in 2014. Its booster, the Space Launch System, is in development and slated to be ready for a 2018 unmanned mission involving lunar orbit time. NASA reviewed this in a hastily convened press event last week and raised the issue of manning the Orion mission. It wasn’t clear if the agency was responding directly to guidance from the White House, but Trump has said in the past that NASA should be bolder, favoring big exploration projects over earth sciences and aeronautics work.

If a manned circumlunar mission is to happen in 2018, as planned, NASA has less than 18 months to man-rate Orion with no additional flights planned before then. During Apollo, NASA moved that fast, if not faster. The Saturn V first flew in November 1967, unmanned. A little over a year later, it launched Apollo 8 for a trip around the moon. But there’s little parallel between Apollo and Orion/SLS. NASA was doing major parallel development in Apollo systems such as the S-II and S-IVB and had more or less a blank check for funding it all, not to mention Kennedy’s looming end-of-decade deadline. Actually landing on the surface of the moon was a driving ambition that just flying around it might not be.

I’m all for getting U.S. manned space vehicles back in space soonest, but before cheerleading this plan, I’d want to make sure NASA isn’t being forced into cutting corners on manned safety just to show the Chinese a thing or two. A failed mission could be a giant backfire compared to a successful one that would be a two-day news story in a river of White House tweets. Further, how about an overarching goal for doing this beyond the feel-good shot around the moon? The fact is, unmanned exploration capabilities have advanced exponentially since Apollo 8 orbited the moon a half century ago. We ought to have a good reason for sending astronauts to do what machines can do better and cheaper, not to mention more safely. Lunar colony, anyone? Mars mission?

With flying activity declining, many aircraft sit idle for months at a time. This causes serious corrosion issues inside the engines and in this AVweb video, RAM Aircraft of Waco, Texas, tells us how to avoid these problems.

John King, of King Schools, has been without a medical for two years since he had a seizure and he's now fighting to get it back. Like many other pilots who have appealed disqualifications, he's finding it a frustrating experience that he says is ultimately hurting the FAA itself.

Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

Some airplanes look fast standing still and when you put them against a pure blue South Dakota sky they seem to race across your screen. Geoff Sobering nabs this week's honors with this AirVenture Cup challenger flown by Wes and Alex Parker. They came third in their class. Nice work, Geoff.

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While flying from the northeast to south Florida last week it was bumpy at all altitudes and everyone was trying to find a better ride. I overheard this conversation with ATC.

United XYZ: Jax Center, were getting a rough ride here at 360. Do you have anything smoother?

Jax Center: Yes, I-95

United XYZ (after much laughter): "Can we have that?"

Jax Center: Sure, let me know when you see asphalt.


Frank McKee

 

Before beginning a flight, FAR 91.103 commands that each pilot in command shall become familiar with all available information concerning that flight. Tall order that, but you're halfway to compliance when you ace this quiz.

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