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Harrison Ford was contrite and apologized to air traffic controllers at John Wayne Airport in Orange County last Feb. 13. The FAA released tapes of two radio exchanges and one phone call between Ford and John Wayne tower personnel on Friday.  “I’m the schmuck who landed on the taxiway,” Ford told tower personnel in a phone call shortly after putting his Husky down on Taxiway Charlie instead of Runway 20L as cleared. “I landed on Charlie?” he asks incredulously when a controller gives him the bad news after he cleared, by less than 100 feet, an American Airlines Boeing 737 holding short of the runway Ford was supposed to use. The cool-as-a-cucumber controller tells Ford to keep taxiing on the taxiway to an intersection and hold where he’s asked to copy down the phone number for the tower to discuss a “possible pilot deviation.” He’s then cleared to the FBO.

During the call to the tower, Ford has to dig through his backpack to find his pilot certificate and the FAA employee tells him the delay “is not a big deal” and to take his time. “It’s a big deal to me,” said Ford. The actor and longtime pilot tells the tower man by way of explanation that he was distracted by the airliner turning to hold short of the runway and by the turbulence from an Airbus that just landed. He apologized several times to the tower worker. There is also tape of a phone call from the captain of the 737 that Ford overflew who told a tower staffer that he was compelled to report the incident. He also pointed out that the tail of his aircraft is 42 feet tall in reference to his perception of how close Ford came to his aircraft. The pilot is assured the FAA is looking into the incident and that the Husky was not cleared to land on the taxiway.

 

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The pilot of a Turbine Otter that crashed in Alaska in 2015, killing all nine aboard, had turned off the terrain awareness and warning system before the aircraft hit the side of a mountain near Ketchikan. The NTSB released the factual docket on the crash of the Promech Air crash, which occurred in marginal VFR conditions in Misty Fjords National Monument east of Ketchikan. The eight passengers were all cruise ship passengers on a sightseeing tour. Pilot Bryan Krill, 64, had, at some point in the trip, set the TAWS system to “Inhibit,” which was a common practice in the mountainous terrain to stop the system from going off frequently, according to the report. The crash was characterized by Clint Johnson, the NTSB’s chief investigator in Alaska, as controlled flight into terrain.

The NTSB said Krill had done two sightseeing trips that day while another carrier had cancelled its flights because of the weather. He was flying one of three aircraft on the tour. They were on their way back to Ketchikan at the time of the crash. Promech was taking part in the Medallion Foundation, a nonprofit accident avoidance group formed by the Alaska Air Carriers Association, that recognizes carriers for their efforts to prevent CFIT accidents.

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Of the 19 aircraft that set out from Crete, Greece, on Nov. 12, 14 survivors of the Crete2Cape Vintage Air Rally arrived in Cape Town, South Africa, after 8,000 miles and over a month of flying. The pre-WWII aircraft were the first to land at the Egyptian Pyramids at Giza in 80 years and the first to receive permission for level overflight of Victoria Falls on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Those failing to complete included a Boeing Stearman, piloted by John Ordway and his daughter Isabella, which was destroyed in a forced landing 80 miles from Nairobi following a total engine failure. While parked overnight in Botswana, an R44 chase helicopter and a Tiger Moth were severely damaged in a windstorm that blew the improperly secured Moth into the R44.

Sam Rutherford, Rally Director and Organizer, coordinated the fickle logistics of getting aviation fuel shipped across Africa and a maze of bureaucratic approvals with only one major incident. Rally crews were detained for two days by Ethiopian authorities due to what the organizers told AVweb was a “bureaucratic mix-up.” Rutherford said, upon their arrival in South Africa, “The Vintage Air Rally has been a lot of work, not just for my team but for the pilots. It’s been months, if not years in the making – while we’ve been preparing the Rally, all the crews have been sorting out their aircraft, so it’s been a big deal for a long time, and now it’s a huge relief to be here.”

Rutherford and the Vintage Air Rally crew are planning the next major international rally, scheduled to depart Ushuaia, Argentina—the southernmost city in the world—on March 3, 2018, and arrive in Lakeland, Florida, for Sun N’ Fun six weeks later.

Photo Credit: Beatrice de Smet / VintageAirRally

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Centennial Airport based Boom Technology, would-be maker of the first supersonic airliner since the Concorde, has raised an additional $33 million to fund development of its one-third-scale demonstration aircraft, the XB-1, according to a company press release. An SEC filing on Tuesday reported that the company had raised $41.9 million, though $7.9 million of that probably reflects a restructuring of amounts previously raised. Boom CEO and founder Blake Scholl says “our mission is to make supersonic flight a reality,” and expects to see the XB-1 close to ready to fly in the next year. If successful, Boom says the XB-1 will be the first independently developed and privately funded supersonic jet (the Concorde was heavily subsidized by the French and British governments) and the fastest civil aircraft ever, cruising at Mach 2.2. Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two is faster, but is classified as a rocket rather than an aircraft due to its non-air-breathing engines.

Boom asserts the final production aircraft will be capable of carrying passengers at costs comparable to business-class on modern wide-body jets. Boom has also indicated that they are attempting to significantly reduce the damage and nuisance caused when the high-pressure wake of a supersonic aircraft reaches the ground—the sonic boom. FAA regulations do not generally permit supersonic flight by civil aircraft over land, though testing of supersonic aircraft is permitted in military operations areas with prior permission. Boom is likely hoping to reduce their noise signature sufficiently to permit transcontinental flight, which would significantly broaden the potential market for supersonic travel.

Embraer says its fourth E190-E2 prototype has officially joined the test team with a two-hour flight last week. The petite Brazilian twin is the most refined of the four siblings and will be used specifically for interior tests: cabin evacuation, environmental comfort and internal noise. The three aircraft already in testing have accumulated 650 flight hours, and Luis Carlos Affonso, COO of Embraer Commercial Aviation, says the advanced certification tests—high-speed flying qualities, flutter, natural ice and cold soak reliability—are coming soon. The company says the production aircraft are on track for delivery in the first half of 2018 to launch customer Widerĝe, a Norwegian regional airline.

The E2 family is facing a troubled start in the U.S. market. SkyWest Airlines had placed an order for 100 of the smaller, E175-E2 variant in June 2013, with the expectation that major airline scope clauses would be modified to fit the airplane. Agreements between the pilot unions and the certain mainline carriers, for whom the regionals fly, prohibit the regional airlines from using aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight above 86,000 pounds. The current model E175 LR has a maximum takeoff weight of 85,520 pounds. The new E175-E2 is expected to be certificated with a maximum takeoff weight of 88,185. The SkyWest order for the E175-E2, as well as that airline’s order for the Mitsubishi MRJ90, are likely both either subject to cancellation at low-cost or contingent on the airline getting relief from the scope clause.

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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.

Cessna Model T210M Turbo Centurion

December 11, 2016, Mecca, CA

The airplane landed off-airport in rough terrain at an unspecified time. The commercial pilot sustained serious injuries; the airplane sustained substantial damage. Visual conditions prevailed.

The pilot reported that he had to adjust his route of flight due to weather. About 100 miles from the destination airport, he switched fuel tanks, and the engine began to run rough. About 12 miles from the destination, he switched fuel tanks, and the engine lost all power. He could not glide the airplane to the airport and touched down hard in hilly desert terrain.

Stinson 108-3

December 16, 2016, Ionia, MI

At about 1045 Eastern time, the ski-equipped airplane was substantially damaged while landing. The solo private pilot was not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

Shortly after takeoff from a snow-covered runway, the pilot heard a thump and noticed the left main landing ski tip had rotated up, past vertical, and was in contact with the left wing strut. He decided to land on another snow-covered runway but was unable to reposition the left ski. Upon landing, the ski separated from the axle, the left gear leg dug into the snow and the airplane rapidly decelerated before nosing over.

Examination revealed Nicropress sleeves built into ski-support cables attached to the left landing gear leg were inadequately compressed. The pilot reported the airplane operated on skis each winter since February 2009, when he purchased them used. The forward and aft support cables were already fabricated and installed at the time, and they had required no maintenance over the years since.

Bellanca 17-30A Super Viking

December 18, 2016, Blaine, MN

The airplane was substantially damaged during a forced landing at about 1500 Central time. The solo pilot was not injured. Visual conditions prevailed for the flight.

While in cruise flight, the engine lost power. After the pilot switched fuel tanks and turned on the fuel boost pump, engine power was restored. Approaching a divert field, the engine began to knock and then seized. The pilot executed a forced landing onto a road, during which the airplane’s left wing impacted a sign. Examination revealed significant damage to the engine, including a fractured piston rod cap and counterweights.

Cessna Model 150

December 19, 2016, Palm Bay, FL

At about 1400 Eastern time, the airplane was substantially damaged during a forced landing after experiencing smoke in the cockpit. The flight instructor and a student pilot received minor injuries. Visual conditions prevailed.

During recovery from a simulated engine failure, both pilots first smelled and then observed smoke in the cockpit. The flight instructor took the flight controls, selected a forced landing site and maneuvered the airplane for landing. Upon touchdown, the nose landing gear settled into low brush and soft terrain, where the airplane stopped, nosed over and came to rest inverted. Examination of the engine compartment revealed wires connected to the battery relay exhibited thermal damage.

Aeronca 15AC Sedan

December 23, 2016, Pontiac, MI

The airplane was substantially damaged at about 1618 Eastern time, while landing. The solo private pilot was not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

The pilot reported that the purpose of the accident flight was to practice landings in the tailwheel-equipped airplane. He completed 14 uneventful touch-and-go landings before performing a full-stop landing on Runway 27R. Shortly after touchdown, the airplane swerved to the left. The pilot attempted to regain directional control and the airplane then swerved to the right. The airplane collided with a snowbank alongside the runway and nosed over.

The majority of the pilot’s time in type was flown while the accident airplane was equipped with floats instead of wheels. The conventional landing gear was reinstalled on the accident airplane earlier in December 2016; the accident occurred during the second flight after the reinstallation. Local weather included wind 190 degrees true at six knots.

Piper PA-28-161 Warrior II

December 23, 2016, Middlebury, VT

At about 1145 Eastern time, the airplane was substantially damaged when it impacted trees and terrain during initial climb. The solo private pilot was fatally injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

The pilot cleared off snow from the airplane’s wings the morning of the flight and preheated the airplane. He then performed a preflight inspection and sumped the fuel tanks. During initial climb, at about 150 feet agl, the airplane’s wings “wagged,” the engine “skipped” and then the engine sound “went back to normal.” The airplane continued to climb, then turned left, reaching a bank angle of about 45 degrees. The airplane “stalled” and “rapidly” descended until it struck trees. Another witness stated the engine “sputtered” several times. The carburetor was disassembled and no liquid was noted in the fuel bowl. However, the carburetor floats exhibited damage consistent with hydraulic deformation.

Cessna Model 182 Skylane

December 26, 2016, Gatlinburg, TN

The airplane was destroyed when it collided with mountainous terrain at about 1602 Eastern time during descent for landing. The private pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. Instrument conditions prevailed; no flight plan was filed.

The flight was receiving VFR flight-following services at 9500 feet msl when the pilot initiated a descent for landing. Radar data depict a descent on a track of about 340 degrees, directly toward the destination, at between 130 and 150 knots groundspeed. At 1558, about 20 miles from its destination, the airplane descended below the minimum vectoring altitude of 8000 feet msl and continued its descent on the same ground track and about the same speed. At 1602, the radar target was at 5400 feet msl and abeam a 6500-foot peak when the radar target disappeared.

Cessna Model 525C/Citation CJ4

December 29, 2016, Cleveland, OH

The airplane was destroyed at 2257 Eastern time when it collided with Lake Erie shortly after takeoff. The pilot and five passengers are missing and presumed fatally injured. Night visual conditions prevailed; the flight operated on an IFR clearance.

The controller cleared the pilot for takeoff and instructed him to turn right to a heading of 330 degrees and maintain 2000 feet msl. Surveillance data indicate the airplane entering a right turn shortly after crossing the runway’s departure end. The airplane became established on a magnetic course of 310 degrees and reached approximately 2925 feet msl. About five seconds later, the airplane entered a descending right turn that continued until the final data point. The final data point was located 1.83 miles northwest of the departure airport. Airplane debris, including the cockpit voice recorder, was ultimately located about 0.10 mile northeast of the final data point.

Cessna Model 182 Skylane

December 29, 2016, Dabob, WA

At about 1844 Pacific time, the airplane collided with terrain. The private pilot and three passengers were fatally injured; the airplane was substantially damaged. Dark night visual and instrument conditions prevailed.

After radar and radio contact were lost, a search located the wreckage on December 30, 2016, in steep, heavily wooded terrain. Radar data of a primary target consistent with the accident airplane show it traveling northwest at about 2800 feet msl before descending to between 2500 feet and 2000 feet. The radar target then performed three left 360-degree turns to a northerly heading at between 1700 feet msl and 1100 feet msl before the last radar target was recorded. The wreckage revealed that the airplane collided with trees in steep rising terrain. Weather observed 20 miles south of the wreckage and nine minutes before the accident included calm wind, 10 miles of visibility and an overcast ceiling at 600 feet agl.

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

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Part of my job description is to hang around people who sell airplanes, or try to. In Cessna’s salad days, the company clearly knew how to sell and it helped that the market was ready to absorb thousands of new airframes. Now, not so much. The definition of a circular argument is to ask whether airplane sellers simply don’t know what they’re doing anymore or if the market just barely exists. (I think the latter is more true than the former.)

Still, I see airplanes that ought to be selling better than they are and these are, almost inevitably, light sport aircraft. It’s fashionable to bash light sport as a failed idea but I’ve never subscribed to that claim. It’s just a modest or even lukewarm niche in a larger market that is itself flat. But it’s still a market. Consider this as a value comparison: Last year, Cirrus sold more than 300 airplanes whose average price was in the high six figures, closer to $1 million than not. It’s obvious that those 300-plus buyers saw value in spending that much money for an airplane to whisk them along at 180 knots for $75 an hour in gas. Cost per mile, absent every other consideration save gas: about 42 cents and 10 MPG. (Add the insurance, maintenance and so on and it’s a lot more, but I’m being a simpleton here for a reason.)

Now let’s dial back our expectations to a pair of light sport airplanes I’ve recently flown that I really like. The Bristell NG5 and the Tecnam Astore. Without going into detail, both of these airplanes are similar in that they’re sporty looking and performing and at the very top of the LSA speed performance envelope and, in fact, beyond the 120-knot CAS limit. I’m pretty sure either one of them could be tweaked up to reach 130 to 140 knots. You can argue among yourselves whether this tarnishes the original intent of the light sport rule. Personally, I don’t care. It was an arbitrary consideration anyway.

This means that these new airframes—with avionics nearly as sophisticated as those found in the Cirrus, at a fraction of the cost—are really modest traveling airplanes. The Bristell carries six hours of fuel and has generous baggage space. It cruises at about 118 to 120 knots TAS on 4.5 GPH. That’s 26 MPG and about $12.50 an hour in fuel, if you use autogas, which the Rotax engines are happy with. That works out to a dime a mile, less than a quarter what the Cirrus costs. The Bristell and Astore invoice in the $180,000 to $210,000 range, depending on options. Most buyers option them to the max because stripped-down airplanes were never popular except when flight schools bought a lot of them.

So, the bottom line is that these airplanes cruise at two-thirds the speed of a Cirrus, cost one-fifth (or a little more) as much and burn one-quarter of the fuel. By definition, a value judgment can’t be made in a vacuum; it has to be compared to something else. I submit that either of these two airplanes is an impressive value against a new Cirrus or even an Archer or a Skyhawk. They both do a lot for a lot less money and I’m not so sure the LSAs aren’t a little faster than the Cessna and Piper.

So where the hell are the buyers? Why isn’t there a subset of moneyed customers who either can’t afford a $900,000 Cirrus or choose not to, but who can afford to write a $180,000 check for a new, capable LSA? The answer isn’t obvious, but the fact is, that subset exists, it’s just spread out over dozens of manufacturers. Hard data is elusive, but in the U.S., about 200 light sport airplanes a year are sold, a little better than 20 percent of the total new piston market. Worldwide, the number is much higher. On its face, the comparison may seem preposterous; Cirrus buyers are just different strata.

Sure, but the strata are merging a little. According to Tecnam, some of their buyers are stepping down from more capable airplanes and not just for medical reasons. They recognize that their needs don’t justify high-performance singles or twins. A Bonanza or Twin Cessna is just too much airplane for not enough purpose.

So why not more buyers? The wealth is certainly out there. There is definitely disposable income and people willing to dispose it. What causes a would-be buyer to not see value? One reason is that you can get a capable, well-equipped legacy single like a Bonanza or a Mooney for $100,000. It will cost three to five times what the LSA will to operate and maintain and you’re ever exposed to the Big One—a $7000 annual or a $30,000 engine you didn’t expect. Not so with the LSA, or less so. Or buy used Skyhawks all day for $50,000 and just fly a rundown piece of crap and be happy.

Are two seats the deal breaker? Probably a factor, but it shouldn’t be, since not many people who own four-seat airplanes fly trips with more than two people in the airplane. Evidently, people want the back seats and they’re willing to pay a lot to have what they rarely use. It’s a just-in-case mentality.

Lack of IFR? This is both a real and artificial constraint. If you’re going to Sun ‘n Fun or AirVenture, take a few minutes to really look at Garmin’s G3X Touch or the Dynon Skyview. Compared to a full-up G1000, the value comparison is ridiculous. These systems now do nearly as much and have capable autopilots that include envelope protection. The fact that the airplanes they’re installed in aren’t approved for IFR is one of those regulatory absurdities that defy rational thought. In fact, the Astore is approved for IFR operation, just not in IMC. Bristell is about to approve that, too. So when presented with the moral quagmire of turning around or busting one of these airplanes through an overcast to get on top, what would you do? I know what I’d do.

The redundancy is there, too, and so is the ultimate backup: a ballistic parachute. In fact, more LSAs have this option than do new certified piston singles. The glass panels are equipped with battery backup and when I flew the Bristell with Lou Mancuso last week, he had it festooned with tablet-based nav and attitude backups out the wazoo. So the airplane would be perfectly suitable for cautious IFR. (No icing; no convection.)

So what keeps me from buying one? I’m actually thinking about it, to be honest. I could probably afford sole ownership of a $180,000 new airplane, but I’d prefer to have a couple of reliable partners. The airplane would fly more and that bodes well for maintenance and durability. Of all the machines I’ve owned in my life, I’ve tended not to buy new ones because the depreciation factor is unappetizing and I’m a cheap screw. But at least I no longer recoil at the thought of something new.

I wonder if one reason more of this type of aircraft isn’t flown is because they’re built by what is essentially a network of cottage industries that don’t have proper marketing and sales forces. They depend on word of mouth, exposure at shows and the odd press review, plus hit-and-miss social media efforts. (Maybe.) That's another way of saying Cirrus has a pedigree, Bristell doesn't. More than one reader who has seen detailed reviews or actually looked at these airplanes has remarked on their surprising capability and economy, as in, “really, I had no idea.”

Could a company willing to invest in a sales force sell enough to justify the investment? If Cirrus finds 300-plus million-dollar buyers, can’t someone find 150 under $200K buyers? Someone would have to invest to answer that question, but would-be buyers won’t buy if they don’t know what these airplanes can actually do.

Of course, if all you do is bore holes in the sky, you’re probably better off with a cheap legacy LSA or even a certified airplane. There’s no point in buying this much capability just to have pretty glass to fool around with. I actually do have need for an airplane capable of a reasonable 500-mile cross country. Makes me wonder if I’m talking myself into something here.

For 2017, Cirrus has re-engined its entry-level SR20 with a 215-HP four-cylinder Lycoming IO-390, which replaces the 200-HP six-cylinder Continental IO-360 used on the SR20 for years. To find out what drove the company's decision to swap engines, and to see how the aircraft performs, Aviation Consumer Editor Larry Anglisano flew the G6 SR20 and talked with Ivy McIver during a visit to the Cirrus Vision Center delivery hangar in Knoxville, Tennessee.

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Picture of the Week

Spring means getting back in the air in the Northern Hemisphere and Gilbert Benzonana caught the start of gliding season in Montrichet. Lots of fun ahead.

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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.

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

During a VFR approach in a busy airport in mostly-Catholic Colombia, a student pilot was given landing clearance. It seemed she didn't understand the controller.

Student: "Could you please confirm?”

Tower: Sure: I confirm you in the name of the Father, in the name of the Son..." 

Of course the controller gave her the right instructions afterwards!


 Juan Velasquez 

 

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