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A new Airworthiness Directive (AD) for the American Champion Aircraft (ACA) 8KCAB Super Decathlon, effective immediately, will require inspection of the aileron hinge rib and support in accordance with ACA’s Feb. 17 service letter. The service letter and this AD were prompted by an incident in which a Super Decathlon with aileron hinge rib cracks experienced partial binding of the ailerons in flight.

Operators may fly the aircraft for up to 10 hours prior to inspection, but aerobatic flight is prohibited (and the aircraft must be placarded accordingly) until the inspection can be completed. The FAA estimates that the installation of the “no aerobatics” placard and the required inspections will require only two hours of labor. The inspection requires removal of the wingtip and cutting four access holes in the wing skin fabric to gain access to the relevant parts. 

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The City of Detroit is considering closing Coleman A. Young Municipal Airport, saying the financial drain isn't sustainable. The airport is on Detroit's east side and has long been eyed for redevelopment. Its current financial status has city officials thinking it might not be a bad idea. The airport will lose about $1.3 million this year and it's lost money the last two years. “You can’t continue with the status quo,” Jed Howbert, executive director of Duggan’s jobs and economy team, told The Detroit News. “We’re going to let the facts lead us where they lead us. Whether it should be aviation — general or commercial — or something else, we need to understand what the options are.”

Experts are being brought in to see if the future of the prime real estate should continue to be aviation-related or other uses, including something that might be in demand in Detroit. One of the developments considered is a testing ground for self-driving cars and drones. There is considerable opposition to the notion of closing the field. “A city the size of Detroit having an international airport within its city boundaries is a rare asset,” District 3 Councilman Scott Benson, who represents the east side, told the News. He said he'd like to see the airport promoted with an eye to resuming commercial air service. The last airliner landed at the field more than 15 years ago and all scheduled service goes into Detroit Metropolitan Airport west of the city.

Stemme AG, best known for its high-end motor gliders, the S10 and S12, has announced its merger with Remos AG, the German maker of the GX light sport aircraft. Remos has been making structural components for the Stemme motor gliders since 2014. Existing product will continue to be marketed under the current brand names, but Stemme AG will be the name of the combined business going forward. In addition to the line of consumer motor gliders, Stemme manufactures the ECARYS ES15 motor glider as a surveillance aircraft for government and military use.

Paul Masschelein, CEO of Stemme, said, “We look forward to rapidly bringing together the outstanding employees and cultures of both companies, as well as the complementary capabilities of our organizations, to position Stemme AG and Remos AG at the forefront of a new generation of solutions for the aviation industry.” The companies say they have no plans to combine manufacturing facilities, but expect to focus expansion on Remos’ Pasewalk site. 

Cessna TTx || The Difference Is Clear

The Air Care Alliance is holding its annual conference on the East Coast this year and public benefit pilots will meet April 21-22 on Long Island, New York. Patient Airlift Services is hosting the event and there are plenty of topics of interest who donate their time and aircraft to help others. “We cover current and upcoming regulatory issues affecting public benefit flying such as how the BasicMed process may affect volunteer pilots and their groups; a major session on what is legal and what is not regarding fuel reimbursement policies and the use of group-owned aircraft by volunteer pilots,” the organization said in a news release.

After a day of seminars, delegates will be treated to a gala at the Cradle of Aviation Museum with dinner and drinks. Organizers say it’s important for volunteer groups to stay up on the rules and to interact with each other for ideas and input. “You and your board and staff members will join other leaders and staff from many established and new public benefit flying groups who believe that we all benefit from the goodwill and mutual support gained from working together and learning from one another,” the group said.

The Air Care Alliance is holding its annual conference on the East Coast this year and public benefit pilots will meet April 21-22 on Long Island, New York. Patient Airlift Services is hosting the event and there are plenty of topics of interest who donate their time and aircraft to help others. “We cover current and upcoming regulatory issues affecting public benefit flying such as how the BasicMed process may affect volunteer pilots and their groups; a major session on what is legal and what is not regarding fuel reimbursement policies and the use of group-owned aircraft by volunteer pilots,” the organization said in a news release.

After a day of seminars, delegates will be treated to a gala at the Cradle of Aviation Museum with dinner and drinks. Organizers say it’s important for volunteer groups to stay up on the rules and to interact with each other for ideas and input. “You and your board and staff members will join other leaders and staff from many established and new public benefit flying groups who believe that we all benefit from the goodwill and mutual support gained from working together and learning from one another,” the group said.

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I heard this on my scanner and almost fell out of my chair.

Jet Blue: ”Jet Blue 123 climbing to eight thousand".

No response

Jet Blue: ”Jet Blue 123 how do you hear?"

Bradley Approach: ”With my ears: turn left direct Norwich VOR".


 

Stephen Fogarty 

 

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Our best stories start with you. If you've heard something the flying world might want to know about, tell us. Submit news tips via e-mail here. (Or send them direct to Newstips at AVweb.com.)

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I recently had a beautiful IMC flight on which I relearned how wonderful our capability to operate in the IMC world is. It’s easy to lose that awe for the beauty of our environment and the utility of the machines at our disposal as we move safely through this environment. Such is the stuff of poets. So this is not a story of drama over bad weather, near misses or close calls. It’s a story of the unique advantage and perspective that the few humans who call themselves “pilot” have been able to experience and enjoy.

The Mission

I decided to spend a day with my daughter in Atlanta. It’s a short trip of only about 150 miles, but the weather can often make it interesting. This day was IMC over most of the southeast.

My route was from Headland, AL to Fulton County, GA. On departure the ceiling was about 900 feet. I picked up my clearance via cell phone: “Cleared as filed…” Takeoff was normal, the engine was happy and about the time I entered the clouds I turned on course, climbing at 850 fpm. I checked in with Departure, was radar identified and cleared to 7000 feet. Passing through about 6200 I advised Departure that this was where the tops were. At 7000, I set cruise power and settled back to enjoy the flight when I was handed over to Atlanta Approach. I even had a nice 10 knot push.

At 9 AM on this Sunday, the frequency was quiet. I began setting up for my arrival. I got the ATIS: wind 080 at 07, ceiling 900 broken, visibility 2 miles in mist, using ILS 8. I noted that one of the ILS 8’s IAFs was on the arrival I was flying. Nice. I asked for and got direct to TIINI and my initial descent.

As I descended toward the clouds, I saw a rare and delightful phenomenon—a glory, which is a sundog surrounding the shadow of the aircraft. This is one of those phenomena that can only be seen from the air with an undercast below and clear, sunny skies above. Your aircraft’s shadow has a 360 degree rainbow or halo around it.

I tuned and identified the localizer, and set up the autopilot for the approach. All was well. “George” did a fine job of following the localizer and glideslope while I managed the power, speed and aircraft configuration. I landed, taxied to the FBO, shut down, gave my fuel order, met my daughter and off we went—all in little more than an hour from takeoff to landing.

Getting Home

After a great visit, I headed home in time to land before sunset. I filed for 8000 with just one leg before an enroute VOR and one after. My clearance was the usual radar vectors to the VOR then as filed.

Atlanta Departure warned me, “I’m going to have to box you around for the climb.” Indeed he did. I took off on Runway 8 and after takeoff got a 360 vector. Above 3000 feet, I got a right turn to 090 and at 5000 was turned south to overfly Atlanta. After getting a few miles south, I was finally given direct to the VOR and 8000 feet. The return flight wasn’t quite on top, and there was a little Stormscope activity scattered around my route but nothing of concern.

The arrival into Headland was really fun. I began picking up nearby Dothan’s ATIS around Columbus, about 80 miles out: “Wind 060 at 8. Visibility 1 1/2 in mist. Ceiling 300 overcast. Temperature 12; dew point 11. Altimeter 3006. ILS Runway 32 in use.” I made my plan. I’d fly the Headland LPV 9 approach with a DA 274 feet AGL and 7/8 mile visibility. If I missed, I’d fly the Dothan ILS 32 with a DA of 200 feet AGL and 1/2 mile visibility.

Approach concurred with all that and gave me alternate missed approach instructions—runway heading to 3000 feet. I was soon cleared direct to DEKKE, the IAF and started down. A few miles from DEKKE I was cleared for the approach. Crossing DEKKE inbound after the turn in hold in lieu of the procedure turn, the LPV approach annunciated on the GPS and showed the glideslope indicator on the PFD. George did his excellent job while I managed flaps and power for the airspeed. I crossed the FAF on altitude at 1700 MSL and captured the glideslope. I began glimpsing the ground at about 550 AGL and fully broke out about 100 feet above DA.

As I drove home, the sun had set, it was a dark night and the temperture-dewpoint spread had gone to zero. Getting on the ground before sundown was the key to getting in to either airport. It had been a really fun IMC day using the full utility of my airplane with absolutely no drama. I had a wonderful sense of awe and fulfillment for the capabilities and accomplishments we so often take for granted.

Bill Castlen is a current Cirrus Standardized Instructor Pilot, FAA Gold Seal Instructor, Five Time Master CFI, and FAASTeam Representative. In case you didn’t notice, he has a passion for flying in IMC.

This article originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of IFR magazine.

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When I do research on maintenance and aircraft ownership issues, I often hear a comment like this, from a shop owner or manager or an I&A: “The owner just didn’t want to replace [name of component]; he just didn’t see the value.”

I understand the sentiment. Maintaining an airplane is so expensive that owners have always felt that proactive replacement of a part that hasn’t failed yet is just money down the drain. I think this established trend is worse than ever now because owners are flying less and it’s my distinct impression that many have less money that they’re willing to devote to the airplane. The cost-value relationship that existed 20 years ago is different now, although not for everyone. There’s a small, moneyed core of owners who never scrimp on maintenance and who are still doing the $50,000 avionics upgrades. But on balance, I’d call the overall condition of the fleet pretty beat down.

In an engine shop I toured recently, the owner showed me a Continental IO-550 in for overhaul with a cracked case, a nasty fissure running perpendicular to the top mating line. I didn’t measure it, but it looked perilously close to the 3.5-inch limit for weld repairing of cracks described in AC 33-6. The shop owner said there was no way they were sending the case out for repair and re-use, so the aircraft owner was confronted with the choice of a repaired case from the pool or a new one for about ten grand.

In the context of not wishing to waste money, what to do? Pushing to weld the crack, to my mind, would be the wrongest of possible choices. The repaired or refurbished case from the pool strikes me as the high-value option; a new case as the premium choice. For an airplane worth maybe $250,000, that’s just not a bank breaker.

That kind of decision making goes to the psychology of safety related to maintenance decisions. If the welded case saves the owner $10,000, that’s not trivial. It’s a little more than what he might spend on gas to fly the airplane for 100 hours a year. What’s the impact on safety? There’s no data worthy of the name to make a probabilistic judgment. The shops I’ve talked to say that it’s rare for a cracked case to fail at the point of a repair, but it’s not unusual for them to develop new cracks. What’s the probability of either of these developing into catastrophic failure? Again, no data, but it’s certainly not zero. I’ve seen engine-failure accidents involving cracked cases and cylinders and there are many more incidents that don’t cause accidents.

The argument that stitching a case together with big welds is perfectly safe is just as valid as saying that is isn’t. The dividing line is the money. It’s really a between-the-ears, comfort-level kind of thing. Since there’s rarely any real data to support the decision, you spend the money if it will make you feel good, you don’t if it won’t.

I confronted this with the Cub engine three years ago. One of the cylinders went soft and the others were OK, but not spectacular. We had a discussion about just replacing the bad cylinder and flying it for another year or two. After all, the A65 is just a glorified tractor engine, what could go wrong? Just to assure myself, I yanked the bad cylinder and happened to give the connecting rod a wiggle. It had discernable end play on the crank journal and I explained to the other owners that as far as I was concerned, the engine should be overhauled, not topped. Still, one of the partners wanted to replace the cylinder and fly on. To me, this made no sense. We’re talking about a $12,000 overhaul and with four owners, 25-cent dollars to get it done. By my calculus, that removed money as a determining factor in the equation.

Why? Because if owning an airplane is so economically marginal that I’m scrimping on basic maintenance or even avoiding the major things with Band-Aid fixes to limp along for another few hours, I’m simply not in a position to own an airplane. If I can’t absorb and recover from a financial hit equivalent to some percentage of the airplane’s total value, it’s time to get out. (This is one reason I’ve always owned in partnerships.) The same equation applies equally to owners of $30,000 and $300,000 airplanes. I get that the guys who own the latter didn’t accumulate all their money by wasting it, but there’s a thin line between frugality and blithering idiocy when it comes to fixing and replacing things that are broken. I’d rather waste a little cash than alight in a muddy field—or worse—for not having replaced a ratty fuel hose or a frayed throttle cable.

Owning and operating an airplane is a financially irrational activity given how much most of us spend compared to owning an asset that’s used for less than 1 percent of the available hours in a year. It’s sunk money, so sinking a little more for good maintenance—some of it preventive—seems like a no-brainer to me. It’s better to just do it than wring your hands over whether it’s right or wrong.

Scottsdale, Arizona-based TKM avionics has been working on a direct slide-in replacement radio for the venerable King KX155 and KX165 navcomms. It brought the radio to Sun 'n Fun 2017 in Lakeland, Florida, where TKM's Vic Casebolt gave a demo to Aviation Consumer editor Larry Anglisano.

With the FAA relaxing certification requirements for avionics in certified light aircraft, Trio Avionics is closing in on approval for its three-axis autopilot, following a parallel path to another company, TruTrak. Both are well known in the experimental segment for capable autopilots. 

Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

For those of you who sweltered through the first few days of Sun 'n Fun with us, here's some very cool relief. Daniel Huttunen can get to some of the coolest places on the planet in south central Alaska and his copyrighted photo shows the 49th state at its best.

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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