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NASA has winnowed a list of over 18,300 applicants down to twelve astronaut candidates—ASCANs in the NASA terminology. “We look forward to the energy and talent of these astronauts fueling our exciting future of discovery,” said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot. “Between expanding the crew on board the space station to conduct more research than ever before, and making preparations to send humans farther into space than we’ve ever been, we are going to keep them busy. These candidates are an important addition to the NASA family and the nation’s human spaceflight team.” The five women and seven men range from 29 to 42 years in age. Seven have some military experience, six of them as military aviators. The seventh was a U.S. Navy SEAL. They are referred to as astronaut candidates rather than astronauts, because some of them may never go to space. This is the pool from which NASA will choose astronauts for future missions in the coming years.

NASA-provided biographies for the 2017 astronaut candidates follow:

Kayla Barron, 29, Lt., U.S. Navy, is originally from Richland, Washington. She graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with a bachelor’s degree in systems engineering. A Gates Cambridge Scholar, Barron earned a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Cambridge. As a submarine warfare officer, Barron was a member of the first class of women commissioned into the submarine community. She’ll come to NASA from the U.S. Naval Academy, where she has been serving as the flag aide to the superintendent.

Zena Cardman, 29, calls Williamsburg, Virginia, home. She completed a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Master of Science in Marine Sciences at The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Cardman is currently a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow working on her doctorate at The Pennsylvania State University. Her research has focused on microorganisms in subsurface environments, ranging from caves to deep sea sediments. Her field experience includes multiple Antarctic expeditions, work aboard research vessels as both scientist and crew, and NASA analog missions in British Columbia, Idaho and Hawaii.

Raja Chari, 39, Lt. Col., U.S. Air Force, hails from Waterloo, Iowa. He graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy with bachelor’s degrees in astronautical engineering and engineering science. He continued on to earn a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. Chari has been serving as the commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron and the director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Matthew Dominick, 35, Lt. Cmdr., U.S. Navy, was born and raised in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of San Diego and a Master of Science in Systems Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. He also graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. Dominick was at sea on the USS Ronald Reagan, serving as department head for Strike Fighter Squadron 115, when he got the call saying he’d been selected as an astronaut candidate.

Bob Hines, 42, considers Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, his hometown. He graduated from Boston University with a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering. From there, he went on to graduate from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, and then the University of Alabama, where he earned a master’s degree in aerospace engineering. He has served in the U.S. Air Force and Air Force Reserves for 18 years. For the last five years, Hines has served as a NASA research pilot at Johnson.

Warren “Woody” Hoburg, 31, is originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He earned a bachelor’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT. He continued on to earn a doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of California, Berkley. He is a private pilot and has extensive experience with wilderness search and rescue efforts. Hoburg will come to NASA from MIT, where he currently is leading a research group as an assistant professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Dr. Jonny Kim, 33, Lt., U.S. Navy, was born and raised in Los Angeles. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy, then trained and operated as a Navy SEAL, completing more than 100 combat operations and earning a Silver Star and Bronze Star with Combat V. Afterward, he went on to complete a degree in mathematics at the University of San Diego and a doctorate of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Kim is a resident physician in emergency medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Robb Kulin, 33, hails from Anchorage, Alaska. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Denver before going on to complete a master’s degree in materials science and a doctorate in engineering at the University of California, San Diego. He has previous experience as an ice driller in Antarctica on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and Taylor Glaciers, and as a commercial fisherman in Chignik, Alaska. Since 2011, Kulin has worked for SpaceX in Hawthorne, California, where he leads the Launch Chief Engineering group.

Jasmin Moghbeli, 33, Maj., U.S. Marine Corps, considers Baldwin, New York, her hometown. She earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering with information technology at MIT, followed by a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. She also is a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. Moghbeli currently tests H-1 helicopters and serves as the quality assurance and avionics officer for Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 in Yuma, Arizona.

Loral O’Hara, 34, calls Sugar Land, Texas, home. She earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering at the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Purdue University. As a student, she participated in NASA’s KC-135 Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program, the NASA Academy at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and the internship program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. O’Hara is currently a research engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

Dr. Francisco “Frank” Rubio, 41, Maj., U.S. Army, is originally from Miami. He earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a doctorate of medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Rubio has accumulated more than 1,100 hours of flight time in helicopters, including 600 hours of combat and imminent danger time. He’s currently serving as a surgeon for the 3rd Battalion of the Army’s 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Carson, Colorado.

Jessica Watkins, 29, hails from Lafayette, Colorado. She graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in geological and environmental sciences, then went on to earn a doctorate in geology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Watkins has worked at NASA’s Ames Research Center and Jet Propulsion Laboratory and currently is a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology, where she collaborates on the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity.

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On Tuesday night, a Piper Navajo landing on Runway 7/25 at Orlando Executive Airport struck an alligator. The piston twin suffered damage to the wing, according to Brad Pierce, a pilot who posted information about the accident to Facebook. The 11-foot alligator was killed.

While rare, alligator strikes are not a new occurrence. The FAA’s wildlife strike database includes 19 reports of alligator-aircraft incidents since 1990. In only one of those cases did the aircraft operator report damage resulting from the collision. Among terrestrial animals, the creature most commonly struck by aircraft is the white-tailed deer, for which over 1,000 strikes were reported since 1990. The overwhelming majority of wildlife strike incidents are collisions with birds—164,444 over the same time period.

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Relations between pilots at Columbia County Airport and the neighboring Meadowsgreen Golf Course in Ghent, New York have been strained since a pilot reported a golfer taking aim and striking an aircraft in flight with a golf ball ten years ago. Earlier this spring, the owner of the golf course, Carmen Nero, escalated the conflict by putting up a flagpole on short final for Runway 21. “It was Earth Day and I put up a flag and planted some flowers,” Nero told the local newspaper. “A person can put an American flag up. I pay property taxes.”

The flagpole is estimated to be 20 to 25 feet high, located 200 feet from the start of runway pavement and 360 feet from the start of the displaced threshold, according to Daniel Spitzer, a local pilot. Although the patriotic protest almost rises enough to meet a 4-degree glide slope from the threshold, it may not run afoul of FAA regulations on airport obstacles. The county had been in talks with Nero to buy a portion of the golf course—or acquire it through eminent domain—but that acquisition was to be made with FAA airport improvement program funds. The FAA determined that because Columbia County Airport didn’t have regular jet traffic (at least 500 operations per year) the enlarged safety area was not required, scuttling the sale. Instead, the airport’s threshold was displaced to provide a 300-foot safety area.

While not doubting Nero’s patriotism, Mahlon Richards, founder of Richmor Aviation, the local FBO and flight school at Columbia County, doesn’t think celebration of Earth Day or property taxation is the reason for the pole. Richards told AVweb that he believes the prospect of selling land to the county was at least part of the reason Nero bought the golf course in the first place, and was disappointed when the sale didn’t go through. This latest stunt may be an effort to force the county to buy some of the golf course land to protect the runway approach area or otherwise compensate Nero for keeping the area safe for low-flying aircraft.

Updated: AVweb spoke with Nero, who says the flagpole is a protest against the county's decision to rezone some of the land owned by Nero in a way that prevents him from developing it.

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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.

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The idea of an inflight fire rightfully scares the bejabbers out of pilots. Uncontrolled combustion in a confined space is ugly enough—adding altitude and speed to the mix can make a fire lethal in short order. It’s no wonder that pilots dealing with an inflight fire have jumped out of their aircraft even though they had no parachute.

While inflight fires are rare, we think that every aircraft should have an effective fire extinguisher in the cabin where the pilot can reach it quickly and easily.

Our research and testing has led us to a two-fold conclusion as to what type of extinguisher you should carry in your aircraft: First, effective means an extinguisher that uses a “clean agent,” either Halon or one of the Halon alternatives—if it is possible to extinguish the fire you’re dealing with, they will do it and they won’t hurt you or the aircraft in the process. Second, a dry chemical extinguisher—the most common type we see in aircraft—uses chemicals that have effects on the occupants and the aircraft that are so pernicious that we recommend against their use in aircraft. We’ll tell you why we came to those conclusions.

The Fire Quadrilateral

For years we’ve been told about the fire triangle—with three essential elements for a fire: heat, fuel and oxygen—and that removing any one will put out a fire. That description is true, but incomplete. There is a fourth essential element: the chemical reaction that allows the other three to combust. Without the chemical reaction of the three other elements, heat, fuel and oxygen will happily coexist without starting to burn.

Fire extinguishers act to remove one or more of the fire quadrilateral—as we’ll discuss below, extinguishers we consider appropriate for aircraft primarily interrupt the chemical reaction and don’t remove the oxygen.

Despite interior fabrics made of materials that will self-extinguish or at least act to slow fire propagation, aircraft and their cabins have plenty of stuff that will burn nicely, thank you. Much of it is what we bring in, clothing, paper, pillows and baggage. This is a good spot to note that you should not wear synthetic materials, such as nylon, when flying—exposed to flame, they melt onto your skin, causing serious burns.

Aircraft fabrics that self-extinguish only do so when the fire source is removed. If there is an electrical or avgas-fed fire involved, the interior materials will burn. What’s worse is that once they do burn, the fire-blocking chemicals with which they are treated cause them to give off gases that are toxic in small quantities—in addition to the usual toxic products of combustion, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide that will do their best to kill you as the fire deprives the cabin of oxygen.

Bottom line, a fire in an aircraft cabin will kill you via the toxic gases it emits or the flames themselves. Unless you are on the ground and stopped when a fire breaks out, your survival may be dependent on having an effective fire extinguisher that you can reach right now.

We are aware of hangar-flying sessions in which pilots have said they wouldn’t use a fire extinguisher in the cabin because the gases it expels are worse than the fire. That’s absolutely untrue. While we don’t recommend a dry chemical extinguisher, in an emergency using one is safer than letting a fire burn. Visibility will go to zero for some time and you’ll be left with a large, corrosive mess.

Discharging Halon and Halon-alternative extinguishers pose little risk to occupants. The FAA put it bluntly in Advisory Circular AC 120-80, “The toxic effects of a typical aircraft seat fire, for example, far outweigh the potential toxic effects of discharging a Halon fire extinguisher.”

Fire extinguishers are rated for the type of fire they are designed to fight, per the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Class A fires are ordinary combustible materials such as wood, cloth, paper and plastic. Class B fires are flammable liquids, oil, grease, paint and flammable gases. Class C fires are from energized electrical equipment—the extinguishing agent should be non-conductive. Class D fires are combustible metals such as magnesium, titanium and lithium.

For aircraft fires, the NFPA recommends—and all the sources we researched agree—the fire extinguisher should be capable of handling Class B and C fires. The letter rating is shown on the extinguisher

Fire extinguishers for Class A and B fires also display a numeric rating in front of the letter rating—the higher the number, the more effective the extinguisher for a particular fire. The number rating is a statement of how big a fire, in square feet, the unit should be able to extinguish.

For a two- or six-place general aviation airplane, we recommend at least a 5B:C extinguisher.


The most effective extinguishing agent for Class A, B and C fires, bar none, is Halon—which the FAA describes as one of the class of halocarbon chemicals. It, and newer Halon alternatives, are considered clean agents because they pose little risk to humans in the area when discharged. The clean agents stop the chemical reaction necessary for a fire.

Unfortunately, Halon is a chlorofluorocarbon that does tremendous damage to the ozone in our atmosphere, and its manufacture has been illegal since 1994. Enough was made that, through recycling of Halon from extinguishers that have not been used during their 12-year service life, there is still an adequate, but shrinking supply. Halon alternatives do not have the adverse effect on the atmosphere, have a low carbon footprint and are legal to manufacture.

We spoke with Chris Dieter, senior vice president of H3R Aviation, the major player in the aviation fire extinguisher world, who told us that there has been a great deal of research into finding a Halon replacement—and Halon is gradually becoming harder to get. The most common of the Halon alternatives is Halotron. Currently, a fire extinguisher using Halon weighs half that of the same-rated extinguisher using a Halon alternative. However, according to Dieter, that may be changing in the near future as more effective clean extinguishing agents are being developed.

Weight is the only difference when it comes to Halon and Halon alternative extinguishers—the same rated extinguishers are priced about the same. For a 2B:C Halon or Halotron, we saw prices between $120 and $160. For a 5B:C extinguisher, street prices ranged from $165 to $220.


In 2008, before the FAA recommended against using dry chem extinguishers, Aviation Consumer tested Halon and dry chem fire extinguishers on a rig designed to simulate aircraft cabin materials. Both types extinguished the fire. This time we decided to go one better by constructing a wood structure about the size of an aircraft seat, stapling burn-tested interior materials provided to us by Centennial Aircraft Interiors as well as fabrics aircraft occupants would wear. We put a throw pillow of the sort we see routinely carried in airplanes on the seat. The pillow proved to be a big deal.

We then tried to light the self-extinguishing fabric—oriented vertically. It would smoke and melt when the flame was applied, but the fire went out when the flame was removed. We stayed out of the smoke emitted.

Next we sprinkled a quarter-cup of mogas on the various fabrics and the pillow. When we applied flame (using an fireplace igniter), the rig lit and became an inferno within 20 seconds.

We used a 2B:C Halotron extinguisher per the instructions—start eight feet from the fire, aim at the base and use a sweeping motion. We used short bursts (figure on about 10 seconds of extinguishing material) and knocked the fire down completely on the side of the rig facing us. However, the pillow was shielded by the seat back and was burning intensely. We moved around to spray it, but we ran out of agent.

Using a 1AB:C dry chemical extinguisher, we were able to put out almost all of the remaining fire—a bit of fabric continued to smolder. Stepping on it a few times solved the problem.

We came to three conclusions: we disagree with recommendations that a 2B:C extinguisher is large enough for a two- to four-place airplanes—we recommend a 5B:C extinguisher. Second, after seeing (and breathing some of) the cloud generated by a small dry chem extinguisher, if we ever have to use an extinguisher in anger in the cabin of an aircraft, we want it to be a clean agent rather than dry chem. Finally, that throw pillow you use behind your back can be a menace.


Modern fire extinguishers are remarkably resilient—but they are not set-and-forget devices. They should be visually inspected every 30 days. At six years the extinguisher should be emptied, inspected and recharged by a fire extinguisher repair facility. Every 12 years the extinguisher must be hydrostatically tested.

We’ll put it bluntly, if you don’t have a fire extinguisher in your airplane, buy a Halon alternative clean agent unit—or Halon, if weight is an issue—5B:C extinguisher and mount it where you can reach it easily.

If you have a dry chem extinguisher in your airplane, follow a two-step approach: first, take it home and put it in your kitchen where it can be easily reached; second, follow the recommendation in the previous paragraph before further flight.

Rick Durden is the senior editor of Aviation Consumer magazine, holds an ATP with Douglas DC-3 and Cessna Citation type ratings and is the author of The Thinking Pilot’s Flight Manual or, How to Survive Flying Little Airplanes and Have a Ball Doing It, Vols. 1 & 2.

This article originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of Aviation Consumer magazine.

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You can read about a thing, see a film about a thing or hear someone describe a thing but even if you've done all that, the thing itself will never be what you expect when you actually lay your own eyes on it. That's the feeling I had today after spending most of the day in the airborne museum in St. Mere Eglise, the tiny Normandy village that improbably became the first town liberated from Hitler's grasp in World War II. The place was contested for several days, but the initial action was over in several hours.

I spent four hours shooting a video about the museum with a focus on what the museum itself highlights: the unique role of the Waco CG4A combat glider. It's curious that the glider merits such notice at St. Mere Eglise. When the museum was first established in the early 1960s, the building housing the Waco was the first one erected. Since then, two others have been added, one for the C-47 and one for a more immersive display about Operation Neptune, the overall name for the airborne operations in Normandy. (Overlord applies to the entire invasion.)

In military parlance, parachute infantry operations are considered "vertical envelopment." All this firepower descends almost instantaneously from the sky; it's not here one minute, it's everywhere the next. That accurately describes the actions of the 82nd and 101st airborne divisions which, between them, inserted abut 13,000 troops in the space of about 90 minutes. The vast majority of those arrived by parachute. Only a small number arrived via glider for the initial assault. Because of worries about obstructed glider landing zones, Eisenhower's air officer, Trayford Leigh-Mallory, talked both divisions into using only 52 gliders each for the initial night assault in missions named Detroit and Chicago. They brought in more equipment than troops, giving the paratroopers light artillery and vehicles to support assaults and resist counterattacks. Later in the day, many more gliders arrived, landing in daylight when their odds of survivable landings were better. Some of the glider troops came ashore with the amphibious landings on nearby Utah Beach.

For as much as I've read about the Normandy landings, grasping the scale of it almost defies comprehension. For one thing, the distances are much greater than I understood. From the easternmost beach, Sword, the westernmost Utah Beach is a distance of 50 miles. On a modern four-lane road, it takes most of an hour to drive it. And while the amphibious landings were spread out across a long section of coast, the airborne landings were intensely concentrated in a few square miles. After dawn on June 6, 1944, the countryside around St. Mere Eglise was literally draped in parachutes.

The town was strategic, by the way, because it controlled the road net coming up from Utah Beach, where the 4th division landed. The airborne troops were supposed to secure those roads against German counterattacks. They did. They also profoundly impacted the local population in ways that resonate yet today, two generations hence. St. Mere Eglise is throughly steeped in the lore of Overload and there is nothing mythical about it. It's real and feels recent enough to have happened last year, not 73 years ago this month. Everywhere you look there are tributes and commemorations to the airborne divisions. On the grounds of the museum is a whimsical metal sculpture of a paratrooper descending called "The Day They Came." It even recalls Pvt. John Steele's celebrated snag on the belfry of the church just off the town square. And yes, a paratrooper mannequin and the parachute are still up there overlooking the place de l'eglise.

When we were touring the glider building, where a Waco CG4A is housed, Valerie heard a woman mention to her husband that the airplane on display was almost as big as the real thing. "It is the real thing," he was heard to explain. And it's not just the glider itself that's displayed, but all the vast range of equipment the U.S. Army thought would be necessary to support glider-borne infantry, a lot of which I'd never seen before. In one of the displays in the C-47 building was an example of the Rebecca-Eureka electronic homing system the pathfinders were supposed to use to guide the main assault waves. It worked poorly because of lost bits and pieces and because the lead aircraft who were supposed to use it were either shot down, off course or out of position. Seventy percent of the paratroops landed on other than their planned drop zones.

All wars are contests of industrial production and this was especially the hallmark of World War II. Vast quantities of materiel were delivered to Europe and promptly lost or destroyed. Most of the paratroopers lost some equipment during the drops; some lost all of their equipment. Estimates vary, but some say 60 percent of equipment was lost. But they keep finding it around St. Mere Eglise. One of the displays is devoted entirely to excavated equipment lost by the 82nd and 101st; rusted bayonets, helmet liners, rifles, medical kits, corroded ration cans, ammunition. If the airborne divisions had it, they lost it. In his famous book on D-day, The Longest Day, Cornelius Ryan located Robert Murphy, a pathfinder from the 82nd. That was the scene in the film in which the old woman heading for her outhouse is shushed by a trooper who just landed. Murphy said in his excitement to get moving, he cut away and lost 300 rounds of ammunition. He's remembered in effigy in one of the displays.

The glider itself, which is what I had come to shoot, is both well displayed and exceptionally well explained. The posters offer excellent detail on the entire glider strategy and operation and include photos I'd never seen before. You can actually walk in and through the glider, a rarity in any kind of aviation museum. On display and explained are the weapons the glider troops had, the vehicles and all the associated equipment. If you've seen The Longest Day, you may recall the Ruperts, the dummy parachutists the Brits dropped as a diversion. I just saw the film again last week and now realize the filmmakers took serious license. The real ones, as displayed at St. Mere Eglise, aren't the lifelike rubber dummies in the film, but a crude, half-size burlap cutout of a man with a barely discernible head.  

We finished the day at the American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach. We arrived just as the evening colors were being struck and taps was playing. Is there a person alive who would not be affected by this? I certainly was. I think every American should visit this site and especially every American president. All of us should have a firsthand understanding of why those crosses are there and we should contemplate what we might do to avoid putting more of them there.


A few years ago, SAM Aircraft built an LSA with a retro look that gathered some interest but not many orders. Zenair took over the project and the result is a high-performance taildragger that looks and feels like what the original company might have been looking for.

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Picture of the Week

It's not often we pick a 40-year-old photo as a winner but Robert E. Hall has shared a rather remarkable experience in his life and this is undoubtedly only one of dozens of photographic treasures in his copyrighted album. A PR mission to fly the flag (in the form of custom-painted A-4s) over every major national park must have been a great way to spend springtime in America in the bicentennial year of 1976. Thanks for sharing Robert.

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Holding at the holding point Nelson, New Zealand, we were waiting for the cabin to be cleared before calling ready.
Tower: "Link XXX, are you ready?"
Link XXX: "Just waiting on the cabin."
Tower: "It's right behind you."

Justin Zangerl



On a successful checkride, the well-prepared candidate regurgitates gallons of aviation regulation and insight onto the examiner's laptop ... and, then, quickly forgets everything. Time, now, to recall what others may have lost and ace this quiz.

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