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The Aviation Funding Stability Act (AFSA), introduced by Reps. Peter DeFazio and Rick Larsen, Democrats on the House Aviation Subcommittee, would require Airport and Airway Trust Fund income to be paid over to the FAA, providing the air traffic agency with more direct access to revenue collected from ticket taxes. A key argument in favor of ATC privatization had been that the FAA has suffered from lack of stable funding as a result of congressional gridlock, government shutdowns and sequestration. The DeFazio and Larsen proposal would continue to have the FAA funded from government coffers, but make FAA appropriations mandatory rather than subject to the whims of annual appropriation acts.

Rep. Larsen said in a press statement, “By providing certainty to the FAA’s funding streams and boosting reforms to the FAA’s personnel and procurement systems this bill presents an opportunity to accelerate modernization of the FAA, which is something I think folks on both sides of the aisle can get behind.” The AFSA comes closely on the heels of President Trump’s proposal to privatize the air traffic control system, which is supported by most of the major U.S. airlines—excluding Delta. A user fee funded system, like that proposed by President Trump, would likely reduce the costs now indirectly borne by airlines through ticket taxes as well as reduce airline delays by focusing air traffic management investment dollars on large commercial airports and reducing congestion from general aviation traffic. 

Updated: A prior version of this article incorrectly described the nature of the funding mechanism for the Larsen/DeFazio proposal.

The task definition for slow flight in the Airmen Certification Standards (ACS) is changing, again. When the private pilot ACS were finalized in June 2016, the FAA changed the definition of slow flight to maintenance of “an airspeed, approximately 5-10 knots above the 1G stall speed, at which the airplane is capable of maintaining controlled flight without activating a stall warning.” This was a marked change from the definition long found in the now superseded Practical Test Standards (PTS). Pilots, for many years, had demonstrated slow flight by maintaining “an airspeed at which any further increase in angle of attack, increase in load factor, or reduction in power, would result in an immediate stall.” The FAA said the reason for the change was to discourage teaching pilots to disregard a stall warning indication. Under the PTS standards, typically the entire maneuver was performed with the stall warning horn sounding.

The current ACS standards have been roundly criticized by flight instructors and others in the general aviation community for both failing to require demonstration of flight at minimum controllable airspeed, which many felt was a core skill of light aircraft airmanship, as well as for the contradictory nature of the definition. Many aircraft will, within weight and balance limits, have a stall warning sounding more than 5 knots above the 1G stall speed. Some older aircraft lack stall warning devices.

The newest version of the slow flight definition, announced in an FAA Safety Alert for Operators, and to be incorporated in the ACS starting next week, will require maintenance of an airspeed “at which any further increase in angle of attack, increase in load factor, or reduction in power, would result in a stall warning (e.g., aircraft buffet, stall horn, etc.).” The new definition will not satisfy those seeking reintroduction of flight at minimum controllable airspeed into the ACS, but does remove the ambiguity between maintenance of a target airspeed versus avoidance of a stall warning activation. The new definition also more adequately covers aircraft without a stall warning system by referring to any indication of stall, rather than activation of a stall warning device.

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No one was seriously injured after the pilot of a hot air balloon was ejected from the basket and the two non-pilot passengers were left on their own. On an otherwise calm evening at an event in Chatsworth, Illinois, Thursday,  a 20-30 mph gust of wind tore through a group of balloons getting ready to launch. As the accompanying video shows (coarse language alert) the wind blew one balloon into another and in the process left the pilot hanging out of the basket. The balloon then descended rapidly and bounced off the ground, ejecting the pilot in the process. Relieved of his weight, the balloon shot back into the air with two inexperienced passengers still in the basket.

The balloon ascended a few hundred feet and pilots on the ground were able to make contact with the two passengers and guide them to a safe landing a few hundred yards from the takeoff point. The pilot was taken to the hospital but his injuries were not serious, Livingston County Sheriff Tony Childress told local media. He said balloons have been flying safely in the area for many years and this year’s unusual incident won’t result in any changes to its organization or the rules governing it. “I just don’t think it’s something that we need to create more red tape, so to speak, that what we already have,” Childress said.

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A corporate flight crew reportedly deadsticked a Hawker Beechcraft 400XP to a safe landing at Buffalo International Airport on Saturday in an incident that would have made international headlines if it had gone any other way. The aircraft was carrying movie star Jennifer Lawrence from her hometown of Louisville to Teterboro. The aircraft took off at 11:46 and headed with a flight-planned destination of TEB but FlightAware shows a track well to the north of a direct route to New Jersey. 

The Hawker was at 31,000 feet over northwestern Pennsylvania when it appears the first engine quit. That’s where the aircraft diverted to Buffalo and the second engine went out sometime after that. Mainstream media reports have concentrated on the fact that Lawrence walked off the plane unscathed after the safe landing. Because it occurred on the weekend none of the federal agencies that record such mishaps have listed it yet so there’s been no discussion of a possible cause.

Republican Senator Jim Inhofe, of Oklahoma, and Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat from Illinois, have introduced a bill they say will streamline funding for general aviation airports. It would also formally enshrine in legislation the building of homebuilt aircraft as an “aeronautical activity” to eliminate any bureaucratic interpretation on doing that work at an airport. The Forward Looking Investment in General Aviation, Hangars and Tarmacs (FLIGHT) Act of 2017 was introduced last week and would extend some procedural advantages used to expedite projects at big airport to regional and local airports. “Our general aviation airports are vital to aviation safety and positively impact the efficiency of large commercial airports, emergency medical operations, law enforcement activities and agriculture and small businesses activities throughout the United States,” Inhofe said.

The new law, if enacted, would allow GA airports more time to accumulate FAA funding for projects “and ensures available discretionary funding originally set aside for GA airports remains available for projects at GA airports through a nationally competitive process.” It will also allow GA airports access to expedited and coordinated environmental assessment and approval processes, identify certain facilities as “disaster relief airports” and open up the pool of money available for emergency preparedness. “The FLIGHT Act addresses the growing needs of our nation’s system of airports by providing the FAA with long overdue flexibility it needs to fund important projects,” said Mark Baker, president and CEO, AOPA.

An earlier version incorrectly identified Duckworth as a Republican.

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The congregation of Hope Missionary Baptist Church, near Lakeland, Florida, was in the middle of the service on Sunday when members heard a sound from above. Within seconds many of the 300 worshippers, including two nurses, were in the parking lot pulling the seriously injured pilot of a Cirrus SR22 out of the aircraft and surveying the wreckage after the aircraft crashed into the parking lot of the church about noon on Sunday. Photos from the scene suggest the Cirrus did not come down under its parachute as it was torn apart in the crash and had enough energy to flip at least one of the six vehicles it hit.

The aircraft is a 2005 model owned by M3 Aero Inc. of Wilmington, Delaware. The airplane came down a long way from Lakeland Linder Airport, next to Highway 17 between Winter Haven and Bartow. At first, churchgoers thought the noise was lightning but someone went outside to check and that mobilized the congregation. The pilot was taken to a local hospital and his condition was not being publicized late Sunday.

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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.

March 1, 2017, Live Oak, Calif.

Maule MX-7-180A

While on the base leg for his private grass airstrip, the pilot noticed he was high, so he added flaps to increase his descent rate. On final, the airspeed was a little fast and during the landing, he flared the airplane “a little high.” After touchdown, the pilot applied the brakes, but the airplane did not respond, so he applied “a little more brake.” The airplane nosed over and came to rest inverted, sustaining substantial damage to both wings and the empennage. The pilot reported he should have performed a go-around instead of attempting to “salvage the landing.”

March 2, 2017, Ft Lauderdale, Fla.

Cessna 340

At about 1034 Eastern time, the airplane was substantially damaged when the landing gear collapsed during landing. The solo airline transport pilot was not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

According to the pilot, on approach, he observed a “three-green landing gear down indication.” During the landing roll, the left main landing gear collapsed, the left propeller struck the runway, and the airplane veered off the left side of the runway and came to rest in the grass. The pilot stated the airplane had previously experienced a landing gear collapse, had undergone repairs and this was the first flight since those repairs.

March 2, 2017, Roxbury, Kan.

Maule M-5

The pilot reported that while landing on a road in gusty crosswind conditions, the right wing lifted to about a 60-degree angle. He immediately initiated a go-around and added full power, full right aileron and lowered the nose. The airplane had drifted off the center of the road to the left, heading toward powerlines, and he elected to go under them. After the airplane cleared the powerlines, the left wingtip struck the ground and the airplane cartwheeled. The airplane sustained substantial damage to both wings, the fuselage and the empennage.

March 2, 2017, Alpine, Texas

Cessna 182 Skylane

During final approach in gusting wind conditions at night, the pilot reduced power and initiated a flare when he then heard the stall warning horn. He added that a “gust of wind caught [the] left wing,” which he attempted to recover with left aileron inputs. The nose landing gear bounced during touchdown, and he applied full power to go around when another wind gust forced the airplane onto the runway. The airplane bounced, impacted a fence and came to rest inverted on the right side of the runway.

March 3, 2017, Metlakatla, Alaska

Beechcraft G18S Twin Beech

At about 0815 Alaska time, the airplane was ditched into ocean waters following right engine failure. The airline transport pilot and pilot-rated passenger received minor injuries. Instrument conditions prevailed; the aircraft operated on an instrument clearance.

After an ILS approach, the pilot performed the missed approach procedure due to no visual contact with the runway environment. During the climbout at about 2000 feet msl, the right engine seized. The pilot attempted to feather the engine but was unsuccessful. He was not able to maintain altitude. The pilot maneuvered toward open water and as the airplane descended through 50 feet msl, initiated a forced water landing near the coastline. Both occupants swam about 200 yards to shore. The airplane sank in about 84 feet of water.

March 3, 2017, Conway, Ark.

Cessna 162 Skycatcher

The airplane became stuck in mud at about 1830 Central time after landing. The pilot exited the airplane in an attempt to dislodge it and was struck by the rotating propeller, sustaining serious injuries. The passenger was not injured. The airplane was not damaged.

After landing, the pilot failed to negotiate a turn onto a taxiway and the airplane became stuck. The pilot closed the throttle to idle, exited the airplane and tried to push the airplane with the left strut. “Without thinking,” the pilot walked toward the nose wheel to inspect the airplane and walked into the rotating propeller. The pilot suffered abdominal and leg injuries.

March 4, 2017, Canton, Ga.

Cessna 421 Golden Eagle

At about 0023 Eastern time, the airplane was substantially damaged after a collision with a powerline and terrain. The solo commercial pilot was fatally injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

The pilot purchased the airplane on March 2, 2017. A flight instructor who flew with the pilot said the pilot told him that he had owned two Cessna 421s in the past but hadn’t flown one since 1984. Witnesses observed the airplane flying extremely low, before noticing a “ball of fire” erupt near the airport. Surveillance video reportedly shows the airplane banking to the right side of the runway before descending into a ravine. Powerlines were entangled on the right main landing gear strut and right wing of the airplane.

March 4, 2017, Duette, Fla.

Beechcraft B60 Duke

The airplane was destroyed by impact and a post-crash fire, which followed an uncontrolled descent and collision with terrain at about 1330 Eastern time. The private pilot/owner and the flight instructor were fatally injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

The pilot had recently purchased the airplane and was obtaining ground and flight training to meet insurance requirements. Radar data depicts the airplane engaged in airwork for about 30 minutes. Witnesses observed the airplane in straight-and-level flight, and slowing, as the nose gradually pitched up. The airplane then suddenly banked to one side and entered a near-vertical, spiraling descent to the ground. The engine sound was smooth and continuous throughout, increasing just before impact.

March 5, 2017, Nome, Alaska

Cessna R172K Hawk XP

At about 2223 Alaska time, the airplane sustained substantial damage during impact with sea ice. The solo private pilot received fatal injuries. Visual conditions prevailed along the route of flight; instrument conditions prevailed at the destination.

The airplane arrived in the Nome area at about 2141 after a cross-country flight. At 2214, after several attempts to land, the pilot texted a friend at the destination, “not happening” and departed the area. A witness who lives near the destination airport saw the airplane make multiple approaches and then depart to the east. The pilot’s fiancée reported the airplane overdue at about 0530 the next day. At about 0959, SAR assets located the airplane wreckage on sea ice, “in a vertical nose down attitude.” The intended destination has no lighting and is not plowed in winter. Another airport about one mile to the west does have a runway and approach lighting and is fully maintained. The pilot’s medical certificate included the restriction, “Not valid for night flying or by color signal control.”

March 8, 2017, Abbeville, Ala.

Grob Aircraft G120TP-A

The airplane was substantially damaged at about 1340 Central time during a forced landing while maneuvering. The flight instructor and pilot receiving instruction sustained serious injuries; the airplane was substantially damaged. Visual conditions prevailed.

After upset recovery training, the flight instructor attempted to demonstrate a practice power-off approach terminating with a low pass. While at the low key position, abeam the landing threshold and 1200 feet agl, the pilot receiving instruction smelled fuel. They both then noted a vapor from the right side of the engine, followed by a puff of white smoke, and the flight instructor noted a total loss of engine power. The pilot receiving instruction attempted to restart the engine, but it did not respond. The flight instructor maintained controlled flight until the airplane collided with trees, then the ground.

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

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N-numbered routes in France are sort of like our better state roads or U.S.-numbered highways. Some are dual-lane divided, some just two lanes. Like most airports, the one at Tarbes has just such a highway that runs by the southeast perimeter of the airfield. When you tip out of the inevitable roundabout, there it is and there they are: dozens upon dozens of the great moveable cathedrals of modern industrial society--the transport airliner, lined up wing to wing. There are only a few places on the planet to see this. Tarbes is one, nearby Toulouse is another and of course Everett and Renton, Washington. (Airports don't count; the airplanes aren't parked cheek by jowl, usually.)

But I'm exaggerating in saying there are dozens and dozens at Tarbes; more like 15 or 20, if that. And they aren't coming fresh out of a factory here, but are flown in here to either die or be repurposed to customers who can't afford or don't need the efficiency of a state-of-the-art twin-engine airliner capable of spanning the Atlantic. Want a cheap four-engine A340? A company at Tarbes called Tarmac can probably get you into one for the price a used Citation. You're on your own for buying the gas.

In a way, those airplanes I saw at Tarbes have come full circle. Across the field is Daher, builder of the popular single-engine turboprop, the TBM. And while most of us in the U.S. know Daher only for the TBM, in global aerospace it's better known as a manufacturer of components that go into the Airbus line that will, inevitably, make their way back to Tarbes for recycling.

I knew this about Daher, but I had no idea of the volume of aerospace work it does that isn't the TBM. Daher's Philipe de Segovia showed me around the plant last week and the quick walk around took more than two hours. On a second, more methodical walk through, I shot video of the various activities there--at least what I was allowed to shoot--and I'll have that ready sometime next week.

Like so many aircraft plants, Daher is a study in the evolution of both aviation and the processes of building aircraft. But its history is longer and richer than any other factory I've been in. The original building established by Morane-Saulnier around 1911 is still in use. The company built aircraft during World War I but its history took a bizarre turn during World War II. After the French Army collapsed during the Battle of France, Tarbes--which is in the very south of the country, in the Pyrenees foothills on the Spanish border-- became part of Vichy France and was nominally unoccupied. Nonetheless, the German military impressed the factory to do repair work and production on the Focke-Wulf 190, among other aircraft. (Correction here: an earlier version said the DO 17 was produced at Tarbes, but de Segovia contacted me and said that wasn't the case.)

Some of the plant's machinery dates to the 1940s and it's tantalizing to imagine some of those machines built German aircraft. But that machinery was retired after the war. The oldest equipment builds parts for the still-supported TB-series airplanes. When I walked through the plant, I saw bins labeled for TB20 and 21s. As for the TBM, its production processes long ago left the old machinery behind. For instance, there's a 1940s-era metal stretching machine that's been updated with digital controls. You see a lot of that sort of thing in these older plants. But it doesn't stretch metal for the TBM. The airplane now uses lighter and stronger composite parts for the compound bends that were once coaxed into metal.

Composites are a big part of what Daher does and it does big parts. In one shop area, I was shown the composite gear door for an A400M that, were it not for its squarish shape and compound bend, was bigger than the wing of Cherokee. The company also has a line dedicated entirely to gear doors for the A350; think two-car garage doors and add a third and the size is about right. Some months ago, I was talking to Daher's Nic Chabbert who told me that aerospace companies subcontract a lot of work, including major subassemblies such as doors, control surfaces and entire subsections, including the staggeringly large front end of the A380 that, yes, Daher builds. And competition being what it is, these prime contractors want it ever cheaper so that forces companies like Daher to find efficiencies where they can.

Find efficiencies they do, too. I was shown a new line being developed to produce composite layups robotically, including, if I read it right, cutting and placing the material, applying resin and shuttling the thing off to giant autoclaves that reminded me of some of the mountain tunnels we rode through in the Pyrenees. Composite still requires hand work, however, to trim up the mold flash and install the hard parts such as metal hinges, latches and fasteners. You may have read that Boeing is using robotic riveting and Daher is getting there too for sub work it's doing for Dassualt, among others.

When I asked Chabbert recently if this sort of thing could trickle down to the TBM, he said Daher wouldn't rule it out. But at 40 to 60 units a year, the only way I can see it working is if TBM production piggybacks on investment with a higher margin and in that sense, Daher seems to be another version of Rotax economics. Rotax's aircraft engines are a rump on its production of recreational engines, but the component manufacture benefits from the factory's sheer scale.

You can see a little of that at Daher. The factory has a numerically controlled hydroform machine that spits out a million parts a year. I doubt if TBM manufacture alone would support that. I got the impression it makes a lot of stuff in the same way the Rotax factory makes a bunch of parts that happen to also go into airplane engines. Anyway, even with that level of automation, there's a lot of handwork just in cleaning up the parts. An entire platoon of benchworkers was touching up with files and checking bend angles with gauges. Do they do that at Airbus and Boeing? I suspect so.

Riveted metal airplanes like the TBM will always be time-consuming builds. The airplane has about 40,000 rivets and I watched mechanics hand setting and bucking them. Even so, just as I reported on Mooney having squeezed out build hours from the M20s, so has Daher done with the TBM line. The new 930s coming off the line are more efficiently built than the TBM 700 was nearly 30 years ago and whatever comes next will probably be more efficient yet. But those gains are still likely to be in the margins for the same reasons they always have been: low volume and limited return on limited investment capital. But the story at Daher appears to be the same as it is at Continental, Lycoming and Mooney. As new machinery becomes more affordable and more flexible, even low-volume airplane companies can benefit from its use.

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We had the opportunity to go on the test flight when John Sessions, of the Historic Flight Foundation, picked up his refurbished DC-3 from Sealand Aviation in Campbell River, British Columbia a few years ago. He was guided through his first landing by DC-3 guru Dan Gryder.

Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

Beautiful photos this week but here's a suggestion. Don't send us a whole bunch of your photos all at once. We need to give everyone a chance and we'll never remember to look back in the files to find those we couldn't use. Send them one at a time and you'll have a better chance. Having said that, Jack Fleetwood, who sent four stunning images this week, rose to the top with the pic of Rusty Morris's beautiful Cessna 170.

Can wi-fi make you a smarter pilot?

While flying in New York air space I heard this controller:

Controller: Piper turn right 20 degrees.

No response

Controller:  Piper turn right 20 degrees

Still no response (must have seen Piper turn on screen)

Controller: Piper instead of nodding your head, key your mic and answer me!!!


Alan Kane

 

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