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Patent filings for the bullet-shaped mystery aircraft based at the Southern California Logistics Airport, previously reported by AVweb, point to lofty ambitions for intercontinental travel from local airports. The aircraft is registered to Otto Aviation Group LLC based in Yorba Linda, California, and patents filed by William Otto include wireframe sketches of the airplane. The interesting shape appears calculated to minimize drag relative to interior volume—with little regard for manufacturing complexity.

One of the patents, for a combined turbocharger and “supplemental thrust device,” describes the purpose of the patent as enabling a new class of aircraft to compete with hub-and-spoke commercial air travel: “To be a viable competitor, the system should have true origin to true destination speeds that significantly exceed current system speeds. It should require no additional infrastructure, and it should package passengers in small enough units that both the passenger load and the aircraft are militarily insignificant targets. To be truly competitive, it should provide non-stop transcontinental and intercontinental travel from any local airport to any other local airport. And ticket prices should be highly competitive with current average ticket prices.”

Garmin - Get ADS-B

The Scaled Composite Proteus, built in the late 1990s as a multi-mission, high-altitude demonstration aircraft, took its 1,000th flight this week. Since it first flew in July 1998, the Proteus has logged over 4,000 flight hours. The long-winged aircraft is designed to operate as high as 50,000 feet for as long as 14 hours. It can be operated by onboard pilots or as a UAV.

While first used as a platform for testing satellite-delivered high-speed internet access, the twin turbofan has proved to be a valuable tool capable of carrying 2,000-pound payloads into the high flight levels for at a reasonable cost. In 1999, before UAVs with real-time data streams became common military technology, Proteus took visual and near-infrared photos of AirVenture and streamed images down to the ground in near real time.á

A number of military pilots have reported issues with oxygen systems in various aircraft in recent years, and now the U.S. Air Force has grounded its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fleet at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, after five incidents in which pilots complained of hypoxia-related issues. The problems occurred between May 2 and June 8. Backup oxygen systems took over, and the pilots all landed safely. Training flights at the base were canceled on Friday and were scheduled to resume on Monday, but now the grounding has been extended indefinitely. About 55 F-35s are based at Luke, and a total of 220 are flying in the U.S. and allied nations.

The Navy grounded its fleet of T-45 trainer jets in April, after pilots refused to fly, citing faulty oxygen systems that had caused blackouts in the cockpit. A Navy official said this week they still haven’t identified the problem. “We’re not doing well on the diagnosis,” Vice Adm. Paul Grosklags, commander of Naval Air Systems, told lawmakers on Tuesday. “To date, we have been unable to find any smoking gun.” The Navy has “literally torn the T-45s apart” looking for the source of the problem, according to the Marine Times. The lack of flights has delayed 25 students per month from graduating. Grosklags said the Navy will continue testing the aircraft, and will consider resuming student flights in “a matter of weeks instead of months,” the Marine Times reported.

Cessna TTx || The Difference Is Clear

United Airlines is back in the news after video emerged of an employee apparently pushing a passenger to the floor of Houston's George Bush International Airport in 2015. The security camera video of the event was just made public and rapidly made the viral video rounds. In the video, a ticket agent, Alejandro Anastasi, is shown in an altercation with a passenger. The passenger, then 71-year old Ronald Tigner, fell backward and lay motionless for several minutes. Tigner is suing United Airlines for $1 million.

According to Tigner’s lawyer, Tigner was denied passage through the TSA checkpoint because his boarding pass was smudged. Tigner had asked Anastasi for assistance getting a new boarding pass. Anastasi reportedly laughed at Tigner, saying, “Can’t you see I’m busy?” Tigner then told Anastasi to “wipe that smile off your face,” and then it's alleged Anastasi pushed him to the floor.

United said in a press statement after the video’s release: ““We have seen the video from 2015 that shows completely unacceptable behavior by a United employee. This employee was terminated from United in August 2015 following the incident. The conduct shown here does not reflect our values or our commitment to treat all of our customers with respect and dignity. We are taking a thorough look into what happened here and reaching out to our customer to profusely apologize for what occurred and to make this right.”

The Over and Above Underwriter - Click to read about Aerial Application

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

Controller: Piper turn right 20 degrees.

No response

Controller: áPiper 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

á

PS Engineering 'Your alternative to Garmin

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One of the concerns many pilots express about doing their flight planning on a tablet computer is that they don’t spend time with a chart and a plotter looking over a route. They end up starting a flight with less situational awareness about airports where they can bail out if something goes wrong en route. That, combined with what can become a rote fixation on selecting an IFR alternate based only on the regs regarding weather at the destination, is an invitation to poor decision-making when a little smoke in the cockpit means shutting off the electrical system a third of the way into the flight, or the engine starts running rough on initial climb from an airport that’s below approach minimums.

One way out of these dilemmas is to keep in mind the FARs are, by law, nothing more than minimum standards—and only looking at an alternate airport for the destination on an IFR flight of 500 miles might not be doing ourselves any favors. We always need an ace in the hole, and it doesn’t have to be the one we tell the FAA about on the flight plan.

En Route

It doesn’t take long to pan along the magenta line in your flight planning app and eyeball the airports that are within 25 miles or so of your course. Many apps have a color-coded display alerting you to the current weather at those that report—a great bit of information to have both prior to departure and while en route. Beyond that, those tools also are valuable for simply getting a feel for what’s available. And paying attention to the terrain along the way can help you understand what challenges might make getting to the runway interesting. While an alternate with food, fuel and maintenance is a great thing, it’s really not as important as departing with full awareness of what’s out there to improve the quality of a diversion decision you may have to make in a hurry.

If we’re in a situation where getting to a legal alternate means having to fly quite a ways, fuel considerations make essential our keeping track of realistic alternatives along the way as we whistle toward where we really want to land. That can mean an intermediate stop to top off the tanks before tackling really hairy weather. After all, aren’t headwinds always stronger than the forecast? It’s either headwinds or ATC won’t give us the altitude we need for a tailwind. It’s not unusual for real winds to make our planned alternate unreachable. A little extra headwind, or maybe the extra drag of some ice picked up on climbout, combined with a dearth of practical alternates in range of our destination may make stopping for fuel the smart decision. And it’s always better to arrive with plenty of gas, rather than mumble “minimum fuel” to ATC.

There are times a routine weather check while en route turns up news that weather at our alternate has gone down the tubes. While weather at our destination may still be superb, it’s still a cause for concern. That’s because destination airports have a funny way of closing when we most need them—a gear-up that slides to a stop at the intersection of the only two runways, snow removal begins, construction materials on the roof of the tower catch fire—they’ve all happened to me. When the back door we’ve been relying on slams shut, it’s time to find another one that we can wedge open. Once again, having plenty of fuel broadens the choices. And don’t forget: you always can just turn around.

Destination Alternates

We know that, per FAR 91.167, we have to have enough fuel to fly to our destination, fly to our declared alternate and then fly for another 45 minutes at normal cruising speed. If we’re smart, we carry more than 45 minutes and/or we plan to spend that time at our full-power, takeoff fuel flow and a normal cruising speed. Why use such a high fuel-burn rate to calculate the fuel required?

If we shoot an approach and miss, that’s what we’ll be burning until we’re back to altitude and motoring off somewhere else at our normal cruise settings. That can take five minutes, or it can take 15. Regardless, at this point, we’re likely not getting into our destination, so Job One is getting on the ground somewhere and regrouping. It never hurts to know that if we do have to burn our reserve fuel we’re going to make it last longer (and increase our range) by cruising—or holding—at a much lower power setting, maybe 45-percent. That easily could give us another 90 minutes where we only had 45. We’ll eat into that margin by cruising more slowly—it will take a bit more time to get on the ground—but we’ll still have some dinosaur juice sloshing around in the tanks as we taxi up to the FBO.

To be legal, the alternate airport has to have weather forecasting. How else would we know if it meets the FAA’s minimum standards for use as an alternate when we expect to arrive? Alternate weather standards aren’t for the time window we look at for our destination to see if we can avoid filing an alternate—if we have to file an alternate airport, the weather has to meet the standards when we expect to arrive. Naturally the follow-on question arises: How tight do we want to cut it? If ETA at our alternate is 0900 and the ground fog currently causing ╝-mile visibility is forecast to be burned off by then, do we want to bet a bent airplane on the accuracy of a fog-dissipation forecast? On the other end of the scale, if the weather is forecast to deteriorate at our planned alternate, and it goes down faster than forecast, that exit door could prove to be locked.

We long ago memorized the alternate-weather requirements for the instrument written: 600 and two for a precision approach; 800 and two for the non-precision variety? If there is no instrument approach—pretty much unheard of for an airport with weather forecasting, but there are times approaches are simply out of service—the weather has to be good enough to meet VFR minimums at the MEA over or adjacent to the airport so that you can descend and land VFR. In addition, check the charts to see if there are higher-than-standard minimums when filing that airport as an alternate, or if an approach is not authorized at night when you plan to arrive.

For filing purposes, there can be times when you list an alternate you have no intention of using simply because it has the required weather reporting. If you’re going into Detroit, Mich.’s Willow Run Airport KYIP, nearby Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (KDTW) may meet the requirements for an alternate. But you may have no burning desire to mix with the airliners at Metro if you can’t get into Willow Run. In that event, you may—perfectly legally—use Ann Arbor, Pontiac, Detroit City or any other nearby airport you desire, not necessarily the one you told the FAA about, KDTW.

That’s because the alternate airport minimums in the FARs are only for filing the flight plan, nothing more. When you have to divert, the airport to which you are diverting becomes your destination—and its published approach minimums apply.

When Ya Gotta Go

Interestingly, only a relatively small proportion of instrument-rated pilots have had to miss an approach for real. Accordingly, their mindset tends to be, “I’m gonna get in the first time.” Sometimes that’s even true if the pilot takes advantage of Part 91 allowing us to pass over the final approach fix inbound even if the airport is below published minimums (one of the more advanced forms of dumb, in my opinion). When the potential for a miss becomes reality, there’s often a period of less-than-optimal thought involved—“I can’t believe I’m going missed.” “What’s next on the missed procedure?” “My car’s parked here.” “How do I enter the hold?” “Maybe if I shoot the approach again and go another 100 feet lower....” “I’ve really got to pee.”

About that time, as you clean up the airplane, verify it’s climbing as it should, claw for altitude and try to find the scrap of paper on which you scribbled your flight plan—all while complying with the procedure for the miss and planning the hold you’re supposed to enter—the voice in your headset rattles off your N-number and asks the question you’ve been dreading, “What are your intentions?”

While “stand by” is a perfectly legitimate response, it’s probably not the one you should give. If you have very good reason—not blind optimism—to believe a second approach (or different procedure at the same airport) will be successful, tell the controller and get pointed in the right direction. Otherwise, tell the controller where you want to go and at what altitude you’d like to fly. This is stuff you should have thought about earlier, certainly before crossing the FAF and perhaps before you even took off. Terrain and obstructions permitting, ATC will give you a vector toward the new airport and then work on sorting out a route.

If not, request a turn toward your new destination right away. When one thing goes wrong on a flight, trouble has a funny way of snowballing and you want all the advantages you can get on your side. Not wasting fuel by flying away from your destination is one of them. Once cleared and cruising toward your new destination, it’s time to start going through the what-ifs and thinking about where you’re going to go if you can’t get in on Plan B. Yep, what’s your new alternate?

In reality, we don’t stop thinking about where we’re going to go when something goes wrong with our destination until we turn off of the runway after landing.

Rick Durden holds an ATP and CFII with type ratings in the Douglas DC-3 and Cessna Citation 500 series 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 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 theáFocke-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.

Can wi-fi make you a smarter pilot?

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.

DC One-X from David Clark - lightest full-featured ANR headset

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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