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The House and Senate versions of the FAA reauthorization bill, while they famously differ on whether to privatize the national airspace system, agree that the FAA should study its current prohibition on supersonic flight in U.S. civil airspace. Supersonic flight by civil aircraft is only permitted in the United States either over water or in military operations areas (MOAs)—and in MOAs only with the permission of the controlling military authority. Although the bills differ, both will require reports to Congress on the feasibility of liberalizing supersonic flight.

These congressional requests from the FAA are likely spurred by those who believe the U.S. is on the cusp of a renaissance for civil supersonic flight. Boom and Aerion are both developing supersonic civil aircraft they expect to bring to market in the next decade. Both companies are promising radically lower noise signatures than that produced by the Concorde, which proved to be much too loud for operation over populated areas. NASA, together with contractor Lockheed Martin, is also making headway with a low-boom supersonic demonstration project.


As the FAA sorts out the mess created when its drone registration rule was struck down by the courts, it’s already thinking about taking the registration requirement to the next level and requiring operators to transmit their registration information. The drone website reported that the first meeting of the FAA’s UAS Identification and Tracking Aviation Rulemaking Committee, held June 23-24, discussed existing technologies available that would broadcast the registration of individual aircraft and the rules that exist to regulate that kind of tracking. The next meeting of the committee is July 18-19.

The technology likely isn’t much of an issue and in March, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) issued a challenge to manufacturers to come up with a workable remote identification system and 45 companies responded. DJI, the biggest manufacturer of consumer drones, has some ideas on how it might all work. “DJI understands that accountability is a key part of responsible drone use, and we have outlined a proposal that balances the privacy of drone operators with the legitimate concerns authorities have about some drone operations,” Brendan Schulman, DJI’s VP of policy and legal affairs, told the website.

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Crew members and passengers aboard a Delta Air Lines flight from Seattle headed for China Thursday evening weaponized wine bottles and anything else they could think of to subdue a young passenger who was hell bent on opening a galley exit door. According to an FBI affidavit, Joseph Hudek IV, 23, was finally subdued after a wild melee involving several crew members and passengers. At one point, a flight attendant smashed two full wine bottles over Hudek's head but he shook that off as the Boeing 767 crew made a U-turn over Vancouver Island and headed back to Sea-Tac. “Hudek did not seem impacted by the breaking of a full liter red wine bottle over his head,” the FBI agent wrote, “and instead shouted ‘Do you know who I am?’ or something to that extent.”

In between fending off the counterattacks of flight attendants, pilots and fellow passengers, Hudek managed to get the handle of the door halfway up but it would have been held in place by the pressurization of the cabin. Had the aircraft been at low altitude, he could have potentially opened the door although it’s not clear to what end. Severely outnumbered, he was finally zip-tied into submission on the galley floor but passengers had to keep holding him down until he was arrested by Seattle police an hour later. Hudek was flying on a company-issued flight pass used by relatives of airline employees. He was reportedly sober but did spend a couple of minutes in the bathroom before going on his rampage. He has been charged with interfering with a flight crew.

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The U.K. and Norway say they’ll soon lift a 17-month ban on the use of two models of Airbus Super Puma helicopters to service offshore oil operations. The H225LP and AS332L2 helicopters were taken off that kind of duty after a crash in April of 2016 in which the rotor blades separated from a Super Puma heading to a rig off Norway. The crash killed 13 workers and crew on the helicopter. Even though the government bans will be lifted, there might not be much work for the helicopters. Norway’s biggest oil company, Statoil, says it won’t use them anymore, and a survey of rig workers suggests most workers are opposed to the ban's being lifted and more than half say they’ll never get on a Super Puma again. CHC, the world’s largest helicopter company, has stopped using them.

The helicopters were actually cleared for flight by the European Aviation Safety Agency last October but the U.K. and Norway instituted their own ban on offshore flights. The ban is to be lifted after Airbus introduced new maintenance and inspection protocols for the big helicopters. “The safety of those who travel on offshore helicopter flights is a key priority for both the U.K. and Norwegian aviation authorities,” said John McColl, head of the U.K.’s Civil Aviation Agency. “We would not have made this decision unless we were convinced that the changes to the helicopters and their maintenance restore the required airworthiness standards."


The FAA is soliciting applications for new civilian air traffic controllers (Air Traffic Control Specialist Trainee—ATCS), but if you want to be considered, you’d better be fast. The application window opens today, July 7, and closes July 14. Short application windows are the norm for the FAA. When the FAA last hired for the ATCS position in 2016, the window was also only open for about one week.

Prior to 2014, new ATCS candidates (excluding retired military controllers) were drawn nearly exclusively from a group of colleges that have partnered with the FAA to provide an aviation science technical training curriculum—College Training Initiative (CTI) programs—in preparation for jobs as air traffic controllers. In 2014, the FAA introduced a controversial biographical assessment survey, which was intended to broaden the pool of ATCS candidates beyond CTI graduates, but resulted in shutting CTI graduates out of jobs in the field for which they had spent years training. The current ATCS requisition provides for two candidate pools—those with and without CTI (or military) training. It remains unclear how candidates from the two pools will be considered against each other or how the openings will be divided between the two pools. Those in the CTI graduate pool will not be required to take the behavior assessment test. All candidates must be under age 30, unless they were rejected in 2014 due to failure on the biographic assessment.

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The pilot of a P-51D was uninjured but the aircraft was substantially damaged in an off-airport landing near Duxford, England, on Sunday. The Mustang known as Miss Velma was set down in a field near the airfield during an airshow. Duxford is home to one of the biggest collections of Second World War aircraft and hosts regular flying exhibitions. Witnesses said Miss Velma was part of a group of aircraft in the air when it broke away and headed for the field. It flew over a major freeway, the M11, before going into the field. Meanwhile, a graduation celebration in Russia was marred by the crash of an aerobatic aircraft doing a display for the graduates.

Video shows the aircraft entering a spin at the top of a loop and hitting the ground vertically. A post-crash fire also erupted. The type of aircraft and name of the pilot were not immediately released. The accident happened in Tambov, Russia, on Friday.

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Sound judgment is only as good as the information available, the state of mind of the pilot, and his or her ability to rationally perceive a problem.

The reality of aeronautical decision making (ADM) often doesn’t fit neatly into the book solution.  Nor does analyzing accidents allow us to get into the mind of the deceased, to learn what factors influenced the fatal decision.

Knowledge Is Key

The first foundation in the judgment process is knowledge.  To be a competent and a safe pilot you need an amazing array of information at your fingertips—and most of it from immediate recall. Aircraft performance data such as V-speeds, fuel consumption and engine operation, combined with an in-depth understanding of weather phenomena, as well as current METARS and TAFs. A plethora of regulations and operating procedures to which you must adhere. And the list goes on.

But a lot of knowledgeable pilots are brought to an untimely end each year—so what’s the secret? As we learned early in life, experience has a lot to do with correlating knowledge with the current situation to make safe decisions about a pending problem.

There are numerous acronyms such as DECIDE and IMSAFE, to help us through the decision-making process. However, the word ‘decision’ doesn’t infer a qualitative factor as does the word ‘judgment.’ What is missing is the ability to assess threats (risk) in a rational manner.  More than likely we all think we do this.  Surely we often fool ourselves, or are fooled by, the circumstances that surround the event that is calling for, not just a decision—but the best choice—sound judgment.

Commitments Are Deadly

Few aspects cloud judgment more than a mind that is dealing with interfering thoughts—such as the ever popular “I gotta get there” obligation.  Typically a commitment that drives the pilot deeper into weather that neither the pilot nor the plane can handle, plays a large part in the accident chain. Another is an overly complex operating environment—lack of proficiency with an MFD or FMS that is presenting a mind boggling array of displays and push-button options.

We often review accident reports and second guess the unfortunate pilot’s judgment, wondering how thoughtless they could be for choosing option A when it’s obvious that option C was the correct and safe decision. However, when your mind is encumbered by one or more distracting factors, you too could make the wrong choice.

This is where scenario based training should help.  But does it—FAA analysis notwithstanding. The human mind is a complex organ that can play tricks on our thinking ability, and stress is just one of the factors.

FITS To The Rescue?

I attended a six-day session by a major aviation manufacturer several years ago.  It was allegedly based on the FITS (FAA Industry Training Standards) philosophy. However, it came up short.  Perhaps it was not well presented.  In the ensuing years I have been subject to several other “programs” that were likewise FITS based.  None effectively introduced any common stress or distraction factors in a realistic manner that would impede real-world decision making. 

The question then is, how can a critical issue be inserted into the training environment when the simulated event lacks reality—such as a personal commitment, an overwhelmed consciousness, or simply a lack of awareness?     

It is these real life events that impair the ability to make sound judgments.  Only when we survive the consequences of poor judgment, do we get an appreciation for the factors that almost killed us.  In rare cases, the pilot stops flying.  In some instances the pilot pursues remedial training or acquires more knowledge, or vows to get more thorough weather briefings. Of course there are those who may not appreciate how close they come to that other judgment day and proceed to repeat the same error. Not much can be done for the pilot who ignores basic currency requirements and one can only hope that the IPC and flight review (and a healthy dose of common sense) will bring stark reality to most of the pilot population.

An obvious solution is to avoid getting yourself into a situation that is often the first link in the accident chain; that business meeting on Monday morning—leave Saturday, not Sunday.  Plan intermediate fuel stops at places that can provide alternate transportation. Perhaps one solution is to have a strategy before leaving the ground to avoid having to make critical decisions under pressure.  But this is often unrealistic as there are many extenuating factors. Once the flight is launched the emotions and commitment aspects begin to mount. A risk assessment matrix can help bring into focus areas that you might not otherwise have considered.

There is nothing inherently wrong with launching with the intent of taking a look.  This is how we gain valuable experience and broaden our perspective.  The problem appears when we feel compelled, for whatever reason, to continue into conditions that are clearly beyond our capabilities.  Good judgment is when to recognize that point—rationally.

Summing It Up

The initial judgment factor may be in not backing yourself into a corner that subsequently requires greater piloting skills than you possess, or being at the mercy of other decisions that are made under the stress of a commitment.

One of the biggest threats to a pilot is lack of proficiency. When this is coupled to a chain of bad decisions, the result is predictable.

We know that accidents are rarely caused by a single factor, they are often a series of events—the accident chain.  Taking a critical look at each event and linking them into the whole is difficult until the final link presents the fateful summary conclusion.

We have to be aware of pivotal events that often lie outside the original planning boundaries. Anytime you encounter one of these, your risk-averse antenna should alert you.  Remove or mitigate the risk option, or you are in danger of continuing the chain.

Teaching Judgment

Can you train a pilot to react with considered judgment when emotions consume rational thought? Is it possible to define scenarios that exercise in-flight decision making under pressure? One solution is carefully scripted ‘progressive revelation’ scenarios to evaluate and ‘grow’ pilot judgment with changing conditions.

This is the period of training where I prefer to make an initial flight with a pilot in a simulator. When I introduce a factor that requires a decision, it is helpful to put the sim on HOLD to discuss questions or comments the pilot has about their options. This is difficult to do in the airplane, especially if you are in IMC and ATC is waiting for your response.

Scripting a scenario that involves a finite fuel supply, changing weather conditions (revealed during the flight) and realistic equipment failures can cause a pilot to exercise their ability to evaluate options and modify their flight strategy. While the answer appears simple, you can get yourself entangled with the distracting realities. Teaching judgment is a difficult and demanding task.

Learning from another person’s experiences by reading such books as Flying IFR (Collins), or Instrument Flying (Taylor) can proved a wealth of information and professional perspective.

Programs such as IFR Bootcamp or IFR Mastery (Pilot Workshops) is another means of gaining more knowledge, honing skills, and developing your ability to make better judgments. Some excellent scenarios can be found in the latter.

Ted Spitzmiller is a CFII with the Civil Air Patrol, FAASTeam member and Editor of IFR Refresher.

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

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Ever had a gear-up landing? I’ll tell you about mine in a moment, but first, when I was assembling today’s video it occurred to me that retractable landing gear systems are quite the test of human factors engineering. And the modern trend toward high-performance aircraft with fixed gear—Cirrus mainly—is basically genius at work.

I swept five years worth of gear-up landing accidents and I’m continuing the research to build a little more data. I know for a fact that not all of them are reported to the NTSB and some don’t even make it as insurance claims. My educated guess is there are 20 to 40 gear-ups of various sorts every year, a surprising number of them in air transport aircraft. The takeaway is that if you give homo the sap a way to insert himself into what’s supposed to be a faultless mechanical system, he’ll find a way to bollix it up, either through unintentional ineptitude or willful negligence.

The latter relates to owners who just refuse to maintain gear systems even minimally and their insurers pay the price in the $60,000 slide. Given the declining value of airframes, the gear-up damage that used to be routine to fix is now more likely than ever to produce a write off. I think there may be more of this going on than, say, a decade ago, but the data is just too murky to prove it.

As noted in the video, a little more than half of gear-up landings are the result of pilots just forgetting to grab the little handle for various reasons, but mostly because they got distracted by something that interrupted their normal routine. And the next sound they heard was tick-tick-tick, scrape, bang and oh, s&^t. Surprise, we know thy name and the four-inch step off a wing to a runway is it. Some 15 percent of gear-ups are actually collapses, so if you want to exclude them, the pilot-induced percentage is higher.

Designers and engineers have devised various schemes to defeat gear-up disasters with moderate success. I’m a little surprised that given the advances in avionics and with autonomy looming on the horizon, no one has come up with a better automatic gear system than Piper’s airspeed/throttle-based backstop. It’s somewhat cumbersome and caused so much trouble and confusion when it first appeared that for awhile, Piper was selling kits to disable it.

But I think the data show that it’s modestly effective. I found only one Arrow in about 80 gear-up examples. And while the Arrow population isn’t as high as the Cessna 210, it’s underrepresented in gear-up incidents. The 210, on the other hand, is the reigning champion of gear-ups. Almost one in five involve the 210 and it’s higher yet if you include the 172 and 182, which have similar gear systems. Perhaps horns and warning lights aren’t necessarily as effective as the machine itself just slapping the gear down for the pilot. Put it back up if you don’t like it.

My vote for the best design in retractable gear is the Beech system. Beechcraft built more than 17,000 Bonanzas of various ilks, but these represent only 5 percent of gear-up landings, according to my research. My theory is that the Beech gear system—basically an electric motor through a transmission—is both more reliable and more tolerant of poor maintenance. If Bonanza pilots forget to lower the gear less often—and this appears to be true in this limited dataset—I have no explanation for that. Perhaps a broader review will reveal trends I missed. One YouTube commenter suggested it's because with the gear up, a Bonanza just won't slow down and the pilot will notice. Maybe. But the 210 is pretty slick with the wheels tucked, too.

Now, my own gear-up landing. It’s actually a vicarious gear-up because while many pilots who have landed with the wheels folded swore they put them down, I swore I didn’t. Or I couldn’t remember doing it. I was flying a night approach in a C-model Mooney through light, dry snow. I’d been in it for two hours and I knew the airframe was picking up a little P-static; I could see the green glow of it dancing around the windshield. But I had never—and haven’t since—seen how bad this could get.

Just outside the outer marker, the Mooney’s cockpit pedestal started to glow a greenish blue. I was sure it was a fire inside the heater duct. The airplane had an external comm antenna with a BNC jack on the pedestal, right next to the pilot’s right knee. The glow was coming from a fat spark leaping from the BNC to my pants and down to the rudder pedal. I couldn’t feel anything, but it rattled me nearly to the point of panic. My knees were still shaking when I turned off the runway. When flying a retract, I’m obsessive about checking the gear down several times on final, but on that flight, I don’t remember doing any of it. To this day, I don’t remember putting the gear down, but I obviously did. I’m not exactly a believer, but it brought to mind The Shepherd. Whatever lesson I may have derived from that, it stuck. If anything, I’m even more obsessive about checking for wheels down, now. Trauma will do that to you. Or for you.   

JP International 'Trust Your JPI

Gear-up landings aren't an everyday event, but they're hardly rare, either. In today's video, Paul Bertorelli examines why they happen, what the outcomes are and how you can avoid one if you fly a retrac. Putting the wheels down is a big help...

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What a great trip. A bunch of Taylorcraft owners go together for a 3200 mile trip through the West and Mark Bowden shot this at Marble Canyon (L41). Nice picture, Mark and it looks like a great time.


Before beginning a flight, the PIC must become familiar with all available information concerning that flight. Tall order that, but, honestly, you'll be closer to fulfilling the FAR 91.103 mandate after you ace this quiz.

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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.

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Heard recently on the CTAF frequency at Arlington Municipal Airport (KAWO) in Washington:

Cessna 123: “Departing 34, straight out to the west."

Eric Taylor



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