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image: The Clarion Ledger

In the deadliest U.S. airplane crash since Colgan Air in 2009, 16 people died on Monday afternoon when a C-130 operated by the Marine Corps crashed in a soybean field in Mississippi. There were no survivors, and authorities are still working to confirm the exact number of people on board. Photos and videos online show the wreckage burning, with heavy smoke. A local witness told The Associated Press he was working outdoors at about 4 p.m. when he heard a boom and looked up to see the airplane spiraling down with smoke coming from one engine. Some reports said a five-mile debris field suggested the aircraft had broken up in flight, but the online images appear to show the burning aircraft largely intact. One engine, however, was found about a mile north of the main crash site.

The flight originated from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., the Marine Corps said in a statement. “The cause of the crash is unknown at this time; the incident is under investigation,” the Marine Corps said. The Marines haven't commented on the crew's mission, the itinerary or the destination. According to CNN, the aircraft made a stop at Memphis International Airport in Memphis, Tennessee, but it’s not known if it was refueled there. According to WNCN, an official at the Greenwood Airport in Mississippi said air traffic controllers were tracking the flight and said it experienced a “structural failure” at 20,000 feet. The most recent comparable loss of life in an aviation accident occurred last July, when 16 people were killed in the crash of a commercial hot-air balloon in Texas.

Video: WKRG

The Falcon 5X, an all-new widebody business jet by Dassault Aviation, has flown for the first time, the company has announced. The flight lasted for two hours. The Safran Silvercrest engines installed on the test plane are a “preliminary version,” Dassault said. According to the company, “design issues” have delayed the engine’s development four years beyond the initial timetable. The flight tests will continue for a few weeks, Dassault said, to “help streamline the development process.” The actual flight validation and certification tests will be performed next year, after “Safran delivers certifiable engines meeting Dassault’s specifications,” the company said. Deliveries of the 5X are expected to start in 2020.

“We’re committed to limiting the consequences of the four-year engine development delay as much as possible, and the short preliminary flight-test campaign is part of this effort,” said Eric Trappier, CEO of Dassault Aviation. “We will closely monitor the validation tests on the modified Silvercrest, which are scheduled by Safran in the few coming months, as their results will be critical” for keeping the certification on schedule. Safran says the new engine, when it’s ready, “will fly higher, faster, and farther than what’s now available [and] bring business aviation into a new era.” The 5X design also has a new “ultra-efficient” wing, Dassault said.

Besides the 5X, the engine has been chosen by Cessna for the Citation Hemisphere business jet. “The Silvercrest’s fuel consumption is up to 15 percent lower than other engines in its category,” according to Cessna, “and it allows business jets to reduce their nitrous-oxide emissions by up to 40 percent and cut their noise footprint by half.” First flight of the Citation Hemisphere is expected in 2019. Click here to view AVweb's video tour of the 5x.

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image: Bay Area News Group

An Air Canada A320 crew mistakenly lined up to land on the parallel Taxiway C instead of Runway 28R last Friday at San Francisco International Airport, a mistake that was caught and corrected by air traffic controllers. The incident sparked widespread news reporting about the “near miss” that could have caused “the greatest aviation disaster in history.” The Mercury News, based in the Bay Area, broke the story on Monday. The story notes that “four airplanes full of passengers and fuel” were parked on the taxiway waiting to take off, and all of them could have been destroyed if the A320 had in fact tried to land there. Peter Fitzpatrick, an Air Canada spokesman, told The News that Flight AC759 from Toronto “landed normally without incident” after a go-around.

On the audio clip from atclive.net, the Air Canada pilot can be heard asking the tower why there are aircraft lights on the runway, and he is told there are no aircraft on the runway. Another unidentified voice then chimes in to say he’s lined up on the taxiway, and the controller tells him to go around. "If you could imagine an Airbus colliding with four passenger aircraft widebodies, full of fuel and passengers, then you can imagine how horrific this could have been," retired United Airlines Captain Ross Aimer, CEO of Aero Consulting Experts, told the Mercury News. "If it is true, what happened probably came close to the greatest aviation disaster in history.” The FAA is now investigating the incident, according to Reuters.

Continental 'Factory new CM Magnetos at near-rebuilt pricing'

The FAA issued a final Airworthiness Directive on Tuesday that will affect 23,643 airplanes in the Piper fleet, mainly PA-28 and PA-32 models in the Cherokee line. The AD, which was issued to clarify the requirements of an earlier AD issued in 1995, takes effect Aug. 15. It requires that owners or operators of airplanes equipped with oil-cooler hose assemblies that do not meet certain technical standard order (TSO) requirements must have the assembly inspected, at an estimated cost of $128. If the assembly needs to be adjusted or replaced, the estimated cost is $85 to $515. The inspection procedures are specified in the AD, with instructions and diagrams.

The new AD “retains all of the requirements of the original AD,” the FAA said, “and adds language to clarify its applicability and compliance requirements.” The revision will not increase the economic burden or the scope of the AD for any operator, the FAA said.

The History Channel says it’s having a look at a Japanese historian’s claim that a photograph that underpinned a much-hyped television special on the fate of Amelia Earhart was taken two years before she left on her round-the-world flight. As the documentary was hitting the airways, blogger baron_yamaneko from Japan was posting a digitized image of the same photo, which he said appeared in a Japanese publication in 1935, two years before Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan’s fateful flight. The History Channel said in a statement it’s "exploring the latest developments about Amelia Earhart and we will be transparent in our findings. Ultimately, historical accuracy is most important to us and our viewers.”

The photo in question was taken in the Marshall Islands and experts interviewed in the documentary pretty much concluded that two Caucasians in the picture were likely Earhart and Noonan. The blogger’s claim hasn’t been proven yet either but he did supply a link to the Japanese government archives with the photo and it is apparently dated 1935.

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Bell Helicopter’s twin-engine 525 Relentless is back in the air after being grounded for about a year following a fatal crash in Texas, the company has announced. Two Bell Helicopter pilots were killed in July 2016 when the 525 crashed during a test flight near the company’s facility in eastern Texas. “Bell Helicopter has worked with the NTSB and FAA since the accident and we are confident in the resumption of flight test activity,” said Mitch Snyder, Bell’s CEO. The FAA has renewed the aircraft’s experimental certificate. “The team is focused on certification in 2018 and we are committed to bringing this innovative and high-performing helicopter to market,” Snyder said.

The NTSB investigation is "ongoing," NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson told AVweb on Tuesday. "The next step in the process will be to open the public docket, which I expect later this summer," he said. The Bell 525 is the world’s first fly-by-wire commercial helicopter, the company says, and is designed to operate safely and reliably in austere environments with less pilot workload. The aircraft features the first fully integrated touch screen avionics suite designed for helicopters, the Garmin G5000H. The company says the 525’s payload, cabin, cargo volumes and passenger comfort are designed to be best-in-class.

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A new project called Air AIR (Artists in Residence) is inviting artists to apply for a chance to spend time in the air and create art inspired by their experience aloft. Such programs are well-established in national parks, Amtrak and other venues, but this appears to be the first of its kind that takes place aboard commercial aircraft. The project launched last year and held its first Air AIR Artists’ Exhibition in Atlanta, Georgia, in March. Applications are now being accepted for this year’s residencies.

The round-trip flights will take three artists to their destination locations and back, all within 24 hours. Once the artists are back on the ground, the residency culminates in a one-night pop-up exhibition. Air AIR aims to encourage visual artists, composers, writers and other cultural workers to create under the constraints of limited space, limited materials and sensory deprivation while in flight. All applicants must have a valid driver's license or passport and be willing to participate in a 10- to 12-hour flight (including layover time) launching from Atlanta. They also will participate in an exhibition in the Atlanta area. The deadline to apply is Friday, July 21.

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When I first saw the story yesterday in the Mercury News, that a jet had to execute a go-around at SFO after lining up on the taxiway instead of the runway, my first reaction was that the “disaster averted!” angle was overwrought. Really? I thought. Just like every day, when I tap the brakes to stop at a red light, I guess that’s a disaster averted, too. After all, if I didn’t stop, carnage would likely ensue. Sure, a mistake was made by the A320 crew, but mistakes are always made, and that’s why there are checks in place, to be sure those mistakes don’t turn into smoking holes. Those checks worked, at SFO, just as they should have, and all went on as usual. No story here.

But then I listened to the audio (you can listen to it here, courtesy of atclive.net) and my heart skipped a beat. An A320 crew member called ATC to ask about the “lights on the runway.” The controller calls back that he’s “confirmed, clear to land,” and says “There’s no one on 28 Right but you.” OK, says the pilot, then a new voice chimes in. “Where’s this guy goin’? He’s on the taxiway.” As far as I know, that voice hasn’t been identified, except as maybe another pilot on the frequency. But in this case he might be labeled as the voice of reason, the clear light of reality, the last chance of averting disaster. “Go around,” ATC pipes in, and the crew goes around, all is well, nothing bad happened.

So how close a call was it? Would the crew have figured it out in time to react? It was almost midnight — pitch dark. It’s not clear exactly how high the A320 was when they made the call to ATC, but they were on final approach. It’s also not clear exactly what they were doing in the cockpit or how they got lined up wrong in the first place. If that voice hadn’t piped in … would ATC have figured it out in time to warn the A320 crew? It seems inevitable the crew would have figured it out shortly — but would they have figured it out in time to pull up and go around safely? An A320 scrolling down final has an awful lot of momentum. We’re lucky that we can sit around today and ask these questions, and not have to be thinking about all that wreckage at SFO.

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...

Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

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.

Electronics International 'Aviation Alert! Short video on how EI saved this pilot's life

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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