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The FAA Wednesday evening proposed an emergency airworthiness directive requiring owners of Lycoming engines to inspect and potentially replace off-spec connecting rod small-end bushings in Lycoming engines overhauled during the 2015 to 2016 time period. The AD codifies the procedures found in Lycoming's Mandatory Service Bulletin SB 632 released last month.

Although Lycoming says at least 1300 of its own engines are affected by the SB and now AD, the FAA AD language says 778 airplanes on the U.S. registry are covered. The FAA estimates the total cost of the AD to U.S. owners to be $1.1 million or about $1425 per engine if no replacements are required. If connecting rod replacement or bushing replacement is required, the cost ranges from $2170 for four-cylinder engines to $6680 for six-cylinder engines. The FAA said it believes the bushing issue represents a serious enough safety hazard to short-circuit the usual commenting period for ADs. Here's the proposed text of the AD. As of Wednesday, it was unclear how many of the named engines are Lycoming factory engines and how many are field shop engines. For more, see Lycoming's FAQ on SB 632.

Cessna TTx || The Difference Is Clear

Image:KTVU

The NTSB on Tuesday released its final report on the Icon A5 crash on May 8 that took the lives of two Icon employees, pilot Jon Karkow and passenger Cagri Sever. The investigators found the probable cause of the accident was “the pilot's failure to maintain clearance from terrain while maneuvering at a low altitude.” Contributing to the accident was the pilot's mistaken entry into a canyon surrounded by steep rising terrain while at a low altitude, for reasons that could not be determined. The investigators didn’t find any mechanical problem or failure with the aircraft that contributed to the accident. They did report that in examining the wreckage, they found that the ballistic parachute handle was partially extended, and the pin was removed.

The report states it’s “likely that the pilot mistakenly thought the canyon that he entered was a different canyon that led to the larger, open portion of the lake.” Also, the report continues, “it is likely that, once the pilot realized there was no exit from the canyon, he attempted to perform a 180-degree left turn to exit in the direction from which he entered.” However, the NTSB found that based upon data in the Pilot's Operating Handbook for the A5, the airplane's altitude above the water's surface and its indicated airspeed, and the ridge line elevations in the area adjacent to the accident site, “the airplane would have not been able to climb out of the rising terrain that surrounded the area, which led to [the pilot’s] failure to maintain clearance from terrain.”

Icon released a statement on Tuesday noting that investigators found “the airplane appeared to be operating normally at the time of the accident and that the ‘post‐accident examination of the airframe and engine revealed no evidence of any preexisting mechanical malfunctions that would have precluded normal operation.’” Icon CEO Kirk Hawkins said the NTSB report is “an important step in reaching closure for the families of Jon and Cagri as well as the Icon team after such a traumatic loss.” Sever was a new employee in the engineering department, and Karkow was a founding member of the Icon team and lead aeronautical engineer on the A5. “The A5 not only reflects his genius, it represents his love for flying in its purest form – it was his final gift to aviation,” said Hawkins.

Garmin - Instruments and avionics webinar August 16 2017

Personnel at military bases can shoot down private or commercial drones that are deemed a threat, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said at a press briefing on Monday, according to The Military Times. The bases “retain the right of self-defense when it comes to UAVs or drones operating over [them],” Davis said. "The increase of commercial and private drones in the United States has raised our concerns with regards to the safety and security of our installations, aviation safety and the safety of people.” The FAA had announced in April that drones were banned from flying over military bases and testing sites.

"Protecting our force remains a top priority, and that's why DOD issued this very specific — but classified — policy, developed with the FAA and our interagency partners, that details how DOD personnel may counter the unmanned aircraft threat," Davis said. The “rules of engagement” include taking steps such as “tracking, disabling or destroying” the drones, depending on the assessment of the threat, he said.

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The Williams International FJ44-4A-QPM engine, which has been chosen by Pilatus to power its new PC-24 jet, is now type-certified by both the FAA and EASA, Williams announced on Monday. Production deliveries have already begun. Williams says the new engine features an anti-ice and noise-suppressing inlet, an integral pre-cooler to condition engine bleed air and reduce drag losses, and a patented passive-thrust-vectoring exhaust nozzle technology. The PC-24 installation also will be the first to include a new feature from Williams that enables the FJ44 to provide quiet, efficient ground power, eliminating the need for a traditional APU. The new engine also has an advanced health-monitoring FADEC system.

The two engines will provide the PC-24 with enough power to enable a direct climb to the jet’s operational ceiling of 45,000 feet, Pilatus said. The PC-24, which is the first jet aircraft for Pilatus, is equipped with a large cargo door and is designed to handle operations using short and rough runways. Certification and first deliveries are expected later this year. Williams is headquartered in Walled Lake, Michigan; Pilatus is based in Switzerland.

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Pilots flying on the days leading up to the coming solar eclipse on Aug. 21 have surely planned already to cope with extra traffic near the path of totality, but they also need to be aware of a nationwide balloon launch that will take place along that path. Teams of students will release about 100 high-altitude scientific balloons from about 30 locations along the eclipse path, from Oregon to South Carolina. The balloons will carry instruments to about 100,000 feet, where they will send back live images of the eclipse from the edge of space. Such images have been captured only once before, during a 2012 eclipse in Australia, and this will be the first time the images will stream live over the internet.

Each balloon is filled with helium, and together with its payload, weighs about 12 pounds. After about three hours of flight, each balloon will separate from its payload, which then will descend back to earth under a parachute. NBAA noted that pilots should be aware of the ballooning activities. “While FAA air traffic control centers regularly see high-altitude weather balloons in their airspace, this project is different because dozens of balloons will take flight in a short period of time,” said Heidi Williams, NBAA’s director of air traffic services. Each balloon will carry a satellite modem for tracking the balloon’s location, FAA spokesperson Elizabeth Isham Cory told AVweb on Thursday.

“Air traffic controllers will integrate a large number of simultaneously launched unmanned balloons with regular aircraft traffic,” Cory said. Besides the tracking device, each balloon will carry two cameras to transmit photos and high-definition video to a ground station plus a payload for a science project. “We are expecting air traffic will be up in the path of totality, and many airports in that path are also hosting events on Aug. 21, which will further increase air traffic,” added NBAA’s Williams. “We encourage operators to check with their destination FBOs to ensure needed ground support services will be available if operating in or near the path of totality.”

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Savvy pilots know how to get the most out of the resources at their command. They demonstrate this by having the airplane and its systems do as much of the effort as possible. In all phases of flight, their knowledge is brought to bear on each task to reduce the workload. This trait helps ensure a safer more efficient journey.

The Savvy Pilot Principle

A knowledgeable pilot does not need to experiment every time to find the right power setting say, for 90 knots low cruise or on approach. On the ILS, they set the power once and can address other concerns (unless wind requires tweaking). Even then, that’s less work than sawing back and forth with the power as each change may require re-trimming. The perceptive pilot sets the power first and then trims rather than the other way round—thus more attention to devote elsewhere.

Still on approach, a practical pilot concisely brackets a heading to find the right wind correction angle and then flies accordingly—again making the airplane do the work. The result is a stable approach with minimal effort. Once established, small heading corrections are sufficient to stay on course as the wind often shifts with altitude.

Those who have an MFD with a trend vector line can simply place the vector line over the desired course and fly whatever heading results. Knowledgable pilots can then avoid hunting, which is decidedly labor and mentally intensive.

Savvy pilots are too practical to do things twice; a little more effort the first time saves having to do it again. Rolling out precisely on headings and localizers avoids corrections. Figuring headings before entering a hold helps avoid botching it. 

Autopilots

Autopilots are the practical pilot’s best friend, provided the savvy-pilot wannabe knows how it behaves in all modes. Some will let you pushbutton your way through most of a flight, and again the airplane is doing the work. How much work it does depends on how many axes it can manage.

Every autopilot model has an operating envelope. Flying an AP outside its envelope can cause control issues —including loss of control. Every AP user should respect its envelope, and every pilot should do a power-off autopilot stall just to see how it struggles at the low end of the speed range.

When banking, practical pilots take ten per cent of the airspeed and add five to get the approximate angle of bank that delivers standard rate at their airspeed. They don’t chase that frustrating little airplane (or needle) which is rather sensitive and in a scan-challenging corner of the panel. They just fly the bank angle to start, then set it exactly with the little airplane and maintain whatever bank is needed. Smooth as silk, and better IFR.

Perceptive pilots plan for periods of high workload by seeking ways to shift work to less-busy periods. One way is to listen to the AWOS or ATIS weather from as far out as it can be heard. It may be necessary to open the squelch if it is weak. Another way is to get it from a G1000 or equivalent. These pilots get advance notice of observed airport conditions, and can then set up the most likely approach well in advance.

Pre-departure, a practical pilot does not load a filed flight plan into the GPS navigator until reasonably certain that it’s what they will get. Those given by Clearance Delivery are a safe bet. Being given an as-filed clearance while airborne can be less certain, as has been my experience at our non-towered airport. So, savvy pilots simply load the first fix or two on the ground and then add whatever ATC actually gives them. Wasted effort is avoided and all but eliminates the need to edit the flight plan while airborne.

Get An Initial Vector

ATC clears you to VIRTO intersection. You’ve never heard of it, have no idea how to spell it, much less how to get there. But you’re a practical pilot, remember? Ask the controller to spell it phonetically, and for an initial vector. Proceed on your way and program ‘direct VIRTO’ at your leisure, basking in the warm glow of pragmatism.

Knowledgable pilots use a simple approach checklist that allows them to get everything done in the most efficient order before the approach begins. I use WRIMTM, and once it is complete, a practical pilot knows that everything is set for the approach.

Being disorganized means things can be missed and usually triggers lots of effort re-checking. A perceptive pilot flows naturally to the airplane checklists and ta-da, all housekeeping is done. Now they can be ahead of the game on the approach because they know everything is set. I find myself running and re-running WRIMTM because being a savvy pilot does not mean placing one’s mind in neutral.

In IFR, your head must be in the game all the time. If you find yourself with nothing to do, find something to do, perhaps a cockpit check every fifteen minutes. Playing the ‘What if?’ game is smart as is the running Continue/Divert/Land decision often. If circumstances mandate diversion or something goes bonkers in the airplane, you will have Plan B ready. This is practical because all you must do then is execute it.

Simple Stuff 

Don’t make things hard for yourself. When changing the VOR OBS to a new radial, find the desired radial first and turn the dial that way, rather than going the long way round. For radio frequencies or transponder codes, turn the knobs right or left whichever way gets you to the new numbers fastest. Consider leaving the VOR ID filter on all the time. You save a step when identifying a new VOR, leading to many more saved steps. Push it in only if you want to hear the audio on the VOR, such as HIWAS, or talk with FSS.

Many GPS navigators require lots of knob-twisting. An empty field in the G1000 sometimes starts at K, but following letters start at A. Turn RIGHT for letters A-R. Go LEFT for numbers and letters S-Z.

When an empty field is presented in the G1000, turn the little knob left to get a dropdown box of FPL waypoints. Scroll right with the little knob (per the little green arrow) to get NRST, RECENT and USER waypoints. Turn the cursor on to scroll down through the entries. Finding one, hit enter and it’s entered, saving many twists.

Years ago, I had a near-midair with a Cessna twin driver who got so close that I could see he was reading the Wall Street Journal. He was definitely not a savvy pilot.  

Fred Simonds is a savvy CFII in Florida. See his web page at www.fredonflying.com.

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

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When I plopped my weary butt into a chair for Continental’s presser at AirVenture last month, what’s the first thing I see on the show-and-tell stand? A couple of Lycoming roller tappets and an angle-valve cylinder. Uh-oh, I thought, really bad timing for Lycoming. And it relates directly to what’s going on with the current Lycoming mandatory service bulletin (SB 632) requiring inspection and potential replacement of connecting rod bushings.

To refresh, here’s the news story on SB 632 and in summary, it requires owners of Lycoming engines overhauled in the 2015 to 2017 time frame to check their engines for use of off-spec small-end connecting rod bushings. When installed, the bushings have an effective outside diameter that’s too small, allowing the piston pin and piston to work side-to-side, accelerating wear to the point of failure. And there have been some failures, although Lycoming isn’t saying how many. (Thusday morning addition: the company's latest FAQ says five known in-flight failures have occurred.) Two engine shops I’ve spoken to said they were aware of the problem during the period when Lycoming was shipping the parts and one, Ly-Con Aircraft in Visalia, California, sent at least 160 parts back to Lycoming. Penn Yan Aero also says they found problem bushings.

The SB requires an onerous inspection process involving cylinder removal, testing the bushing with a calibrated tool and reassembly. Lycoming thinks 1300 or so factory engines are involved and my educated guess is that another 1000 engines overhauled by field shops might be affected. At this point, no one seems to have precise numbers and the SB is almost certainly going to morph into an AD.

Not that it matters much, since the inspections really need to be done. For engines built by Lycoming, the factory will cover the inspection and repair under warranty. For field shops, Lycoming will provide the parts, but the company is being noncommittal about labor support. Obviously, this is not sitting well. At all. Essentially, Lycoming sold defective parts that shops installed in good faith and now they must make good with customers on their own warranty programs.

This is anything but a trivial amount of money. Lycoming budgets 12 hours for the inspection for a four-cylinder engine and 16 for a six-cylinder. Shops say this is at least 20 percent too low, but if you add up the gaskets and other parts needed for assembly, it will cost $1500 per engine on the low side, but probably closer to $2000. Multiply that times 100 engines and you can see why a field shop can’t afford to absorb it. Moreover, the inspection is intrusive enough to inject some risk due to reassembly errors.

Many shops use Lycoming parts because they believe the quality is good and that the company will stand behind any defects, as it has in the past. In that regard, SB 632 is a departure. Ly-Con’s Ken Tunnell told me, “On an issue like this, they’ve got PMAers out there wanting to take business from them. I’ve always been under the impression that if I stand behind the OEM, they would stand behind me.”

So that puts Lycoming at a crossroads here. As evidenced by its expanding catalog of Lycoming PMA parts, Continental is aggressively going after Lycoming. And the ad copy practically writes itself with regard to after-sales support, which is the root of my comment about bad timing for Lycoming. I can’t see how Lycoming can avoid making an accommodation of some kind for field shops as a minimal bulwark against Continental’s challenge. Moreover, Continental is actually PMAing entire Lycoming engines and planning to certify them, so the competitive challenge is all the more intense. If Lycoming issued a full-throated commitment to backup shops with labor support, it would be turning lemons into lemonade.

The larger issue is the health of engine manufacturing as a whole. As we’re coming down from the sugar high of an exceptional AirVenture with glass panels dancing like sugar plums, the fact remains that demand for new airframes is anemic and innovation in powerplant technology, although in evidence, ignites but a trickle of sales and interest. Like every manufacturer, Lycoming uses vendors for some parts and if it chases another one away by suing for losses, it’s just another nick in the engine building ecosystem that does no one any good. It’s already difficult enough to find vendors who don’t run screaming into the night when the word “aviation” appears on a purchase order.

So while SB 632 is a big deal for owners and shops, how Lycoming handles it going forward may have real impact on both its competitive stance and the overall health of the engine industry. A market that’s lopsided with a dominant supplier is, in the long term, undesirable, in my view.

Higher, farther and faster

At AirVenture, AVweb's Paul Bertorelli took a turn in the left seat of a DC-3 with Dan Gryder flying low approaches. Here's a video of the action, with some great outside shots by Nate Tennant. 

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

Sometimes it's just the details that catch our eye. We don't want to know what was going on in that plane. Thanks to Frank J. Gadarowski.

My wife, the captain, and I were flying to AirVenture 2017 in our C-152 in July.  We were on an IFR flight plan out of Gainesville, GA (KGVL) and cruising at 5000 feet.  We were talking to Atlanta Center. 

Centre: ”Cessna 1234, cleared to FL230.”

We just looked at each other and laughed.  Fairly quickly, we received this.

Center: ”Cessna 1234, disregard.  I'll bet you got a kick out of that one."


 

Dennis W. Wilt 

 

In anything we do aloft, Risk pokes its ugly head beneath the wing flap. But when confronted with the facts, Risk melts into a sniveling bully unable to confront your awesome ability to ace this quiz.

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