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Seattle Avionics Software is known for supplying navigation data for a variety of avionics systems, in addition to it's FlyQ tablet app and now it's selling a low-cost portable ADS-B receiver. The Merlin—which is priced at $249.99—is based on the Stratux ADS-B receiver platform, but has been fine-tuned by Seattle Avionics and is fully self contained. Unlike the earlier DIY Stratux receiver that has to be assembled once you get the kit, the Seattle Merlin is fully assembled, pre-tested, calibrated and comes with a pilot's guide that describes setting up and using the device. It also provides a tutorial for deciphering ADS-B traffic targets.

Key hardware features include an integral WAAS GPS receiver, dual-channel ADS-B In traffic and weather reception (using both 978 MHz UAT and 1090 MHz frequencies), AHRS output with synthetic vision, a four-hour battery pack with a USB charging cable and an integral cooling fan to fight against overheating. The Merlin uses dual antennas (one for each frequency) that connect to the side of the device's chassis. The Merlin also has internal Wi-Fi for connecting to Apple and Android tablets and smartphones.

Worth mentioning is that Seattle Avionics was taking orders this past spring for the PingBuddy2 miniature ADS-B receiver through a relationship with ADS-B system manufacturer uAvionix, which built the device. After numerous delays, uAvionix pulled the device back into development and soon collaborated with Seattle competitor ForeFlight, which now sells the alternative Scout product that is exclusive to ForeFlight.

Moreover, while the Scout's closed architecture only works with the ForeFlight tablet app for iOS devices, Seatle Avionics made it clear that its new Merlin device intergrates with a variety of third-party apps—including ForeFlight—plus Apple and Android devices.

"We learned a long time ago that customers love the option of using their devices on whatever app they like the best and the new Merlin integrates with other tablet apps," said Seattle Avionics' Steve Podradchik. 

The Merlin ADS-B device is exclusive to Seattle Avionics and is available for purchase now. Contact



Airports throughout Florida are reporting varying degrees of damage from Hurricane Irma and the two most familiar to pilots outside the state are cleaning up. Reports out of Sebring Airport are sketchy but it appears the site of the Sport Aviation Expo took a big hit. In email communications with AVweb, officials for the Expo say the airport suffered “devastation” and that airport officials were unable to take time to speak with us directly. The big need on Wednesday was fuel and there were reports that aircraft could not get into Sebring. We’ll have more details as they become available. At Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, Sun ’n Fun officials report damage but nothing they can’t fix.

The storm toppled trees and tipped over Duffy’s Tower, a portable tower on wheels. There were some buildings damaged but the airport is on the mend and being used in the relief effort. “On the bright side, power was restored Wednesday, and we are incredibly proud of our team, especially an amazing group of 35-plus Central Florida Aerospace Academy students that are tirelessly working to get our campus in working order,” SNF said in a statement. “On top of our cleanup effort, we are also serving as hosts to FEMA, the 82nd Airborne Division and several aviation organizations who are coordinating supply drop off and delivery to many parts of Florida.” 

Cessna TTx || The Difference Is Clear

Speculation about the mysterious fatal crash of an aircraft near the secret military test center known as Area 51 in Nevada earlier this month took a sharp left turn this week with several pundits suggesting the aircraft wasn’t American at all. The working theory among the highly specialized military journalists who keep an eye on this stuff seems to be that the aircraft Lt. Col. Eric Schultz, who was a senior F-35 test pilot, was flying was a Russian fighter, possibly a Su-27P, the single-seat version of the Flanker. It’s no secret really that the Air Force and others involved in developing tactics and equipment to combat those who might be enemies of the U.S. obtain and fly aircraft built by those potential enemies but the shroud of secrecy the Air Force put up fueled the speculation.

When the Air Force refused to identify the aircraft involved shortly after the Sept. 5 crash (after it had routinely reported the loss of two A-10s in the same area), the first speculation was that a new aircraft or a new model of an existing aircraft might be involved. Gen. David L. Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, told that he could “definitely say” that the aircraft was “not an F-35.” The speculation about the aircraft type comes from that reported in November that an Su-27P had been spotted dogfighting an F-16 in the same area and first released the accompanying photo.

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British Prime Minister Theresa May has appealed directly to U.S. President Donald Trump to intervene in a dispute between Canadian aircraft maker Bombardier and Boeing. Boeing thinks Canadian government subsidies allowed Bombardier to cut an especially sweet deal with Delta for 75 of its new CSeries airliners and lodged a dumping complaint with the U.S. Commerce Department. A decision will be made Sept. 26 on the charges. CSeries wings are made in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and that's a politically important area for May. She reportedly phoned Trump earlier this week. Now, she's joining forces with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to pressure Trump into getting involved. May will be in Ottawa Sept. 18 and high on the agenda is a meeting with Trudeau about the Boeing dispute. 

If the U.S. agrees with the dumping charge, it could impose crippling penalties on Bombardier that would essentially block access to the U.S. market for the CSeries. The Canadian government has already taken a hard line with Boeing over the dispute, which could cost thousands of jobs in Quebec, where Trudeau’s Liberal Party needs to bolster support. Canada has threatened to cancel a tentative order for 18 Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets if the U.S. presses the complaint. Boeing bid for the Delta contract with 737 MAX aircraft, which are substantially larger than the 100-seat CS100s that Delta bought to modernize its regional fleet.

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Fostering a good pilot/examiner relationship is essential to overcoming test-day jitters, and knowing a little about aerodynamics, FARs and weather forecasts will help you ace any checkride and this quiz.

Click here to take the quiz.

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The IFR environment is different from most any other human experience—voluntarily strapped into a seat, within a cocoon of aluminum and a maze of wires, flying miles above the Earth. Without any visual reference, this event can be both stimulating and stressful.

Of the three phases of IFR flight; departure, en route and approach, we normally consider the last as the most challenging. But consider the en route phase and its period of relative calm-before-the-storm as an opportunity to take much of the hassle out of the critical arrival stage—and more.

Time To Sit Back And Relax?

Early after earning the IFR ticket, I looked forward to the en route phase for several reasons. With no instructor in the right seat to make my life hectic, I often appreciated the relative ease of flying on-top with a bed of cloud stretched out beneath me. Perhaps too relaxed—was I setting a precarious path?

A series of incidents started a revision to my behavior; following an alarming run-in with ice, I began monitoring the OAT with more respect, especially in the spring and fall, and started playing the what-if game.

It doesn’t take but a few seconds of hail to appreciate its impact on the airframe. That 20-mile buffer between you and the red portions of Nexrad is not just a suggestion.

The foggy missed approach can teach a pilot the true importance of temperature/dew point separation—and lack of attention to the ATIS numbers. I learned, from experience, to listen to what other pilots ahead of me are discussing with the controllers.

Having endured those lessons (and others), I came to the realization that I should use the straight-and-level en route phase of flight as an important time for information gathering, maintaining situational awareness, and to plan for the approach phase.

There are many techniques that can help you. Rod Machado noted in his IFR Survival Guide… what’s the next two things you have to do? A reader recently sent me these vital three questions; Where am I? Where am I going next? And, what’s below me?

In a previous article I presented my personal mantra that I developed and share with my students—the concept of the event trigger. It requires you to ask yourself, what/when is the next event in this flight, and what am I going to do when I get there. The proverbial five-T’s can be inserted at that point (time, turn, tune, tuck, talk)

Using the relative calm of the en route phase of IFR flight to answer these questions throughout your trip can make the outcome of any IFR flight successful.

What Is Beneath You?

One of the inherent problems with flying IFR—encased in cloud and staring at the en route chart—is that sometimes you haven’t the foggiest notion of what the terrain is like beneath you. That is where the new tablet apps (ForeFlight, Garmin Pilot et al) are really helpful. With the swipe of a finger and touch of a digit you can transpose your route from a set of anonymous lines to an overlay of the route, and your current position, on the topography of a sectional.

Practice this process a few times so that it becomes second nature. Because when problems occur, such as engine failure, you really do want to know what is beneath the aircraft when you poke out of the clouds.

I also learned that there was no substitute for being set-up for the approach well before the hand-off. I tune the ATIS/AWOS prior to the controller prompt and have the altimeter setting. All of the possible IAPs are on the clip board (the tablet has eased that aspect).

I review the options that I have already considered during the preflight as to the best procedure for my incoming direction. I occasionally “help” the controller find me the quickest path to the Final Approach Course.

If the weather is reasonably good I might keep my speed up and suggest a tight turn-in when radar is available, but if I have been busy and feel a bit behind, I’ll slow to approach speed early and ask for a longer intercept.

On the rare occasions where I may be challenged with low ceilings and visibilities, I generally know that well ahead of time, have reviewed the missed approach, and have my first and second options ready.

Of course most of us have some acronym that we use to make sure we have covered all the bases—and reciting these gems while en route can put you ahead (and keep you ahead) of the game.

Technology Changes Perspective

As most of my flight-time over the past nine years has been with the Garmin G1000 and the Aspen EFD1000, I have become a bit spoiled. Much of my en route time has been spent learning (and using) the intricacies of the various displays, knobs and buttons. The three- and four-hour cross-country flights go by faster when you have all of these modern tools and can see the weather unfolding up front—and behind you.

While I do feel some nostalgia for the “old days” and occasionally enjoy the simplicity of flying with just a VOR on Victor airways, my new-found weather awareness has made me a digital convert.

The ability to literally see the winds aloft changing direction and intensity as I cover hundreds of miles gives me greater insight into the validity of the pre-flight briefing. I can watch that little wind vector swing around as I fly through a frontal zone or across mountainous terrain.

One aspect of the en route phase is the opportunity to fly at altitudes that allow you to spend time on the instruments—but Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate. Cruising along at 10,000 feet with an overcast just a few hundred feet above, I wanted to get some time in the clouds. But I didn’t want to go another 2000 feet up to do it. So, I simply asked ATC for a block from 10,000 to 12,000 feet and climbed the 500 into IMC. Now pilots who operate in high-density areas like SOCAL are saying that would never be approved—and you are probably correct. But in much of the country you can request those kinds of perks and be rewarded.

In a similar vein, I was en route one day when I heard over the Center frequency that there was some low IFR at Las Vegas, New Mexico (LVS) due to an upslope condition. Although this was not my destination, I requested a clearance to LVS for an RNAV (GPS) RWY 20 approach. Coming in from the north on V263 the procedure is a NoPT, so we just descended per the IAP altitudes, completed the approach and were back onto V263 within a few minutes—logging an unexpected approach in IMC which is hard to find for us folks in the southwest.

Being Part Of The Solution

The en route phase also provides the pilot with the opportunity to observe the current conditions and compare them to the forecast. Reporting this information back to Flight Service allows those who will shortly fly through your area to get a heads-up. This is important even when the conditions are better than forecast, as we both know it eases the mind to know what was forecast, is what is being encountered. The information is critical if the report is worse than forecast.

When I make a Pilot Report, I take the time to analyze what conditions I am going to describe and how to convey that information in the least number of words that have the most impact. I also consider the route that I have just flown (probably back about 30 minutes).

Of course when on the receiving end of a PIREP you have to understand that weather is a dynamic process that is in a constant state of change. Weather is also in the eye of the beholder. An inexperienced Cessna pilot may exaggerate weather while a biz-jet might not consider some flight conditions hazardous.

Use Time Productively

Now you see some of my thoughts on how important it is to use that long en route time to evaluate your flight, the weather, and to establish a situational awareness profile. Each flight seems to take on its own personality. For those of us whose personal minimums have some flexibility, this is also a good time to weigh all the factors for this particular flight, and establish some firm numbers for the expected approach.

Yes, I appreciate sitting back and enjoying the sights and sounds of flight—in IMC or VMC. So while I encourage you to smell the roses, use the solitude of the en route phase to hone your skills of observing, planning and decision making.

Ted Spitzmiller is a CFII who is always open to learning and communicating to others, new aspects of the IFR environment.

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

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Has it gotten to the point that that ultimate gesture of privacy—crashing an airplane into a tree—is now suddenly a thing of the past? Evidently, judging by this video of a tree landing near Robertson Field in Connecticut this week. It’s possible to draw some useful things from this viral clip.

The overarching one is don’t do anything—I mean anything—unless you’re comfortable seeing it on YouTube because there’s fairly high probability it will appear there for all the world to see. Second, does this clip answer the question of the survivability of putting one into the trees? Not entirely, no, but it does offer a useful datapoint. Is also shows that under a specific set of circumstances, a nearly 40-year-old Skyhawk has impressive crashworthiness, even as it wallows through what appears to be a textbook stall-mush. Indeed, the airplane may have been about to enter a spin just as it intercepted the tree. Look at the video closely and see what you make of that left wing drop right near the end.

Tree landings, it turns out, are often survivable and this video shows why. A few years ago, I tried to develop some data to see how often they are survivable and how they compare to the survivability of water landings. The exercise was indeterminate because the NTSB files didn’t provide enough detail to judge what was an intentional tree landing and what was just a crash into trees.

Nonetheless, if you’ve ever flown over a carpet of green and contemplated what you’d do if the engine quit, putting it into the forest crown is an option. This video shows that if the airspeed at impact is slow enough, the cabin and aircraft will remain intact enough to increase if not guarantee survivability. Survival or survival with injuries can turn on small things, like whether a shoulder harness is used and is snugged down securely and how much unsecured junk you’ve got in the back of the airplane. Think about a tow bar coming adrift and denting your noggin. Or some tiedown stakes. Or all the other paraphernalia you have in the airplane. (I once carried a 24-inch monitor and a printer.)

Fire is always a worry. When I was a young pilot, the operative advice if you knew you were going into trees was to slow the airplane down as much as possible while still maintaining control—good advice—and then aim between the trees so the wings would be ripped off, absorbing the energy. Yeah, but … that’ll likely open up the wings so if you survive the impact, you die in the fire. Nothing about this crashing business is ever simple. But if you walk away—or are least carried away alive—you’ve illustrated the definition of victory. The pilot of the 172, Manfred Forst, had minor injuries, so he wins this week’s lottery.

JP International 'Trust Your JPI

The Morane Saulnier Type L was an early wing-warping parasol design used in World War I both as a fighter and a trainer. At AirVenture in 2017, Daher—builder of the TBM—showed off a unique reproduction of the Type L. AVweb shot this video tour of the airplane.

Picture of the Week <="229609">
Picture of the Week

Ah, what summer flying is all about. A Cub on floats is about as grassroots as it gets and Daniel Hanson captured the mood perfectly. Thanks, Daniel.


The impulse is to help and pilots have the tools to do a tremendous amount of good in crisis situations but they can also do a lot of harm. Air Care Alliance President Rol Murrow spoke with AVweb about how to really use your skills and equipment to help out.


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