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A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order preventing the shortening of the runway at Santa Monica Airport the day before the work was to begin. As the National Business Aviation Association convenes in Las Vegas for its annual convention, the last-ditch order prevents the removal of 1,500 feet of the SMO runway, which effectively bars all but the smallest business jets from using it. Work was to start Monday morning (Oct 9, 2017). NBAA and other aviation groups have spent millions of dollars over the last three decades trying to preserve SMO as a viable business airport. 

The order is significant because it could lead to a injunction against ripping up the runway. The injunction is expected to be heard in about two weeks. At issue was the private deal between the FAA and the City of Santa Monica that led to the feds allowing the city to reclaim the airport property in stages until its federal obligations expire in 2028. The court ruled that it was likely the petitioners would win their case in a trial and the restraining order was issued to ensure the damage wasn’t done before they got the chance to argue the case in court.

The full order is here: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/santamonicaairport/pages/275/attachments/original/1507507378/TRO-Granted.pdf?1507507378

GA groups have mustered some considerable star power to fight the proposed privatization of air traffic control in the U.S. and will be unleashing the campaign on Tuesday at the opening general session of the NBAA-BACE in Las Vegas. Such well-known aviators as Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell, Flight 1549 Capt. Chesley Sullenberger, aerobatics pilot Sean Tucker and country artist Dierks Bentley plus others appear in a video opposing the move.

Huge posters in the convention halls and standup banners in the hallways at the Las Vegas Convention Center carry photos of the influential pilots with the tagline “I know aviation. Join me in saying no to ATC privatization." The video will be available at ATCNotForSale.com after the screening at the opening session.

Canadian officials say they’ll talk to their counterparts in India after air traffic controllers reportedly ignored a series of Mayday calls from an Air Canada Boeing 787 and ordered the crew to enter holds instead. The Dreamliner had finished a 16-hour flight from Toronto to Mumbai on Sept. 18 but a runway overrun by a SpiceJet Boeing 737 closed the active runway. Rather than going to its alternate, the aircraft was put in a series of holds by Mumbai controllers. After an hour of turning left, the Air Canada plane was getting low on fuel so the crew asked for clearance to its alternate. They were told the unidentified alternate airport was unavailable because it was at capacity and unable to take any more traffic.

After consulting with their dispatchers, the pilots decided to head for Hyderabad, about 350 miles away, but were told by controllers that Hyderabad wasn’t taking any more aircraft, either. Because of their fuel situation, the pilots called a Mayday but were put in a hold. A second Mayday resulted in a diversion. It took a total of four Maydays to convince controllers to give them a direct route to Hyderabad where the airliner landed safely. “The operator reported that ATC continued trying to divert the flight or attempted to place it in another hold,” Canada’s Transportation Safety Board said in its report. “The flight crew had to declare MAYDAY four times before ATC cleared them for the approach into VOHS. The TSB is in contact with India’s AAIB.”

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Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has the go-ahead to use a fleet of balloons to restore internet and communication services to hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico. The balloons, recently deployed in Peru for the same purpose, were developed by Loon, an Alphabet subsidiary and sister company to Google.

The balloons are about the size of a tennis court when inflated at altitude and carry roughly the equivalent of a cell-tower communications package powered by solar panels during the day and batteries at night, according to Loon’s technical data. Loon says it’s capable of launching a balloon every 30 minutes from a ground-based launcher that includes a self-contained enclosure to protect the delicate balloon from wind gusts. The balloons operate at altitudes between 60,000 and 80,000 feet. To keep them relatively on station, the system is equipped with predictive and real-time monitoring of winds to allow the balloons to climb and descend to remain as close to stationary as possible. Like dirigibles, the Loon aerostats are equipped with ballonets that can be inflated with air, reducing the volume of the lifting gas and allowing climbs and descents.

Each balloon can provide service to about 3000 square miles if ideally positioned. That’s slightly smaller than the 3500-square-mile area of Puerto Rico. The balloons cross-link to provide the best coverage matrix and when they drift off position or are otherwise disabled, they’re capable of descent for recovery by crews on the surface.

Although the company has been given rapid approval by the FCC to begin operating, it still has hurdles to overcome. Loon spokesperson Libby Leahy said on Friday, “We’re grateful for the support of the FCC and the Puerto Rican authorities as we work hard to see if it’s possible to use Loon balloons to bring emergency connectivity to the island during this time of need. To deliver signal to people’s devices, Loon needs to be integrated with a telco partner’s network — the balloons can’t do it alone. We’ve been making solid progress on this next step and would like to thank everyone who’s been lending a hand.”

Loon achieved some success in Peru after flooding damaged the country’s terrestrial cell network. But ahead of the floods, Loon had already been working with Telefonica, the country’s largest cell and data provider.

After punishing Bombardier with a 219 percent tariff on the CSeries airliner last week, the U.S. Commerce Department slapped another 80 percent levy on the jet this week. Responding to a complaint from Boeing, the Commerce department found that Bombardier’s prices on the CSeries in a sale to Delta Air Lines amounted to dumping or selling goods below cost. 

According to the Seattle Times, the Commerce department said Bombardier failed to provide the information it requested in the case and it accepted Boeing’s argument that the CSeries sale represents unfair competition because of government subsidies. The tariff effectively quadruples the price of the CSeries jets for U.S. buyers. The Commerce ruling still has to be reviewed by the U.S. International Trade Commission, but if it’s approved, Delta’s purchase is unlikely to go through.

Bombardier can appeal the decision to the U.S. Court of International Trade or the World Trade Organization but that action is expected to take months. Although Boeing has no competitor for the CS100 Bombardier intended to sell to Delta, it noted that the sales contract allowed the airline to convert some of the 75-airplane order to the larger CS300. That could represent lost sales for Boeing.

If the tariff decision stands, U.S. companies won’t escape the impact. Half of the CSeries components are U.S. sourced, including the Pratt & Whitney geared turbofans that account for the airplane’s exceptional efficiency. The wings are manufactured in Ireland. Following Friday’s decision, Bombardier said the ruling “represents an egregious overreach and misapplication of U.S. trade laws in an apparent attempt to block CSeries aircraft from entering the U.S. market.”

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There were no serious injuries in the crash of a 1964 C-model Mooney in Middlesex, Virginia, on Saturday that was absorbed by a luckily vacant house. The owner lives elsewhere and there was no one living there. The aircraft, registered in Pensacola, had two adults and a teen aboard when it left Hummel Field near Middlesex about 9 a.m. on Saturday. It was in the sunroom of the house a short time later but not before a couple of trees relieved it of its wings.

Although local reports say the pilot “lost control” there are no details about the events that led to the mishap. The aircraft will be removed from the house on Sunday. The occupants of the aircraft were taken to a local hospital but were released immediately.

It’s been stormy in Europe this week and that, of course, has sent planespotters to runways all over the continent looking for gear-punishing landings and they found a couple. The bounce on the 747 landing at Schiphol in Amsterdam is cringeworthy while the A380 arrival at Frankfurt reminds us the wind demands respect, no matter how big and powerful the airframe. There but for the grace….

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AVweb’s General Aviation Accident Bulletin is taken from the pages of our sister publication, Aviation Safety magazine and is published twice a month. All the reports listed here are preliminary and include only initial factual findings about crashes. You can learn more about the final probable cause in the NTSB’s web site at www.ntsb.gov. Final reports appear about a year after the accident, although some take longer. Find out more about Aviation Safety at www.aviationsafetymagazine.com.

July 1, 2017, Catawba, Wis.

Cessna 421C Golden Eagle

The aircraft broke up in flight then impacted the ground after an uncontrolled descent at about 0153 Central time. The commercial pilot and five passengers sustained fatal injuries; the airplane was destroyed. Dark night visual conditions prevailed. An IFR flight plan was in effect.

The airplane was in cruise at 10,000 feet msl when its pilot queried ATC about nearby weather conditions. Radar data then showed the airplane climb slightly and turn left. Then the airplane entered a descending right turn and radio contact was lost. There were no distress calls. The nearest convective activity was about 25 miles to the east. Debris from the aircraft was spread over about ¼ mile.

July 1, 2017, Chatsworth, Ga.

Piper PA-23-250 Aztec

At about 1644 Eastern time, the airplane was destroyed during an inflight breakup. The pilot and three passengers were fatally injured. Instrument conditions prevailed but the flight was not operating on an IFR clearance.

After a fuel stop lengthened by the pilot’s inability to perform a hot-start of the airplane’s engines and subsequent weak battery, the flight departed about 1500. The airplane was not in contact with ATC during the accident flight but radar data depicted it heading northeast and encountering thunderstorms advancing from the northwest. The radar data showed the airplane penetrating a thunderstorm before radar contact was lost. Witnesses watched the airplane “tumbling and spinning” out of the sky. The debris field was about one mile in length.

July 2, 2017, Moorhead, Minn.

North American T-28A Trojan

The airplane struck a light pole and impacted terrain at about 1810 Central time, while approaching to land. The solo private pilot was fatally injured and the airplane was destroyed. Visual conditions existed at the accident site. Witnesses observed the airplane flying at low altitude and heard its engine running prior to it striking a light pole at a truck waystation about two miles south of the runway. The right wing was severed at the root. There was no fire.

July 3, 2017, Alpine, Texas

Cessna 208B Grand Caravan

At about 1815 Central time, the airplane was substantially damaged during a forced landing. The solo commercial pilot sustained minor injuries. Visual conditions prevailed for the Part 135 on-demand cargo flight. An IFR flight plan had been filed.

While climbing through about 500 feet agl, the pilot heard a loud bang, followed by a squealing noise and an immediate loss of engine power. The pilot released back pressure on the controls and pulled the propeller control to feather. During the forced landing, the right and left wings were damaged due to impact with power poles before the airplane came to rest in a field.

July 4, 2017, Remsen, N.Y.

Luscombe 8A Master

The airplane sustained substantial damage at about 1430 Eastern time when it impacted terrain while on final approach. The solo commercial pilot was fatally injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

A witness observed the airplane approaching the runway. The airplane was flying toward him and he thought it was coming in to land. The witness said the airplane then entered a sudden “nose dive” and impacted a field. He said he heard the airplane’s engine prior to the impact. The airplane came to rest upright in a hayfield about 600 feet from the end of Runway 9. There was no post-impact fire. All major components of the airplane were accounted for at the accident site.

July 4, 2017, San Juan, P.R.

Piper PA-28-180 Cherokee 180

At 1721 Atlantic time, the airplane was substantially damaged when it impacted a canal shortly after takeoff. The private pilot and three passengers were not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

On the takeoff roll, the pilot observed the engine instruments were “in the green” and the engine developed full power. During the initial climb at an altitude of about 250 feet agl, the engine started to run rough and lose power. It did not respond to throttle inputs. The pilot informed ATC he intended to return and land. Although the pilot did not recall subsequent events, video captured from observers on the ground show the airplane in a left descending turn. The airplane’s bank angle increased to about 90 degrees left-wing-down before it impacted the canal.

July 4, 2017, Dillwyn, Va.

Aviation Aircraft A-1C-180 Husky

The airplane was substantially damaged at 1224 Eastern time when it impacted terrain. The private pilot was seriously injured; one passenger sustained minor injuries. Visual conditions prevailed.

According to a witness, the pilot was attempting to land the airplane on a grass field. Three attempts were made, and the airplane touched down on the third attempt. The pilot then executed a go-around, and the airplane climbed, turned to the right and stalled, colliding with terrain in a cornfield adjacent to the grass field. The field the pilot was attempting to land on was about 665 feet long and designed for radio-controlled aircraft.

July 4, 2017, Willits, Calif.

Cessna P210 Pressurized Centurion

The pilot reported the airplane was “blown to the east, presumably by either stronger winds or gusts” that, while landing and trying to maintain directional control. He was “fearing a stall,” and elected to “put the plane down in the grass and dirt to the left of the runway.” Unable to stop the forward momentum with full application of the brakes, the airplane continued over the edge of the embankment, and came to rest in the trees.

A witness reported the accident airplane did not touch down until the second half of the landing runway. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the fuselage and both wings. Weather observed about 21 nm away included wind from 150 degrees at 12 knots, gusting to 20. The accident occurred as the pilot attempted to land on Runway 16.

July 4, 2017, Marana, Ariz.

Vickers Supermarine Spitfire VC

At about 0900 Mountain time, the airplane was substantially damaged following a loss of control and runway excursion during landing. The solo airline transport pilot was not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

The pilot reported the airplane veered to the left after landing on Runway 12, and he corrected back to the right. As the airplane continued to the right, the pilot attempted to correct back to the left. However, the left brake was ineffective, which resulted in an excursion off the right side of the runway and into some soft dirt. The airplane subsequently came to rest on its nose, having incurred damage to the landing gear, fuselage and propeller. Reported wind about five minutes before the accident was from 230 degrees at three knots.

This article originally appeared in the October 2017 issue of Aviation Safety magazine.

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It’s not easy being me. No sooner do I get my pants unsnagged from one electric airplane idea than another one comes along literally days later. How’s a guy supposed to keep up?

Mark this date on your calendar: 2022. That seems to be when the promised magic of electric airplanes will come together and, we’re assured, you’ll be able to fly to a small airport in an Uber multi-rotor then board an electric hybrid airliner to be whisked off to an airport 500 miles away. Thence to your downtown destination via another Uber air taxi. What a wondrous new world awaits.

The airliner part was announced last week by yet another Silicon Valley-style startup called Zunum Aero. Zunum has in mind a 12-passenger regional airliner with hybrid electric propulsion. The fact that Zunum is backed by venture capital from Boeing and JetBlue lends it a certain credibility. But Zunum is still a startup with no airframe experience, no aircraft propulsion development history and probably utterly no clue of what it takes to certify such systems. I’m sure there are people inside Boeing rolling their eyes, not at the concept, but at the naïve timeline.

And the performance claims. Zunum’s whiteboard conclusion is that it can build an airplane roughly the size of a PC-12 powered by a pair of electrically driven ducted fans. Zunum aims to tap into the “lucrative” short-haul market with an airplane whose operating costs are three to five times lower than the equivalent hydrocarbon-powered aircraft. Oh, and it’s also faster than the PC-12, with a target airspeed of 295 knots on a range of 700-plus miles. Zunum thinks it can develop and certify such a thing for under $200 million. In a gesture of uncommon generosity, The Seattle Times called the company’s business plan “sketchy.” Perhaps the best Zunum can wish for is to develop impressive technology and then be bought by Cessna or Daher or Pilatus.

Business plan aside, the idea itself is not necessarily daft. The Zunum aircraft will be a serial hybrid, meaning it has a combination of batteries and a hydrocarbon-fueled generator. Zunum hasn’t gotten to the details yet, but presumably the airplane would employ what’s become a popular flight cycle concept for hybrids. Batteries for takeoff and climb phase and a small, efficient hydrocarbon engine running a generator to recharge the batteries and sustain cruise flight, where less power is needed.

This is exactly the design Pipistrel developed for the HYPSTAIR hybrid and what Airbus sees for its longer-term E-Thrust project. The HYPSTAIR has powered up, but it hasn’t flown. Its marketability remains murky. Partnered with Rolls-Royce, Airbus plans a similar concept for its E-Thrust project. E-Thrust is intended to yield a regional airliner suitable for up 1000-mile stage lengths. But there’s an important distinction between E-Thrust and Zunum’s proposal. Airbus envisions introduction in the 2050 time frame, by which time technologies it plans to use will be mature and, more important, battery capacity will be vastly greater than it is now.

Electric airplane enthusiasts argue that even at current battery energy densities at perhaps 250 wh/kg, designs like the Zunum and what Uber proposes are feasible. I’m not convinced of this and I don’t know many people who are. If it were true, Pipistrel’s Alpha Electro would have better endurance and thus better marketability than it has now. It will get there eventually, I’m sure, but it’s not there yet. By 2050, it’s possible that entirely new battery technologies will push energy density above 2000 wh/kg. Even at half that, electric aircraft will be attractive enough to enter a transitional phase for some applications, such as training and personal flight.

And speaking of personal flight, you may have missed the fact that even Airbus has pulled back its electric aircraft program. It had planned a pair of electric aircraft, a two-seat trainer (E-fan 2.0) and a four-set hybrid drive personal aircraft for the U.S. market, the E-fan 4.0. When it was announced in 2015, the latter was planned for introduction before 2020, a timeline no less aggressive than Zunum’s. At the time, Airbus wasn’t so much interested in getting into light aircraft GA as it was using the E-fan project as certification ice breaker for more ambitious project, namely the E-Thrust. This made perfect sense.

I think it pulled back for two reasons: The incoming CEO wasn’t smitten with electric airplanes and there was little evidence of a business case within the proposed timeline. But Airbus isn’t giving up on future electric aircraft projects simply because it can’t afford to not have a foot in what’s coming.

Judging the developmental pace and impact of future aircraft is a fool’s errand at best. As some point, a transitional or disruptive technology will come along because progress is not static. Allow yourself the pleasure of magical thinking and you could see how electric airplanes with low operating costs could open up small GA airports to commercial service. Since anything new will have to have the hooks for autonomous flight, perhaps we can discern the foggy outlines of a new aviation technology.

On the other hand, increasingly, I view these electric airplane programs with a how-gullible-do-you-think-I-am reaction. This is driven mainly by unrealistic timelines and overpromising on potential performance. But what hell, this is aviation, right? Would-be purveyors of new aircraft always do that and we wouldn’t respect them if they didn’t. Well, not really. I’m a believer in electric aircraft. I think it’s a good idea that’s inevitable and will be driven by economics, efficiency, climate change regulation and noise considerations. The fact that the U.S. has pulled out of the Paris accord matters not a bit. The rest of the world has already decided and will move forward with lower emission technologies. Boeing knows this and so does Airbus.

It just won’t move very fast because of the limitations of things like the laws of physics, market uptake and the glacial advance of regulation. Zunum can plug all the happy numbers it wants into a sunny-side spreadsheet and that’s not going to change. Nor, in my view, will the much-touted revision of Part 23 help much. I give Zunum a two in 10 chance of pulling this off by 2022 and an eight in 10 chance of tanking. As Otto Lilienthal was reported to have said, sacrifices must be made. Not to worry, though. Someone will do it. Eventually.

Cirrus has begun shipping its long-awaited SF50 VisionJet and as part of a two-video series, AVweb recently flew the jet from the company's Duluth, Minnesota, factory to the East Coast. In this long-form video, AVweb takes a deep dive into how the airplane performs and how it compares to other small jets.

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

It's been called absurd by Bombardier and the Canadian government and aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia agrees that the 300 percent import duties proposed against CSeries airliners by the U.S. Commerce Department are unprecedented. He also told AVweb's Russ Niles the crushing penalties may actually help Bombardier.

Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

Thank you, readers, the picture entries keep getting better and we really like the light and subject matter of Joe Dory's cell phone snap of Robbie Schoeoflin landing on a harvested bean field in Washington State. Just beautiful, Joe.

Discover the Exciting World of Today's Homebuilt Aircraft! Take to the Air with a Subscription to 'Kitplanes' Magazine and Receive the Annual Homebuilt Buyers Guide as a Gift

The fall at Juneau Airport, where I’m a controller,  generally sees pretty gross days, rain and lots of wind.  One day we had six miles of visibility and winds of more than 25 knots and gusts more than 30.  I was working a Coast Guard helicopter out and it occurred to me that I never really see those guys when the weather was nice.  I figured I'd ask: 

Tower: CG 6043 frequency change approved, you guys have time for a question?

CG pilot: Frequency change approved and go ahead

Tower:  You guys ever fly in nice weather?

CG pilot: No.


Jeremy Horton

 

 

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