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While it looked like owners of NavWorx ADS600-B ADS-B systems hit with a controversial AD were in luck with a replacement option, NavWorx announced today on its website that it is unable to sell the updated ADS600-B NextGen 2.0 or provide AD updates for either certified or experimental aircraft.

Since the issue with old versions of the ADS600-B centered around the internal WAAS GPS engine that the FAA determined wasn't certified per the governing FAA regulations for position reporting, NavWorx ultimately sourced and utilized a replacement GPS module from a third-party vendor. The resulting replacement product was the ADS600-B 2.0—a system that was represented as a fully approved, drop-in replacement for versions that were non-compliant. 

According to NavWorx, while the third-party vendor represented its GPS module as meeting 14 CFR 91.227 criteria, the FAA determined the module does not meet regulations. As a result, the short announcement on www.navworx.com said the company is not conducting business and has ceased operations. 

As we reported this past September, company president Bill Moffitt boasted of "significant progress with certification of the ADS600-B 2.0," and said the company had found a viable solution to the long-delayed actions with the FAA. At the time, NavWorx was still waiting for final TSO approval for installation of the ADS600-B 2.0 in certified aircraft and encouraged customers to apply for the FAA's $500 rebate while there was still time. As of November 2016, sources estimated that over 800 U.S.-registered aircraft were affected by the ADS-B receivers grounded by the FAA AD.   

In its latest announcement, NavWorx said it will provide updates only if they become available. We'll report on any that are released. We couldn't reach the company for additional comment as we go to press.

After halting a plan last week to start work on shortening the runway at Santa Monica Airport, a federal court has lifted its temporary restraining order, and the work will begin “within the next week,” according to a post on the city’s Facebook page on Tuesday. The court’s order means “the legal complaints raised lack merit,” the city’s airport director, Stelios Markrides, said in a statement. The city plans to shorten the single runway, which is now about 5,000 feet long, to 3,500 feet, which would effectively limit the size of jets that can land there. The airport will be closed after Dec. 31, 2028.

General aviation advocacy groups have lobbied for 30 years to preserve SMO as a viable business airport, while local residents have complained about noise, pollution and fear of crashes. On Wednesday, AOPA general counsel Ken Mead reacted to the new development: “The Santa Monica City Council is now wasting millions in tax dollars on a move that will only increase traffic, congestion and pollution for the citizens of Santa Monica,” he said. “Not only is a lot of money being wasted, but money will also be lost when the restricted use of the airport deprives the citizens of the economic, employment and emergency services advantages that had historically been provided from the airport.”

NBAA's Alex Gertsen, director of airports and ground infrastructure, said the fight isn't over. NBAA is engaged in litigation pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, challenging the settlement agreement between the FAA and the city, claiming the FAA didn't follow basic statutory requirements when it concluded the unprecedented settlement. Should NBAA prevail, the city will be obligated to restore the runway. Meanwhile, NBAA said the runway reduction work is expected to begin Oct. 23. The airport will be closed to all aircraft, including helicopters, Monday through Friday from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. local time, while the project is underway.

The government of Malaysia is considering a proposal from seabed exploration firm Ocean Infinity, a U.S. company, to resume the search for Malaysia Airlines MH370, according to news reports on Thursday. MH370 vanished in March 2014 in the southern Indian Ocean, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, with 239 people aboard. Ocean Infinity has offered to search on a “no find, no fee” arrangement, according to Australian officials. The latest search, coordinated by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, was suspended in January, after exploring about 46,000 square miles of seafloor. Those searchers identified a smaller area of about 10,000 square miles they said had "a high probability" as the site of the aircraft. Ocean Infinity’s search will focus on that part of the sea floor.

The ATSB released its two final reports on the search earlier this month. In all, 661 areas of interest were identified in the sonar imagery of the seafloor. Of these areas, 82 with the most promise were investigated and eliminated as being related to MH370. “The reasons for the loss of MH370 cannot be established with certainty until the aircraft is found,” the report concludes. “It is almost inconceivable and certainly societally unacceptable in the modern aviation era with 10 million passengers boarding commercial aircraft every day, for a large commercial aircraft to be missing and for the world not to know with certainty what became of the aircraft and those on board.” About $200 million has been spent on the search so far.

Cessna TTx || The Difference Is Clear

Two pilots for Air Berlin, approaching their last landing into Dusseldorf, Germany, before the carrier’s insolvency, instead flew along the runway, banked sharply, then pulled up and flew one last time around the airport. The maneuver was unauthorized by the airline, and the crew has been suspended. "We wanted to make a mark, a dignified and emotional goodbye," the unidentified Air Berlin pilot was quoted as saying by German broadcaster ZDF. Local news reports and online videos say observers in the terminal were shocked and frightened by the maneuver. None of the 200 passengers on board complained, the company said. The flight had originated in Miami. “In aviation, safety always comes first. We are taking the incident very seriously,” an Air Berlin spokesman said.

Air Berlin, which has been flying since 1978, filed for insolvency in August, and will fly its final flights this month. It’s Germany’s second-largest airline, after Lufthansa. Lufthansa has agreed to buy 81 of its aircraft and a large part of its operations. Lufthansa will also hire about 3,000 Air Berlin employees.

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Virgin Galactic is about three months away from launching into space, founder Richard Branson said at a business forum in Finland recently. He added that he expects to fly into space about three months after that. The company has said it expects to start launching flights for paying tourists by the end of next year. The carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo, and the passenger vehicle, SpaceShipTwo, are based at Mojave, where they are undergoing flight tests. At a recent spaceflight symposium in New Mexico, Virgin Galactic Vice President Mike Moses said crews are putting final touches on the propulsion system and “pretty soon” will be evaluating supersonic boost. The company, which will be based at SpacePort America in New Mexico, is selling seats into space for about $250,000.

When asked about Branson’s timeline, Moses told the Las Cruces Sun-News: “Richard always poses a challenge, he likes to push us pretty hard. Sometimes I wish he wouldn’t talk so much. We hope to be in space by the end of this year. We’ll take our time with it. We’re going to fly when we are ready.” Crews are testing SpaceShipTwo, christened Unity, at subsonic speeds, Moses said, evaluating the feathering system used on re-entry and examining performance on approach and landing. “Unity has been performing very well, sometimes better than models predicted,” Moses said. “Things are right on track where they need to be.” Dan Hicks, CEO of Spaceport America, told the Sun-News the spaceport is ready to support Virgin Galactic’s presence. Virgin Galactic is the anchor tenant for the spaceport and has already moved some staff there.

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Virgin Galactic is about three months away from launching into space, founder Richard Branson said at a business forum in Finland recently. He added that he expects to fly into space about three months after that. The company has said it expects to start launching flights for paying tourists by the end of next year. The carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo, and the passenger vehicle, SpaceShipTwo, are based at Mojave, where they are undergoing flight tests. At a recent spaceflight symposium in New Mexico, Virgin Galactic Vice President Mike Moses said crews are putting final touches on the propulsion system and “pretty soon” will be evaluating supersonic boost. The company, which will be based at SpacePort America in New Mexico, is selling seats into space for about $250,000.

When asked about Branson’s timeline, Moses told the Las Cruces Sun-News: “Richard always poses a challenge, he likes to push us pretty hard. Sometimes I wish he wouldn’t talk so much. We hope to be in space by the end of this year. We’ll take our time with it. We’re going to fly when we are ready.” Crews are testing SpaceShipTwo, christened Unity, at subsonic speeds, Moses said, evaluating the feathering system used on re-entry and examining performance on approach and landing. “Unity has been performing very well, sometimes better than models predicted,” Moses said. “Things are right on track where they need to be.” Dan Hicks, CEO of Spaceport America, told the Sun-News the spaceport is ready to support Virgin Galactic’s presence. Virgin Galactic is the anchor tenant for the spaceport and has already moved some staff there.

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The enthusiasm and awareness that often accompanies a new job can be an exhilarating experience. There were, no doubt, many thoughts running through this pilot’s mind as he lifted off on the next leg of his flight into the black of night. But one thought should have taken precedence—fly the airplane.

Flying Freight

The commercial pilot held ratings for single- and multi-engine land airplane and instrument airplane. He also held a flight instructor certificate with the same privileges. A review of his logbook, after the accident, indicated a young, but experienced pilot, albeit he was light in make and model. His logbook listed 1921 hours of which 142 hours were at night and 47 hours were in actual instrument conditions. But he had only 34 hours in a Cessna 208B Caravan. As a rule of thumb, pilots are generally not considered experienced in an aircraft until they have accumulated at least 100 hours of make and model time.

The pilot joined the company a little over a month before the accident. He successfully completed his training and Part 135 check ride over the course of 10 days. A month after completing his training program, the pilot began an initial operating experience (IOE) period with a senior company captain by his side. This IOE training was completed in five days.

The pilot was then deemed proficient to fly under IFR and he began flying solo until the accident flight just three days later.

The Environment

Although the equipment, by some standards, has improved over what was available in the old piston-powered twin-engine aircraft freight-dog days, feeding the larger city hubs is still predominantly conducted single-pilot, at night, and from rural airports in poorly lit areas of the country. There is a lot of pressure to complete each flight quickly and efficiently. Keeping contracts with the major freight companies is a priority in this highly competitive business.

Three witnesses who spoke with the pilot when he arrived at Pellston Regional Airport (KPLN), in Pellston, Michigan, all said the pilot appeared alert and awake. The pilot wanted 30 gallons of fuel and needed to make a “quick turn.”

It was night and the weather was VFR. The automated report an hour before the accident indicated winds out of the southwest a 10 knots gusting to 16 knots. Visibility was 10 miles and the ceiling was reported as broken at 3600 feet and 4800 feet respectively, and then overcast at 5500 feet.

Another pilot who was also flying a Cessna Caravan, for a competing freight company, began taxing out from the ramp. He noticed and waved to the accident pilot. This pilot noted nothing unusual about the accident Caravan or pilot. He did, however, comment on the weather conditions he encountered during his departure five or so minutes before the accident flight.

This pilot described the flight conditions as bumpy. He also noted that when the wind is out of the southwest, as it was that evening, it is usually a turbulent departure to about 1000 feet AGL. This pilot further emphasized that he would not characterize it as being wind shear conditions, just bumpy.

During his interview with the NTSB this pilot also described Runway 23 departures at night as being black hole departures, and he routinely was on the gauges during climb-outs from this particular runway.  The pilot also commented that conditions were VFR all the way to 6000 feet that evening. While this pilot didn’t comment on the ground lights, conditions had to be dark over the sparsely lit northern Lower Michigan terrain.

Vestibular Illusions

Once the cargo was loaded, the accident pilot started the Caravan and began to taxi to Runway 23. The pilot would be departing IFR for a flight to Lansing, Michigan. Nothing unusual was noted by the ramp personnel, who went back inside the FBO as the aircraft rolled away.

Inside the aircraft the pilot had a Garmin 696 handheld GPS. These units have memory chips from which considerable flight information can be gleaned by investigators, but only if the unit is not too severally damaged by the accident. Essentially, some of the modern electronics in general aviation are beginning to act as de facto flight recorders.

In this case the data was recoverable, and a study of the data allowed the NTSB to create an extensive flight simulation model.

The first significant GPS point has the Caravan climbing at 700 feet-per-minute and accelerating to 91 knots through 14 feet AGL. This was on a heading of 223 degrees. The aircraft continued climbing at a rate of 500 to 700 feet per minute to an altitude of 240 feet above the ground while also continuing its acceleration. Then the rate of climb begins to slow as the aircraft reaches 260 feet AGL. At this point the aircraft starts a descent that continues until it impacts wooded terrain a mile away.

Moreover, shortly after liftoff, the Caravan entered a right turn with a bank angle of up to 12 degrees. This bank caused the aircraft to turn 42 degrees right of runway centerline. During this bank the aircraft was also in a nose down pitch attitude of at least two degrees. Based on the GPS information, the NTSB estimated the elapsed time from take-off to impact to be 54 seconds.

The study went further. It investigated the load factor vectors, which would have been present, and then compared this information to the human vestibular system. This allowed the investigators to estimate the apparent sensations of motion being experienced by the pilot. Based on the study, the pilot would not have felt any roll, and he would have believed his pitch angle was always greater than zero. In other words the pilot would have sensed he was holding heading and climbing out straight ahead.

It’s almost certain the pilot succumbed to somatogravic illusion even while the aircraft was descending. This illusion creates a sensation of climb in the vestibular system, when a smooth and rapid acceleration is sensed by the body. A great way to personally experience the sensation is to close your eyes and keep your head motionless the next time you are seated in the back of an airliner waiting for it to begin its take-off roll. As the aircraft accelerates down the runway your vestibular system will indicate a pitch-up sensation well before the aircraft starts to rotate.

Based on the above, it is difficult to disagree with the NTSB’s probable finding: “The pilot’s inadvertent controlled descent into terrain due to spatial disorientation. Contributing to the accident was lack of visual reference due to night conditions.”

Trust Your Instruments

Trusting our instruments is an old aviation adage, but it needs to be followed while we perform hawk-like instrument scans in IMC. This pilot wasn’t a neophyte to flight, even with his low make and model time, and a Cessna Caravan is not overly difficult to fly, so what happened? Perhaps the pilot relaxed his instrument scan because the conditions were being reported as VFR, or perhaps he was distracted from concentrating on the task at hand by his need to quickly depart in order to make the next leg.

Any pilot can be affected by spatial disorientation, regardless of his or her experience level, even when the flying is in an airline crew environment.

Unfortunately, spatial disorientation accidents repeat themselves with regularity in the NTSB reports. A quick and unscientific review of NTSB records, during a recent five year period, listed spatial disorientation as a probable cause in more than 100 accidents. Even more depressing is the fact that over 90-percent of these accidents had a fatality.

These fatality rates are worse than what would be expected when playing Russian roulette with five loaded chambers in a six-round revolver.

Checkpilot Recriminations

The thoughts that may have consumed the company pilot who performed the pilot’s checkride might also be considered. Most certainly he covered all of the pertinent maneuvers and procedures required of the new pilot to demonstrate competency. But how do you evaluate a person’s potential mind-set that prevailed that fateful night.

No doubt this senior captain may add an awareness factor to subsequent reviews of new pilots and their understanding of the black hole syndrome and the need to maintain focus on the task at-hand.

Let’s do ourselves and others a favor by making a commitment to become and/or remain proficient on the gauges, and to never relax our scan during night VFR departures.

Armand Vilches is a commercial pilot and instructor who lives in Brentwood, TN. He is the 2015 Nashville District FAASTeam Honoree. His extensive background in risk management and insurance allows him to bring a unique perspective to aviation and flight instruction.

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

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If I were an airplane salesman, I would starve to death. Airplanes that I think have no prayer of selling fly out of the factory almost faster than they can be produced. One of these was Diamond’s DA42, which I thought was a long shot. The DA62, one of the best GA airplanes ever, in my view, is also selling briskly, despite a price point well north of $1 million.

On the other hand, considering the price of new airplanes, I thought that with retrofit avionics matching the capability of new stuff, refurbing or remanufacturing older airplanes to new standards would be a can’t-miss industry. Well, not exactly. Several remanufacture projects are established with varying degrees of success, but there’s nothing like the volume I figured would materialize.

The latest of these projects is from Premier Aircraft, a well-known brokerage and mod house in Fort Lauderdale. They’re doing a spinner-to-tail remanufacture of the Piper Dakota and I flew the first one on Friday. I’ll have a full video report on it in a few days. The Premier Edition Dakota is exactly what you’d expect it to be. It’s an older airframe stripped to bare metal, painted, fixed and tarted up with the latest in avionics, plus a new leather interior, so it smells new. It doesn’t have Garmin’s G1000 NXi, but the G500 Premier offers functionally similar capability. Prices of this vary with avionics and options selected, but range between $259,000 and $329,000. Premier’s Barry Rutheiser told me Friday that the company has gotten a lot of nibbles on this project.  

The Dakota is an interesting choice. When Piper launched it, it replaced the 180-HP four-cylinder Lycoming in the Cherokee with a six-cylinder O-540, boosting the power from 180 to 235 HP. The result is 1100 to 1200 pounds of useful and a cruise speed of up to 140 knots. For owners who want to haul a lot of stuff and want a low wing to do it, the Dakota is a perfect fit. It’s also a niche. Piper built some 32,000 Cherokees of various types, but fewer than 3000 are the PA-28-235/236 that constitute the six-cylinder line.

So far, other remanufacture products haven’t hit impressive strides. Premier did a Skyhawk with the Continental diesel conversion and found little traction. Redbird did better with its Redhawk conversion, the same basic idea, but they now won’t say how many they’ve sold. My guess is around 20. Africair, another Florida company, has converted about 60 Skyhawks to diesel, but they’ve been at it for more than 10 years, so that’s an airplane every couple of months. Yingling Aviation did a nice job on its remanufacture of the Skyhawk called the Ascend 172. Sales have been sluggish.

If I knew why, I wouldn’t be a candidate for becoming a starving airplane salesman. These airplanes are typically priced at about $250,000 or $150,000 less than a new version. Even though I’ve always felt this to be a good value against new, maybe the price delta isn’t enough. Maybe it needs to be half the price of new or maybe the people selling these need to have Kenny Ditchter’s view of where value resides in airplanes. Or maybe they’re worried about or don’t understand how paying two-thirds the price of new for an airplane that’s 30 years old will depreciate or how banks will loan on it. Maybe “nearly new” just isn’t quite good enough as actually new.

Or maybe no one has hit the sweet spot of asking price against some unique capability or performance. New, used or remanufactured, a Skyhawk is just a Skyhawk and Cessna is still building them. But Piper isn’t building Dakotas and if they did, they would probably cost every bit of $500,000, if not nearer to $600,000.

We’ll see how Premier makes out with its Dakota project. With a few minor exceptions, it presents as new. If I liked low wings and needed to fill the seats and the tanks, I’d certainly give it a serious look.    

Got a Blog in You?

As most of you know, this blog casts a vast and influential shadow over general aviation, if not the western world in its entirety. I’m often told that hardly an executive in general aviation starts the day without consulting the penetrating and insightful analysis found on these pages and fortunes have been won and lost by heeding or ignoring its advice. I’m pretty sure none of this has to do with the psychotropic medications I’m on.

Nonetheless, in the coming weeks, you’ll see more voices writing in this space as other staffers contribute their own analysis of events in aviation. I’ll continue to lend a hand from time to time. We’ll also be opening the pages up to guest blogs, so if you have your own commentary or analysis, fire off a message to the newsteam and let us know what you have in mind. We’ll get back to you.

JP International 'Trust Your JPI

You don't expect to see Stinsons and WACOs at an NBAA-BACE, but they were there last week in Las Vegas. In this AVweb video, Ben Redman of RARE tells us why the bizjet crowd is a target-rich environment for selling restored vintage aircraft.

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Picture of the Week

Thanks to Daniel Valovich for this great shot of a Pitts. We're getting great pictures but some of the descriptions leave a lot to be desired. Set the scene for our readers. Tell us the type of plane, name of the pilot, if you know, where the photo was taken and what was going on at the time. You'll have a much better chance of getting your photo published.

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