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The U.S. Air Force said on Sunday there are no plans to use the powers created by President Donald Trump last week to force the recall of retired pilots. "We appreciate the authorities and flexibility delegated to us," said Ann Stefanek, chief of Air Force media operations, on Sunday. However, "The Air Force does not currently intend to recall retired pilots to address the pilot shortage,” Stefanek said.

The White House made waves last week by amending a 9/11-era executive order granting the Department of Defense emergency powers to force the recall of retired military officers to active duty. Department of Defense spokesman Navy Cmdr. Gary Ross had said he expected the Secretary of Defense would use the power to recall up to 1,000 retired pilots for three years each, a plan that had evidently not been run past Air Force leadership. Senior Air Force officials have told Congress they are short about 1,500 pilots, a number they expect will grow for several years as airlines continue to hire en masse and the Air Force works to build up training resources. The branch is mostly short fighter pilots who have been most affected by more than 16 years at war.

A New Zealand general aviation manufacturer is facing heavy fines and its executives prison sentences for violating international trade sanctions against North Korea. Pacific Aerospace, which makes a STOL turboprop utility aircraft called the PAC 750, and its executive officers will be sentenced in January after pleading guilty to “indirectly” exporting aircraft parts to the country, which has been isolated by trade sanctions for its aggressive nuclear weapons posture. The investigation began last September when a PAC 750 showed up in Korean colors at the country’s first airshow. At the time, the Pacific Aerospace CEO said he didn’t know how the airplane, which had been sold to a Chinese company, ended up in North Korea with that country’s flag on its tail. A United Nations investigation found a different story in going through an email exchange between the company and the Chinese owner.

Investigators said the email string shows Pacific Aerospace clearly knew the airplane was in North Korea. It offered parts for the aircraft and training in their installation for the North Korean operators to be coordinated in China. The company faces fines of up to $100,000 and executives could face up to a year in prison and $10,000 in fines. It was prosecuted by Customs New Zealand for three breaches of United Nations Sanctions and one charge under the Customs and Excise Act and pleaded guilty to all the charges earlier this month. It’s not clear what the North Koreans are using the plane for but it’s commonly used to carry up to 17 skydivers. A military version is under development.

A leaking oxygen hose fitting likely led to the fatal crash of a turbonormalized Mooney M20 Acclaim off the coast of Atlantic City on Sept. 10, 2015. Dr. Michael Moir, a dentist from Gaylord, Michigan, was the only one aboard the aircraft, which flew on autopilot without contact with ATC for more than two hours at 25,000 feet before descending to the ocean near Atlantic City, New Jersey. Moir was on his way to a Mooney owners safety conference and the NTSB speculated he did everything right to ensure a safe flight. He was still wearing his oxygen mask at the time of the crash but the technical fault made it worthless and he likely became hypoxic shortly after reaching altitude, the report says.

Investigators found that a fitting connecting an oxygen line to the regulator on the tank was loose. It may have been missed at an earlier annual and when Moir activated the oxygen system as he climbed to altitude it likely quickly drained the tank. Moir read back a clearance to 25,000 about 16 minutes after he took off and was never heard from after that. Two F-16s were scrambled but the Mooney crashed before their pilots spotted it. The NTSB said the duration of the flight was consistent with the aircraft draining one of the aircraft's two fuel tanks on the flight.

Citing a lack of FAA guidance or industry expertise in training pilots for low-altitude operations, Icon Aircraft has created guidelines for pilots flying the A5 and is preparing a low-altitude training course for pilots who want to go lower than the guidelines provide. “Our goal is to take a proactive, leadership role in the flight training process and we have developed our own low-altitude guidelines from lessons learned over decades of military, seaplane, and bush flying,” says company CEO Kirk Hawkins in a letter to owners and deposit holders. The new policy, mandatory for company flights and recommended for private flights, creates a 300-foot soft-deck, below which the flight envelope is restricted to 45 degrees in bank and 10 degrees in pitch. According to Icon, “The idea is that when in the low-altitude environment, the PIC should shift a significant portion of their attention to terrain and obstacle avoidance (like towers, power lines, etc.) while also maneuvering more benignly.” The guidelines do not specific a hard deck below which no flight should be conducted, except for reminding pilots that the FARs prohibit flight below that from which an emergency landing can be conducted in the event of an engine failure. “Seaplanes over water are usually in a position for an emergency landing if needed,” says the new policy.

Icon is preparing an advanced low-altitude training course and checkride to bring qualified pilots’ soft-deck down to 100 feet above the ground. The length and curriculum are still under development, but AVweb will report back when Icon has finalized their course offering.

BREAKTHROUGH! - Cubcrafters

A reheated version of Airbus’s 25-year-old A330, the A330neo flew for the first time Thursday in the European company’s attempt to shore up its presence in the 250- to 300-seat long-range market. After some initial teething problems, Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner is proving a dominant force in that sector. The newish A330 boasts improved aerodynamics and has been re-engined with the Rolls Royce Trent 7000, which is derived from the 1000 series used by the Dreamliner and A350 XWB. Even though it’s bigger and more powerful it will cut fuel consumption by about 11 percent.

The new model was announced in 2014 and certification is expected in 2018. The aircraft has attracted about 200 orders and the launch customer is Portugal’s TAP. The original A330 first flew in 1992 and went into service in 1994. The original design is still in production and by the time the new model replaces it about 1,500 will have been built.

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Just months ago, government security agencies were contemplating a ban of electronic devices larger than a cellphone from airliner cabins, but this week, the FAA is calling for the opposite. In a paper filed with the International Civil Aviation Organization, the FAA said its tests show that large electronic devices such as laptops can cause fires that could overwhelm the fire suppression system airline baggage holds are equipped with. The paper said such a fire could be serious enough to result in a hull loss. 

Last summer, the Department of Homeland Security was considering banning laptops from airliner cabins of inbound international flights because of what it described as potential terrorist threats. The agency encountered plenty of pushback and decided not to pursue the ban, which would have displaced laptops from the cabin to baggage holds. The FAA's proposed baggage hold ban will be on the agenda at an ICAO conference on dangerous goods to be held in Montreal next week.

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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 5, 2017, Rushville, Ind.

Piper PA-32-300 Cherokee Six

The airplane was substantially damaged during a forced landing at about 1400 Eastern time. The airline transport pilot and two passengers were not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

According to the pilot, the engine did not respond to his increased throttle input after a descent. The pilot selected a diversion airfield and began troubleshooting the engine. The engine would decrease engine power with throttle movement, but would not restore engine power when throttle was added. Eventually, the airplane was not able to maintain altitude and the pilot performed a forced landing to a field.

July 6, 2017, Honesdale, Pa.

Morrisey 2150A

At 1645 Eastern time, the airplane was substantially damaged during a collision with trees and terrain during a forced landing shortly after takeoff. The private pilot was fatally injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

A witness observed the airplane take off and return for a touch-and-go landing. The initial takeoff sounded “normal” but the engine “fumbled...faltered drastically for 3 or 4 seconds” on the ensuing takeoff. The pilot aborted the takeoff, taxied back to the beginning of the runway, and took off again. The airplane reached traffic pattern altitude “or close to it” on the downwind leg when the witness heard the engine “miss” and heard further power interruptions before his attention was diverted. Surveillance video showed the airplane in a shallow descent and a shallow angle of bank as it descended from view behind trees.

Examination of the wreckage revealed the lap belt and shoulder harnesses were not buckled. Both wing-mounted fuel tanks were intact and fuel-system continuity was confirmed. A total of three ounces of fuel was found at the accident site.

July 7, 2017, San Francisco, Calif.

Airbus A320-211

The Part 129 scheduled international passenger flight was cleared to land on Runway 28R at about 2356 Pacific time. Runway 28L was closed at the time; its lighting was turned off and a 20.5-ft-wide lighted flashing X (runway closure marker) was at its threshold. The Airbus lined up for its landing on parallel Taxiway C, which had four air carrier airplanes on it awaiting takeoff clearance—a Boeing 787, an Airbus A340, another Boeing 787 and a Boeing 737.

Subsequent investigation reveals the Airbus crew advanced its thrust levers for a go-around when the airplane was about 85 feet above the taxiway; the minimum altitude recorded on the FDR once the go-around was initiated was 59 feet agl. The Boeing 787 is 55 feet 10 inches high. Night visual conditions prevailed, and the Airbus had been cleared for a visual approach.

July 7, 2017, Cape Coral, Fla.

Cessna 172D Skyhawk

At about 0950 Eastern time, the airplane was substantially damaged during a forced landing after total loss of engine power. The pilot sustained minor injuries. Visual conditions prevailed.

While cruising at 1200 feet agl, the pilot noticed a partial loss of engine power. He immediately turned toward his departure airport and applied carburetor heat. The engine continued to run rough and produce partial power, then lost all power. The airplane struck power lines and then the ground.

July 7, 2017, Greenwood, S.C.

Cessna T337 Turbocharged Skymaster

The airplane was substantially damaged at about 0735 Eastern time during a forced landing. The flight instructor and private pilot receiving instruction sustained minor injuries. Visual conditions prevailed.

After performing some touch-and-go landings, pilot and flight instructor departed the traffic pattern to perform airwork, including steep turns and a practice stall. Subsequently, the front engine started to surge from high power to low power, then lost all power. The pair turned back toward the departure airport and performed the engine-out checklist but could not restart the front engine. Before reaching the airport, the rear engine experienced a total loss of power. The airplane was too low to reach the runway, and the flight instructor performed a forced landing into the trees.

July 8, 2017, Waterford, Ohio

Piper PA-28-181 Archer II/III

At 0942 Eastern time, the airplane impacted a reservoir. The private pilot and one passenger were fatally injured; the airplane was destroyed. Instrument conditions prevailed; an IFR flight plan had been filed.

Radar data show the airplane proceeding toward an initial approach fix for an RNAV (GPS) procedure. The final 2.5 minutes of the radar data revealed several sharp left and right turns. The last radar fix recorded the airplane at 2950 feet msl, or about 2100 feet agl. A witness less than a mile from the accident site reported low overcast clouds and fog were present as the accident airplane flew overhead. It exited the clouds in a steep angle of descent with the engine producing a sound similar to high power before disappearing behind a tree line.

July 8, 2017, Walters, Okla.

Beechcraft V35 Bonanza

The airplane sustained substantial damage at about 1050 Central time in a forced landing after a loss of engine power. The airline transport pilot and one passenger sustained minor injuries. Visual conditions prevailed.

About 10 minutes after takeoff, the engine oil pressure indication went to zero and the engine failed. The pilot executed a forced landing to a farm field, during which the airplane sustained substantial damage to the firewall and lower fuselage. Examination revealed a hole above the engine’s #4 cylinder. All engine cylinders had been replaced about 10 flight hours prior to the accident flight.

July 13, 2017, Marineland, Fla.

Piper PA-44-180 Seminole

At about 2300 Eastern time, the airplane was destroyed during an inflight breakup. The flight instructor and private pilot receiving instruction were fatally injured. Visual conditions prevailed. Shortly before radio and radar contact were lost, the flight was at 5400 feet msl with its destination in sight. The outboard portions of the left and right wings, baggage door, and a portion of the right stabilator were located throughout a 0.5-mile-long and 0.2-mile-wide debris path.

July 13, 2017, Hailey, Idaho

Beechcraft D55 Baron

The airplane landed hard and ground looped at about 2010 Mountain time, sustaining substantial damage. The pilot and passenger were not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

The pilot observed that the throttles were not rigged correctly and were not aligned with each other. On approach, he realized the airplane was too high and reduced power to lose altitude. Closer to the runway, the airplane drifted right of centerline, so he added power to go around. However, he added too much power to the left engine, which increased the rightward drift. The pilot returned the airplane to a wings-level attitude, but the nose was pitched up too high, and the airplane landed hard.

July 27, 2017, Oshkosh, Wis.

Lake LA-4-250 Renegade

At 1943 Central time, the amphibious airplane impacted water during takeoff. The pilot and one passenger were fatally injured, the pilot-rated passenger received minor injuries. The airplane was substantially damaged. Visual conditions prevailed.

When the airplane arrived at about 1230 on the day of the accident, the pilot requested assistance because the airplane was taking on water in the left wing sponson. Boats assisted the airplane to the dock, and both the sponson and an integral fuel tank were emptied.

When the pilot was ready to depart, personnel expressed concern regarding rough water conditions. At one point, the pilot was taken out on the lake by boat to observe conditions. Subsequently, the seaplane was towed outside the base by boat. While under tow, the pilot reportedly asked the harbor master for permission to start the engine several times. Once the tow was complete, the pilot started the airplane engine and the airplane “went to full power within two seconds.” The airplane began its takeoff run immediately.

Video showed the airplane porpoising, then its nose rose steeply out of the water and the airplane rolled to the left and the left wing struck the water. The airplane settled back to the right, its nose entered the water and the airplane began to sink. Video documenting the takeoff revealed the airplane’s wing flaps were retracted. The elevator trim tab was close to or at maximum nose-up.

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

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In May of this year, two Icon company employees flying an A5 made the error that has been the final mistake for too many seaplane, bush, backcountry and mountain pilots. They entered a canyon from the downhill end, starting below the surrounding ridges. By the time they discovered they were in the wrong canyon they didn’t have room to either climb over the ridges or make a 180-degree turn. They tried to reverse course, hit a canyon wall and were killed.

Icon’s response to the accident was a breath of fresh air. In an open letter from company CEO Kirk Hawkins last week, Icon reiterated that its A5 is built for fun flying and pilots like the thrill of flying low. The letter provided a link to Icon’s new Low Altitude Flying Guidelines. Those guidelines speak frankly about the risks of low-altitude flight, give guidance for flights in the “low-altitude” environment—which it defines as below 300 feet AGL—and recommends a “soft deck” of 300 feet AGL as the minimum altitude at which Icon pilots should operate their amphibians. Icon ground and flight training will include instruction in operations down to that altitude. For those pilots who wish to whistle around below 300 feet AGL, Icon is now requiring completion of its advanced “lowalt” training and a check ride. Because the purchase agreement for an Icon A5 requires that each owner and pilot who flies one agree, in writing, to comply with Icon’s operational guidelines for the A5 and each airplane has a flight data recorder installed, Icon is in a position to enforce its low-altitude operational guidelines and requirements.

When it comes to low flying, pilot flight training has almost exclusively consisted of telling pilots not to do it. Historically, that approach has been about as effective as telling teenagers not to have sex. Each month I research and write up the accident history of a specific model airplane for the Used Aircraft Guide in our sister publication, Aviation Consumer. Each month I average reading between four and 10 accident reports involving pilots who tied the record for low flying—few survive. I think that yanking the subject out into the open for discussion and formally teaching pilots how to fly low without killing themselves should have been done long ago.

As a side note, I think Icon’s low-altitude guidelines need more information on avoiding power lines because they are only visible to a pilot if the light is just right—most of the time it’s not—and they are often routed where least expected. They can be just above the trees right along lakeshores (in the glide path for landing on the lake) and over the water between the shore and an island. As a seaplane instructor, I teach my students to be suspicious of the airspace between an island and the shore of a lake. Often, the only way to spot power lines is to find the supporting poles, but even with that aid, the lines themselves may be invisible until you’re within 100 feet of them.

Power lines get strung across river valleys—with no supporting poles in the valleys themselves. When I was in Civil Air Patrol in high school our Wing Commander decided to take the Wing’s T-34 out to do vertical banks along the cliffs of the local river. He hit power lines and removed one wing.

Every summer in high school I worked ground crew for a crop duster. More than once I watched those professional pilots hit power lines they didn’t see when going into or coming out of a pass across a field. I kept track of the aerial application pilots I worked with. Every single one crashed. Most of the accidents were due to hitting an obstruction.

When I look at seaplane or amphibian accidents, there are always some due to hitting the water unexpectedly—usually in conditions of flat light (overcast skies and lack of color contrast over the ground or water) or glassy water. Often those accidents involve a pilot who was intentionally flying low over a lake and hit the water in level flight (usually just a lot of damage to the aircraft, but sometimes fatal) or stuck a wing into the water (almost always resulting in a fatal cartwheel). In my experience, until a pilot actually experiences flat light and glassy water conditions she or he simply cannot believe that it is absolutely impossible to tell how high the airplane is above the water within several feet. The first glassy water landing for a seaplane student is almost always a revelation—the airplane never touches the water when the pilot expects it. In my opinion, a pilot who has been trained in low flying and the nature of glassy water and flat light conditions is going to tack on some extra altitude because he or she is aware of the powerful visual illusions involved.

Bush and backcountry pilots know never to enter a canyon or fjord from the bottom because the differences between the entrances of the safe one and a box canyon are often too subtle to distinguish. They know that if they desire to fly between the walls of a canyon to first fly to the uphill end, staying above the ridges, and only descend into the canyon going downhill.

I’m also glad to see that Icon is addressing the FARs applicable to low flying as they have a serious gotcha for pilots. The FAA does not publish its definition of a “congested area” in the FARs. You have to read the cases where the FAA has gone after pilots for illegal low flying over a congested area to get a feel for its definition. For example, it’s been defined as four houses within a quarter of a mile, a small group of people standing on the ramp in front of an FBO and a busy interstate highway—much smaller assemblages of people than most pilots would expect. The rule of thumb for seaplane pilots is that if you see four or five boats in proximity to each other, consider them to constitute a “congested area” and stay 1000 feet above them and/or 2000 feet away horizontally. Icon encourages pilots to be courteous to people they are flying near. That’s wise. After all, not everyone on the ground or in a boat likes little airplanes and those folks have cellphone cameras that can be used to take photos for evidence against low-flying pilots. Plus, the FAA can subpoena the flight data recorder from the A5 to help make its case against a low-flying pilot.

I suspect Icon is going to be tweaking its low-altitude guidelines and training. It appears a bit weak on power lines and tower guy wires. However, I think it’s great that Icon has stepped up to squarely face the issue of protecting pilots who want to have fun flying low. I think the other manufacturers should consider doing the same thing because pilots are using their airplanes for that purpose. Flying low is a blast. The way to stay alive doing it is to receive formal training in how to do it right; not rely on information whispered in the back alleys.

Rick Durden is the Features editor of AVweb. He is a CFII, holds an ATP with type ratings in the Douglas DC-3 and Cessna Citation and is the author of The Thinking Pilot’s Flight Manual or, How to Survive Flying Little Airplanes and Have a Ball Doing It, Vols. 1 & 2. 

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

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.

Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

Full disclosure: The editor has a Cessna 140 and is a sucker for images of this family but this really was the best of the bunch this week. Thanks to Andy Zink for a nice shot.

A few years ago I was returning to KHLN after an evening flight. It was a beautiful night and well into dusk and not another voice on the radio when I made my call into HLN. 

N3969B:  Hln tower cub 3969B, eight miles Northeast, inbound landing Victor. 

HLN tower:  cub 69B, not in sight, report three-mile right base runway 27. 

N3969B:  OK, 69B, we'll call you three-mile right base 27,   but I bet I'm about the only light on out here on this quiet night. 

HLN tower:  Ah, don't be so sure. I cleared Venus to land just the other night.  

The HLN tower controller was Dave Mason who recently retired and now has a FAA waypoint named for him.


 

 

 

 

 

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