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Volume 23, Number 45a
November 6, 2017
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Copycat Suicide Eyed In Cargo Crash
Russ Niles

Copycat suicide is one of three scenarios being considered by Canada’s Transportation Safety Board in the 2015 crash of a cargo aircraft with a drunk pilot in the left seat. The TSB report on the April 13, 2015, crash of the Carson Air Metroliner in the mountains north of Vancouver says radar tracks show the aircraft climbed normally on its way to Prince George after a 7 a.m. takeoff. Six minutes into the flight the Metro suddenly went into a vertical dive and broke apart in the air. It killed Capt. Robert Brandt, 34, and his first officer, Andrew Wang, 32.

Brandt had a blood alcohol level of .24 but Wang was clear of intoxicating substances. The report says pilot incapacitation and pitot static icing are possible causes but it spends much more time explaining the relationship between chronic alcohol abuse and suicide. It also notes the crash occurred roughly three weeks after Brandt was turned down for promotion to chief pilot and a Germanwings first officer intentionally crashed an A320 into the French Alps in a chillingly similar scenario.

In a news release accompanying the report, TSB Chair Kathy Fox said mandatory testing and monitoring of aviation workers for substance abuse should be implemented by the government. Canada does not mandate random drug and alcohol testing for pilots. "In Canada, regulations and company rules prohibit flying while impaired, but they rely heavily on self-policing," said Kathy Fox, chair of the TSB. "What is needed is a comprehensive substance abuse program that would include mandatory testing as well as complementary initiatives such as education, employee assistance, rehabilitation and peer support.”

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Fight For ATC Just Warming Up
Russ Niles

There are probably few people who know more about aviation safety than former AOPA Safety Foundation President Bruce Landsberg so it would seem to be a no-brainer that he cap his influential and important career by becoming the newest member of the NTSB. But it’s a political appointment and the politics of aviation safety are as skewed as they are for anything else so if Lansberg’s appointment isn’t confirmed it won’t be because he’s not qualified to work for the NTSB. It will be because he's unable to work with politicians. 

During his Senate confirmation hearing, Landsberg was grilled over his criticism of the so-called 1,500-hour rule, which requires new airline pilots to have warmed a front window seat for that length of time before getting a job. It doesn’t matter if it’s the well-worn foam rubber of a Cessna trainer or the Nomex covering of a fighter jet, once that clock ticks over, anyone who attains it is qualified, in the simple world of the politicians who crafted it.

"Pilots should be hired and trained by solid criteria, not arbitrary numbers,” Landsberg wrote in a 2010 blog post. This heresy of common sense was too much for six senators who signed a letter before his hearing pointing out his transgression of logic. After all, there hasn’t been a major airliner crash since the law was passed so that proves it works, doesn’t it? For Landsberg’s sake and the future of aviation safety, we can only hope they don’t ask him that because he’ll tell them.

While we wish Landsberg well and we’ll be following his progression, his ordeal is a tawdry peep show that will become a trailer for the grand drama that will play out next year.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta’s term ends on Jan. 1 and he will leave a leadership vacuum at a time when the agency faces what many regard as a fundamental threat to its effectiveness as the regulator of the world’s most complex aviation system.

Huerta earned a reputation as a decent guy who did his best to do the right thing without creating a lot of fuss. That led many to question his effectiveness but I think we’ll have fond memories of his quiet, some might say plodding, administration (which, by the way, built the infrastructure for NextGen ATC despite numerous politically motivated funding interruptions and delays and kept the system a leader in safety, if not innovation).

It goes without saying that President Donald Trump, an unrepentant cheerleader for removing air traffic control from the FAA’s purview by way of a not-for-profit arm’s length corporation, will appoint a candidate who mirrors those views.

The mind boggles at the possibilities but rest assured there will be a single-minded set of priorities on the top floor at 800 Independence and if you think ATC has been politicized to date, I think the highly charged comments coming out of a corner office in faraway Oshkosh last week offer a glimpse.

EAA Chairman Jack Pelton sounded like he was on the hustings himself when he spun a series of hypotheses on the financial impact of severing ATC from the FAA into a rhetorical rant on things Americans hold dear.

“We’ve known it’s a bad idea for the federal budget, that it could slow modernization, and could very well be unconstitutional,” the normally straight-talking Pelton said in a statement on the financial implications of creating a new ATC corporation. “Now we learn that its budget impact could harm retirement pensions for veterans, funds for victims of major floods, and those who require Medicare coverage.”

At the moment, most Senators agree that hiving off ATC is a bad idea but, as we’ve seen with their simplistic handling of Landsberg’s nomination, they might be out of their league with a dogma-driven, fact-shy process that will try to bulldoze a compliant, or worse, activist, administrator into the FAA’s top job.

Huerta himself suggested he knew where his money was going. At last month’s NBAA convention he strayed from his usual bland state-of-the-FAA report to issue a clear warning to delegates not to “take a hard line” against the separation of ATC and presumably risk isolating themselves from the new way of doing things.

He, like the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, appears to have accepted the bitter pill as the only tonic that can solve the chronic funding security issues facing the agency. If that’s the best reason for this kind of initiative then something is clearly wrong with the process. While government is always about compromise and give and take, it should also always be about trying to make things better for the people it serves, not just make serving them more expedient.



By the way, I for one have taken the pledge to never again refer to the process of creating a separate ATC entity as “privatization” because it is anything but that. It is the creation of a private-sector monopoly which, in my opinion, is potentially infinitely worse than the government autocracy that now exists because there is no accountability or public recourse.

At NBAA, GA leaders repeatedly said “this is not privatization” while standing under banners with slogans calling it just that. To its credit, AOPA recognized the mixed message and there was internal discussion of using the term “monopolization” instead but there’s no evidence it gained any traction. We should get this straight because while the political process will do its best to muddy its meaning, those on the front lines should have a clear mandate and understanding of its meaning in the fight.

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AirText Cockpit Texting System
Russ Niles

Texting is the preferred method of communication for many so David Gray decided to bring it to the cockpit with a low-cost satellite system that uses the Iridium constellation that will offer worldwide coverage. It's called AirText.

Aircraft Spruce || Yaesu Rebates
Sequester Scenario Seen In Privatization
Russ Niles

Air traffic control privatization could trigger government paralysis as the extra $100 billion it costs ripples through the programs that money is needed to fund, according to EAA. The organization cites a memo issued by the Congressional Research Service, which says that because of the dent in the budget caused by privatization “a sequester would be triggered, which would require across-the-board cuts to non-exempt mandatory spending programs to make up for the amount of the debt.” Legislation would be required to shore up the mandatory programs. The $100 billion cost was an estimate provided by the Congressional Budget Office.

EAA Chairman Jack Pelton said the memo, which was sent to members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is another example why ATC privatization must be stopped. He said airlines will profit at the expense of essential programs and “that every review of the plan shows it to have a negative impact for everything except the profits of major airlines."

Electronics International 'Aviation Alert! Short video on how EI saved this pilot's life
Fly SAM STC Approved
Poor Airspeed Control Caused Thunderbird Crash
Geoff Rapoport

The U.S. Air Force F-16, assigned to the Thunderbirds, that crashed following a runway overrun at Dayton International Airport in June was more than 40 knots too fast on final approach and did not touch down until nearly 5,000 feet down the runway. The $29 million aircraft was entirely destroyed when it flipped after departing the paved surface area. The Air Force Accident Investigation Board (AIB) concluded, “The cause of this mishap was landing with excess airspeed and insufficient distance to stop the mishap aircraft on the wet runway. Mishap aircraft had sufficient fuel to divert to a Visual Flight Rules (VFR) alternate. The mishap pilot did not elect to go around.” In addition to being 43 knots fast over the threshold, Capt. Eric Gonsalves, the pilot, did not pull the throttle to idle until the aircraft had flown 3,000 feet down the runway, according to the AIB. The report further found that Gonsalves did not properly follow the maximum performance braking procedure.

Gonsalves and Technical Sgt. Kenneth Cordova, a non-flying Thunderbirds crew member, were conducting a “familiarization flight,” where a backseat passenger is introduced to the capabilities of the aircraft and maneuvers typically flown by the team. Gonsalves is the team narrator and was the pilot of the number 8 aircraft, so he conducted most of the team’s familiarization and incentive rides for members of the media and VIPs. The team practice was cancelled the day of the accident due to bad weather in Dayton, but the familiarization flights were left on the schedule. Upon return to the airfield, after flying an instrument approach, Gonsalves was unable to see the runway due to water pooling on the canopy—a known aerodynamic quirk of the F-16. The pilot conducted a missed approach and held for 15 minutes to await better weather. The crash occurred after the second approach. Gonsalves received moderate injuries. Cordova was not injured.

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Finnair Begins Weighing Passengers
Geoff Rapoport

In a tweet, Finnair announced that they are asking passengers to be voluntarily weighed before flights. The airline assures passengers that they’re not preparing to charge more for larger passengers. "For us, this has nothing to do with ticket pricing or anything like that,” says Päivyt Tallqvist, director of communications at Finnair. The Scandinavian carrier wants the data to make their weight and balance calculations more accurate. So far, 180 have volunteered, says Tallqvist. The airline believes 2,000 measurements will be sufficient to understand the range of its passenger weights.

As with U.S. carriers, European airlines are permitted to use an estimated passenger weight for calculating the takeoff weight of their aircraft. The standard passenger weights vary by season and gender, including carry-on baggage and each passenger’s pro rata share of infants under two years-old carried on laps. With more accurate passenger weight data, the airline may be able to carry additional cargo or passengers.

Advances For New Flight Technologies
Mary Grady

Electric powerplants and autonomous systems continue to make progress, with reports this week of first flights and new designs. In China, the two-seat RX1E-A, an advanced version of the RX1E, designed by Shenyang Aerospace University, flew for the first time this week and proved it can now fly for up to two hours on a single charge, an improvement over the 45-minute endurance of the previous model, which has been in production since last year. The new version of the airplane also has a new parachute. Zou Haining, an official at the Liaoning General Aviation Academy, told Xinhua the extended endurance of the airplane should boost sales in the U.S. and Europe. Also this week in China, it was reported that the AT-200, an autonomous cargo plane with a payload of about 1.5 tons, completed its first test flight.

The AT-200 took off from Neifu Airport in Pucheng on Oct. 26, flew for 26 minutes and landed, all autonomously. The drone, which is based on a P750XL Pacific Aerospace utility aircraft, is being developed by, a Chinese e-commerce retailer, working with a consortium of research institutes and other companies. They intend to use the drone to deliver packages to customers in rural areas. In the U.S. this week, Aurora Flight Sciences received an FAA Special Airworthiness Certificate for its optionally piloted Bell Helicopter UH-1H, to be used as a military research aircraft. The FAA certificate permits optionally piloted aircraft operations, with a safety pilot to monitor the controls. Aurora also announced this week they will be working with NASA to develop a turboelectric aircraft concept. The subsonic commercial aircraft will have conventional underwing gas-turbine engines, plus a ducted, boundary-layer-ingesting tailcone propulsor driven by a turboelectric propulsion system, Aurora said.

AT-200: Xinhua

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Short Final

On final approach to Runway 23 in a D-18 Beech at Mansfield Lama Airport, Ohio, we received this inquiry from the control tower: 

Tower:  Beech XXXXX please confirm nose wheel extension?

Beech 18: After looking at each other in surprise and much laughing, we responded: "Mansfield Tower, N8504, we don't have one!"


Sue Packer


Picture of the Week
We had a few to choose from this week so we were able to restrict the images we displayed to aircraft in the air, which is our favorite subject matter. There were some nice airplane portraits and detail shots and they may show up late but for this week we celebrate the beauty of flight. Regular entrant Daniel Valovich caught this T-6 at the right moment for this week's winner.

See all submissions

Brainteasers Quiz #237: Become Worthy of The Air

Determining who and what is worthy of the miracle of flight is determined by the Universe's highest authority ... yes, the FAA. And to prove your airworthiness, simply unmask these universal secrets and ace this quiz.

Click here to take the quiz.

Meet the AVweb Team

AVweb is the world's premier independent aviation news resource, online since 1995. Our reporting, features, and newsletters are brought to you by:

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Russ Niles

Contributing Editors
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Geoff Rapoport

Rick Durden
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Larry Anglisano

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Karen Lund

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Cold Weather Starting: Lighting It Slowly
Rick Durden

Daylight Saving Time got switched off over the weekend, to the anguish of more than a few of my friends. Not only do they like sunlight of an evening, the return of Standard Time means they can no longer deny the nearly imminent arrival of winter and its challenges to aviating. It also seem to be when I hear numerous pilots start inquiring as to what is “cold” for a piston aircraft engine. At what temperature are you risking damage to your engine if you start it without some sort of preheating?

What’s good for those asking the question is that there is definitive guidance on the subject from the engine manufacturers — Continental Service Information Letter 03-1 and Lycoming Service Instruction 1505. If you want to get the straight story on what constitutes cold for your engine, as well as what to do about it, those publications will tell you in no uncertain terms.

In masterful understatement, the headline on Continental’s Letter pronounces: “Contains Useful Information Pertaining to Your Aircraft Engine.” You want to know when preheat is required? It tells you: “When the engine has been exposed to a temperature of at or below 20 degrees Fahrenheit (wind chill) for two hours or more.” As an aside, we do want to apply a dope slap to the writer who didn’t know that wind chill is not relevant to inanimate objects—moving air cannot cool an object to below ambient temperature, no matter how hard the wind is blowing. Despite that error, if your engine has been exposed to ambient air temps of 20 degrees F for two hours or more, you need to preheat the engine to protect it from damage on starting.

Lycoming’s Instruction states that preheating is required when the engine has dropped to a temperature of 10 degrees Fahrenheit or 20 degrees for its -76 engines.

Preheat Matters

Lycoming is as blunt as Continental about cold starting risks: “Improper cold weather starting can result in abnormal engine wear, reduced performance, shortened time between overhauls or failure for the engine to perform properly. “ We are of the opinion that the “or” in that sentence should be “and.”

Continental warns, “Failure to properly preheat a cold-soaked engine may result in oil congealing in the engine, oil hoses and oil cooler with subsequent loss of oil flow, possible internal damage to the engine, and subsequent engine failure.

Have they made themselves clear?

There are four generally accepted methods of getting a piston aircraft engine warmed up to a temperature at which it can be safely started and operated: 1. sticking the airplane into a heated hangar; 2. a high-volume hot air heater (preheater); 3. an engine-mounted electric heating system; 4. warm weather.

Item 4 is self-explanatory—pilots sometimes find themselves where there simply isn’t a method of safely heating the engine to above 20 degrees F. You may be able to start the engine, but that start could cost you a bunch of money downstream as the damage may not show up right away. “It’s a rental,” is not an excuse.

As pilots flying in mountainous areas often have to wait for the wind or temperatures to drop before they can fly, pilots at airports without preheaters or heated hangars need to wait for the temperature to warm up.

That also applies if you have single weight oil in the engine and it’s not the right viscosity for the cold temperature. Even though you may be able to preheat the engine, summer-weight oil may not provide adequate lubrication.

If nature’s warm air is not available, a heated hangar is second best—it warms up the entire airplane. Continental says to allow four hours to assure congealed oil is flowing.

From a technique standpoint, once the time in the heated hangar is drawing to a close, the pilot should have everything ready to go the moment the airplane is towed out—ideally with everyone in the airplane so the pilot can hit the starter as soon as the tug is clear. It helps to open the windows until the engine is running and the heater putting out warm air as windows have a tendency to fog and ice over quickly otherwise due to the respiration of the aircraft occupants.


Continental and Lycoming both provide guidance on the use of preheaters. Lycoming specifically disapproves the use of oil dipstick heaters because they don’t distribute the heat throughout the engine. We agree, they don’t cut it. Both manufacturers are explicit in calling for careful use of high-volume hot air preheaters to assure that all of the engine is heated—oil sump, external oil lines, cylinders, air intake, oil cooler and oil filter. Be careful not to damage non-metallic components such as seals, hoses, and drive belts. As someone who once unknowingly melted the sleeve of a down jacket using a forced-air preheater and then filled the cabin of the airplane with feathers on getting inside to start up, be careful where you point the heater and what you touch with hot parts of it.

Continental says to preheat for a minimum of 30 minutes. Lycoming says to apply heat in five to 10 minute intervals and then “feel the engine to be sure that it is retaining warmth.” It goes on to say that during the last five minutes, the heat should be directed to the top of the engine.

Once preheating is complete, both manufacturers call for starting the engine immediately. We agree—we’ve seen too many pilots finish preheating, then start setting up their iPads and plugging in the headsets over 10-15 minutes and then discover the engine won’t start because it’s gotten cold again. Have everything ready to go.

Engine-Mounted Heaters

We like engine-mounted preheating systems. They have been reviewed periodically in our sister publication Aviation Consumer. Continental recommends a system that includes “individual cylinder head heater thermocouples, oil sump heater and crankcase heater pad.” Having owned three airplanes with engine-mounted preheaters, I have found them to be handy, especially when traveling as the combination of a blanket over the cowling and a long extension cord allows preheating at almost any airport. For more remote airports, I carried a generator to run the system for four or five hours before I wanted to start.

Continental warns against running engine-mounted preheaters continuously due to concerns with corrosion, however, so long as the entire engine can be kept above the dew point, there is no place for moisture to condense and cause corrosion. There are a number of devices that allow remote control of the engine-mounted heater via cell phone.  These were reviewed in the November 2017 issue of Aviation Consumer. Owner feedback has been positive.


Both Continental and Lycoming urge immediate starting after preheating is complete. They caution the pilot to assure that the start is made at low engine RPM, not more than 1000, due to risk of cylinder damage from lack of lubrication and to assure that oil pressure comes into the acceptable range soon after start.

Pumping the throttle before or during start is not a good idea. It creates a high risk of engine fire on a cold start. Pumping the throttle more than once usually does nothing but flood the carburetor.

For a carbureted engine, the proper procedure is to use the primer to put fuel directly into the cylinders. Many operators recommend leaving the primer out and letting it fill with fuel after the last pre-start priming shot. Then, as the engine is cranking and fires, give another shot or two of prime.

Continental goes into detail regarding post start procedures in cold weather. Briefly, it calls for frequently checking oil pressure to assure that there is not congealed oil somewhere in the system that can cause engine damage—it will manifest itself by high or low oil pressure indications. Do NOT let the RPM exceed 1000 until some oil temperature is indicated. This is important—we’ve all seen the pilots who start the engine at 1500 or 1700 RPM; they’re damaging the engine, hot or cold. When the checklist says “throttle cracked,” it means a small fraction of an inch, not half-way to the firewall.

Continental says that if the oil pressure cannot be maintained above 30 psi or below 100 psi, shut down and repeat the preheat process. It also says not to close the cowl flaps during engine warm up.

Once oil temperature is indicating, the engine may be operated as high as 1700 RPM, however, it should be approached gradually to make sure oil pressure does not exceed 100 psi. The runup can be conducted. Continental recommends cycling the propeller three or four times to move cold oil out of the propeller dome. On feathering propellers, do not let the RPM drop more than 300.

Only when oil temperature exceeds 100 degrees F and oil pressure does not exceed 60 psi at 2500 RPM, is the engine sufficiently warmed to accept full rated power.

I'll add the suggestion that it’s a good idea to take an absolute minimum of five seconds in going from idle to full power during a cold weather takeoff—at least 10 seconds is probably better. I’ve seen engines cut out with rapid throttle movement in cold weather.

When the temperature is above 20 degrees F and below 40 degrees F, Continental does not require the use of preheat, but it recommends that the post preheat engine starting procedures regarding RPM, oil pressure and oil temperature be followed.


For a piston aircraft engine, cold has a definition: 20 degrees F and below. Starting one below that temperature, without preheat, is almost guaranteeing internal damage.

Rick Durden is a CFII and 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. 

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