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The U.S. Air Force is now short 2,000 pilots, said Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force, at the Pentagon’s annual State of the Air Force presentation Thursday. The Air Force had previously reported being short-staffed by 1,500 pilots, but said the number would grow due to an inability to train new pilots at the rate they are departing. Secretary Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein blame the shortage on sequestration coupled with the surge tempo of an indefinite war. “If we go through another sequester again, a 2,000-pilot [shortfall] will be a dream,” says Secretary Wilson. “We're burning out our people because we're too small for what the nation is asking.”

A factor in the exodus of aviators has been the ease with which former military pilots are finding jobs at U.S. airlines with better pay and less time away from home. And while Congress has given the Air Force additional money to pay pilot retention bonuses, Goldfein says money is not the key problem: “If we're going to retain these pilots, it's going to be about reconnecting to the value proposition.” In his public statements, Goldfein often refers to the value proposition of an Air Force career as being about working with highly skilled people on meaningful missions. Goldfein and Wilson warn that as the pilot shortage worsens the demands on those that remain grow worse with each passing month. Goldfein said, "If we cannot move past sequester in its current form, we're going to break this force."


The Department of Homeland Security has reportedly told a cyber security conference it was able to hack the internal systems of a Boeing 757 sitting on the ramp at Atlantic City Airport with no help from anyone on board or anywhere near the aircraft. “We got the airplane on Sept. 19, 2016. Two days later, I was successful in accomplishing a remote, non-cooperative penetration,” DHS cyber security expert Robert Hickey is quoted as saying by Avionics Today.  “[Which] means I didn’t have anybody touching the airplane, I didn’t have an insider threat. I stood off using typical stuff that could get through security and we were able to establish a presence on the systems of the aircraft.” Hickey was speaking at the CyberSat Summit in Virginia Nov. 8.

How the hack was done is classified but Hickey suggested it gave the hackers comprehensive access to the aircraft’s systems. Hickey noted that newer aircraft like the Boeing 737 MAX and 787 and Airbus’s new A350 have more robust security but 90 percent of the fleet has the same vulnerabilities as that 757. Two years ago a security researcher claimed to have gained access to an airliner's flight systems through its entertainment system but those claims were never verified.


Transport Canada is reminding pilots that while the rest of the country may be changing its attitude toward marijuana, it hasn’t relaxed its stance. On July 1, 2018, possession of small amounts of pot and its recreational use will be legal in Canada. Provinces are developing intoxication detection and enforcement standards for drivers caught impaired behind the wheel. TC officials told delegates to the Air Transport Association of Canada meeting last week that any amount of TCH, the psychoactive chemical in cannabis, found in a pilot’s bloodstream will result in immediate suspension of flight privileges and that will last until the TCH is flushed from his or her system. Unlike water-soluble ethanol, TCH attaches to body fat and can persist for varying periods of time at detectable levels after one exposure. While the consequences of intoxication are potentially harsh, the chances of being caught are low, however, since Canada doesn’t mandate random drug and alcohol testing in pilots and clearly has no plans to implement such a regime.

At the same meeting, Transport Minister Marc Garneau was asked by industry officials to consider mandatory testing in light of a fatal crash involving a seriously drunk pilot. In the absence of any regulatory support, the industry is left to police the sobriety of its pilots on its own and it can be tricky legal ground because random testing is a court-tested violation of the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Garneau cited the Charter in his answer to the question but the Transportation Safety Board supports random testing and says the government could justify it under the country’s Human Rights Act. As we reported last week, the 34-year-old captain of a cargo flight took off with a blood alcohol content of more than .24 and the aircraft crashed in mountains north of Vancouver, killing him and his 32-year-old first officer. The TSB also said a possible scenario for the crash was suicide.

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Embraer has paused the flight test program on its KC-390 medium-lift, multi-mission aircraft after an unplanned upset in early October, said the company in a statement. The twin-jet was performing tests on its slow flight characteristics with simulated ice formation at 20,000 feet, according to the company. In attempting to recover to cruise flight, Flightradar24 data shows the KC-390 prototype losing 17,000 feet before ADS-B coverage was lost, at one point reporting a vertical speed of -31,000 feet per minute.

The Brazilian aerospace contractor has been coy on the nature of the test incident, except to say that “all aircraft systems behaved as expected throughout the flight.” An unnamed engineer says test equipment came loose during the flight and slid aft, moving the center of gravity to an almost unrecoverable position, according to Brazilian Aero Magazine. Aero Magazine reports that Embraer denies the upset was related to movement of the center of gravity or the fly-by-wire control system.

Embraer, in their public statement on the incident, reported that the aircraft was not structurally damaged and will return to flight after repair of some external pieces damaged by overspeed during the recovery maneuvers. The company says the KC-390 is still on track for certification next year, when the Brazilian air force is expecting to take delivery of the first two production aircraft. Embraer hopes the KC-390 will compete for contracts to replace aging C-130s built in the middle of last century still in use around the world.


The U.S. Forest Service clearly doesn’t want to use the so-called “super tanker” firefighting aircraft that have emerged in the last decade but the Government Accountability Office says it has to come up with better reasons for barring them from the battle. Last May, the Forest Service limited the size of retardant tanks on aircraft it leases for firefighting to between 3,000 and 5,000 gallons. According to Wildfire Today, it was the first time such restrictions had been put in place and it barred so-called Very Large Air Tankers from being included on the Forest Service’s "call-when-needed" list of aviation assets. Global Super Tanker, which operates a converted Boeing 747 with a 19,200-gallon tank, challenged the new rule with moral support from 10 Tanker Air Carrier, which has three DC-10 tankers (11,600 gallons).

The GAO said the Forest Service “failed to provide reasonable justifications for the challenged specification, such that we are unable to conclude that the challenged specification is reasonably necessary for the agency to meet its needs.”  The GAO said the Forest Service’s defense of the tank restriction essentially didn’t make any sense and the documentation it provided didn’t support the unprecedented limits. The DC-10s and 747 did get some work in the horrific 2017 fire season but they were hired by states outside of the Forest Service contracts. The GAO recommended the Forest Service reimburse Global Super Tanker for the costs incurred in challenging its decision.


My friend Chuck, a recent solo student, got the following request from the tower on landing.

Tower: ”Expedite clearing the runway.” 

Chuck brought the C-150 to a halt on the runway.

Chuck: ”What does expedite mean?”

Jeff B. Land



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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 Final reports appear about a year after the accident, although some take longer. Find out more about Aviation Safety at

August 1, 2017, Phoenix, Ariz.

Grumman AA-1B Trainer

At about 1300 Mountain time, the airplane was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain shortly after takeoff. Both the flight instructor and student pilot sustained serious injuries. Visual conditions prevailed.

According to witnesses, after the airplane lifted off and was in its initial climb to the west, the wings started to rock back and forth. The airplane began to descend, struck the airport's western perimeter fence and collided with terrain before coming to rest on a road bordering the airport.

August 3, 2017, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Beech D17S Staggerwing

The airplane was ground-looped during landing at about 1130 Mountain time. The pilot and passenger were not injured, but the airplane sustained substantial damage. Visual conditions prevailed.

The pilot later stated that wind for the landing was a right quartering tailwind at 10 to 13 mph. He made a normal landing with a lot of left rudder application to keep the airplane straight. After touchdown, with the tailwheel on the runway, the airplane drifted to the right. The pilot applied left brake to correct, but the right landing gear collapsed and the airplane continued to the right edge of the runway where it came to rest upright. The pilot stated, “It got away from me, I guess.”

August 3, 2017, Immokalee, Fla.

Pipistrel Virus SW Motorglider

At about 1100 Eastern time, the airplane was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain during a go-around at a private grass airstrip. The private pilot sustained minor injuries; the passenger was seriously injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

The pilot was attempting to land on a 1200-foot-long strip with 50-foot-tall trees on both ends. After touching down on the first third of the runway, he realized he was not going to stop in time. Instead, he disengaged the air brakes, aborted the landing and attempted to go around. During initial climb, at about 30 feet agl, “the left wing quickly dropped,” before the glider descended and its left wing impacted the ground. The motorglider cartwheeled into the trees about 75 feet left of the runway center and 1000 feet beyond the approach end of the runway. According to the NTSB, the pilot was issued his private pilot glider rating on March 27, 2017, and reported a total time of 33 hours.

August 3, 2017, Rio Linda, Calif.

Lancair IV-TP Experimental

The airplane impacted a residential area at 1503 Pacific time, following loss of engine power while on approach. The solo commercial pilot was fatally injured; the airplane was substantially damaged. Visual conditions prevailed.

Data obtained from a Garmin portable GPS show a normal flight until 1459:28. With the airplane at about 6800 feet msl, it began a gradual descent at about 215-200 knots. At 1502:02, the airplane turned onto final approach. The last six hits of the flight track occurred over 35 seconds from 1502:06 to 1502:41. During that time, the airplane’s speed dropped from 130 knots to 91 knots as it descended to about 510 feet. The last data point recorded placed the airplane approximately 790 feet north-northeast of the accident site at 155 feet msl. Numerous witnesses observed the airplane flying toward the airport at a low altitude. The airplane then suddenly made a sharp turn to the right and disappeared into the trees.

August 4, 2017, Athol, Idaho

Rans S9 Chaos Experimental LSA

At about 0900 Pacific time, the airplane was substantially damaged in a hard landing during an aborted takeoff. The solo commercial pilot, who also was the builder and owner, received serious injuries. Visual conditions prevailed.

According to the pilot’s son, this was the kitbuilt airplane’s maiden flight. After conducting an uneventful “high-speed taxi test,” the pilot taxied back and initiated a takeoff. About two seconds after liftoff, the airplane pitched up to a “fairly nose-high attitude” of about 15 to 20 degrees. When the airplane was at about 150 feet agl, a ground crew member observed it to be descending rapidly. The airplane landed hard, collapsed the main landing gear, and came to rest upright near the right edge of the turf runway. There was no fuel leakage or fire. The pilot sustained head injuries despite his shoulder harness.

August 5, 2017, Marion, Ohio

Grob G102 Club Astir IIIB Glider

The glider collided with a tree and terrain at about 1413 Eastern time after releasing from the tow airplane. The pilot received serious injuries and the glider was substantially damaged. Visual conditions prevailed.

A witness reported the glider’s left and right-wing spoilers were visible from the ground, and that they were not locked down into the stowed position. He stated that the glider and tow airplane, a Cessna 150, were unable to climb normally with the spoilers extended. The pilot released from the tow airplane at around 150 to 200 feet agl, and tried to make a 180-degree turn back to the runway with the spoilers still extended. The glider’s wing clipped a tree and it crashed in a field.

August 5, 2017, Pittstown, N.J.

Piper PA-28-140 Cherokee 140

At about 2242 Eastern time, the airplane was substantially damaged during a collision with trees and terrain while on approach to land. The student pilot and one passenger were seriously injured; the other passenger received minor injuries. Night visual conditions prevailed.

According to a passenger and the student pilot’s flight instructor, the student pilot had planned to ferry his airplane the following week with his flight instructor to have avionics installed. However, during a family picnic the day of the accident, the student pilot decided to ferry the airplane with the passengers that night, instead of the following week with his instructor. Another family member drove to the destination airport to provide ground transportation. The passenger stated the airplane was in a circling descent near the destination when the student pilot noted red obstruction lights related to utility wires and indicated that something was not correct. The airplane then collided with trees and impacted the ground. The three occupants were able to egress before a postcrash fire consumed a portion of the cockpit.

August 5, 2017, Pocatello, Idaho

Lockheed P2V-5F Neptune

The airplane was substantially damaged shortly after takeoff. The airline transport pilot, commercial pilot and passenger were not injured. The airplane was operated under contract to the U.S. Forest Service to provide aerial application services (e.g., firefighting). Visual conditions prevailed.

According to the pilot-in-command (PIC), he observed an uncommanded aft movement of the control yoke with a simultaneous increase in the airplane’s pitch attitude during initial climb. Despite multiple attempts to regain control, the airplane continued to maintain a nose-up attitude. Five degrees of flaps were deployed, which reduced the elevator backpressure. The PIC subsequently jettisoned the load of fire retardant over vacant land and the flight declared an emergency with ATC.

The PIC had previously demonstrated approaches to land without making any adjustments to power or pitch, so he configured the airplane for an approach without trim or elevator control. They flew a wide traffic pattern and made small adjustments to compensate for altitude. During the final approach leg, the PIC used a combination of wing flaps and engine power for pitch adjustments, and the crew coordinated application of elevator and turns to make their pitch-down adjustments. A landing was accomplished without further damage. Investigation revealed a bolt in the airplane’s pitch-control system had backed out. It had not been safety-wired.

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

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I mostly make my living as a flight instructor, so I often fly with ten or more students in a week. Not all are “student pilots” in the FAA sense of the term, but they’re all flying with me to get instruction of some sort. They're seeking new certificates, instrument ratings, tailwheel transitions or they're rusty pilots, doing recurrent training, new aircraft checkouts, remediation, etc. Some of my students, I adore. I’d feel bad taking their money, but for the need to feed my family. Others not so much.

Why do I enjoy flying with some more than others? It’s great if they’re thoughtful, pay promptly, don’t smell bad and show up on time, but I’ve realized I will bend on all of these in exchange for one particular behavior.

I want to fly with students who tell me the ways in which they suck at flying. When you tell me, “I was too flat at touchdown” or “that was way outside of ACS limits for steep turns” or “my SA in the pattern was super low today,” it brings a tear to my eye. I can trust these pilots to keep learning on their own. When I sign these pilots off, they’re going to come back in six months for recurrent training in better shape than I left them. The other guys come back to me in six months flying worse because they’re forced to by the safety office after getting caught doing something stupid.

The “other guys” are always trying to sell me on how well they flew, which creates a handful of problems. First, my job is to help you improve at the things you’re not good at. If you don’t admit that these things exist, we’ve got a problem. (Some people think my job is to sign them off to rent airplanes without an instructor, which is an awkward collateral responsibility.) Second, I’m going to have to break the news to you that you’re not as good as you say you are, which isn’t fun for me. I don’t care to hear about the magnitude of the sucking. I don’t want a mopey, “I’m a terrible pilot. I’ll never amount to anything.” I need specific things you recognize as a problem with a credible prospect for improvement.

If you’re having a painful moment of introspection and wondering if you’re one of the “other guys,” keep your chin up. We’ve all tried to minimize our mistakes to an instructor whose approval we wanted or needed. Your next lesson is a new opportunity to be the kind of student your instructor adores. I'm a student sometimes too, and I still have fight the urge to minimize my mistakes every time I'm on the receiving end of a training flight.

In retrospect, this should have been obvious to me years ago. A great pilot isn’t one who doesn’t make mistakes. A great pilot recognizes and fixes his or her own mistakes before anyone else notices them. It’s obvious then that a great student pilot is one who calls out his or her mistakes and the fix before their instructor. 

Continental Motors || Angle Wave Cylinders for Lycoming

Ohio-based Workhorse Group, which builds hybrid electric trucks for UPS, FedEx and others, thinks it's time to rethink the design characteristics of the traditional helicopter. The first stab at it is the SureFly VTOL aircraft. It attracted huge attention at the Innovations Center at AirVenture Oshkosh this past summer. Aviation Consumer Editor Larry Anglisano took a close look and prepared this product video.

Picture of the Week <="229911">
Picture of the Week

Only a few entries we could use this week but they're nice. Ray Albright got this nice image of a Fleet Finch at Old Rhinebeck. Very nice from all perspectives, Ray

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

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