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Volume 24, Number 47c
November 24, 2017
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Airbus Envisions Autonomous Airliners
Mary Grady

Airbus has created a new innovation center in Shenzhen, China, near Hong Kong, where it will pursue research that would enable a single pilot to fly commercial aircraft, according to Bloomberg News. Airbus Chief Technology Officer Paul Eremenko told Bloomberg this week, “We’re pursuing single-pilot operation as a potential option, and a lot of the technologies needed to make that happen have also put us on the path towards unpiloted operation.” Eremenko said a projected pilot shortage drives the research. Airbus said in a news release the new innovation center will work to “accelerate R&D, application, and industrialization of in-flight experience, connectivity, new energy, and urban air mobility [and] cultivate an integrated hardware and software ecosystem.”

“I think the general aviation space in China is just opening up,” Eremenko told Bloomberg, in Hong Kong. “There’s an opportunity for China to sort of take a leap ahead, as it has been prone to do in other areas, and design the aerospace system, design the regulatory regime to be future looking, forward looking, to enable urban air mobility.” The new Innovation Centre is part of an “extended worldwide innovation ecosystem” which includes the Silicon Valley innovation centre, A^3, which is working on the Vahana flying taxi.

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Guest Blog: Why Privatizing ATC Would Break The System
James Van Laak

One of the most important conversations going on in aviation today has to do with the proposal to remove the air traffic control organization from the FAA and turn it into a privatized entity. Proponents claim that this would free the function from the bureaucracy and petty budgetary pressures of the FAA and lead to more efficient operations. They also claim that it would result in more rapid modernization of the air traffic control system.

Opponents to the privatization proposal base most of their arguments on three points. First, they point out that air traffic control function is working well today, and that there is no reason to fix something that is not broken. Second, they claim that moving to a privatized system will inevitably lead to a user-fee system dominated by the airlines, which would penalize the general aviation sector. Third, they point out that this entity would have a monopoly control of the air traffic control system with minimal oversight by the government, a recipe for corruption and gross mismanagement.

As a pilot with over 47 years of experience operating under the FAA’s authority and five years as a senior executive at the agency, I have a strong opinion about these issues. In summary, I find the privatization arguments to be weak and driven by political dogma, and the arguments against completely valid. 

But beyond my traditional aviation credentials, I am also an expert in the design and operation of complex systems. This leads to a different and, in my view, more important conclusion about the issue based not on whom the controllers work for, but how the system works.

Air transportation as we know it today is a complex system that requires many different elements to work together well, not just ATC. Obviously air traffic control is a critical piece of that system, but it is neither the only one nor even the most important. Other elements are required to ensure that the flying public is safely transported to their destinations. These include:

  • Pilot training, certification, regulation and enforcement
  • Airport design, construction and operation
  • Aircraft design, construction and operation
  • Aircraft maintenance and modification regulation and oversight
  • Avionics and navigation systems design, certification, maintenance and oversight
  • Air traffic procedures, including airspace design and special-use airspace management
  • Weather information dissemination and air traffic avoidance procedures
  • And many more

Our safe and effective air transportation system works as well as it does because all of these elements are predominantly under the control of one agency that can make them work together. Airmen are trained and overseen to make sure that safe operating practices are followed. Flight standards inspectors ensure that the navigational and airport systems comply with established standards. Aircraft are designed and maintained to be safe. Aircraft navigation systems meet the requirements of the air traffic control system so that both know what to expect from each other, across countless combinations of ground, air, airspace and weather conditions. 

This integration would not be as effective if the many functions belonged to different organizations even within the government. Pulling a critical piece out of the government to create a new and far more contentious barrier to coordination would be damaging and would certainly result in more near misses and more.

It is true that some countries have implemented a privatized air traffic control function, but their ability to do so benefits from American leadership of the overall aviation system. FAA regulations, standards and processes form the foundation for most of the world and thereby hold the system together.

All pilots know that the FAA has problems in the way it does its job, so it is fair to ask how many of these might honestly be made better by moving air traffic to a privatized organization. By my count, damn few.  If perchance some improvement was found in one or two functions, it would be far outweighed by the breakage caused when air traffic was separated from the world air transportation system as a whole.

This leads to the most important conclusion of all: Air traffic control should not be privatized because doing so would gravely weaken the safety and effectiveness of the premier air transportation system on the planet.

James Van Laak is a former Deputy Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation at the FAA. He served in the U.S. Air Force as a F-106 and A-10 pilot and worked at DARPA and at NASA as a manager on the International Space Station.

Crazy Fun In Waco's Biplane on Floats
Paul Bertorelli

Waco Aircraft has been touring with a YMF-5 biplane on Aerocet floats and is it ever fun to fly. AVweb's Paul Bertorelli recently took a crack at the airplane with some water landings and airwork. Here's a complete video on the topic.


Continental Motors || Angle Wave Cylinders for Lycoming
Airbus A350-1000 Certified
Mary Grady

The latest model from Airbus, the A350-1000, is now certified by both the FAA and EASA, the company said on Wednesday. The airplane is a stretched version of the A350 XWB airliner. The 1000 features Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-97 engines, adding more power than earlier versions, as well as main landing gear with six wheels. The fuselage is stretched 23 feet, adding space for 40 more seats, and a total of 366 passengers in the standard three-class configuration. With the extra capacity, plus an 8,000-NM range, the new airplane is well-equipped to handle busy long-haul routes, Airbus says. First delivery is planned before the end of the year, to Qatar Airways.

The airplane first flew last November. Since then, three A350-1000 flight-test aircraft have accumulated over 1,600 flight hours. One of the jets flew 150 flight test hours in an airline-like operational environment to demonstrate its readiness for entry into service, Airbus said. The company says it has orders in hand for 169 of the airplanes, from 11 customers on five continents.

Three Missing After Navy Plane Crash
Mary Grady

A U.S. Navy C2-A aircraft with 11 crew and passengers on board crashed into the Philippine Sea on Wednesday afternoon, the Navy has reported. Eight of the personnel were rescued by the U.S. Navy “Golden Falcons” helicopter squadron, and all were reported in good condition. Three people are missing. "Our entire focus is on finding all of our sailors," said Rear Adm. Marc Dalton, commander, Task Force 70. "U.S. and Japanese ships and aircraft are searching the area of the crash, and we will be relentless in our efforts." The aircraft was conducting a routine transport flight carrying passengers and cargo from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.

The C2-A is assigned to a logistics support squadron deployed in Atsugi, Japan. The squadron’s mission includes the transport of high-priority cargo, mail, duty passengers and visitors between USS Ronald Reagan and shore bases throughout the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia. Several other ships and aircraft based in the region have joined the search for the missing crew. The incident will be investigated, according to the Navy public affairs office.

FAA Adds Drone Webinars
Mary Grady

An FAA program to integrate drones into the National Airspace System has drawn lots of interest, the FAA said this week, with more than 4,300 people signing up for online webinars about how they can participate. Based on the demand, the FAA has added two more webinar sessions. Each session will provide participants with an overview of the program and the application process, and the specific criteria and deadlines they will be required to meet. Registration is required. The results from the program will help to inform the development of future regulations that will expand safe UAS operations.

The program will solicit proposals from teams that want to fly more advanced UAS operations, such as beyond visual line-of-sight or over people. After the information session, applicants who want to participate must file a notice of intent with the FAA by 2 p.m. Eastern time on Nov. 28. Interested parties then must complete a request for inclusion by 2 p.m. EST on Dec. 13. Lead applicants then must submit a more detailed proposal by 2 p.m. EST on Jan. 4. The FAA will complete a Memorandum of Agreement with the chosen participants by May 7.

Goodyear Blimp Partners With Toys For Tots
Mary Grady

The Goodyear blimp fleet will be supporting the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots this holiday season, accepting donations at its airship bases in Pompano Beach, Florida, and Mogadore, Ohio. An open-hangar event will be held in Florida on Dec. 3. Visitors can bring new, unwrapped toys, or cash donations, and get an up-close look at Goodyear’s new-technology blimp, Wingfoot One. Florida residents can also enter a drawing to win a free ride on the Pompano blimp. Official rules and entry forms are posted online. The Ohio event will run Dec. 8, 9, and 10. Visitors there can also see the newest Goodyear blimp, still under construction.

Goodyear has been replacing its older blimps with newer technology, which gives the pilots greater control over the aircraft. AVweb’s Larry Anglisano took a tour of the Wingfoot One aircraft at Oshkosh in 2015; here’s the video.


Picture of the Week
There's a purely coincidental taildragger theme to this week's round of really nice photos, with the exception of the Tri-Pacer, should have remained a taildragger, in the editor's opinion. That's a particularly dynamic and beautiful image of the trike version of the Pacer by Dan Gray and earns our honours this week. Nice shot, Dan.

See all submissions

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Brainteasers Quiz #237: Become Worthy of The Air

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Flying IFR in the Mountains
Ted Spitzmiller

I’ve been privileged to fly the mountains of the southwest for more than 40 years—with many thousands of hours and more than 10,000 landings. But I’m not an expert, and I would be cautious of anyone who claims to be (Sparky Imeson comes to mind).

I have become reasonably proficient at understanding the risks of mountain flying and how to mitigate them. I’ll share a few of these as it is the season for the flat landers to head to the high country to enjoy their Nordic heritage.

Let me make a small but important distinction between high-elevation verses mountain airports. Santa Fe New Mexico (KSAF), and Centennial Colorado, (KAPA), are high-elevation airports (above 3000 feet MSL), but have no high peaks in the immediate vicinity. Aspen Colorado (KASE) and Angel Fire, New Mexico (KAXX) are mountain airports, above 3000 feet MSL, but nestled into valleys among significant mountains.

Mountain Weather

The first rule of thumb is to avoid IMC when flying into mountain airports—especially if you are a low-time instrument pilot. Bad weather is even “more bad” in mountainous terrain.

Winds are probably the most significant problem as the topography can accelerate velocities (venturi effect), and create vortices and downdrafts. Mountain waves, rotors and turbulence will not only challenge your piloting skills but ensure your passengers arrive with a new shade of green and a lap full of their last meal.

While five miles visibility might be OK in Oklahoma, unless you have at least 15 miles in the mountains (and forecast to stay that way) changes can occur rapidly especially in unsettled conditions. Mountains have a way of creating their own micro-climates. 

We are fortunate to have good weather reporting with remote AWOS systems being available in many mountain passes and unattended airports. Weather in the west has a high percentage of good flying days. But, make your schedule flexible so you don’t feel compelled to challenge Mother Nature.

Aircraft Performance  

We all know about density altitude and that the standard temperature at sea-level is 59° F (15° C). Unless your destination airport (which we’ll assume is at a modest 7000 foot MSL elevation) is reporting a cool 33° F, your plane will be performing as though at a higher altitude. Should this be a nice 85° summer day, your airplane will perform as though it is at 10,000 feet.

Filing IFR into some of the higher elevation airports in the western states will require that you can achieve MEAs of 16,000 feet. This is obviously an altitude that cannot be reached by most normally aspirated aircraft—assuming you do have oxygen for the requisite time at more than 12,500 feet.

If it sounds like I am being a pessimist—I am. Of course you would not want to be flying into an airport such as Aspen, Colorado (ASE) for the first time in IMC. After you have flown into a few of these interesting airports in day-VMC conditions, it should give you pause to attempt it in IMC. The proximity of the surrounding cumulo-granite is intimidating.

Even night VMC should give you second thoughts. Aspen requires that VFR pilots have accomplished a day landing in the preceding 12-months before attempting a night landing and night instrument approaches are prohibited.

Recall too that because of the altitude, your true airspeed will be greater by a factor of two-percent per thousand feet. Thus, landing at Aspen (elevation 7837) your approach speed will be almost 16-percent higher than what the ASI is telling you.

This can cause a noticeable difference in the timing from the FAF to the MAP. Fortunately, most of the airports in the mountainous regions have GPS and the timed approach is rare. 

Coupling this factor with the possibility that you may be landing downwind on a one-way runway, your speed control on final has to be precise.

Local Conditions

I operated out of Los Alamos, New Mexico (LAM) for 20 years. As mountain airports go, it is relatively easy. With a field elevation of 7171 feet, a restricted area south of the airport boundary, and a good size 10,441-foot mountain peak less than five miles to the west that dictates its one-way runway status. You land to the west (runway 27) and take-off to the east (runway 9). It is not uncommon to have the wind sock at either end of the runway pointing in opposing directions.

The LAM Instrument Approach Procedure takes advantage of a wide-open valley and provides two IAFs that lead-in either from the north or the south. Compared to Aspen’s 13,400-foot IAF, Los Alamos only requires 9500 feet—it’s a cinch. And the LAM MDA is reasonable 454 feet AGL and one-mile visibility, while KASE LOC/DME-E MDA is 2003 feet AGL and three miles.

My point is that not all mountain airports are created equal. You have to do a lot of homework to ensure you know the terrain surrounding the airport, the IAP and all of the notes and icons that provide additional information from the Airport Facility Directory—as well as the weather to be encountered. 

While LAM has a few restrictions (no circling approach for example) Aspen has a large list of items that include the requirement to get prior permission to use runway 15; that normal traffic patterns are not possible; and that high descent rates may be required.

The highest elevation airport in North America, is Leadville Colorado’s Lake County airport  (KLXV). At 9927 feet MSL, it also qualifies as a mountainous airport. Although it lies in an open valley, it has 14,000 foot peaks just five miles east and west. Departing IFR on DAVVY ONE requires a climb gradient of 364 feet-per-mile—550 fpm at 90 knots to 13,500 feet.

A Word to the Wise

With these few caveats, you can enjoy your time on the slopes. Plan your visit to do some sightseeing in another locale if you have to wait a day or so for the mountain airport to clear. And, if you consider my suggestions, we don’t even have to talk about icing.

While I used Aspen as an example, ten western states have airports that require mountainous considerations.

Ted Spitzmiller is a Gold Seal CFII, a FAASTeam representative and CAP member.

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

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