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Volume 24, Number 48a
November 27, 2017
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Military Accident Rate Up
Russ Niles

The military aircraft accident rate has jumped significantly in the past year and Sen. John McCain has said it’s the natural result of years of penny pinching with the military. "Perhaps the greatest harm to our national security and our military is self-inflicted. I repeat, self-inflicted," McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said earlier this year on the senate floor. "We are killing more of our own people in training than our enemies are in combat.” There have been 22 non-combat military aircraft accidents since this time last year, up 38 percent. A total of 37 personnel have been killed in the last year, not including the loss of three service members in the crash of a C-2 Greyhound in the Pacific earlier this week. A dual engine failure is reportedly being investigated as the cause.

The budget cuts are also affecting readiness, according to According to the data it’s gathered far fewer than half the combined aircraft inventory of the U.S. military services are flyable and fewer still are ready for action. A parts shortage has maintenance techs cannibalizing some aircraft to keep others flying.  But perhaps the greatest threat is the stress on the existing pilot pool that the current shortage of 2,000 military aviators is causing. Pilots are being shuffled from stateside deployments to meet operational requirements and that’s creating shortages at training units and stress in the personal lives of the pilots. "[The] shell game leaves non-deployed squadrons well below the number of jets required to keep aviators proficient," Navy Vice Adm. Troy Shoemaker told the House Armed Services subcommittee earlier this month, according to

What's True
Mary Grady


There’s been a lot of talk lately about “fake news” and “alternative facts,” and the aviation world can’t escape the discussion. We were reminded of this recently when Bruce Landsberg, a well-known GA safety advocate for many years, faced some tough questioning during a hearing before Congress, where he was seeking approval for his recommended appointment to the NTSB.

The nomination might have seemed a shoo-in, given Landsberg’s long resume and decades of work on behalf of aviation safety at AOPA and the Air Safety Foundation. But the tough questioning centered on one issue — does Landsberg support the 1,500-hour rule for pilots? The senators on the panel cited several times over the years when Landsberg had questioned the rule’s usefulness. 

The rule was passed in the wake of the 2009 Colgan Air crash. "It's been safer since the 1,500-hour rule was put into effect," said Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a former military pilot. There have been no fatal airline crashes in the U.S. since the law was passed, Duckworth said. 

This is a classic example of confusing correlation with causation. Senator Duckworth has the facts correct. But can the one incident — the passing of the new rule — really explain the outcome — an accident-free stretch? 

Landsberg had expressed a more nuanced take on the problem — "Pilots should be hired and trained by solid criteria, not arbitrary numbers,” he wrote in 2010. He noted that the Colgan Air pilots had more than 1,500 hours in their logbooks, yet still were not up to handling the situation they faced on that fatal night. 

What matters are skills and judgment. Hours in the cockpit count too, but we all know there are pilots out there who are never going to learn, no matter how many hours they have. Others are ready to do the job on day one. 

So is the long accident-free stretch due to the Colgan rule? Or are there a million other factors and variables at work, including dumb luck (see SFO)? Does it make a difference to require 1,500 hours of flight time for a right-seat pilot? Or is the rule just an arbitrary requirement that makes people feel better and more secure while causing major headaches for airlines and new pilots? Those are complicated and useful questions to explore.

But to declare that the matter is settled — proven by the accident record — doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. It ignores a bedrock truth that (hopefully) is taught in high-school science class. Correlation is not causation.

Hooley and Harris' Cool Jet Eze
Geoff Rapoport

The really cool thing about the experimental aircraft field is that you can build anything you want. And that's exactly what Lance Hooley and Robert Harris did with their GE58-powered composite single-seat canard design reminiscent of the famed Rutan Long-EZ. AVweb's Geoff Rapoport spoke with Hooley and Harris about this unique airplane for this original AVweb video.

Pilot In Powerline Collision Cites Lack Of Marking
Russ Niles

A pilot whose certificate was suspended when his L-39 sliced through power lines crossing a canyon in Colorado in 2015 is now saying the utility company is to blame for damage and injuries that resulted from the incident. Stars and Stripes is reporting that former Marine pilot Brian Evans claims in response to a lawsuit that Xcel Energy should have marked the seven transmission lines his jet trainer sliced through on May 28, 2015, while he was flying at low level through De Beque Canyon, about 25 miles east of his departure point of Grand Junction. The power lines fell on a freeway going through the canyon and the suit was launched by Steve Centofanti, who said he lost feeling in his hands and was terrified by the mishap. He also said his hearing was damaged by the noise of the aircraft when Evans powered out of the canyon.

The passenger in the Albatros, Raymond Mez Davoudi, has also blamed the energy company. Centofanti's vehicle and other vehicles on the freeway were damaged by the falling cables. In suspending Evans’s certificate, the FAA reportedly determined he was flying less than 500 feet above the floor of the canyon. The aircraft suffered some minor damage but Evans was able to get it back to Grand Junction for a safe landing. Evans lost his ticket for six months over the mishap.

Electronics International 'Aviation Alert! Short video on how EI saved this pilot's life
Valkyrie Continues After Testing Mishap
Geoff Rapoport

Photos shared with AVweb show the Cobalt Co50 Valkyrie undergoing flight testing at Hayward Executive Airport (KHWD) this summer before a test flight setback in September sidelined the newer of Cobalt’s two test aircraft. According to the NTSB preliminary report, after determining that the ailerons were not effective, the ATP-rated test pilot “reasoned that he would be able to land the airplane while configured at an increased airspeed using steady thrust control and the rudder for directional control.” At approximately 10 feet above the runway, the pilot experienced an abrupt loss of lift followed by a hard landing, says the NTSB. Upon impact, the right landing gear separated from the airframe, resulting in damage to the right-wing spar. The accident took place on the 11,800-foot runway at Castle Airport (formerly Castle Air Force Base) on Sept. 5, 2017. The pilot was not injured in the crash.

The TSIO-550 powered Valkyrie has been the subject of, alternatively, a great deal of excitement and suspicion in the aviation and mainstream press after its debut in November 2015. The Cobalt website suggests the V-tail, canard-style four- to five-seater will be certified under the homebuilt/experimental category, but likely with the minimum legal level of buyer involvement—similar to the strategy employed by Evolution Aircraft. The current advertised base price is $635,000. Cobalt’s David Loury declined to be interviewed by AVweb, but says the company is focused on the first batch of production aircraft.

1,200 LB MOOSE. BRING IT. Turbo Stationair HD - Textron Aviation
Skydiving In A Car
Russ Niles

Whether the U.S.’s current political circumstances were the driving force or the theme was an afterthought, some skydivers in a remote area of the Southwest rode made a political statement with a modified hulk of a car for most of their trip back to earth after rolling it out of the back of a Shorts regional aircraft. A total of seven jumpers, five in the car and two pushing it out the back of the aircraft, were involved in the bizarre jump. They apparently used the car as a metaphor for their hopes for the next election by branding the car “Trump 2020.”

A lot of preparation went into the jump. The car’s roof was removed and all sharp edges and protrusions were taped over to prevent their rigs from snagging. The car behaved remarkably well during freefall, pitching back and forth but generally maintaining a flat attitude and it appears to have had a lot to do with the five passengers. After they all bailed out, the car tumbled chaotically to the desert floor with predictable results. The stunt went off with only one hitch. One of the skydivers outside the car smacked his hand on it as they left the aircraft but landed safely.

Pilots ID'd In T-38 Crash
Geoff Rapoport

The Air Force has released the names of the two pilots involved in the T-38 Talon crash at Laughlin Air Force Base on Monday. Captain Paul Barbour, 32, from Van Nuys, California, was killed in the crash of the twin-engine supersonic trainer. The Air Force identified the surviving pilot earlier this week as Captain Joshua Hammervold. Hammervold successfully ejected and was released from the Val Verde Regional Medical Center on Tuesday in good condition. The Air Force has not released any information on the purpose of the fatal flight. Both pilots were instructors in Laughlin’s 87th Flying Training Squadron.

“Tragic events like this are difficult for everyone ― family, friends, co-workers, supervisors and our entire Air Force,” said Colonel Charlie Velino, commander of the 47th Flying Training Wing. “Every day, our pilots take a risk as they step into the cockpit, and every day they operate with the utmost skill, professionalism and dedication to train the next generation of flying airmen and to ensure the safety of this great nation. Rest assured, we are doing everything we can to support the investigation and prevent future incidents.” Official determinations on the cause of accidents by an Air Force accident investigation board generally take six to nine months.

The T-38 is used primarily by the Air Force as an advanced trainer to introduce pilots who have been selected for fighter/bomber training to the flight characteristics of high-performance jet aircraft. The 1960s-era supersonic trainers are due for replacement as part of the Air Force T-X contract. A winner has not yet been selected for the many-billion-dollar contract.

Take the Guesswork Out of Your Aviation-Related Purchases with 'Aviation Consumer' Magazine
Picture of the Week
Every region has its unique aviation circumstances and dodging storms is a fact of life in Oklahoma. Dee Ann Ediger captured the spirit perfectly. Nice shot.

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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.

Aviation Consumer Engine Shop Survey

Overhauling an engine is a big investment, with downtime, reliability, and confidence hanging in the balance. The editors at Aviation Consumer magazine want to know about your engine overhaul experience and the experience you had dealing with the shop. We'd appreciate you taking a couple of minutes to answer these questions. Take the survey here:

General Aviation Accident Bulletin

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 9, 2017, Wellston, Ohio

Cessna 172S Skyhawk SP

At about 1220 Eastern time, the airplane experienced a loss of engine power while maneuvering at low altitude. The pilot and passenger sustained minor injuries, and the airplane sustained substantial damage. Visual conditions prevailed for the pipeline observation flight.

When the engine lost power, the pilot initiated a forced landing to an open green space between trees. During the forced landing, the airplane impacted rolling, grass terrain and a barbed wire fence, sustaining substantial damage to the right wing and fuselage. After the engine was decowled, a large hole on the top of the engine crankcase was noted.

August 9, 2017, Tower City, Penn.

Pietenpol Air Camper Experimental

The airplane was substantially damaged following a loss of control during takeoff at 0926 Eastern time. The private pilot was seriously injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

According to airport surveillance video, the airplane’s nose veered left during the takeoff roll. The takeoff continued, and the airplane pitched up to a steep, nose-high attitude, rolled to the left, then descended to the ground. Impact occurred in a left-wing-low, steep nose-down attitude. Airframe total time was 9.8 hours, i.e., within the Phase I test period.

August 11, 2017, Greenwood, Miss.

Piper PA-31T Cheyenne

At about 1330 Eastern time, the airplane experienced multiple systems anomalies while en route. The private pilot was not injured. The airplane sustained minor damage. Visual conditions prevailed.

While en route, the landing gear warning horn sounded, which the pilot was unable to silence. The pilot elected to return to his departure airport for a precautionary landing, at which time the autopilot engaged. The pilot spent several hours trying to disengage the autopilot including conversations with pilots on the ground and one with Piper Aircraft. Eventually, the pilot was able to land the airplane using variable thrust from the engines.

August 19, 2017, Marietta, Penn.

Smith Aerostar 601P

The airplane was substantially damaged at about 1642 Eastern time, during takeoff. The solo commercial pilot was not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

According to the pilot, the airplane swerved to the right during the takeoff roll. The pilot corrected to the left and aborted the takeoff but the airplane departed the left side of the runway and collided with an embankment. According to an aircraft mechanic, the pilot had not previously flown the accident airplane make and model. The mechanic later received a call from the pilot who informed him about the accident and indicated that the airplane “got away from him.”

August 20, 2017, Palm Coast, Fla.

Mooney M20C

At about 2055 Eastern time, the airplane was substantially damaged during a forced landing following a total loss of engine power after takeoff. The pilot and passenger were not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

During the takeoff, the pilot noticed that the engine was not producing full power. At about 400 feet agl, the engine lost all power. During the ensuing touchdown on a road, the pilot noticed flames coming into the cockpit around the passenger’s feet. He stopped the airplane and both occupants egressed as quickly as possible. The pilot stated he did not turn off the master switch or boost pump, nor could he get back in the airplane as the flames were too intense. Subsequent examination revealed the cabin section had been consumed by fire. The engine compartment was black from soot but intact. The wings, tail section and landing gear also were intact.

August 22, 2017, Pacific Ocean

Hawker Siddeley Hunter Mk.58

The airplane was substantially damaged when it impacted open ocean at about 1618 Pacific time during an exercise with a U.S. Navy fighter. The airline transport pilot received serious injuries. Visual conditions prevailed.

The U.S. Navy airplane was about 1000 feet abeam the accident airplane’s port side when it suddenly turned right and crossed in front of the accident airplane’s flight path. The pilot of the accident airplane entered a 60-degree right turn and pitched up to follow the military fighter, but the airplane entered a rapid left bank, followed by a nose-low pitch attitude. The accident airplane rolled wings-level and then immediately rolled into another 60-degree right turn, followed by a rapid left bank. The airplane repeated the same sequence at least once more before it entered a 40-degree nose-down attitude and its pilot ejected. The witness reported the accident airplane appeared to depart controlled flight about 15 seconds after the military airplane crossed in front of it.

August 28, 2017, Ellabell, Ga.

Beech A36 Bonanza

At about 0849 Eastern time, the airplane was destroyed when it collided with trees and terrain following a complete loss of engine power. The pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. The airplane sustained damage to all major components during the accident sequence. Visual conditions prevailed; the flight operated on an IFR flight plan.

On-site investigation revealed the forward fuselage was crushed rearward. Both wings exhibited rearward crushing with the right wing crushing being more pronounced than the left. The crush angles indicated a ground impact about 25 degrees from vertical. Examination of the engine revealed a hole in the top right rear of the engine case that was about two inches in diameter. The crankshaft was visible through the hole; there was no connecting rod attached to the rod journal.

August 28, 2017, San Jose, Calif.

Cessna 560XL Citation Excel

The airplane sustained minor damage to its right main landing gear wheel well area during a landing mishap at about 1900 Pacific time. The two airline transport pilots and three passengers were not injured. Visual conditions prevailed. The airplane was operated on an IFR flight plan as a FAR Part 135 on-demand air taxi flight.

During the landing roll, the airplane veered to the right. The flying pilot corrected back to the runway centerline and then exited onto a taxiway before stopping. Examination revealed the aft portion of the right main landing gear’s trunnion pivot pin was not in place. The separated aft portion of the right main gear trunnion protruded through the top of the wing and the landing gear strut and wheel were positioned out and aft in about a 45-degree angle from its original position.

August 29, 2017, Lake Havasu City, Ariz.

Beech M35 Bonanza

At about 0639 Mountain time, the airplane was substantially damaged during a forced landing. The solo private pilot/owner received minor injuries. Visual conditions prevailed.

The airplane was equipped with six fuel tanks (a main, auxiliary and tip tank in each wing). The pilot conducted the takeoff and climbout, as he always did, on the left main tank. While in cruise, he switched to the auxiliary tanks, and later, to the right main tank. He also turned on the two pumps to transfer fuel out of the tip tanks. Later, when he had the destination airport in sight during a descent, he switched the fuel selector to the left main tank for landing. The engine stopped producing power but continued to windmill. Remedial actions, including switching tanks, did not restore power. The pilot determined he would not make the runway and selected an open desert area as his landing location. The airplane landed hard on the nose landing gear, which collapsed as the airplane slid to a stop. Recovery personnel reported none of the fuel tanks were breached. The airplane had about 43 gallons of fuel on board, all of which was contained in the two main tanks.

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

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Short Final

My friend was flying his Mooney 201 around the world. Needless to say, it was way over gross weight, flying with ferry tanks under a ferry permit. 

On departure from an Australian airport on a hot morning, he was only able to manage about a 200 FPM climb to his initial altitude of 5,000 feet.

Controller: “Do you want to continue your climb, or would you like to stop there and rest for a while?"

Lars Perkins


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