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Volume 24, Number 50a
December 11, 2017
 
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Air Force To Try Enlisted Pilots
 
Russ Niles
 
 

After looking to the airlines, the recently retired and just about anywhere else it could to fill a growing shortage of pilots, the Air Force is now looking at its own ranks, its enlisted ranks, to fill the void. The Air Force Times reports the Air Force is testing the concept by including five enlisted airmen along with 15 officers in a special six-month trial training course that could lead to the routine inclusion of enlisted ranks to train as combat-ready pilots. As with most air forces, the USAF now requires that all of its pilots be college graduates and the test is specifically designed to test the validity of that requirement in turning out qualified pilots.

“Enlisted volunteers will be pioneers in innovating Air Force aviator recruitment, selection, and training processes by demonstrating the potential of non-college graduates to succeed in a rigorous pilot training environment,” Maj. Gen. Timothy Leahy, commander of the Second Air Force, wrote in an email to his commanders that was obtained by the Air Force Times. “This program will provide data to [Air Education and Training Command Commander Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast] on the potential for enlisted members to train to fly modern combat aircraft.” An Air Force spokeswoman told the publication the test is part of a broader study into the ability to train enlisted personnel in a variety of occupations that are now reserved for officers. “AETC chose to focus on flying training because of the urgency involved with the enterprise,” said Marilyn Holliday, spokeswoman for the Air Education and Training Command. “However, our focus is on how airmen learn, not necessarily what they learn, exploring technology and how that technology can produce better and faster learning.” A standalone training facility will be set up in Austin, Texas, and the students will fly T-6 trainers, the same aircraft used at the main training facilities.

Icon's Demise Exaggerated (Corrected)
 
Geoff Rapoport
 
 

After Icon reported that they were raising the price of a new A5, my inbox came alive with predictions that this was Icon’s last gasp. Comparison were many to Eclipse Aerospace, and its CEO Vern Raburn. One person described it as a corporate “suicide.” My favorite email on the topic from a reader ended: “You're an idiot and I can't wait till you go under.” (“You” in this context seems to be some hybrid of Icon Aircraft and its CEO Kirk Hawkins.) The predictions accelerated following Roy Halladay’s death at the controls of one of the first production A5s, though with somewhat less glee on the part of the prognosticators.

An analogy could easily be drawn to Cirrus. The Duluth airframer is now king of the light aviation world, selling almost twice as many piston singles as its closest competitors. In 1999, the first factory demonstration SR20 took the life of the company’s chief test pilot, Scott Anderson. The crash was the result of a design defect, corrected prior to any customer deliveries, that caused the ailerons to bind against the wing in flight. There was also a baseball star who died in a Cirrus. In 2006 Cory Lidle was killed when his Cirrus SR20 crashed into a New York City apartment building. 

The Cirrus comparison is actually somewhat unfair to Icon. There’s no suggestion that the crash that killed Icon’s chief test pilot, Jon Karkow, was the result of a design defect. While the cause of Halladay’s crash remains under investigation, the NTSB preliminary report and mainstream media accounts don't seem to implicate the aircraft. 

Hawkins likens the A5 to a new class of motorsport toy, like a jet-ski, dirt bike or snowmobile. To say that the A5 can be dangerous if used inappropriately is like saying the same about a motorcycle—profoundly obvious. People still buy motorcycles. 

I’ve only spoken to one A5 deposit holder since the price increase. After a chance encounter, I helped him find some hangar space at Palo Alto. He’s buying two, one for his East Coast home and one for his West Coast home. If not for the price hike, perhaps he’d have bought three, but I doubt it. 

Even if Icon went bankrupt, they may be too big to fail entirely. The very significant investments by Icon’s investors would be wiped out, but what Icon has built is probably worth more than the sum of its parts. Someone would acquire the assets in bankruptcy and keep making airplanes. (Tecnam would be a natural suitor.) Does anyone even know how many times Mooney has gone bankrupt? 

So why the giddiness and certainty of those predicting Icon’s demise? It could be the company's swagger, especially when it started. The company has hired a lot of fighter pilots and CEO Kirk Hawkins is an archetypal former F-16 pilot. I don’t think any of those rooting for Icon's demise have met Hawkins personally, but his reputation precedes him. I’ve met a lot of fighter pilots, and they’re generally more pilot than fighter. Confident, to be sure, but also a little introverted and slightly nerdy. Hawkins, a former F-16 pilot, is a caricature of a fighter pilot—big dude, square jaw, “strong” personality. He's also articulate, thoughtful, self aware and clearly passionate about his mission to make aviation attractive and accessible to a new generation of pilots. I still don’t understand the naysayers’ excitement, but Hawkin’s personality is likely a factor. 

The type of change Hawkins is trying to lead comes with challenges and sometimes tragedy and there are some parallels to Cirrus's experience. Cirrus wanted to change the safety calculation in general aviation with the parachute but it found that all the gear in the world was irrelevant unless pilots were trained properly to use it. Icon has taken some steps in the same direction with its low-level flying guidelines and it's likely the recent accidents will have an impact on its in-house training program. Aviators and aviation are always learning and sometimes the lessons come really hard.

You don’t need to like the Icon, and you don’t have fly their airplanes, but I predict they have many more left to sell.

 

 
 
 
Trifan 600 VTOL
 
Russ Niles
 
 

There are plenty of contenders for the point-to-point personal aircraft market but XTI is aiming its Trifan 600 at business aviation. VTOL with a 300-knot cruise at $350 an hour is the projection.

 
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Pilatus PC-24 Certified
 
Geoff Rapoport
 
 

After 11 years of development, Pilatus has received type certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the FAA for its PC-24 “Super Versatile” jet. Three prototype aircraft flew a combined 2,205 hours around the globe prior to certification. “The PC-24 is the first ever Pilatus business jet. Naturally, the requirements associated with obtaining certification for this sort of aircraft are extremely rigorous, and I need hardly mention that we faced some big challenges. In 2013 we announced that the PC-24 would be ready in 2017, and now, shortly before the end of the year, we have achieved exactly that. And all performance data promised to our first 84 customers have been achieved or even exceeded,” says Oscar Schwenk, Chairman of Pilatus.

The company says the first PC-24 will be delivered in January to PlaneSense, the East Coast-based fractional operator now flying one of the world’s largest fleets of Pilatus PC-12s. The PC-24’s claim to fame is its ability to operate from shorter and more primitive strips than are typically demanded by business jets. The advertised takeoff distance for the PC-24 is only 2,810 feet. It is also equipped with a large cargo door, useful for medevac or other special missions where the company hopes the PC-24 will create new markets previously unserviced by small, civilian jet offerings.

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Crash Pilot Not Properly Licensed
 
Russ Niles
 
 

The pilot who died along with his four passengers in the crash of a Beech Baron on the Caribbean island of St. Croix last week apparently didn’t have the multi-engine rating or night experience that would have been minimum requirements for the flight. David Richardson was the owner of the Baron but the FAA airmen’s registry lists him as a private pilot certified with only a basic single-engine land rating. He had a first class medical, however. The Virgin Islands Consortium reported that the Baron crashed last Thursday at Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix, but Richardson lived in the U.S. Virgin Islands and had the Baron registered there so was under FAA jurisdiction. There is no FAA presence in the U.S. Virgin Islands and aviation there is administered from the San Juan, Puerto Rico, FSDO.

The aircraft’s registration was renewed by Richardson in March of 2016 and he was the only owner. Richardson took off from St. Croix just before 9 p.m. and reported engine problems. Witnesses reported seeing flames coming from one of the engines. He tried to turn back to the airport but crashed in a field adjacent to the runway. Three of the passengers were affiliated with the band Stylee, a popular local group. Assuming the FAA records are accurate, Richardson’s lack of qualifications will cancel any insurance he held.

Police Helicopter Pilot Arrests Laser Suspect
 
Geoff Rapoport
 
 

Police helicopter pilots regularly assist with the apprehension of suspects accused of pointing laser pointers at aircraft, but they rarely land to make the arrest themselves. Florida’s Bay News Channel 9 reports that Pasco County Sheriff’s Office helicopter pilot Stephen Bowman tracked the laser wielding suspect to his home, landed in a nearby vacant lot, then marched over the man’s house to confront him. "I immediately took him into custody and then that's when he was a little confused on who I was," Bowman told Bay News. "I explained that I was a deputy pilot for the Sheriff's Office, and he wanted to know where my helicopter was."

Bowman told Bay News 9 that he had been supporting sheriff's deputies responding to a report of a suspect barricaded in a home, when he was targeted with a laser pointer and took matters into his own hands. "It was extremely satisfying," Bowman told local reporters. "A lot of times, we don't get to interact in a sense on the ground with the deputies. So, being able to, from start to finish, follow this through and able to successfully apprehend the subject was very satisfying." The suspect, Ryan Fluke, 27, was taken into custody and charged with misuse of laser lighting devices, a third-degree felony.

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Boeing Eyes 767 Production Boost
 
Russ Niles
 
 

Rather than plunge into the development of two new clean sheet designs, it now seems like Boeing is going to spend a few years concentrating on the tried and true. Numerous industry publications are reporting that production of the 767-300 will be ramped up in response to airlines that need a 250- to 350-seat airliner that doesn’t need the range or come with the price tag of the 787 Dreamliner. A 767 is about half the price of a $275 million 787. It’s also the second-oldest design still in production by Boeing (the 737 is the oldest) and entered service in 1982.

According to industry newsletter Leeham News and Comment, Boeing has been polling its supply chain on the feasibility of building more 767s and that seems to have gone well. But putting resources into that appears to have pushed back the timelines of building what has become known as the New Midmarket Aircraft (797) and the long-awaited clean-sheet baby Boeing to replace the 737. It now looks like the 797 will be in revenue service in 2027 instead of 2024 (assuming it’s launched) and the 737 replacement will be ready for passengers in the 2030s.

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Picture of the Week
 
 
We say it every time we get a batch of photos of airplanes sitting on the ground: airplanes were meant to fly. Having said that, there are some nice ramp pix here but even though it's low resolution (we like 1-3 meg files) the Stearman and smoke was the best of the batch this week. Rod Hoctor contributed the winner.

See all submissions

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Short Final
 

We were in a long holding pattern at STL on a typical bad day there. Approach Control gave a direct clearance to another aircraft and canceled his hold.

Pilot: "Roger, cleared direct; you read my mind."

Anonymous voice: "It was a short book."  


Tom Wilson

 

 
Brainteasers Quiz #238: Cool Graphics, But Will It Fly?
 

In order to establish a meaningful relationship with your online robo-briefer, inflight ATC partner or the mechanic whose barely suppressed grin means your annual is about to get ugly, you'll need to ace this quiz.

Click here to take the quiz.

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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 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.

September 1, 2017, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Velocity SUV Experimental

At about 1236 Eastern time, the airplane was substantially damaged while attempting to land at Albert Whitted Airport. The private pilot and passenger were not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

The pilot later stated the approach to land was steeper and faster than normal as he was aware of cranes near Runway 18’s approach end. The airplane landed long and instead of going around, the pilot continued with the landing. The airplane went off the runway and into Tampa Bay. Observed weather included wind from 170 degrees at eight knots.

September 2, 2017, Lyndonville, Vt.

Piper PA-28-181 Archer II/III

The airplane was substantially damaged at about 1810 Eastern time when it collided with terrain during takeoff. The private pilot and two passengers were not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

After taxiing, the pilot performed a flight control deflection check. He said there was corresponding movement with the flight control surfaces, but that resistance in the controls was light. His concern led him to perform the check eight times before initiating the takeoff. After liftoff, the airplane was unresponsive—slow to respond—in the roll axis.

The pilot elected to close the throttle and perform a forced landing to the grass area beyond the departure end of the runway. During the landing, the wings, cabin, empennage and the tail section of the airplane were damaged. Flight control continuity was established from the individual flight controls to all flight control surfaces, except for the left aileron. The aileron was significantly impact damaged, and its control rod was fractured. Each half of the fractured control rod was retained for further examination.

September 2, 2017, Cascade, Idaho

Glasair Glastar Experimental

At about 1030 Mountain time, the airplane was destroyed when it impacted terrain while maneuvering. The private pilot was seriously injured; his pilot-rated passenger was fatally injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

Earlier in the day, the accident pilot flew the airplane with a flight instructor for a checkout. He planned to ferry the airplane to its new owner the next day. Subsequently and after adding 38.9 gallons of fuel, the accident pilot took off with his pilot-rated cousin, heading for a backcountry airstrip. While en route, the pilot inadvertently flew into a “box canyon” and realized the airplane could not outclimb the terrain. He began a turn to escape, but the airplane stalled and impacted the ground. The impact site elevation was approximately 7500 feet msl.

September 3, 2017, Merritt Island, Fla.

Piper PA-32R-300 Cherokee Lance

The airplane was substantially damaged at about 0908 Eastern time when it collided with water shortly after takeoff. The private pilot and three passengers were not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

Prior to the flight, the pilot fueled the airplane to a total of 80 gallons. The preflight inspection and engine run-up did not highlight any anomalies. The extended the flaps “two notches” and rotated the airplane at 80 knots about two-thirds down the 3601-foot asphalt runway. As the airplane climbed above 20 feet agl, it experienced a decrease of engine power prior to the landing gear being retracted. The airplane was unable to climb without entering a stall. It then drifted left of the runway heading and landed in shallow water about 1000 feet from the departure end of the runway.

Weather observed eight miles southeast of the accident site included wind from 330 degrees at six knots. The pilot noted that although the automated surface observation system reported the wind from 350 degrees at five knots, the wind was light and variable at the time of the accident. Additionally, an airplane was in the airport traffic pattern and using Runway 11, so the pilot elected to depart in that direction.

September 4, 2017, Kodiak, Alaska

Cessna U206G Stationair

At about 1430 Alaska time, the amphibious float-equipped airplane sustained substantial damage while attempting a water takeoff. The airline transport pilot and three passengers were not injured. Marginal visual conditions existed.

The pilot later stated the airplane encountered small swells during the takeoff run and began to lose speed while simultaneously pitching forward. In an effort to correct for the forward pitching moment, the pilot applied full aft elevator. Shortly thereafter, he aborted the takeoff, but the airplane continued pitching forward and was struck by a larger swell. The right forward float strut fractured and the airplane rolled to the right, which resulted in substantial damage to the right wing’s lift strut. An initial examination of the airplane by the pilot revealed that the left nose wheel was partially deployed with the landing gear handle in the up position.

September 4, 2017, Santa Paula, Calif.

Boeing A75N1 (PT17) Stearman

The airplane was substantially damaged when it impacted a dry river bed at about 1358 Pacific time. The commercial pilot and passenger were not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

According to the pilot, the airplane’s takeoff roll and departure were uneventful. However, the airplane’s climb performance was reduced after the airplane transitioned to its initial climb. As the airplane reached about 250 feet agl, it stopped climbing, so the pilot turned to the downwind leg of the airport traffic pattern. The airplane then began to sink into a dry riverbed. The pilot completed a stabilized approach and landed flat, but during touchdown the airplane contacted thick brush, nosed over and came to rest inverted. A witness reported that he could not hear the engine, but observed the propeller spinning throughout the airplane’s descent.

September 5, 2017, Jacksonburg, W.V.

Cirrus Design SR20

At about 1148 Eastern time, the airplane was destroyed when it collided with terrain. The private pilot and passenger were fatally injured. Instrument conditions prevailed; an IFR flight plan had been filed.

Earlier, the pilot reported entering an area of moderate to heavy precipitation. He deviated off-course, reported clear of the precipitation, and then was cleared direct to a nearby Vortac. Shortly thereafter, the airplane entered a rapid descent from 8000 feet msl until radar contact was lost at 3000 feet. There were no further communications with the airplane. The airplane was located on September 8, in a densely wooded area about 1500 feet from its last known radar position.

The surface weather observation closest to the accident site at 1153 included 10 miles’ visibility, thunderstorms in the vicinity and a broken ceiling at 1800 feet.

September 6, 2017, Las Vegas, Nev.

Boeing 757-232

The airplane, operated by Delta Air Lines as a Part 121 scheduled domestic passenger flight, sustained a left engine undercowl fire during takeoff. The crew completed the quick reference handbook procedures, shut down the left engine, and discharged one of the fire bottles. The flight crew then initiated engine-out procedures to return to the airport. On the downwind leg, a second left engine fire warning indication was reported and the second fire bottle was discharged. The crew made an uneventful overweight landing and the airplane was met by rescue and firefighting equipment on the runway. Fire retardant was sprayed into the engine and the airplane subsequently taxied to the gate under its own power. No injuries were reported to passengers or crew.

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

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