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Volume 25, Number 4a
January 22, 2018
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GA Groups Want FAA Registry To Stay Open
Russ Niles

While the National Airspace System remains open and accessible to all aircraft, the government shutdown, which began Saturday morning, could affect thousands of owners, operators and pilots if it persists. Air traffic control and all the associated operations are designated as essential services but most of the FAA’s ground-bound services will be shuttered during the shutdown. Perhaps the biggest impact will come from the closure of aircraft registration services. That will, of course, prevent aircraft sales but it will also affect owners whose registration is expiring during the shutdown. Flying with expired registration is illegal and NBAA estimates 10,000 registrations expire every month. Leaders of six GA organizations wrote Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao Sunday urging her to staff the registry office in Oklahoma City under the Antideficiency Act, which requires the government to maintain services “vital to protection of human life and property.” The GA groups say maintaining an up-to-date registry is essential for oversight and to fulfill the U.S.’s international legal obligations. Flight Standards District Offices are all but closed and the services normally provided suspended. 

There is a host of agencies besides the FAA that are involved in aircraft operations that are also affected by the shutdown. Aircraft returning to the U.S. from other countries have to keep an eye on the normal opening hours of the ports of entry they will be using for customs and immigration inspections because overtime services might not be available. The TSA will continue to run but some offices of the department of transportation will be closed. NBAA says a prolonged closure could have severe effects on general aviation that will persist for months to come. There’s already an aircraft registration backlog and the shutdown will create an even larger stack of applications to deal with when staffers finally return to work.

Continental Motors || Angle Wave Cylinders for Lycoming
Halladay: Guilt By Innuendo
Paul Bertorelli

In the world of economics, there’s a concept called tragedy of the commons or sometimes freedom of the commons. The underlying principle is that in an economy of shared resources, individual members act against the good of all by consuming more than their share or acting to spoil the resource. The classic example is a public pasture used by a group of farmers. If one places too many of his cows in the field, they overgraze and spoil what had been a benefit for all.

I’m stretching the concept to apply to the recent findings on the Roy Halladay Icon A5 accident. The commons here is not a shared resource, but a shared privilege to fly airplanes relatively unfettered by government intervention. The conceptual spoiling of the commons is the recent report that an autopsy revealed that Halladay had a cocktail of drugs in his system, including intoxicating levels of Zolpidem, a hypnotic sedative prescribed as a sleep aid.

This finding has not been confirmed through official documentation so for the sake of discussion, I’m going to stipulate that it’s true. It will likely never be known if that was causal or even a factor in the crash because we have no way of knowing how Halladay might have been affected by the drug. So we’re at the stage of guilt by innuendo.

But knowing the general risk of flying while using such drugs, did Halladay have a larger duty to the general aviation community to not do what he appears to have done? My answer? No, at least not to protect anything to do with his fellow pilots’ privileges or the industry at large. I’m sure we’ll hear some tear-eyed whining about this, but I don’t buy the argument. When any of us signed up to be pilots, we didn’t agree to decision-making based on some creed of behavior, some unspoken code that said we wouldn’t do anything to make the industry look bad, even if we could agree on what that is exactly. Your look bad is probably different than mine.

In this context, protecting you as a pilot from bad juju PR occupies the bottom rung on a ladder whose top step is responsibility to self, to immediate family and to anyone on the ground (or in the airplane) from direct harm. In my view, the guy in the next hangar or the corner office at AOPA barely has standing.

The reason I think this relates to what I wrote about a couple of weeks ago with regard to a pilot departing in zero-zero conditions. As I noted, Part 91 is virtually wide open to unrestricted use of an airplane. What rules do exist can be, and often are, easily circumvented.

When we thunder about not wanting such people in aviation, who’s supposed to be the judge of that? The FAA? You Mr. CFII? You Mr. DPE or, better, how about a committee of like-minded airplane owners? Then we can make aviation an exclusive little club composed of only “responsible” people who think just like us and have the same tolerance for risk.

Nope, not gonna work. People of all walks come into aviation for all kinds of different reasons. The overwhelming majority are sober, responsible and get scared when they should get scared. Some don’t. Halladay may or may not have been one of those. He may have just been clueless.

That’s not to say it doesn’t go the other way, though. We as a community can and should advise and intervene when we see pilots habitually taking over-the-top risks. But careful here, for the reason I stated above. Your idea of risk is not the same as mine and in stepping in, you can just as easily step in it. It’s a delicate gift of diplomacy to tell someone they’re about to do something stupid in a way that will convince them not to. I don’t have it. I’m sure some reading this blog do. Maybe you could convince perfect strangers to pee in a cup to be, you know, sure. 

One thing that complicates this is the monsters-under-the-bed way we generally write about risk in aviation publications. We always advise the safe way out; the lowest common denominator. Never fly in ice. Be careful of clouds. Thunderstorms will kill you. Don’t fly if you have a cold. Yet in the real world, risks are graduated, not black and white. Raise your hand if you’ve never ignored the label that says don’t operate heavy machinery while taking this medication. That’s not an argument for being a scofflaw, it’s a recognition of reality.

This has come full circle in the dispiriting amount of opprobrium heaped on Icon for (a) implying the A5 is a flying jet ski and (b) encouraging low flying. I reject both of those, too, and especially as being elemental in this accident. There's almost the suggestion that Icon will ruin aviation because it's encouraging "them" to participate. Yet people who buy these things are adults. They can make adult decisions and adult risk assessment without benefit of nannyism from the state or from people whose pants get snagged on something making the industry look bad. If you crash due to your own frailties and errors, you’re allowed. But it’s on you. All on you.

Yes, we should counsel and encourage people and coax them toward safe flying as best we can. Within reason. But in the end, you can get killed flying airplanes. Accept it or don’t. If the latter, I’ve heard bowling is fun.  

AVweb Visits the Wright Memorial
Paul Bertorelli

Everyone should visit the Wright National Memorial at Kill Devil Hills at least once. In this video, AVweb'sPaul Bertorelli reports on what's at the memorial and why it's a must-see.  Note that the main visitor center at the park is closed for renovations until at least September but a smaller temporary facility has been set up and the park itself remains open.

Halladay Had Drugs In System
Russ Niles

Former Major League pitcher Roy Halladay had three drugs in his system when his Icon A5 crashed off the coast of Florida in November. The retired ballplayer had trace amounts of morphine and amphetamine along with an intoxicating level of the sedative zolpidem, commonly known as Ambien, in his bloodstream according to an autopsy report obtained by TMZ. More than 50 nanograms per milliliter of zolpidem is considered by the FDA to be “capable of impairing driving to a degree that increases the risk of a motor vehicle accident” and Halladay’s level was 72 nanograms. Cause of death was multiple blunt force trauma and drowning.

Halladay was observed diving, climbing and doing low-level steep turns over the Gulf of Mexico off Clearwater and boaters who shot cellphone video of this flying were the first on the scene of his accident. Halladay had the first of 100 “Founder’s Edition” A5s and shot a promotional video with Icon talking about his lifelong desire to fly, which was interrupted by a 16-year MLB career that included two Cy Young Awards. The NTSB has only issued a preliminary report to date but will be aided by a comprehensive suite of flight data recorders that should enable investigators to plot every moment of the fatal flight.

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Drone Photo Renews Search
Russ Niles

Searchers will return to a remote area of the Rocky Mountains near Revelstoke, British Columbia, after relatives of two people missing in a suspected plane crash found a fuzzy drone photo in which the words "help" or "here" appear to be written in the snow. The photo was taken by a commercial drone whose use was donated for the search in early December. The image may also show a part of a propeller. Relatives have been combing through thousands of images shot by the drone over the last couple of months and discovered the image a few days ago.  In late November, pilot Dominic Neron, 28, and his girlfriend Ashley Bourgeault, 31, went missing with their Mooney on a trip from Penticton, B.C., to Edmonton, Alberta. The last signal from one of their cellphones was from a tower in the Revelstoke area. The formal search ended in early December but relatives continue to fundraise and local helicopter skiing operations have been informally keeping an eye out for signs of the crash.

The photo shows something that looks like letters spelled out in a clear area of snow in a forested area. The letters appear to be formed by something dark in color, perhaps tree boughs. It’s unlikely the couple has survived almost two months in the frigid wilderness. Since the plane went missing, more than 15 feet of snow has fallen in the area and temperatures have been as low as -20. Bourgeault’s cousin Carol Barnes said the families just want confirmation of the couple’s fate.

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FAA Approves Air Canada Safety Review
Russ Niles

The FAA says it's satisfied by measures undertaken by Transport Canada and Air Canada to address a couple of serious errors by Air Canada crews at San Francisco International Airport in 2017. In July, an Airbus A320 came close to landing on a taxiway occupied by four widebody airliners waiting to take off and in October another Air Canada A320 crew had their radio on the wrong frequency and didn’t hear repeated orders from the tower to abort their landing. After the close calls, Air Canada and Transport Canada worked out a deal to increase training and surveillance of Airbus operations and do a review of operations at SFO. It’s also doing a general safety and operational review of the whole airline. FAA spokesman Ian Gregor told the Toronto Star the agency “is satisfied with the actions (Transport Canada and Air Canada) have taken.”

Air Canada’s troubles have also shined a light on some other runway-related incidents at SFO in the past year. Last week an Aeromexico Boeing 737 lined up on the wrong runway and had to go around over a Virgin America Airbus waiting for takeoff clearance on the runway. A Compass Airlines flight had to abort after it was cleared to land on a runway occupied by a Virgin America plane and a SkyWest flight crossed the hold line as another aircraft was taking off.

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Jet Stream Allows Trans-Atlantic Record
Russ Niles

Thanks to a big kick from the jet stream, Norwegian Airlines is laying claim to the fastest non-Concorde airline flight between New York and London (Gatwick). The Boeing 787-9 hit a top groundspeed of 674 knots and made it to the airport just south of London in five hours and 13 minutes on Monday, almost an hour faster than usual. "We were actually in the air for just over five hours and if it had not been for forecasted turbulence at lower altitude, we could have flown even faster,” said Capt. Harold Van Dam.

All airlines are taking advantage of the strong tailwinds and heading for the altitudes that have the fastest west-east flow, which is up to 160 knots for the next few days. It also means they’re battling headwinds on the return trip but can adjust their routes and altitudes to get away from most of it. The Dreamliner normally cruises about 490 knots but has a top operational speed of 515 knots. The winds are expected to persist for several days.

Picture of the Week
Emily McBean is our winner for this week with a nice air-to-air shot of her friend Cory Wolf and his family flying home from a day of adventure in Utah.

See all submissions

Short Final

Pilots tuning into the ATIS at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Saturday got a laundry list of closed taxiways, runway and frequency information, a bird advisory and an apology.

ATIS: We apologize for any delay you might have today. Due to our elected leaders’ inability to effectively run (the) government, staffing is short. So sorry. Dilly Dilly.


Todd Huvard 


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

October 7, 2017, Front Royal, Va.

Piper PA-25-235 Pawnee

At about 1345 Eastern time, the airplane was destroyed when it impacted terrain during initial climb while towing a glider. The solo airline transport pilot was fatally injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

According to the flight instructor in the glider being towed, the takeoff was normal. His attention was diverted and, when he looked back, he noted the accident airplane was below and to the right of the glider, and the tow cable was slack. He then released the cable and performed a 180-degree turn, landing uneventfully. Several witnesses stated that the takeoff appeared to be normal, but then the accident airplane pitched down, descended below the glider and turned right before impacting terrain.

October 7, 2017, Tucson, Ariz.

Long-EZ Experimental/Piper PA-28-180

The two airplanes collided in midair at about 1030 Mountain time. The solo private pilot aboard the Long-EZ, and the private pilot and passenger in the Piper, were not injured. Both airplanes were substantially damaged. Visual conditions prevailed.

The pilot of the Long-EZ reported he was on downwind when he observed another airplane on left base, slightly above him, off to his right side and closing rapidly. Shortly thereafter, the airplanes collided. The pilot of the Piper had begun his turn to left base when he noticed an airplane on downwind. The pilot of the Piper stated that he attempted to avoid the other airplane, however, his airplane’s landing gear struck the Long EZ. Both pilots declared an emergency and landed without further incident.

October 8, 2017, Vernon, Texas

Aero Vodochody L-39 Albatros

At about 1300 Central time, the airplane collided with terrain. The solo commercial pilot was fatally injured and the airplane was destroyed. Visual conditions prevailed.

Multiple witnesses saw the airplane make a low pass down Runway 20. Some witnesses said the landing gear was being retracted as if the pilot was making a go-around. The airplane pulled up, entered a steep left bank and impacted the ground.

October 9, 2017, Los Lunas, N.M.

Globe GC-1A Swift

The airplane impacted a steel culvert structure at about 1425 Mountain time following loss of control during takeoff. The solo private pilot sustained serious injuries and the airplane was substantially damaged. Visual conditions prevailed.

The airplane arrived to refuel the day before the accident. During a subsequent takeoff, the airplane ground looped and sustained unknown damage. The pilot, who also was a mechanic, performed repairs to the airplane, which included welding the right main landing strut assembly. During takeoff on the day of the accident, the airplane veered to the left of the runway and struck a berm. The airplane became airborne and then impacted a steel culvert structure adjacent to the runway. The airplane sustained substantial damage to its fuselage and wings.

October 9, 2017, Buckeye, Ariz.

Nanchang China CJ-6

At about 1616 Mountain time, the airplane was substantially damaged during a forced landing after loss of engine power. The private pilot sustained serious injuries and the passenger sustained minor injuries. Visual conditions prevailed.

After the pilot started a descent from cruise flight, the engine lost power. Unable to make an airport, he decided to land on a clearing at a nearby construction site. During the landing, the airplane’s left wing struck an obstacle and the airplane veered out of control.

October 12, 2017, Las Cruces, N.M.

Cessna 182H Skylane

The airplane impacted terrain at about 2015 Mountain time. The flight instructor and student pilot were both fatally injured; the airplane was substantially damaged. Night visual conditions prevailed.

Initial reports from local agencies indicated the instructional flight was returning to land when it collided with terrain under unknown circumstances. A post-impact fire ensued.

October 13, 2017, Ramsey, Minn.

Cessna 172M Skyhawk

At 1734 Central time, the airplane was destroyed when it collided with power lines and the Mississippi River. The pilot and passenger were fatally injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

Ground-based video footage depicted the airplane flying at a low altitude over the Mississippi River about 200 yards east of the accident site. Several witnesses noted the airplane was below the trees lining both sides of the river. The airplane impacted a set of four power lines installed horizontally across the river. According to witnesses, the power lines were equipped with red aerial marker balls.

October 15, 2017, Tuskegee, Ala.

Cirrus Design SR22T

The airplane sustained substantial damage during a forced landing at about 1100 Central time following a partial loss of engine power shortly after takeoff. The private pilot and two passengers were not injured. Visual conditions prevailed; an IFR flight plan had been filed.

During initial climb after takeoff, the airplane suffered a partial loss of power well below 1000 feet agl. Unable to return to the airport, the pilot selected a sod field as an off-airport landing site. During the forced landing, the airplane’s landing gear collapsed and the airplane sustained substantial damage to its fuselage. A witness observed a cloud of faint white smoke after the accident airplane’s engine was started. He added that the engine sounded “choppy” throughout the entire takeoff. After liftoff, about midfield, he observed gray smoke from the airplane’s exhaust.

October 18, 2017, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Cessna 402B Businessliner

At about 1545 Eastern time, the airplane was substantially damaged during a forced landing. The commercial pilot, one passenger, and two motorists sustained minor injuries. Visual conditions prevailed for the FAR Part 135 charter flight.

About 13 minutes after departure, the pilot advised ATC he was “fuel critical” and requested vectors for the nearest airport. At 1543, the pilot was given a vector to the nearest airport, which the pilot reported in sight. The airplane landed on a residential street about two miles from the nearest airport and collided with two motor vehicles.

October 30, 2017, Dawsonville, Ga.

Piper PA-32R-300 Cherokee Lance

At about 0826 Eastern time, the airplane sustained substantial damage during a forced landing on an asphalt race track. The solo private pilot sustained serious injuries. Visual conditions prevailed; an IFR flight plan had been filed.

While climbing through 8000 feet msl, the pilot heard a sound consistent with prop governor overspeed and observed a low oil-quantity light with zero oil pressure. The pilot declared an emergency and began a descent. Passing through about 5000 feet msl, the pilot heard a loud noise then saw smoke enter the cockpit through the cabin heat system. Seeing an asphalt racetrack below, the pilot selected one of the straight sections of track for landing. As the airplane neared the surface, a truck moved in the way and the pilot veered the airplane left to avoid a collision. Following the maneuver, the airplane’s right wing struck a dirt berm, resulting in substantial damage.

Examination revealed the bottom of the fuselage was coated in oil and the engine crankcase was fractured at the upper aft attach bolts of the number six cylinder. All three propeller blades were present, with only one blade exhibiting signs of damage.

This article originally appeared in the January 2018 issue of Aviation Safety magazine.

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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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