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Volume 25, Number 4b
January 24, 2018
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Disruption Limited In Government Shutdown
Mary Grady

The three-day government shutdown that ended Monday had limited impact on the aviation world, but it’s not over yet. The funding bill that was approved to end the impasse will last for only three weeks. During the shutdown, air traffic controllers were on the job, but NATCA President Paul Rinaldi told The New York Times it was still disruptive. “You can’t do any long-term planning,” he said. “They’re all focused on shutdown procedures. Today, you have a whole FAA that’s not working on anything that is modernizing our system. They’re all working on who’s exempt, who’s not exempt.” The NTSB put on hold its Jan. 23 meeting to discuss the probable cause of an American Airlines uncontained engine failure in 2016. On Tuesday, the NTSB rescheduled the meeting to Jan. 30.

Some “non-essential” services at the FAA were disrupted over the weekend. The FAA Safety Team was prohibited from facilitating, presenting or even attending safety seminars. “We will also not have access to our system to cancel meetings,” the team said in a public notice. “There is potential that you will arrive at a safety meeting, and find there is no one to provide the meeting.” The FAA also could not issue airman certificates or register aircraft during the shutdown. The last federal shutdown, in 2013, lasted 16 days.

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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.  

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

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Piper AD Affects 19,000 Aircraft
Mary Grady

The FAA on Tuesday issued an Airworthiness Directive (PDF) that affects nearly 19,000 Piper PA-28 airplanes, but compliance is fairly simple and cheap. The AD requires aircraft owners to inspect the fuel-tank selector cover to verify the fuel-tank selector placards are located at the proper positions. If not, the placards must be replaced. Piper told the FAA a “quality control issue” led to some of the placards being reversed. If the error goes unchecked, it could result in fuel-management errors, leading to fuel starvation and loss of power in flight, the FAA says. The inspection, plus the replacement, if needed, should cost owners about $50.

The effective date of the AD is Feb. 7. The inspection and the repair, if needed, must be completed before further flight, after that date. The FAA said “an unsafe condition exists” that requires the immediate adoption of the AD without providing an opportunity for public comments. “The risk to the flying public justifies waiving notice and comment prior to adoption of this rule,” the rule states. However, the FAA will accept comments on the rule, and may amend it based on those comments. Piper issued a service bulletin addressing the issue in October.

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New Tax Laws Will Impact Aviation
Mary Grady

The new federal tax law that took effect this month includes several provisions that impact the various segments of general aviation, from private owners with small airplanes to corporations with their own fleet of jets. Buyers of business aircraft now can immediately write off the entire cost of  their new or pre-owned aircraft. That’s good news for GA, says AOPA President Mark Baker. “We think the inclusion of immediate expensing for used as well as new investments will effectively spur economic growth and create good jobs, especially in aviation and the aircraft industry,” Baker said.

Overall tax cuts for businesses, not necessarily specific to aviation, already are driving growth in aviation, according to Ricky Sitomer, CEO of Star Jets International. “The private jet charter market is on fire right now,” Sitomer told Forbes. “The tax cuts that are fueling the market are fueling the private jet growth for Wall Street and Main Street alike.” The new tax bill also eliminates a long-standing rule that allowed deductions for certain entertainment expenses, if they were directly connected to the taxpayer’s business activities. NBAA says the change could affect many business-aircraft owners.

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Bell: Changes Made To 525 After Investigation
Mary Grady

Bell Helicopter responded this week to the NTSB’s recent report on the crash of a Bell 525 during a test flight in 2016. “In the time since the accident, a small team of Bell flight technology engineers, pilots and flight-test specialists have worked with the NTSB through the course of the investigation,” company spokesperson Blakeley Thress told AVweb in an email. “Several changes to the aircraft have been implemented and a carefully planned test approach is in place to complete the envelope expansion and certification testing.” The company remains committed to the 525 program, Thress added. “The continued work of the program team will result in a reliable, innovative helicopter with advanced rotorcraft safety features when it comes to market.”

Company officials also told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram last week that Bell technicians had “carefully studied the cause of the vibration, which had never been encountered before.” The vibration was caused by “an unanticipated combination of very high airspeed with a sustained low rotor RPM condition,” according to the statement. After the crash, Bell enhanced its filtering system on the side-stick controller, so its vibrations are not passed on to the rotor system. Also, filtering was added to the control system to stabilize the aircraft during gusts and maneuvers, the Star-Telegram reported. The two pilots were conducting tests that included shutting off one of the aircraft’s two engines to see how the helicopter would perform if one engine failed. Both pilots died in the crash.

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End Of The Line For Gulfstream G450
Mary Grady

Gulfstream Aerospace delivered its last G450 business jet last week, ending a 12-year production run. More than 360 of the jets have been delivered, collectively logging more than 964,000 hours and 461,000 flights. “The G450 made its mark in aviation history,” said Gulfstream President Mark Burns, in a news release. The company will continue to provide technical and engineering support and engineering for G450 customers, he added. The jet will be replaced with the all-new G500, which is on track to start deliveries early this year. Five G500 airplanes are now flying to complete the flight-test regimen.

On Tuesday, the company said the G500 has begun a worldwide tour, starting in Dallas, to showcase the aircraft’s technology and cabin features. Burns said the tour also provides an opportunity for the company to thoroughly test the fully outfitted interior as they prepare for the G500’s entry into service. The cabin seats up to 19, and the cockpit features enhanced vision and fly-by-wire technology. The jet will also visit Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Milan, Moscow, Beijing and Melbourne.

Picture of the Week
Robert L. Burns wins this week by combining two of our favorite elements, air to air photography and great historic aircraft. That's a Beech AT-11 Kansan on its way to the annual Beech Party in Winchester, Tennessee.

See all submissions

Brainteasers Quiz #239: Have A Little Fun, Already

The FAA can be so serious when discussing regulations and safety of flight -- which are important -- but many of us began flying simply because it was fun. To keep it safely enjoyable, simply ace this quiz.

Click here to take the quiz.

Short Final

It was one of those days where the winds were very gusty, and the pattern was just a mess at ILG (Wilmington, DE). It's a training site for controllers and downwinds were being extended by miles, clearances were changing, and everything was just a bit messy. Combined with the gusts, it wasn't a fun day. 

My goal was landing practice since I was new to the plane. After three unimpressive efforts I threw in the towel.I cleared the runway and the following exchange took place. 

Tower: Skyhawk 65R, are you going to do another? 

Skyhawk 65R: No, I don't think so. Today's not my day. 

Tower: (Very loud audible laughter in background) Yeah, that's true for a lot of us today. Taxi via H, remain this frequency.


Joshua Zide

Meet the AVweb Team

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