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Volume 25, Number 6b
February 7, 2018
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A Spectacular Launch For SpaceX Heavy
Mary Grady

SpaceX launched their Falcon Heavy test flight from Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, and wowed the crowds with a picture-perfect flight of the world’s biggest rocket. From the blue Florida skies and billowing white smoke on takeoff, to the incredible double upright in-sync landings of the two booster rockets, the team couldn’t have asked for a better show. Topping it off, the Falcon Heavy carried a bright-red Tesla Roadster into space, complete with a spaceman mockup wearing a SpaceX high-fashion version of a spacesuit. The Tesla and its driver will travel as far as the orbit of Mars, and then settle into orbit around the Sun for millions of years. “It was everything you could ask for in a test flight,” enthused one of the crew during the live online feed.

The flight wasn't without its glitches though. The center core didn't land on the drone ship as planned, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk told the press in a conference call on Tuesday evening. In the live feed, the cameras went blank, and the on-air commentators blamed it on a video transmission glitch, due to vibrations from the landing. But Musk said the core "hit the water at about 500 kilometers an hour, about 100 meters away from the drone ship, and that was enough to shower the deck with shrapnel and take out two of the engines." He said the company hadn't planned to re-use the core anyway, so he didn't consider it a major problem. He said SpaceX has a number of commercial customers already lined up for Falcon Heavy and will be proceeding with the program.

The Falcon Heavy generates 4.7 million pounds of thrust at takeoff, and can lift up to 70 tons into low-Earth orbit, the heaviest payload and highest thrust of any rocket in operation today. The booster rockets can be recovered to fly again, keeping the costs relatively low. The day before launch, Musk told The New York Times he couldn’t predict the outcome: "I'm looking forward to it. It's either going to be an exciting success or an exciting failure,” he said. “One big boom! I'd say tune in, it's going to be worth your time.” Future versions of the Falcon Heavy could someday be used to launch missions to the moon or Mars, according to the Times. SpaceX lists a price of $90 million for a Falcon Heavy flight, compared to $62 million by the smaller Falcon 9.

In case you missed it, here's the full launch video.

Video Tour GE H80 Turboprop
AVweb Staff
With the new ATP engine still in development, GE continues to market its line of H80 turboprop engines meant to compete with Pratt & Whitney's PT6. GE's Matt Garas gave AVweb a tour of the new engines at the NBAA show in Last Vegas in 2015. 


Electronics International 'Aviation Alert! Short video on how EI saved this pilot's life
SpaceX Does a Hat Trick (Less One)
Paul Bertorelli

“Did you see it?,” came the question, followed a nanosecond later by the loudest palm-to-forehead slap in this part of Florida. “&GHY no! I forgot!”

“It” was SpaceX’s first launch of its new Falcon Heavy, currently the world’s most powerful booster, although not the most powerful ever. I was perfectly positioned to view it from the air. I’m in Tavares, Florida, working on a seaplane rating and the weather was cloudlessly perfect. The Cape is about 90 miles southeast. We took off at 3 p.m., got deeply involved in glassy water landings and just forgot about the 3:45 p.m. launch time. Maybe it’s on my video footage. Damn it! History escapes me again.

Probably just as well; at 100 miles, these launches—which I’ve seen before—appear as bright, intense red flares of light trailed by dense smoke. Cool for sure, but not as jaw-dropping as SpaceX’s phenomenally slick public coverage of the launch, which I’m sure many watched. (You can see the full launch video in our coverage.)

And therein lies an important aspect of this launch: showmanship. Yeah, that’s a good thing. The beaches near Canaveral were jammed with people in a way not seen since the Space Shuttle and Apollo days. SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy wasn’t just igniting kerosene and oxygen, but also public interest in spaceflight. What a refreshing change and a relief from the constant effluvium coming from Washington these days, if even for just a day.

Showmanship gave way to just showing off when two of three boosters landed back in Cape Canaveral within seconds of each other. It looked like one of those North Korean multiple missile launches in reverse. The fate of the core booster, which was supposed to land on a barge at sea, remained unknown Tuesday evening. So as of yesterday, SpaceX has landed 23 boosters and reused six in a total of 49 launches. All but three were successful launches. Not a bad record for an upstart space company, I’d say.

In a gust of either false modesty or tongue-in-geek rocket humor, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk—an immigrant by the way—sought to reduce expectations last week when he said he would be happy if the Falcon Heavy cleared the tower before blowing up and not damaging historic Pad 39A, from whence man landed on the moon. It obviously did far better and it puts SpaceX ahead of other private launch companies in terms of launch cadence, at least those that aren’t established aerospace giants. And it now owns the heavy lift market as other companies tilt toward the light, low-earth-orbit satellite market. Suddenly, not just Mars is in play, but more complex missions of heavier payloads to low earth orbit and the Moon.

Some of the press coverage seemed to suggest that the Falcon Heavy kicks open the door to Musk’s plan to colonize Mars. Maybe, but I’m just not buying that dream. A Mars exploratory mission is difficult enough; living there just seems daft to me. But then some people said the Falcon Heavy was beyond the reach of private company development. So much for that conventional wisdom.

Launching the Tesla Roadster into space strikes some people as wasteful, self-centered and just silly. But I think it’s just a giggle, and a cosmic one at that. Anyone who’s seriously sniffed at the idea maybe ought to start their own rocket company or, easier, just get over it.

Collier Trophy Nominees Named
Mary Grady

The National Aeronautic Association has named its candidates for the 2017 Robert J. Collier trophy, which is awarded annually for the “greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America.” The nominees are: Boeing’s 737 Max; the Cirrus Aircraft Vision SF50 single-engine jet; the autonomous helicopter system developed by the U.S. Marine Corps Office of Naval Research and Aurora Flight Sciences; the high-altitude glider Perlan Project; the Zee Aero Division of Kitty Hawk Corporation; the Vanilla Aircraft VA001 drone; the Edwards Air Force Base F-35 Integrated Test Force; the NASA/JPL Cassini Project Team; and the TSA, ALPA, and A4A Known Crewmember® and TSA Pre✓® Programs. The Collier Trophy Selection Committee will meet on March 22 in Arlington, Virginia, and the recipient will be announced the next day. The formal presentation of the trophy will take place on June 14, at a location to be determined.

The trophy has been awarded annually for 105 years. Past winners include the crews of Apollo 11 and Apollo 8, the Mercury 7, Scott Crossfield, Elmer Sperry, Howard Hughes, and Orville Wright. Projects and programs that have received the trophy include the B-52, the Boeing 747, the Cessna Citation, the F-22 and the International Space Station. The five most recent recipients are the Blue Origin New Shepard Team; the NASA/JPL Dawn Mission Team; the Gulfstream G650; the Northrop Grumman, US Navy, and X-47B Industry Team; and the NASA/JPL Mars Curiosity Project Team. “This year’s outstanding group of nominees represent the great depth and breadth of our aviation industry,” said Greg Principato, NAA president. “Each is changing our world for the better. The Collier Selection Committee will have its work cut out for it this year and we at NAA couldn’t be more excited.”

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MH370 Search Continues After ‘Blackout’
Mary Grady

The latest effort to find the crash site of Malaysian Airlines MH370 continues, after a three-day “blackout” from the survey ship conducting the search set the Internet on fire with theories about what might be going on. Ocean Infinity Ltd. is conducting the search on a contingency basis, with a payday of up to $70 million from the Malaysian government if they find the wreck, but nothing will be paid if they come up empty. This arrangement has raised speculation about the “real” mission or motivation of the search, with a range of theories offered online. The Ocean Infinity website offers no response to the uproar, but does note, in a report dated Feb. 6: “Please be assured that work is continuing and is aimed at finding MH370.” Trackers are able to follow the ship’s movements via a satellite-based Automatic Identification System, and post updates online.

The Feb. 6 report also notes that on Feb. 4, the ship conducting the search operations, Seabed Constructor, left the search area to transit to the Australian port of Fremantle for supplies and a crew change. The vessel is expected to return to the search area on Feb. 12. The ship deploys eight autonomous underwater vehicles to conduct the search, which so far have covered nearly 3,000 square miles. Two points of interest were identified by the AUV missions, but on further investigation they were classified as geological features, according to the report. Under its arrangement with Malaysia, the ship operators have 90 days to find the wreckage.

Boeing Debuts 737 Max 7
Mary Grady

The newest version of Boeing’s 737, the Max 7, rolled out of the hangar in Renton, Washington, on Monday, Boeing has announced. The jet is the third member of the Max family, and has the longest range, up to 3,850 NM, a boost of 1,000 NM over its predecessor, the 737-700. The Max 7 single-aisle cabin holds 172 passengers, and lowers fuel costs by 18 percent per seat, compared to the 700, says Boeing. "For our airline customers serving airports at high altitudes or remote locations, the Max 7 is the ideal complement to their fleet,” said Keith Leverkuhn, general manager of the 737 Max program. “This is the third 737 Max family member our team has successfully introduced in just three years."

The first Max 7 will now undergo system checks, fueling and engine runs on the flight line in Renton, and then will begin its flight-test program in the coming weeks. The Max 7 is scheduled to enter service in 2019, with first delivery to Southwest Airlines. The 737 Max family aims to provide lower per-seat costs and an extended range compared to competitors, Boeing said. The Max 8 entered service last year, and the Max 9 will start deliveries this year. The Max 10 was launched at last year's Paris Air Show and is scheduled to enter service in 2020. Boeing says the 737 Max is the fastest-selling airplane in its history, with more than 4,300 orders from 92 customers worldwide.

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D-Day Squadron Advances Normandy Flyover Plans
Mary Grady

Plans for a contingent of vintage C-47 aircraft to fly across the Atlantic and then cross the English Channel on June 6, 2019, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, are now officially underway, the Tunison Foundation announced on Monday. The Foundation also announced the launch of the D-Day Squadron, which will organize the event, to honor the citizen soldiers who helped liberate Europe and end World War II. “Few veterans of D-Day are still with us, and this celebration marking the 75th anniversary may be our last chance to honor these brave war heroes,” said Moreno Aguiari, executive director of the Squadron. “We are committed to ensuring their significance and sacrifice is fully appreciated for generations to come, and are developing an education program to honor these citizen soldiers and their impact on D-Day, and ultimately the Allied victory in World War II.” The Squadron’s website is now live online.

The D-Day Squadron fleet, consisting of American C-47s, will depart from the Oxford Airport in Oxford, Conn., in late May 2019. The public is invited to see them off. They will join other C-47s from Canada, Australia and Europe in the U.K. for a flight across the English Channel. Paratroopers will jump from the aircraft above the Normandy coast. Leading the fleet will be the Commemorative Air Force’s That’s All, Brother, which flew for the first time since its restoration just last week. That’s All, Brother led the formation of 925 C-47s in the massive drop of 13,000 paratroopers behind enemy lines on D-Day, hours before the first troops stormed the beaches. About 30 C-47s are expected to participate in the event.

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Brainteasers Quiz #240: Make Informed Go/No-Go Calls

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Short Final

Flying back from St. Augustine Fl (SGJ) to Stennis International (KHSA) just before Christmas, my destination was very low IFR.  The whole region and surrounding airports were either very low IFR or Zero Zero.  Planes were going missed at Gulfport (KGPT) and surrounding airports and tensions were high with the controllers.  I was cleared for the ILS 18 into Stennis and he advised he did not have radar this way.

Tower: “…and I can’t see you” 

Comanche XXXX: “I can’t see you either!”  

We both laughed and it changed his stressed tone, and I did make the landing.

Charlie Horton


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

November 2, 2017, Las Vegas, Nev.

Beechcraft Model B95 Travel Air

At about 1735 Pacific time, the airplane sustained substantial damage during a forced landing after a reported loss of engine power. The flight instructor and commercial pilot sustained minor injuries. Visual conditions prevailed.

According to the pilot, on final approach, one of the airplane’s two engines began to surge and lost power. Unable to make the airport, he decided to land on a nearby field located on a golf course. During the landing, the airplane’s right wing struck an obstacle, resulting in substantial damage to the wing. The airplane came to rest in a pond, submerged in water.

November 2, 2017, Redding, Calif.

Cessna Model 172R Skyhawk

The airplane was substantially damaged at about 0930 Pacific time during an off-airport landing after losing engine power shortly after takeoff. The flight instructor and two students were not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

The flight departed to the southeast and about three miles from the airport, the pilot reported an engine failure with sparks coming from the engine. The controller cleared the flight to land on Runway 34 but the airplane was too high, and the pilot elected to go around. The pilot turned back toward Runway 16, crossed it and landed in a field.

November 3, 2017, Erwinna, Penn.

SA-900 V-Star Experimental

At about 1400 Eastern time, the airplane collided with terrain during landing. The solo private pilot was seriously injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

A witness observed the accident airplane depart. About 30 minutes later, he saw it approach the airport from the east. Initially, it was in a normal flight attitude over the runway. It disappeared briefly behind rolling terrain, He next saw the left wing, then the right wing, followed by the tail, in what he described as a “cartwheeling” motion. He did not report any strange sounds, smoke or objects falling from the airplane.

November 3, 2017, Murphy, Idaho

Piper PA-18-150 Super Cub

The airplane impacted mountainous terrain at about 0900 Mountain time. The pilot/owner was fatally injured, and the passenger received serious injuries. The airplane was substantially damaged. Visual conditions prevailed.

After a 1.5-hour flight, the airplane landed at the dirt strip due to the passenger getting airsick. The airplane was on the ground for about 20 minutes, and was departing at the time of the accident. A witness watched the accident airplane take off and establish a positive rate of climb. When the accident airplane was about 150 feet agl, he saw the right wing drop with the pilot simultaneously keying the mike and saying “Whoa.” The airplane’s nose continued to drop, and the airplane impacted the ground in a nose-low, near-vertical attitude.

November 4, 2017, Alva, Okla.

Beechcraft Model V35B Bonanza

At 1728 Central time, the airplane impacted terrain while conducting a visual approach. The airplane was destroyed; the flight instructor and pilot were fatally injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

According to a state trooper who spoke with the pilot in an emergency room, he and the flight instructor noticed the left engine cowling pop up during flight. According to the pilot, the flight instructor assumed control of the airplane. The airplane continued its descent until striking trees and a power line, which were about 40 feet higher than the airport’s elevation and 3000 feet north of the Runway 18 threshold. The airplane came to rest on its left side and a post-crash fire ensued.

November 4, 2017, Hatch, N.M.

Cessna Model 172N Skyhawk

The airplane sustained substantial damage at about 1630 Mountain time when it impacted terrain. The pilot and three passengers received fatal injuries. Visual conditions prevailed.

After lunch, the pilot and passengers were driven back to the local airport for their flight home around 1600 local time. Their exact departure time is unknown and there were no witnesses to the accident. The airplane impacted rugged desert terrain located about 0.56 nm west of the departure end of Runway 29 and was not located until 1700 the next day.

November 5, 2017, Las Vegas, N.M.

Daher/Socata TBM 850

The pilot later reported that, while landing in a gusting crosswind, it was “obvious” the wind had changed directions. He performed a go-around, but “the wind slammed [the airplane] to the ground extremely hard.” Subsequently, the airplane veered to the right off the runway and then back to the left before coming to rest. The airplane sustained substantial damage to its fuselage.

The pilot reported there were no pre-accident mechanical failures or malfunctions with the airplane precluding normal operation. The automated weather observation at the accident airport reported the wind was from 270 degrees at 19 knots, gusting to 25 knots, at the time of the accident. The pilot was landing on Runway 20.

November 5, 2017, Batavia, Ohio

Piper PA-28-140 Cherokee 140

The pilot reported that shortly before flying over the airport perimeter fence, “either wind shear or [a] sudden downdraft dropped the plane.” The nose landing gear struck the fence and the airplane impacted the ground short of the intended runway. The airplane sustained substantial damage to its fuselage and horizontal stabilator.

According to the pilot, the engine was running the entire time without issues. He added that once he encountered the downdraft, he applied full power, but the airplane continued descending with “no appreciable response.” He reported that he did not use carburetor heat during the approach.

A review of recorded data from the automated weather observation station located included temperature of 68 degrees F and a dew point of 63 degrees F. The FAA’s Carburetor Icing Chart indicates conditions were conducive to “serious icing (glide power).”

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

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