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Volume 25, Number 7a
February 12, 2018
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Airbus Demonstrates Drone Parcel Delivery
Russ Niles

Airbus Helicopters has flown its commercial parcel delivery prototype and expects it to be picking up and dropping off small parcels for students and staff at the National University of Singapore later this year. The octocopter took off from its maintenance center, landed on the roof of a purpose-built parcel station and a robotic arm loaded a parcel on the drone. It then took off and returned to the station and dropped off the parcel. “Safe and reliable urban air delivery is a reality not too distant into the future and Airbus is certainly excited to be a forerunner in this endeavor,” said Airbus Helicopters project leader Alain Flourens.

Airbus is working with Singapore Post and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore in the development of the service and is aimed at addressing the complexities of operating in an urban environment while delivering efficient and cost-effective service. At the university, anyone will be able to use the service to pick up or deliver up to nine pounds to the designated parcel stations distributed around the sprawling campus, which covers about 150 football fields. Assuming it works, Singapore Post will offer it to its customers with an eye to selling turnkey systems to other cities.

Plug in and Power up - Small. Economical. Easy to Install.
How Cirrus Builds Aircraft
Paul Bertorelli

When AVweb visited the Cirrus factory last summer, it was in the process of reorganizing to ramp up production of the new Cirrus SF50 VisionJet. In this detailed video, AVweb's Paul Bertorelli reports on how the factory builds its popular piston and jet aircraft.

Why Seaplanes Are So Boring

By normal aviation standards, seaplanes are boring as hell. They’re slow, tend to be fuel hogs, often don’t carry much because they’re hauling around a boat or two and, like boats, they have to be pumped out and they rust. Who would want one?

Yet, in the dedicated community of pilots who fly these things, floatplanes and flying boats are just crazy fun. I think I know why. It has less to do with flying to some remote lake to fish or to dock at the summer cottage than it does what the intersection of wind, water and airplane does to the usual operating constraints imposed on aircraft. That’s a roundabout way of saying the fun that happens in seaplanes happens at altitudes that make some nellies nervous. I get it. I’m just not one of them.

This occurred to me last week when I spent a couple of days in Tavares, Florida splashing, around in a Searey Elite with Rob Galloway, owner of Jones Brothers Air and Seaplane Adventures, one of a handful of companies that specialize in seaplane ratings. I added sport pilot seaplane privileges to my certificate. If I weren’t such a cheap bastard, I could have added SES, too, but the checkride costs more and I don’t need the vanity plate. But I did need a flight review and adding to the certificate is a good way to do that.

Nearly six hours of stick-and-rudder time in two days reset my attitude toward the argument au courant ignited by Icon’s promotion that its seaplanes are like jet skis with wings, or at least the interpretation by the aviation illuminati that this is what they’re doing. So when you’re out in the middle of the lake doing step taxi turns at 45 mph, it’s a hell of a lot like being on a jet ski. It takes more skill, for sure, and the consequences of screwing it up are more expensive, but the similarities are undeniable.

And those to whom flying low causes sweaty palms, you’ll either have to get over that to fly a seaplane or maybe pursue your fun elsewhere. What I find most thrilling about small amphibs like the Searey is that the flare for landing happens just a second or two after you think you’re going to plow the thing under the surface. But then you round out and it looks just right. It’s like landing on what you imagine is a too-short runway, only to have 500 feet to spare once you stop. Even at 65 mph, the water rushes the eyes like that sweaty nightmare moment you wake up before you hit the bridge abutment.

I don’t have trouble judging that flare height, but nonetheless, we spent a glorious 10 minutes skimming along a river trying to get the sight picture locked in. I was supposed to be a foot above the water, but was probably five. Naturally, the fear is that you’ll touch down inadvertently and ball the thing up. “Go ahead and skip it,” Galloway suggested. A little pitch down and skip it does, benignly. Spine stiffened, I nibbled it down to six inches for the rest of the exercise.

If landplane training reiterates ad nauseam stalls and emergency landings, the seaplane equivalent is the glassy water landing. It’s meant to provide serviceable touchdowns in conditions where the water is so flat and featureless as to make judging the flare height improbable. It’s difficult to train because true glass is not common. The slightest breeze, or a boat or a plop of bird dung, raises just enough ripple to aid in depth perception. Kerry Richter, who developed the Searey design, told me some Florida pilots carry a bag of oranges to heave over the side to stir up the water.

The glassy water landing is supposed to be a long, drawn-out run in which the hull touches down at a barely discernible descent rate. It requires supreme patience and microscopic throttle movement. I lack the former, which challenges the latter. 

The area around Tavares isn’t called the Lake District for nothing. There are dozens of them. Some are lined with trees, which are perfect for my favorite seaplane maneuver: the confined water landing. The idea is to swish over the top of the trees, chop the power and pitch the nose over to land in the shortest distance closest to the tree line. I discovered that the Searey is just stupid great at forward slips. With a wing down and pointed at the desired target, it flies as if on rails. I like to crank in max rudder, slip almost to the top of the trees, roll out and chop the power, then dive for the water for a smooth power-off splashdown. I’d do that all day. Indescribable fun.

And also, some risk, of course. There’s always the chance that you can misjudge the descent and crash into the trees or misjudge the flare and tank into the water. That’s why we practice these things. And anyway, you know what they say about Migs and Mig Alley.

Procedure wise, seaplane flying tends to be less, ummm, constipated than landplane flying at airports. There are no pattern Nazis whining about being cut off, no one getting into a snit because you flew a right base at 250 feet over the boat ramp and even the boat traffic seems down with the flying jet skis. That may be the great shining attraction of seaplane flying: almost undiluted freedom to fool around in that intersection between wind, water and airplane.

Anybody interested in halfsies in a Searey?    

About That Roadster

In Wednesday’s blog, I mentioned the SpaceX launch of a cherry-red Tesla Roadster into a Mars intersecting orbit. As of Sunday, the car is 970,369 miles from Earth, moving at 6947 mph. What hath Elon wrought? Follow it here.

Electronics International 'Aviation Alert! Short video on how EI saved this pilot's life
Russian Airliner Crash Kills 71
Russ Niles

All 71 people aboard a Saratov Airlines An-148 regional jet were killed Sunday when the aircraft went down shortly after takeoff from Domodedovo Airport near Moscow. There were 65 passengers and six crew on the aircraft, which was on a flight to Orsk. Some Russian media are reporting the flight crew reported a technical malfunction and planned an emergency landing at Zhukovsky. The aircraft came down on a treeless plain about 50 miles east of Moscow. There was an explosion and debris was spread over a wide area. Russian authorities said the crash was not survivable.

The crash differed from many in Russia in that the aircraft was a relatively new example of a modern design. The An-148 is a high-wing regional aircraft that entered service in 2009 and the aircraft that crashed was eight years old, according to Russian authorities quoted by various media outlets. It’s a fly-by-wire aircraft with a glass cockpit and two turbofan engines. There are about 40 in service, all in Russia or in countries with close ties to Russia.

Canyon Crash Kills Three
Russ Niles

Three people were killed and four badly injured when a sightseeing helicopter went down in the Grand Canyon Saturday. The aircraft was destroyed in the post-crash fire and at least two survivors were seen running from the wreckage before it exploded. The condition of the injured wasn’t immediately available. The helicopter was operated by Papillon Airways, which describes itself as the largest aerial sightseeing company in the world. The aircraft was an Airbus Helicopters (formerly Eurocopter) EC-130 and was carrying six passengers and the pilot.

An Air Force aircraft helped rescue the four injured in cold, windy conditions. At the time of the crash, a weather station in nearby Meadview, Arizona, reported winds of 25 mph gusting to 40 mph. The crash occurred in a narrow branch of the Grand Canyon called Quartermaster Canyon. It’s about 70 miles east of Las Vegas on Hualapai Indian Reservation. Papillon says it flew 600,000 sightseers last year and operates from bases in Las Vegas and in Grand Canyon National Park. It also operates Twin Otter fixed-wing tour aircraft.

Single-Pilot Transport Back In Play
Russ Niles


Buoyed by burgeoning public acceptance of autonomous cars and air taxis, various companies have dusted off the idea of creating single-pilot transport aircraft, although all seem to agree that passenger service is likely decades away. At the Singapore Air Show last week, Singapore-based ST Aerospace was showing off its concept for a single-pilot heavy cargo transport and reported it was getting lots of traffic. ST’s airplane would have a single pilot in a redesigned and more automated cockpit and there would be another pilot on the ground who "can potentially be supporting up to 12 single-pilot aircraft simultaneously,” according to a company statement. The next step would be a full-size pilotless cargo plane.

Boeing is taking a somewhat different approach in its quest to take humans out of the air transport equation. Spokesman Charles Toups agreed passenger flights are not a current option but he told reporters the proliferation of driverless vehicles on the cusp of mainstream acceptance is helping to make the case for fewer humans in cockpits. “We are studying that, and where you will first see that is probably in cargo transport, so the passenger question is off the table,” said Toups.

Philippines Cancels Controversial Helicopter Order
Russ Niles

The Philippines has canceled a $300 million order for 16 Bell 412 EPI helicopters after the Canadian government expressed concern they might be used in President Rodrigo Duterte’s highly controversial campaign to kill insurgents. On Thursday, Philippine military officials tried to assure Canadian officials that the helicopters, which are built at Bell’s factory in Mirabel, Quebec, would only be used to ferry troops and supplies and evacuate wounded soldiers. But Duterte called his military masters' assurances “a crazy proposition” and told a televised news conference that he absolutely intended to use the helicopters to hunt rebels.

“I’m buying helicopters because I want to finish them off,” said Duterte. “I want to tell the armed forces to cut the deal, don’t proceed with it and somehow we will look for another supplier.” Duterte also canceled a deal with the U.S. for unspecified weapons. Duterte has been almost universally condemned for the alleged extrajudicial killings of an estimated 4,000 drug dealers in a nationwide crackdown on illicit drug activity.

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Picture of the Week
Nice photos this week but we like pictures of airplanes in the air and Helen Lavigne's great shot of Andre Durocher's souped-up Beaver filled the bill. Nice shot, Helene.

See all submissions

Starr Companies - The Over and Above Underwriter - Click to read about aerial application
Brainteasers Quiz #240: Make Informed Go/No-Go Calls

If you cancel a flight because weather is forecast to deteriorate, it will improve. But if you ignore warnings and go, weather will turn stinko. In either case, your best call is to ace this quiz.

Click here to take the quiz.

Subscribe to 'Aviation Safety' Magazine || The Active Pilot's Guide to What Really Matters in the World of Flying - Your Safety
Short Final

Heard on Denver departure

XXXX: "Just off Centennial"

Center: "Squawk 6666"

Center: "Umm, do you want another? We could give you a different one."


XXXX: No, it's okay, we'll keep that one."

John C. Lamb


Spring: Showers, Flowers and Gusting Crosswinds
Rick Durden

Although a friend of mine in the Detroit area just told me it was so cold that he saw a dog frozen to a hydrant, there’s a rumor that spring—and its high winds—will be eventually put in appearance at airports north of the equator. Spring: that time of year when airport managers’ thoughts turn to replacing their airport wind socks with log chains.

Just as April showers bring May flowers and Mayflowers bring Pilgrims (sorry, it’s been a cold winter), the strong, gusty winds of spring bring runway loss of control accidents (RLOC) on landing—and sometimes takeoff. The combination of the challenge of keeping an airplane under control in a gusting crosswind and the erosion of piloting skills because most pilots fly less in the winter than they do in summer means that it’s logical to anticipate there will be an unpleasant amount of bent metal and crunched composite on the sides of runways in the next few months.

I’m making that prediction because one of the things I do for our sister publication Aviation Consumer magazine is look at the 100 most recent accidents of the type of airplane being reviewed for the Used Aircraft Guide each month. If the airplane has a nosewheel, I expect to see 20 to 30 percent of the accidents involve loss of control on landing—the airplane gets sideways and tears up the landing gear and/or a wing; it ground loops; it runs off the runway and hits something; it hits so hard on landing that it damages the gear or things get out of hand far enough that the pilot decides to go around but the airplane hits the trees or hangar it was aiming at by then while flying rather than while on the ground.

If the airplane has a tailwheel, the rate for the landing-related accidents noted is at least 50 to 60 percent of all accidents for the type of airplane.

In almost all of those accidents, the pilot reports that the landing was being made in a crosswind. Often there is a comment about being hit by a gust during rollout.

When you read the reports, the one variable that eventually stands out is that, almost invariably, the pilot was able to get the airplane onto the runway successfully before things went south.

Worry About the Wrong Thing?

Landing accident reports show that few pilots lose control of their airplanes during the landing approach—yet that is the portion of a landing where pilots indicate they have most concern about losing control. That concern makes sense—after all, the airplane is bucking all over the place in gusts, the crosswind is trying to push the airplane away from that narrow bowling alley on which you’re trying to land, and the airspeed indicator needle may be a blur as it bounces around. Who wouldn’t worry about those conditions?

On the opposite side of the perceived risk coin is the time after the airplane has touched down on the runway. It’s now moving in two dimensions, not three and, in most cases, it has that good, dependable nosewheel for steering. It’s time to breathe a sigh of relief after the hair-raising episode of final approach—you made it.

Unfortunately, while we rightfully worry about controlling the airplane on final approach, the numbers show that we should be worrying more about keeping the airplane under control on rollout after touchdown—definitely not relax.

Why the Problems After Touchdown?

As I was putting this article together, I recalled a discussion I had had with my primary instructor when I was wrestling with crosswind landings not long before I was to take my private checkride. I told him that the airplane was easier to control when I added some extra speed on approach. He had smiled patiently and then asked me to continue thinking about the approach. Sure, it was easier to line up on final, but where things truly matter on a crosswind landing was not on final, it’s later: it’s over the runway itself, then, in the flare, touchdown and especially the rollout. He explained that I would have to deal with all of the extra speed I was carrying on final in a way that brings the airplane to a stop where I wanted. He went on to refer to stuff I was taking in my high school physics class, that the speed and mass of the airplane are energy and energy is a squared function: energy equals mass time acceleration squared. If you double your speed, you don’t double the force of the impact, you quadruple it; therefore, any extra speed is a very bad thing if I was not going the direction I wanted to go, such as if a swerve started on rollout. He asked me what would happen if I had any extra speed when I flared to land?  

That was easy, the airplane was going to float. He again smiled and pointed out that while I was floating along there, in ground effect, the crosswind had time to act on me and that there was a huge chance that the airplane and I would start drifting downwind. To stop the drift, I might be foolish enough to force the airplane onto the ground while still going fast, hitting either flat or on the nosewheel, while going sideways. Then I’d be faced with trying to salvage a landing that is in serious trouble. He paused and asked two questions: “Can you do it?  Do you want to be in that position?”

He looked at me and continued, “So, let’s fly the airplane at the speed the manufacturer published. After all, it’s the speed you flew when you first soloed and it worked just fine back then. The controls are effective; it just may take some big inputs to get the airplane to go where you want."

In later years I learned that while the published approach speed in a POH is usually at or slightly above 1.3 Vso, that the manufacturer had had to demonstrate the airplane was controllable on approach and landing when flying at only 1.2 Vso. It also confirmed what my instructor had told me about adding extra speed on the approach being a bad thing.

In our discussion, my instructor went on, “As you get close in, you transition from a crab to wing-down approach. You nail the drift with the aileron and keep the nose parallel to the centerline with the rudder, then you flare and touch down. You don’t mess around trying for a full stall landing, you get the nose up into landing attitude and touch down before you float and bad things start to happen. You’ve got full flaps in there for drag, to maximize the rate of deceleration and help make sure you don’t float. You put it on the upwind wheel and progressively roll in every bit of the aileron travel to keep it on one wheel as long as you can. The other wheel comes down and NO! you do not breathe a sigh of relief.” 

The Danger Zone

I was paying full attention, partially because he was a good instructor and I’d been able to handle crosswind landings when I soloed because of his training, but recently they’d been giving me trouble, probably because I’d gotten sloppy or hadn’t been applying what he’d taught me. He was speaking very clearly: “Once you are on the ground, not while you are on the approach, you are squarely in the danger zone on a crosswind landing. Very few pilots crash on the approach. They lose it in the rollout. They have too much speed and have touched down either flat or drifting downwind, or both, and they are about to discover that even though the wheels are rolling, they have no rolling control. The tires won’t do a thing to keep the airplane going straight, there’s not enough friction for adhesion—they’ll just skid. I don’t want you to be one of those pilots who think that once the wheels touch that they can quit flying the airplane. I don’t want you centering the ailerons and sitting there patting yourself on the back for handling a crosswind and start thinking about everything except keeping the airplane going straight. Right then it is the flight controls that will keep the airplane going straight. I don’t want you to be one of those pilots who quit using them. I don’t want your brain to snap from 'flight' to 'ground.' The airplane is still flying. If you’ve centered the ailerons, the airplane will start to hop sideways and you can’t stop it with nosewheel steering. If the airplane gets a bit sideways, things can go downhill fast.

“I’ll say this to you now and every time we land until I see that it has become second nature to you—keep flying the airplane all the time. Once you touch down, you roll in all of the aileron into the wind and you keep it there throughout the rollout. That aileron deflection gives you flying control, because the airplane isn’t done flying. The drag of the downwind aileron helps keep the airplane going straight and not weathervaning into the wind. The upwind aileron also forces the upwind tire onto the ground, increasing its friction and giving lateral rolling control when otherwise there wouldn’t be much weight on any of the tires. You use all the flaps because you want their drag to help decelerate as quickly as you can through the region of diminishing aerodynamic control to a speed where you have rolling control.” 

As an aside at this point—I recognize that flap use in crosswinds is a hot topic with pilots. Also, a lot of POHs call for minimal use of flaps in crosswinds, whereas others, such as the Aviat Husky and Diamond DA40, call for full flaps. I’ll simply note that where I’ve been able to find information on flap deflection in crosswind landings, it’s indicated that as flap deflection increases, the accident rate decreases.

I asked my instructor what I should do if I have the controls to the stops on the approach and I can’t keep the airplane going where I want it to go? He was kind enough not to remind me that we’d gone over this some months before. He reiterated that that situation was a red flag in a crosswind landing—It’s time to make a go-around, climb to a safe altitude, set low cruise power with the mixture leaned to burn minimum fuel and take time to decide what to do next. He and I talked over available options because the situation was a question about successfully landing the airplane. If there’s a question about being able to complete a landing safely, it’s time to step back and look other options. If it is afternoon and the wind is forecast to drop, the best thing to do might be a sightseeing trip in the local area, at reduced power so as not to use up all the fuel, and then land in the diminished crosswind. Otherwise, find a way to land the airplane into the wind, or at least reduce the crosswind component. Look for another runway oriented into the wind on the airport or on a nearby airport. He said that landing on another airport will delay my arrival at where I want to go, but it’s a lot less embarrassing to show up late than to roll the airplane into a ball. He and I discussed landing at an angle across a runway, to cut down the crosswind component. We did some drawings on a piece of paper and found that unless the runway was pretty wide, it would not make be a big difference, but it might be enough to reduce the crosswind from awful to just unpleasant. 

He also said that I should never ignore an available grass runway oriented into the wind. In later years I read accident reports where the pilot lost it in a strong crosswind because he felt he had to land on pavement even though there was a perfectly good grass runway that was right into the wind.

My thanks to the late Everett Benson, of Dana, Iowa, who taught me how to make crosswind landings. Over the years what he taught me has been verified many times over: Don’t fly fast on final, touch slowly and use the flight controls throughout rollout and when taxiing—they work at speeds much lower than you might imagine.

I'll also stick in a strong recommendation for recurrent training in crosswinds regularly. In addition, if you have access to the Redbird Xwind Simulator, buy an hour of dual in it. I reviewed it for Aviation Consumer for the November 2014 issue and came away impressed. I think it will improve any pilot's ability to handle crosswinds. 

One Extra Technique

Not long after I got my private rating, I learned one other technique for handling very strong crosswinds. It is perfectly legal but rarely considered. It has prevented accidents, yet airport managers sometimes get distressed about it: If the airport has a long enough taxiway that is oriented into the wind, isn’t near buildings or obstructions and there is no one on it, you land on the taxiway. 

As long as there aren’t any people or things to hit, it’s certainly much safer to land on a taxiway that is into the wind than try to land in a crosswind that is so strong you are concerned about your ability to make a safe landing. The Federal Aviation Regulations contain no prohibition against taxiway landings. So long as the landing does not conflict with any other airplanes and there are no people, vehicles or buildings in the immediate vicinity of the touchdown and rollout area, the operation is not careless or reckless, and is far, far safer than losing control of an airplane while landing on a runway. You may never need this tool in your bag, but stick it there, just in case. 


As the crosswinds of spring pick up, be ready with the tools to handle them: Land as nearly into the wind as possible; be at no faster than 1.3 Vso plus half the gust factor by short final; touchdown as slowly as possible to minimize the energy you’re going to have to deal with on rollout; after touchdown, continue to use the flight controls—ailerons into the wind throughout the roll out; and be willing to use full deflection of the controls. Be assertive and make the airplane go where you want it to go.

Rick Durden holds an ATP with type ratings in the Douglas DC-3 and Cessna Citation, is a CFII and the author of The Thinking Pilot’s Flight Manual or, How to Survive Flying Little Airplanes and Have a Ball Doing It, Vols. 1 & 2.

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:

Tom Bliss

Russ Niles

Paul Bertorelli

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Geoff Rapoport

Rick Durden
Kevin Lane-Cummings
Paul Berge
Larry Anglisano

Ad Coordinator
Karen Lund

Executive Vice President, Editorial Director
Timothy Cole


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