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Volume 25, Number 8a
February 19, 2018
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First Drone-Caused Crash?
Russ Niles

The FAA and NTSB are now mulling the circumstances of a relatively minor helicopter crash in South Carolina that may go down in history as the first U.S. aircraft crash caused by a drone. According to the narrative available so far, the drone didn’t directly cause the crash but the pilot’s evasive maneuvers to avoid it seem to have. Whether that becomes part of the official cause is part of what those deliberations will entail. The Charleston Post and Courier is reporting the Robinson R22, with a student and instructor on board, encountered the drone, possibly a DJI Phantom, while the student was practicing maneuvers over an undeveloped area of Daniel Island.

The instructor told authorities the drone entered the airspace and he took control, trying to avoid a collision. He managed to miss the drone but smacked the tail rotor on a small tree and the helicopter ended up on its side. The aircraft was destroyed but the occupants were not hurt. The instructor reported the accident immediately and the investigators took over. So far, the only confirmed collision with a drone involved an Army Blackhawk helicopter last September in New York with predictable results for the drone.

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Video: Reliefband 2.0
Larry Anglisano

On the market since the mid-1990s, the FDA-cleared Reliefband wearable therapeutic neuromodulation device may be worth a try for motion-sick-prone passengers, and the company recently released the next-gen device called the Reliefband 2.0. Aviation Consumer Editor Larry Anglisano took it flying.

Is Motion Sickness Mind Over Matter?
Larry Anglisano

After reviewing Reliefband’s latest-gen wearable therapeutic neuromodulation device for sister publication Aviation Consumer magazine (March 2018), I started thinking more about motion sickness and whether I’ve done enough for the few passengers who lost their airport lunch in my cabin. The idea behind the Reliefband is to electrically stimulate the median nerve in the wrist, normalizing the messages within the central nervous system that travel from the brain to the stomach. While Reliefband’s $175 nerve zapper may work for some, I’m convinced that with airsickness, there’s as much mind game in play as there are physiological troubles. For the pilot in command, the key is awareness and preparedness. Once you recognize the passengers who fit the bill for ruining a new interior, there are things you can do to help and that includes getting into their head.

My grown daughter Ashley who has been flying in small cabins since she was an infant sometimes comes along as a camera hand when we do flight evaluations. If she knows it’s going to be a shakedown flight with stalls, unusual attitudes and riding the edge of Vne in rapid descents, her complexion literally turns a shade of green before even loading the camera gear into the cabin. Clearly, that's a lot to ask of a passenger. But I’ve learned that once she’s immersed in shooting the footage—which is when her mind is not focused on puking in someone's airplane—she’s reasonably chill. That tells me one plan of attack should be to keep passengers engaged in the flight. One old saw is to have them help spot traffic, but that won’t always work in IMC and it can also spark more wiggle-in-the-seat anxiety as they contemplate a midair. Instead, hand over an action cam and promise the passenger YouTube stardom. Airsick passengers might also have some things in common.

Recalling the ones that I’ve sickened, all seem to have at least some of the same personality traits: They’re anxious, rigid and generally unaccepting of risk. Moreover, all had motion sickness at one time or another, which likely led to their fear and anxiety of getting sick ... again … in a little damned airplane. Interestingly, all were in excellent physical condition, with fast-moving digestion systems toned from intense exercise. An endurance athlete flying around with fewer intestinal organs than I was born with, I wonder if rapid digestion contributes to my general intolerance for aerobatics. I admit to wearing the Reliefband. If any docs care to weigh in on the theory, I’m all ears. So once you’ve identified your next victim, is the Reliefband’s therapeutic neuromodulation approach a sure remedy? Not exactly.

Reliefband says that its FDA-cleared (not FDA-approved—there is a difference) wearable device has an 80 to 85 percent efficacy rate. When I challenged the claims during my research the company lit up my inbox with the results of over 30 clinical studies on the effectiveness of simultaneous transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. All concluded that motion sickness symptoms can be suppressed by portable acustimulation methods. For an overview of the device’s feature set, check out the evaluation video. Reliefband also pointed out that some of its research was conducted with U.S. military flight crews that drone along for hours and hours in the back of troop haulers, which isn’t exactly a smooth and lux ride.

An early-gen Reliefband has lived in my flight bag since the late 1990s and there haven’t been many flights that it hasn’t worked, but I’ll always wonder if users escape sickness simply because they know they’re wearing it. Few find the device pleasant to wear. My wife finds its nerve pulses less than comfortable and others seem to concur. 

“I have to grit my teeth when initially adjusting the device’s shock level. It’s a bit like taking a nasty-tasting medicine, but you do it because you know the medicine will make you feel better,” Karen Durden told me during my research. She uses the device when flying in airliners and in small aircraft cabins and is convinced that its relief benefits outweigh the displeasure of the shock. She has even passed it around to other motion-sick passengers in airline cabins and says it has worked on them. A Bonanza owner at the local airfield told me his wife won’t get in the airplane without the device and has driven the 25 miles back home to get it when she forgot to bring it. My doctor uses it for passengers on his sailboat with success. Is there some placebo in play here? Maybe, and that's ok.

If you aren’t a believer in shock therapy, there are a few drug-free remedies to try, including the familiar over-the-counter meds that come with side effects. Then there's the sniffer. I had Sporty’s (which also sells the Reliefband) send me the QueaseEase product, which is a $10 recipe of essential oils including ginger, peppermint, spearmint and lavender. The concoction is stored in a cylinder with a twist cap that releases the scent. QueaseEase says the molecules from the inhaled oil scent travel to the central nervous system where they disrupt the queasiness cycle. It freshens the nostrils, but I've found that's about it. Another remedy that might help, if the airplane is equipped, is breathing supplemental oxygen. And of course, pressurized cabins are the ultimate in civilized passenger comfort.

A good plan is to keep passengers sitting upright in their seats (and seated in the forward-facing seats in club-configured interiors) with barf bags close at hand. I once irresponsibly neglected to equip the cabin with bags and learned a valuable lesson when a passenger lost it in her lap. Since motion sickness is partly sensory overload as the fluids in the ear canal move, slouching over with the head out of the upright position might send a sick passenger over the edge. Years ago while motoring through the busy New York Class B in wicked turbulence, a rear seater tried to fight off motion sickness by resting her head 90 degrees on the aircraft's sidewall. She soon lost the battle and decorated the Mooney’s new interior with a Subway six-inch.

To me, the surprise of dealing with a motion-sick passenger is a lot like dealing with a cabin door that opens on takeoff. It's not necessarily a safety of flight issue, but the drama is distracting enough to send your workload off the rails if you let it. Comment if there’s a remedy or plan that’s worked for you so that others can benefit. Motion sickness might not be all about mind games, but with the right mindset and game plan I’m convinced for some it can be easily avoided without strapping on a pricey wearable device.

See the video here at


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Canada Certifies Pipistrel Alpha Electro
Russ Niles

Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA) has certified the Pipistrel Alpha Electro in its advanced ultralight category, the first certification of an electric aircraft in North America. The certification means the aircraft can be used commercially in its intended role as an economical trainer. Electric airplanes can’t qualify for the factory-built light sport category (S-LSA) because FAA regulations specify those aircraft have a “single, reciprocating engine.” The FAA has so far resisted numerous calls to remove that term, saying the electric power adds levels of complexity to the operation and maintenance beyond the scope of LSA, according to Wired. So the only classifications that fit the Electro and most other electric designs are experimental or exhibition and commercial operations are not permitted for experimentals.

Pipistrel Canada distributor Jonas Boll told AVweb that Canadian rules don’t include the same phraseology and certification of the Alpha Electro “was pretty straightforward.” TCCA required upgrades of the operating manual and pilot operating handbook and signed off on the certification early this month. There is one Electro flying in Western Canada but the owner uses it as a personal aircraft, not as a trainer. AVweb's Paul Bertorelli flew the Electro two years ago and shot this video.

Iran ATR 72 Crash Kills 65
Russ Niles

All 65 people aboard an Aseman Airlines ATR-72 turboprop were killed when the aircraft crashed in bad weather in the mountains of southern Iran Sunday. The aircraft hit Mt. Dena, which is almost 14,000 feet tall, while on approach to Yasuj on a flight from Tehran just after midnight. Wind, snow and dense fog prevented searchers from immediately reaching the scene and when they did get there they found no survivors among the 59 passengers and six crew. It was the second major airliner crash in a week and new details have emerged about the earlier crash of regional jet in Russia two weeks ago.

Investigators now believe pitot tube icing resulted in false airspeed indications and likely contributed to the crash of the Saratov Airlines An-148 shortly after takeoff from Domodedovo Airport last Sunday. The data was retrieved from the flight data recorder and investigators are still analyzing the cockpit voice recorder. The two crashes come after the safest year ever in world airline operations. In 2017 there were no fatal accidents involving mainstream carriers and only two fatal accidents involving scheduled passenger flights. One passenger died 12 days after a West Wind Aviation ATR 42 crashed in northern Saskatchewan on Dec. 13 and all 12 people aboard a Nature Air Flight died in a New Year’s Eve crash in Costa Rica.

Helicopter Crash Kills 13 Earthquake Survivors
Russ Niles

The only fatalities resulting from the magnitude 7.2 earthquake in Mexico on Friday were 13 people on the ground hit by a crashing military Blackhawk helicopter on Saturday. The helicopter was carrying government officials surveying the damage in Santiago Jamiltepec in Oaxaca state in southern Mexico when it crashed while attempting to land in a vacant lot. It landed on top of a van and the crash also injured 15 people, who were among a group of people who spent the night outside after the quake. They were apparently waiting for the helicopter.

The aircraft was carrying Interior Secretary Alfonso Navarrete and Oaxaca Gov. Alejandro Murat. No one on the helicopter was seriously injured. Photos from the scene showed the helicopter on its side with a van crushed underneath it. The aircraft had reportedly touched down in the landing area marked out by a perimeter of vehicles when it slid sideways and rolled onto the van.

Canada Looks At Laser Pointer Ban
Russ Niles

Canada is looking at banning some types of laser pointers after its Transport Minister ordered his staff to look at “all possible options” to halt laser attacks on aircraft. Marc Garneau called a news conference last week after there were six reported incidents at Trudeau International Airport in Montreal over two days earlier this month. Garneau said the incidents made him “very, very mad” and spurred the action. He didn’t confirm a laser pointer ban but did say there would be an announcement in the next few weeks. 

Laser incidents have actually decreased significantly in the last couple of years, from 590 in 2015 to 379 in 2017 but Garneau isn’t satisfied with that. “That’s not enough. We need to do more,” he said. Two years ago, Garneau’s department began an education campaign describing the danger and outlining the serious penalties those who point lasers at airplanes face ($100,000 fine and five years in jail) but Garneau said those who are responsible for most of the attacks “know darn well what they’re doing.” He said the forthcoming announcement will be “more than just simply continuing the education program.” Government sources told CTV News that could include a ban on imports of especially powerful laser pointers, mandatory warning labels and even stiffer penalties.

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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.

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Short Final

ATC: Squawk 0007 maintain 4500 direct to XXXX 

Me: Maintain 4500 direct XXXX, squawk licensed to kill 

ATC: Only if your name is Bond, James Bond 

Me: Since my name is Dave I guess I will just squawk 0007

Dave Gagliardi



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 7, 2017, Clearwater, Fla.

Icon Aircraft A5

At about 1204 Eastern time, the airplane impacted open water in the Gulf of Mexico while maneuvering at low level. The private pilot sustained fatal injuries and the airplane was substantially damaged. Visual conditions prevailed.

Data recorded by various on-board systems included GPS altitude, groundspeed and heading. The airplane departed from a private lake about 1147. It climbed to 1909 feet on a northerly heading before turning west toward the coast, then descended to 36 feet and turned south. It flew on a southerly track past at 11 feet GPS altitude and 92 knots. The airplane then performed a right 360-degree turn while climbing to about 100 feet. The airplane continued on a southerly track, flying as close as 75 feet to beachfront homes. The last data point recovered showed the airplane at 200 feet, 87 knots and tracking 196 degrees.

A witness saw the airplane perform a climb to between 300 and 500 feet on a southerly heading before it turned and descended on an easterly heading in about a 45-degree nose-down attitude. He then saw the airplane impact the water and nose over.

The airplane came to rest in 4.5 feet of saltwater oriented to the south with the fuselage and wings inverted. The front fuselage and cockpit were highly fragmented. The empennage section separated from the airframe and came to rest forward of the wings in an inverted position. Numerous fragments were recovered within a 300-foot radius from the wreckage. All the flight controls and major components were located at the main wreckage site.

The pilot accepted delivery of the airplane on October 10, 2017. His logbook indicated a total of 703.9 flight hours, of which 51.8 hours were in an Icon A5 airplane, and 14.5 hours were in the accident airplane. Weather about 19 miles southeast of the accident site at 1153 included calm winds, visibility of 10 sm and clear skies.

November 7, 2017, Sulphur, La.

Hughes 369D

The helicopter was not damaged when its external cargo long line severed after contacting a shield wire suspended between power transmission towers at 0934 Central time. The two linemen who were being hoisted on the long line were fatally injured when they fell about 100 feet to the ground. Visual conditions prevailed.

The flight’s purpose was to install guard ropes between the deenergized power transmission lines. After a preflight safety briefing and discussion of the expected work tasks, the pilot brought the helicopter into a hover above the linemen to allow them to hook onto the external cargo long line. He then repositioned the helicopter to allow the linemen to work on the conductor bundles.

The pilot reported that he saw one of the linemen grab a conductor. At the same time he also observed the long line in contact with the shield wire. The pilot stated that the long line severed as he turned the helicopter into the wind and attempted to coax the linemen away from the northern conductors. After the accident, it was determined the 60 foot-long unsheathed long line separated about midspan while it was in contact with the braided steel shield wire suspended between power transmission towers. The pilot did not report any malfunction or failures with the helicopter that would have prevented normal operation.

November 7, 2017, Morrison, Tenn.

Piper PA-32-300 Cherokee Six

At about 1845 Central time, the airplane was destroyed when it impacted terrain. The flight instructor and a private pilot were fatally injured. Instrument conditions prevailed for the flight, which originated in Monroeville, Ala.

After missing an approach to the Warren County Memorial Airport in McMinnville, Tenn., the flight requested a clearance to Sparta, Tenn. After ATC issued a climb to 5000 feet msl and a clearance to Sparta, the flight’s radar target was observed to level at 5000 feet and turn toward the divert airport. Shortly thereafter, one of the pilots declared a “Mayday” and the radar target was observed in a rapid descent before radar contact was lost.

According to witnesses, the engine was “loud” and they reported hearing it “throttle up” before they heard the impact. The airplane came to rest in a soybean field at an elevation of 1030 feet msl. All major components of the airplane were located in the vicinity of the main wreckage. The wreckage came to rest upright and was partially consumed by a post-impact fire. Flight control continuity was confirmed from all flight control surfaces to the flight controls in the cockpit through cuts made to facilitate recovery. All three propeller blades exhibited leading edge damage.

November 10, 2017, Annapolis, Md.

Socata TB-200 Tobago XL GT

The airplane was substantially damaged at about 1520 Eastern time during a forced landing. The commercial pilot and two passengers were not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

About 45 minutes into a sightseeing flight and at 1500 feet msl, the pilot felt a very light and subtle vibration from the engine. Shortly thereafter, propeller rpm increased to the 2700 rpm redline. The pilot reduced engine power, but it had little effect. Soon, engine vibration increased and the cockpit began filling with smoke. The pilot diverted to a nearby airport right before the engine lost all power. The airplane touched down normally on an interstate highway access ramp, but struck a light pole and a guardrail before coming to rest on the grassy shoulder.

November 12, 2017, Fountain Run, Ky.

Piper PA-32-260 Cherokee Six

At 1410 Central time, the airplane was destroyed during an in-flight break-up and collision with trees and terrain following a loss of control while maneuvering. The private pilot/owner and three passengers were fatally injured. Instrument conditions prevailed.

The airplane was in cruise flight, eastbound at about 5500 feet msl, when it executed a slight turn to a northeasterly heading. At 1356, it climbed as high as 7500 feet and began a series of left and right turns while maintaining a generally northeast track. Shortly thereafter, it began an erratic series of left, right and 180-degree turns before a sharp right turn and descent to 2800 feet over a 30-second span before radar contact was lost. A witness described the airplane “in a nosedive” before losing sight of it behind trees.

The 1415 weather observation 15 miles north of the accident site included a broken ceiling at 500 feet and an overcast ceiling at 1300 feet. High-resolution weather data suggested a solid cloud layer up to 8000 feet msl in the area surrounding the accident site. The pilot did not file a flight plan nor obtain a weather briefing prior to departure. The pilot also did not possess an instrument rating.

November 15, 2017, Opa Locka, Fla.

Cessna Model 172RG Cutlass RG

The airplane sustained substantial damage during landing at about 2007 Eastern time. The commercial pilot and safety pilot were not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

While conducting a practice instrument approach, the pilot moved the landing gear selector to the down position just prior to intercepting a glideslope, then verified that the gear down-and-locked light was illuminated and completed the before-landing checklist. At about 500 feet agl, the GPS blinked, and radio communications were lost. At about 150 feet agl, the lights on the instrument panel blinked. The pilot then selected flaps to 30 degrees and configured the airplane for landing. The pilot stated that she then moved the landing light switch to the on position and immediately lost all electrical power.

After receiving a green light gun signal from the tower, she continued the approach and visually verified that the main landing gear was extended. Upon touchdown the right main landing gear collapsed, and the airplane departed the runway, sustaining substantial damage to the right horizontal stabilizer. The pilot stated that no electrical or landing gear warning lights were illuminated for the duration of the flight.

November 23, 2017, Starke, Fla.

Mooney M20C

At about 1515 Eastern time, the airplane impacted terrain and was destroyed. The private pilot was fatally injured. Instrument conditions prevailed; an IFR flight plan had been filed. The flight originated about 1500 Eastern time from Ocala, Fla.

According to a friend of the pilot who was a passenger on the flight to Ocala, the weather became “very turbulent” before landing and was “very windy and raining very hard” after landing. While the pilot waited for the weather to improve, the airplane’s fuel tanks were topped off. According to a witness, the pilot waited about 45 minutes before departing, mentioning that he had to get to his daughter’s birthday and a Thanksgiving gathering.

Subsequently, when the accident aircraft was on approach to its destination, the radar controller advised the local controller that the pilot was making erratic turns. Shortly afterward, the pilot executed a missed approach while on a five-mile final. The controller cleared the pilot to 3000 feet and asked if he would like to go to a different nearby airport where the weather was better. The pilot agreed but radar contact was lost shortly after that communication. Examination of the accident site revealed all three propeller blades were damaged. One was bent aft, one was relatively straight and one exhibited “S” bending and scoring.

This article originally appeared in the February 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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Russ Niles

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Kevin Lane-Cummings
Paul Berge
Larry Anglisano

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Karen Lund

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