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Volume 25, Number 10a
March 5, 2018
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Graves Not Looking For FAA Job
Russ Niles

Rep. Sam Graves's office says they first heard that he was being considered to head the FAA in news reports last week. The long-time Missouri Republican, pilot and co-chair of the House general aviation caucus, was among three short-listed candidates named by Axios in a story last week that focused on President Donald Trump’s alleged suggestion of his personal pilot John Dunkin to head the agency. The FAA has been without an administrator since January when Michael Huerta retired. Since then Assistant Administrator Dan Elwell has commanded the eighth floor and he was the third name on the Axios list.

Graves spokesman Suzanne Youngblood told the Kansas City Star it’s possible Axios confused the FAA rumor with Graves’ publicly stated goal to become the next head of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The current chairman, Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., is retiring at the end of his current term. Shuster was also the architect of a failed move to corporatize the air traffic control system. Shuster pulled that language from the current FAA reauthorization bill last week saying he didn’t have the votes to carry it.

Tecnam Astore Flight Trial
Paul Bertorelli

Tecnam has enjoyed brisk sales with its new Astore LSA. AVweb's Paul Bertorelli recently took the airplane for a flight trial and shot this detailed video report.

Lycoming 'When can an engine give you 200 extra flying hours?'
Things I Might Not Do Again
Paul Bertorelli

I just pulled down from a dusty shelf in my office a plaque awarded to me for an important aviation achievement. It was presented to me personally by none other than famed flight test pilot and Collier Trophy winner Scott Crossfield. More on that in a moment.

The reason I retrieved it relates to something I saw on the evening news last weekend. A Piper Malibu, having landed undamaged on the median or maybe the lanes of the 101 freeway near San Jose, was being towed to a nearby airport. As the camera scrolled the airframe, I thought to myself, hey, that looks just like my friend Chuck Kissner’s old Malibu, the one we flogged across the continent several times with me in the right seat. When I saw the N-number, it sure enough was the same airplane. This is not something you want to see on the evening news. Or at all.

Dredging my memory, I was thinking this was the airplane’s second engine failure. Well no, Chuck informed me by email, it was actually the fifth partial or full failure, at least that we know about. Chuck had three—two turbo hose departures and a fuel pump failure. His then-partner had a broken crankshaft and now this failure. The airplane is an early Malibu and has north of 5500 hours.

Even experienced vicariously via a 15-second news clip, such a development causes one to, shall I say, rethink one’s decisions. Chuck was more whimsical: “Ah, the power of rationalization,” he wrote me, reminding me that even after his mechanical mayhem, he continued to fly the airplane over the Rockies. At night. Sometimes in weather. Sometimes with me along.  

Readers of this blog know that I’m fond of measuring risk numerically so even if the airplane had five failures in 10,000 hours, that’s not what I would call low risk. If you explained this to a non-aviation person about to ascend the airstair into the cabin, would it cause pause? Logically, it should, I suppose. On the other hand, the airplane made it down safely every time.

In addition to being a serial quitter, the airplane had another unnerving habit. Being pressurized, it oil canned a little in the form of a robust bang at random moments. Chuck had warned me about it, but I still nearly soiled myself when it did this over the mountains in weather. At least it was daylight.

The Malibu was—and is—one of the great GA airplanes. Big, fast and comfortable. But Piper was further along with the airframe than Continental was with the engine. The TSIO-520-BE did the job of pressurizing the cabin with a pair of turbos and driving the thing into the flight levels, but it didn’t have much to spare and the early airplanes could be maintenance hogs. What the Malibu really needed was the IO-550 series, but by the time that was available, Piper had switched to the Lycoming TIO-540 for the Mirage.

Chuck is off flying piston airplanes at all now, but I’d still get in that very same airplane for a long trip. But I’m no longer interested in traversing the Rockies or Sierras in weather or at night. I’d still fly night IFR, even in the winter, considering the airplane has boots and handles icing effectively. We did one such trip westbound from Rhode Island to California into the teeth of a winter gale. When the groundspeed drops to 120 knots in a 200-knot airplane, the discussion naturally turns to things made by Pratt & Whitney bolted on to things made by Boeing.

Now, about that plaque. We were awarded it by the National Aeronautic Association for “speed over a recognized course from San Jose … to New York … for Class C-1d, Group 1 on May 4, 1992.” According to the plaque, the trip took 10 hours and 56 minutes for a speed of 234.16 mph. It’s an impressive plaque with a bespoke raised gold seal. I don’t have it hanging up because I don’t have the wall space and because if someone asked about it, I’d have to explain what “vanity record” means.

These so-called city-pair records seemed to be a thing in the early 1990s and may still be, for all I know. But it’s about as significant as the record my personal parachute packer, Kyle, awarded me over the weekend: the most number of skydives without dying. I like that guy. He keeps packing them and I keep unpacking them.

I went to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, where the late Scott Crossfield handed out the awards. What a gracious man. When one of the recipients told Crossfield that he was a personal hero, Crossfield replied: “Well, tonight, you’re mine.” Maybe I’ll withdraw that crack about the vanity record. For a brief, shining moment, the awards made us feel like we were participants in the larger world of aeronautics, even if strutting across the stage for an eye blink.

Crossfield asked me what the unrefueled range of the Malibu was, but damned if I could remember. But I do know it has a hell of a glide ratio.

FAA Reorganization Formalized
Russ Niles

Six months after announcing the move, the FAA’s reorganization of its flight standards (AFS) and certification services (AIR) became official as of March 5. The agency has been running those operations under the new regime since last August but the rule that enshrines the reorganization in the regulations became effective March 5. The reorganization eliminates the geographical structure of those services, which used to be handled more or less independently by 77 flight standard district offices.

Under the new system, approvals are divided among specific departments that report nationally rather than regionally, cutting down on the inconsistency of interpretations of the rules at the local level. “The AIR reorganization included eliminating product directorates and restructuring and re-designating field offices,” the Federal Register notification says. “The AFS reorganization included eliminating geographic regions, realigning headquarters organizations, and restructuring field offices.”

Bizjet At Center of International Dragnet
Russ Niles

An international game of cat and mouse has the Canadian government pitted against a wealthy South African family at the center of a political corruption scandal and the disappearance of their luxury business jet. Now Canada’s state-owned Export Development Bank is trying to repossess the 2014 Bombardier Global 6000 saying it's owed $27 million of the original $40 million loan it provided the Gupta family to buy the jet. There are also allegations the aircraft, with a registration of ZS-OAK, has been used as a getaway vehicle for Gupta family members. “There is a very real concern that the aircraft may be used to escape justice or for some unlawful means,” the bank wrote in an application to the South African court seeking to ground the airplane.

That would appear to be a formality since no one seems to know where the big bizjet is. The tail number has been hidden on FlightAware and the bank is hoping someone will spot the aircraft and let them know. It was last seen a few weeks ago in Russia, Dubai and India according to the Washington Post. The Guptas, whose empire includes media, mining and machinery, have been implicated in wide-ranging corruption involving former South African President Jacob Zuma, who was forced to resign in the scandal. An arrest warrant is still outstanding for one of three brothers, Anjay Gupta. When the jet turns up, it’s likely the bank will be able to seize it because most countries are party to international agreements that allow creditors to claim goods from clients who are in default. The bank says the Guptas haven’t made a payment since October of 2017.

India Most Female Friendly For Pilots
Russ Niles

As Women of Aviation Week begins this week, the country with the highest ratio of female airline pilots may come as a surprise to some. India has the most female pilots per capita as a little more than 12 percent of Indian airline pilots are women. Finland is neck and neck with India but most other countries are far behind that total. In the U.S. it’s 5.1 percent and worldwide just 5 percent. India was relatively late to the game in hiring females for the flight deck but its airline industry is also fairly new. The first female FO started working in 1984.

Meanwhile, Women of Aviation Week attempts to boost those numbers by giving girls and women firsthand contact with the aviation industry and women who work in it. The belief is that the relative scarcity of female role models has led to the belief that flying is not a viable career option as girls start mapping out their working lives. Many WOAW events are built around Fly It Forward events in which volunteer pilots take girls and women for their first flight in a small plane. One of the largest of hundreds of events planned for this week will be in Loveland, Colorado.

Garmin Announces Another Portable ADS-B Receiver
Larry Anglisano

The portable ADS-B receiver market just got more crowded as Garmin throws the GDL50 in the mix. Garmin says the GDL50—which joins the GDL51 and GDL52 SXM-equipped receivers—is the successor to the aging GDL39-3D ADS-B receiver.

Priced at $849, the device is available immediately and is also available in a remote-mounted version, the GDL50R. The GDL50 is packaged in the same chassis as the previously released GDL51/GDL52 receivers (see our video report here), but doesn’t have the SiriusXM datalink receiver. The GDL50 has a dual-link traffic receiver, plus FIS-B datalink weather, a backup GPS and outputs (via Bluetooth) backup attitude data to Garmin’s Pilot tablet app and to the aera660/795/796 portable GPS navigators. The remote version works with the experimental G3X Touch avionics suite through a wired and wireless Bluetooth interface.

The GDL50 has an 8-hour battery and is capable of wirelessly streaming data to two devices and also making hardwired connections to two additional devices simultaneously.

For more on Garmin's ADS-B product line, visit   

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Brainteasers Quiz #241: Now What?

In the fast-moving world of flight, the pilot needs to think ahead, anticipate ATC's next transmission and what might happen if you lose, say, an engine. Do that, and you'll fly smart and ace this quiz.

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Subscribe to 'IFR Refresher' Magazine
Short Final

A couple of relevant PIREPs from the East Coast noreaster on March 2: 





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

December 2, 2017, Plato Center, Ill.

Pulsar 912XP Experimental

The pilot reported attempting to activate the airport’s pilot-controlled lighting (PCL) system, but was unsuccessful. He continued toward the airport and, while maneuvering for a landing, he lost sight of the airport. The pilot continued to descend, however, and the airplane sustained substantial damage when it impacted a fence adjacent to the runway at around 1650 Central time. The private airport’s owner reported the PCL does not receive signals from the southeast, due to obstructions. The accident airplane was approaching from the southeast.

December 3, 2017, Thomasville, Ga.

Piper PA-34-200T Seneca II

At about 1520 Eastern time, the airplane was substantially damaged while landing. The commercial pilot and three passengers were not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

After an uneventful flight, the pilot extended the landing gear but the left main gear did not indicate down and locked. The pilot cycled the landing gear three times, and then utilized the manual landing gear extension procedure, with no changes. Aerial observation of the landing gear by airport personnel indicated all three landing gear appeared to be down. On touching down, the left main gear collapsed, the airplane turned 90 degrees to the left and came to a stop on the runway. Examination revealed the left main landing gear was partially extended and inside the gear well. Structural damage to the left wing was confirmed.

December 4, 2017, Rockford, Ill.

Beech Model C90 King Air

The airplane impacted terrain short of the runway at about 1802 Central time. The private pilot and one passenger sustained serious injuries while two passengers sustained minor injuries. The airplane was substantially damaged. Visual conditions prevailed.

The flight requested a local IFR clearance as it neared the destination and the pilot was cleared for a visual approach to Runway 19. As the airplane approached the airport, the pilot requested the Runway 25 lights be turned on and the airplane was subsequently cleared to land on Runway 25. The airplane impacted terrain before the Runway 25 threshold. At 1754, recorded weather at the airport included winds from 190 degrees at 18 knots, gusting to 25.

December 4, 2017, Rio Oso, Calif.

Beechcraft Model A36 Bonanza

At about 0720 Pacific time, the airplane made an emergency landing to an open field after the solo airline transport pilot noted an onboard fire. The pilot received minor injuries; the airplane sustained substantial damage. Visual conditions prevailed.

The pilot later stated he had started a descent to his destination when he saw a flickering light underneath the instrument panel. Realizing it was a fire, he reduced power and made an intentional gear-up forced landing to a field. The airplane landed in a plowed field and came to rest about 250 feet from its initial touchdown point after rotating 150 degrees to the left. After the pilot exited the airplane, it burst into flames.

December 5, 2017, Brewton, Ala.

Piper PA-28-180 Cherokee 180

The airplane was substantially damaged during a forced landing at about 1400 Central time. The private pilot and passenger were not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

While en route on an IFR flight plan, ATC cleared the flight to descend from 8000 feet msl to 4000. Subsequently, the engine experienced a total loss of power, and the pilot notified ATC he was diverting. Due to a strong headwind, the airplane was not able to glide to the nearest runway, so the pilot attempted to land in a field. During the landing approach, the airplane collided with tree tops and landed hard. During the roll-out, the airplane contacted a fence post, which damaged the right wing.

Examination revealed damage to the landing gear, fuselage, firewall and right wing leading edge. The left-wing fuel tank, which was undamaged, contained approximately 20 ounces of fuel. The right-wing fuel tank was breached and leaking but was approximately half-full. The fuel selector valve was positioned on the left fuel tank.

December 5, 2017, Glendale, Ariz.

Piper PA-34-200T Seneca II

At about 1835 Mountain time, the airplane was substantially damaged during a runway excursion after landing. The flight instructor and a commercial pilot were not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

Both pilots reported that the left wing dipped during landing roll. Despite their control inputs, the airplane veered to the left side of the runway, collided with a runway sign and came to a stop in a grassy area. The left main landing gear had collapsed during the landing sequence.

December 6, 2017, Chesterfield, Mo.

Beech B36TC Turbocharged Bonanza

The airplane impacted a gas station pump canopy and parking lot at 1454 Central time, following a reported loss of engine power while on a visual approach. The solo private pilot sustained fatal injuries; the airplane was destroyed by post-impact fire. Visual conditions prevailed; the flight was conducted on an IFR flight plan.

According to preliminary information, the airplane was on a left-traffic visual approach when the pilot reported losing power. The local controller immediately cleared the pilot to land but he responded that he may not be able to make it to the airport. No further communications were received from the pilot. Witnesses observed the airplane at a low altitude with no engine noise. Shortly thereafter, the airplane impacted the gas station and a post-impact fire ensued. Witnesses attempted to suppress the fire with available fire extinguishers but were unsuccessful due to the intense heat and smoke.


December 7, 2017, St. Croix, V.I.

Beech 58 Baron

At about 2100 Atlantic time, the airplane was destroyed after it impacted terrain while attempting to return to the airport shortly after takeoff. The private pilot and four passengers were fatally injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

Shortly after takeoff, the pilot reported to ATC, “the engines are not running right,” and requested to return to the airport. The controller instructed the pilot to fly north and cleared the airplane to land on Runway 10. There were no further communications with the pilot. The airplane came to rest on flat terrain, about 380 feet from the Runway 10 threshold and about 60 feet right of the extended runway centerline. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces and consumed by fire. Examination revealed a hole in the top forward portion of the left engine crankcase and connecting rods 4, 5, and 6 were broken. The left engine’s propeller blades appeared to be in the feathered position.

This article originally appeared in the March 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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