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Volume 25, Number 11a
March 12, 2018
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Five Dead in East River Helo Mishap (Updated)
AVweb Staff

Five people were killed after a tour helicopter autorotated into New York's East River Sunday evening and turned over after touching down on the water. News reports said the pilot was the sole survivor of the accident. Prior to touching down on the water on inflatable skid floats, the pilot had reported engine trouble to ATC. CNN published dramatic footage and ATC audio of the mishap early Monday morning. 

Informal news footage obtained by several outlets show the Eurocopter AS350 touching down and remaining upright on its floats momentarily before rolling sharply to the right. First responders said they had difficulty freeing passengers who were tightly harnessed into the aircraft. The pilot did escape and was taken to a hospital for observation. 

The AS350 was operated by Liberty Helicopters and had been chartered for a private photo shoot, according to authorities. The accident was caught on cellphone video obtained by Fox News. Sunday's accident was the company's third in 11 years, according to WABC-TV. In August 2009, nine people died in a midair between a Liberty helicopter and a Piper Lance in the Hudson River VFR corridor near Teterboro Airport. 

AVweb will report additional details when they become available.

The Berlin Airlift: This Is The Year To Remember
Paul Bertorelli

Gail Halvorsen.

Some readers will instantly recognize that name, some will search the mists of their memories and others will draw a blank. Which are you?

In 1948, Gail Halvorsen was a 27-year-old prematurely balding Air Force transport pilot who gained overnight fame as the beloved Candy Bomber during the Berlin Airlift. At 97, Halvorsen is still with us and this year, the 70th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift, I suspect you’ll be hearing a lot both about him and the airlift. I’ll use this blog space to get you thinking about it because among the many things the airlift represented, it was inarguably a moment in which the airplane indelibly bent the arc of history.

A lowly first lieutenant, Halvorsen was but a minor cog in a big wheel, but his impact was outsized. Two books I’ve read recently chronicle the big lift: Daring Young Men: The Heroism and Triumph of the Berlin Airlift, by Richard Reeves, and The Candy Bombers: The Untold Story of the Berlin Airlift and America’s Finest Hour, by Andrei Cherny. 

The airlift began in late June 1948, ignited by a spat over currency in divided Germany. The Soviets closed road, rail and canal traffic to Berlin from western Germany, hoping the allies, whose tactical situation was hopeless, would collapse and abandon Berlin. A stubborn and occasionally petulant Army engineering officer, Gen. Lucius D. Clay, thought otherwise and pledged to sustain the city via an air bridge. The Soviets believed the very notion was patently absurd. Even the wise men in Washington counseled Clay, who had been assigned as allied governor of Germany, that the plan was untenable during the summer, much less during Germany’s notoriously foggy winter. Gen. Omar Bradley, then Army Chief of Staff, and Gen. George C. Marshall, then Secretary of State, advised President Harry Truman that a withdrawal from Berlin would be inevitable. Truman rejected the advice. “We stay in Berlin. Period,” he said. The record isn’t clear if Truman had the vaguest inkling of how ill-prepared the Air Force was to undertake such an operation. Clay was no better informed.

The airlift was initially a slapdash affair, flown mainly by C-47s, some with faded invasion stripes from their Normandy labors and whose cargo capacity was woefully inadequate. Truman again overruled the staff and ordered C-54s from all over the world—there weren’t that many of them—to Berlin. In the end, the U.S. had 225, each with a capacity of about 20,000 pounds. Enter Lt. Gail Halvorsen, ordered to report to Germany in July of 1948.

Seized by curiosity on his first trip into Berlin, he dragooned a sergeant to give him a tour of the devastated city, which he filmed with an 8 mm camera. When he encountered a gaggle of ragged kids watching the airlift landings from the St. Thomas cemetery hard by Tempelhof’s runway, Halvorson gave them bits of gum and candy he happened to be carrying. On a lark, he promised to drop them more from his airplane, after wagging the wings on approach.

And so he did. The crowd of kids swelled and so did the buzz. When the airlift commander, Gen. William Tunner, got wind of the “candy bomber,” he summoned Halvorsen for a rug dance. Except, shrewdly, Tunner understood that the airlift was not a battle of wits or resources, but of ideas and public image. And he knew golden PR when he saw it. Tunner encouraged Halvorson to expand his candy bombing, christening it “Operation Little Vittles.” Halvorsen made a trip back home and soon became a telegenic star of a new medium: television.

The U.S. public was enthralled and so were the beat-down residents of a shattered Berlin. Against fierce resistance from Berliners, the Soviets were trying mightily to drive the allies out of the city, bribing them with food ration cards and coal, a fuel in critically short supply. (Two-thirds of airlift tonnage was coal.) The airlift itself and especially Halvorsen’s candy bombers were high-profile demonstrations that were instrumental in swaying public opinion, convincing Berliners that the allies would sustain the city. And whether he intended it or not, Truman’s resolve won him a second term in an election that was all but ceded to Thomas Dewey.

As summer turned to fall and the foggiest November ever recorded in Europe, the airlift continued. Tunner was famous for charts and graphs tracking the rising weight of cargo carried into Berlin. Pilots were run ragged flying trips into Berlin’s three airports—Tempelhof, Gatow and, eventually, Tegel—24 hours a day, as much as a flight every three minutes. The airlift’s record on a single day was April 15, 1949: 12,941 tons in 1398 flights. One every minute. That’s more than twice as much tonnage as rail and canal traffic had been carrying before the Russian blockade.

There was a price to pay, not just in treasure, but blood, too. Seventy-four pilots, crew and ground personnel were killed in the 15 months the airlift operated. Under relentless pressure, pilots shaved operational standards to the bone. By winter of 1949, newly arriving pilots were issued a putty knife to chip ice off windshields so they could see to land. GCA approaches were flown in weather so low that follow-me jeeps couldn’t find the aircraft they were supposed to lead.

Maintenance suffered. Reeves writes that one trick to start balky engines was to run down the runway on the ones that would run, spin up the balkers, brake and taxi back to takeoff on all four. When starters failed, ground crews wrapped ropes around the prop hubs and used trucks to start the Pratt R-2000s.

Yet the airlift posted a remarkable safety record. At the time, the Air Force’s overall accident rate was 59/100,000 hours. For the airlift, it was 26.

By May of 1949, the Soviets realized they had lost the gamble and the blockade ended. But the airlift didn’t. The Air Force continued to fly cargo into Berlin until September, building stockpiles of supplies against the Russians closing the city again. Amazingly, writes Cherny, when the Berlin wall came down in 1990, Berliners had squirrelled away 132 million pounds of wheat, 52 million pounds of canned meat and 15 million pounds of butter, among tons of other supplies.

With Germany reunited, they had no need for it, just as Russians in the collapsing Soviet Union were suffering shortages and rationing. Ironically, even though Berlin wished to ship the food to its former tormenters, the breakaway Soviet republics blockaded roads and rail lines. They had no means to deliver the stuff.

Tunner’s achievements during the airlift had ramifications beyond the immediate geopolitical victory. Robert Garrett, an air safety investigator from the CAA who observed the airlift, said this: “The airlift has advanced the art of air traffic control by 10 years … the concept can easily be applied to New York, Chicago and Washington.” And it was. Major Edward Guilbert, a Hump veteran and Tunner’s statistical genius, tracked tonnage and airplanes with a network of strung-together teletype machines, inventing what we now know as electronic data interchange. After the lift, it was used in many industries—and still is.

My favorite quote about the airlift came from Reeves’ book. Wolfgang Samuel, a young German boy living near the end of Tempelhof’s runway, would later write: “One of those C-54s turned over our barracks on a clear December night and then fell like a rock out of the sky. The two pilots were killed. Only three years ago they were fighting against my country and now they are dying for us. The Americans were such strange people. I wondered, as only a boy can wonder, what made these people do the things they did?”

Harry Truman may have known the answer to this, even if he couldn’t have articulated it. Not that I can either. But I do know the world is a far better place for those people having done the things they did.

Click here to find two personal accounts of pilots who flew in the Berlin Airlift. It originally appeared in the June 1998 issue of our sister magazine, IFR.

JP International 'Primary Upgrade EDM
How To Get A Light Sport Seaplane Rating
Paul Bertorelli

The sport pilot rule allows anyone who wants a seaplane rating to do it with five or so hours of training and then an endorsement from an evaluating CFI. AVweb's Paul Bertorelli recently did the rating at Jones Brothers Air and Sea Adventures in Tavares, Florida. Here's his report.


Lycoming 'When can an engine give you 200 extra flying hours?'
AOPA Aviation Curriculum Free To Teachers
Mary Grady

AOPA has developed a curriculum for ninth-grade students that uses aviation to teach science, technology, engineering and math, and is offering it free to schoolteachers. Teachers will be introduced to the program through a professional development workshop offered June 26 to 28, which can be attended at AOPA headquarters in Frederick, Maryland, or taken online. The course has been tested with more than 700 students in nearly 30 schools over the last year, AOPA says. The program includes lesson plans, presentations, assignments, student activities and other learning experiences. The deadline for applying to use the aviation STEM curriculum during the 2018-19 school year is April 19.

The ninth-grade curriculum is the first in a four-year program that will comprise three career and technical education pathways — pilot, aerospace engineering and drones. The 10th-grade program will be available next year, and the 11th- and 12th-grade programs will follow in the next two years. Schools can decide to select individual courses to use as stand-alone electives, or implement one or more complete pathways. “This is a major step in our work to help young people learn more about the engaging and well-paying careers in aviation, and it gives schools the tools they need to teach our children skills that will last for a lifetime,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. The program is funded by the AOPA Foundation.

Honeywell Forecasts 4,000 To 4,200 New Civil Helicopter Deliveries Over Next Five Years
AVweb Staff

In its 20th annual "Turbine-Powered Civil Helicopter Purchase Outlook," released in late February 2018, Honeywell forecasts 4,000 to 4,200 new civilian-use helicopters will be delivered from 2018 to 2022. Honeywell says they feel a better long-term global economic outlook this year means customers are holding firm in their intentions to invest in new helicopter purchases.

"In addition to better global economic conditions expected in the coming years, potential positive impacts of U.S. tax reform on new helicopter demand and lower volatility in oil and gas-related markets have helped fleet managers confirm what they told us last year," Ben Driggs, president, Honeywell Aerospace, Americas says. "With the expectation of stable purchase plans for new helicopters over the next five years, Honeywell is focused on bringing increased value to operators' current and new fleets by offering Connected Helicopter engine, Health and Usage Monitoring Systems, and avionics solutions that help boost a platform's efficiency and availability."

Key survey findings this year include:

The next 12 months, helicopter fleet utilization is expected to increase significantly in North America and modestly in Europe and Latin America. Operators purchasing new aircraft are largely considering factors like brand experience and performance when choosing make and model. The outlook showed stable new purchase-plan rates for the next five years for North America, Europe and Asia. Latin America showed higher growth rates for the next five years with lower rates in the Middle East and Africa.

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Berlin Airlift: Plus Fifty
J. B. McLaughlin

Editors Note: This article originally ran in our sister publication, IFR magazine in the June 1998 issue to recognize the 50th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift. With the 70th anniversary approaching, and with the passing of so many of the veterans who acted courageously to supply the citizens of Berlin, we are running it again to help keep alive the memories of what they accomplished.

June, 1948. It seems like a lifetime ago. Come to think of it, aviation-wise, it is. By today’s standards, the aircraft were primitive, air-traffic control procedures were archaic—sometimes non-existent—and our instrument proficiency left much to be desired, to put it generously.

I had just celebrated my 24th birthday in Athens, where I was assigned as Air Attaché, when the call went out for all pilots in the theater who were qualified in the venerable C-47 “Gooney Bird.”

The Russians had just closed down the road and rail corridors into Berlin from West Germany and the U.S. proposed to support the entire city by air.

I had 3000 hours, most of it in fighters, with 300 hours in the Gooney. Upon arrival in Weisbaden, Germany, the initial staging area, I discovered that this “qualified” me as first pilot. A single orientation ride with a young 60th Troop Carrier pilot named Frenchy Bennett and I was certified to fly the airlift. In any weather.

They assigned me a co-pilot, Captain Eddie Onze (later killed in Korea), who had never been in an aircraft with more than one throttle. Our combined instrument proficiency, on a scale of  0 to 10, rated about 1/2 to 1.

During World War II, pilots who went through fighter school spent most of their instrument rides doing aerobatics under the hood. This made us moderately proficient in unusual attitudes, but as for straight-and-level down the airway and approaches, we weren’t so hot.

When the press and movie makers got around to glamorizing the operation in The Big Lift, most of the credit went to the “Big Willies,” the C-54s and their crews. My good friend Al Freiberger even got a speaking part in the movie, mostly on the strength of his involvement in “Operation Little Vittles,” the famous candy bar drop to kids on handkerchief parachutes. 

War Weary C-47s       

Not to detract from Al and his buddies, but when Operation Vittles started, we were all flying old troop carrier C-47s. These ships were war-weary in the extreme, with thousands of hours on airframes, and, to a lesser degree, engines.  They had been in constant use since well before D-Day, carrying paratroops, towing gliders, hauling cargo.  Some had seen service with  European Air Transport Service, essentially a military-operated airline.

A word of praise for the Douglas C-47: No more reliable or forgiving aircraft has ever been built. We got away with youthful stupidities that would have killed us in any other airplane. I once flew a Goon from Wiesbaden to Tempelhof—slowly—with a load of 12,500 pounds, two-and-half times the design payload. It didn’t look that heavy. I should have aborted the takeoff. Didn’t. I should have checked the weight and balance. Didn’t.  

Fortunately for us, Air Force maintenance crews were superb. We had little trouble with engines—let’s give some of the credit to Pratt & Whitney, too. We experienced few inflight emergencies. Radios were the toughest to maintain because of the constant damp and ever present flour and coal dust. We flew the first six weeks of horrible weather in those old clunkers with just one fatal accident, thereby dumfounding both ourselves and the Russians.

Avionics—I use the term loosely—were another matter. All the gyro instruments were vacuum driven. Attitude and heading indicators were subject to tumbling if certain bank and pitch angles were exceeded or even if an abrupt change in attitude occurred. You could be—and we often were—reduced to flying needle, ball and ripcord. At the time, we didn’t think much of it. 

Comm radios consisted of the old four-channel push-button VHF sets left over from the war. Navigation radios were low-frequency receivers for the old four-leg radio ranges. It seems archaic now, but the most reliable nav radio we had was ADF; it was our version of GPS.

Although thunderstorms made it necessary to use ADF in the loop position to find an aural null, we flew in horrible weather with a navaid most pilots now consider little more than a glorified AM radio.

All of these limitations kept the two-man crew of a C-47 pretty busy; we did our own flying and our own navigating. Navigators would have been nothing but extra weight. Some RAF Yorks carried them to operate their “Gee” radar equipment, but we had no such luxuries. Even the C-54s stopped carrying navigators; they weren’t worth the payload.

Things got hectic when there was icing. Boots on the Gooney, while usually adequate for light rime, required judgment in heavy or mixed icing. The same boots were installed on C-54s, but they had it easier because they carried a flight engineer to keep an eye on things.  

Horrible Weather

Did I mention that the weather was horrible? The Russians must have had excellent forecasters, for they picked the right time to blockade Berlin. Although the lift started during the European High Summer, when the weather is supposedly best, the first few weeks gave us the worst weather of the entire operation, at least for the months that I flew it.

Thunderstorms, heavy rain, icing—all were everyday phenomena. One hundred-foot ceilings were the norm on many days during those early weeks. Three hundred feet was a luxury. The approach to Tempelhof was between seven-story apartment buildings 1/4-mile apart, yet we managed it day in and day out, achieving a remarkable safety record. 

As the airlift evolved, so did the air traffic and routing plan. There were three 20-mile-wide corridors in and out of Berlin. The northern corridor, which ran northwest (about 300 degrees) was used mostly by the British. The southern and longest corridor ran from Fulda Beacon northeast (about 45 degrees) and was used exclusively by inbound U.S. aircraft. The central corridor—about 270 degrees—ran from Berlin to the Brunswick Beacon, then southwest to Fritlzar, then back to Wiesbaden. The central corridor was used solely for return flights. 

Air traffic control wasn’t a bit like what we’re used to now, of course. There was no en route or terminal radar during the early days of the lift, although both Tempelhof and Wiesbaden had GCA radar—ground controlled approach.  

Navigation was strictly dead reckoning, with what help we could get from ADF fixes. Fortunately, USAF and RAF weather services were excellent, so winds aloft forecasts were usually accurate.

A typical C-47 run to Tempelhof began with a climb northeast to assigned altitude to the Fulda Beacon, an ADF fix. At this point you checked in with ATC and adjusted airspeed if necessary to maintain separation. In-trail separation at same altitudes en route was nine minutes, with 500 or 1000 feet of vertical separation.

Once into the corridor, however, you were on your own until near Berlin, a 200-mile dead reckon leg with no intermediate fixes. Because the corridors were only 20 miles wide, in-trail separation was important to avoid collisions. (We never had one.) 

In the early weeks of the lift, we flew an inbound leg of the Tempelhof Range, but the Russians soon jammed the frequency so that we couldn’t get a cone-of-silence as the volume continued to build as we flew into East Germany. So we flew the fix purely on the clock.

Later, they gave us an ADF fix, a “buncher beacon,” at Wedding, about six miles northwest of Tempelhof. On a good day, thunderstorms permitting, you could pick it up from 20 miles out. Once at Wedding, GCA vectored us onto final approach, at three-minute intervals.     

Despite the flow of traffic into Tempelhof, holding patterns were used only at the western (return) end, as they would have created too much congestion around Berlin.

When used at Wiesbaden, they were standard, one-minute, left-hand holding patterns, with aircraft in a stack awaiting approach clearances. There was an ADF approach for Wiesbaden, plus GCA when we really needed it. By-and-large, Wiesbaden weather wasn’t as bad as what we encountered at Berlin.    

What Minimums?

If there were any published minimums at Tempelhof, I’ve forgotten what they may have been. GCA—the precursor of PAR—brought us all the way in until we either broke out or ran out of guts.

My own personal minimums were about 100 feet and 1/4 mile.

I have, over the years, flown a few zero-zero approaches, but only one on GCA and that was a matter of necessity. After many years and several hundred GCA approaches, in hindsight, I’d say that GCA is about as reliable as the pilot at the controls.

There’s inevitably a built-in delay between the controller’s instruction and the pilot’s execution. However, at the time, most of us had absolute confidence in the Tempelhof GCA and probably pushed our minimums lower than would have been safe with the average CCA. In retrospect, if I’m going below 300 feet with less than 1/2 mile now, I prefer ILS. 

We began to regard the return approach to Wiesbaden as more dangerous than Berlin. ATC was just better at Berlin. For instance, I was flying “Willie One” (first aircraft in a westbound block from Tempelhof to Wiesbaden) in the soup, with a malfunctioning transmitter.  

We acknowledged instructions from ATC by clicking the mic button—once for “yes,” twice for “no.” Wiesbaden approach cleared us to hold one minute east of the Wiesbaden Beacon at 5000 feet. Click. A few minutes later I   heard approach say, “Willie Six, hold one minute east of  Wiesbaden Beacon at 5000.” 

I chopped the power, slammed the nose down and caught a glimpse of Willie Six as he passed about what looked to be 20 feet overhead. Just then the Wiesbaden controller gasped, “My God, I forgot Willie One!”         

The controller was a good friend of mine, but we had a few words that evening over a martini. In all fairness, at that stage, the operation was so disorganized and everyone was so overworked that mistakes were bound to happen. 

Flight crews flew around the clock, grabbing coffee and a sandwich while aircraft were serviced and reloaded. After about 36 hours on the job, we’d catch 12 hours sleep, hopefully a solid meal and start over. Controllers were just as overworked. 

Tunner Arrives

In the early weeks of the airlift, we learned our IFR skills on the go. By operating aircraft in blocks of the same type, airspeed conflicts were minimized.

But loading and maintenance problems gummed up the works. Eventually, many of these problems were overcome by moving everything but the Gooney Birds to other bases. Still, the total tonnage required to support Berlin fell short.   

Enter Gen. William H. Tunner. Tunner had made his reputation running the famed “Hump” in World War II, supplying China across the Himalayas. The man knew how to run an airlift. In a very short time, Tunner had things running smoothly.

A block of aircraft took off three minutes apart, flew to Tempelhof and landed three minutes apart. One corridor in, another out. If you missed the approach—pretty rare, actually—you simply climbed out, took the “out” corridor and went back to Wiesbaden. No delays. Maximum tonnage.         

Oh, the navigation equipment was still primitive and the airplanes stunk to high heaven of sour milk and coal dust, but things ran smoother. By then, most of us had become very proficient instrument pilots—we were alive to prove it—and could find our way to Berlin without much help.

I always tried to get the first aircraft in my block because it was usually loaded with milk and was assigned the lowest altitude. The milk came from Denmark in bottles similar to today’s one-liter Pepsi bottles.

At altitude, the milk tended to rise in the neck of the bottle and pop off the pressed-paper cap. Funny thing, on every trip, there always seemed to be two liters whose tops would pop at altitude and would be empty on arrival. Milk was hard to come by in Germany in 1948 and we all craved it.         

Although he was an organizational genius, Gen. Tunner couldn’t solve one problem: Tempelhof was a terrible airfield for an air-cargo operation.

Located in the center of Berlin, very near the East German boundary, it was small, more or less circular in shape and little more than 5000 feet in diameter.

The eastern side was taken up by terminal buildings, and there was a concrete taxi ramp 400 to 500 feet wide around the exterior boundary, which was a brick or concrete wall about five feet high. The surface was grass; no paved runways at first. Later, engineers built a proper runway.

Obviously, the German engineers had never foreseen the volume of traffic generated by an airlift. Landings were, of necessity, mostly to the east and takeoffs to the west, regardless of wind. 

Tunner brought over the C-54s and got them flying out of Rhein-Main, near Frankfurt. They had trouble with Tempelhof, which by now was heavily rutted. Those ruts were axle-deep to a C-47. Not at all good for aircraft with nosewheels. It was obvious that the 54s couldn’t operate off that rutted grass, so they built them a runway. Till the day I left, however, we C-47 pilots always used the grass or cheated off the taxi ramp. Hold the brakes. Set takeoff power.  Release brakes. Roll about 400 feet and pop half flaps. 

Stagger into the air and wallow out for the next three or four miles at V2, until you could safely milk up the flaps. It wasn’t real bright of us, but we had the only airplane that would allow us to do it. So we did.         

I’ve had the privilege of flying with many of the world’s best aviators. Any airline pilot does. But none of them were any better IFR pilots than that bunch of young C-47 pilots who carried the ball in those first few months of the Berlin Airlift.         

My logbook tells me that I flew 196 round trips to Berlin in 1948; right around 1000 hours. Since then, I have logged nearly 38,000 accident-free hours, 8000 of them in Gooney Birds, of either the C-47 or DC-3 persuasion. I’ve flown military jets and civilian airliners, some lovely aircraft and some real dogs. The softest spot in my heart, however, is reserved for the old girl that some wag at Carswell once christened “Hustler’s Mother.”

She came off the line at Douglas before most of today’s pilots were born and at airfields scattered around the globe, she’s flying still.  Long may she continue to do so. 

J.B. McLaughlin retired from the Air Force as a colonel in 1961.

Tempelhof GCA Best in the Business

Sidebar by Forrest Ott

I had been trained as a pilot during the war but when it ended, we were told we either had to learn another specialty or leave the service. That’s how I ended up as an air traffic controller at Tempelhof.

The way the Air Force was in those days—and the way the lift was—I did a lot of flying, too, and ended up as a C-54 commander by the end of the operation, even though I’d never flown a four-engine aircraft going in.

When the lift started, ATC was chaotic, to say the least. We were strictly non-radar; separation was entirely by time and pilot position report. Early in the lift, it became obvious that standard procedure wasn’t going to work.

I can recall one day shortly after the lift began that we had airplanes stacked up over Berlin to 10,000 feet, waiting for approach clearance. As activity increased, we would soon run out of sky.

Then someone in General Tunner’s staff figured it made more sense to have the airplanes commence a GCA when they arrived at Tempelhof then go back to Rhein-Main or Weisbaden if they had to miss the approach. It worked. After that, no more holding.

We got limited en route radar at Tempelhof in early 1949, so separation was done with radar, time and position reports. But sure wasn’t the sort of ATC we’re used to now.

Pilots announced time and position over a certain fix, say the Fulda beacon, and the pilot behind would know that he was supposed to be over the same fix three minutes later. If he were early, he would slow down, if late, he would speed up. ATC wouldn’t necessarily say a word.

Even with the en route radar at Tempelhof, we had no transponders. Fighters had IFF, but it returned identical codes so all of the targets looked the same. For radar identification, we had to issue turns.

To keep conflicts to a minimum, we would launch blocks of the same type of aircraft. They’d come as a block and go out as block. The altitudes involved were quite low. Since there was no terrain to speak of, we flew as low as 2000 feet, which was more efficient, since descending and climbing just took up time to no advantage. We reserved one altitude for C-54s on three engines. If one landed on three, it was going out on three, too. It was all fairly routine.

Tempelhof had GCA—ground controlled approach—from the start of the lift and it was used even in good weather, to stay proficient. It was a new system and although very few crews had flown it, they learned fast. They had to.

The minimums were nominally 200-and-a-half, same as modern ILS. But you really set your own. You got called a “senior smogger and fogger” when you got the reputation for landing in any kind of weather.  I clearly remember a night GCA into into Tempelhof between those apartment buildings in 1/8th-mile visibility. Those buildings were out there but I sure couldn’t see them. But we had confidence in the GCA operators. I thought it was the best approach aid ever invented. And to this day, I still do.

Forrest Ott was both a radar controller and pilot. He served as a pilot in Vietnam before retiring from the Air Force in 1971. He died in 2013.

This article and sidebar first appeared in the June 1998 issue of IFR magazine.

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FAA Poorly Managed NextGen Funding, According to OIG
AVweb Staff

A new report this month from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) says the Federal Aviation Administration lacked effective management controls over the “project level agreements (PLAs)—an internal control mechanism for documenting the agreed-upon work and managing project execution” for the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). This program was implemented to meet the FAA’s goals of modernizing the National Airspace System.

The report looks at how the agency managed the more than $7 billion per year that has been appropriated since 2008 for that purpose. The House Committee on Appropriations directed the OIG “to examine how those investments were managed and what outcomes have been achieved to improve the Nation’s air transportation system.”

The OIG says the audit objectives were to assess the FAA’s procedures for selecting and justifying projects that received funding and overseeing the projects. Their findings were that the agency has lacked effective management controls in its PLA process. Some of their findings include:

The FAA had not defined which types of projects are eligible for developmental work and lacked standard operating procedures for PLAs until 2016, eight years after beginning to use PLAs.

The FAA’s Office of NextGen also had not effectively executed and measured the outcomes of NextGen developmental projects, including tracking expenditures by PLA and obtaining deliverables for PLA projects.

Finally, the FAA has lacked a clearly established framework for managing the overall oversight of developmental projects and addressing persistent problems. 

The report offered six recommendations and the FAA has responded. Part of the issue stems from lack of leadership at the top of the FAA. “There have been 13 confirmed or acting heads of the FAA since the precursor of NextGen was proposed as the Advanced Automation System in 1983,” The Washington Post reported last week, and the agency has been without its top leader since Administrator Michael P. Huerta stepped down in January.

Red Bull Air Chooses VectorNav VN-300
AVweb Staff

Red Bull Air Race selected the VectorNav VN-300 Dual Antenna GNSS-Aided Inertial Navigation System (INS) as the primary source of aircraft telemetry data for the Master Class raceplanes participating in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship. The February inaugural event of the 2018 season saw the VN-300 used for the first time in all 14 aircraft to provide real-time telemetry data used for judging, in-race simulation and virtual reality applications. The first stop on the circuit was Abu Dhabi.

The Red Bull Air Race World Championship has held more than 80 races around the globe. This pure motorsport competition combines speed, precision and skill. Teams pride themselves on using the fastest, most agile, lightweight racing planes. Pilots hit speeds of 229 mph (370 km/h) while pulling up to 10 G as they navigate a low-level slalom track marked by 25-meter-high, air-filled pylons. Pilots incur time penalties for hitting pylons, incorrectly passing through the Air Gates or only exceeding 10 G for more than 0.6 seconds, amongst some others. 

Being an individual sport, spectators need a reference to see the difference between the pilots' lines and speed through the racetrack. Red Bull Air Race Live TV utilizes an augmented reality (AR) solution known as the Ghost Plane to display the trajectory of the pilots' runs for real-time comparison in the head-to-head rounds and the Final 4 that decides the winner of the race by time. The Ghost Plane is driven by the position, velocity and attitude data gathered during flight from the onboard INS.

Critical to the success of the Ghost Plane is the accuracy of the telemetry data, which is difficult to obtain. As a plane races through a chicane and into a vertical turn maneuver GPS signals are lost and the INS needs to rely solely on the inertial sensors to accurately estimate the position and velocity until GPS is fixed again in level flight. "We evaluated several different inertial navigation systems and struggled to find one that was able to perform in our dynamics,” Alvaro Navas, sport technical manager for the Red Bull Air Race says. “VectorNav's VN-300 was the only product able to deliver the attitude, position and velocity data accuracy we require, and it did this out of the box, no customization was required. The sensor is really amazing!"

Picture of the Week
This past November at Bowman Field in Louisville, Ky., high school student Caroline Schmid, shown here, took a discovery flight...her first time in a small plane. She loved it! By the way, her mom, Maura Schmid, is a pilot for UPS. Caroline hopes to begin training for her private pilot certificate soon. It must be in her genes.

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