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Volume 25, Number 15a
April 9, 2018
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Doors-Off Tour Company Warned Of Unsafe Harnesses
Paul Bertorelli

Months before the fatal helicopter crash into the East River that killed five passengers, pilots for the company operating the tours had warned management about unsafe conditions and harnesses that could make escape difficult. According to a story in The New York Times, the pilots "repeatedly requested more suitable safety gear" and one pilot warned managers that "we are setting ourselves up for failure."

The accident occurred on March 11 when the five passengers were flying on a so-called doors-off photo tour of New York city. The Eurocopter AS350 lost power and autorotated into the East River near Gracie Mansion. Although it was equipped with skid floats, the helicopter rolled and inverted after touchdown. The passengers were secured into the aircraft with a harness connected by a screw-type carabiner which they could not themselves release quickly. All five drowned. 

Pilots flying for the tour company, FlyNYON, made a series of recommendations, including one days before the accident, requesting new tools that would allow the passengers to free themselves in the event of a crash. According to the Times reporting, executives for the tour company "bristled at the pilots' concerns" and insisted that the operation was safe. “Let me be clear, this isn’t a safety issue with the harnesses,” Patrick K. Day, the chief executive of FlyNYON, said in a January email to the pilots, according to the Times story. 

Shortly after the accident, the FAA prohibited doors-off flights in aircraft not equipped with quick-release harnesses and a week later, the NTSB recommended that no commercial operations of any kind should be allowed without quick-release restraints.

Piper: Latin American Market Stirring
Paul Bertorelli

Fresh from showing its M600 turboprop for the first time at Chile’s FIDAE exposition, Piper is touring the airplane throughout South America and seeing signs that the aircraft market is waking up. Piper’s Latin American sales executive, Dan Lewis, told AVweb that the company has tripled its sales forecast for Brazil and demand in the northern cone of South America looks promising.

The strong sellers are likely to be Piper’s two turboprops, the M500 and M600. “We think there’s a big market for it. We’ve seen the decline of the twin-engine turboprop and more interest in the single-engine turboprops,” Lewis says. The buyers are a combination of private owners and businesses and at least for the turboprops, most of the aircraft have dedicated pilots. “Most of them are farmers or businessmen trying to get from point A to point B across the country,” Lewis adds.

As for the piston training market, the outlook is less bullish. “It’s always weak. It’s a challenge to break into. It’s not an easy situation when we’re a build-to-order company. But the market looks like it's coming back as the fleet ages,” says Lewis. Latin America typically accounts for 8 to 12 percent of Piper sales, but Lewis says Piper is realistic about growth. “If it gets to 15 percent in the next few years, I’ll be pleasantly surprised,” he says.

This week at Sun ‘n Fun, Piper will be showing its entire line of aircraft. See them in booth MD-9A.

The Business Of Blimps
Mary Grady

A few days ago I posted a story about a new French company with a plan to build an airship, a story that brought on a feeling of deja vu. As a fan of lighter-than-air flight, I seldom miss a chance to report on a new LTA design — but having been at this reporting gig for about 20 years now, it’s hard not to see the trends. The designs are beautiful, the airships perform, but the market never materializes. The Zeppelin factory in Germany now supplies the Goodyear fleet, but the company that flew their very capable ship for tourist flights in California has folded. Unless you’re at a football game or a parade, or at Oshkosh, you’re unlikely to ever see an airship in the sky, which is kind of a shame.

The French folks say the 500-foot-long airship they plan to build will be able to harvest wood from virgin forests where there are no roads, using slings to load the cargo without having to land. The company has some notable partners and substantial funding, but they’re a long way from operational. The Airlander company in England has suffered a couple of accidents with their huge airship design, endlessly delaying its entry into service. They’re working on developing a VVIP version that would provide luxury travel in remote and spectacular places — it sounds like an amazing way to explore the world, but it’s a long way from implementation. Rumors say some tech billionaire is building a giant airship inside one of the vintage hangars at Moffett Field, near San Francisco, but if it’s true, we haven’t seen it.

We’ve had the technology for a long time, and these startup companies seem able to find substantial financial backing, yet we still can’t book an aerial LTA cruise anywhere in the world. When Airship Ventures launched their sightseeing flights in California, I was hopeful they would make a go of it. I got to fly with them, and it was just as you’d imagine … low and slow above the California coast, with the windows open, free to move around the cabin … every flight was spectacular. But despite a great crew, a high-tech aircraft and world-class scenery, they never really caught on. If you happen to be in Friedrichshafen, Germany, you can book a flight in a Zeppelin, for up to two hours, but that’s about it.

Over the years, I’ve seen lots of proposals for airships that would fly around the world, or across the Atlantic, or hover low above coral reefs with glass-bottom cabins, or provide luxury travel in remote and spectacular places. The technology seems up to the task, yet these ventures never materialize. Are people really still afraid to fly LTA, because of the Hindenburg? Could one crash have such a long-term effect? Or maybe folks just want to get there as fast as they can? Yet cruises and trains still manage to attract those niche travelers.

It’s a mystery to me why we don’t have more airships in the world. Still, every new plan and prototype gives me hope. Everyone else may be waiting for their flying car to whisk them everywhere at top speed, but I’m still looking for my aerial equivalent of a sailboat, to travel low and slow above the treetops.

How Aircraft Electric Motors Work
Paul Bertorelli

As important as batteries are, the brushless DC motors that power electric airplanes are just as critical. In this brief AVweb video, Siemen's Frank Anton explains how they work.

Reader Comments and Letters: April 7, 2018
AVweb Staff

Electric Airplane Lessons

Would I take lessons in an electric airplane? I might take initial instruction for a private pilot ticket or instrument rating in an electric airplane. The basics of angle of attack and so on won't change because of the power plant but I simply cannot see advancing to cross country work in an electric airplane or trying to use one as an actual form of transportation; at least until battery technology improves.

Battery life is too short and charging rates too long. The same problems exist with electric cars. They are fine for tooling around town, but you can't set off on a road trip with a fuel source that is only good for an hour and a half or so without some means of getting a quick turnaround. Waiting for two hours to charge my battery is not practical.

Don Purney

Learning to fly in an electric aircraft with the aim of achieving an single-engine rating is currently impossible. The electric aircraft didn't qualify as a "single engine piston" aircraft since it has no pistons!

Mike Ellis

 Helicopter Ditching

The USCG does specialized training for helicopter ditchings  These can be more complex and dangerous than fixed-wing ditchings.  

Depending on the outcome of the investigation of the East River crash, the FAA may want to look at the safety and effectiveness of the restraint systems and the briefing/training provided to passengers.

Doug Armstrong

Natural Resources Pilot Blog

I would love to get a job doing the type of flying you describe. I am a 3000-hour pilot with about 1700 hours of tailwheel time, most of it in Huskys.   I live in New Hampshire and fly out of Portsmouth (KPSM).

There are probably fewer jobs in the East, but I only need one.

David Murphy

ADS-B April Fools Spoof

AVWeb has become a go-to piece for me so to read some readers are flaming you? Hey... lighten up and have a sandwich! It was funny, although my first reaction was to have a cow, which made it funnier 
Thanks to all at the AVweb team. 

Tom Wilkinson

ADS-B joke for April Fools? Really? Way to lose credibility.

Patrick Johnson

While I do appreciate gags and jokes, this article is in poor taste. In my personal opinion, April Fools/ gags should be posed in a sense that they have no ill-intent whether it be intentional or non-intentional.

Your article/post has potentially misled individuals on government directives. In general, I feel like your joke, while I'm sure it was intended no harm, was in poor taste.

Thomas Miller

Good one.  Read it four times, went to FAA and never thought of clicking links. Knew it was possible, but FAA working on a weekend? Good one!

Matt Near

Hey idiot! I really thought AVweb was a good thing until the sick joke about the ADS-B extension. Bye and good riddance!

Frank Acuff

While the article title alone was enough to tell me this was an April Fools joke, your name confirmed it. I just couldn't stop laughing while looking at the diagram! But I must admit, I laughed even more at some of the outraged comments while, at the same time, suppressing the urge to cry.

My belief that all pilots, except myself, are near the top of the intellect scale has been shattered. Paul, please keep it up. I read your blogs first including all the comments you generated!

Harvey Muehl


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 website at Final reports appear about a year after the accident, although some take longer. Find out more about Aviation Safety at

January 1, 2018, Lynchburg, Va.

Costruzioni Aeronautiche Tecnam P2006

At about 1725 Eastern time, the airplane sustained substantial damage following a landing gear separation during landing. The flight instructor in the right seat and the pilot receiving instruction in the left seat sustained no injuries. Visual conditions were present.

As the flight turned onto final approach, and with the flaps fully extended, the aircrew verified verbally that all landing gears were down and locked. The pilot maintained about a 500-fpm descent on final and verified verbally with the flight instructor that the airspeed was 70 KIAS. The pilot flared and executed a normal landing. Immediately after touchdown, the left main landing gear assembly separated at the axle. Subsequently, the airplane skidded for about 100 feet, departed the runway to the left and came to rest on the grass. The pilot performed a shutdown and the two occupants egressed without further incident.

The flight instructor reported there were no wind gusts during the approach and landing, and there was no side loading at touchdown. The flight instructor further reported that in his experience, he did not feel the landing would have caused any damage.

January 1, 2018, Nampa, Idaho

Cessna 150

The pilot later reported becoming disoriented on a dark night. He circled over a nearby town for about an hour, but was unable to find any visual references to aid in navigation. The pilot then called a family member on the ground, who provided guidance to the destination airport via a cellphone app. He spotted what appeared to be the destination airport and maneuvered for an approach but realized in the landing flare he was not at the airport. Instead, the pilot landed on a road about six miles from his intended destination. During the landing, the airplane struck trees, landed on a road, veered left and impacted a light pole.

January 2, 2018, Aurora, Ore.

Cessna T210L Turbo Centurion

At about 0920 local time, the airplane was substantially damaged when its right main landing gear collapsed during landing. The solo private pilot was not injured; visual conditions prevailed.

After failing to obtain indications that the landing gear was down and locked, the pilot flew a low approach, after which tower personnel reported that the landing gear appeared to be down. During the landing, the right main landing gear collapsed, followed by the airplane veering off the right side of the runway. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the right elevator and right horizontal stabilizer.

January 3, 2018, Gulf of Mexico

Cirrus Design SR22T

At about 1800 Central time, the airplane was missing over the Gulf of Mexico and presumed sunk. Visual conditions prevailed. The flight departed Oklahoma City, Okla., at about 1419 with Georgetown, Texas, as its destination.

As the airplane approached the destination airport, ATC cleared it to turn right and descend to 13,000 feet msl. Instead, the airplane turned left. Controllers made multiple attempts to communicate with the pilot, but without success. Radar tracked the aircraft to its last known position about 220 miles north of Cancun, Mexico.

January 11, 2018, Elko, Nev.

Piper PA-23-250 Aztec

At about 1800 Pacific time, the airplane collided with mountainous terrain. The solo commercial pilot was fatally injured; the airplane sustained substantial damage. Visual conditions prevailed.

While en route, the pilot reported encountering clouds and asked for the nearest airport, saying, “Alright, I’m getting super turbulent over here I’m going to head over there.” Shortly after, communication and radar contact were lost. Search and rescue efforts ensued, and aerial photography was used to identify the crash site January 19, 2018, on the east face of mountain peak, near its summit. Onsite examination by ground personnel identified the wreckage as the accident airplane.

January 13, 2018, Longmont, Colo.

Beech K35 Bonanza

The airplane experienced a loss of engine power shortly after takeoff. The pilot sustained serious injuries, the passenger sustained minor injuries and the airplane sustained substantial damage. Visual conditions prevailed.

A witness heard “a popping noise” coming from the accident airplane during takeoff. A few seconds later, he heard the engine “shut off” with the airplane in a nose-up attitude. The airplane rolled to the right and then descended in a “steep dive” toward the ground. When the witness arrived at the accident site, he observed smoke and smelled fuel near the airplane. He stated the ground near the airplane was wet and fuel was leaking from the wing where it had separated from the fuselage. The pilot later told the owner that after the second consecutive touch-and-go, the engine lost power so the pilot pushed the nose down and made a forced landing in a field off the end of the runway. The pilot added that the landing gear had already been retracted and there was no remaining runway available to land.

January 17, 2018, Raton, N.M.

Bell UH-1H Helicopter

At about 1800 Mountain time, the helicopter impacted terrain; a ground fire and explosion subsequently occurred. The commercial pilot, pilot-rated passenger and three other passengers were fatally injured. One passenger sustained serious injuries. The helicopter was destroyed. Night visual conditions prevailed.

The surviving passenger indicated the helicopter was in level flight and recalled a big bang as the helicopter hit the ground. The helicopter rolled forward, coming to a stop upside down with the passenger hanging from a seat belt and jet fuel pouring on her. The passenger released her seat belt and evacuated the helicopter. The helicopter was on fire and subsequent explosions followed. The passenger called 911 and waited for emergency responders.

Weather at the departure point 10.7 nm from the accident site included wind from 030 degrees at 10 knots, visibility of 10 sm and clear skies. The fuselage came to rest on a flat mesa at the top of rising terrain. The elevation in the area of the main wreckage was about 6932 feet msl. The initial observed point of terrain contact was a parallel pair of ground scars, consistent with the width of the helicopter’s landing skids, which led directly to the main wreckage on a 074-degree bearing. The distance from the start of the parallel ground scars to the wreckage was about 474 feet.

January 17, 2018, Skyforest, Calif.

Mooney M20E Super 21/Chaparral

The airplane collided with rising terrain at about 1130 Pacific time. The private pilot and one passenger sustained minor injuries; two other passengers were not injured. The airplane sustained substantial damage. Visual conditions prevailed.

The pilot reported departing with 20 gallons of fuel aboard. About five minutes into the flight, the airplane approached terrain that rose from about 1800 feet msl to 5700 feet over about 5.5 miles. The airplane was about 1000 feet agl as it neared the top of the ridgeline. The pilot stated he encountered a downdraft and the airplane aerodynamically stalled. Seconds later, the airplane impacted terrain.

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

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Picture of the Week April 9, 2018
A collection of cool shots from recent AVWeb Picture of the Week contributions.

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ERAU Crash Investigation Focused On Wing Spar
Joy Finnegan

The NTSB and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University officials are working together to determine what caused the PA-28R-201’s wing to fall off in mid-flight last week. The resulting accident killed two: Zach Capra, an ERAU student, and an FAA designated examiner, John S. Azma, conducting a checkride. Flight training resumed on Thursday for all aircraft at ERAU except the PA-28s. They remain grounded until inspections are completed.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports that witnesses, including air traffic controllers, said the aircraft’s wing “departed the aircraft,” causing it to spin out of control and then slam into a cow field about a half mile from Daytona Beach International Airport.

NTSB Investigator Aaron McCarter said during a news conference Thursday they are focusing their initial efforts on that fact. They are looking at maintenance and engineering records. The maintenance records for the Piper Arrow have already been provided by the school. The investigation into the crash will include metallurgists examining the plane’s wreckage, but a wing detaching inflight is rare, the investigator said.

There are at least two Special Airworthiness Information Bulletins (SAIB), CE-11-13 and CE-11-12R1, saying the aircraft has the potential for corrosion on the wing front spar at the fuselage attach fitting. One warns of the potential for corrosion on the wing rear spar at the fuselage attach fitting. The SAIBs mention the increased risk associated with high moisture and salt water.

Capra was on a checkride for his commercial certificate and set to graduate on May 7. The ongoing investigation may take between 18 months to two years as is typical for the agency.

See the Daytona Beach News Journal article here.

See a YouTube video of Roy Williams of Airframe Components explaining a Piper main wing spar inspection here.

See the SAIBs here.

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