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Volume 25, Number 16b
April 18, 2018
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UPDATED: One Killed When 737 Engine Fails
Mary Grady

UPDATED: A female passenger was killed when an engine failed in flight aboard a Southwest Airlines 737 at 32,000 feet on Tuesday morning, sending shrapnel flying that broke a window and entered the cabin. The crew, en route from New York's LaGuardia Airport to Dallas Love Field on Tuesday morning, diverted to Philadelphia and made a safe emergency landing about 11 a.m. CBS News has reported that the deceased passenger has been identified as Jennifer Riordan, a married mother of two, who worked as a Wells Fargo bank executive and lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The Associated Press has reported that when the window broke, Riordan was pulled partly out the window by the sudden decompression, and was pulled back into the cabin by nearby passengers, but she was severely hurt. Seven others suffered minor injuries. The death is the first to occur due to an accident aboard a U.S. passenger airline since 2009. Tuesday evening, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly, in a video message posted on Twitter, said, "This is a sad day...I want to extend our deepest sympathies for the family and loved ones of our deceased customer."

Southwest Airlines captain Tammie Jo Shults, 56, was in the cockpit during the emergency. Audio of the crew's conversation with ATC (courtesy of can be heard here. Passengers commended the crew for their cool-headed response. Shults walked through the aisle and talked with passengers to make sure they were okay after the plane touched down, the AP reported. "She has nerves of steel, that lady. I applaud her," Alfred Tumlinson, of Corpus Christi, Texas, told the AP.  "I'm going to send her a Christmas card, I'm going to tell you that, with a gift certificate for getting me on the ground. She was awesome."

NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt held a brief news conference Tuesday afternoon in Washington before departing for Philadelphia. He said the engines on the 737 are the CFM56, which are very widely used. They are manufactured by CFM International, a 50/50 joint company owned by Safran Aircraft Engines and GE. Sumwalt said 144 passengers and five crew were on board the aircraft. Investigators will determine whether or not the engine experienced an "uncontained" failure, he said, which depends on what parts of the engine became detached. It was clear, however, that debris from the engine hit the window. This was reportedly the first fatality ever on a Southwest flight.

Tuesday evening, Sumwalt held a second briefing from Phildephia, and said a piece of the cowling from the damaged engine had been found on the ground in Pennsylvania, about 50 miles from the landing site. He also said a preliminary investigation of the engine showed that a fan blade had separated, and there appeared to be evidence of metal fatigue at the point of failure. An AD affecting the engine was issued about two years ago, but Sumwalt said his team has not yet determined if the accident engine was affected by it or if so, if the AD had been complied with. He said Southwest managment has already said they will begin enhanced inspection procedures for their engines, using advanced technologies beyond what is required.

"This should not happen," Sumwalt said. He also said, in response to questions from the press, that he had not yet listened to the CVR but he had heard the ATC tapes and he felt the crew had done an "excellent job... my hat's off to them."

Audio files, provided by, are from Philadelphia Approach, the Tower, and the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center (ZNY).


60 Minutes Addresses Air Safety, FAA Responds
Mary Grady

Allegiant Air, a regional carrier based in Las Vegas, has the worst safety record of any U.S. airline, yet the FAA has failed to take any enforcement action against them, according to a 60 Minutes report that aired Sunday. Reporter Steve Kroft said Allegiant is one of the country’s most profitable airlines, but it may “also be the most dangerous.” Public records show “an alarming number of aborted takeoffs, emergency descents, and unscheduled landings,” Kroft said. Kroft detailed several of the incidents, and also spoke to Daniel Wells, a captain for Atlas Air, and president of the union that represents Allegiant pilots. Wells said pilots at Allegiant have been "disciplined ... just for speaking up about [safety] concerns." Monday morning, Kroft discussed the report on CBS This Morning, and said the airline recently bought 10 new Airbus airplanes; and the number of incidents and complaints has gone down since then.

The FAA’s associate administrator for aviation safety, Ali Bahrami, responded to the report with a letter that was posted to the FAA website on Sunday. Bahrami said the agency conducted a review of Allegiant in 2016, and “did not find any systemic safety or regulatory problems.” A number of “less serious” issues were raised, he said, and were addressed by Allegiant. The number of incidents reported by Allegiant to the FAA has been trending downward in recent years, he said, with about half as many incidents in 2018 as in 2015. Bahrami also said 2016 articles in the Tampa Bay Times, which were cited in the story, “contained a number of inaccuracies.” An internal statement attributed to Allegiant CEO Maury Gallagher and other executives, which has been posted on Twitter, states that the 60 Minutes story “follows an unoriginal narrative based entirely off of outdated statistics, incidents that are years old, and so-called ‘industry experts.’” The statement says airline officials believe the story was “instigated by” a terminated employee who is currently suing the airline, and “we are prepared to fight back.”

Taildraggers + Freshly Cut Grass = Party!
Paul Bertorelli

Evidently, I’m either a recovering taildragger guy or one who’s in denial, according to John Whitish, the marketing guy at CubCrafters. I suppose I could be both. This was revealed Friday evening when I was speeding away from Sun ‘n Fun in the Millennium Nissan and Whitish invited me down to South Lakeland for a spin in the Carbon Cub FX3, which is the company’s fast-build kit version of the wildly popular Carbon Cub. Hear a podcast about it here.

When I arrived, there was a yawning hangar door with tables set up, plus cold drinks and pizza. Outside, three CubCrafters airplanes were neatly lined up, free for the flying. At 6 p.m., it was a soft Florida spring day and the runway’s grass had been clipped enough just to throw a little scent into the air. I’m not given to gauzy, romantic paeans about tailwheel airplanes and grass runways, but on a scale of gauziness, it was a solid nine. For connoisseurs of the proper party-time-customer-relations interface, this is pretty much the modern exemplar. Believe it or not, CubCrafters exists in the same universe with companies that don’t even reply to repeated entreaties to write about their products, much less actually let you fly one.

Chip Allen and I went for a spin in the FX3. First, a word about Mr. Allen. Do not go near this man unless you’re willing to write a very large check for an airplane you didn’t know you wanted. Allen owns CubCrafters’ southern sales area, a place rich with both buyers and freshly mowed turf strips. Allen graduated magna cum laude from the Acme School of Aircraft Sales and he plies his trade like Bocelli sings arias.

And with that piercing segue, let me talk about the Acme landing gear. When Allen told me about this, I thought it was the setup for a Roadrunner joke. But it’s a real thing. The Acme Aero Fab company adapted automotive racing technology and applied it to the traditional Cub x-brace structure between the wheels. I’ll skip the details for now, but the effect is astonishing.

Allen told me the Acme gear will absorb hard touchdowns and completely suppress the bounce. I didn’t believe him. Now, even though I fly taildraggers a lot, when I get into a new one, it takes a landing or two to sort out a three pointer, so I usually bounce the first one a little. In the FX3 with Acme gear, I touched down a little hard and a little fast and the thing stuck like a fly in a molasses spill. Huh? I could hear Allen laughing in the back. But I still don’t believe it. So I’ll have to do some more flying of this airplane to gain further working knowledge.

Now, about the taildragger thing. Ahead of my being a pilot or a journalist, I am an iconoclastic contrarian. So I don’t subscribe to the notion that in order to be a real pilot, you have to fly taildraggers or that pilots who fly taildraggers are somehow more skilled. Now if you don’t fly them, I might think of you as a ham-fisted lummox with feet of granite, but I would never say that.


iFly GPS Adds Synthetic Vision And 3-D Traffic Alerts To Your Tablet
Tim Cole

iFly GPS has added synthetic vision and a three-dimensional traffic alerter to its aviation app for Apple, Android and Windows. The tablet-based system is designed so "everything is just a couple of touches away," according to sales manager Brian Rutherford. 

We caught up with Brian at Sun 'n Fun, and you can listen to our podcast interview here.

While the iFly GPS tablet app boasts the charting features, airport, en route and other information tools pilots expect, the upgrade allows users to also access 3-D terrain features, obstacles and airport environments relating directly to the sectional or IFR chart side of the screen. In addition, iFly GPS links via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to ADS-B In, so it becomes a traffic alert as well. The next generation of iFly GPS will show N-number, speed, course and altitude of nearby traffic. A depiction of three-dimensional airspace structure is in the works. 

"It's a situational awareness tool," said Rutherford. "And we've made it easy to use in a busy cockpit environment. As we like to say, 'Stop flying the GPS and start flying the airplane.'"

Price for all this capability comes in at $69.99 per year for the VFR version, and $109.99 for the VFR/IFR product. You can learn more at

Podcast: Sun 'n Fun's Multi-Role 727
Kate O'Connor

If you've seen that Boeing 727 parked outside Sun 'n Fun's aeronautical education center, you may have wondered what it's used for. In this AVweb podcast, Jayme Jamison tells us all about this unique combination classroom and event facility. And yes, the engines still run.

Aero 2018 Opens: Electric Airplanes Dominate
Jason Baker

As Aero 2018 in Friedrichshafen, Germany is set to open this week with more than 630 exhibitors from 38 countries, electric aircraft and drone technology are expected to dominate the show. The expo will also be well populated with gyrocopters, new light sport aircraft and efficient engine technology.  

With roots in Hungary, the Magnus Aircraft eFusion will likely be one of the most unique aircraft on display. Powered by a Siemens-eAircraft electric motor and using proprietary batteries, it will carry two occupants and cruise at almost 140 knots. But it’s also the first production or near-production hybrid power system aircraft to appear on the market. In addition to the battery pack, the eFusion has a small diesel engine called the Smart EcoFly to provide energy beyond the battery limits. We’ll have more on that later.

Another electric aircraft on display is the Antares 20E produced by Lange Aviation in Germany. The aircraft is a high-performance motorglider with a 65-foot wingspan. The electric motor is stowed in the fuselage and has a pop-up mechanism for use when thermals aren’t to be found and thrust is required. The concept is similar to Pipistrel’s Taurus electric motorglider.

Not ready for flight yet but on display will be another innovation from Lange Research, the E2, an eye-catching design with no less than six electric motors each driving its own prop. Powered by a fuel cell, the aircraft can be flown manned or unmanned for scientific and surveillance work. It’s said to have an endurance of 40 hours and first flights are planned this summer.

Watch AVweb this week for full coverage of Aero 2018.

AD Affects 787 Operations
Mary Grady

An Airworthiness Directive published by the FAA on Tuesday restricts the operations of some Boeing 787s with Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, noting that in the event of an engine failure, the time the aircraft can sustain flight on a single engine would be reduced. Due to a known problem with the engine’s compressor and turbine blades and seals, the AD requires operators to amend their aircraft flight manuals to limit extended single-engine operations to within 140 minutes of an airport where they could land in an emergency, down from 330 minutes. The rule has a significant impact on the routing of flights across the Atlantic. More than 380 aircraft in the worldwide fleet are affected by the problem, but only 14 are based in the U.S. Some of those already are grounded, waiting for replacement engines.

“We expect intense activity to inspect engines and carry out the maintenance required to continue for the rest of this year,” a Rolls-Royce spokesperson told The Seattle Times. “We recognize that this will result in additional disruption for airlines, which we sincerely regret.” Among the airlines most heavily affected are All Nippon Airways, British Airways, Air New Zealand, Norwegian Air and Virgin Atlantic. The AD is effective immediately.

GA Pilots Need Better Weather Info, Study Finds
Mary Grady

General aviation pilots are not excelling when it comes to understanding weather information that’s critical to flight safety, according to a recent study conducted at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. The researchers tested 204 GA pilots to measure their ability to interpret weather information from various sources, including radar displays and written reports. The pilots correctly answered only about 58 percent of the questions. Pilot training is part of the problem, but according to researcher Elizabeth Blickensderfer, weather displays and reports that are difficult to interpret also contribute to the poor performance. “We have to improve how weather information is displayed so that pilots can easily and quickly interpret it,” she said. “At the same time, of course, we can fine-tune pilot assessments to promote learning and inform training.”

As an example, Blickensderfer said, respondents were prompted to choose the correct interpretation of METAR (Meteorological Terminal Aviation Routine Weather Report) information, for example: “CB DSNT N MOV N.” Pilots also were asked to interpret a ground-based radar cockpit display, which shows only recent thunderstorm activity—not current conditions. The test also asked pilots to look at an infrared (color) satellite image and determine where the highest-altitude clouds would most likely be found. Commercial pilots with instrument ratings scored highest, with an average of 65 percent; instrument-rated private pilots ranked second, at 62 percent; and non-instrument-rated private pilots scored 57 percent.

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AmSafe Introduces New Seatbelt Airbag Kit
Kate O'Connor

AmSafe has introduced a new universally applicable seatbelt airbag kit for normal category Part 23 aircraft. In a podcast with AVweb, AmSafe Technical Support Manager James Crupi said they hope to have FAA approval for the product, which they’re calling the State of the Art Restraint System (SOARS) by May 2018. The company has been offering airbag seatbelt restraints to general aviation customers since 2004.

SOARS works with two- and three-point seatbelt systems. The airbag deploys when the sensor detects a force at or above 6 Gs for approximately 50 milliseconds. It also deflates in seconds in case aircraft occupants need to get out of the plane quickly after an accident. The crash sensor and system electronics are contained within the SOARS Electronic Module Assembly (EMA), which is powered by a non-rechargeable lithium battery. Both the EMA battery and the airbag inflators last for 10 years.

SOARS installation can be accomplished by an A&P. The system includes a push-to-test feature, so it doesn’t require additional diagnostic tools for inspection and testing. Cost for SOARS is targeted at $2,500 per kit, with each kit providing materials and instructions for installation of airbags on two seats.

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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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Kate O'Connor

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