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Volume 25, Number 18a
April 30, 2018
 
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FAA Reauthorization Bill Passes House Vote
 
Kate O'Connor
 
 

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 4), which will grant funding for the FAA until 2023. The legislation was introduced by chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa. and passed with a vote of 393-13. Although the original House bill did not include provisions for removing ATC from FAA control, a last-minute amendment added by Shuster on Tuesday called for making the organization that manages ATC part of the Transportation Department and forming a 13-member advisory board. The change met with significant industry resistance and the controversial section was removed from the amendment before the bill went to a vote.

Nearly 100 amendments were made to the bill before the final vote. The list includes one that directs the FAA to evaluate NextGen air traffic control technology and report the findings to Congress. Also included was an amendment requiring medical exams for commercial hot air balloon pilots, stemming from the 2016 crash of a hot air balloon that killed 16 people in Texas.

NATA, GAMA, and other aviation organizations have already issued statements praising the passage of H.R. 4. “This bill provides key provisions and language that improves safety, streamlines regulatory burdens, strengthens job creation, encourages competitiveness and innovation, and stimulates exports,” said GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce. It is being reported that the hope is to have the legislation to the Senate in May or June and long-term reauthorization in place by August.

Canada Recommends Mandatory Flight Recorders For Commercial And Private Business Aircraft
 
AVweb Staff
 
 

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is recommending mandatory installation of lightweight flight recording systems by all commercial and private business operators not currently required to carry them. The TSB is also concerned with Transport Canada's reactive approach to oversight of private business aircraft operations. The details are in the investigation report (A16P0186) released this week into the 2016 fatal loss of control and collision with terrain of a Cessna Citation 500 near Kelowna, British Columbia.

In October of 2016, a Cessna Citation 500 that was privately operated by Norjet Inc. departed Kelowna Airport, British Columbia, on a night IFR flight to Calgary/Springbank Airport, Alberta. The pilot and three passengers were on board. Shortly after departure, the aircraft departed controlled flight, entering a steep descending turn to the right until it struck the ground. No emergency call was made. All of the occupants were fatally injured. Impact forces and a post-impact fire destroyed the aircraft.

Because there were no flight recording systems on board the aircraft, the TSB could not determine the cause of the accident. The most plausible scenario is that the pilot, who was likely dealing with a high workload associated with flying the aircraft alone, experienced spatial disorientation and departed from controlled flight shortly after takeoff. The investigation also determined that the pilot did not have the recent night flying experience required by Transport Canada for carrying passengers at night. Pilots without sufficient recent experience flying at night or by instruments are at a greater risk of loss of control accidents.

"We don't like having to say, 'We don't know,' when asked what caused an accident and why," said Kathy Fox, chair of the TSB. "We want to be able to provide definitive answers—to the victims' families, to Canada's aviation industry, to the Canadian public. This is why we are calling today for the mandatory installation of lightweight flight recording systems on commercial and private business aircraft not currently required to carry them."

The Board also raised a concern with the way Transport Canada (TC) had conducted oversight of private business aviation in Canada. During the course of its investigation, the TSB found no record that the operator of this aircraft had ever been inspected by TC. As such, TC was unaware of safety deficiencies in its flight operations, such as the failure to obtain approval for single-pilot operation of the aircraft and the pilot's lack of recent night flying experience required to carry passengers at night. Since this occurrence, TC has said that it will conduct targeted inspections of private business operators starting in April 2018. The Board says it will continue to monitor this safety issue.

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FAA No Longer Requires Complex Aircraft for Commercial/Instructor Practical Test
 
AVweb Staff
 
 

Last week the FAA released a notice regarding changes in policy regarding testing applicants for a commercial pilot or flight instructor certificate. The notice states that it is no longer required for applicants for a “commercial pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine rating to provide a complex or turbine-powered airplane for the associated practical test and no longer requires applicants for a flight instructor certificate with an airplane single-engine rating to provide a complex airplane for the practical test.”

However, under Part 61, §61.31(e), a pilot will still be required to receive flight training and an endorsement from an authorized instructor certifying his or her proficiency in a complex airplane. The notice goes on to say, “The FAA finds that no longer requiring an applicant to provide a complex airplane for the initial commercial pilot with an airplane single-engine rating practical test or a flight instructor with an airplane single-engine rating practical test will not result in a decreased level of safety.”

The FAA says it has determined that removing these ACS/PTS requirements will reduce costs for those pursuing a commercial pilot or flight instructor certificate “by allowing applicants to utilize less-expensive airplanes on the practical test that are not complex or turbine-powered.”

Read the notice here.

Yeah, I Listen To The Cabin Briefing
 
Paul Bertorelli
 

In the ultimate act of jabbing a finger into the eye of fate, I’m writing today’s blog from seat 19D on a Southwest Airlines flight from Tampa to Denver. I tried to get the window seat directly abeam of the fan section of one of the engines, but passengers similarly casting caution to the wind had already grabbed them, along with the overhead space I desperately wanted for my expensive camera gear.

The topic du jour is the cabin safety briefing. As we reported earlier this week, a viral photo showing passengers on the ill-fated WN 1380 with improperly worn oxygen masks raised the issue of how effective cabin briefings are. Or, more accurately, do passengers pay attention to them and embrace the simple safety instructions therein? Easy answer: No to both. Think back to your last airline flight. Did you listen to the briefing?

I actually do, as a matter of fact. And on today’s flight, I did the same. I have two reasons for doing this, both related to my background as an aviator. The first is the quaint notion of professional courtesy. As I’ve noted before, flight attendants aren’t waiters and waitresses, but trained professionals meant to enhance the safety prospects of panicked passengers who, in the event of an accident, are too clueless to react because they’re even more clueless for having ignored the briefing. If a trained flight attendant is going to bother with this, I can take a few moments from my meaningful embrace of a seat cushion to at least listen. I always make eye contact in counterpoint to those who don’t.

Second, the likelihood of an accident on an airliner is so remote that it’s practically zero, but it’s not really zero. ^%$# happens even in a 10-9 universe. Paying attention reminds me to keep my seatbelt on in case of severe turbulence. It’s not so uncommon and I have seen the effects of it in both airliners and small aircraft. It gives me the willies. Also, I have another quaint habit of counting the seat rows to the nearest exit. I would never need that silly knowledge because I’ll never have to escape a smoke-filled cabin. But what the hey, what else do I have to do here other than peck away at this blog? (Today’s number is five, by the way.) 

I’m a frequent Southwest customer for a short list of reasons, but one is that the cabin and flight crews often apply a humorous touch to their work that occasionally veers to the cynical. After United had that unfortunate set-to with a passenger disinclined to vacate an overbooked seat, a Southwest flight attendant closed his welcome to Seattle thank you with “at Southwest, we beat fares, not passengers.” Predictably, the cabin erupted, so someone was listening. I now wonder if the airline will discourage its FAs from adding a little fun to their briefings, which they often do. I certainly hope not. Any means of keeping people engaged is a net plus, however it can be done.

Those stressed-out passengers in the photo took an unfair drubbing on social media, although not so much in our commentary sections, I’m satisfied to say. Whether their lack of proper use of the oxygen masks—which are more like kiddie drink cups than proper safety equipment—matters less to me than the insult of people passing judgment on others in duress from the warm safety of their homes and offices. In my view, unless you’ve been there and done that, you ought to respect the actions of those who have the photo to prove they have.

I don’t normally buy the Wi-Fi option on airline flights, but today I’m making the exception, in a brash attempt to gouge out fate’s other eye. I’m pushing the publish button somewhere over eastern Oklahoma and on the off chance I don’t make it, tell my wife I love her and give Wriggly dog one of those big Milk Bone treats.

TUESDAY A.M. ADDITION: A reader wrote to ask if wearing your seatbelt would keep you from being sucked out of the airplane in the event of an explosive decompression. This is probably at the bottom of the list of good reasons to keep the belt fastened and may be impossible to accurately answer because there are so many variables related to size of the cabin, the breach and the cabin differential. The myth of a bullet hole causing explosive decompression is just that, a myth.

And speaking of myths, Myth Busters once did a segment on explosive decompression that eerily presaged the 1380 accident. It gives a good idea of the forces involved in a cabin decompression. This clip  shows that a person sitting near a large opening could indeed be drawn out of the cabin, but doesn't address whether a seatbelt would defeat that. It seems unlikely that a passenger could avoid serious injury in such an incident, even if he or she remained inside the cabin.

In 1972, engineers learned the hard way about the so-called size effect of pressurized cabins. In the famous Windsor accident, due to a faulty latching mechanism, the cargo door of a DC-10 departed in flight and the outrush of air from a large cabin crushed the rear cabin floor, significantly damaging or disrupting flight and engine controls. The flight landed safely, but barely. Two years later, a DC-10 in Paris wasn't as lucky. The same door blew off of a Turkish Airlines DC-10 and all 349 people aboard died in the crash. 

Candy Bomber Commemoration In 2019
 
Jason Baker
 
 

With the 70th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift coming up in June, a small group of volunteers has been assembling a fleet of vintage aircraft to re-create the famed Candy Bomber mission originated by Gail Halvorsen in 1948. Although the airlift began in 1948, it carried on until 1949 so the commemoration will occur next year, in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy. Thus far organizers Peter Braun, Thomas Keller and Jörg Siebert have commitments from 35 aircraft operators, with airplanes coming from all over the world.

The organizers are hoping to raise about €5 million to fund the event and have established a website to help with raising money. No fewer than 21 aircraft are coming across the pond from the U.S. alone, which will require a trans-Atlantic crossing originating in Connecticut in groups of seven aircraft. AVweb reported on the Daks Over Normandy project during our Sun ’n Fun coverage. The remainder of the aircraft are coming from Europe, South America and even Australia.  

For more on the Berlin Airlift, see Paul Bertorelli’s blog here and accounts written by two pilots who actually flew in the airlift.

 
How Vashon Wants to Revolutionize Aviation with the Ranger LSA
 
Paul Bertorelli
 
 

Vashon Aircraft wants to revolutionize light aircraft manufacture with the Vashon Ranger, an all-metal light sport aircraft intended to be both a sort of RV for outback flying and a trainer. In this AVweb video, Paul Bertorelli dives deep into the Vashon story, including an in-depth report on the factory.

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Your Instrument Proficiency Check: Nailing It
 
Rick Durden
 
 

You’ve had your instrument rating for a couple of years by now. The first year you didn’t have any trouble keeping current to fly IFR—you were out there just about every week “flying in the system” as you called it. The new hadn’t worn off your rating; you knew that you were just a baby instrument pilot. You were determined to get some seasoning and experience. You did. FAR 61.57 said you had to have six instrument approaches, “holding procedures and tasks” and “intercepting and tracking” electronic courses within the preceding six months to be legal. You had so much more than those minimum requirements that it was funny. You got to the point where you were proficient enough to shoot an approach right down to the published minimums in driving rain or fog without elevating your heart rate more than a little.

But then, near the end of the second year after getting the rating, you looked at your logbook and noticed that you hadn’t had the hood on in the previous six months enough to have shot six approaches. You weren’t IFR current for the first time since getting the rating. You promptly shanghaied a safety pilot, grabbed the hood your tablet with current charts and plates and got current.

Now it’s coming the end of year three since the rating. That promotion at work changed your life more than you could have imagined. There was the move to a different town that seemed to take forever; you and your spouse seemed to be devoting every spare moment to running the kids back and forth to their myriad activities when the two of you weren’t doing the renovations on the cool old house you’d bought. You just plain hadn’t had time to get out to the local FBO and get checked out and it was way too far to drive back to your old, friendly, familiar airport to fly there.

An hour after driving home the last screw in the last light fixture of the renovation project, you and your spouse are sitting on the deck with cold drinks, celebrating your collective success. She looks at you and says, “I know you’ve had a hard time with all of upheaval because you haven’t been able to go flying. I think you better get back at it. It’ll be cheaper than sending you to a shrink and probably more effective.”

You pull out your logbook and within moments do the forehead slap—it’s been more than 12 months since you were last instrument current. You’re going to have to find an instrument instructor and take—cue the melodramatic music—an Instrument Proficiency Check. An IPC. Pretty much a full instrument checkride … from cold turkey, rusty pilot status. Great.

Now what do you do?

Breathe

First, take a deep breath. You can’t fail an IPC. It’s like taking a FR—if you don’t meet the standards you just don’t finish in that session. You don’t get ever get a pink slip or a logbook entry saying that you’re a hopeless incompetent who shouldn't be trusted with airplanes and other sharp objects. You get a logbook entry for that session that describes what you did—it’s just dual instruction.

You do a quick check of 61.57 and find it says that: “The instrument proficiency check must consist of the areas of operation and instrument tasks required in the instrument rating practical test standards.”

OK. You’ve done that before; you can certainly do it again. After all, when you were flying regularly the year after you got the rating you were performing at a level well above the minimums specified for the checkride. It’s just a matter of flaking the rust off and getting yourself back up to speed.

Over the next week you drag out the stuff you used to study for the instrument rating and you call the local flight school to schedule instrument dual toward an IPC with one of their instrument instructors. At the time of the call the instructor you’re going to be flying with is up flying, so you ask that she give you a call to discuss a strategy to get you back into flying at a competence level that will get you through an IPC—and a FR while you’re at it.

You download the FAA’s Instrument Proficiency Check Guidance booklet from www.faa.gov and make sure you’ve got access to the publications it recommends you review such as the FAA’s Instrument Procedures Handbook, Instrument Flying Handbook and Aviation Weather Services. No sweat, you’ve got those from your rating days and most of it is available for free on the FAA's website. You check the FAA’s website to download the Airman Certification Standards for the instrument rating. They're new since you got the rating, so you've got some reading to do. You also update the charts on your tablet and start looking over the ones for the airports in the area.

Strategy

About that time your instructor to be calls. You discuss your situation with her and over the course of 30 minutes come up with a plan to get you introduced to the way the FBO operates, the local airport and the airplane you’ll be flying. It’s similar to what you’d been flying, so it’s going to be more getting the cobwebs out than transitioning to a new type airplane. She suggests, and you agree, to two or three VFR flights—with accompanying ground instruction—to get you comfortable VFR. That will also get you through a flight review. Immediately after that she’ll put you in front of one of the desktop simulators at the FBO so that you can inexpensively start getting back on the instrument procedures horse. She tells you that the sim won’t handle a lot like the airplane, but that’s not important; the idea is to get your IFR brain awake and planning ahead as you do some holds and approaches.

Next you’ll get back in the airplane, under the hood and start doing all the old familiar stuff: steep turns, slow flight, stalls, intercepting and tracking, holds, approaches, emergencies. As you hit the acceptable performance level for each of the tasks involved you get credit for it—she says that the IPC isn’t going to be a formal checkride but rather a series of three or four flights during which you’ll review and practice the instrument flying stuff you’ve done in the past and reach acceptable performance. Some things you’ll nail first try, some will probably take several times to nail down accomplishing them within acceptable guidelines for speed, altitude and heading.

Over the course of the next two weeks you do just as you and your instructor planned. You find that you make a new group of pilot friends at the FBO and nearby coffee shop; you are mortified at your first few landings—and little mollified when your instructor tells you that her concern is directional control, which you did well, and that the smooth touchdowns will come. They do. By the end of the third flight you’ve done all the VFR maneuvers acceptably, planned and started out on a cross country and diverted to a different airport and handled a string of simulated emergencies. You get the flight review endorsement in your logbook and, because you’ve got some extra time that day, sit down in front of a desktop flight simulator and your instructor starts reintroducing you to flying an airplane by reference to instruments.

On the ground you talk weather, the limitations—time delay—of the radar display on your tablet, equipment failures, regs, ATC procedures and the dozens of other items an instrument pilot needs to know well.

The Evil Gene

You have two sessions with the sim and then it’s into the airplane where, after two flights you’ve raised a sweat several times as you’ve concentrated on keeping needles where they should be and have demonstrated all of the requisite instrument tasks well within tolerances, filed an instrument cross country, flown part of it, diverted and shot an approach to landing. You’ve missed approaches, landed from circling approaches, handled equipment failures and simulated emergencies. During all of that, you’ve handled the numerous scenarios involving deteriorating weather and equipment failures that your instructor threw at you. Your instructor has demonstrated that she can sense when your workload is getting a little high and has the evil gene given all instrument instructors by then tossing in yet another problem for you to deal with—failing the com radio you were using, announcing that you’re collecting ice or some other nefarious issue. You show that you can handle it. You’re feeling as you did two years ago when you were on top of the instrument flying game.

After parking the airplane from the last flight the debrief includes having you write down your weather minimums—given how you evaluate your skills right now—for precision, nonprecision and circle to land approaches, day and night. She does the same for you, as part of her evaluation. You find that they are similar and that yours are more conservative—which she says is a good thing.

Your instructor makes the IPC endorsement. Then she throws you a curve—she has you pull out your calendar and schedule a time six months down the road for another IPC and FR—and she tells you that this one will only take you one flight and a half a day of time because you will be flying regularly between now and then. She also points out that professional pilots take recurrent training every six months—so you should be doing the same. You agree and schedule the IPC as you pay the bill for the flight you just completed.

Your instructor shake your hand, compliments you on how well the training went and wishes you well.

You walk out. The sky is a little bluer than it was. Everything around you seems to be a little clearer, sharper, better defined and you realize that you feel better than you have in months.

Rick Durden is a CFII, holds an ATP with Douglas DC-3 and Cessna Citation type ratings and is the author of The Thinking Pilot’s Flight Manual or, How to Survive Flying Little Airplanes and Have a Ball Doing It, Vols. 1 & 2.

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