World's Leading Independent Aviation News Service
Volume 25, Number 21c
May 25, 2018
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Diamond Flies New Aerobatic Trainer
Kate O'Connor

The Diamond DART-550 aerobatic trainer has successfully completed its first flight, the company announced on Thursday. The flight consisted of a short-field takeoff demonstration, several low approaches, system checks and landing gear operation. Pilots Niko Daroussis and Ingmar Mayerbuch were at the controls.

The tandem-seat, carbon fiber DART-550 is powered by a single 550-HP General Electric GE H75-100 turboprop engine that drives a five-bladed MT propeller. Its expected top speed is 247 knots with a maximum takeoff weight of 5,291 pounds. Going somewhat slower than that, the DART-550 can stay in the air for as long as eight hours while still carrying reserves, Diamond says. The aircraft also includes Martin Baker MK16 ejection seats and front-and-back Garmin G3000 integrated avionics systems. Fully equipped, it weighs in at 3,527 pounds empty.

Diamond has said that different engine power ratings, seat configurations and avionics options will be available on the DART-550. It will next be on display at the Farnborough Airshow in Hampshire, UK, from July 16 until July 22, 2018.

No Help For EU Pilot Shortage
Jason Baker

As in the U.S., a looming pilot shortage in Europe is on the horizon, but little is being done to fix it, according to a research paper published by AeroProfessional, an international aviation recruiting and placement firm. Europe will need to recruit and train about 95,000 pilots during the next 16 years to keep up with demand, according to Boeing's outlook. But AeroProfessional says pilots prefer to work outside of Europe and demand from Asia, Africa and the Middle East is siphoning off pilots.

Retention and barriers to recruiting a new generation of pilots mixed with high training costs, low pay and less-than-stellar working conditions among budget airlines are top concerns. Meanwhile, legacy and flag carriers feel lower pressure in filling pilot seats due to favorable salary and benefit packages offered to new recruits. Pilots having to pay for their type ratings or being drawn into pay-for-training schemes see little motivation to choose the career, says AeroProfessional. 

While business aviation might be an attractive option for lower-time pilots to gain experience, geographical restrictions and quality of life issues mixed with the need to obtain type ratings prove prohibitive to most, according to AeroProfessional. The paper further highlights similarities to the U.S. market, illustrating a need for more strategic recruitment planning, in addition to lowering the cost of training and implementation of innovative cadet programs. 

"In 2015, 80 percent of stakeholders attending the EASA safety conference agreed that there aren’t enough skilled pilots to meet future demand," the paper says. With the total number of commercial pilot licenses issued in Europe reduced by 31 percent between 2011 and 2015, the dwindling continues.

About 4000 fixed-wing CPLs and multi-engine certificates were issued in the EU during 2015, with the UK issuing the highest proportion at 1072. Despite this, 48 percent of UK certificates and 20 percent of all EU licenses were issued to non-residents with no plans to stay in Europe to work. The deficits show effect as 91 percent of applicants trained and licensed in 2015 had been gobbled up by a hungry market in 2016.

With demand growing at a rate current training capacity can’t satisfy, coupled with the added pressure of European pilots leaving for other markets, the outlook for the pilot shortage in the EU is far from bright. Stopping the outflow of both disgruntled pilots and unwilling retirees with skills and experience would be an effective quick fix for addressing the skills crisis, according to AeroProfessional. Getting the mandatory retirement age raised to mitigate demand would require regulatory changes.

The paper concludes with the suggestion to the industry that profitability and demand are both such that investing in pilot training doesn’t just make economic sense, it’s crucial for the survival of airlines in a competitive market.

When Only Luck Will Do
Russ Niles

It would be hard to imagine a better-prepared aircraft for the mission at hand than Ron Carlson’s TBM Avenger. The old warhorse was to take off from Phoenix for a series of relatively short fuel stop hops to Chicago where Carlson, a well-known successful architect, was going to tuck it into a snug hangar, to be brought out on special occasions to demonstrate how naval aviators did their bit in the Second World War.

But the Avenger was no hangar queen. It had a flown a lot in its 70 years. After fulfilling its role as a torpedo bomber in the South Pacific in the Second World War for the Navy, it did similar duty over the roiling seas of the North Atlantic with the Royal Canadian Navy. After that it was a waterbomber in Canada before undergoing restoration to its former pugnacious glory. 

It left North America for the airshow circuit in Australia for 10 years and that’s where Carlson found it for sale for two-thirds the cost of a new Skyhawk. 

His dream was to use the aircraft to faithfully re-enact the drama, excitement and danger faced by the 20-something airmen who flew the colossal single into battle. As he polished every surface of the gleaming warbird in preparation for the trip home, he had no idea how close he would come to reliving the scariest aspects of that experience. You can hear it in his own words in this podcast.

After shipping the aircraft from Australia, the aircraft had to undergo a recertification inspection. Carlson hired the best people to essentially dismantle the plane, study its parts and put it back together again. As part of his personal mission for the aircraft, he oversaw the reconstruction of the mid-ships radio room and rear turret, which had been removed to make way for the firefighting tanks and gear. He even installed propane-fueled machine gun replicas to give airshow crowds and Veterans’ Day ceremonies a taste of the aircraft’s true purpose.

By the time he and his passenger Ken Franzese lined up for takeoff in Phoenix on May 7, every bolt had been tightened, every screw turned and every cable adjusted. No aircraft could have been better preflighted. 

In that quest for mechanical perfection, however, a few things got missed. Carlson would later admit that while the aircraft was as flawless as anyone could have made it, there were a few boxes unticked on his personal checklist. Despite hundreds of highly skilled man hours spent imagining every scenario and mitigating its risk it was only a perfectly timed cavalcade of blind luck that allowed Carlson to express his wonder and contrition at surviving a truly remarkable aviation accident.

We may yet find out what let go inside the massive Wright radial pulling the 17,000-pound airplane over the mountains of eastern Arizona at 11,500 feet that day. Carlson hopes to recover the wreck and maybe even rebuild it. He has to find it first but he has a track record for such work.

As smoke filled the cockpit and the aircraft seemed sure to shake itself to pieces, survival was top of mind and that didn’t seem likely where he was sitting. He used hand signals to gesture to his passenger to leave the aircraft and use the modern replica of a wartime parachute to go the rest of the way down. When he bought them, the parachutes were more part of the quest for authenticity than a realistic option for returning to earth. Carlson said he wanted to relive the experience of a naval aviator as authentically as possible and that meant sitting on a parachute.

Franzese didn’t need any further prompting. “I looked back and he was gone,” Carlson said.

Carlson pitched the aircraft up and banked right, not realizing Franzese was still clinging to handholds on the outside of the aircraft. The maneuver allowed Carlson to swing his legs over the canopy sill and launch himself into the thin air. At the same time, it broke Franzese’s grip and sent him plummeting on a similar trajectory. The D-rings on both chutes worked as promised but before they could get used to the ride, they were crashing through trees in an unceremonious reunion with earth. Carlson estimates they were about 1,000 feet AGL when he went over the side and ride was short and not very sweet. One of Carlson’s condescensions to style over practicality was not properly tightening the parachute straps. The shock of the canopy opening shook him to the bone. It was the first parachute jump for both men.

Carlson never saw the plane again but he said Franzese told him the aircraft, which was trimmed for cruise, righted itself from the bank, leveled out and with its engine still making power flew on before he lost sight of it. It flew away with water, food, survival gear, matches, lighters, a satellite phone, first aid kits and all kinds of useful stuff carefully tucked away in the cockpit to be used in case of the unthinkable.

When they landed on the mountain top, Carlson and Franzese had literally only the clothes on their backs. Carlson was wearing a period correct Navy flightsuit. Its many pockets, hooks and flaps were utterly empty except for a half charged cellphone. Carlson tried to pull his parachute canopy from a tree to use for shelter and warmth but couldn’t budge it. Alone, injured and dehydrated, he spent an uncomfortable night on a bed of pine needles covered with tree branches. “They took off the edge,” he said. Of everything that flew away with that Avenger, though, what Carlson coveted most was one or more of those bottles of water packed neatly in the cockpit. It’s dry in those mountains and not a drop of water was to be found.

There is a lot of nothing in northeastern Arizona and since they were sure to be miles from the wreckage of the aircraft, their chances of being found by rescuers were practically nonexistent. But apparently there was something someone wanted on that mountain because they built a road to get to it. Carlson and Franzese found the road at about the same time early the next morning and were reunited. The road was being used for its intended purpose and soon the two were in the care of a couple of forestry workers from the local community.

The platitudes, homilies, quotations and clichés just burst forth from stories like theirs and Carlson has likely heard them all by now from ever-helpful friends and colleagues. But if there’s one thing he learned from his remarkable experience it’s that all the elements that go into a successful mission need a thorough preflight, including the mindset of the pilot. You can bet the pockets in that flightsuit will be jammed with all kinds of useful stuff on his next flight and the parachute straps snug.

At risk of joining the peanut gallery that Carlson is almost certainly tired of by now, a couple of those familiar quotations come to mind.

As Sam Levenson (and a few others in similar language) said: “You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.”

Perhaps the one that sums up this experience has no formal attribution but is familiar nonetheless.

“Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.”

ERAU Student Killed in Cessna 140 Crash
Kate O'Connor

Embry-Riddle-Daytona student Nandish Patel, 22, was killed in the crash of a Cessna 140 at Spruce Creek Fly-In private airport (7FL6) in Port Orange, Florida, on Tuesday evening. Also on board the aircraft was Chase Zinn, 23, a May 2017 Riddle graduate and flight instructor at the school. Zinn was transported to the hospital and remains in critical condition.

The aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff from Spruce Creek. According to the NTSB, it banked left after departure and went down in some trees at the end of the runway after climbing no more than 200 feet above the ground. Zinn has been identified as the pilot of the aircraft.

No early indicators of possible causes of the accident have been discussed. At this time, the NTSB doesn’t believe the flight was for the purpose of training. The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office says the aircraft, a 1946 Cessna 140, was owned by Zinn’s family. The NTSB is on scene to investigate the accident. The is the second fatal crash involving an Embry-Riddle student in the last two months after an inflight breakup killed a student and examiner in early April.

Leesburg to Resume Remote Tower Testing
Kate O'Connor

Virginia’s Leesburg Executive Airport (JYO) will once again be testing its remote air traffic control system this summer. The remote tower, which is staffed by off-site controllers using an array of on-airport cameras and microphones, is scheduled to begin its next round of test operations on June 25. According to the FAA, the testing is being done “to assist in the definition and validation of processes for operational approval of a remote tower system.”

A temporary mobile control tower will also be on-site and staffed to act as backup. If all goes well, the mobile tower will be phased out over the course of the testing. When the remote tower is not in operation, primarily GA Leesburg Executive is an untowered field. The Leesburg system, which underwent its first round of operational testing from June to September of 2017, was put together by Saab, a company that has also worked with airports in Ireland, Sweden and Australia on similar remote ATC technology.

JYO is the first remote ATC system test site in the U.S. AOPA and NBAA worked with the FAA to conduct a safety assessment of the program last year. “AOPA has been very active in supporting this initiative, and believes the system continues to demonstrate that it meets FAA requirements and facilitates the services pilots expect at a towered airport,” said AOPA senior director of airspace and air traffic Rune Duke. Northern Colorado Regional Airport (FNL) is also scheduled to begin active testing of a remote tower system in fall 2018. Canada’s Searidge Technologies, in collaboration with the FAA, will be installing and testing the system at FNL.

Podcast: Workhorse SureFly VTOL Hybrid
Kate O'Connor

Electric delivery vehicle company Workhorse, which recently began untethered flight testing of its hybrid-powered SureFly VTOL, is seeking full FAA type approval for the aircraft. Workhorse CEO Steve Burns talks about the development of the project and the company's goals for the aircraft now that it's flying free.

Picture of the Week, May 24, 2018
Seven P2Vs converted to aerial tankers; parked at Alamogordo, New Mexico. These workhorses, which belong to Neptune Aviation Services, are being retired. Most of them will spend their retirement in various aviation museums. Photo by Jim Unruh.

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AirVenture Roster Expands
Mary Grady

EAA continues to work on filling every day of this summer’s AirVenture with attractions for pilots, and over the last week or two a number of new events and appearances have been announced. The NTSB said they will hold a special safety forum from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 24, in Forum Building 6, to address “a top safety issue seen in our investigations.” The board promises more information to come soon. EAA also said they will bring back Obsession, a one-third-scale B-17 home-built by Jack Bally in Illinois over a 17-year span. The unique aircraft, known as the Bally Bomber, “embodies the spirit of homebuilt innovation and creativity,” according to EAA’s Rick Larsen, who coordinates AirVenture’s attractions. The project has attracted thousands of online fans over the years. “I’m really excited to see it firsthand,” Larsen said.

Educators are welcome to participate in free Teacher Day activities, to be held on Friday, July 27. Two tracks will be offered, for teachers in Grades Pre-K to 6, and those who teach grades 7 to 12. “We want to bring educators ideas that are easy to implement, affordable and scalable for a variety of student experiences,” said Bret Steffen, EAA’s director of education. Teachers will have a chance to try out a Redbird flight simulator. Online registration is open until June 30. There is no cost for teachers. AirVenture, held in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, will run July 23 to 29. Anyone planning to fly in can find the Notam here.

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