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Volume 25, Number 22b
May 30, 2018
 
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MH370 Searchers Give Up
 
Mary Grady
 
 

Ocean Infinity, a technology company that specializes in collecting high-resolution seabed data, announced on Tuesday that it’s giving up its search for the wreckage of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370. Ocean Infinity searched and collected data from more than 43,000 square miles of ocean floor in about three months of work. This was more than the original target, and almost equal to the previously searched area. “I would firstly like to extend the thoughts of everyone at Ocean Infinity to the families of those who have lost loved ones on MH370,” said Oliver Plunkett, Ocean Infinity’s CEO. “Part of our motivation for renewing the search was to try to provide some answers to those affected. It is therefore with a heavy heart that we end our current search without having achieved that aim.” The search, however, is likely to continue in one form or another.

Plunkett said he hopes to offer the ship’s services again in the future to search for MH370 until the wreckage is found. “Whilst clearly the outcome so far is extremely disappointing, as a company, we are truly proud of what we have achieved,” he said, “both in terms of the quality of data we’ve produced and the speed with which we covered such a vast area.” The Malaysian flight vanished from radar in March 2014. Some aircraft pieces that are believed to part of the Boeing 777 have been found off the coast of Africa. All 227 passengers and 12 crew are presumed dead.

Siemens Electric Motor Will Power Sun Flyer 2
 
Mary Grady
 
 

The Sun Flyer 2, an electric two-seat trainer in development by Bye Aerospace in Denver, will be powered by a Siemens SP70D motor, Bye announced on Tuesday. “The Siemens motor provides great performance and all of the propulsion energy required for normal flight training profiles,” CEO George Bye told AVweb in an email. “The batteries give us stored energy for over three hours of flight time plus VFR reserves. We’re in great shape for the primary training mission.” Bye also said Siemens will be “an active partner” in the project through FAA certification and production. Bye Aerospace is pursuing Part 23 certification for the aircraft, which is now available for electric powerplants under the revisions that took effect last year. Light sport aircraft, such as Pipistrel’s Electro, are still unable to overcome the FAA’s wording in its rules that LSA aircraft must be powered by a “reciprocating engine.”

Frank Anton, head of eAircraft for Siemens, said the SP70D motor has been specifically designed for the needs of two-seat flight trainers. “We know that safety, performance and cost of electric propulsion in the flight training market will be game-changing,” he said. The SP70D motor will operate with a 90kW peak (115 HP), and a continuous rating of 70kW (90 HP), according to Siemens. The design is derived from the SP45D, which has accumulated about 300 flight hours.

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Perception vs. Reality
 
Mary Grady
 

When I first started on the aviation beat, about a hundred years ago, I remember looking at a report about an airliner that had to turn around and land due to “smoke in the cockpit.” I wondered for a minute or two if that was newsworthy, but a little research quickly schooled me — these kind of “emergencies” happen every day. That doesn’t mean it’s not an emergency — you wouldn’t want to ignore that smoke — but it’s not news. Working the beat, you soon learn what’s a real emergency — as in life-threatening — and what’s a “routine” emergency, in that it must be immediately dealt with, but chances are good all will be well. This kind of distinction, though, is not clear to the traveling public.

I always feel a little guilty about that when I encounter news reports about emergency landings, where in fact there is very little risk of a bad outcome — say, a problem with one engine on a two-engine airplane that’s perfectly capable of single-engine flight, or that untraceable everyday smoke — and the passengers are panicking, understandably, and calling their loved ones on their cellphones and composing their final goodbyes on their laptops. I’m sure the cabin crew tries to reassure them all, but you can’t blame them for ignoring that. Reality may be clear to the educated and expert, but misperception rules among the unschooled, in the uncertainty of the moment.

Our job, of course, in the aviation media, is to report the news for our savvy audience, not to educate the teeming masses who have no idea how an airplane flies. That education task, it seems, is nobody’s job, and it never gets done. The same is true when it comes to educating people about gender equity. We expect everyone to know by now that humans are all essentially the same, despite our diversity. Women can be pilots, men can be stay-at-home dads, everyone can be anything they like, if they have the talent and the opportunity. Yet gender remains an issue, driven by those ingrained perceptions. A friend once told me when you run across these assumptions about womanhood, try replacing “woman” with a racial or ethnic modifier. For example -- we saw plenty of headlines the last few weeks about the brave “woman pilot" who safely landed a Southwest 737 after an uncontained engine failure — how would it feel to see the same breathless headlines referring to a “black” or “Asian” or “blond, blue-eyed” pilot? It’s all about how we perceive differences, and nothing to do with real capability.

Which brings me to another aviation accident that’s been on my mind the last few weeks. Tammie Jo Shults was not the first woman to be at the controls of a damaged airliner. Thirty years ago, in April 1988, Aloha Airlines Flight 243, a Boeing 737, was flying 24,000 feet above the Pacific when a 20-foot section of the airplane’s fuselage was lost in an explosive decompression. First officer Madeline “Mimi” Tompkins, age 36, was the pilot flying when it happened, and she assisted Captain Robert Schornstheimer throughout the ordeal, bringing the damaged aircraft in to a safe landing on Maui. One flight attendant lost her life, and eight others on board were seriously hurt. Considering the damage to the airplane, with the cabin torn open and the fuselage shredded, it seems miraculous that anyone survived. Mimi Tompkins went on to work for Hawaiian Airlines, where she was a leader in Critical Incident Stress Management work, and also worked with ALPA’s Air Safety Committee, where she led the union’s pilot-assistance efforts.

“First Officer Tompkins is the supreme example of a pilot who turned her experience of living through a tragic aviation incident into an opportunity to help other pilots and their families who are dealing with similar challenges,” said Captain Lee Moak, ALPA’s president, on the occasion of giving her an award for her service, in 2011. “Her compassion and commitment serve as a powerful example for all airline pilots.” Mimi Tompkins showed everyone, 30 years ago, what “woman” pilots are capable of. Maybe it’s time to lose the modifier.

At EBACE, New Jets From Bombardier, Honda Upgrade
 
Jason Baker and Mary Grady
 
 

The European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition is underway this week in Geneva, and on Monday, Bombardier introduced two new business-jet models, the Global 5500 and 6500. The jets feature a newly optimized wing design and all-new Rolls-Royce engines, providing ranges of 5,700 and 6,600 NM, respectively. The two jets are expected to enter service by the end of next year. Also at the show, HondaJet introduced a new model of its twinjet, called “HondaJet Elite.” The new model features an extra 200 NM of range, noise-attenuating structures for the engines and upgrades to the avionics, including automatic stability functions. HondaJet says the airplane is the most fuel-efficient in its category. Also, Textron officials provided an update on the Denali single-engine turboprop.

The fuselage, wings and tail cone of the first three flying Denali prototypes are now in production, the company said, with the goal of getting the aircraft ready for first flight early next year. Textron also said the Denali production line has been upgraded with new technologies and robotics. Also at the show, business aviation advocacy groups said they plan to “redouble their focus” on advancing the development and adoption of sustainable alternative jet fuels, with the goal to reach “carbon neutrality” by 2020. The coalition has produced a new guide to sustainable fuels for jet operators that provides details about what fuels are available, how to access them and why it’s worth the effort to seek them out. The group also called upon governments around the globe to provide legal and regulatory frameworks to support the further development of sustainable jet fuels.

CubCrafters Ramps Up
 
Mary Grady
 
 

CubCrafters will significantly increase production of its two-place airplanes in 2019, the company said last week. “Backcountry flying is increasing in popularity,” said Brad Damm, sales director for the company, in a news release. CubCrafters has seen continuous growth since 2009, he said, when the Carbon Cub LSA was introduced. Sales ramped up in 2016, when the Part 23-certified XCub was introduced, he said, and the order backlog is up to two years. The company began to increase production rates at the end of last year, and plans to continue growing into 2019. Cubcrafters' EX-3/FX-3 model is on the cover of AVWeb sister magazine Kitplanes' July issue, on sale now. 

The company said another project contributing to their growth is their builder-assist program, which enables owners to participate in the fabrication and assembly of their experimental amateur-built aircraft at the factory. CubCrafters also offers two versions of Carbon Cub kits for owner assembly and certification offsite. AVweb’s Paul Bertorelli flew the Carbon Cub on floats in 2015; here’s his video report.

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Psychology of Pilot Responses
 
Ted Spitzmiller
 
 

As pilots, each time we read an accident review we often evaluate the pilot’s response relative to the developing chain of events. If the chain is slow in evolving, there is a tendency for the pilot to either not recognize the link or to downplay or ignore it. Knowing the end result, and then replaying the events, we can often see the chain emerging and wonder why the pilot didn’t recognize and respond to each link to defuse the problem. Yes, it is often easy to criticize or pass judgment from a position of hindsight.

When a serious event suddenly occurs that had not been foreshadowed, such as an engine failure, the mind does a rapid search for immediate remedies (typically those for which training has been received and internalized). This recall is often referred to as Primacy or Recency Effect—recalling tasks that are first learned or at the beginning of a check list, or those for which you most recently experienced or received training. Over the past few issues of IFR Refresher we have used the expression Startle Effect to categorize this type of event.

When Time Is A Critical Factor

If the event occurs at altitude where time is available to allow a mental search for remedies or to use the checklist, the pilot may work themselves out of a critical situation. If the malady happens at a perilous junction, such as an engine failure after takeoff, then there are immediate and perhaps fatal consequences to inaction or incorrect action—and, more than likely, the pilot realizes this.

When an event produces a Startle Effect, if the first remedy applied does not produce an immediate and positive response to the situation, the mind may shut down and inaction follows. The pilot has become a passenger and is no longer an active participant. Panic, the “sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, of-ten causing unthinking behavior,” may occur. It is interesting that the new FAA Instrument ACS deleted IR.VII.B.R1 1. 321B Startle response during unexpected events.

The Mental Response Stream

There is also an interesting analogy between the reaction to the Startle Effect and the grieving process. When a critical event occurs for which the pilot has no immediate response, they may move through the following five emotional stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

How long the pilot spends in each stage is dependent on the individual’s emotional makeup. Thus, it may be a few seconds of denial, a moment of anger, perhaps some bargaining with a higher power for help, a period of depression, and then either acceptance of a fateful outcome, or the realization that only their own action will bring about a resolution—and they apply their knowledge and experience. Interviews with those few who have experienced this sequence of emotions (and survived), along with some cockpit voice recordings, have confirmed this basic premise.

While the actual occurrence of such a catastrophic event is statistically small, most pilots have contemplated the thought process and wondered about their own reactions. For airline or corporate pilots, periodic and intensive training is critical to keeping the edge on a wide variety of situations, which must be handled rapidly and without error. For those for whom piloting is a periodic endeavor, flying simpler air-craft allows the mind to cope with-out a myriad of complexities to work through when problems occur.

We should be able to identify the critical events that could overtake us in the cockpit for the aircraft we fly, and to be prepared, by training and periodic review, for rote responses to the Startle Effect.

Ted Spitzmiller is the editor of IFR Refresher, and a CFII.

This article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of IFR Refresher magazine.

For more great content like this, subscribe to IFR Refresher!

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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 www.ntsb.gov. Final reports appear about a year after the accident, although some take longer. Find out more about Aviation Safety at www.aviationsafetymagazine.com.

March 1, 2018, Pompano Beach, Fla.

Piper PA-32-300 Cherokee Six 300

At about 1051 Eastern time, the air-plane was substantially damaged when it struck terrain during an attempted go-around. The private pilot and the pilot-rated passenger were not injured. Visual conditions prevailed. While climbing through 800 feet MSL shortly after takeoff, the engine’s manifold pressure dropped and the engine sounded irregular. After turning back toward the airport, the airplane touched down less than one-third of the way down Runway 28, but a “substantial quartering tailwind” resulted in a high groundspeed. Additionally, although the pilot had retarded the throttle, it appeared the engine was developing full power. Pulling the mixture control to cutoff didn’t appear to shut off the engine, so he pushed the mixture to full rich and pushed up the throttle for another takeoff. During the takeoff attempt, the pilot turned sharply right to stay over the airport. The airplane climbed briefly in the turn, then lost altitude, striking the airport ramp about 1,000 feet off the departure end of Runway 28. Recorded weather included wind from 150 degrees at eight knots.

March 4, 2018, Enumclaw, Wash.

Raytheon A36 Bonanza

The airplane was substantially damaged at about 1558 Pacific time following a loss of engine power and forced landing. The solo private pilot was seriously injured. Instrument conditions prevailed; an IFR flight plan was active. While descending through 10,000 feet MSL in IMC, the pilot noticed manifold pressure (MP) had dropped to 10 inches Hg. His attempts to restore power were unsuccessful and about 10 to 15 seconds later, he heard what he thought was a cylinder blow. He then heard the same noise several times, followed by oil covering the windscreen and smoke entering the cockpit/cabin area. He closed off the air coming in from the engine and opened the left cockpit side window, which cleared the smoke. The pilot subsequently landed in a grove of trees before coming to rest on the ground. There was no post-crash fire. The pilot observed the propeller to windmilling throughout the entire event.

March 6, 2018, Churchville, Md.

Cirrus Design SR20

At about 2117 Eastern time, the air-plane was destroyed while landing. The private pilot and passenger sustained minor injuries. Night instrument conditions prevailed. Before takeoff, the pilot’s preflight weather briefing determined the destination airport was reporting visual conditions. About 30 minutes prior to arrival, the flight encountered snow. He descended from 9,500 feet MSL to 4,000 feet to get out of the snow and to warmer temperatures. After reaching 4,000 feet MSL, he continued descending and encountered a temperature inversion. With snow accumulating on the airplane, the pilot elected to land at the closest airport. He landed at a slightly higher airspeed than normal. The airplane ballooned during touchdown and drifted off the side of the runway, impacting two equipment trucks. Weather recorded about six miles south of the accident site included wind from 160 degrees at 12 knots, gusting to 17 knots, light rain, temperature of four degrees C and a dew point of two degrees C.

March 6, 2018, Paso Robles, Calif.

Piper PA-28R-200 Arrow II

The airplane was substantially damaged at about 2230 Pacific time when it impacted terrain following an emergency landing. The flight instructor (CFI) and the private pilot were not injured. Visual conditions prevailed. The CFI reported they heard a “loud tick” noise and the Low Vacuum annunciator light illuminated in the initial climb after a touch-and-go landing. The CFI retracted the landing gear and instructed the pilot to retract flaps. At 350-400 ft above ground level, the airplane lost engine power and the CFI executed an emergency landing to a nearby field. An examination the next day revealed the oil dipstick cap was loose and that the engine contained about one quart of oil.

March 8, 2018, Laredo, Texas

Piper PA-31P Pressurized Navajo

At about 1038 Central time, the airplane impacted terrain during an approach to land. The commercial pilot and student pilot-rated passenger were fatally injured; the airplane was destroyed. Visual conditions existed near the accident site. Shortly after departing Runway 18R, ATC reported smoke was coming from the left side of the airplane. The pilot reported “...we’re gonna fix that.” The airplane turned back toward the airport and was cleared to land on Runway 18L. Several airport security cameras captured the accident airplane. A review of the video noted a white smoke trail behind the airplane, which stopped as the airplane flew a left downwind for the runway. The airplane initiated a left turn and, as the airplane approached the runway, the bank angle increased. The airplane impacted terrain in a nose-down, near-vertical attitude; a post-crash fire ensued.

March 12, 2018, Madison, S.D.

Cessna 140

The flight instructor decided to take off from the grass runway instead of the concrete runway. About mid-way into the soft-field takeoff, he observed the airplane was “struggling to build airspeed.” He reduced power and began to apply the brakes to abort the takeoff, but the airplane overran the runway, impacted a snow bank and nosed over. The instructor added that the runway had previously thawed and was “wet spongy sod.” The airplane sustained substantial damage to the fuselage.

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

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VSS Unity Completes Second Supersonic Flight
 
Mary Grady
 
 

VSS Unity, the aircraft that Virgin Galactic plans to use later this year to carry tourists into space, completed a successful supersonic test flight on Tuesday, the company has announced. The rocket motor burned for 31 seconds, as planned, and propelled Unity to a speed of Mach 1.9 and an altitude of 114,500 feet. “Seeing Unity soar upwards at supersonic speeds is inspiring and absolutely breathtaking,” said Galactic CEO Richard Branson, in a news release. “We are getting ever closer to realizing our goals.” Branson told BBC Radio he’s only “months away” from making his first trip into space. He said he’s now training to be physically fit to help his body cope with the stresses of the trip.

The focus of Tuesday’s flight was to expand the engineers’ understanding of the spaceship’s supersonic handling characteristics, according to the Virgin website. The control system’s performance was also tested under parameters close to the ultimate commercial configuration. The vehicle’s center of gravity was shifted rearward, with the addition of passenger seats and related equipment. Unity’s re-entry feathering system was deployed for the initial descent before the final glide home to a smooth runway landing. The last test flight was two months ago. The company said they aim to be able to turn around the spacecraft and fly it a higher frequency than has traditionally been the case for human spaceflight. “The flight today brought that vision a little closer,” according to the news update.

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