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Volume 25, Number 24a
June 11, 2018
 
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FAA Halts Flight Testing Of 100LL Replacements
 
Kate O'Connor
 
 

The FAA has temporarily halted flight testing for its Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI) unleaded 100LL replacement fuels program while issues related to the differences between the two PAFI fuels and 100LL are being assessed, according to a progress update issued by the FAA on Monday. “Both fuel producers, Shell and Swift, are currently evaluating options to mitigate the impacts that these differences will present in fuel production, distribution, and operation in the GA fleet,” said the FAA.

Some engine testing of PAFI fuels has also been stopped and the FAA has said it is interested in pursuing alternative high-octane unleaded fuels developed outside of the PAFI program while the assessment is taking place. If other potentially workable 100LL replacement fuels are found, the FAA will invite developers “to participate in a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the FAA, which will be conducted on a non-interference basis with the PAFI program.”

The flight testing part of the PAFI program is currently about one-third complete and the engine testing is about halfway done, according to the update. With the additional evaluations needed, the end date for the PAFI program has been pushed from December 2018 to December 2019. “The overall goal of the PAFI initiative remains to authorize a fleetwide replacement fuel, and the best and brightest are working to realize that goal,” said AOPA’s David Oord, who is part of the PAFI steering group.

PAFI began in 2014, with the Shell and Swift fuels being selected for Phase Two testing in March 2016. Before this most recent development, the FAA’s last program update was issued at AirVenture 2017.

Are We Gonna Get A 100LL Replacement Or Not?
 
Paul Bertorelli
 

I have my own little axe to grind here and so let the sparks fly. Last month, as part of routine newsgathering duties, I tried to compile a how-goes-it on the FAA’s Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative, or PAFI. This yielded nothing but a waste of time and mounting frustration for me because everyone I spoke to said some version of, "I can’t talk about it.” Or all I can say is something off the record.

Now comes the FAA to announce that the PAFI process—at least the testing—has been suspended because the differences between the two candidate fuels from Swift and Shell and the current 100LL spec are too great. Pray tell what does this mean? And why did it take us four years to learn this? And what happens next? And the big one: Does this spook the market for people about to spend most of a million bucks for an airplane that requires 100LL? Or even a used Bonanza? Does anyone even care anymore? (You can tell us by answering today’s Question of the Week.)

The PAFI process has been impressively successful at one thing: keeping the general flying public utterly in the dark. It was not only designed to be this way, as I understand it, it‘s required to be because of archaic federal rules that kick in at the nexus between government oversight and private industry development efforts. I can see the point, since companies are sensitive about tipping their investment hands to competitors. On the other hand, the level of opaqueness surrounding PAFI is counterproductive, frustrating and something we as citizens shouldn’t accept as good government. Nice ideal, huh? Good luck changing it.

So four years into PAFI—more than two of testing—it looks like we have learned only that the two candidate fuels are too different from 100LL and if I’m reading between the lines correctly, that means neither is the drop-in replacement we had hoped for. Does that then mean that these will be tweaked before more testing? After I reported that the Shell fuel was an effective aircraft paint stripper, I thought that the tweaking had already occurred. And if it had not occurred, why was further testing being done on a fuel no right-thinking pilot would want near his airplane? Many such questions hover over the process with, thus far, no answers that would satisfy even the mildly curious.

With details lacking on the specs shortfall, I can only guess what the issues are. I don‘t think octane is one of them, however. Swift’s entry never lacked for that and at least one source familiar with the testing told me that neither did Shell’s. Swift may have had some problems with cold weather starting and there may be compatibility issues with fuel distribution equipment and the ever-worrisome O-rings and seals. There could be other problems no one foresaw or that simply couldn’t be addressed.

Waiting in the wings are other candidates. General Aviation Modifications Inc.’s G100 may be the most prominent, but Phillips has a project going in conjunction with Afton Chemical, the Europe-based Total and BP reportedly have formulations under consideration but of unknown currency. There may be others. Presumably, or so it said, the PAFI edifice will now examine these as Swift and Shell modify their formulations to fix the shortcomings we aren’t being told about.

Recall that the last official update on PAFI progress was at AirVenture, where the message was that things were going swimmingly. A year later, not so much and the completion schedule has now slipped a full year to December 2019, some 18 months distant.

It’s only logical to again ask why we’re doing this in the first place and you may have forgotten it’s because the EPA was considering a finding of endangerment against tetraethyl lead. That’s still underway at EPA, although an email I sent asking of its status went unanswered. Friends of the Earth, you may recall, has a pending suit that seeks to force the EPA’s hand on the endangerment finding and the group told me the suit is still active, but with no new filings or court action planned. 

There’s an underlying assumption here that the EPA will, sooner or later, act on the lead issue and after 40 years of trying, the aviation industry needs a ready unleaded solution. Given the current administration’s aggressive attitude toward deregulation, I’m not so sure it wouldn’t slow leak the endangerment finding for the foreseeable future. If that transpired, does that reduce the urgency for a replacement? The FAA and the engine industry seem to have decided on an unleaded future, but the timeline is rubbery.

The schedule may very well hinge on what producers of 100LL still in the game wish to do. There’s still money to be made in producing leaded avgas, although the volumes have been in decline. My best guess is that it’s a $200 to $300 million a year profit stream for the refiners blending avgas. For the effort of handling the lead—or getting rid of it and blending an unleaded product—that’s still a business worth being in.

Or so it would seem. On the other hand, nothing in the avgas business has ever been what it seems.

 

 

 

 

Flight Design CTLSi Flight Review
 
Larry Anglisano
 
 

At around $180,000, the 2018 Flight Design CTLSi is about as modern as any LSA on the market, with a Rotax 912iS Sport engine, a three-display Dynon glass cockpit, a BRS whole-airplane parachute and a high-end leather interior. But if you're looking to save some money but don't want to sacrifice performance, a pre-owned late-model CTLSi is worth a look. For this video, Aviation Consumer Editor Larry Anglisano took a close look at the CTLSi models to see if they really can work as efficient traveling airplanes. Turns out they can.

Ejection Seat Issue Grounds B-1B Fleet
 
Russ Niles
 
 

The Air Force has temporarily grounded the entire B-1B fleet after an ejection seat mishap in May. A Lancer diverted to Midland, Texas, on May 1 and one of the ejection seat deployment hatches was missing when it landed. The seat did not fire, however, and all four crew used the belly stairway to leave the aircraft. At the time, the Air Force declined to comment on the missing escape hatch but on Thursday it confirmed that all the nuclear bombers would sit until the ejection seat issue was investigated.

“The safety of airmen is the command’s top priority,” the Air Force statement said. “The Air Force takes safety incidents seriously and works diligently to identify and correct potential causes.” B-1s are deployed around the world in deterrent and strike roles and the safety stand down comes days before President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over nuclear disarmament by North Korea. The Air Force said the grounding won’t affect the readiness of the Air Force and the bombers will be back in the air as soon as the ejection seat issue is resolved.

"Heroic" Pilots Get Cash Rewards
 
Russ Niles
 
 

The flight crew of a Sichuan Airlines A319 that had a windscreen failure on May 14 will split about $1.5 million in cash rewards granted by China’s Civil Aviation Administration and the Sichuan provincial government. According to the China Daily/Asia News Network, the captain on the flight, Liu Chuanjian, was granted about $800,000 and given the honorary title of “CAAC Heroic Captain” for getting the airplane safely on the ground. Another captain on the flight deck got about $300,000 while the first officer, who was almost sucked out through the broken windscreen, will receive about $150,000. The six cabin crew got about $25,000 each and, along with the second captain and FO, were named a “CAAC Heroic Crew.”

The flight, with 119 passengers aboard, was on its way from Chongqing Jiangbei Airport in southern China to Lhasa, Tibet, and had just leveled at 32,000 feet when the right side of the windscreen let go. Liu was able to regain control of the aircraft and make an emergency landing in Chengdu about 45 minutes later. Other crew members pulled the first officer, who suffered a gashed face and sprained wrist, back into the cockpit. A flight attendant was also slightly injured as were 29 passengers. 

A month earlier, a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 suffered an uncontained engine failure that shattered a passenger window, almost sucking a woman out. She was pulled back in but later died from her injuries. The aircraft, which was going from New York to Dallas, landed safely in Philadelphia after an emergency descent. The captain on that flight, former Navy fighter pilot Tammy Jo Shults, was praised for her and her crew’s cool handling of the emergency. She got a personal thank you from President Donald Trump in the Oval Office but there has been no mention of a monetary reward.

FAA Developing Non-Radar Weather Tracking
 
Kate O'Connor
 
 

The FAA is continuing to develop and expand its Offshore Precipitation Capability (OPC) system, which uses machine learning and image processing to estimate precipitation intensity and echo top heights in areas where Next Generation Radar (NEXRAD) is not available. While not as precise as radar in identifying the location and intensity of precipitation—although with greater than 90-percent accuracy it’s close—OPC is a significant step up on simply relying on satellite imagery in areas not covered by radar.

“We don’t have radar offshore; it doesn’t reach far enough into the ocean to see, basically, so we have to come up with another method to depict where precipitation is,” said Randy Bass, a certified consulting meteorologist and manager of the FAA’s Weather Research Branch. As Bass explains in the video below, OPC creates displays similar to radar by merging satellite, model and lightning data. The next step, says the FAA, is familiarizing controllers and planners with its capabilities. Further development plans for OPC include 12-hour forecast capabilities and a global version the system.

OPC is currently only being used as a situational awareness tool for controllers at the Houston, Miami, Puerto Rico and New York centers, although the system saw some unplanned primary use last year when Hurricane Maria destroyed the NEXRAD site in San Juan, Puerto Rico. OPC was developed by the FAA's Aviation Weather Division and MIT Lincoln Laboratory.

Lycoming 'When can an engine give you 200 extra flying hours?'
Airbus Takes Over CSeries July 1
 
Russ Niles
 
 

Airbus will close the deal with Bombardier to take over control of the Canadian company’s CSeries program on July 1. The two companies wrapped up negotiations over revenue sharing and the structure of the company that will build the aircraft. Airbus will assume 51 percent of the CSeries Aircraft Limited Partnership and provide procurement, sales and marketing services for the single-aisle airliner. Airbus’s involvement is expected to boost confidence among potential customers for the highly regarded but slow-selling aircraft.

Airbus originally became involved when the U.S. Commerce Department approved crushing import duties on the aircraft, citing alleged subsidies by the Canadian government. The duties would have killed one of Bombardier’s biggest deals for the plane, a 75-unit sale to Delta. It also would have prevented access to the American market. Airbus offered to build CSeries for the American market at its Mobile, Alabama, plant to get around the duties. That issue went away when the U.S. International Trade Commission rejected the tariffs, ruling Boeing would not be harmed by CSeries. Airbus and Bombardier decided to continue with the acquisition. The headquarters for the program will stay at the Mirabel Airport near Montreal but a production line will be built in Mobile, with the first aircraft to be delivered in 2020.

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Seminole Clips Daytona Houses
 
Russ Niles
 
 

Officials in Daytona Beach, Florida, say two occupants of a Piper Seminole that clipped two houses before crashing in a retention pond Saturday suffered only superficial injuries. The two were “alert” when first responders arrived. The aircraft was submerged except for one wheel. The duo apparently got caught in a hailstorm before the crash.

Photos from the scene show the Seminole apparently went between two houses, clipping each with a wing, before taking the plunge. Witnesses said it was hailing heavily at the time. No one in the houses was hurt. The crash occurred about five miles from the Ormond Beach Municipal Airport, where at least one of the flight schools lists a Seminole in its fleet.

Picture of the Week, June 7, 2018
 
 
Plane Sailing's Canso A amphibian G-PBYA 'Miss Pick Up' repainted in its current magnificent scheme representing a wartime USAAF OA-10A Catalina 44-33915 of the 8th Air Force 5th Emergency Rescue Squadron at Halesworth, Suffolk. Shot at the former RAF Flying Station Killadeas on June 2, 2018, during the Lough Erne Yacht Club's Seawings Festival in celebration of 100 years of the Royal Air Force. Copyrighted photo by Alan Jarden.

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Short Final: Competition Parking
 

At Valdez, Alaska for the annual fly‑in and STOL competition, a couple of planes arrived in short succession: a tailwheel Cessna with big Alaskan Bushwheel tires, followed by a Lake amphibian (not known for its short takeoff or landing capabilities).

Tower: “Cessna 123, turn left if you’re competing, or right if you’re just here to park.”

Cessna: “Cessna 123, turning left for competition parking.”

Tower: “Lake 456, turn right to park.”

Lake: “Hey, you’re not going to ask me if I’m competing?”

He didn’t ask. The Lake turned right.

Jim Freeman
Mobile, AL
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Industry Round-up: June 8, 2018
 
AVweb Staff
 
 

This week, AVweb’s weekly news roundup found reports of pre-Oshkosh warbird displays, leadership changes at Sun ‘n Fun, new avionics update technology for business pilots and a fresh Boeing 777 for an aviation holding company. For anyone travelling to Oshkosh this year, the Commemorative Air Force will be returning to the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport for Janesville Warbird Weekend 2018 in Janesville, Wisconsin, the weekend before AirVenture. Running July 21-22, the event will feature a variety of warbirds on display, ground tours, WWII re-enactors and airplane rides. Admission for a single-day ground tour ticket is $10 per person or $20 for families with children under 18. In other airshow news, Sun ‘n Fun is making some changes to its board of directors. After six and a half years, Bob Knight has stepped down as the chairman of the organization. Dr. Harley Richards has been elected to fill the position.

On the commercial aviation side of things, Jeppesen, in partnership with Bad Elf, introduced its wireless flight data transfer system for business aviation pilots. According to the company, multiple business aviation avionics platforms are now supported by Jeppesen Distribution Manager flight data update software and Bad Elf Turbine edition hardware. Finally, Boeing announced that it has delivered a Boeing 777-300ER to AviaAM Financial Leasing China, an aviation holding company that acquires, leases and sells commercial aircraft. The aircraft was delivered to AviaAM on June 1 at Boeing’s Seattle facility.

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Top Letters and Comments, June 8, 2018
 
AVweb Staff
 
 

Damage Assessment After Disasters

First off, I have been a follower of yours for a long time and (I think) was an early subscriber to AVweb.  I got your article from another member within Texas Wing Civil Air Patrol.

After Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, many of us in Civil Air Patrol were involved in damage assessment. 

While drones are extremely useful, they have two inherent limitations. First, flight time is limited to 20-30 minutes (typically, I understand some can now fly longer). Second, the drone must remain within sight of the pilot.

Contrast this with a Civil Air Patrol aircraft which can fly for three to four hours, from/to just about anywhere. Civil Air Patrol provided almost 400,000 geotagged images to Texas Emergency Management and FEMA of the damage produced by Hurricane Harvey. The area photographed included Corpus Christi through Houston to Beaumont and most of the rivers east of the I-35 corridor. This includes many areas where a drone could not have been used due to the limitations listed above. Although I cannot speak directly about Florida or Puerto Rico, I have colleagues who were involved in those missions and numbers were comparable.

Granted, Civil Air Patrol aircraft are flying at 1000' AGL vs. the 100-400' AGL of the drones. However, we are using prosumer grade cameras with zoom lenses so still get very good views of the area.

Civil Air Patrol is now starting the process of using drones to augment our current Aerial Photography mission.

I am not trying to discount the use of drones in Emergency Services and/or disaster recovery. However, I don't think we should overlook the contributions of the members of Civil Air Patrol and their Missions for America.

- Maj. Mark Hammack, CAP

Hybrid Electric Airplanes

The current state of hybrid and full electric aircraft reminds me of where we were with conventional aircraft design in the early 1900s. The Wright Brothers had demonstrated the validity of powered flight, but by 1910, most airplanes were still fragile wood and fabric structures powered by balky and unreliable gasoline engines. Flights rarely lasted more than a few minutes and often ended with bent or broken airplanes and similarly bent pilots. Few people recognized the potential of the new invention and most pooh-poohed the idea of it ever becoming useful. Not even the true believers could foresee what an impact it would have on the future. Fast forward a hundred years and two world wars and you see what that original idea has become. I'm pretty sure it will not take another century to mature electric flight, but it will take some time and several major technical breakthroughs before it hits its stride. So, for now, we have the odd contraptions that will eventually morph into a truly useful device. Give it time.

- John McNamee

For GA at least I think hybrids are a dead end. They may be more practical for airliners where noise reduction and turbine life are larger payoffs. Electrics are another kettle of fish. I drive an electric car and never want to go back to an ICE, even with the current limitations of charging and range. The current crop of trainers with about one hour endurance wouldn't work for me, but if that can get two or more hours, and apparently those are a real thing if not yet commercially available, I'd be all in. Just losing the vibration would make my pleasure flying much more pleasurable.

- Ron

After 100+ years there is still no evidence that electric can make it in the FREE market. As said, take away the government subsidies and take away the government laws/mandates, and then all you have left are a few eccentrics and hobbyists. There is no mass market for electrics UNLESS the government controls the market.

- Mark Fraser

This requires carrying the weight of a battery and the weight of an engine. Does not seem workable for the single-engine case nor for the multi-engine case since an even larger and heavier battery is required. We’re a long way from getting the energy density of a battery to the energy density of avgas or jet-A. If that energy density is attained, it then has to be made a couple orders of magnitude more reliable than the current LI-ion technology. We’ve seen what happens when one of those fails - think burning cellphones and the 787 issue. Imagine what happens if there’s 10 to 100X the amount of energy stored and one fails.

- Fred Wedemeier

Perception vs. Reality

ANYONE that has ever gotten out of Iowa, MN or MD knows there are myriad programs for minorities and women. I have personal experience with aviation, AND the military. Anyone smarter than their iPhone can find supporting evidence. (Including lowering standards in military flight training for both groups!!!)

Contrary to what most parents tell their kids, that they can grow up to be “anything they want to be,” most of life’s meaningful endeavors also take ability! Forcing someone down a specific path in which they have no interest or ability is a waste of resources. And is actually screwing someone else with the ability but not the resources to become qualified, and in fact ... the profession itself!!!

Hit me up I'll be more than happy to enlighten you with the names, and places of offences!

- Dr. Sid

Psychology of Pilot Responses

After all the jump flying that I have done in the past 25 years, I have seen all kinds of reactions from student skydivers on their first jump. The subconscious mind can do some strange things on its own when a perceived danger pops up. I am convinced that no one will really know how they will react to an emergency situation, even when trained in the simulator, until one actually happens. The reaction of the first officer in the last Southwest incident just proves my theory. I have not experienced a rapid decompression in flight but have had door seal failures. Even door seal failures are extremely loud making communication with other crewmembers difficult if not impossible if using the usual TSO'd airline headsets or cockpit speaker for ATC communication. Add to that the condensation that can happen and the reaction to reduced cabin pressure to the ears and it is no wonder the Southwest FO reported what his reaction was.

- Matthew Wagner

Brainteasers Quiz #244: Symbokinesis -- The Truth, The Myths
 

Embedded in the shaded areas between what we're supposed to know and what we're likely to forget after the checkride are the nuggets of aeronautical truth that might prove handy for acing this quiz.

Click here to take the quiz.

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