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Volume 25, Number 26c
June 29, 2018
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New Rule Targets Proficiency And Training Costs
Kate O'Connor

The FAA published a rule that it says “relieves burdens on pilots seeking to obtain aeronautical experience, training, and certification by increasing the allowed use of aviation training devices” on Wednesday. The rule makes changes to a number of other areas as well, including further modifications to complex aircraft requirements for commercial applicants and credit for sport pilot training.

Under the new rule, pilots will no longer need to have an instructor present to meet flight experience requirements for instrument currency in an aviation training device (ATD), flight training device (FTD) or full flight simulator (FFS). It also reduces the frequency of flight experience needed for instrument currency from every two months—as previously required if the experience was gained in an ATD—to every six months and removes the three-hour flight time requirement for ATDs. According to the FAA, “Use of these training devices has proven to be an effective, safe, and affordable means of obtaining pilot experience.”

Building on the FAA’s April notice that it was no longer requiring commercial and CFI applicants to provide complex airplanes for practical tests, the new rule will allow technically advanced airplanes (TAA) to be used to complete the commercial practical test. TAAs can also to be used to meet training and experience requirements that must be completed in a complex or turbine-powered airplane for a commercial pilot certificate. The FAA defines a TAA as an aircraft with an "electronically advanced avionics system.”

Another big change is that training received from a sport pilot instructor can be credited toward a higher certificate or rating. The FAA says the new rule (PDF) will save the pilot community an estimated $113.5 million over the next five years. Most of the changes are to Part 61, although some affect Parts 91, 135 and 141 as well. The rule will not be implemented all at once. Parts will begin going into effect on July 27 with the entire rule active by Dec. 24, 2018.

Lack of Examiners Creates Major Checkride Delays
Kate O'Connor

Flight training providers across the country are reporting that they are having trouble getting their flight students scheduled for practical tests in a timely fashion, according to reports received by the Flight School Association of North America (FSANA). The organization says the decrease in the number of examiners in recent years and a lack of examiner availability in some locations has led to training delays and extra costs for both applicants and businesses.

Now, schools are telling FSANA that they are having to schedule practical tests an average of five to six weeks in advance in many locations, with reports of wait times as long as four to six months. FSANA has also heard from applicants who have had to call FSDOs to schedule initial CFI practical tests multiple times and received no return calls. In some cases, some larger training operators have told FSANA that they have resorted to purchasing airline tickets so that their students can to take tests in other FSDO regions where an examiner is available.

FSANA says it has been working with the FAA and industry partners for nearly two years to determine how extensive the problem is. FAA Deputy Director for GA Safety Assurance James Viola recently told FSANA that the FAA is working to achieve the 10 business day/14 calendar day goal for practical test scheduling. FSANA CEO Bob Rockmaker applauded the FAA for “recognizing the serious nature of the airman testing issues” and thanked them for their attention to the problem.

“While some progress has been made, more is needed,” FSANA said. “We stand ready to work actively on this, but it must be done quickly. This industry is not in a position to wait another two years to address this clear and present concern that is negatively affecting flight training businesses and slowing the pilot training pipeline.”

The FAA has set up an email address so that anyone having difficulties finding an examiner for a practical test, having tests administrated properly or coordinating with the local FSDO can contact them directly. Additionally, FSANA has said anyone not comfortable bringing these issues to the FAA can contact them instead at Emails sent to either address should include the subject line “Pilot Testing Issues.”

What’s My GPS TellIng Me?
Ken Maples

Too many IFR pilots don’t know their GPS as intimately as they should. Hitting “Direct To” and their destination is as much as many can muster out of their navigator. There is a serious lack of knowledge of what the GPS is trying to tell them.

The most basic information a GPS provides to a pilot is their current location and the direction to a desired waypoint (that sacred magenta line). But it does this using terms that not all pilots fully understand.

The Basics

Most GPS navigators present a function called DTK—Desired Track. What exactly is that? In the old days of paper charts, the Desired Track was the line on the chart from point A to point B drawn while still sitting in your chair at home. We called it our Course—but it’s the same thing. That line on the chart never changed no matter how far from it you flew once airborne. It’s what you desired to do, but not necessarily what you did.

Likewise, the DTK is what you originally told the GPS that you wanted. Until you reprogram the GPS, the DTK will never change no matter how far off course. Occasionally we do get off course for one reason or another—not following the Desired Track—but are on some other Track.

This is what the GPS calls Track—abbreviated to TRK. Track is the path over the ground that your plane is actually following rather than what was planned. You would think that if the DTK and TRK are the same then you are on course. Sometimes that’s true—but not always.

Assume you drift a mile off course and then return to a heading that parallels the original desired track. At that point your DTK and TRK would be the same heading, but you would not be on course—you’d be paralleling the desired course. How far you are off the desired course is called cross track (XTK) by the GPS. Using the XTK information you can see if you are far off course—or just a little bit.

The other bit of data that the GPS reveals to guide you to the destination is Bearing (BRG) to the next waypoint. The bearing is where you would look out the windscreen to find the waypoint. This can be useful on an approach with a strong crosswind. If the DTK and the BRG don’t match while the needles are centered the reason is most likely a crosswind. The BRG tells where to look for the runway.


Most instrument pilots have heard of RAIM, but many don’t know the details. They assume it is a way to tell if the GPS is having a bad day. RAIM stands for Receiver Autonomous Integrity Monitoring. That’s a long-winded way of saying the receiver checks itself and tells you if there is a problem. We tend to think this is something new, but in fact, VOR receivers had a rudimentary version of RAIM. It was called a “flag.” If the VOR receiver detected a problem it would set the Nav Flag, alerting the pilot that something was wrong with the VOR data.

Likewise, if an IFR certified GPS receiver detects that something is wrong with either the unit itself or the signals it is receiving from the satellites, it will alert the pilot. The message presented to the pilot is more noticeable than the red and white barber pole in the corner of a CDI. While RAIM warnings from modern units are much less common than they were in first- and second-generation GPSs, they still exist.

What should pilots do if they get a R AIM warning? The FAA says, with good reason, that the pilot must revert to other forms of navigation. This could be VOR, NDB, or even radar vectors. You must also report the failure of a primary form of navigation.

What if the RAIM warning occurs while you are in the middle of a GPS approach? As always, revert to other sources of navigation and report the problem to ATC. But because you are close to the ground and without navigation information, the wisest course of action might be to immediately climb to the MSA for the approach. Once to a safe altitude, work with ATC on Plan B.

Some GPS navigators will suppress R AIM warnings for up to five minutes while on the final approach segment. The theory is that you are close enough to completing the approach that the receiver can extrapolate from recent past information and pretend it knows where you are. Using this in-formation will allow you to complete the approach.

This doesn’t give me the warm and fuzzies, how about you? In case you do get a RAIM warning while on the final approach segment the AIM tells us to proceed to the Missed Approach Point and then execute the Miss. But the RAIM warning will block navigation data so you may not be able to find the MAP. Thus, a climb to the MSA may be the smartest maneuver. As always, let ATC know what is happening once you have the situation in hand.

Have you ever wondered why the GPS navigator took longer to sequence to the next waypoint than expected? It relates to how close to the next waypoint you have to be for the navigator to sequence. A human might look at the situation and say, “close enough.” But GPS navigators are digital ma-chines using mathematical algorithms. They determine sequencing by looking at the flight plan.

Assume that you are currently navigating from A to B and the subsequent waypoint is C. The three waypoints form a right angle. Your navigator will look at the angle formed by the three waypoints and draw an imaginary line that bisects the angle. In the case of the right angle, the bisector will be a 45-degree line that goes halfway between A and C. Once you cross the bisector of the included angle, the navigator will sequence to C. But if you have flown past B and are on the outside of the included angle, the navigator will not sequence until you cross the bisector, which may take quite a while.

OBS Mode

OBS mode is also often misunderstood. The simplest way to think about OBS mode, is to imagine that when you push the OBS key you are telling the navigator to treat the current waypoint (the one to which you are navigating at the moment) as if it were a VOR.

What happens with a VOR? You set a radial and the CDI indicates if you are left or right of course. But it never sequences to the next VOR all by it-self. The same thing happens with your GPS when you put it in OBS mode. It treats the current waypoint as if it were a VOR. So you can now select the ra-dial which you want to use to approach the waypoint. The CDI will show you if you are left or right of that radial. Once you cross the waypoint, the navigator does not sequence to the next waypoint. Instead it will flip the To/From flag and show that you are navigating away from the waypoint, still using the same radial from that waypoint.

This can be more than just handy. When in a holding pattern that is not in the GPS database, you must put the navigator in OBS mode and set the inbound leg on the CDI. Then once you arrive at the holding fix, the navigator will not sequence and will show you the way to remain in the holding pattern. When it’s time to leave the holding pattern, get back to the inbound leg, and hit the OBS button again. This will take the navigator out of OBS mode and allow sequencing once you cross the holding fix.

Flight Plan Locked

If you are a Garmin user have you ever gotten the message, “Flight Plan Locked” when you first power up the unit? It continues to give the same message every time you power up even after you installed a new database cycle and haven’t yet loaded a new flight plan. What’s it trying to tell you? If you dig through the dusty user manual, it’s telling you that one of your stored flight plans has a way-point that is no longer in the database. Perhaps it was a user defined way-point and you deleted the waypoint. In any case, delete that flight plan or the offending waypoint and the message will no longer appear on startup.

The Take-home

Whatever the navigator is trying to tell you, it’s important to understand exactly what it is. One of the best ways to do that is to open the user manual and start reading. It may not be the most riveting prose around, but it may one day save your life.

Ken Maples, a former Chief Instructor at a busy 141 flight school, has retired to the mountains of Colorado and splits his time between skiing and shoveling the doors to his hangar.

This article originally appeared in the January 2018 issue of IFR Refresher magazine.

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


Facebook Ends Drone Project
Kate O'Connor

Facebook announced on Wednesday that it is ending its Aquila drone program after four years of development. Aquila was a high-altitude platform station (HAPS) system designed to deliver internet in remote locations. In part, the company points to increased industry interest in drone technologies as a reason for stepping away from Aquila.

"... It’s been exciting to see leading companies in the aerospace industry start investing in this technology too—including the design and construction of new high-altitude aircraft,” said Facebook’s Director of Engineering Yael Maguire. “Given these developments, we’ve decided not to design or build our own aircraft any longer, and to close our facility in Bridgwater, [U.K.].” Although it will no longer be developing its own drone, Facebook has said it will continue working on HAPS technology with partners like Airbus.

The solar-powered Aquila was designed to fly between 60,000 and 90,000 feet and to stay aloft for up to 90 days at a time, while providing broadband coverage to a 60-mile-wide area on the ground. The drone flew for the first time in 2016, during which the aircraft experienced a structural failure right before landing and sustained damage to the right wing. A second test flight was completed successfully in 2017.

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

April 2, 2018, Marion, Ind.

Cessna 150/Cessna 525 CitationJet

At about 1709 Eastern time, the airplanes collided at the intersection of two runways. The Cessna 150, which was taking off, was destroyed; the private pilot and passenger aboard it sustained fatal injuries. The CitationJet was landing. The airline transport pilot and the four passengers aboard it were not injured. The CitationJet sustained substantial damage. Visual conditions prevailed.

Witnesses reported the Cessna 150 had just gotten airborne when it struck the CitationJet’s empennage. Two witnesses heard the Cessna 150 pilot on the CTAF. The CitationJet’s pilot stated he did not see the departing Cessna 150, nor did he see it during the landing roll. He did not recall making a position report but his airplane’s TCAS did not show any traffic on the airport.

April 4, 2018, Daytona Beach, Fla.

Piper PA-28R-201 Arrow V

The airplane collided with terrain at 0953 Eastern time following an in-flight breakup shortly after takeoff. The airline transport pilot and private pilot were fatally injured; the airplane was destroyed. Visual conditions prevailed. The flight, which departed at 0927, was the private pilot’s commercial pilot practical test.

After maneuvering away from the airport, the Piper returned and executed a touch-and-go landing. Radar data indicate the airplane climbed to 900 feet MSL at 80 knots of groundspeed before radar con-tact was lost. Witnesses observed the airplane flying normally, then saw the left wing separate from the fuselage, which impacted a field. Preliminary examination revealed the left wing main spar exhibited cracks from metal fatigue extending through more than 80 percent of the lower spar cap, and portions of the forward and aft spar web doublers. The right wing also exhibited fatigue cracks in the lower spar cap at the same hole location extending up to 0.047-inch deep. The 2007 airplane had accumulated 7,690 flight hours since new. Weather at 0953 included wind from 260 degrees at seven knots, 10 statute miles of visibility and few clouds at 25,000 feet.

April 4, 2018, Bozeman, Mon.

Piper PA-12/Diamond DA42NG

At 1229 Mountain time, the Piper struck the Diamond’s tail during taxi. Neither the student pilot and flight instructor aboard the Piper nor the flight instructor and pilot receiving instruction in the Diamond were injured. Both aircraft had just landed after local flights and both sustained substantial damage. Visual conditions prevailed.

After landing on Runway 11, ATC cleared the Piper to turn left onto taxiway C2, and then taxi back to the approach end of Runway 11 and hold short. While the Piper was taxiing, the Diamond landed on parallel Runway 12. It cleared at taxiway A3 and held position. After reaching the approach end of Runway 11, ATC cleared the Piper to cross the runway and hold short of Runway 12 at taxiway C3. After reaching Runway 12, the Piper was cleared to cross it and contact ground. The Piper crossed Runway 12, entered taxiway A3 and struck the Diamond, which was still on the taxiway.

April 6, 2018, Petaluma, Calif.

Mooney M20J 201

The airplane was destroyed by impact and a post-crash fire when it collided with terrain at about 1715 Pacific time, shortly after takeoff. The solo private pilot sustained fatal injuries. Instrument conditions pre-vailed; an IFR plan had been filed.

The pilot received an IFR clearance at about 1700, which included a void time of 1710. The airplane departed Runway 11 and climbed to about 300 feet AGL before initiating a shallow left turn and disappearing into the fog. A witness reported the engine sounded “strong, smooth and normal.”

The wreckage was located about two miles northeast of the departure airport at an elevation of 307 feet MSL. The airplane impacted a soft, muddy field in a near-vertical attitude on a heading of about 200 degrees. All major components were located at the main wreck-age site. Weather observed at the departure airport 20 minutes before the accident included calm winds, ¾-mile visibility in mist and an overcast at 600 feet.

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

For more great content like this, subscribe to Aviation Safety!

Transcend Air Introduces Vy 400 VTOL Commuter
Kate O'Connor

Transcend Air Corporation has announced that it has begun development on a six-seat vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) concept designed to carry business travelers between major cities. The Transcend Air Vy 400 will be a piloted, turbine-powered model intended for four to five passengers. The company has also said it has plans to launch a commuter airline service in early 2024.

“This is a necessary and transformative addition to city-to-city transportation options,” said Transcend CEO Greg Bruell. “It solves multiple problems at once: We’ll take cars off congested roads, reduce pollution around airports and lower the cost of air transportation while drastically reducing travel times.” According to Transcend Air, it has built and flown 15 prototype VTOL aircraft since 2009.

The company says the tilt-wing Vy 400 will have a range of up to 450 miles and be able to cruise at 405 MPH. It will be powered by Pratt & Whitney PT6A-67F engines and be equipped with a BRS whole-aircraft parachute. The expected useful load for the aircraft is 2,200 pounds. The aircraft weighs 4,800 pounds empty and can carry 960 pounds of fuel. According to the company website, a Vy trip from New York to Boston would take 36 minutes and cost $283 per seat. Transcend Air plans to open the order book for the aircraft in late 2020 at a price of $3.5 million.

JetBlue Radio Issues Cause Security Concerns
Kate O'Connor

A JetBlue flight out of New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) triggered a significant security response after it lost radio contact with the tower while taxiing for takeoff at about 8 p.m. on Tuesday night. “Shortly before departure, Flight 1623 from New York JFK to Los Angeles experienced a radio issue impacting the crew’s ability to communicate and a false alarm was sent to JFK tower,” a statement from JetBlue spokesperson Paula Acevedo said. Some sources have reported that the crew entered the transponder code signaling a hijacking (7500) instead of the code for a communications failure (7600).

According to several passengers, the Airbus A321 was quickly surrounded by emergency vehicles and “heavily armed” law enforcement personnel boarded the aircraft. “While communication was re-established via alternate channels, authorities responded in an abundance of caution,” the JetBlue statement continued. “The aircraft was cleared and returned to the gate for inspection.” The crew was reportedly back in contact with authorities by 8:15.

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey also issued a statement saying that the aircraft had been inspected and cleared with no security threat. Passengers were able to depart for Los Angeles several hours later via another aircraft. The FAA has said it will investigate the incident.

Red Bull Competition Heats Up
Mary Grady

Up until now, this year’s Red Bull Air Races had been dominated by the competition between Australia’s Matt Hall and U.S. favorite Michael Goulian—but at the latest race, in Budapest, Martin Sonka, from the Czech Republic, took the top spot. Sonka won three races last year, and took second place overall in the race series, but his team has faced ongoing challenges, according to Red Bull, coping with tough penalties and technical troubles. Now, with 34 points to Goulian’s 43 and Hall’s 45, one more race win would put him in the lead for the World Championship. The next race is set for Kazan, Russia, on Aug. 25-26.

Sonka, who has been competing since 2010, flew a supersonic fighter in the Czech air force, and has won aerobatic championships. But the Air Race, he says, is the peak of his flying career. “There’s nothing comparable—extreme maneuvering, extreme speed, incredible precision, the pylon 10 centimeters away from your wingtip—the whole sport is just beautiful.” After the Russia race, the competition moves on to Wiener Neustadt, Austria, Sept. 15-16, and Indianapolis, USA, Oct. 6-7. The final race, at a venue to be announced, will be held in November.

Forever Stuck at Mach 0.70?
Paul Bertorelli

If ever there were click bait for naysayers, it would be this week’s announcement by Boeing that it’s exploring a Mach 5 passenger jet capable of hopping the Atlantic Ocean in two hours and the Pacific in three. Boeing revealed the concept at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

As a more or less professional naysayer, I naturally clicked on the link. Aviation Week had an excellent technical summary of the Boeing concept, which is nested in a group of emerging technologies driven as much by the military market as by civilian demand. For years, Boeing has been dabbling in hypersonics and even the new Mach 5 concept vehicle relies on research extending back to the company’s aborted 2707 SST cancelled in 1971.

As you would naturally expect, Boeing’s hypersonic group concedes the technical challenge while at the same time suggesting the developable technologies are there to solve these. They’ll need to figure out cooling for the airframe and cabin, weight and fuel considerations and, above all, combined Brayton cycle turbojets and ramjets that cocoon the engines' conventional rotating machinery. The airplane would accelerate to some low Mach number on the turbojet and the ramjet section would take over to establish Mach 5 cruise. Exotic stuff.

My naysayer radar illuminated a sticky point in this concept and it’s not technical, but economic. The Boeing hypersonic group likes Mach 5 because it allows a traveler same-day return on a business trip. Boeing says this gives the would-be HyperLiner airline better use of assets, too. And they’re gonna need all they can get.

But let’s break this down. If I have a business meeting in, say, Tokyo, that’s so important that it’s worth—$40,000 in airfare, maybe?—what’s my day gonna be like? Let’s say my meeting is at 10 a.m. Tokyo time. Los Angeles is 16 hours behind Tokyo, so allowing for airport travel and the three-hour flight, I’ll need to leave at 1 p.m. LA time, arriving in Tokyo at 6 p.m. California time. (It’s now 10 a.m. in Tokyo.)

Not too bad. Maybe a cup of coffee will get me through it. Meeting done, I board the afternoon flight back to Los Angles, where it is now 1 a.m. the same day I left. Four hours later, I’m home at 5 a.m. This flight is not really a red-eye because it’s not long enough to get much useful sleep.

Let’s go the other way, New York to London. For my 10 a.m. meeting, I’ll need to leave for JFK at 1 a.m. local time. After the meeting, the afternoon flight gets me home mid- to late afternoon, in time for dinner. An awfully long day, but maybe tolerable.

So Boeing’s bet is on finding enough people with enough money who are willing to put up with such killing schedules for the sake of … I’m not sure what. Are there sufficient people in the world whose time is so precious to constitute a market profitable enough to entice an airline to invest several hundred million bucks to make it happen? I have little doubt that the world wealth is there to do this. As I write this, I’m sure several dozen jets are flying wealthy clients across the Atlantic and Pacific in cracked-lobster splendor. But are there enough to fund a fleet of hypersonics? Now or in the late 2030s when Boeing might deliver such a thing?

On the other hand, I like to imagine that my naysaying is leavened by a more expansive grasp of history. The history of transportation, from feet stuffed into dusty sandals, to carts pulled by beasts of burden, to trains and automobiles has always been, directionally, about increasing speed.

In mass aviation transportation, we have been stuck at Mach 0.75 or so since the 1960s and, except for the Concorde’s brief flame, have actually regressed since the Boeing 707 smoked along at 607 MPH. Taking the longer view, a hundred years from now, will we still be stuck at that speed, continuing to trade improving economy and efficiency for the same old plodding cruise speed? My bet is no.

The formula has worked, after all. The Miami-Barcelona round trip ticket I bought earlier this month cost $825. In inflation-adjusted dollars, that’s $75 less than I paid for a similar trip in 1971—47 years ago. Perhaps not miraculous, but remarkable nonetheless. While I’d be delighted to make the trip in two hours or less, I’m sure I’ll never be able to afford that. But I derive no small satisfaction in believing that one day, someone will.

Picture of the Week, June 28, 2018
On June 14-17 there was a STOL competition on the beach in Knokke, Belgium. Photo by Peter Snoeckx.

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