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Volume 25, Number 27a
July 2, 2018
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FAA Reauthorization Takes Back Seat
Russ Niles

A proper FAA reauthorization may have to wait (again) thanks to this week’s surprise retirement of a Supreme Court justice. All of the focus in Washington will be on the maneuvering ahead of President Donald Trump’s pick to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy and unless everything goes exactly right for the long-awaited FAA bill, it’s likely to be kicked down the legislative corridor. Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune told reporters on Thursday that the drive to confirm a new member of the top bench “obviously affects the legislative calendar on lot of issues.”

The FAA has been funded on a series of short-term extensions since 2012 and that hampers long-term planning at the agency. The latest version of the bill, which eliminates the contentious language over air traffic control privatization, was given a good chance of passing before the summer break but Kennedy’s retirement put that in jeopardy. Thune said he thinks there might be a chance of passing the bill, however.  “If we can get a time agreement on this—and we're running the hotline to see where the issues are—and we can get everybody to sort of agree that we can wrap this up on the floor in a couple of days, I still think we can get it done in the July work period,” he said.

Canada Bans Lasers Near Airports
Russ Niles

It’s now illegal to possess most laser pointers (outside of houses) within six miles of any Canadian airport thanks to an order made by Canada’s transport minister on Friday. Marc Garneau issued an interim order banning anyone from having a laser pointer with more than one milliwatt of output power while outdoors in a six-mile radius of any airport as part of the government’s effort to curb laser attacks on aircraft. It also bans possession in public areas of the major metropolitan areas of Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. Anyone caught with a “portable laser device” while outdoors in those areas can be fined up to $5,000 on the spot by a police officer. Most cheap laser pointers available in novelty and convenience stores exceed the power threshold and online laser stores offer units with up to 30,000 times that power for a little more than $100.

Canada took aim at laser attacks two years ago, first launching an “education campaign” to deter irresponsible laser use. The number of reported laser attacks has dropped 25 percent from 527 to 379 in the last two years but that’s not good enough for Garneau, a retired astronaut. "It's still too many. We want it to be zero," said Garneau. "The education is working, but it's not working fast enough." Garneau’s order is unusual in that it uses a special ministerial power reserved for exceptional circumstances. It will have the effect of law while the Canadian government goes through the months- or years-long process of actually enacting legislation. There are some exemptions allowed. For example, astronomers and astronomy club members use green lasers to point to celestial objects and they will be allowed to continue.

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!


777 Main Gear Breaks
Russ Niles

Operators of Boeing 777s will likely be taking a close look at the landing gear on their aircraft after an unusual incident at Narita Airport in Japan on Friday. A Korean Air 777-300 was taxiing to the gate when the axle holding the rear set of wheels on the main gear broke. The wheels folded up onto themselves and the aircraft ground to a halt. The rear set of wheels touch first on landing because the gear is articulated at the strut and angles rearward in the air. There were no injuries but the passengers and crew had to leave via airstairs.

There was no indication the landing was particularly hard although quoted a passenger as saying “the right side was tilted down when landing.” The Japanese transport ministry classified it as a “serious incident” and is doing a full investigation.

How PT-6 Turbines Are Overhauled
Paul Bertorelli

Pratt & Whitney's venerable PT-6 turbine is one of the marvels of aviation. But like everything else in aviation, it requires overhaul. In this engaging video, AVweb's Paul Bertorelli gives us a tour of Continental Motors' United Turbine division, which specializes in the PT-6.


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!

Air Force Suspends Light Attack Flights
Russ Niles

The Air Force has suspended flight evaluations in its light attack aircraft experiment after the death of one of the program’s pilots in late June. Lt. Christopher Carey Short, a naval aviator, died in the crash of an A-29 Super Tucano at the Red Rio Bombing Range in the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Another pilot in the aircraft was hospitalized with minor injuries. Details of the accident have not been released but all flying stopped after the June 22 crash.

The Air Force has narrowed the competition for a plane it may or may not buy to the Embraer Super Tucano and the attack version of the Beech T-6 trainer. Since May an A-29 and two AT-6s have been flying up to three times a day as the Air Force gathers data on whether the low-cost, off-the-shelf aircraft can help out in low-risk counterinsurgency operations, particularly in the war on terrorism. The idea is to free up expensive front-line fighters for the more sophisticated missions for which they were designed. The Air Force said it will wait for the outcome of the crash investigation to decide when and if to resume the testing.

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Harvard Study Shows Flight Attendants More Prone To Cancer
Kate O'Connor

New research from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health suggests that flight attendants are at a higher risk than the general public for several forms cancer. To gather data, the Harvard Flight Attendant Health Study surveyed U.S.-based flight attendants and compared the results to non-flying groups of similar ages and genders. The study also looked at the relationship between how long an individual had worked as a flight attendant and the rate of cancer diagnoses.

According to researchers, they observed “a higher prevalence of every cancer we examined, especially breast cancer, melanoma, and non-melanoma skin cancer among females.” They also found that “job tenure was positively related to non-melanoma skin cancer among females, with borderline associations for melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers among males.”

The study identifies flight attendants as a “highly understudied cohort that is consistently exposed to several known and probable carcinogens in the cabin environment [including] cosmic ionizing radiation at flight altitude, Circadian rhythm disruption due to night shift work, irregular schedules and frequently crossing time zones, and poor cabin air quality from a number of sources.” The study, which was published on Tuesday in Environmental Health, also noted that similar research has generally implied an association between working in the air and increased cancer risk as well.

Industry Round-up: June 29, 2018
AVweb Staff

This week, AVweb’s news roundup came across reports on a new Air Repair Station certification for Wayman Aviation, Adventure Aviation’s acquisition of an AL250 simulator, the recent release of an IFR communications manual from PilotWorkshops and additional AirVenture forum presentations by Superior Air Parts. Wayman Aviation announced last week that it has earned FAA Part 145 Air Repair Station certification. According to the company, it is the only Part 145-certified maintenance facility at Hollywood-North Perry Airport (HWO) in Pembroke Pines, Florida.

On the flight training side of things, Alberta, Canada-based Adventure Aviation, a company that offers both flight training and aerial sightseeing tours, has purchased an Alsim AL250 simulator. Alsim says the AL250 will include a real Garmin GTN 650. Also, for those looking for options to brush up on radio use during instrument flight, PilotWorkshops has released “IFR Communications,” a new addition to its Pilot-Friendly Manual series. The manual includes hard-copy and PDF versions along with videos.

Finally, Superior Air parts has announced that its vice president of product support, Bill Ross, will be presenting two educational forums at AirVenture this year as part of the part of the AeroShell Oshkosh Forum series. “Owner’s Guide to Engine Operations and Maintenance” is scheduled for Tuesday, July 24, and “Engine Leaning Made Simple” for Friday, July 27. Both presentations will begin at 1:00 p.m. and take place at the AeroShell tent (#450).

Things Change, But Not Everything
Mary Grady

A few weeks ago I got a call from my old friend Noah, looking for crew for a morning balloon flight. This used to be a common occurrence around here back in the ‘80s, when we had maybe 10 balloons based in Rhode Island, but these days it’s pretty rare. Noah mainly flies his small homebuilt experimental balloon, with just a harness for the pilot, but on this weekend he had out-of-town guests and was inspired to bring out the big Aerostar, with the wicker basket and the trailer and the whole works, so he needed a chase crew.

We met in a schoolyard, dragged out the envelope, checked the winds, started up the fan, got the big balloon standing up, and Noah and his friends climbed in. So far, it was all the same as ever. I waved to the folks as they drifted off and vanished behind the trees, and I was left to chase solo, with the SUV and the trailer. In the old days, we’d have a pile of maps in the chase vehicle, and a contact number to call in case we got lost, with change for a pay phone. It dawned on me, as I drove out to the main road, that we all had phones in our pockets now, and all I had to do was wait for Noah to land and text me a map with his location.

I headed off in the general direction they were drifting, hoping to catch a glimpse of the balloon as they crossed a road. I searched the sky above open fields with wide vistas, drove down tiny one-lane roads through the woods, and pulled over by our local “desert,” a wide-open space with sandy soils where I could watch a huge swath of sky—but no sign of a balloon. For an hour or so I poked along, and while it wasn’t the more challenging chase of the old days, it was a relaxing way to spend a Sunday morning in the countryside. When I got the text from Noah, I wasn’t too far away, and headed to the farmer’s field where he’d put the balloon down.

And here’s where I found that despite the decades passed, and the changes in technology, the balloon experience was timeless after all. Noah and his friends had already gifted the landowners with a bottle of champagne, and were making plans to meet later in the day to buy fresh oysters from their aquaculture site nearby. The passengers were brimming with smiles and enchantment from their first experience aloft. We all piled into the truck and headed off to a local diner, where I got to know Noah’s friends over waffles and coffee, and heard their stories about the magnificent flight.

Decades from now, our next generation may be gathering on a weekend morning to go exploring in their autonomous eVTOLs. The technology will be different, but hopefully the experience will endure—friends sharing an adventure, and finding new friends along the way.

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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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Brainteasers Quiz #245: A Pilot Walks Into an Isobar

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