World's Leading Independent Aviation News Service
Volume 25, Number 28c
July 13, 2018
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Cosy FAA Inspector Let Infractions Slide
Kate O'Connor

A government report says a longtime FAA inspector allowed unqualified pilots to fly for the U.S.’s largest airline. The report issued by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Transportation says that the 28-year veteran “seems to have been affected by his relationship with [American Airlines].”

The safety concerns—which only involved maintenance verification flights, not any flights carrying passengers—were originally brought to the FAA by the Allied Pilots Association (APA). After APA reported that its concerns had gone largely unanswered for 18 months, the Inspector General’s office stepped in to audit the FAA’s effectiveness in addressing the issue. In addition to finding that the FAA’s oversight of American “lacked objectivity,” the OIG report also pointed out issues with the FAA’s response method, which “ultimately routed [APA’s] letter back to the target of the complaint for response.”

The audit report (PDF) concluded with seven recommendations to improve program oversight and how the FAA responds to future safety concerns, including establishing criteria for evaluating correspondence and taking into account risk factors—such as the length of time inspectors oversee the same air carrier—when evaluating inspector objectivity. In response to the audit, the FAA said that it concurred with all of the recommendations as written and plans to implement all of them no later than June 2019. The inspector has since retired from the FAA and that American has put its flight test program under new leadership.

Opener Reveals Ultralight eVTOL
Kate O'Connor

After nine years of covert development and testing, California-based Opener Inc. revealed what it is calling the world’s first ultralight fixed-wing, all-electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft on Thursday. According to the company, the amphibious BlackFly has already completed more than 1,000 flights and flown over 10,000 miles. As an ultralight, the single-seat aircraft does not require an FAA certificate to operate.

“Safety has been our primary driving goal in the development of this new technology,” said Opener CEO Marcus Leng. “Even though not required by FAA regulations, BlackFly operators will be required to successfully complete the FAA Private Pilot written examination and also complete company-mandated vehicle familiarization and operator training.” The aircraft has a ballistic parachute option and is geofence-compatible.

In terms of performance, the BlackFly has a range of up to 25 miles with reserves. In the U.S., its top speed has been regulation-limited to 62 MPH, although the company says the design is capable of speeds greater than 80 MPH. Its maximum payload is 250 pounds with an empty weight of 313 pounds. Opener says the BlackFly is capable of recharging up to 80 percent of its power in less than 30 minutes. The company has not yet announced a price or when they expect to begin deliveries, but it will be displaying the BlackFly at AirVenture this year.

On The Way To OSH: U.S. Air Force National Museum
Tom Bliss

The progression of flying technology housed in our military aircraft museums is fascinating for its scope and testament to the airmen, inventors, companies and manufacturing men and women who came before us.

I’ve seen a number of excellent museums: The National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. is a must see. So is the San Diego Air and Space museum. I enjoy them all—including the U.S. World War Two museum in downtown New Orleans. It’s short on airframes but every square inch in multiple buildings is well worth the sojourn.

But by far the best, in quantity, presentation, accessibility and sheer volume, is the stunning U.S. Air Force National Museum in Dayton, Ohio. You can visit the website to plan and preview your visit, but no amount of YouTube video will prepare you when your breath is taken away by the sheer audacity of the Air Force Museum collection.

My visit was on a Sunday, Memorial Day weekend, and the museum was a beehive of activity. When you walk from the parking area through the memorial park with hundreds of plaques and markers commemorating long-forgotten Bomb Groups and individual sacrifices, you remember what this museum represents in blood and treasure spent to preserve freedom.

Check the losses of the Mighty Eighth (Eighth Air Force in World War Two) for reference: over 26,000 airmen killed in action, with over 4,100 bombers lost.

If you go—and I recommend you do—prepare for at least a full day of OMGs. I was there three hours. It was overwhelming. Here are some observations from my notes that day:

The just-arrived Memphis Belle was the best B-17 aircraft preservation I have ever seen, better than new.

The newly opened Hangar #4 with the B-70 Valkyrie, my favorite airplane of all time, resides there. It’s surrounded by an array of space hardware, Muroc lake X planes and a full-size Titan rocket.

The workmanship on the surviving B-70 made the white-painted titanium skins look like flawless glass.

There are airplanes that few Americans have ever noticed and a few that are unimaginably fast, huge, complicated and costly.

As a cold war baby who was instructed how to hide under my desk in the event of a thermonuclear blast in the neighborhood, Hangar #3 at the museum was probably my favorite. Take a look at this gallery:

The B-36, successor to the B-29 and the world’s first truly trans-hemisphere strategic bomber, was overwhelming. The size of that magnificent 10-engine Cold War dreadnaught was stunning. Men built and flew this thing, somehow, and this airplane never fired a shot or dropped a single bomb.

General Jimmy Stuart made that beast famous in “Strategic Air Command” with co-star June Allison as the devoted wife. Stuart also flies the B-47 in the movie. Ironic today that the B-36 flew Strategic Air Command missions everywhere but the Korean peninsula as far as we know, during the Korean War, and might have nuked the Chinese if Douglas MacArthur had his way.

Among other things that astounded me were the airplanes that were cast in roles never intended by designers—but used to various degrees of success and fatalities in the desperate race to achieve air superiority no matter the human cost.

For example, I relearned that B-47 pilots trained, sometimes tragically, to toss nukes while performing a multi-G vertical climb into a full Immelmann to escape H-Bomb blast effects. They often ran out of airspeed or over-stressed that skinny wing. I don’t think a B-47 ever dropped an iron bomb in anger either.

No matter what model airplane I built as an 11-year-old airplane nut, like the SR-71, F-4 or B-70, it was there. There were more than one can ever catalog in their memory banks including spacecraft, drones, nuclear weapons, and every fighter and bomber the Air Force or Air Corps every flew to name a few.

There’s no C-5A galaxy. Not because this place isn’t big enough—it is—but probably because these national assets are still flying every day.

But wait, there’s more to Dayton for aviation history buffs.

A five- or ten-minute drive skirting the fence of the huge Wright Patterson AFB is the Ohio version of the Wright Brothers memorial on a bluff overlooking the twin runways about three miles distant. It’s atop a Native American burial mound with a type of circular promenade surrounding a twenty-foot column and plaque. Other plaques also commemorate the nearby pasture where Orv and Wil perfected the world’s first closed circuit sustained flights.

I visited that pasture, which is hard to find, largely undeveloped and barely cared for by the Park Service. It’s a pasture with reproduced shed, a launch rail and a 12-foot Derrick used to catapult the first Wright Flyer and successive airframes.

It is not fitting that the pasture is barely mowed or that any significant marker, monument or anything worthy of note exists there. Of course, nearby Dayton is also the home of the Wright brothers' bicycle shop where the world’s first wind tunnel and the Wright Flyer was built. I plan to stop by next time I visit.

If you have the opportunity— I would suggest that anyone flying from the East Coast to Air Venture should make a fuel stop and experience the Air Force Museum this summer. Say hey to Wil and Orv too.

ForeFlight Introduces New ADS-B Receiver
Kate O'Connor

ForeFlight has announced that its new portable, dual-band ADS-B In receiver is now available for purchase. The ForeFlight Sentry provides FIS-B weather, flight information, traffic, backup attitude, a rechargeable 12-hour battery and—a first for portable ADS-B receivers according to the company—a carbon monoxide monitor and alarm. The device also has a high-capacity data card that supports a Weather Replay feature, which provides automatic storage for up to 30 minutes of FIS-B weather and data.

The Sentry measures 2.2 x 3.3 x 1.4 inches and weighs 0.26 pounds. “Purpose-built ADS-B integrated circuits, for example, have made it possible to shrink the size, reduce power consumption, extend the battery life, add new capabilities and lower the cost,” said ForeFlight CEO Tyson Weihs. “We’ve streamlined and compressed the communications between ForeFlight Mobile and Sentry, which results in the more efficient use of Sentry’s processors and extended battery life.”

ForeFlight designed and manufactured the Sentry in partnership with uAvionix. It can connect to up to five devices and allows users to share routes between devices on its network. Sentry data can be displayed on an iPad or iPhone via the ForeFlight mobile app. The Sentry sells for $499.

When Government Blunders Into Business
Russ Niles

I’m one of those guys who believes that most people in government are trying to do a good job and trying to help the country, the state, the city or the local water board. I fear what many of them don’t understand is that they hold the common sense of the nation in their collective departments, agencies, councils and legislatures and beyond outright corruption, they are vulnerable to the smooth-talking idiots who would manipulate the system for their own good.

Let’s examine, for a moment, the extremely narrow and profoundly prosaic world of 130-seat airliners and the application of trade law.

When Canada’s Bombardier announced it would build state-of-the-art airliners that would just nudge up against Boeing and Airbus’s duopoly in the single-aisle airliner market, the David and Goliath comparisons were immediate and pretty dismissive.

To make a long and fascinating story short, Bombardier built an impressive new entry to the market that has transcontinental and, on some routes, trans-Atlantic range, a roomy 2/3 cabin in economy, sips fuel and is fly-by-wire 2.0. It can also get into airports like London City Centre and fly to New York with a full load of passengers. It’s not nothing.

But nobody (well a few people) was buying. The rollout was difficult because of problems with the Pratt & Whitney geared turbofans and in general it happened the way most clean-sheet entries to service happen. Although the reviews of the airplane were overwhelmingly positive, all but a few airlines decided to watch what would happen from the side, which has been the death knell of many promising designs. 

The difference was that despite common belief, Bombardier, which is a big company in Canada but would be a storefront in Tulsa for Boeing, financed the program on their own and scrimped and saved and cut other programs to bring the CSeries to market. At the end of it, they were billions over budget and needed help.

They went to Airbus and offered a sweetheart deal to partner in the program and bring it to market with the kind of horsepower that the heavily European Union-supported company could muster. Airbus called it a “nice little plane” and showed the Canadians the door.

So, with paychecks on the line and the foundation of Canada’s aerospace industry at risk, Bombardier went to government as a last resort. Faced with the rather unsavory prospect of putting tens of thousands of taxpaying citizens out of work, the Quebec government and a credit union came up with enough cash, through a perfectly legal investment program, to breathe life into the program.

Those who study these things know the World Trade Organization and all the other agencies that make sure that business is carried out in a businesslike fashion gagged a little but Bombardier certainly wasn’t the first aerospace company to benefit from a friendly government investment. Also, don’t forget that Bombardier doesn’t make military aircraft so there was no way to bury the help in fat contracts that way.

With money in the bank and much better prospects for survival, Bombardier talked to Delta, which is no particular Boeing fan and is pretty contrary in general to the business-as-usual situation in the U.S. industry and offered Bombardier a deal it could not refuse. Entry to the U.S. market is essential for any budding airliner manufacturer and Delta stole 75 CSeries from a grateful Bombardier at far below market price.

They say timing is everything and Boeing unleashed its legal team on the deal, proclaiming the great threat to American enterprise as it contemplated its own problems of trying to expand production enough to deliver airplanes to customers before the designs became obsolete. A ten-year backlog gives you some leverage but it also strokes egos. Loose-lipped executives freely admitted their goal was to destroy Bombardier to prevent it from growing into another Airbus, a laudable position in front of shareholders perhaps but a little too Goliathy for most people I would suggest.

With a gung-ho protectionist administration waiting in anticipation, Boeing took its fight to the U.S. Commerce Department, which gleefully slapped ridiculously high (300 percent) tariffs on Delta’s new Canadian jets.

Airbus suddenly revised its opinion of the CSeries, which, less than a year later, is now known as the A220. It agreed to take majority ownership of the program and build an assembly line at its protectionist-proof campus in Mobile, Alabama, where it’s already churning out A320s. CSeries/A220s built there would flow to Delta at the pennies-on-the-dollar price without the government-imposed and deal-breaking markup. Airbus is no knight in shining armor in this scenario. It saw a pretty inexpensive way to stick it to Boeing and seized it. What hurts your enemy benefits you. 

Then the unthinkable happened. Some of the conscientious and responsible people in government that I was talking about at the beginning of this epistle saw the situation for what it was. The level-headed members of the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) ruled so thoroughly that the deal with Delta was no threat to Boeing that even Boeing’s prodigious legal department saw no mileage in appealing. 

Boy, was the USITC wrong (but for all the right reasons in my opinion).

In some of the quickest and most clever business moves I’ve had the barest interest to follow, Airbus sealed the deal with Bombardier, even though Bombardier could likely have continued on its own with the Delta deal and the prospect of more U.S. orders afforded by the folks at the USITC.

With Airbus running the program, concerns about continuity and longevity, product support, continued development and long-term health evaporated. On the day Airbus changed the name, JetBlue bought 60 airplanes. With Farnborough coming up, I suspect the A220 will be the talk of the show.

Meanwhile, as a response, Boeing has dug $4.5 billion from under the couch cushions and bought Embraer’s commercial aircraft division, which is offering a reheated version of its E-series airliners introduced 20 years ago as its answer to the A220. I suspect if you’d told the top-floor guys in Chicago a year ago they’d be doing that they would have thrown things at you.

So, what’s the result?

For aviation, instead of a balancing force in the airline industry that might have been able to actually provide an alternative to Boeing and Airbus over the long term, it got an even stronger duopoly.

For the people of Quebec and Alabama, they got high-paying stable jobs for the foreseeable future.

For Airbus, it got “a nice little plane” and a cheap entry into a side business it wasn’t thinking about until a few months ago. It also got a spiffy clean-sheet design packed with technology it can use in its real business.

For Boeing, it didn’t get “another Airbus,” it just strengthened the one it was already up against and gave itself a project it neither needed nor wanted.

And for the U.S. government, it will just be business as usual.

Vintage Aircraft Competition Returns To Reno Air Races
Kate O'Connor

The Reno Air Racing Association (RARA) and National Aviation Heritage Invitational (NAHI) LLC have announced that the NAHI competition for vintage aircraft will be returning to the National Championship Air Races. The competition hasn’t been held in Reno since 2015. To celebrate its return, the organizations plan to host a vintage aircraft display at the 2018 STIHL National Championship Air Races. The next full vintage aircraft competition is scheduled to take place in 2019.

Competing aircraft are judged in five categories—Antique, Classic, Contemporary, Military, and Large Aircraft—with the aircraft judged best of all categories receiving the Neil A. Armstrong Aviation Heritage Trophy. “The judging criteria was created by representatives of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, and emphasizes authenticity and attention to detail,” said Chief of Restorations for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Nelson Blankenship. “The Smithsonian is actively involved in NAHI and representatives from our restoration staff serve annually on the judging team.” Aircraft must be at least 45 years old and restored to airworthy condition to enter.

NAHI was founded by Rolls-Royce, the Reno Air Racing Association, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1998. Its stated goals include maintaining aviation history by encouraging vintage aircraft restoration and inspiring students to pursue careers in the aviation and aerospace industry. The first NAHI competition was held at the National Championship Air Races in 1999.

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Healthy Pilot #13 – Keeping Your Ticker Ticking
Tim Cole

The BasicMed checklist we’ve been reviewing in the Healthy Pilot series ticks the usual boxes—dizziness, sensitive gut, cancer, kidney stones and more. They’re all there, even depression and mental acuity.

But the central player in your personal health history is your heart. It unfailingly pumps oxygenated blood out to the extremities, distributes nutrients to the cells, infuses the brain and recycles blood to the lungs where it drops off waste gas and picks up more oxygen—all in one smooth cycle.

As we reach a certain age, three elements become critical to the uninterrupted functioning of your heart—cholesterol management, blood pressure management and heart rhythm management. There are a lot of other things that can go south when it comes to your heart—sticky valves, bulging soft spots in the plumbing or disturbing enlargements that hinder efficiency.

But, for a pilot with no prior or family history of heart trouble, cholesterol, blood pressure and rhythm require a bit of attention as we advance in age and wish to maintain that lofty perch in the left seat.

Your Heart in Focus

Once again we’ve turned to our friends at sister site University Health News to glean a bit of insight into your heart health’s Big Three. We begin with a quick take on cholesterol—what it is and what it isn’t. Cholesterol is not a “fat” in the strictest sense. Our bodies manufacture it to deliver energy to the cells. It’s also present in the foods we eat. But too much cholesterol, particularly the bad kind, can lead to coronary artery disease and, potentially, heart attack.

There are three types of cholesterol—LDL, or low-density lipoprotein; HDL, or high-density lipoprotein; and triglycerides, the main constituent of body fat. LDL cholesterol is vital in keeping our cells functioning, but too much of it can accumulate in the interior walls of our vascular system. HDL is also called “good” cholesterol because it helps scavenge LDL cholesterol so it can be removed as waste. Triglycerides store unused calories in the form of fat and contribute to the main problem caused by the accumulation of cholesterol—atherosclerosis.

Cholesterol and triglycerides set up the classic “clogged arteries” we’re all trying to forestall. When cholesterol accumulates, it forms a fibrous cap. When the fibrous cap breaks, the sudden release of cholesterol creates a clot of blood cells that stops blood flow and damages heart muscle.

To assess your cholesterol level, your doctor will order blood drawn and sent out to the lab, where your “lipid panel” will be evaluated. Total cholesterol and triglyceride levels will be checked. You’ll want a low LDL and a high HDL. Based on risks such as family history and cholesterol value, a medication called a statin might be ordered, which can be very effective in lowering cholesterol. Medications are also available for people with extremely high cholesterol levels, often brought on by a condition called “familial hyperlipidemia.” If that’s the case, ask your doctor about the new class of medications called PCSK9 inhibitors.


You’ve Got Rhythm

Your heart is a pump, and your vascular system transports fluid out to your extremities through a system of pipes and valves. The pump is powered by electric pulses that contract the heart muscle at a prescribed rate—more when you are exerting yourself, less at rest. Your heart delivers these electrical pulses through a collection of cells called the sinus node, which are located in the upper wall of the right atrium.

If you experience sinus node disruption or dysfunction, you can develop what’s known as an arrhythmia. Worse case, a severe problem with your heart’s sinus node can lead to cardiac arrest. Warning signs include shortness of breath, palpitations or lightheadedness.  Arrhythmias can also lead to a common condition called atrial fibrillation, where the heart quivers instead of pumps. This can lead to blood pooling, which can lead to clots and, potentially, a stroke.


Blood thinners are the normally prescribed drug for a heart arrhythmia. Warfarin (Coumadin) was the standard for many years, but there is a new class of blood thinners (Pradaxa, Eliquis) that offer easier management.

Serious instances of arrhythmia might be managed through a procedure called sinode ablation, where a probe—infrared, cryo or laser—is inserted in the heart muscle via the femoral artery and zaps the sinus node into a regular rhythm.

Blood Pressure – The Silent Killer

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can cause a cascade of maladies that include stroke, aneurysm, heart failure—even sexual dysfunction. It’s called the silent killer because there are no real symptoms of high blood pressure, and if left untreated, can lead to early, permanent heart problems.

The easiest way to contend with this near universal consequence of aging is early detection and adoption of antihypertensive medications. The threshold of what constitutes high blood pressure has just been lowered to 135/80 from 140/90. The first number is systolic pressure and is a measurement of the pressure inside your heart when your heart beats. The second number is called diastolic pressure and it measures pressure between beats. The lower threshold for hypertension means that millions more people will be classified as having high blood pressure, and will therefore be treated earlier.  


The key to managing blood pressure is continual monitoring—at the doctor’s office, but many physicians now recommend a home monitoring unit that lets you track your blood pressure daily or weekly. If your blood pressure is elevated, your doctor will prescribe any of a number of antihypertensive medications to meet your personal circumstances.

Increasingly, people with high blood pressure are turning to lifestyle changes or natural blood pressure lowering regimens. Losing weight always improves blood pressure values. So does a plant-based diet and exercise. Doctors recommend at lest 150 minutes of cardio exercise weekly, but if you can’t fit that in, any kind of exercise is better than none.

That’s it. Your heart health will take a turn for the better if you concentrate on the Big Three to lower heart disease risk.

FAA Issues Drone Registration Scheme Warning
Kate O'Connor

The FAA issued a statement on Wednesday warning drone owners to steer clear of people and companies offering to help register their drones with the agency. According to the FAA, it “neither regulates these entities nor will speculate on their legitimacy” and cautions that some of the vendors offering these services have made attempts to mimic the look of the FAA’s website, use the FAA logo or suggest that they are FAA-approved.

The agency says it has received reports of people being charged up to $150 for registration assistance. For hobbyists flying unmanned aircraft under 55 pounds, registration costs $5 and the application form can be completed on the FAA’s website. Once a recreational use application is approved, the applicant is given an identification number that can be used on all drones they own (that fall under the recreational use category) without incurring additional registration fees.

The FAA is strongly advising drone owners not to register their unmanned aircraft anywhere but at the FAA Drone Zone which, the agency says, is “the only way to make sure your drone is legally registered and that you’ve gotten your money’s worth.”

Marines Boost Pilot Incentives
Mary Grady

Faced with competition from airlines in dire need of pilots, the U.S. Marine Corps is offering incentives worth up to $210,000 to pilots who re-enlist for a six-year commitment, has reported. The bonuses will be available starting next year. "One of the things I'm pretty excited about is that we gave them options," Lt. Gen. Michael Rocco, a career aviator and head of Manpower and Reserve Affairs, told Officers can sign up for two, four or six years. Staggering the pilots’ contracts gives aviators more choices, and also prevents the military from having to cope with large cohorts ready to leave all at once.

The Marines also are looking at other factors that influence aviators’ decisions, such as work-life balance and day-to-day quality of life. A recent report from the Government Accountability Office found that a lack of available aircraft, fewer training opportunities and career dissatisfaction all play a role in pilots’ decisions. Most airlines are paying first officers who have been with them for two to three years between $125,000 and $150,000 a year, the GAO reported. In comparison, a military pilot would receive about $107,000 to $121,000 at the 10th and 11th years of service, and the following year they'd be eligible for an aviation retention bonus.

The Pilot’s Lounge #136: Ready for OSH?
Rick Durden

We just had our annual summer cookout here at the virtual airport. It was a success—we didn’t run out of brats, burgers or beer and nobody got food poisoning. Ok, we set the success bar low, but there was an excellent turnout and folks seemed to have a good time. Better yet, because the flight school has been busily turning out new pilots, a bunch of them brought their families to the airport for the evening. It was a ball to see new faces and talk flying with new pilots as well as watch kids race around on the big grassy area the hot air balloons use for launching when they’re flying.

I was finishing my dinner and listening to old friends, Doc Stan, who moonlights flying warbirds at airshows, and Sandy, an airline pilot who has owned a Citabria for decades, as they discussed the mental health benefits of regularly flying aerobatics. They were outlining reasons why akro was more effective than therapy when a small crowd of the new pilots walked up to the picnic table where the three of us were sitting.

Chad, who’d gotten his private rating several months ago and is working full blast on his instrument, was the spokesman for the group. “Dave,” he said, pointing at the proprietor of the FBO, “got tired of answering our questions and told us to go talk you three. He said, and I quote, ‘those geezers have been flying into Oshkosh since before the Fisk arrival existed—they can tell you what’s really important about getting in there.’ We’re all planning to fly in to AirVenture at some point during the week; we’ve all read the NOTAM and looked at YouTube videos of the Fisk arrival. We know the official stuff. We want to know the unofficial stuff—we want to know what pilots who’ve flown in there a lot think is really important."

While Stan and I looked at each other in astonishment at the idea that someone would listen to us, Sandy got right to the meat of the matter. She’s never been accused of being shy. “Flying into Oshkosh,” she began, “with a couple hundred of your best friends—and they really are your best friends—breaks down to two essentials: First, stick and rudder skills—you’ve got to be on your A game for precise control of your airplane; and second, pure pilot brainwork—you’ve got to know the arrival and departure procedures cold and have a number of Plan Bs ready to go. After all, a boatload of amateur pilots are flying into the busiest airport in the world, what could possibly go wrong?”

Sandy immediately had the full attention of the group of men and women. They pulled up chairs and sat down; I grabbed a pad out of my flight bag and started making notes.


Sandy said she’d talk about the second subject—judgment—first. With Stan shaking his head in agreement, she said that she emphatically recommended studying the AirVenture Notam minutely, to the point of being able to recite the details of the Fisk Arrival. Stan said that, in his experience, it’s essential to have the Notam available in flight in a form where it can be referred to quickly and easily. I mentioned that I also go over it with everyone who is going to be in the airplane with me—I want to make use of the abilities of the others in the airplane to help make it go smoothly. Brief passengers/copilots on what is expected of them—spotting traffic, spotting landmarks while otherwise keeping a silent cabin during the last 30 miles into OSH.

Sandy looked at Stan and me and said, “Each of us has had experience with watching stupid pilot tricks on the arrival and departure from OSH so we think it’s essential that we know the arrival procedure so well that it’s second nature. We don’t want to be head down in the cockpit—we want to be able to see the moron who is flying the wrong way down the railroad tracks over Fisk before he hits us.

“Step two,” Sandy went on, “is to set up a bunch of Plan Bs for the arrival. Try to anticipate what might go wrong as you approach Ripon, Fisk and the airport and what you’ll do about it. That way, when something does go wrong, you won’t waste time wondering what to do next, you’ll go right to your Plan B for that portion of the arrival.

“One of the most common causes of problems is that the airport suddenly closes to arrivals—usually because someone has crashed. If you’re still well short of Ripon, just slow to low cruise—your most fuel-efficient speed—rather than fly fast to Ripon and have to join the teeming masses in the published holding pattern. Also, always be ready to have to divert to another airport because OSH may quit accepting arrivals—it fills up, the weather goes down or someone crashes.”

Stan put on his doctor hat and said, “It’s no secret that we that pilots are Type A, goal-driven achievers so it’s incredibly tough for us to accept not completing our mission of getting into OSH on the first try. Because of that, we have to make an extra effort to have thought out Plan Bs and be willing to use them so that we don’t look stupid in an NTSB report after pushing on when we shouldn’t.

Stan continued, “What would otherwise just be common courtesy becomes a serious safety issue when we’re in the air. There are entitled jerks who cut inside Ripon to try to barge into the arrival stream over the railroad tracks. Don’t be one. Cutting in line at the movies is one thing, disrupting the flow of airplanes trying to fly at a constant separation at a constant airspeed is something else entirely. People can get killed. Fly over Ripon to join the arrival and slot yourself in line there, not someplace downstream.”

I knew that Sandy had flown a number of types of airplanes into OSH, so I wasn’t surprised when she said, “Unless I’m in a truly fast airplane that isn’t safe to fly at 90 knots indicated, I fly the Fisk arrival at the default 1,800 feet MSL and 90 knots indicated rather than at 130 knots and 2,300 feet. Frankly, flying the arrival at 130 knots in a production piston single is simply being a jerk (she really used a much stronger word) and cutting in line. It’s also potentially unsafe because the two arrivals have to merge at some point—a point that increases the risk of the arrival for all involved."

Airplane Control

Stan then steered the conversation into the stick and rudder topic. He said, “At the most basic, a pilot has to make sure to know the power (and flap) settings that set the airplane up at 90 knots for the Fisk Arrival.” He looked at the two of us and went on, “Our expectations for ourselves are that we can hold 90 KIAS, plus or minus five knots and 1800 feet MSL plus or minus 50 feet. I don’t think that is unreasonable for any pilot who is going to fly the arrival.”

I interjected with something that I’d seen almost every year: “While the arrival is flown at 1,000 feet AGL—pattern altitude at most airports—it’s common for the controllers to call for pilots to fly the downwind to Runway 27 at a lower altitude and closer in to the runway than a lot of pilots are used to. In addition to the Runway 27 landing being a right-hand traffic pattern—not something pilots fly regularly—the Notam warns pilots to turn base leg inside of the shoreline to Lake Winnebago, so it may be closer in than some pilots are used to.

“Put in blunt terms, the arrival often means maneuvering at relatively low altitude and low speed because the actions of someone ahead of you have created a situation that you’ve got to deal with correctly. That has led to fatal stall/spin accidents in the pattern at OSH—I lost a friend there that way. I strongly recommend that you be comfortable maneuvering your airplane at only 10 knots or so above stall speed because your life may depend on it.”

Sandy stepped in to talk about the landing. “You’ll be cleared to land on a colored dot on the runway. It’s pretty basic to expect a pilot to be able to do it without hitting nosewheel first or wrecking the airplane—yet every year a number of pilots who didn’t polish their skills do those stupid tricks. For crying out loud, show up at OSH able to handle your airplane and make a normal landing on a designated spot.”

With a glance at Stan and me to confirm our opinions, Sandy said with some vehemence, “Take some dual now—within a few weeks of flying to OSH—concentrating on accurately maintain altitude and airspeed, slow flight maneuvering, tight, right-hand traffic patterns and landing on a designated spot. I’m not kidding about this—it’s recency of recurrent training that makes the difference in how well you fly. I, know that Rick is serious about it, and that he took a flight review three weeks ago.

“Oh, and after you land, you’ll be expected to clear the runway without delay—visualize turning off onto the grass at about a 30-degree angle, between runway lights while holding the yoke full aft to maximize prop clearance when taxiing on the grass.”

Little Stuff

Stan said that there were some other tricks to making your OSH trip lower stress. “Lay out everything you want to take with you to OSH. Leave it out for 24 hours then do your best to get rid of half of it. Your airplane will not magically fly over gross because it’s going to AirVenture and you will probably have to maneuver at low speed—a heavy, sluggish airplane will not be your friend.

“There’s no need to tanker fuel to OSH; it’s easy to buy it there and the price is not outrageous.

“Listen to the exact language of the ATIS when arriving. It may say that camping or transient parking is full—that doesn’t necessarily mean the airport is not accepting any more arrivals.

“Take the published afternoon closing time of the airport for the airshow with some cynicism—it’s not unusual for it to close 15 or 30 minutes earlier, leaving you unable to get in or depart. We’ve given Rick a hard time about the year he tried to depart before the airshow and got stopped halfway to the departure runway when the airport shut down a half hour before the published time.

“Wisconsin has truly shattering summer thunderstorms. Assume that you’ll need to deal with them at some point of your stay and plan accordingly.”


Chad and the others had been paying close attention. He then asked about the departure procedure. Sandy spoke first, “Just because departure is easier than arrival, don’t think you can ignore the Notam. I think that you should give the departure portion the same attention you gave the arrival section. The most common stupid pilot trick I see is to blow through the altitude restriction after takeoff. For most all runway departures you are to fly no higher than 1,300 feet MSL until out of Class D airspace. That’s only about 500 feet AGL, which can feel pretty low. It’s to stay below the arrivals at 1,800 feet. Stan, Rick and I have been spooked on the Fisk Arrival as we passed west of the airport en route to Runway 27 and some knuckleheads taking off from 27 came blasting up through the arrival stream.

“It’s not unusual to get shunted to a runway for departure other than the one you've planned on. There are specific routes/headings to fly for the departure from each runway. Make sure you have the Notam handy and can ascertain the heading you need to fly while in Class D airspace before you blast off. Every pilot we know has horror stories of clueless pilots taking off and turning directly toward arriving traffic.”


Stan added some other tips for insiders: “Your airplane will have sunk into the grass while it was parked. Plan on asking some folks nearby to help you pull it forward and turn it 90 degrees before you start up. Trying to power out of your parking spot can require more power than is available, will potentially damage your prop and blow the campsites of folks behind you into the next county. Be considerate.

“Lines for takeoff can be long, especially right after the airshow—hang out 45 minutes and they get better.

“Picking up an IFR departure clearance can take a long time on top of just taxiing to the runway. If you can depart VFR, it’s usually a lot less hassle, although if you need an IFR clearance, it’s big-time difficult to depart VFR and then try to pick up an IFR clearance in the air. The Notam has details.

“You will probably have only half the width of the runway for your takeoff—don’t be surprised by the situation.

“If the winds are light when the controllers are blasting airplanes off one after another, there’s a good chance that you’ll hit wake turbulence from one or more of the airplanes departing before you. If you haven’t hit wake turbulence from a ‘little’ airplane, you’ll be surprised how powerful it is. It can, and will, roll you hard. Be ready to put the ailerons and rudder to the stops to counter any rolling action and fight your way through it. I’ve never seen any reports of takeoff accidents at OSH due to wake turbulence, but I’ve seen airplanes rolled as much as 90 degrees at low altitude on takeoff when I was watching Runway 27 departures.”

Sandy got up and led our new friends to her Citabria as she wrapped up the discussion by reminding them that when we fly into OSH we are in the public eye. With the proliferation of social media, they should figure that anything they do in their airplane will be filmed by someone who is eager to post videos of stupid pilot tricks.

As she got to her airplane, Sandy opened the door, pointed at the placard on the top center of the instrument panel, smiled and said, “You might want to pay attention to this.”

The pilots looked and one of them read it out loud: “Don’t do anything dumb.”

Rick Durden holds an ATP with type ratings in the Douglas DC-3 and Cessna Citation, is a CFII and the author of The Thinking Pilot’s Flight Manual or, How to Survive Flying Little Airplanes and Have a Ball Doing It, Vols. 1 & 2.

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Picture of the Week, July 12, 2018
A sunset flight with Kyle Bushman, his 1943 N3N-3, and good friend Bryan Harper outside of Creswell, Oregon. The photoship was piloted by Jonathan Apfelbaum. Copyrighted photo by Distant Thunder Aviation Photography, LLC/Julia Apfelbaum.

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