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Volume 25, Number 31d
August 3, 2018
 
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FAA Addresses Exam Delays
 
Kate O'Connor
 
 

The FAA will be making some major changes to address delays in pilot practical test scheduling reported by flight training providers across the country, according to the Flight School Association of North America (FSANA). A group led by FSANA met with senior FAA staff in Oklahoma City to discuss solutions to the testing delays last week. After the meeting, FSANA says it is confident that the policy and process changes discussed “will have immediate and future positive effects on airman practical test scheduling shortages.”

Reports gathered by the organization point to delays stemming from a decrease in the number of Designated Pilot Examiners (DPEs) in recent years and a lack of examiner availability in some locations. To address this, FSANA says changes to be implemented include removing geographic boundaries for DPEs, switching CFI practical test scheduling from Flight Standards District Offices (FSDOs) to DPEs authorized to give CFI exams, and replacing the National Examiner Board with a new National Appointment Process.

The changes also call for the development of a safety assurance system and FAA reviews of all delegation programs with some of these policy and process shifts scheduled to go into effect as early as September 2018. Furthermore, FSANA says that the FAA will be rolling out a new Designee Management System to be completed by April 2019 and will begin work on a FAR Part 183 rewrite. Part 183 covers “the requirements for designating private persons to act as representatives of the Administrator in examining, inspecting, and testing persons and aircraft for the purpose of issuing airman, operating, and aircraft certificates.”

FSANA has been gathering reports and working with the FAA, flight training providers and other industry partners on improving practical test scheduling delays for the last two years.

AirVenture In The Tail Lights
 
AVweb Staff
 

Immersed in AirVenture

This year marks the 30th Oshkosh trip for me, almost. I skipped a year or two in that 30-year run. The show has evolved so slowly that you often don’t notice how much it has changed since 1988.

For me, the most significant changes are neither the grounds nor the airshow, but the degree of immersiveness. Like forever, there have been technical forums where you could learn everything from welding to fabric work. Sure, some curious bystanders took part in such things, but mostly it was people who were building airplanes or who wanted to.

During the past few years, EAA has added two things: The One Week Wonder airplane building program and the Pilot Proficiency Center. I stopped by the OWW project several times and it was just a beehive of energy and enthusiasm, much of it coming from kids and teenagers. Will this ignite in them a lifelong interest in flying and airplanes? For some it will, but I care less about that than EAA having made an extraordinary effort with a nicely conceived and executed idea. 

I spent an hour in the Pilot Proficiency Center sampling what this program has to offer. This year, you could sign up for a session and the program would pick two or three sim-based scenarios to hone your skills. It evidently thought that I was rusty on crashing airplanes into trees, because that’s what we worked on.

Like OWW, the Proficiency Center offers hands-on involvement that’s a welcome break from just looking at stuff. It forces you to actually think about the fine art and skill of aviating and I’m pretty sure the participants who came out of that hour went home having learned a thing or two and if a little motivation to seek additional training rubs off, what’s not to like? –Paul Bertorelli     

Human History in Photos

Working at AirVenture is a constant stream of articles to write, press briefings to attend and deadlines to meet—not to mention the often-vexing hunt for an internet connection with enough bandwidth to upload everything. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember that there’s more going on at the show than news stories.

Part of what I like about AirVenture is that something usually crops up to remind me. This year, it happened when I met up with aviation photographer John Slemp on Friday morning as I was whipping through my OSH departure checklist. John was working with the Commuter Craft team at their booth over in the homebuilt area. I don’t know much about kitplanes—learning quickly—so John was kind enough to give me the tour and answer my newbie questions. Then we sat down to look at his pictures.

Among many other things, he’s done a series of portraits of Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), several of which he’s taken at Oshkosh. There was something about seeing those women’s faces so carefully photographed that struck me in a way that dashing past warbirds all week hadn’t.

They reminded me of the incredible legacy represented at the show and the constant push by the aviation industry to improve—often through the grit, daring and intelligence that still shows so clearly in the faces of the grandmotherly women in John’s photos. –Kate O’Connor

Future Aviation Workers

One of the undercurrents to AirVenture was the aviation labor shortage and there were plenty of weighty discussions and pithy comments about how it came to be and what can be done about it in forums and sessions on the grounds.

And while pretty brochures and engaging stories of derring-do will attract a few new recruits, it will be business fundamentals that win the day. So, while it’s fun to promote what is generally an interesting set of career choices, attracting new people to aviation will come down to pay and working conditions. The purse strings are loosening, but those working conditions could be a problem.

Most in aviation have long days at odd hours and today’s younger people have made it known those are two of their least favorite things. That can only mean that pay rates will have to reach the point that they think it’s worth upsetting their work-life balance, or at least redefine it. It would also appear that Chinese aviation firms misread the potential of AirVenture as a deep well of aviation talent from which to draw.

The Chinese set up an elaborate booth in the main aircraft exhibit area to try to attract people to their rapidly expanding airline industry. We never saw a soul at that booth and by Thursday they’d apparently had enough. Friday morning the booth space was empty, which I’m guessing matched the state of the prospect list they were trying to build. –Russ Niles

Landsberg Brings GA Ideas To NTSB Role
 
Mary Grady
 
 

Bruce Landsberg, who is joining the NTSB after many years as a safety advocate for general aviation, takes on the job at an interesting moment—advancing technology creates opportunities to improve GA safety, and at the same time, a pilot shortage has led to challenges in the training pipeline. “Good (and young) CFIs are getting picked off by the airlines quickly,” Landsberg said, in an email to AVweb last week. Part of the solution to that challenge may be for GA to make better use of the high-quality simulators that are now available. “The airlines and corporate flight operations learned this more than 40 years ago, and never looked back,” Landsberg said. Cost has been a barrier for using sophisticated sims in GA training, but that’s changing fast as new technology reaches the market.

Other new technologies now in development show promise for improving safety, Landsberg said. “Flight data monitoring is a great idea, and if we can start to retrofit older aircraft with recording equipment, it will make accident investigation much faster and easier,” he said. “By analyzing engine data—and there's very little on piston engines at this writing—it's entirely possible to predict well in advance of a catastrophic failure when something is getting out of tolerance. This has worked very well for the airlines, and the technology now makes it possible for light GA.” Landsberg also said he sees great opportunities for improving weather forecasting and the dissemination of accurate and timely weather data into GA cockpits. Besides investigating accidents, the NTSB works to analyze accident data to identify areas that need improvement, and promotes safer practices across all modes of transportation. “This will be a most interesting assignment,” Landsberg said.

Lost Tuskegee Airman Identified
 
Mary Grady
 
 

For the first time, remains from one of the 27 Tuskegee Airmen declared missing during World War II have been positively identified, the Pentagon announced last week. U.S. Army Air Forces Capt. Lawrence E. Dickson served as a pilot with the 100th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group, in the European Theater. On Dec. 23, 1944, Capt. Dickson departed Ramitelli Air Base, Italy, on an aerial reconnaissance mission flying a P-51D aircraft. On his return flight, his airplane developed engine trouble, and two P-51s were sent to escort him back to base. Capt. Dickson radioed that he was going to bail out, but the two other pilots said they were unable to see Dickson’s white canopy, due to the snow-covered ground below. The airplane crashed, but Dickson could not be found, and he was subsequently declared missing in action.

In 2012, investigators from the Pentagon’s Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency found the crash site near the Austrian border, with help from a local resident who had seen the site as a child. Last summer, students from the University of New Orleans and the University of Innsbruck were part of an excavation team that found what they believed were Captain Dickson’s remains, according to The New York Times. DNA analysis confirmed the identity of the pilot. Capt. Dickson’s daughter, Marla Lawrence Dickson Andrews, now 76, was just two years old when her father disappeared. “I had given up a long time ago,” Ms. Andrews, 76, said on Monday, The New York Times reported. “Now, I don’t have to worry.”

Airbus Establishes Pilot Training Program
 
Kate O'Connor
 
 

Airbus announced the launch of its ab initio Pilot Cadet Training Program last week. The company says the program is designed to “help meet global demand for pilots over the next 20 years.” Airbus’ partner for the program is Escuela de Aviacion Mexico (EAM), which is located close to the Airbus Mexico Training Center in Mexico City.

Pilots participating in the EASA-based program will complete their initial training at EAM and then transfer to the Airbus Mexico Training Center to qualify on the A320. According to Airbus, the program “aims to equip cadets with the skills and mindset required to become an ‘operationally-ready pilot.’” The first class of 20 Airbus cadets is expected to begin training in January 2019 and graduate in July 2020. The program is open to high school graduates over 18 years old and will begin accepting applications in October. Applicants will take admissions tests to gauge their knowledge of English, mathematics and physics.

Airbus says it plans to open similar programs around the world over the next few years. According to the company, this program and the ones to come reflect Airbus’ “commitment to support airline customers in contributing to long term availability of qualified flight crew.” The company’s latest Global Services Forecast predicts that 540,000 new pilots will be needed over the next two decades.

Short Final: Best In Class
 

In Valdez, Alaska, for the annual fly‑in and STOL competition, a Lake amphibian (not known for its STOL capability), in town for the fly‑in, departed early to beat the weather just before the last round of the competition. Heard on the temporary tower frequency as the competition continued and the Lake departed:

Lake: “Tower, Lake 123 is clear to the west, thanks for the help.”

Tower: “Lake 123, roger, be advised, the last combined distance was 30 feet 8 inches.”

Lake: “Amazing! I’ll practice up for next year, but not sure I can beat that...”

Tower: “Well whatever you do, I’m sure you’ll win your class!”

Jim Freeman
Mobile, AL
EAA Launches Flying Club Initiative
 
Kate O'Connor
 
 

The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) has announced a new program to help its members develop flying clubs at their local airports. The Flying Club Initiative includes grant funding for club startup and guidance in a wide variety of club-related areas including obtaining aircraft and establishing bylaws. Clubs founded through the program will operate as nonprofit groups separate from EAA.

“Flying clubs are well-established ways to share the cost of flying and build a supportive community for those who want to participate,” said Rick Larsen, EAA’s vice president of communities and member programs. “While EAA chapters cannot directly operate flying clubs, local EAA members now have a way to get people into the air in an affordable way and welcome those who have wanted to fly, but perhaps had cost and access barriers standing in their way.”

In support of the program, EAA has launched a new Flying Club website with tools—such as grant application how-tos and tax and insurance information—to help clubs get off to a good start. EAA will also be accepting aircraft donations for flying clubs. Models the organization is looking for include Cessna 172s, Piper Cherokees, Van’s RVs and Zeniths, but EAA has said it is open to other models as well. Donated aircraft will “be sold to groups in the EAA Flying Club Initiative on favorable terms to get a club started, with sale proceeds going back into the flying club grant program.”

Starr Companies - - Click to read about aerial application
Assessing Glass Cockpit Safety
 
By Luca Bencini-Tibo
 
 

On November 8, 2007, a G1000 equipped Cessna T182T collided with terrain in the vicinity of Mount Potosi (8,514 feet MSL) on a clear but dark night, 21 miles southwest of the departure airport, North Las Vegas Airport (KVGT), Nevada. The Cessna was flying on a VFR flight plan to L00 (Rosamond Skypark Airport in California), approximately 168 miles southwest of KVGT.

At the time of this now well publicized accident, the crew was in radio and radar contact with Las Vegas Departure Control and was instructed to stay clear of the Class B airspace. There are many lessons to be learned from this and other accidents that have involved glass displays.

Situational Awareness

While the weather was clear, the surrounding terrain had no lighted roads or structures that could have provided some ground reference. While legally, VFR is defined by visibility of three miles or greater; the flight in such conditions was in fact, flying in IMC given the lack of outside visual cues.

The G1000 can display topographic data on its MFD (multi-function display), but due to extensive thermal damage resulting from the crash, the NTSB was not able to determine if the pilots were seeing this information. Nevertheless, Garmin’s Pilot Guide states: “CAUTION: Use of terrain proximity information for primary terrain avoidance is prohibited. It is the pilot’s responsibility to provide terrain avoidance at all times.”

The NTSB’s probable cause of this CFIT accident was not surprising: “...failure to maintain an adequate terrain clearance/altitude during climb to cruise. Contributing to the accident were rising mountainous terrain, the dark nighttime lighting condition, the pilot’s loss of situational awareness...”

Pilot Experience Factors

There were two highly experienced pilots on board. The left seat pilot held ATP with several type ratings and CFI certificates with over 25,000 hours. The right seat pilot also held ATP and CFI certificates and had amassed over 28,000 hours. It was not clear who was acting as the PIC. Both pilots were experienced with the G1000 and the Cessna T182T.

There might have been other factors such as having two highly experienced pilots with no clear authority of responsibility for flight safety. Or could the G1000 have played a role? This naturally leads to the question: do glass cockpits increase safety?

TAA vs. Glass Cockpits

Some pilots equate technically advanced aircraft (TAA) with glass cockpits. However, not all TAA have glass cockpits. A TAA (generation I) needs to have a moving map display, an IFR approved GPS and integrated autopilot. These aircraft could have round gauges. TAA generation II have glass cockpits such as the G1000. For simplicity, the term “glass cockpit” will be used here rather than TAA generation II.

Correlation vs. Causation

Before addressing the question of the impact of glass cockpits on safety, let’s review the concepts of correlation and causation. This is not just applicable to aviation but also to other disciplines: medicine, economics, marketing research, law, etc.

Correlation simply means that there is a mathematical relationship between two variables or factors. Both factors move in the same direction or in opposite directions. The statistical measure of correlation is called Pearson Correlation Coefficient.

The first issue with correlation is spurious correlation—mathematically it exists but just by chance.

The second issue is that we might have correlation between two variables but no cause and effect between the variables. However, there might be cause and effect if a third variable exists. For example, hypothetically, the tire pressure of an airplane is positively correlated to the number of seats, no cause and effect relationship. Both are related to aircraft gross weight. There are cause and effect relationships between number of seats and GW and tire pressure and GW.”

Let’s suppose we can be definitive that correlation exists; then the question becomes: is there a cause and effect relationship? Incidentally, one cannot have causation without correlation. And if causation does exist, what is the cause and what is the effect?

Causation is much harder to prove as it cannot be proven mathematically but through a profound understanding of the situation. All this preamble is to state up front that to have a definitive conclusion that glass cockpits are safer, we need to prove both correlation and causation. A difficult goal.

NTSB Study

The NTSB conducted a rather extensive study on the “Introduction of Glass Cockpit Avionics in Light Aircraft” and issued a lengthy 91-page report in 2010.

Obviously with the passing of time, the statistics may have changed, but given that this is only extensive available study, let’s start here. The question is: Have glass cockpits improved safety?

The study used a three-prong approach. 1) Review of accident statistics comparing conventionally equipped airplanes to those with glass cockpits; 2) Current glass cockpit training to identify potential areas of improvement in training and; 3) Identification of emerging issues.

The overall conclusion based on the accident analysis is: “The results of this study suggest that, for the aircraft and time period studied, the introduction of glass cockpit PFDs has not yet resulted in the anticipated improvement in safety when compared to similar aircraft with conventional instruments.”

A key set of data seems to indicate that when a fatal accident occurs, glass cockpits have a higher incidence. The conclusion appears to contradict the data—glass cockpits have worsened safety levels. This can be in part explained that neither correlation nor causation have been proven.

Additionally, when compared to VMC and IMC, the glass cockpit equipped airplanes when flown in IMC, the incidence of fatal accidents is also higher.

Where do we go from here? The bottom line is that the study could not determine correlation and much less causation. This is not negative comment regarding the study but rather a common situation whenever we are trying to prove cause and effect especially when we have multiple factors involved. The best we can do is to state a broad conclusion that can tangentially be supported by the data: “has not yet resulted in the anticipated improvement in safety.” We can go into all the details of the study. We could also discuss weaknesses in the methodology that have been pointed out by aviation safety experts. But given the available data, no matter how artful we are in slicing and dicing the data, we probably will not come out with other conclusions that would withstand the sniff test.

The Reality

Based on my experience and what I have observed, my conclusion regarding glass cockpit safety is rather simplistic: an airplane is as safe as the pilot. However, the equipment might also enhance safety, but we cannot simply conclude that advanced avionics automatically result in more safety.

Some other points to consider. Glass cockpit airplanes are typically flown with the autopilot on. This allows the hands and mind to focus on other (hopefully) higher-level attentions. Perhaps they are flown more in IMC and for longer distances. We can also identify other potentially contributing factors that could contribute to a higher perceived risk.

While we may or may not agree with the NTSB conclusions, if you accept my simplistic explanation related to “it’s the pilot” not the technology that is at the crux of the matter, the six NTSB recommendations allude to training and additional information that pilots need.

Based on the study findings, the NTSB Press Office summarized the six recommendations in the table to the right (source NTSB press office).

I have gone a step further and summarized my thoughts in the table below on how to increase the safety and value of glass cockpits. As usual, I look forward to comments from fellow subscribers.

Additionally, I have been flying a C182T with the new G1000 NXi. It is a great piece of avionics but it still has many buttons, knobs of different sizes and shapes and soft keys.

Some G1000 NXi installations like in the Mooney Ovation Ultra also have a mechanical keyboard located below the throttle quadrant that requires substantial heads down.

In G1000 installations, I tend to look down more often because of the ergonomics of the controls. I’m going out on a limb, I predict that the next generation of the G1000 will be touchscreen like the GTNs and the new G500/600 TXis. Touch screens require less heads down and more intuitive controls vs. scroll/twist/push knobs and assorted buttons in G1000s.


Luca Bencini-Tibo, ATP/CFII, is a FAASTeam Lead Rep, aircraft owner and is a graduate of MIT and Harvard Business School.


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

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

 

Boeing Plans Autonomous Flight Research Center
 
Kate O'Connor
 
 

Boeing has announced plans to open a research and development facility at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) new mixed-use district in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Boeing Aerospace & Autonomy Center will provide space for Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences, along with Boeing employees. According to Boeing, the work at the facility “will focus on designing, building and flying autonomous aircraft and developing enabling technologies.”

"Boeing is leading the development of new autonomous vehicles and future transportation systems that will bring flight closer to home," said Boeing chief technology officer Greg Hyslop. "By investing in this new research facility, we are creating a hub where our engineers can collaborate with other Boeing engineers and research partners around the world and leverage the Cambridge innovation ecosystem." Center employees will also help develop new technologies for programs that are part Boeing’s recently announced NeXt division.

Boeing will lease 100,000 square feet of research and lab space inside a new 17-floor building for the Center. The building is being constructed as part of MIT’s Kendall Square Initiative, a plan that involves the university developing a total of six buildings that will provide space for research labs, offices, housing and retail. There is already an Aurora Flight Sciences research and development facility located at Kendall Square, but Aurora employees will move to the Boeing Aerospace & Autonomy Center once construction is finished.

Picture of the Week, August 2, 2018
 
 
Flyby admiring Pine Valley golf course in my Cessna 140. Copyrighted photo by Rene Covelli.

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