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Volume 25, Number 33c
August 17, 2018
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FAA Reauthorization Bill Back In Play
Mary Grady

With Congress back in session this week, the fight over FAA reauthorization has resumed. Thirty-three GA organizations signed a letter sent to Senate leaders on Wednesday, asking them to get it done. “It is essential that the FAA is provided long-term authorization for its activities and programs to maintain and advance the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world,” the groups wrote. The last multiyear authorization bill for the FAA was passed in 2012, and expired almost three years ago. Since September 2015, the agency has been operating under a series of short-term extensions.

A recent analysis in Politico noted several contentious issues with the current bill, including a provision that would prevent states from setting their own standards for meal and rest breaks for interstate truckers. Drone advocates also are lobbying against an amendment that would allow state and local governments to regulate drone deliveries. The House has already passed its version of a long-term reauthorization bill, which would last for five years. GA advocates want the Senate to move soon, so there will be time for the House and Senate to reach a final agreement by Sept. 30, when the current bill expires. “There is bipartisan support for moving the FAA bill forward now,” the groups said in their letter. “The FAA’s success and that of the aviation system will be significantly enhanced by progress and passage of a long-term FAA reauthorization bill.”

Unleaded Avgas: All On The Same Page (Not)
Paul Millner

There’s all kinds of shaking going on in the unleaded avgas sphere, as evidenced by revelations at Oshkosh this year. Those of us who expect the progress of science and commerce to be orderly and stately might be dismayed by the apparent confusion, indeterminacy, contradiction and flawed human behavior in the quest for a lead-free world.

Students of the history of both discovery and enterprise will see the repeat of that history, with all its wart-bespeckled lows and heady triumphs. All this to facilitate a future 50-gallon avgas fill-up.

There are four players now pursuing unleaded avgas certification: Shell and Swift, who had been selected by and participating in the now-stalled PAFI (Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative); GAMI, who has been working in this space for almost two decades; and a Phillips Petroleum/Afton Chemical consortium that announced at Oshkosh their intent to follow the GAMI path to an STC'd fuel. 

The FAA in May announced that they had encountered issues requiring mitigations for both the Shell and Swift fuels, implying that neither fuel could meet the needs of the fleet. Lacking a plan to address these mitigations, and being short of funding to complete lab and flight testing that was as much as half done, the FAA suspended further testing. It also slipped the completion date a year to 2019 and said it needed more money.

The FAA's interpretation of its legal authority is that it cannot approve a fuel as a fleet-wide replacement without special authority from Congress. Not all observers agree with that characterization, but it is conservative. Participants in the unleaded certification effort point with pride to the specific language in the FAA reauthorization legislation that confers such authority upon the FAA.

However, the reauthorization bill has only passed one chamber thus far and the president hasn't signed it. So that technical detail remains along with question: Can we do this at all? Perhaps we will be well served by the STC applicants after all. History lesson: Phillips' XC 20w50 oil was originally approved on an STC, because there was no relevant milspec for multi-viscosity at the time it appeared. So there is precedent.

One issue that PAFI participants have shared off the record is that non-linearities have been observed in comingling the two fuels with each other, and with 100LL, in various ratios. It's surprising that this surprises the FAA; gasoline blending is inherently non-linear. The ASTM's multi-industry Coordinating Research Council (CRC) that had been researching unleaded avgas alternatives since 1991 made a number of observations of these characteristics.

Certainly it's an issue. Although CRC never delivered final recommended fuels, they did make scientifically valid suggestions on how these comingling issues could be addressed. It seems the FAA folks weren't paying attention, or have forgotten what they'd heard.

Those affected by PAFI's decision to pause fall into at least two schools. Those with a background in government contracting point out that given the competitive nature of the fuel selection, the FAA would put the entire process at legal risk if they change the rules as they go along to address this current concern. Thus the pause, in their view, is essential to protect the integrity of the program from legal challenge. Those who were eliminated in earlier rounds could legitimately complain they were unfairly treated if certain contestants were given another bite of the apple without extending the same opportunity to others.

The fuel proponents, however, are less concerned about the FAA's potential legal troubles; they feel they're being placed at a competitive and cost disadvantage by delaying the testing. Once begun, the testing should be completed as outlined, they feel, to be fair to the two contenders chosen by the process. Otherwise, they're being burdened with a cost of delay that they didn't sign up for at the beginning. The particulars that emerged at AirVenture this year show how chaotic the PAFI process has been, at least from the outside looking in.

Shell gave two sessions by Tim Shea, director of Aviation R&D, on Monday and Wednesday. The presentations were oddly different. The first session, co-presented with Continental's Tim Kenney, was largely glad-handing, with the message being that Shell is good, unleaded avgas will be awesome. See you next year. Audience members asked Shea to comment on the PAFI pause. Shea deflected, inviting Oshkosh attendees to ask the FAA at the FAA's PAFI presentation. When the audience explained that the FAA had not scheduled a PAFI presentation, Shea seemed genuinely stunned, noting that he had expected the FAA to be presenting.

The second session, two days later, with Lycoming's Michael Kraft, was more in depth and did address PAFI's pause. Spirited disagreement exists between Lycoming, which believes the pause is essential due to federal regulations and essential to eventual success, and Shell, which wants the program to continue apace even with the problems identified.

Shea seemed to let slip that Shell's formulation relies on heavy alcohols instead of an -OH group with 1, 2 or 3 carbons, substituting perhaps a handful of carbons, thus making a less hygroscopic/water-loving additive. That would be more suitable for inclusion in avgas. Kraft verbally chided Shea for nominally violating the PAFI non-disclosure agreement in discussing this formulation detail, but his objection focused the attention of all attendees on the apparent gaffe.

Shell's Shea cast shade at GAMI without naming them. Shea claimed the GAMI STC process is less open and transparent than the PAFI process, implying that this was unfair to the industry. But observers noted that the PAFI process has been inscrutable to outsiders. Perhaps PAFI does a better job of sharing with participants within industry, but not with the aviation press, or with pilots and aircraft owners—the actual customers for the fuel.

Shea waxed slightly dramatic, opining that no one knows what's in the proposed STC'd fuels, what tests the FAA might or might not make the STC applicants perform, and whether or not a specification for the fuel would eventually exist. But the same is true regarding formulation and testing for the PAFI fuels, including Shell's. When the process completes, it will be apparent whether a specification exists or not. Of course, if anyone plans to actually sell any of their fuel, a specification will be essential.

Shea also took an odd tack on the driving force for the entire unleaded avgas effort, implying that since the EPA has abandoned a lead endangerment finding, a decision made shortly after the Trump administration began exerting sway at the EPA, why should industry do anything at all? The majors are perfectly happy selling a high-margin fuel that is protected by competition from upstarts by the large environmental liability of lead blending.

The conceit is that the majors already bear the lead blending burden, since using TEL in mogas began in the 1930s. But any new entrant would be inhibited from entry into avgas blending by incurring that liability. These aren't the sort of musings that corporate public relations departments like to hear their managers articulating in public. Shea seemed to ignore the lawsuits by environmental group seeking to force the EPA's hand on a lead ban. FOE (Friends of the Earth) and NRDC (National Resources Defense Council) have current focuses on the lead issue, and others could take up the banner.

And of course, administrations do change, and even a given administration can rethink its policy issues. So even if the EPA doesn't issue a lead endangerment finding in the next year or two, it's far from a dead issue. And don't forget, if the sole remaining western lead plant, Octel's near Liverpool England, burns down tonight (bad news for the downwind neighbors), it seems unlikely that anyone will be rushing in to reinvest in this end-of-life-cycle technology.

Moreover, an unleaded solution will be good to have. Lycoming's Kraft pointed out that unleaded fuel will offer many other benefits to aircraft operators: longer oil change intervals, availability of superior lubricants currently eschewed due to their inability to solubilize lead salts, and advanced engine control systems relying on lambda sensors that would today be slowly destroyed by lead salts in the tailpipe. 

Phillips Petroleum and Afton Chemical introduced their MMT (methyl manganese) formulation. They forecast it will be certified via STC by 2022. The speakers started out being cagey about the formulation of their fuel, "similar to existing avgas." The caginess was odd, since Phillips' pre-printed handout said that the fuel was identical to current avgas, except using MMT instead of lead as the octane enhancer.

The Phillips speaker finally conceded what the handout declared. Audience members asked about MMT spark plug deposits. EPA has reported that General Motors found that plugs could become contaminated in as few as 16,000 miles.

These concerns are "not valid," Afton's representative claimed, but he advised that Afton was reformulating the manganese scavenger anyway, to solve this non-problem. That's an odd business decision, in my view. Canadians will have to inform us on the spark plug glazing issues much touted in the technical press when MMT was used in mogas up north. This made their sparkplugs throwaway items, not readily cleanable.

When asked about this, the Afton representative replied that he spoke with authority, because he is a Canadian. But perhaps the unneeded and unnecessary manganese scavenger reformulation will address this issue. 2022 is a long way away, and of course that's a date from the heady early days of this effort. Still, it’s good to have an avgas heavyweight like Conoco-Phillips adding its weight to the fray. But a lot remains to be demonstrated in the engine durability testing required for certification of their proposed formulation, STC or not.

GAMI did not present at AirVenture, but the company is continuing toward STC approval certification. GAMI hasn’t revealed the exact formulation, but has confirmed that it’s based on aviation alkylate with an aromatic hydrocarbon additive package for octane enhancement. GAMI has been assembling all the pieces and seeking FAA approval for every step of their science, supply chain, blending and distribution, including launch customers to gather data to support an ASTM specification application. The FAA has implored GAMI to enter the PAFI process and GAMI has firmly demurred.

Assuming GAMI is permitted to complete their project within the scope of their FAA-approved certification plan, there could be many airplanes operated daily on GAMI 100UL by this time next year by a couple of launch customers, with broader approvals and distribution in the next two years. It may then live or die in the market, depending on its merits. 

Swift’s CEO Chris D’Acosta held forth on Swift 94 and 100, declining to discuss PAFI results. While Shea dissed GAMI, D’Acosta went after Phillips/Afton by passing around vials of a purported alkylate manganese mix that looked like sewage samples. Oddly, this criticism came shortly after he made a remark about not denigrating his competitors.

D’Acosta exhorted the crowd, "Would you put this stuff in your airplane?" Of course, we couldn't analyze Swift's fuel samples to see how they were compounded, so no technical detail is forthcoming. The refining industry did blend with MMT for years without flocculation—fine particles in the solution clumping together—being a serious concern, so this strikes me as more obfuscation than technical critique.

Both Shell and Swift might be better served by observing D'Acosta's words and favoring their audiences with details about their own products rather than casting doubt on the other guys'. Taken together and considering PAFI’s unimpressive results thus far, the road to unleaded avgas looks bumpier than ever.


Paul Millner is a retired refinery executive with expertise in avgas production. He edits the Cardinal Flyers Online newsletter.

Blue Angels Upgrade To Super Hornets
Kate O'Connor

The U.S. Navy has awarded Boeing a contract to configure nine F/A-18E and two F/A-18F Super Hornets for the Blue Angels demonstration team. Since the team’s first performance in 1946, the Blue Angels have used eight aircraft models, including the F11F-1 Tiger, F-4J Phantom II and A-4F Skyhawk II. They have been flying F/A-18C/D Hornets since 1986.

The contract for getting the eleven Super Hornets ready for their debut with the Blue Angels, which is worth approximately $17 million, was awarded to Boeing on Monday. Although not specifically stated what changes would be made to the aircraft, conversions on the team's currently flying Hornets included removing the aircraft nose cannons, installing smoke-oil tanks and adding a spring on the sticks. Overall, the Super Hornet is bigger by about four feet in both length and wingspan than the Hornet and heavier by roughly 10,000 pounds. At a maximum speed of Mach 1.6, the Super Hornet is slightly slower than the Hornet’s max of Mach 1.8.

According to a Department of Defense release, the Blue Angels Super Hornet conversions will be performed at Boeing’s St. Louis, Missouri, facility. The scheduled completion date for the project is December 2021.

G600 Begins Performance Testing
Kate O'Connor

Gulfstream Aerospace has announced that it is beginning FAA certification field performance testing on its Gulfstream G600 long-range business jet. The aircraft made its first flight on Dec. 17, 2016. Since then, Gulfstream says its five G600 test planes have made more than 600 flights and accumulated over 2,290 flight hours.

“We continue to make steady progress toward certifying the all-new G600 later this year and beginning customer deliveries in 2019,” said Gulfstream President Mark Burns. “With the exceptional performance we’re seeing from the five flight-test aircraft in this program, I am highly confident our clients will be impressed with the aircraft we deliver.” The 19-passenger G600 has a maximum range of 6,500 NM and a long-range cruise speed of Mach 0.85.

The G600 is on display at the Latin American Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (LABACE) in São Paulo, Brazil, this week. The seats and cabin have also gotten some attention, with Gulfstream Interior and Industrial Design teams recently earning 2018 International Yacht & Aviation Awards for their interior design work on both the G600 and the slightly smaller G500. The G500 received its FAA type certification earlier this summer.

Lessons From A Veteran Cargo Dog
Mike Hart

After a half-century of experience in the cargo flying sector, long-time pilot Stan DeLong has seen it all. He claims to be semi-retired, but he still flies a Piper Navajo Chieftain during United Parcel Service’s peak season, and is chief pilot and check airman for Gem Air, LLC. If you make the mistake of assuming his experience is geographically limited, he also is check airman for Côte d’Ivoire (formerly the Ivory Coast) in Africa... but that intriguing story will have to wait for another time.

Since I am still relatively new to the cargo world, I was determined to meet with DeLong to glean as many insights and as much wisdom as possible. In a world where we learn from experience, the only other thing that comes close is learning from the experiences of others, so I basically had just one overarching question: What makes a safe cargo pilot? His answers were illuminating and applicable to all pilots.


Stan Delong’s cargo pilot career started in 1967 in a 1965 Alon A2 Aircoupe with a 90-hp Continental engine. He flew loudspeaker components from Cassville, Wisconsin, across the Mississippi River to Dubuque, Iowa, where they would be loaded onto an Ozark Airlines aircraft for shipment to their destinations. It was only a 20-mile flight, but that beat the convoluted drive required to get the products across the river.

Later he flew mail in a Cherokee Six from Dubuque, Iowa, and LaCrosse, Wisconsin, to Minneapolis, Minnesota. This was in the period when cargo operators were just beginning to require instrument ratings, but DeLong was ready with an IFR ticket. The habit of staying a rating or two ahead of increasing requirements remained with him the rest of his career. It’s also a useful tip the rest of us should ponder.

Through the 1980s and 1990s, he worked for Ameriflight managing fleets of Beech 99s, Beech 1900s, Fairchild Metroliners and Piper Navajo Chieftains. He had many roles—training pilot, assistant chief pilot, division chief pilot and division manager for the Salt Lake City office—fulfilling major cargo carrier and unscheduled ad hoc deliveries, and ensuring checks, packages and boxes made it to their destinations on time.

DeLong’s cargo résumé includes many long routes, like the one from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Great Falls, Montana, but also featured unique, pop-up deliveries. Like getting up in the pre-dawn hours to ensure a helicopter transmission made it to a mining site in Telluride, Colorado, and ensuring a critical insulation blanket was dispatched from Hill AFB to Vandenberg AFB, where it could allow a launch to take place.

External SA

There is an old joke that the winds aloft forecast is the only weather a cargo pilot looks at to calculate fuel because it doesn’t matter what the other weather is, you’re still going. This isn’t true, of course, although winds aloft are particularly critical because the main commodity of the cargo business is time and delivery. Packages are usually on a plane instead of a truck for a reason. That reason underpins the entire air cargo business.

DeLong believes the safest pilots work hard at understanding developing weather. “When weather is down, you need to know where, why and what you’re going to do about it,” said DeLong, who then joked semi-seriously that when the weather is too bad for IFR, you may still have a safe VFR option.

Like any pilot, cargo pilots need to have a solid understanding of developing weather. But, DeLong said, “More than being a good stick, a safe cargo pilot is one who really knows what is going on in the 3D spherical envelope that surrounds the plane.“

Where is the icing layer 100 miles ahead? And what conditions are pilots ahead reporting? It might be safer to find a spot between layers, but that means listening to and processing what you are hearing on frequency and turning it into a picture in your head,” said DeLong. “A good cargo pilot is constantly updating a picture of what is happening along the route and what options that creates.”

“A good cargo pilot has to know how to calculate the ways to optimize the route to get the destination on time. And a good cargo pilot also has a backup plan when the destination is a no-go.” But then what?

DeLong offered another scenario: “It may be that drivers can meet and unload the aircraft at an intermediate airport, but after the plane is unloaded, does the airport have an IFR departure? Ground deicing equipment if it is snowing? You can choose an alternate airport, but you don’t want to get your aircraft high-centered at an airport you could get into, but then can’t depart.”

Every pilot should always have a set of options to stay out of, or deal with, deteriorating conditions. You should know how to calculate the ways to optimize the route to get to the destination safely, even if it isn’t on time, but you also need to be thinking about the next leg and getting the airplane back to base. The plane is important, safety is important and taking care of both requires significant forward thinking.

Internal SA

Cargo pilots are not just paid for takeoffs and landings; they are also paid to monitor the machine that keeps them aloft and alive. Is everything in the green? How is the fuel burn? What will be the next ATC frequency?

On long routes, it’s tempting to take it easy when very little else is happening. Referring to stories about pilots known to have taken catnaps on long legs—not entirely a fairy tale—DeLong said, hopefully ironically, that kind of relaxed behavior doesn’t fit well in the cargo business. “It is important to always be aware of the airplane and its systems,” said DeLong. “The pilot whose head is always in the game will catch system failures early and can execute a plan and recover. The ones who have drifted off, or checked out of monitoring duty, run the risk of checking out permanently.”

When you fly thousands and thousands of hours, your number will come up for some kind of mechanical failure. The more you fly, the more opportunity you have to experience engines that stop working, vacuum pumps that fail, gear that doesn’t come down or a deicing system that isn’t keeping the airframe clear of ice. When you pay systematic attention, you may be able to troubleshoot or resolve bad things before they are critical. But when you don’t pay systematic attention, bad things get worse. Safe pilots, good pilots, will balance their attention to that 3D spherical envelope outside the plane with a solid understanding and awareness of what is going on with the plane and its systems.

Staying Ahead

Over the decades of interviewing, training and checking out pilots, DeLong has developed a theory that all pilots have a speed where they can keep up and a speed where they get behind. DeLong said new pilots are usually 100- or 120-knot pilots, meaning they can keep up with aircraft as long as it is no faster than 120 knots.

Flying cargo usually means you are flying swifter and more complex aircraft, from 160 knots for a typical Cessna Caravan, to 300 knots for a Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner typically originating at a Class Bravo hub. The demands of flying complex cargo planes and the associated airspace starts sorting pilots into bins.”

There are some pilots that will never get beyond 250 knots. It isn’t personal, it isn’t even skill-based, it’s just a cognitive workload issue,” said Delong. In other words, not every pilot is capable of super-sonic flight or more complexity.

The speed factor is how far ahead the pilot's mind can be in 10 minutes. As the saying goes: Never take an airplane anywhere your mind has not visited at least 10 minutes earlier. For a 120-knot pilot, that means visiting 20 miles earlier, 150 knots = 25 miles, 200 knots = 35 miles, and 250 knots = 45 miles. Since the speed limit below 10,000 feet MSL is 250 KIAS, everything above that becomes academic.

DeLong told a story of how he trained someone in Côte d’Ivoire to be first officer in a Merlin, but then had to tell the owner to never advance the person to the left seat. “He was good enough for the right seat, but he was not a 250-knot pilot. He was a Mach none pilot.” Despite his advice, the Mach none pilot was eventually promoted to the left seat of a 300-plus-knot aircraft, which he destroyed on a rubber plantation during a hard landing, most likely because he deployed beta thrust well above the runway prior to touchdown.

We all want to believe we are capable of flying any aircraft that we are checked out in, but it is equally important to be brutally honest with ourselves and stay safely below the point at which we feel overwhelmed and out of bandwidth.

This cargo season, DeLong determined that it was safer for me to stay in a Caravan, a plane I already had 500 hours in. He decided I wasn’t ready for the Navajo Chieftain, a faster twin-engine plane. Can I handle a Chieftain? Probably, but in foul weather, Class Bravo, and less than 20 hours in the airframe, he thought it was smart to wait another year. I gladly deferred to his experience and wisdom.

Checking Your Ego

When asked about the biggest dangers, DeLong turned the conversation to the pilots themselves, because the job is ripe for competition. A cargo pilot’s mission—to deliver on time and with the lowest failure rate achievable—is a pressure situation. It comes with permission to be creative, but not to be stupid.

A creative pilot is one who might still be able to get to a destination by filing to an alternate airport, shooting the approach to get beneath a layer and access better winds aloft, then flying VFR to the destination. Creative does not mean breaking laws or taking unnecessary chances to hit delivery goals.

DeLong said the most dangerous cargo pilot is one who is macho and competitive, someone who turns the pilot lounge into a competitive arena. “Competitiveness in a flight department is toxic. Competitive egos can create a cancer that can quickly spread and ruin the safety culture of a flight department.”

His talk about ego made me ponder not flying the Chieftain. Ego tells me to push and strive. Ego wanted me to give the Chieftain a try, which literally meant finishing my check flight and heading into the winter peak cargo season in a plane I was still getting to know. My experience said to listen to those with experience and take slow steps rather than leaping into the fire.

Exercising Good Judgement While Retaining PIC Authority

There is a perception that cargo companies have a “Push the pilots out the door” culture, no matter the conditions. It has an element of truth. The pilot is always aware that while he or she is waiting for weather or dispatch, there are folks in trucks at the other end who don’t know exactly what’s going on, much less whether they should keep waiting. One delay may not cause any problems, or it can cascade into multiple delays along the cargo delivery stream, with the inevitable minor or major logistical logjams to solve, and possibly disappointment when a package isn’t delivered on time.

While the pilot’s go or no-go decision is critical for the folks downstream, the final authority rests with the pilot in command who owns the risk. It is smart to remember that questions like, “Are you sure you can’t make it here before noon?” are not intended to pressure the pilot into taking unnecessary chances to arrive prior to noon. Noon is likely a logistical breakpoint, a time when the delivery options have to change.

For cargo pilots, or any pilot for that matter, it doesn’t matter if the cargo absolutely, positively has to be there overnight—weather issues are given a pass by the customer, and you will not be punished (at least by a good employer) for making a weather call.

On the other hand, there is not a lot of forgiveness for showing up to the airport late, getting the wrong fuel load or failing to be prepared for the flight you are about to take. And there is possibly no forgiveness for taking off when you should have stayed on the ground.

Time is Money, but Safety Buys Time

The commodity cargo pilots sell is time and delivery. Compared to commercial pilots who haul passengers, a smart cargo pilot has more latitude for shaving off minutes and seconds without impacting safety. The boxes won’t complain if a turn is a bit steep or if the descent rate in a non-pressurized aircraft is uncomfortable. This is not permission to shortcut procedures but creates opportunities to be more efficient. A cargo pilot will be thanked for efficient departures, flight paths that take full advantage of winds aloft and minimal time-wasting on the ground.

“Get-there-it is built into the cargo dog’s life. Your employer makes a living off pilots who don’t just get there, but get there on time,” said DeLong. “The key is balancing pressure with good judgment. We all know good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.” That may be an old cliché, but DeLong has survived 50 years of cargo dog experience. His insights, gathered over a lifetime, apply to all pilots since they face the same risks—cargo pilots simply have more exposure due to the amount of flying they do.

Mike Hart flies his Piper J3 Cub and Cessna 180 when he’s not schlepping people and packages. He’s also the Idaho State Liaison for the Recreational Aviation Foundation.

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

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Privateer Amphibian Makes First Flight
Kate O'Connor

After more than ten years in development, the Privateer Amphibian made its first successful flight last week. The single-engine pusher from Privateer Industries was designed by John Meekins and Bill Husa. As seen in the video below, the flight went well, although it has been reported that minor instrumentation issues prevented some of the planned testing. The aircraft was flown out of Space Coast Regional Airport (TIX) in Titusville, Florida, by test pilot Harvey Cleveland.

Meekins, who is now CEO of Privateer Industries, described seeing the aircraft fly for the first time as a highlight of his life. He began designing the Privateer after a search for a seaplane to purchase didn’t turn up any results he was happy with. After coming up with the initial design, Meekins brought Bill Husa of Orion Technologies onto the project as Chief Engineer. Husa passed away in 2012 before the prototype was finished.

The Privateer is powered by a 724-HP Walter 601 turbine engine. The prototype’s empty weight is 3,600 pounds, with plans for the production version to be lighter. Performance numbers have not yet been finalized, but the Privateer is expected to cruise at 215 knots, have a service ceiling of 25,000 feet and have a useful load of 2,000 pounds. The goal is for the aircraft to have a 1,000-mile range, with seats for five to six passengers plus the pilot. The company has previously said that it plans to make the Privateer available in both kit-built and, later, certified versions. Expected prices have not yet been announced.

GA Expands In China
Mary Grady

Authorities in China opened 93 new general aviation airports in the first half of this year, Xinhua reported this week, bringing the total number of GA airports nationwide to 173. The country now has a total of 404 airports, including 231 civil airports. Authorities have said China plans to open 200 new GA airports by 2020, bringing the total to about 500, and then expand to about 2,000 over the next 10 years. (By comparison, the U.S. has about 5,000 GA airports, and about one-third the population of China.) Also in the first half of the year, 118 new general aviation aircraft were registered in China, bringing the total to 2,415, and flight hours were up about 15 percent from the year before.

Chinese officials are in Brazil this week at LABACE 2018 (Latin American Business Aviation Convention and Exposition), working to expand their aviation sector and find new markets for their 18-passenger Y-12E twin turboprop commuter. "We are commercializing the first Chinese plane, with an eye to opening a plant in (Brazil)," Jose Santos, a Brazilian representative of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), told Xinhua.

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Picture of the Week, August 16, 2018
Taken on our return trip from AirVenture 2018 from a 182Q. This was a momentary shadow on the lake that lasted for about 15 seconds. Taken with a cell phone (Samsung Galaxy S8+). Photo by Matthew Wing.

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Healthy Pilot #14: Bad Back? Welcome to the Club
Tim Cole

Your body’s wondrous structure of bone, muscle, tendons, ligaments and assorted odds and ends is a fantastic erector set that keeps vital organs safe, and allows for all of life’s perambulations. It lifts, twists, bends on command, and permits pilots to go about their cockpit tasks without a second thought.

But throw a monkey wrench into any part of this complex machine and expect pain, immobility and prolonged downtime. Your aging back is particularly susceptible. It can get even more complicated when it’s not just sore muscles, but bulging discs, displaced vertebrae, compressed nerves or a host of other maladies. If you can’t press the rudder pedals because your feet are asleep due to back-associated neuropathies, you can see why back pain might be just the tip of the iceberg. Your flying privileges may well be at stake.

We’ve once again turned to our sister site University Health News for some guidance. The website has excellent free posts related to back pain, plus free guides on bone and joint health, and managing pain in general. The UHN special health report, Managing Low Back Pain, is especially useful.

The first question you’ll have to ask is: “Where is my pain coming from?” The origins of your back pain will vary from case to case, but family history, gender; age and work history can all be a factor. Is your pain emanating from soft-tissue injuries? Or are your discs—those spongy shock absorbers between the vertebrae—and the dark forces of your nervous system also at play? Is your back pain high near the neck (cervical), mid-back between your shoulder blades (thoracic), in your lower back (lumbar) or the lowest part of your spine, the sacrum? This link is especially useful if you think your back pain is high; and this link might help if your pain is in the mid-back. 


Describing the pain you’re sensing, and where, will help your doctor localize the problem when he or she orders imaging for a closer look. If it’s soft tissue, you might be experiencing pain with movement, a dull ache, a muscle spasm, tightness or stiffness, swelling, bruising or weakness. Soft tissue injury can usually be treated conservatively with superficial cold or heat, exercise therapy and over-the-counter pain relievers.  Muscles, ligaments and tendons can be dense and fibrous and take days or weeks to fully heal. Some kind of light physical activity is usually advised so muscles don’t get stiff or weak.

Low-Back Pain

Here’s where things start to get complicated, and your discs are usually the ringleaders in the plot to keep you immobilized. First, your doctor will be looking for a bulging disc impinging on a nerve. There are surgical solutions for this kind of situation, but as always, the surgery comes with a degree of difficulty that will need to be assessed. It will require your knowledge and participation in the decision-making.

Degenerative disc disease—between the lower lumbar vertebrae and upper sacral, also known as L5-S1—often causes shooting pains down one or both legs leading to tingling and numbness in one or both feet. The precise term for this condition—in case you hear if from your doctor—is lumbosacral “radiculopathy.” If you get shooting pains and numbness from the buttocks down to your feet and it also involves “the saddle” area of your upper inner legs from genitals to anus, see your doctor immediately. This might be cauda equina syndrome, and without immediate surgical intervention could lead to incontinence and prolonged immobility.

Spinal Stenosis

With spinal stenosis, the spinal canal becomes narrow and compresses nerves, causing pain. A number of factors have been identified that lead to this condition, but all are related to mechanical destabilization of the spine over time. Discs are degenerating, providing less cushioning effect between vertebrae. Arthritis is causing spinal narrowing. Ligaments become less flexible with age and tug the vertebrae closer together. People with spinal stenosis may also develop bone spurs on the back wall of the spinal column, further narrowing the spinal canal.

What’s a Body to Do?

Depending on your situation, your doctors will be reluctant to jump right into surgery to deal with your bad back. You’ll first hear the words “conservative care,” and that usually means a tight-knit family of interventions that will likely relieve your pain and get you back in the game.

No one likes to hear it, but losing weight will be high on the list of things to do. Extra pounds lead to extra stress on knees, hips, and especially backs. Shedding pounds will relieve stress on discs, nerves and soft tissue. You won’t have to deprive yourself, but you will have to look at food in a different way. Start by eliminating sugar and salt from your diet to the extent possible, then process carbohydrates, usually in the form of bread or sweets. Stick to a plant-based diet, and have piece of fish twice a week. Don’t forego the steak! Just stick to a filet and skip the marbled ribeye (as much as we hate to admit it).


Next, get to the gym and start working on your core. There’s some very good information on simple core exercises here. You’ll want to speak to a trainer who can take you through some basic moves like “the dead bug,” and the “plank.” Good gyms now have foam rollers that help you get the kinks out. The idea is to keep moving, but don’t overdo it to the point where you injure yourself and incur downtime. Slow and steady effort wins the race

Over-the-counter pain meds will help ease any discomfort. But opioids are probably a no-go for serious pilots.

Your attitude about your back pain will become very important at this stage. You have to come to grips with the idea that some kind of back issue will be part of your future. As such, back pain often can’t be entirely eliminated but at least accommodated. You owe it to your colleagues and your family to give this supreme challenge your best shot so you come out on top.

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