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Volume 25, Number 34b
August 22, 2018
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Garmin Sues uAvionix Over ADS-B Patent (Updated)
AVweb Staff

Garmin has filed a lawsuit in a federal court in Montana, where uAvionix is based, accusing that company of using Garmin’s patented ADS-B technology without permission. The products under dispute are the EchoUAT and skyBeacon, which are sold for the experimental market. In the court filing, dated June 19, 2018, Garmin says they were originally involved in discussions with uAvionix relating to drones. “Over time, those discussions changed, and Garmin eventually learned that uAvionix had taken its patented ADS-B technology without permission,” according to the lawsuit. In a statement posted online Monday, uAvionix says they did not infringe Garmin's patent. "uAvionix has our own patent-pending method for using Mode 3/A and altitude information that differs from the method in the 301 Patent [U.S. Patent No. 8,102,301]," the company said. "We won’t be able to comment on the proceedings, and it will likely take some time to resolve." Meanwhile, the uAvionix statement says, they will continue to ship the disputed products. 

Garmin says in the court filing it sought to resolve the dispute before going to court, but uAvionix “dragged its feet, hid its true intentions from Garmin, and wrongly contended it designed around the ‘301 Patent.'” Garmin said they purchased the disputed uAvionix product, determined for themselves that it utilized their patented technology and decided to file the lawsuit. "The skyBeacon and EchoUAT will directly compete with Garmin’s GDL-82, GDL-84, and GDL-88,” Garmin states in the suit. Garmin asks the court to stop uAvionix from infringing its patent, and also asks the court to require uAvionix to reimburse Garmin for all of its expenses and losses related to the infringement. A Garmin spokesperson told AVweb on Monday, “Unfortunately, we cannot comment on ongoing litigation.”

(This story has been updated with comment from uAvionix.)

The Limits Of Reality
Mary Grady

The pace of technological change can be excruciatingly slow sometimes … we’ve been waiting eons now for battery-powered airplanes that never need maintenance … but it’s relentless. I’m reminded of the college classmate who told me, way back in the last century, that she was making a smart choice studying to be a keypunch operator, because computers were here to stay. She was half right. The new technologies relentlessly make trash of the old. Now we have sneaking up behind us the tech of virtual reality, which makes me wonder how that will impact aviation in the next decade or two.

It’s already clear that VR is going to change the way we train pilots. The U.S. Air Force is experimenting with it, and found that access to VR tech helped students to learn faster. Companies now are working to bring the technology to the flight-training masses, including not only immersive visuals and audio, but also gloves that will provide the “haptic” illusion of touch. It seems inevitable that over the next decade we’re going to see this training tech expand its reach into our GA flight schools. How much faster and cheaper will it be for students to learn, when they have virtual 24/7 access to the cockpit of their Skyhawk? Factor in that autonomous tech will inevitably make it easier and more intuitive to fly a GA airplane, and the time and cost of training could drop significantly, while accident rates go down.

Plenty of pilots who slogged through ground school with a twirling E6-B, a plastic plotter and a sackful of paper sectionals may mourn the kind of visceral immersion those low-tech tools could induce. You spent enough time with those devices to develop an appreciation — the smooth feel of a fresh new chart, the subtle colors and details, the satisfaction of learning to interpret the strange language of maps and master the baffling “flight computer” — it’s not just nostalgia, all that sensory input added to the richness and romance of the whole flight-training experience. But those days aren’t coming back. Maybe VR will free us to focus on new aspects of flying, or enrich it in ways we haven’t even thought about yet.

We could take this to the next level, and wonder if VR could eliminate much of our motivation to fly, if we can travel virtually instead. Imagine a VR business meeting, where everyone stays home, but can walk around the room, shake hands and have virtual conversations — is it still worth the time and trouble to travel across the country, or around the world, rather than just snap on a headset and gloves? Can we replicate the experience of seeing the Grand Canyon, or going on an African safari, in real time? Maybe actual travel will become a niche market, reserved for the connoisseur — or luddite — who discerns a subtle difference.

But first, we are sure to see, over the next few years, the expansion of VR tech in the flight-training environment. How far it will go, and how fast, is anyone’s guess. How it will combust with the accelerating pace of autonomy to impact the GA world — that’s going to be a show worth watching.


NASA Seeks Answers To Military Oxygen Issues
Mary Grady

Over the last five years, an increasing number of military jet pilots, from both the U.S. Navy and Air Force, have reported problems with the oxygen systems in their aircraft—and so far, solutions have proved elusive. This week, NASA said they have begun a series of flight tests that aim to better understand what is going on, so they can find a way to address the situation. At NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, in California, five research pilots are flying several aircraft types, equipped with various types of aircrew technology. A range of flight conditions will be replicated, including basic instrument training, high-altitude flight, aerobatics and combat maneuvers.

The flight tests will continue over the next few months. “It is my hope that the data we gather will increase our understanding of the physiology of flying high-performance fighters and will allow the military to resolve the problems they’ve been having,” said NASA pilot Jim Less. “Our military pilots need to have complete confidence in their equipment so they can focus on carrying out their vital missions.” A range of symptoms have been reported by pilots, including cognitive impairment, numbness, tingling, lightheadedness, behavioral changes and fatigue. These events have been reported as early as the 1990s, and persist today, yet the cause remains unknown.

The Pilot’s Lounge #137: Special VFR
Rick Durden

Our resident curmudgeon is in his 90s now and doesn’t make it out to the pilot’s lounge at the virtual airport as often as he used to. About five years ago, Old Hack abruptly sold the immaculate Piper Super Cruiser he had bought almost new and announced that was done flying as pilot in command. “I’m quittin’ on my terms, not when some gummint type doesn’t like the way I part what’s left of my hair and starts trying to tell me what to do.” About the same time, he’d discovered the ride hailing companies he could summon from his cellphone and with a comment about being tired of car payments and insurance bills, quit driving, sold his car and moved into a nice assisted living facility. “I wish I had figured this out sooner—I get chauffeured to and from the airport whenever I want to go. Nurse Ratched, or whatever her name is that runs the place, doesn’t like the hours I keep but half the fun is watching her get all worked up because I don’t keep her warm milk and cookies at 8:30 and then lights out schedule.”

I was in one of the beat-up recliners in the lounge considering the pressing issue of what time to fly over to the huckleberry pancake breakfast at a nearby airport this weekend when Hack whacked one of my shoes with a rolled-up magazine.

“Wake up, ya lazy bum. Your snoring is keeping honest people from getting work done; besides, I’ve got something important to show you.”

“I wasn’t asleep, I was thinking.”

“Right. The drool was a dead giveaway.”

I shoved the lever on the side of the chair forward and retracted the footrest. “Ok, I’m awake. You got another money-making scam you want me to contribute to?”

“Naw, my new one is too good for the likes of you.” Hack declaimed, “I just read an accident report on a VFR into IMC crash and it bothers me. I think the poor schmuck might have been OK if he’d understood about special VFR. He flew away from an airport he probably could have landed at after talking with the tower. Then he did the spiral dive out of the clouds into the ground thing. Killed everyone in the airplane. I feel kind of sorry for him. It’s as if his aviation ammo box was missing the bullet that would have saved him.”

“Now you’ve got me interested—you don’t have a soft spot for anybody, much less a pilot who tries to fly VFR into crummy weather.”

“Yeah, I know, but this one got to me. The guy saw an airport and was talking with the tower and then approach control. They were practically begging him to land. It’s a little complicated but it seems to me that if the guy had remembered his training about special VFR he could have gotten a special VFR clearance and landed without much trouble—the weather at that airport wasn’t terrible. Instead, he kept going toward worse weather and lost it.”

“All right, I’m listening. Tell me more.”

Hack recounted the basics of a November 2011 Cirrus crash in the Chicagoland area. The flight departed from Marion, Indiana, in decent VFR weather en route to DuPage airport west of Chicago. The forecast for the Chicago area was for the weather to deteriorate below VFR minimums as the day went on—there was an AIRMET for IFR weather conditions developing over northern Illinois. The pilot was intending to drop off his daughter, so she could return to college, then he would head home—he had tickets for a pro football game near his home the next day. Before departing, the pilot told the line crewmember who fueled the airplane that the weather was forecast to be VFR in the Chicago area.

About an hour after departing from Marion, the pilot contacted DuPage tower for landing. He was already in the Class D airspace and apologized for inadvertently flying over the airport—saying that he’d seen it as he flew over. The weather was reported as overcast at 900 feet, with three miles visibility. Had the clouds been 100 feet higher, the airport would have been VFR. The controller told the pilot that the airport was IFR and, as per procedure, asked the pilot his intentions.

A conversation ensued between the pilot and controller. The controller seemed to be encouraging the pilot to land at DuPage, but the pilot said he didn’t want to land and then get stuck for the rest of the day. He asked if there were airports in the area with better weather and was told that Chicago Executive, to the northeast, was VFR. The pilot also spoke with approach control, started toward Executive briefly and, in exchanges with approach, seemed unsure of what to do. He eventually told ATC that he didn’t want to mess with the weather and “was gonna get out.”

He pointed the Cirrus northwest, toward worse weather. Within a few minutes he’d lost control of the airplane and crashed.

Old Hack looked at me. “Ya know, he had a moving map GPS in that airplane, he’d flown over and seen DuPage Airport. All he had to do was ask for a special VFR clearance into DuPage, the controller would have hit him with the magic controller wand and his weather minimums would have instantly become one-mile visibility and stay out of the clouds instead of the 1,000 and 3 of Class D airspace.

“Now I can’t read the pilot’s mind, but I did my share of scud running and when I’ve got an airport in sight when the weather is iffy, it makes sense to land on that airport. You don’t throw something like that away. I can’t help but suspect that the pilot didn’t remember his training about special VFR, so he was worried about getting busted for going into an airport that was IFR or maybe landing and not realizing he could leave, so he’d miss the football game. I can just imagine how bad it was—trying to keep the airplane right side up under or in a low ceiling and not aware that I could solve my problem by getting a special VFR clearance.

“Plus, you can use a special VFR clearance to get out of an airport like DuPage when you know that the weather is better not far away. I’m not sure, but it seems possible that if the pilot had gotten a special VFR into DuPage, he could have unloaded his passenger, fired up and gotten a special VFR to head back southeast where the weather was VFR.

“By the way, didn’t you tell me that you used to use special VFR quite a bit when you flew out of Ann Arbor?”

“I did,” I responded. “That airport was built on a swamp and often would have ground fog in the morning. Every place around would be reporting clear and a million and the vis at Ann Arbor would be less than three miles before the fog burned off. I’d ask for a special VFR clearance, get it and depart. With the clearance the visibility requirement was only a mile and I had to stay clear of any clouds. Within a couple of minutes of taking off I’d be away from the area of fog. I’d fly with my student in the practice area and by the time we were coming back the fog would be gone, and the airport was solid VFR.”

Hack looked serious. “That makes sense. Before I talked with you I looked up the special VFR regs. They apply in Class B, C, D and E airspace—where E goes all the way to the ground—and you don’t have to have an instrument rating to take advantage of it. From what I’ve been able to find out, it’s most often used in Class D airspace where things aren’t as busy as in B and C because special VFR can’t delay instrument operations. You have to wait on the ground or outside the airspace for instrument traffic to clear out before the controller can give you a clearance. The important thing is that you have to ask for special VFR; the controller can’t offer it.”

I laughed. “I remember listening to a controller telling a pilot who wanted to depart VFR from a Class D airspace airport that the weather was IFR and then asking the ‘what are your intentions?’ question that they’re supposed to ask in that situation. The pilot was clueless. He kept saying that he wanted to depart, and the controller kept telling him that the field was IFR. At one point the controller asked, ‘Is there anything special that you’d like?’—one of the broadest special VFR hints I’ve ever heard from a controller—but the pilot still didn’t get it. He finally parked the airplane and shut down.”

Hack looked pensive. “Now you see why this accident bugs me. I don’t know if I ever got a special VFR clearance in the time I was flying. But the whole idea of magically getting new VFR weather minimums if I needed them just stuck with me. I figured it was a good thing to have in my hip pocket if I ever needed it. You know how much I disliked talking to ATC, but when the weather comes down and a controller can do something that helps keep me alive, I’m going to make the call.”

Rick Durden is a CFII, holds an ATP with type ratings in the Douglas DC-3 and Cessna Citation and is 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.

EASA Approves Simpler GA Training Rules
Jason Baker

Flight schools in Europe that focus on training private pilots now can operate under simplified rules released by the European Aviation Safety Agency last week. The new rules create two types of flight schools—Declared Training Organizations, or DTOs, which can train private pilots, and Approved Training Organizations, which focus on training professional pilots. DTOs now need to provide authorities with a document outlining the training programs they will provide, and then can immediately begin to do so, with no need to undergo a certification process. The flight schools can begin the process as early as next month, and are required to declare their intentions by next April.

The previous rules required all applicants who wanted to operate a flight school to undergo a comprehensive certification process, during which detailed compliance with all applicable requirements needed to be demonstrated to the regulator. Applicants also needed to develop and present a series of documents, including an operations manual and training manuals for each course, and had to set up a management system, including safety management and compliance-monitoring functions, before they could provide any sort of flight training. EASA recognized that most of the demands were justified when dealing with schools that train professional pilots, but listened to the call from the GA community to make the process simpler for those who wish to fly for personal reasons.

London-Bound Jet Makes Emergency Landing
Kate O'Connor

A Gulfstream IV landed safely at New York Stewart International Airport (SWF) on Tuesday afternoon after blowing two tires on takeoff from New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport (TEB). The Gulfstream departed for London Luton Airport (LTN) in Luton, England, at 10:50 a.m. on Tuesday. It has been confirmed that musician Post Malone was one of the 16 people on board the privately owned jet.

After circling above TEB for about half an hour with emergency vehicles standing by, the aircraft first planned to divert to Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport (BAF) in Westfield, Massachusetts. While en route, the decision was made to head for SWF’s 11,800-foot runway instead. The aircraft remained aloft for approximately five hours to burn fuel in preparation for landing.

According to a statement released by the FAA, the flight landed at SWF at about 3:50 p.m. EST and the aircraft was towed to the ramp after landing. The agency has said it will investigate the incident.

Stratolaunch Unveils “Family” Of Launch Vehicles
Mary Grady

With their giant satellite-launching high-altitude plane now preparing for first flight, Stratolaunch announced on Monday they are developing “a new family of launch vehicles” that will begin regular service in 2020. The vehicles will launch from the airplane and carry satellites to orbit to “make access to space convenient, affordable and routine,” the company says. In a statement, CEO Jean Floyd said, “We are excited to share for the first time some details about the development of our own, proprietary Stratolaunch launch vehicles, with which we will offer a flexible launch capability unlike any other.” The company also is working on a design for a reusable space plane that would launch from the Stratolaunch aircraft and could be used to transport cargo or crew.

The four vehicles are in varying stages of development. Pegasus already has an existing track record of over 35 successful launches, and can carry up to 370 kg. First flight from the Stratolaunch platform is expected in 2020. A medium launch vehicle (MLV), which can carry up to 3400 kg, is in development, with first flight expected in 2022. An MLV-Heavy that could lift 6000 kg into orbit is in the early stages of development. The reusable space plane is in the design-study phase. The Stratolaunch company was founded in 2011 by Paul Allen, a cofounder of Microsoft, whose personal fortune is estimated by Forbes at $20 billion.

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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Registration Open For GAMA Design Challenge
Mary Grady

High school classes in the U.S. can now sign up to compete in the 2019 Aviation Design Challenge, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association has announced. The annual competition aims to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education by offering an aviation curriculum and a virtual fly-off. “This will be our seventh consecutive year hosting this life-changing competition, and it will be our biggest one yet with our expansion of the school registration cap to 150 slots,” said GAMA President Pete Bunce. “This program is a valuable tool for us to not only help educate the nation’s students about the science of flight and airplane design, but also tell them about all the exciting career options that lie ahead for them in the general aviation industry.”

GAMA will provide registered schools with a six-week “Fly to Learn” curriculum that aligns with national STEM standards. The schools also will get free X-Plane flight simulator software. Teachers will guide students through the science of flight and airplane design. The teams will then modify an airplane design and complete a mission in a virtual fly-off. GAMA judges will score each team based on application of what they learned, and performance parameters. The winning team will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to experience general aviation manufacturing firsthand during the summer of 2019. In 2018, 130 schools in 39 states registered for the competition—a 37 percent increase from the year before. Several past winners and entrants are now pursuing careers in aviation, GAMA says.

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Short Final: Nuclear Smoke

I was flying IFR in VMC between St. Petersburg and Orlando Executive. Central Florida TRACON (Orlando Approach) was vectoring non‑commercial traffic over the top of Orlando International for an eventual turn to the north or continuation to the east. In my case, after passing over Orlando International, I would get a descending north turn followed by a northwest vector to intercept final approach for Runway 25 at Orlando Executive.

In front of my Cirrus SR22T was a slower Cessna C172 continuing east and then northeast to Daytona Beach.

Approach was vectoring the C172 away from my expected north turn. All was going well. The Cessna pilot’s young-sounding voice and careful response to vectors suggested he was a student or at least a low‑time pilot. He was doing a fine job interacting in a fast-paced environment.

East of Orlando International, the Cessna pilot was given a northeast heading. This new heading would take him over top the Stanton Energy Center, a coal‑burning relic east of Orlando whose twin cooling towers closely resemble any nuclear facility. It was then the Cessna pilot responded in a scratchy and seemingly doubtful voice that he was not sure he could continue as the track would take him very close to “nuclear smoke.”

Orlando approach was back on frequency after a few seconds delay, presumably caught off guard and warranting a high degree of professional self‑control. The controller advised the Cessna pilot that he would be fine passing over the power plant, however he could turn ten degrees right to keep the power plant on his left if he preferred. The new heading was exuberantly accepted.

The response from ATC was so well played our nervous Cessna colleague was likely oblivious to the controllers' well‑kept opinion of this unusual radio exchange.

Jim Stroh
Safety Harbor, FL
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