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Volume 25, Number 36b
September 5, 2018
 
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Japan Embraces eVTOL Vision
 
Mary Grady
 
 

Uber Elevate held its first Asia Pacific Expo last week, in Tokyo, where government officials said they are on board with the vision of creating urban transport systems with autonomous eVTOLs. “We see much potential in flying cars,” said Daisaku Hiraki, a vice-minister with Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. “I believe public and private sectors, including companies outside of Japan, should work collaboratively to develop this new technology.” Uber Elevate also named five finalists for the first international city to launch Uber Air services, and announced it will experiment with drone delivery.

Uber already has said it is working to test its aerial taxi service in Dallas and Los Angeles by 2020. The short list for the first international test site includes Japan, India, Australia, Brazil and France. Uber also is exploring the use of drones for its Uber Eats service, which provides quick home delivery of takeout meals. “Uber sees a compelling opportunity to bring the same benefits that urban aviation will bring its ride-sharing business to its food-delivery business,” according to the company’s news release. “By taking to the air, Eats will be able to offer faster, farther reaching, more affordable, and more reliable deliveries to more customers and restaurants across the world.”

They Call The Wind Betty
 
Paul Berge
 

No matter how much we who carp continue to carp, certain aviation themes will never change. It’s karma—what happens to pilots happens because we made it so.  An unchangeable percentage of aircraft will run out of gas or slide sideways off runways in the mildest of crosswinds, and—unrelated to safety but irksome—82 percent of our community will confuse “hangar” with “hanger,” regardless of how snarky and uppity we who correct the spelling errors on FBO bulletin boards get.

For the record, flight jackets are hung on hangars, while airplanes are stored inside … oh, carp! It’s too late, the two words have become interchangeable. Best to admit defeat and turn away from hopeless—albeit righteous—pursuits and tackle issues of lesser significance. Namely, how to land an airplane with minimal damage. Yeah, I’m aiming low.

Most aircraft will land if left unattended. Gravity giggles at our squishy attempts to overpower its grip. I once made a bad landing. And, then, the next time I attempted to land, I made another stinker … and another. Forty years later, I found myself grinding rubber off my Citabria’s left tire on a paved runway while landing in what—to my surprise—turned out to be a right crosswind, despite the AWOS promise that the wind would be from my left. Two lessons worth sharing: 1.) AWOS lies; it’s a computer, and all computers are evil; and, 2.) airplanes should only land on grass, because it’s much quieter than a hard surface. But, when instant karma strikes, you should always have something to blame, especially when flying solo.

Don’t underestimate the redemptive power of blame. Rare is the day goes by I don’t blame someone or something for my faults, which are really not my fault. How often have you attended a pilots lounge debrief and listened to the most recent arrival hold forth on the “tricky crosswinds,” as the assembled coffee-drinkers nod in unison as though winds of any kind play tricks? They don’t. Wind is just wind, and, although, that should be the end of any Zen treatise on the being of air, it’s not. 

Wind has no malice. It has no conscience, nor does it have intent. If it did, its desires would reach beyond our sniggling ambitions to navigate through the moving air while seated, white-knuckled, inside a beer can with wings pulled by a 50-year-old engine well past TBO. Nothing against beer, but the wind doesn’t give a fig about us. And yet, we worship it and even give it names, such as Williwaw, Scirocco or Mariah. Well, some people call the wind, Mariah, but I prefer to call the wind as I experience it. Or, Betty.

When my students —clutching their EAA caps—question if it’s too windy to fly, I smile in an insane old CFI way and shout into the gale, “The wind is our friend!” And, then, like Captain Ahab, offer great reward to those who will launch with me in a monomaniacal quest for the perfect wind. I’ve yet to encounter it, but I have tangled with a few contenders, only to discover that wind never sticks around to take credit for the havoc it wreaks. It morphs, shifts shape and steals into the night like a thief with your severed ego stashed inside its swag bag. Friend? I should think not, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all get along. Or at least recognize a bully and stay out of its way? Never! To do so is to shrink from the challenge, and that’s no way to handle a bully. Best to strike a Churchillian pose and spit in its eye.

Dwight D. Eisenhower may have once said, but likely didn’t, “To defeat a pernicious enemy you have to know it and, then, overwhelm it with unfathomable force.” Truth is you’ll never overwhelm the wind, but you can know a bit about it before taking it on. Know that’s it’s fickle and never blows in straight lines like in textbooks. In fact, it has no lines. Wind is a giant blob of swirling 3-D atmosphere, possibly moving in one general direction.

Picture a wind sock. This iconic tattered rag waves like a battle flag atop a skinny pole, several hundred feet from your touchdown spot. Much like its digital offspring, the AWOS/ASOS, it samples the movement of air—at that location and nowhere else. From its flapping reports we humans—the ones with the brains—interpret the semaphore: “Hey, winds outta the west … no, southwest ... no, wait, I mean northwest ….” And, somehow, we have to plant our three wheels on the centerline without a sideload. Only we don’t plant three wheels or shouldn’t.

Pop quiz: How many wheels are in a Cessna 172’s landing gear? The answer is two. The mains are the landing gear. The wheel under the nose is there to keep the prop from striking the runway. Extra credit: Why don’t we call it taking-off gear? After all, we use the wheels just as much for takeoff as landing … with the possible exception of complex airplanes that periodically take off on the wheels but land on the belly skins, a bad thing. 

Tailwheel pilots, shaking fists at the screen, know they can “three-point it on,” and that’s cool, because tailwheel pilots are above the ordinary. Still, try three-pointing it on with a stiff crosswind, and you may look silly as your Cub suddenly becomes a YouTube wind-T star. And we won’t even divert into the shibboleth of: “Which is the better way to land a taildragger in a crosswind—full-stall or wheel-landing?” The answer is, “Depends.” End of discussion, except, yeah, I know that only airplanes with tail skids are technically taildraggers.

Fourteenth century comedy writer, Dante Alighieri, wrote, “All hope abandon ye who enter here.” I guess it’s funnier in the original Italian, but the point is that, as applied to aviation, hope springs with every takeoff and shouldn’t be dashed upon arrival. My friend and fellow blogger, Paul Bertorelli, recently wrote a piece on appropriate approach speeds. You can click on it here or just take his word that … there are no appropriate, one-size-fits all airspeeds.

But I wouldn’t know, because I teach from the back seat of a tandem aircraft where I rarely see much of the instrument panel. Mostly I see backs of heads swaying opposite to turns, hinting that the student is uncoordinated or afraid of falling out. I also watch them stretch their necks in the landing flair to see over the cowling, when they should be slumping lazily into the seat and bringing that same nose up to avoid the inevitable flat-landing bounce, blush, swerve— “I got it!”—and go-around.  

I don’t need instruments to feel when the airplane is sinking on final—power … power … power! —or when we’re about to float over the corn, across the threshold and past the departure end. A CFI’s calibrated butt possesses sensitive Ground Proximity Warning Sensors (GPWS), there to save the host.

When it comes to crosswinds there’s no panel instrument in my world that gives an appropriate wind correction angle in that final few, gyrating seconds of approach, flair and flop. The AWOS is useless at this point, as is the wind sock, yet so proudly waving from the FBO’s ramparts a half-mile away. To get a little Zen here, again, you become the wind sock as flying beer can meets planet Earth at whatever appropriate airspeed the wind gods demand.

The angle between rolling it on straight or ripping off the sidewalls is determined by the appropriate sneaker pressing the rudder pedal, with an opposite-hand input poking the joystick or yoke into the wind. How much of each? Whatever works, because a good landing is more solo improv jazz than regimented marching band. Yer on yer own so blow cool, and the wind might not applaud, but at least you’ll know you’ve played your best.

Truthin’ time: If I don’t have a student on board I’ll blame “tricky winds,” “dust devils,” “lactose intolerance” or “air pockets” for any of my numerous mediocre landings, although only if someone witnesses it.  But, if you’re walking across the ramp and your toupee blows off, don’t blame Betty. She and I go way back, and I know that she can be malicious, but I also know that she doesn’t care if we launch or sit in the hangar on her busier days and carp.

skyBeacon Receives TSO Certification
 
Kate O'Connor
 
 

uAvionix announced that it has received Technical Standard Order Authorization (TSOA) for its skyBeacon integrated ADS-B Out solution on Tuesday. The skyBeacon was designed to replace the wingtip navigation or nav/strobe lights found on many aircraft including the Cessna 172 and Piper PA-28. It includes TSOs for the ADS-B, GPS, barometric altitude sensor, position light and anti-collision light and will meet the 2020 ADS-B requirements when paired with a Mode C or Mode S transponder.

"We were driven to innovate new solutions by the unique form factor of skyBeacon," said uAvionix Chief Operating Officer Ryan Braun. "This was especially true for the WAAS GPS, where no existing receiver could meet our size, cost and performance needs. This meant both designing our own GPS, and working with the FAA to develop a new process for certification of complex COTS solutions.”

uAvionix says that it expects STCs for multiple Cessna and Piper aircraft in the next few weeks and that “the STC data and installations satisfy FAA requirements,” allowing the skyBeacon to be installed on other compatible aircraft without an STC. For those cases, installation will qualify as a minor alteration as long as no airframe modifications are necessary. According to the company, typical installation time runs about an hour. Price for the skyBeacon is $1,849 and it will begin shipping once the STCs have been received.

In addition, uAvionix is working on certification for its tailBeacon, a similar ADS-B Out unit that replaces the aft aircraft position light. The company is also facing a lawsuit filed by Garmin regarding ownership of the ADS-B technology used in the skyBeacon.

NTSB: Jet-Eze Lost A Wing In Flight
 
Mary Grady
 
 

The jet-powered experimental airplane that crashed and burned in Tennessee on Saturday had lost its left wing in flight, NTSB investigators said in an update on Monday afternoon. Lance Hooley, 58, of Kissimmee, Florida, died in the crash. He had worked on the airplane for 13 years and built it from his own design, adapted from Burt Rutan’s two-seat Long EZ. It was powered by a GE-T58-8 engine.

Hooley was a JetBlue pilot and had started flight lessons at age 14. Although inspired by the Long EZ, Hooley’s aircraft differed substantially from the classic Rutan airplane. “It’s bigger, it’s longer, obviously it’s faster,” he told AVweb in an interview at Sun ’n Fun in 2017. “Internally, it’s totally different from a Long EZ.” At this year’s Sun ’n Fun, the aircraft won Best Owner Design in the Homebuilt category. The NTSB is expected to release a preliminary report next week.

Gone But Not Forgotten
 
Bo Henriksson
 
 

With the advent of computer graphics and easy access to a variety of weather information on new forms of avionics and handheld devices, there is no need for an extensive textual forecast—the FA.

While there are several excellent weather sources on the internet, we’ll use the NOAA suite (www.aviationweather.gov) for our illustrations. It may be argued that for the proficient instrument pilot, in a well-equipped airplane there are three “show-stoppers”; 1) below minima ceiling and visibility, 2) thunderstorms, and 3) Icing.

From the home display a variety of graphical presentations can be selected to address these critical flight conditions. Their presence (or forecast) can be quickly grasped with just a few clicks on a tablet or smartphone before departure. Color (not available in our illustrations) enhances the displays. As they say, “There’s an app for that.”

While a positive move, sometimes when we simplify things we may miss some essentials. There is no doubt that a competent pilot needs a good grasp of basic meteorology and be able to mentally analyze the weather as in the old Area Forecast.

Recall that a forecast is a fancy word for an educated guess. Any pilot with a few of hours of IMC has probably experienced their well laid plans going to the dogs. When this happens, you may have to become your own meteorologist, so let’s review the basics of understanding the weather—you could say that the weather boils down to water and heat (no pun intended).

Solar Heating

The earth experiences different amounts of solar heating based on daily and seasonal patterns. This results in irregular heating, generating variations in pressure. Since nature is said to abhor a vacuum (and indeed any differences) this causes wind. Throw in varying degrees of humidity and you have what we generally call weather.

That portion of the atmosphere in which we fly is called the troposphere (which varies from the surface to a height from 35,000 to 55,000 feet—depending on a polar or tropical location respectively). It is in the lower half of this region that most of our weather is generated.

Traditionally, an analysis of the weather is accomplished by plotting various data from a multitude of stations on a chart of the area of interest—pressure, temperature, humidity, wind, visibility and cloudiness. This was done manually by an observer at a fixed point, and (for practical purposes) often at an airport at certain standardized times.

Symbols were hand drawn on the map depicting the current observations and the meteorologist then put on his thinking cap and sharpened his crayons. Or at least that’s the way it was 30 years ago when I was in the Air Force. Much of this work is now automated (and augmented by satellites and powerful weather doppler radar) with computers doing the graphical magic—but the basics of an analysis remain the same.

Stations reporting equal air pressure (when reduced to the common denominator of Sea Level Altimeter Setting, known internationally as QNH) are connected to form isobars. Areas of High and Lows then clearly emerge. In the northern hemisphere wind flows clockwise around a High and vice versa, and with a higher velocity with a significant pressure gradient. Add to this the temperature and humidity characteristics of the air mass being looked at and you have a weather system.

Air Mass Characteristics

We cannot determine if it’s a “warm” or “cold” air mass by simply observing the temperature. The important aspect is the air temperature in relation to the underlying ground temperature.

A warm air mass will (by definition and logic) be cooled from beneath by the underlying ground.

Since cold air is heavier (higher density) than warm, it will not easily move vertically—hence the air is stable. This may sound like a good thing, and can sometimes be, since the air is often smooth. However, this also results in humidity and cloudiness being “locked” in various layers. Visibility will be poor, and with layered clouds over large areas (stratiform).

Stratus clouds are a good example, spread out like enormous wet blankets with fog and or widespread rain or snow making flight challenging for pilots.

The reverse is the cold air mass. Since it gets heated from below its properties are also opposite. Turbulent, though with usually with good visibility, and clouds of the cumulus type. If the vertical development is significant, and sufficient moisture is present, precipitation may occur in localized areas.

Because the skies are usually mostly clear, the daily variation in weather is large, while in the warm air mass the sun will not have much effect through the thick and spread out cloudiness.

Frontal Conditions

When we have air mass characteristics on our weather chart we can draw a line between the different air masses. This is known as a front. Depending on which air temperature is replacing the other (driven by the wind as depicted by drawing the isobars) either a cold or a warm front is defined. The “front” is the point at which the blue (cold) or red (warm) air on the map intersects the ground. What we really have is a frontal area where the air masses meet. This causes them to have different characteristics.

Warm air forcing away cold air produces a warm front and since the former has lower density, it has greater buoyancy. It therefore tends to gradually slide on top of the cold air over hundreds of miles. As it does, it forms the typical high-altitude cirrus clouds—little hook shaped wisps that can (since they’re far ahead of the front itself) often be visible days in advance—a handy forecast tool.

As the front approaches (or of course, if a pilot flies into it) we can expect gradually thickening, and lowering clouds. At some point the cloud may be dense enough to form precipitation (rain or snow). This can cause lowering visibility—an all too often occurrence at our destination airport.

The cold front (for the same reason) has relatively little depth to it and so the cumulonimbus may turn up quite quickly and cause a sudden deterioration with showery activity and localized strong winds. Depending on the strength of the front, airborne radar or ground derived data through Nexrad can sometimes be used for the pilot to safely find a passage through.

If the option chosen is to simply stick it out on the ground, remember that the cold front is not wide and intense activity often moves quickly, so the wait for it to clear may not be more than a few hours.

Some Final Thoughts

A professional meteorologist goes through years of higher education. As instrument pilots we have the advantage of firsthand real-time knowledge of the atmosphere they cannot possibly achieve. It’s therefore important that we share unusual or unforecast weather we experience by reporting it as PIREPs to ATC or FSS.

There are many excellent books on meteorology as well as online material. For those of us who still enjoy the touch of paper, I recommend The Handy Weather Answer Book by Walter Lyons, which is easy QA reading. A more in-depth treatment is Case Studies in Meteorology by Patrick S Market et al. Used copies of either book can be found on Amazon for a few dollars.


Bo Henriksson is a captain with a regional carrier and has more than 15,000 flight hours.


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

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

FAA Warns Against Wrong-Surface Landings
 
Mary Grady
 
 

In the last two years, 596 aircraft in the U.S. landed or almost landed on the wrong runway or wrong airport, and 85 percent of those events involved general aviation aircraft, according to the FAA. At a recent Safety Summit held in Leesburg, Virginia, the FAA said these types of incidents are one of the top five hazards in aviation. “I’m asking each of you to make this a priority,” FAA Acting Administrator Daniel Elwell said at the meeting, according to a report by NBAA. In a recent Safety Alert for Operators (PDF), the FAA cited several best practices for pilots to ensure they are lining up on the correct runway, such as checking Notams, stabilizing the approach, making good use of the available technology and being ready to go around if needed.

The probability of being involved in a wrong-surface event is highest when operating in visual conditions, according to the FAA, and more than 90 percent of the incidents occur in daylight. Airfield geometry, communications and expectation bias also play a role. About 75 percent of incidents involve parallel runways, and parallel taxiways also can cause confusion. At the summit, Teri Bristol, chief operating officer at the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization, said pilots need to be aware of the issue. “We’ve had some close calls, and we’re very concerned,” she said. The NTSB will release its final report later this month on the near-miss in San Francisco last year when an A320 crew lined up on a taxiway instead of the runway.

XCub Certified In Canada And Japan
 
Kate O'Connor
 
 

CubCrafters has announced that its two-seat XCub received type certification from Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA) and the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) last week. The company has been growing steadily since 2009 and recently announced plans to significantly increase production in 2019. According to CubCrafters, the first XCub delivery has already landed in Japan.

“XCub is finding an ever-larger audience in international markets,” said CubCrafters Vice President of Sales and Marketing Brad Damm. “The increasing list of approvals for the XCub from international aviation authorities is an important part of our plan to expand the market reach of the CubCrafters product line.”

The XCub received its FAA type certification in June 2016 and EASA certification in April 2018. In the two years since the aircraft’s introduction, options for the XCub continue to evolve with CubCrafters becoming the first company to amend a type certificate to allow non-certified or non-TSO'd avionics when it announced that it would be offering Garmin’s G3X Touch in the Part 23-certified aircraft in June 2017. The company also began to offer factory-installed floats for the XCub in March 2018.

The XCub is powered by a 180-HP Lycoming O-360. In standard configuration, it has a range of 800 miles, cruises at 145 MPH and has a useful load of 1,084 pounds. Base price for the XCub is $333,400.

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FAA: White-tailed Deer No.1 Strike Hazard
 
Mary Grady
 
 

In a recent Advisory Circular on wildlife hazards to aviation (PDF), the FAA ranked the white-tailed deer as the most dangerous animal, with 84 percent of deer strikes causing damage to the aircraft. The rest of the top 10 hazards are birds, especially the snow goose, turkey vulture and Canada goose. The only other mammal in the top 20 is the coyote. The FAA notes that the ranking includes only species with at least 100 reported strikes of civil aircraft, and the hazard scores are based on the amount of damage and the effect on the flight.

Several hazardous species, such as great egrets, black vultures and white pelicans, are not ranked only because they had not been struck often enough to make the cut. “Although these hazard rankings can help focus hazardous wildlife management efforts on those species or groups that represent the greatest threats to safe air operations in the airport environment,” the AC notes, “care should be given to consider any hazardous species of significant mass, flocking or flight behavior, or habitat preferences [as a danger to aircraft].” In 2016, pilots reported 13,408 wildlife strikes. Reports can be submitted online or via mobile phone.

Short Final: Bird Dog
 

I was working field operations at a major airport and got this call:

Ground: Ops 1, Ground.

Me: Go ahead.

Ground: We just got a report of a dead animal about the thousand‑foot markers on Runway 13.

Me: Is that the previously reported dog that we cleared?

Ground: Negative. I’m seeing feathers.

From an unidentified aircraft: It’s a Bird Dog!

That was followed by an avalanche of microphone clicks and laughter.

Jonathan Friedman
Morristown, NJ
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