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Volume 25, Number 36c
September 7, 2018
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PAFI To Resume Testing Unleaded Avgas
Kate O'Connor

The FAA’s Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI) will resume testing a possible unleaded replacement for avgas this fall, according to AOPA. The FAA suspended most PAFI testing operations in June to assess issues related to the differences between 100LL and the two unleaded test fuels—one developed by Shell and one by Swift Fuels. That announcement was followed by Swift Fuels halting its work with the program in late August to pursue development and certification of an unleaded avgas replacement outside of PAFI.

The PAFI Steering Group made the decision to resume testing on the Shell fuel at its quarterly meeting, which was held at AOPA Headquarters in Frederick, Maryland, at the end of August. Peter White, the FAA’s alternative fuels program leader, said in an interview with AOPA that the break in testing has provided time for development of mitigations for the problems encountered. White also said that the FAA has been working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding future regulation of leaded avgas.

Originally scheduled to wrap up in December 2018, the end date for PAFI testing has been pushed to late 2019. The FAA has said that it is also interested in seeing data on unleaded fuels developed outside of PAFI.

Can Dynon's Installation Policy Really Work?
Larry Anglisano

With its Certified SkyView HDX line, Dynon is seeking to effectively upend the established way of doing business in the world of avionics upgrades. Rather than only building dealer relationships with avionics shops who act as sales agents, Dynon will push the idea of any shop with a qualified A&P/IA installing this equipment. Some readers and other manufacturers have criticized this idea, perhaps for the wrong reasons. In case you missed it, read the story here

The Dynon Certified retrofit glass system started life in the experimental market as the HDX, but now has an STC for installation in Cessna Skyhawks and soon, some models of the Beech Bonanza. The company has plenty of other airframes on its STC to-do list. But while the Skyhawk STC has been in place for a while, not many have been installed, likely because there are just two shops authorized by Dynon to do it: Thrust Flight in Texas and Merrill Field Instruments in Alaska. 

The lack of an established dealer network for such a sizable product line is surprising, and Dynon’s Michael Schofield told me the company is sorting out which other shops it will select as authorized Dynon Certified installation centers. It will be a network that’s different than the one for Dynon’s experimental products. In the interim, it will be up to the aircraft owner to nominate an A&P with IA (inspection authorization) credentials to do the installation. The customer contracts directly with the installer for all aspects of the install, including instrument panel modification or fabrication. While some have suggested these major avionics retrofits—which include Dynon’s integrated autopilot—should be left to an avionics repair station, I think that’s a shortsighted, old-school way of thinking. I’ve seen plenty of horrific installs turned out by avionics shops and plenty of best-of-show projects done by IAs.

For talent that fits somewhere in the middle, Dynon insists that an A&P with a current IA certificate should be more than qualified to install the Certified HDX line and in many circumstances, I agree. An IA has much of the same inspection and signing authority as an FAA repair station, plus many avionics repair stations have IAs on staff. Suggesting that a competent and practicing IA (two imperative prerequisites) isn’t qualified to do the job might be insulting, especially considering the number of successful experimental avionics that have been installed by homebuilders who have little if any avionics experience at all—and not just Dynon equipment. Garmin’s G3X Touch suite (which includes an autopilot) is installed in a wide variety of IFR-flying experimental amateur built aircraft. You don’t have to hold any certificate to put one in.

Historically, Dynon has done a pretty good job of designing products that curtail and simplify the installation effort. It provides preassembled wiring harnesses and is simplifying and customizing the installation hardware for easier retrofit. Dynon’s field support and installation documentation is quite good, based on my own experience. But Dynon isn’t putting faith in every A&P/IA without doing some vetting first, although Schofield told me it’s the aircraft owner’s responsibility to ensure the work being done is airworthy. Still, Dynon won’t sell the STC authorization—which will specifically identify the name of the installing IA (or an FAA repair station)—or honor the warranty without verifying the individual selected by the customer has the right credentials. After all, the IA or repair station will be accepting the liability by signing the FAA Form 337. The installation also requires a flight manual supplement, a revised weight-and-balance report, a logbook entry and instructions for continued airworthiness.

Dynon expects that many of these installers will have previous avionics installation experience, perhaps on their own aircraft or on other experimental aircraft. That’s an obvious question for you to ask when nominating an installer for your own Dynon project. If the A&P hasn't installed anything more modern than a Narco Superhomer, you might want to find one who has because there will be a steep learning curve, in my estimation. Moreover, an IA who keeps the certificate current, but isn’t actively doing airframe work or doesn’t understand EFIS technology, might not be the best candidate. There will be wiring that’s interfaced with third-party equipment, including IFR navigators, audio systems and antennas. There’s also software configuration, including setting the autopilot gains and other post-install tweaks. The interface also includes mandate-compliant ADS-B Out.

Dynon is launching its Certified HDX system into a competitive EFIS retrofit display market—which will become even more competitive overnight if Garmin certifies its G3X Touch. It’s no secret that Garmin is dominant on the shop level, but a good shop is one that presents a buyer with options, including other brands with comparable capabilities. If your shop doesn’t, I would consider going elsewhere. Still, I suspect Dynon is at least somewhat concerned that some shops will push Garmin retrofits over the Certified HDX. While Dynon made it clear that it eventually plans to build Certified HDX dealerships at larger avionics shops (in addition to supporting A&P/IAs to do the work), I predict we’ll see more Dynon dealerships at smaller shops than at larger ones, especially those that don’t sell Garmin or may not even hold a repair station certificate. There are plenty of them. 

“From our perspective, we’ll be looking for capability and quality more than the very particular FAA credential,” Schofield said. Until Dynon builds its network of installers that fit that criteria, it’s up to the aircraft owner to find one they trust. Like it or not, it’s a departure from the old-school regulatory mentality the industry has been determined to fix. And it uniquely gives customers more choice and influence in the way avionics are installed. That's a big step forward.

Larry Anglisano is editor of Aviation Consumer magazine.

Airbus Talks Airspace Integration
Kate O'Connor

Altiscope, the Unmanned Traffic Management group from A3 by Airbus, released a document that it is calling a “roadmap for the safe integration of autonomous aircraft” on Wednesday. Airbus says its Blueprint for the Sky is designed to open conversation on industry evolution and the policies and rule-making that can regulate autonomous operations.

“The shift to self- and remotely-piloted aircraft is exciting, and enables all manner of new opportunities. It also brings risks that need to be addressed now,” said Airbus CEO Tom Enders. “The airspace of tomorrow can only deliver on its promise through collaboration—regulators, manufacturers, service providers, investors and consumers, all working together with a common understanding.”

Before publication, Blueprint for the Sky was reviewed by individuals from institutions including the International Air Transport Association, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, National Air Traffic Controllers Association and World Economic Forum. The 29-page document (PDF) discusses future airspace needs, potential impacts of changes in aircraft, airspace and airports, and how to develop tools for enabling airspace integration.

A3’s Altiscope is described as “a simulator for evaluating policy options and operational models for [air traffic management] systems.” A3 is also working on Airbus’ Vahana, a self-piloted, electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft.

Historic Flying Boat To Attend Wings & Wheels
Kate O'Connor

A restored Curtiss Model F flying boat is scheduled to be in attendance at this year’s Wings & Wheels benefit event at Keuka Lake in Hammondsport, New York, on Sept. 15 and 16. The aircraft first flew off of Keuka Lake 104 years ago. It is owned by the Massachusetts-based Collings Foundation and was recently restored by Century Aviation in Wenatchee, Washington. The Model F will be assembled on-site and, if conditions allow, take a short flight over the lake.

Sponsored by the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum, the two-day Wings & Wheels event combines seaplanes and classics cars for a variety of activities including seaplane takeoff and landing competitions, spectator-judged car shows, seaplane rides and a banquet held at the museum. So far, event organizers say that 18 aircraft are registered with more expected to sign up in the week before the show. There will also be show space available for approximately 80 classic and exotic cars each day.

Proceeds from the event go to the nonprofit Glenn Curtiss Museum, which sees more than 30,000 visitors come through its doors each year. 2017 was the first year for the combined seaplane and car show—earning a name change to Wings & Wheels—but the museum has been flying restored and replica aircraft since 1999. Funds are used to support facility care and maintenance, exhibits, collections care and public programming.

Accident Probe: A Turn Too Late
Joseph E. (Jeb) Burnside

It’s easy to look at controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) accidents as the kind you’ll never get into. Sure; you may suffer an engine failure from contaminated fuel, or scrape a wingtip while landing in a stiff crosswind or even forget to put down the gear before landing. But flying a perfectly good airplane into the side of a mountain? Never happen. The thing is, I’m relatively certain every pilot who was ever involved in a CFIT accident said the same thing at one point or another, perhaps right up until the moment a tree trunk came through the windshield.

The point is that a CFIT accident can happen to the best of us—and the worst. All it takes is loss of situational awareness, perhaps some bad weather and the misplaced confidence that all is well, that there’s nothing to worry about and that the last thing that will happen is flying into terrain.

The NTSB defines controlled flight into terrain, or CFIT, as: “When an airworthy aircraft under the control of the flight crew is flown unintentionally into terrain, obstacles or water, usually with no prior awareness by the crew.” A lot of what we know about these accidents comes from the recording devices available aboard larger transports required to have them. Invariably, these were crewed aircraft, those being flown by two or more pilots.

At the same time, those accidents share many common factors when single-pilot general aviation operators are involved in CFIT, with the principal difference being there’s no second pilot available to question the airplane’s trajectory. The sidebar below lists 12 factors common to CFIT among GA (i.e., single-pilot) operations. This month’s accident features some of them and might serve as a poster child for CFIT involving a GA aircraft.


On March 26, 2015, at about 1220 Mountain time, a Canadian-registered Piper PA-32R-301 Saratoga collided with mountainous terrain about 16 miles northeast of Townsend, Mon. The private pilot was fatally injured; the passenger was seriously injured. The airplane sustained substantial damage. A mix of visual and instrument conditions was present along the route.

The flight received VFR flight-following services from the non-radar approach control facility at Helena, Mon. At about 1220, the pilot reported reversing his course due to clouds in the area. Shortly thereafter, the controller lost communications with the pilot, a not uncommon occurrence for the location.

The passenger later stated weather closed in and they were soon in the clouds. She recalled the pilot turning the airplane right to try to exit the clouds and heard the pilot tell ATC they were turning around. She heard a computer voice inside the cabin state “terrain,” followed by a partial “terr...,” and then the airplane impacted the wooded, snow-covered terrain. The passenger used her cell phone to contact local authorities and report the crash.


The accident site was at an elevation of 8,350 feet MSL. A 300-foot-long debris field was oriented on a heading of about 350 degrees magnetic. Review of radar data revealed a target consistent with the accident airplane traveling on a southbound heading at an altitude of 8,450 feet MSL before climbing over the next 10 minutes to about 9,500 feet.

Two minutes later, the target initiated multiple turns while climbing to 10,125 feet over mountainous terrain with peaks reaching 9,400 feet. The last two minutes of the radar track depicted the target heading southbound and paralleling a ridgeline while descending to an altitude of 9,300 feet before disappearing from radar. After detecting the airplane’s emergency locator transmitter, a search-and-rescue team reached the accident site at 1810. The team reported encountering severe winter weather conditions.

The 632-hour private pilot earned his instrument rating when he had 24 hours of experience in actual IMC. At the time of the accident, he had logged a total of 27 hours of instrument time, none of which were in the last 90 days.

Examination of the airframe and engine revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation. The airplane’s equipment included an iPad with terrain avoidance software. This software likely provided an audible voice alert of “terrain” during the accident sequence.

The pilot received official weather briefings for the flight from Lockheed Martin Flight Service both by phone and electronically. The telephone briefing included the presence of clouds along the route of flight and Airmets for turbulence, icing and mountain obscuration. VFR flight was not recommended in areas of higher terrain with mountain obscuration.

None of the weather information obtained specifically mentioned the possibility of mountain wave activity over the mountainous terrain. A simulation considered weather conditions surrounding the accident site at the accident time. The simulation indicated the flight likely encountered downdrafts with a velocity between 500 and 900 fpm in the accident site area.

At 1153, weather observed 32 miles northwest of the accident site at 3,877 feet MSL included wind from 280 degrees at 18 knots, visibility 10 sm and an overcast at 4,800 feet AGL. At 1129, peak wind was from 280 degrees at 29 knots.

Probable Cause

The NTSB determined the probable cause(s) of this accident to include: “The pilot’s decision to depart on and to continue a visual flight rules flight over mountainous terrain into instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in controlled flight into terrain. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s lack of recent instrument flight experience, which exacerbated his difficulty in maintaining control of the airplane while encountering downdrafts and mountain obscuration conditions.”

It should come as no surprise that this accident features some common risk factors associated with CFIT accidents: A VFR-only pilot (who possessed an instrument rating but lacked currency and obviously was trying to maintain VFR), mountainous terrain at least partially obscured by clouds and strong up- and downdrafts associated with relatively stiff winds.

This accident could have been mitigated if the pilot had chosen a different route, one avoiding high terrain, or if he had waited for better weather. Once aloft and over the mountains, windy conditions forced the airplane into rough, disorienting air. The correct decision—to turn around—ultimately was made, but it came too late to do any good.

Preventing CFIT

A February 2000 report from the General Aviation Controlled Flight Into Terrain Joint Safety Imple-mentation Team included a list of 12 risk factors associated with CFIT when VFR pilots operate in areas of reduced visibility. They include:

(1) Loss of aircraft control.

(2) Loss of situational awareness.

(3) Reduced reaction time to see and avoid rising terrain or obstacles.

(4) Inability of the pilot to operate the aircraft at its minimum controllable airspeed.

(5) Getting lost or being off the preplanned flightpath and impacting terrain or obstacle.

(6) Reduced pilot reaction time in the event of an aircraft maintenance problem because of a low or lowering altitude.

(7) Failure to adequately understand the weather conditions that resulted in the reduced conditions.

(8) Breakdown in good aeronautical decision-making.

(9) Failure to comply with appropriate regulations.

(10) Failure to comply with minimum safe altitudes.

(11) Increased risk of hitting one of many new low-altitude towers installed for cellular tele-phones and other types of transmissions. This risk is especially great along major highways if VFR pilots try to follow a highway when lost or trying to stay under a lowering ceiling.

(12) Failure to turn around and avoid deteriorating conditions when first able.

Aircraft Profile: Piper PA-32R-301 Saratoga SP/II HP

Engine: Lycoming IO-540-K1G5

Empty Weight: 1,999 lbs.

Max Gross Takeoff Weight: 3,600 lbs.

Typical Cruise Speed: 158 KTAS

Standard Fuel Capacity: 102 gal.

Service Ceiling: 15,588 feet

Range: 784 nm


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

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Spike: Supersonic Jets Will Meet Eco-Standards
Mary Grady

Responding to recent concerns from environmental groups about potential pollution from supersonic jets, Spike Aerospace says the jet they are working on will “minimize emissions, maximize fuel efficiency and economy, as well as reduce noise around airport zones.” The jet also will have to meet “stringent requirements” set by both the FAA and ICAO. “Our hope is that before environmental groups lobby the Senate to ban supersonic flight, they seek to understand more about what Spike Aerospace and our competitors are doing to minimize the impact,” Spike says in its news release. 

The Senate is now considering legislation that would lift or modify the current ban on supersonic flight above the land areas of the U.S. The International Council for Clean Transportation and a coalition of 38 environmental and health advocacy groups asked the Senate to uphold the current restrictions. In its news release, Spike said: “We welcome discussions with environmental groups to understand concerns and considerations important to them.” CEO Vik Kachoria added, "I believe it is completely unacceptable to advance technology or transportation at the detriment of the environment or the community. That is simply irresponsible."

Boeing Tanker Now FAA-Certified
Mary Grady

The FAA has granted a Supplemental Type Certificate to Boeing’s KC-46 tanker, the company announced this week. The STC is the second of two FAA certifications required for the aircraft. Next, Boeing will seek a Military Type Certificate from the U.S. Air Force, which is expected in the next few months. The required testing already has been completed. Once that certificate is received, the aircraft will be ready to fly, Boeing said.

Boeing said it is currently on contract for the first 34 of an expected 179 tankers for the USAF. The KC-46 will refuel military aircraft in flight, and also will be able to take on fuel to extend its range. Deliveries are expected to begin in October, with a total cost of about $44 billion, according to a recent government report. The KC-46 is derived from Boeing’s commercial 767 airframe and built in the company’s facility in Everett, Washington.

Picture of the Week, September 6, 2018
Flying over the mountains of the North Island of New Zealand with my friend in a rental Cessna 172. Taken with a Lumix camera. Copyrighted photo by Glen Towler.

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NASA Tests Flight Planning Software
Kate O'Connor

In partnership with Alaska Airlines, NASA is testing cockpit-based flight planning software that is designed to save time and fuel using real-time flight data. Developed by NASA, the Traffic Aware Planner (TAP) software optimizes routes using factors like real-time weather, winds, air traffic and aircraft fuel burn, including associated weight and performance changes. The tablet-based program can update recommended routes as often as every 60 seconds as conditions change throughout the flight.

"Route optimization is not a new concept," said Alaska Airlines director of fleet technology support Bret Peyton. "But having a truly rich set of real-time data to use for decision-making after departure is where the game-changing capabilities of TAP come into play." Alaska is currently using TAP on three of its aircraft. Each one is flying several flights a week during the eight-month-long trial period while NASA gathers data on the program’s effectiveness. According to Peyton, Alaska is approaching 50 flights flown with the new software.

NASA says that early evaluations of TAP look promising, showing savings of roughly 400 to 500 pounds of fuel and about four minutes of flight time on average during simulated airline flights. Real-world results have also yielded positive results, with five of Alaska’s first six TAP-assisted flights resulting in route changes that saved time and/or fuel. The TAP software is part of NASA’s Traffic Aware Strategic Aircrew Requests (TASAR) project.

Flight Bag Roundup
Larry Anglisano

The pilot's flight bag has gotten smaller over the years and in a market flooded with compact flight totes, four bags—all with different styling—survived our long-term evaluation and earned our critical praise. In this video, Aviation Consumer Editor Larry Anglisano offers a close look at four favorites on the Aviation Consumer evaluation bench.

Brainteasers Quiz #247: What's Ahead Can't Be Left Behind

As Space Force cadets boldly reach for the Sun and galaxy quests beyond, it's incumbent upon those left behind to maintain the aviation traditions that lead to successful sub-orbital flight while acing this earthly quiz.

Click here to take the quiz.

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