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Volume 25, Number 37a
September 10, 2018
 
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AOPA Nall Report: Accident Rates Drop Again
 
Kate O'Connor
 
 

Both overall and fatal accident rates in general aviation have reached a 10-year low according to the AOPA Air Safety Institute’s Joseph T. Nall Report. Report data showed fatal crashes decreasing to just 0.84 per 100,000 hours. This year’s Nall Report (PDF) reviewed trends in general aviation accidents from 2015, the most recent year for which at least 80 percent of the accidents that occurred have had probable cause determined.

Although accidents with pilot-related causes also dropped to their lowest point in the last decade, they are still the leading cause of non-commercial, fixed-wing accidents by a wide margin. According to the report, they make up approximately 74 percent of all accidents and 74.5 percent of fatal accidents. “These accidents are often caused by lack of proficiency and poor decision making, and they typically lead to controlled flight into terrain, loss of control, or continued VFR flight into IMC,” Air Safety Institute Executive Director Richard McSpadden wrote in in his Publisher’s View column in the report. “We will continue to provide critical education in these areas. But as an industry we need to do more to improve these undesirable statistics, and foremost, accelerate our effort to reach those that are vulnerable to pilot error.”

Accidents related to mechanical and maintenance issues made up about 16 percent of the overall total. The FAA estimated that 23.98 million hours were flown in 2015, an increase of 3.6 percent over the previous year. The first Nall Report was published in 1991.

Aireon Casts A Net
 
Mary Grady
 

We all may still be waiting for our flying cars and jetpacks, but there’s no question the future has arrived, in ways more subtle but irrefutable. There was the live video of two SpaceX rockets landing on their tails in Florida earlier this year. There’s the imminent first flight of the giant Stratolaunch space plane. And now there’s Aireon, a network of satellites that will make it possible for any aircraft equipped with ADS-B to be tracked anywhere on the planet. No need to send out search planes—a technician at a screen will pinpoint the site of the downed aircraft, and relay the coordinates to rescue teams within minutes.

The project was inspired, at least in part, by the loss of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370, which went missing in 2014. Today, flights across the oceans or in polar regions lose touch with tracking systems, and ATC relies on pilot reports, and flight plans filed in advance, to estimate their position. When MH370 went silent, searchers had limited resources to work with, and 239 souls on board remain lost.

Wikipedia lists 43 flights that have gone missing since 1970, including balloons attempting to cross the Atlantic, DC-3s, private jets and cargo planes. A Piper Warrior vanished somewhere in British Columbia in 2017. That loss is a reminder that even here in the Western world, there are big blank spaces on the map where humans seldom tread.

One of the more famous GA losses in recent years was the disappearance in 2007 of Steve Fossett, the multiple-record-holding pilot who took off from Nevada on a solo pleasure flight in a Super Decathlon and never returned. Despite an online search by hundreds of volunteers who scrutinized Google Earth images for signs of the airplane, it was found by chance in 2008 when a hiker happened upon the site.

Presumably, once Aireon goes online next year, this kind of mystery will be a thing of the past. In another 10 or 20 years, the idea of a lost airplane will be as foreign as the rotary-dial phone or rabbit-ear TV antennas. But seldom does something good occur without a flip side. In this case, we lose a little of the awe and dread of living on Earth, the sense that there are places on the planet, wide and empty, that remain unknown and unknowable. It’s a small price to pay for saved lives, but it’s a price worth noting.

The Strange But True Story of the Cornfield Bomber
 
Glenn Pew
 
 

AVweb blogger Paul Berge recently observed--only half in jest--that an airplane would land itself if left unattended. It has happened, as this AVweb classic video shows. The incident, which occurred in 1970, has become known as the Cornfield Bomber. After the pilot ejected because he couldn't recover from a flat spin, the airplane righted itself and landed in a cornfield. It was recovered, repaired and flew again. This video details one of the most bizarre incidents in aviation history. 

 

Lycoming 'When can an engine give you 200 extra flying hours?'
Japan Embraces VTOL Development
 
Russ Niles
 
 

While most countries are taking a regulatory approach to VTOLs and other “flying car” technology, Japan is making their development a government priority. The Japanese government has been actively soliciting companies who have some skin in the point-to-point transportation game to develop a coordinated approach to help solve some daunting transportation challenges. According to TransportUp.com, the Ministry of Trade, Economy and Industry started meeting with private and public sector players last month in what it calls the “mobility service.” The list so far includes some prominent names.

This week Subaru and Boeing joined Toyota, Japan Airlines, ANA and Yamato Holdings (Japan’s FedEx) in getting the ball rolling. A major meeting of all those minds came together in the Public-Private Conference for Future Air Mobility on Aug. 29. The government wants a nationwide game plan for integrating the new technology into its transportation system. It has powerful incentive to overcome the legendary traffic problems, mountainous terrain and crowded urban areas that make getting from place to place difficult.

Drone Encounters Boost Separation Incidents
 
Russ Niles
 
 

The U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says drone encounters accounted for almost the entire 58 percent increase in air proximity reports (airproxes) in the past five years. The BBC analyzed data from the CAA that says the airprox total jumped from 172 in 2013, when there were no drone complaints, to 272 in 2017, including 93 drone complaints. The drone spotting accounted for more than half of the 45 “category A” airproxes, the most serious and potentially dangerous. If the drone numbers are set aside, the separation incident rate is actually down because there was more traffic in 2017 but virtually the same number of manned aircraft involved in separation incidents.

Even though pilots and controllers seem to be at least as capable of avoiding collisions now as they were five years ago, the CAA is still hoping general aviation operators will embrace installation of low cost ADS-B transceivers. It has established an Electronic Conspicuity program and approved inexpensive devices that broadcast position reports from GA aircraft and drones. Unlike in the U.S., the CAA has not mandated ADS-B equipage and is hoping for voluntary compliance.

F-16 Plant May Move To India
 
Russ Niles
 
 

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Lockheed Martin has reached a deal to shift production of F-16 wings to India, sparking speculation it might be planning to build the entire aircraft there in the near future. Tata Advanced Systems Ltd., of Hyderabad, already makes airframe components for the C-130J and Sikorsky S-92 helicopter but the F-16 deal is a major step up from that involvement. Initially at least, all the production would be for export but stock analyst website Motley Fool says it might be just the first step in a long-range plan to keep the world’s most popular jet fighter in production for years to come.

For years there has been speculation that Lockheed would shutter its Fort Worth F-16 plant due to slumping demand and its preoccupation with getting the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program in order. India is shopping for up to 126 new fighters and the F-16 is in the running. Having the industrial presence in India would likely give it a leg up in that competition. And since wages in India are a fraction of labor costs in the U.S., Motley Fool says moving production of the whole plane could make the ubiquitous Viper even more accessible to smaller countries that are unable to afford the F-35. Lockheed Martin wants the wing plant up and running by 2020.

Overloaded Plane Crash Kills 19 In South Sudan
 
Russ Niles
 
 

Officials in South Sudan say an overloaded aircraft (type unknown) crashed into a river in the central part of the country, killing 19 of the 23 aboard. The aircraft was described by officials as having 19 passenger seats and said it crashed while on approach to the airport in Yirol. Among the four survivors are two children and an Italian doctor. Among the dead are the local Anglican bishop and Red Cross and government officials.  Witnesses said it was foggy at the time of the accident.

The officials said identifying those on board is complicated by the fact that only 20 of the 23 were listed on a passenger manifest. The aircraft ended up partly submerged in shallow water in the river. The flight originated the capital city of Juba, about 200 miles south of the crash site.

Top Letters And Comments, September 7, 2018
 
 

Dynon’s Installation Policy

This is long overdue and a step in the right direction. Now if the other manufacturers would follow suit...

Jonathan Cullifer

I agree with everything you said, Larry. Good article. I'm one of the "capable" you referred to. And I'll add a "twist" to your comments. I'm an A&P with 40 years experience plus USAF (ret) and defense contractor background. When I decided to put ADS-B in my C172, I waited until single box 1090 MHz solutions came online. When the 800 pound 'Gorilla' came out with their single box solution for 'out' and 'in,' I wanted one but found out they wouldn't sell it to me, wouldn't give me the STC license or activate the warranty. I could find a way to buy it but without the above ... what was the point in spending ~$6K? Every time I tried, I was pointed at one of THEIR dealer networks. Well ... those shops employ a lot of younger A&P wannabe types who have no vested interest in taking care of my now 42 year old airplane. In one case, I was treated rudely when I told them I wanted to do the install part of the work because I wanted things done MY way. I'm particular. Finally -- for reasons I don't know of -- the Gorilla decided to sell their ADS-B 'out' only box on a promo package. Needing a transponder, I decided to go that way at Airventure 2017. When I activated the purchase, an email came in with about 15 different documents, license to use and manuals electronically. I found that several manuals were the wrong version. When I asked for help or needed questions answered, they refused and pointed me back at the selling dealer who -- fortunately -- WAS helpful. The process was painful but not insurmountable. In the end, the box is installed to my satisfaction, was certified and works fine.

The 800 pound Gorilla makes fine equipment but overly protects it's dealers and locks out those of us in the field who DO know what they're doing. I had words with them over this. They don't seem to care. So I predict that if and when the G3X STC's for certificated airplanes appear, the same MO will prevail. Accordingly, I applaud what Dynon is doing and told them so at Airventure 2018. I'd go a step further. I'd recommend that they produce premade instrument panels to alleviate A&P/IA's having to make these. CAD/CAM produced standard panels would be a snap and make the installation easier. There's a revenue stream there, I'd say. If Dynon doesn't want to do it, they should find shops who could work with owners to do it. Dynon's idea of premade cables and hub and spoke wiring is great, too. I predict they'll own the market ... especially if the Gorilla continues to operate in the manner they're operating in now. As Jonathon said above, this idea is long overdue. Few folks can afford or justify new airplanes so avionics upgrade of older machines is their only alternative. It's still expensive but for anyone with a good machine they like and enough time to enjoy them ... I think this is the way to go.

Just to be clear. I don't begrudge the "Gorilla" just because they're successful or to be contrary. I think their equipment IS among the best, I have some and will have more. What I object to is their business model MO. Every time I think about how long I had to wait before I could get, what I had to go through to do it and the less than helpful attitudes of their dealers ... it peeps me off. From the time I learned how to fly nearly 50 years ago until the early 2000's, King Kong was the avionics name of choice. If you owned a Cessna without it ... it wasn't as desirable. Now, you'd be hard pressed to find any in a new airplane. And, some of their equipment is now rebranded from other company equipment. How did that happen, you ask. They got cocky, overpriced their stuff and made it all far too hard Along comes the 'miniature cow' -- now known as the Gorilla -- who ate their lunch and grew into 'the Gorilla.' If they're not careful, maybe Dynon's new MO will eat theirs? If nothing else, there'll be a food fight. That'll be good for all of us. When I examined the 1090 transponder I bought, I found that they designed a 62 pin (sic) connector into it. In the end, all I minimally needed was to use the power and ground pins. What genius did THAT? And, every time I think about the fact that I wanted the full up out and in box but couldn't get it ... it angers me. I WANTED to give them more money but their "MO" wouldn't allow it. Later, I found I needed a software upgrade to use the GPS position info ... can't get it direct. Good job, Gorilla. And at Airventure, I came across a Company in the Innovation kiosk who has a new product which will be competing with both the Gorilla and Dynon and I predict will -- ultimately -- drive the price of horizon and DG replacement instruments down. Let's just see. I plan on buying some. If I was a younger man and not retired (and enjoying the heck out of it), I'd establish a small dealership to install the stuff. Where I spend my summers, there's only a couple of places to have avionics installed and guess who owns that market. Unfortunately, I'm not interested in taking on more work so ... aside from work for friends ... I ain't hanging my shingle out. But ... I'd love to give 'em a run for their money ... same money they won't accept from me :-)

Larry Stencel

This is the only way to get into the certified marketplace. As Larry has said, the 800lb Gorilla has made most avionics shops comfortable only giving 800lb Gorilla quotes. While many shops claim to represent a variety of avionics manufactures, most customers would be hard pressed to get a quote outside of the Gorilla's. And if brand X is quoted, it is usually very heavily padded to make up for the learning curve that is required for a new install. Shops are accustom to one brand over another and rarely move out of that comfort zone. So, the consumer is forced to find out what the shop is comfortable with. The consumer must find the shop that is comfortable with the installation of the chosen avionics or capitulate to the Gorilla's offering. Many aviation consumers end up capitulating because the options are few in a practical sense. Since the consumer normally has a very limited access to shops outside of the Gorilla's network, either the consumer conforms to the prevailing industry standard, whatever that may be, or gets pro-active on an individual basis and searches out who wants and will install the consumer's choice . Dynon recognizes these facts and is encouraging the aviation consumer who has this kind of initiative, to make the decision of installation. If the consumer is happy with the outcome, Dynon has a dealer and a loyal customer. Plus the installer gets a recommendation from both Dynon and the consumer. Once this process is started, and a few new Dynon "dealers" are added, there will be the inevitable snow ball effect. Very savvy business marketing in what it might take to remove the 800lb Gorilla from the room.

Jim Holdeman

Low Octane Fuel

I assume you mean 94UL in your question of the week? That's the logical value if it doesn't have TEL in it.

By the way, are there any good numbers on 100LL consumption broken out by 100LL-required and 94UL-ok aircraft? I've heard a number of comments that most of the fuel is consumed by engines that still must have the 100LL octane but it would be interesting to have hard data on that.

I downgraded from a Saratoga-TC to a TB20 a year ago. I can now operate with 94UL... but there is none to be had and every fuel operation I talk with say they cannot afford to stock two different av-gas options.

Neil Cormia

I already voted "Nothing" because my 1969 C172K with the 150HP Lycoming O-320-E2D is a low compression engine and has the Peterson STC to burn auto-gas.

But why I'm writing / extra is, I've never used Mogas because, in the Mid-Atlantic where I live, its very few and far between to find airport pumps that actually have non-ethanol Mogas.

So, the easiest fix I see for the non-commercial flyer would be to have non-ethanol Mogas tanks installed, but that seems to be cost prohibitive to the FBO's?

Peter Hamilton

Goodyear “Blimp”

Are you afraid to mention that the Goodyear Blimp is a modern Zeppelin from Friedrichshafen, Germany?

R. L. Bieber

Come on people, IT’S NOT A BLIMP!!! If Goodyear is too afraid to call a Zeppelin a Zeppelin because they dropped bombs on people a hundred years ago or one happened to blow up in New Jersey, well then screw 'em.

Scott McGowin

 

Short Final: Number One For Takeoff
 

A long time ago, I taxied my Cessna 182RG to St. Louis Lambert Field Runway 12L. I was first to the runway. There were about 18 Teenie Weenie Airlines (TWA) planes lined up on the taxiway for Runway 12R.

An F‑18 appeared from the McDonnell Douglas facility on the north side of the field. Controllers directed him to 12L at an intersection ahead of me and gave the F‑18 “position and hold.”

One of the TWA pilots keyed up and said, “How’s come he gets to go first?”

The F‑18 was cleared to take off. He rolled about 500 feet and took off, rotating to a straight up position and quickly disappeared out of sight.

The tower then responded to the TWA pilot, “Tee Dub, when you can do that, you can go first.”

Jack Ham
Bradenton, FL
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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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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.

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