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Volume 25, Number 38a
September 17, 2018
 
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Crash Pilot Had Certificate Revoked
 
Russ Niles
 
 

A man whose pilot certificate was revoked 21 years ago for lying on his medical application was the presumed pilot of a Cessna 335 high performance twin that crashed near Palm Beach County Park Airport a week ago, killing him and his wife. Philip Castronova, 70, and his wife Mandy, 39, were on their way home from Key West. Castronova was well known at the local airport and flew frequently but hadn’t held a valid certificate since September of 1997 when it was revoked. The Palm Beach Post reviewed FAA records and also discovered that Castronova had received a 180-day suspension just prior to the revocation for a long list of airmanship violations that culminated with him refusing to cooperate with an FAA inspector.

He could have applied to have the certificate reinstated in 1998 but there is no record that he did. It would appear that no one questioned his formal credentials at least in part because he was regarded as a competent and experienced pilot. “It raises some interesting liability issues but as for his ability to fly the plane, he can fly the plane,” said his hangar partner Glenn Corkins. Even close family members were surprised at his lack of certification. “He’s been flying forever,” said his brother Gary. Castronova was the owner of the aircraft, which was built in 1979, and owned an aircraft brokerage. The plane came down in a park near the airport and was mostly consumed by the post-crash fire. No one on the ground was involved.

An earlier version of this story described the aircraft as pressurized but it is not.

How Not to Botch The FAA Medical
 
Jeff Parnau
 

I was thinking about taking a pass on my FAA Third Class medical, which was expiring at the end of May. I always dread this process (the paperwork, the physical), as do most pilots who have lived longer than five or six decades. But I decided to take the chance once more, and postpone a transition to Basic Med.

For those of you new to aviation medical questionnaires, there are no trick questions – except one, which has annoyed the hell out of me for years. The trick question asks if you have ever been admitted to a hospital. Ya’ gotta wonder. What does that mean? If you go to the information desk and ask to visit your aunt who has recently had bunion surgery, and they let you in, are you admitted to that hospital?  No, of course not. It means “Did you ever stay overnight in a hospital?” 

But lots of people stay overnight, sitting at the bedside of a beloved aunt. So it doesn’t really mean “Did you stay overnight,” but rather, “Did they keep you overnight because an insurance company was paying for it, and lord knows, the only reason they’re forking over the cash is because, hard as they tried, they couldn’t figure out how to avoid 'losing' a couple thousand dollars for your saline I.V. and that wonderful hospital food.”

If you’re about to get your first FAA med-exam, I’d recommend that on your very first medical application, you check this box and describe the first time you were admitted to a hospital. In my case, I was taken there involuntarily by a woman I had never met. Things quickly got crazy, and after being dragged out of what I considered my own personal space, I was held by my feet, inverted, and naked. This was all against my will. And someone slapped me. Then I was given a hospital ID bracelet, and hauled away where I was washed – still naked – by another woman I had never met. It was horribly embarrassing, all of me being quite small at the time, but at least I was no longer held captive by the person who soon claimed to be my mother. And I was held overnight, regardless of the fact that there was clearly nothing wrong with me! (A nurse actually told my mother I was perfect.)

So unless you were born in the proverbial barn, I’d report that first hospital admission. I didn’t. My dilemma is this: Should I report it now? If I do, would that be an admission that I had omitted my initial admission to a hospital? Would that be confessing to a federal offense, in that I should have reported it earlier? I can only hope that this confusing mess will continue to slip through the cracks.

But it gets worse. What if you simply forgot the next time you were admitted to a hospital? When I was eight years old, my uncle was backing down his driveway in his 1957 Ford. I was on my two-wheeler near the end of the driveway. I pushed off the mailbox using my left hand, hoping for a successful U-turn to get out of his way. I slipped on some gravel, and found myself lying flat in the middle of the driveway. As the Ford quickly approached, I pressed my head into the gravel and thought this: Adios. Fortunately, several witnesses saw my death approaching, and were screaming at him to stop the car. He stopped. So now I was underneath a ‘57 Ford. I crawled out and wiped from my head what I figured was gasoline (hey, I was eight). The screaming peaked as I stood up with a bunch of my scalp covering my right ear.

I did not report this on my first medical. I forgot. Yet subconsciously, I was aware of what happened: Sirens blaring and heavy bleeding during a 20-minute ambulance ride to a hospital; 40 stitches being sewn into my scalp; asking the ER surgeon if I was going to die. I vaguely remember that after he wrapped my head in a turban, my uncle came in and I saw him cry, which made me feel guilty, and the experience eventually became just a slush of emotions, filed in the mysterious, subconscious part of my brain.

But there it was again: another unreported hospital admission during the first decade of my life. Should I report it now? And if I do, must I then check the box that asks whether I have “Mental disorders of any sort; depression, anxiety, etc.”? What on earth does etc. cover? Suppressed memories maybe? I don’t know. There’s no definition of terms on the application. 

What, oh what to do? If I report it, will I have my medical yanked retroactively? Rather than being rewarded with two more years of Third-Class flying, could I be sent to the slammer for “lies of omission”? And if “suppressed memories” of an eight-year-old kid count as a condition of mental instability, maybe they’d put me in the psych unit.

A simple addition to this application would resolve all of my concerns: There should be an option that says, “If this is not your first medical application, do you have anything to add that you may have inadvertently omitted on an earlier application?” That would resolve not only the problem of being born in a hospital, but also the problem of forgetting that my uncle ran over me in a 1957 Ford, one of the ugliest cars ever. I’m sure I would have remembered it all clearly if it had been a 1957 Chevy Bel Air Sport Coupe with a 283. 

JP Instruments 'Primary JPI EDM 930'
ADS-B Installation Field Report
 
Larry Anglisano
 
 

With the Jan. 1, 2020, ADS-B equipage mandate quickly approaching, Aviation Consumer magazine is kicking up its field reporting on ADS-B installations. We'll be visiting with busy shops throughout the country—the folks on the front line—to learn about buying patterns, scheduling backlog and other tidbits to help readers with the buying decision. In this video, Aviation Consumer editor Larry Anglisano spent some time with Brian Wolfe at NexAir Avionics, a busy shop located outside of Boston, Massachusetts.

Timeline Tight For FAA Reauthorization
 
Russ Niles
 
 

It seems likely legislators will miss a Sept. 30 deadline to pass an FAA reauthorization bill but they may not require yet another short-term extension. The Senate sent its suggested revisions of the House version of the bill back to the House for consideration last week. But the House is adjourned all next week and won’t reconvene until Sept. 25. That’s a short window to hash out the final details and it might not get done in time for the president’s signature by the time the current extension expires Sept. 30. There has been some discussion of missing the deadline by a day or two to get a final deal rather than push it down the legislative road.

There are a number of niggling issues in the way of bilateral ratification of the bill, including a measure to allow states to set rest and meal break rules for truck drivers, whether to allow the FAA to regulate model aircraft, and measures on drones and self-driving cars. If resolution isn’t made on any or all of those issues, the alternative is a funding extension as the government heads into what appears to be a tumultuous period ahead of and in the aftermath of the November midterm elections.

Pilot Beard Ban Debunked
 
Russ Niles
 
 

Canadian researchers say they have debunked the long-held belief that facial hair interferes with the seal on pilot oxygen masks and at least one airline has lifted its decades-old beard ban. Air Canada, which commissioned the Simon Fraser University (Vancouver) study, says its pilots can now sport beards “to a maximum length of 12.5 millimeters (half an inch) and neatly trimmed.” The airline hasn’t said exactly why it paid the Environmental Medicine and Physiology Unit at SFU to test the beard hypothesis in its hyperbaric chamber but the facility’s director was unequivocal about the results. “The (no-beard) policy was based on outdated research on obsolete equipment and testing on respirators not intended for aircrew oxygen delivery,” said Sherri Ferguson. “We found no adverse effects on bearded subjects within the two parameters of our study.”

Those parameters covered the two basic reasons airline pilots need good seals on their oxygen masks. Air Canada supplied its standard-issue masks for the experiment. Delivery of oxygen was tested by putting three groups of bearded men (stubble, medium length and bushy) into the chamber and simulating depressurization at altitude. Oxygen saturation remained consistently healthy for all of the test subjects. The other test simulated smoke in the cockpit by introducing a vapor that irritates noses and throats. None of the test subjects reported any reaction.

Spitfire Circumnavigation Planned
 
Russ Niles
 
 

 

What sounds like a dream flight will undoubtedly be a technical and logistical nightmare as a British group attempts the first circumnavigation in a Spitfire. Although the aircraft climbs like a scalded cat and can go more than 400 MPH, Spitfires were designed for 20-minute bouts of dogfighting, not 27,000-mile cross countries. With a combat range of just 425 miles, there will be a lot of takeoffs and landings as the Silver Spitfire-The Longest Flight hopscotches VFR through 30 countries. A lot of those stops will be in areas where avgas isn’t readily available (not to mention spare parts) so a lot of advance work will be required for the flight, which is set for launch in the summer of 2019. It’s not clear if the aircraft will carry external or ferry tanks. It’s an ambitious effort, considering the aircraft restoration hasn’t been finished yet. British pilots Matt Jones and Steve Brooks will be in the cockpit for the flight, which is expected to take four months.

The aircraft, Mark IX built in 1944, will be airworthy in the spring of 2019 and will be wrung out in a tour of the U.K.  Although it’s partly a tribute to the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force, the aircraft will be finished unpainted without military markings. The pilots will head west from the U.K. via Arctic airports before going through Canada and the U.S. Then it will head north to Alaska and cross the Bering Strait to enter Russia. From there it’s south through Asia, the Middle East and Europe for a homecoming in December. Many of the stops will be in countries where the Spitfire operated. The main sponsor is Swiss watchmaker IWC Schaffhausen.

Braille Tests Lighter, Longer-Lasting Drone Batteries
 
Kate O'Connor
 
 

Braille Battery announced the successful completion of a series of test trials on the company’s new customized lithium batteries for commercial drones (UAVs) last week. Braille says the trials demonstrated that its batteries provided “longer discharge cycles—with significantly less weight—than the incumbent battery,” although estimates of how much longer and lighter have not yet been released. The batteries are designed for commercial applications including aerial LiDAR surveys, aerial photogrammetry and other aerial inspections.

According to Braille, the market for commercial drones is projected to grow at an annual rate of 7.6 percent, making it a $12 billion industry by 2021. “From companies such as Amazon exploring product delivery, to innovative applications in both media coverage and filmmaking, we’re witnessing a paradigm shift in how industries are evolving their respective processes by implementing UAVs into their workflow,” said Braille Battery President Lindsay Weatherdon. “Overall—each implementation represents a ready opportunity for Braille Battery and we will be there to power it.”

Braille also announced that it has secured a request to retrofit existing UAVs valued at approximately $500,000. In addition to both manned and unmanned aviation, the Florida-based company supplies batteries for a variety of industries including professional motor sports, military and medical services.

Top Letters And Comments, September 14, 2018
 
 

Space Race: Virgin Vs. Blue Origin

The "race" between Blue Origin and Virgin seems to come down to sales hype. Branson, the ultimate showman, has the charisma to make his rocket powered shuttlecock look inviting while Bezos' more mundane capsule has some actual historical experience to draw upon. Only recently has Blue Origin allowed real-time public viewing of their launches. Maybe they are feeling the compeitive heat. Competition may be good for lowering the cost of the adventure, but not necessarily for improving safety. NASA had huge resources for building their space projects, but they still fell victim to competitive pressures, both in the Russian space race (Apollo One) and the time pressures of launching in front of the TV cameras (i.e. Challenger & Columbia). Haste is not the friend of safety. In answer to your question, I would be more likely to favor the Blue Origin concept over the shuttlecock. To me, the argument of full automation over a pilot-guided vehicle is not the big issue. I'm just not inclined to plunk down the price of a nice used Cirrus for a 15 minute thrill ride. If there are enough thrill seeking one-percenters out there to support the two companies for a few years, then maybe when the price drops by 90% and their safety record is 99.9% for several dozen launches, I might reconsider.

John McNamee

There's an old "Saturday Night Live" skit, where a set of feckless young celebrities one-up each other with claims of derring-do and having relationships with certain beautiful young women. I see space tourism as just another aspect of that...those with the dough will do it just for the sake of brag. Yes, they will have "gone into space." But the international astronaut/cosomonaut organization (the Association of Space Explorers) won't recognize that. They require members have completed at least one orbit. I recently retired with 40 years' experience in developing and operating space vehicles. Several of my former co-workers are now working for Blue Origin. I have no doubt as to the quality of the engineering involved. Still...it's space travel, and the risks can be reduced only so far. Werner Von Brawn is alleged to have said: "There's a fine line between a rocket and a bomb. The finer the line, the better the rocket." Countdowns are used in two circumstances: The sequencing of firing a rocket, and as a warning before triggering high explosives. This is not a coincidence. Best advice comes from that unending font of engineering wisdom, Monty Python's Flying Circus: "Never kill a customer." Yet space tourism WILL kill customers at some point. Considering that the customers are all millionaires and billionaires, it's likely the deaths will be accompanied by huge lawsuits. Be interesting to learn how Bezos and Branson are protecting themselves.

Ron Wanttaja

Rather than wonder whether these tourist spacecraft should be human-flown or automated, perhaps we should ask why ANY type of manned space flight still is being pursued - whether by thrill-seekers or by governments. Seriously. The first full-up casino in Massachusetts opened two miles from here, two weeks ago. I don't gamble; don't really understand why others do, either. But I'm pretty sure that the roulette tables at the MGM don't offer Russian roulette to "the adventurous."

Tom Yarsley

The early decades of aviation were pretty risky, too. Even today people strap some silk to their back and jump out of them, just for fun. The applications of aviation were limited in those early years. The applications of spaceflight are limited in these early days, as well (it's merely a multi-billion dollar industry...). It is worth noting that there is a lot more space and a lot more in it than there is in the sky... While Blue and Virgin will probably succeed operationally eventually, it probably won't last for very long. If SpaceX has its way, they'll be flying hundreds of people nearly orbitally on a daily basis in a decade or so for far far less money, and with much longer (0.5 - 1hr vs 10 mins) flight to boot. See their Earth to Earth rocket concept. Virgin's prospects, in particular, seem limited, while at least Blue is leveraging its experience and technology on their orbital New Glenn rocket.

Cameron Garner

Procedure Vs. Technique

Kenny's article brought to mind the Piper Arrow's gear retraction scheme; when I last flew an Arrow in 1975, there was an "automatic feature" that prevented retraction of the landing gear at too low an airspeed, and I presume (it's been a long time) it also automatically extended the gear when the airspeed got too low. It became customary for some of us to use the auto-override lever after takeoff to avoid extended climbing with the gear still extended.

In his article on power-off spot landings he did not mention this PA-28R feature. It would seem to interfere with the power-off landing practice discussed in "Procedure vs. Technique." Did Piper change the automatic landing gear feature in later years? If not, perhaps the Arrows I flew should have had their gear retraction system regulated?

Mac Hayes

Aireon Casts A Net

So many people are dreaming of the VTOL replacing the wheeled automobile and scheduled flights to the resort on the moon but, it all takes little steps. These small steps toward our future are each one awe inspiring. Most of my flying was before the invention of the moving map GPS. I wasted a lot of fuel looking for land marks like water towers, road signs, notable bridges and runways painted with the airport name. The most incredible young minds are determined to make transportation easy and efficient. I believe in these folks and that they will accomplish what my generation only imagined. Each morning I can't wait to read AvWeb and other technology reporting media exposing the latest "small step". Oh, I got to go, my phone gadget is conversing with me about the days events. She said the traffic is slow between me and my destination and how I can get around it ;).

Klaus Marx

When the transponder isn't broadcasting, the aircraft is "invisible" to the system To me, this is the worst downside in the brave new world concept of radar-less Next Gen ATC. Even discounting the presumably "unusual" situations where the transponder is intentionally turned off, any system with so many individual points of failure has its downsides. I laugh at the cable-TV ads which poke fun at satellite distribution because rain fade sometimes can interrupt the signal, when anyone who has both cable & satellite has probably noted the cable, with its myriad possible failure points, runs a distant second in dependability.

John Wilson

I have yet to see new technology enter the market that was perfected. The FAA ADS-B mandate was issued 10 years ago. Few took it serious including pilots, owners, and manufacturers. Within the last 12 months more innovation has poured into this than all the previous years. Perfect? NO. But it is going in the right direction. YES. Can it be made perfect coming out of the gate? NO. But it will get refined as time goes on and more and more aviation consumers participate. As a result costs are coming down, making compliance more affordable. More participation sorts out problems even faster. Aviation needs to stop being sore winners. How about we be thankful we have this outstanding technology providing weather, traffic, synthetic vision, AHRS, GPS, VOR, voice communications, etc. available at our fingertips in cockpits of airplanes from experimentals to LSA's, to GA certified including those even without electrical systems, which rivals what was in an airliner 3 years ago. It will get better, even more reliable ( which is excellent now), and we will be able to refine the process of integration and separation even better than before. Is there a perfect airplane? NO is there a perfect pilot? NO Is there a perfect ATC system? NO is there a perfect government? NO But there are some excellent pilots, controllers, aircraft/engine/air-frame avionics manufacturers, and even government employees with vision and integrity. All of that is and has been making tangible contributions of safety to all our collective "keesters."

Jim Holdeman

eVTOL Development

Having both crowded skies and crowded roads is not a solution at all; it's just creates more of a problem. Unlike trains and buses, VTOL aircraft do not scale well so you will need a LOT of them just to replace one bus and hundreds to replace just one train. It's lunacy to believe that VTOL aircraft are a "solution" to moving massive amounts of people in crowded urban areas.

Mark Fraser

Air Force Safety Review

Among hazardous attitudes identified by the FAA: INVULNERABILITY -- It won't happen to me. MACHO -- I can do it. Among the factors identified by the FAA that affect personal airworthiness: STRESS -- The psychological stresses of work, school, family, or personal life are cumulative, and are carried with you into the cockpit. FATIGUE -- It's difficult to think clearly and rationally when you're tired. Mental abilities as well as motor coordination can be severely compromised when a pilot is tired. If you haven't had adequate rest, don't fly. It's instructive to remember even professional aviation organizations and professional aviators can fall prey to these.

Mark Sletten

EAA Talks Homebuilt Reform

Three thoughts: 1. It would be nice if us "regular Joes" could get a little input on this before it goes to the formal rulemaking process. 2. Where's PNC? 3. If this goes through and "build to suit" of homebuilts goes into practice... well, there goes Part 23 for personal aircraft. It'll be all but irrelevant except for commercial ops and training. Why pay all that money when you could hire out building a "homebuilt" at a fraction of the cost?

Robert Gatlin-Martin

We have to make GA available for more to enter and our future is in the sky, not on fwy as S CAL is testimony to that. EAA is promoting that agenda and that is great. Look at how many startups and IPOs are space related and big guys, Bezo, Musk, Apple and Microsoft all jumping in. That is where high good paying jobs come in. Electrification of flying of hopping from point to point, at will, at a fraction of current cost is where the future is.

Simon Shum

The Pilot’s Lounge: A Welcoming Airport

Well said Rick. Unfortunately, I have seen much of the opposite of what you are describing. Once I had an opportunity to put a C182 into a leaseback. The airport operator became very vulgar and aggressive with me when I asked him if he was interested. I went to another small field where i was told that they did not want any CFIs there as the top dog on the field took care of their needs. Yes we have met the enemy and he is us. Thanks for spreading the word on how to have a healthy airport.

Leo LeBoeuf

 

Picture of the Week, September 13, 2018
 
 
A Cessna 182 on the Picnic Strip at the Knik Glacier, Alaska. Taken with an iPhone X. Photo by Chris Bena.

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Industry Round-up, September 14, 2018
 
AVweb Staff
 
 

This week, AVweb’s news roundup found reports on an event held by the Lancair Owners and Builders Organization, an upcoming aerospace exhibition, a new contract between CEFA Aviation and China’s aviation authority and the addition of more hubs for Airstream Jets’ Jet Card Program.

The Lancair Owners and Builders Organization (LOBO) will be holding its annual Landing get-together in early October at Texas’ San Marcos Regional Airport (HYI). The event will feature Lancair-focused ground training, vendor displays and seminars, local tours and a Texas-style BBQ. Also in aviation event news, a new aerospace and aviation exhibition will be held at Thumamah Airport (OETH) in Riyadh in March 2019. The Saudi Airshow is being billed as the first event of its kind in Saudi Arabia. It will include an outdoor static display, exhibition areas and an international aviation conference.

France-based CEFA Aviation has signed a three-year contract with the authority analyzing aviation incidents and accidents in China (CASTC). With the new contract, CEFA will continue to provide support for its Flight Animation System, which CASTC has been using for the last five years. Closer to home, Airstream Jets, an on-demand air charter and jet card company, has announced two new Distance Card Hub airports in Texas at Austin Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) and Houston William P. Hobby Airport (HOU). The company has also added the HondaJet to its jet card program.

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