World's Leading Independent Aviation News Service
Volume 25, Number 40c
October 5, 2018
Forward This Email
  • Text size:

    • A
    • A
    • A
FAA Reauthorization Passes Senate
Kate O'Connor

A bill to reauthorize the FAA (H.R. 302) was passed by the U.S. Senate by a vote of 93 to 6 on Wednesday. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, which made it through the House of Representatives last week, now only needs a presidential signature to become law. The legislation has earned praise from many industry groups such as the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), especially regarding the removal of an earlier proposal to privatize air traffic control.

“Our members spoke loudly and often throughout this process, and I am most pleased that the costly and controversial ATC proposal is not included in this bill,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “We can now look forward and work to build consensus to ensure that our nation’s aviation system remains the safest and most efficient in the world.”

The bill (PDF) includes provisions that will require medical certification for commercial balloon pilots, begin a review of all regulations and policies related to designated pilot examiners and provide liability protection for volunteer pilots. As previously reported, some of the other items covered by the legislation are a requirement for the FAA to set seat pitch and width minimums on commercial airliners, further regulation of unmanned aircraft operations and additional restrictions for model aircraft. The model aircraft restrictions have caused some dispute, with organizations including the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) asking for the language regarding model aircraft to be adjusted.

H.R. 302 will authorize FAA funding and programs until 2023, making it the longest reauthorization legislation for the agency since 1982. The president is expected to sign bill before a one-week temporary funding extension expires on Oct. 7.

Bad Decisions? What Would You Have Done?
Jeff Parnau

Around 20 years ago, a cold snap in the mid-southeast U.S. brought temperatures to well below freezing. The following day, my employee and I headed to the airport in midafternoon. We planned to fly our borrowed twin Commander to Milwaukee, returning it to its owner.

We walked directly to the airplane, which had not been hangared the night before. We loaded the airplane and he entered the cockpit. “Don’t we need to preheat this?” I asked. The temperature was still around 20 degrees Fahrenheit: warmer than the overnight temps, but pretty darn cold.

“Naw, let’s jus’ see if it starts.”

You may have heard an engine moan when you ask it to do something it hasn’t done before. This one moaned like a guy waking up after a bachelor party. But eventually, it started. The other engine was more reluctant, but now we had the power of the first to force the issue.

My employee had far more experience at the time, but I was multi/instrument/commercial. He did the filing, and as we taxied, I asked how he filed. It was direct. That meant we’d be flying over Lake Michigan, maybe 30 miles from the west shoreline. I think I made a mistake here. Should I have insisted we re-file over Chicago, which would mean they would send us to Rockford? We proceeded on his filed route.

So, 30 miles off the coast at 8000 feet, the OAT followed the book. It was now 25 below zero. We noticed the left engine oil pressure was steadily rising. Rising, rising. Oil began showing up on the cowling. Finally he said, “We got to shut that down.”

What seemed like a long discussion commenced, and he (being PIC and more experienced) said, “If we don’t shut that down and we blow the oil out, we won’t be able to feather it." He feathered it. And north we went.

The next argument involved our communication with Chicago. “Don’t you want to report this?”

“We’ll be OK,” he said.

Another argument: I said I wanted to proceed direct to the shoreline, declare an emergency and land. He said we should just advise them we’d like to get closer to the shoreline and get vectors to Milwaukee. I was beginning to think he had dementia or something. He made his request, and were told to “descend and maintain 4000, advise of any heading changes, cleared direct Milwaukee.”

I was shocked that he began a descent. True, the temperature problem might be alleviated somewhat, but our options after a second engine failure would not be pleasant at all. This time, there was no argument. I said, “If you’re gonna go direct Milwaukee, why the (expletive) would you want to do it at 4000? Declare an emergency and maintain 8,000.”

We declared, and they gave us direct, and asked if we wanted the equipment ready in Milwaukee.

I let him do the talking, as I was closely watching the oil pressure on the right engine. When he tidied things up with Chicago, I said, “OK. Left engine pressure too high, we shut it down. What do you want to do with the right engine? It’s redlined.”

I have rarely been this uncomfortable in the air. Too cold, one engine out, one failing, and 20 minutes to a normal touchdown if the right engine held, or a lucky deadstick to whatever airport we were near.

Maybe 20 miles out of MKE, he began a descent. That predicated the final argument. I said, “What the (expletive) are you doing?”

“Descending! What do you think I’m doing?”

“Oh, come on. Keep it at 8000 feet until we’re over the airport. I don’t want to make any power changes.”

I don’t recall whether or not he understood my logic, but he held it at 8000 feet, we circled overhead in a descent, and we landed uneventfully.

A few days later we were later told that the outside temperature coagulated the oil in both engines. I don’t know to this day if he was correct in feathering one engine, but I am glad he did not then feather the other.

So, 20 years later, I still wonder. How many mistakes led to a limping Commander arriving at MKE at 25 below zero? Did I make mistakes? Did he? How many? What would you have done?

Sumwalt ‘Optimistic’ Notams Will Improve
Mary Grady

“Notams are a bunch of garbage,” NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt said last week, at the board’s probable-cause meeting about last year’s close call in San Francisco. “The Notam system is really messed up,” he continued. “There are 10 pages of Notams [for the Air Canada flight] … and [the runway closure] is on page 8 of the dispatch release … and they are written in some kind of language that only a computer programmer would really understand.” This week, Chairman Sumwalt told AVweb, “There is a definite need to improve our Notam system and I am optimistic that, given the Board’s recommendations on this issue, some ingenious software developer will come up with a very low-cost solution.”

Sumwalt added, “Today we have iPads and other tablets that have tremendous capability that can help us. That said, our recommendation to FAA is for them to establish a group of human-factors experts to study the issue and develop solutions. That will take time.” In its final report, the NTSB asks the FAA to “create and publish guidance on best practices to organize, prioritize, and present this information in a manner that optimizes pilot review and retention of relevant information; and work with air carriers and service providers to implement solutions that are aligned with the guidance.”

Meanwhile, many GA pilots depend on their flight-planning apps to help them sort through the FAA information, but that’s not a perfect solution—some pilots don’t use them, and sometimes important information still gets missed in the translation. “Why can they not write Notams in plain English?” asked one commenter on a GA message board this week. “Many Notams would benefit from being graphical … Information overload is a major issue … It takes me a lot longer than 20 minutes to go through the Notams for just a local flight,” others said.

“I do a lot of long cross-country flights, and there are hundreds of Notams,” another GA pilot told AVweb. “It’s hard to pick through them all and find what you need.” On one recent flight, he said, he reviewed Notams but missed one that said an airport where he planned to land for fuel was closed. “I didn’t catch it,” he said. Luckily, he overflew the airport before landing and saw the bulldozers blocking the runway.

Sumwalt’s remarks, while dramatic, are not news to the GA community. AVweb’s Paul Bertorelli griped about the Notam system in a 2016 blog. Sen. James Inhofe called for improvements to the system in his 2015 Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2. The bill directed the FAA to “develop a prioritization system organizing Notams by urgency and importance, as well as include the effective duration of temporary flight restrictions. This ensures the most relevant and important information reaches the pilot.”

Sumwalt said FAA change may not be the only solution to the problem. “I personally believe innovative organizations can create solutions faster than it would take for FAA to react,” he told AVweb. “Look what happened once the iPad and other low-cost tablets were introduced—innovative companies developed some really wonderful apps that significantly enhance safety. Why can’t the same thing happen here to make the Notam system much more user friendly?”

That change won’t relieve pilots of their duties. “It is essential that pilots maintain vigilance,” Sumwalt wrote. “However, from accident after accident, incident after incident, we have seen that sometimes pilots miss important details. That’s why I believe we need a system to serve as a layer of redundancy to alert the pilot if he or she is about to miss something important, such as attempting to take off or land on the wrong surface.” 

A synopsis of the NTSB final report on the Air Canada incident has been posted online (PDF). The full report will be available in a few weeks. Video of the full three-hour meeting is available here.

Accident Probe: Black-Hole Approach
Joseph E. (Jeb) Burnside

For the last few years, my home airport has been a private, paved and lighted strip in a rural area. The pilot-controlled lighting is non-standard, however. For one, the system’s intensity is relatively weak. For another, there seem to be fewer runway lights than at most other airports I’ve used. And the light fixtures themselves seem located farther from the pavement than I’m accustomed. Often, there are few other ground lights in the area to help provide perspective at night. The runway does not have a rotating beacon, only a dimly lit windsock that may or may not tell the truth. There are few obstructions in the area above a couple of hundred feet, although there’s a tall tower about five miles north.

I’ve flown in there at night several times and I’ll do it again several more times. But I don’t like it. The combination of dim, non-standard lighting and the lack of nearby ground illumination—what the NTSB calls cultural lighting—pretty much defines the so-called blackhole approach, the kind where depth perception suffers from lack of detail, especially when there are few peripheral details. The human eye just isn’t all that good at night. More light and more lighted objects to help with depth perception are better.

Unless we’re on guard against it, the optical illusion involved in the black-hole approach makes us think we’re higher than we actually are. The pilot descends too early or too quickly and comes up short of the runway in the weeds.

Since our depth perception in these circumstances is poor, my defense basically involves staying high but slow, and slightly behind the power curve, so I’ve already established the landing attitude. Manage the descent more with power adjustments than pitch inputs and keep the nose slightly above level. In this attitude, I don’t need to flare and simply fly the airplane onto the runway in the touchdown attitude.

Each night landing is different, though. The lack of visual cues can and does trip up even pilots who know better.


On April 19, 2016, at about 2115 Central time, a Beech 65-A90-1 (converted U.S. Army U-21D—basically a non-pressurized King Air 90) collided with powerline towers while attempting to land at the Slidell (La.) Municipal Airport (ASD), the airplane’s and the operation’s home airport. Both pilots were fatally injured; the airplane was destroyed. The airplane was registered to and operated by the Saint Tammany Parish Mosquito Abatement District as a public aircraft. Night visual conditions prevailed.

After completing a planned mosquito abatement mission, the pilots radioed their intention to land at ASD. The accident pilots were flying a visual pattern to Runway 18. A company airplane was behind them conducting a practice approach to the same runway. The company airplane’s crew radioed at the final approach fix; the accident pilots stated they were on a left base, number one for the airport. Seconds later, the company plane’s crew saw a blue arc of electricity, followed shortly after by a plume of fire. The accident pilots could not be reached on the radio. The accident airplane came to rest in a marsh about 0.6 nm north-northwest of the approach end of Runway 18.


The crew seemed well-qualified. The left seater held a commercial certificate and reported more than 7,700 hours on his last medical application, including 925 hours multiengine time and 1,135 hours of night time. The right-seater had a multi-engine ATP and estimated more than 18,000 hours total time, with 4,619 hours at night. The right-seater also was the aerial operations supervisor. He had worked for the operator for 31 years.

Weather reported at 2053 for ASD included calm wind and 10 miles of visibility under clear skies, with a temperature of 68 degrees F and a dew point of 64. Data from the U.S. Navy Observatory indicate an almost-full moon was visible. Other pilots operating at ASD that evening reported the airfield lighting was illuminated and that the PAPI operated normally.

The airplane initially impacted two 70- to 80-foot-tall towers suspending power lines. The lines generally ran on a heading of 150/330 degrees. Due to their height, they were not required to be illuminated.

Flight control continuity was confirmed to all surfaces; the flaps were retracted. The elevator and rudder trim positions could not be determined due to impact damage. Fire destroyed the cockpit instrumentation except for a few gauges. It appeared both engines were under at least some power at impact: The right propeller remained attached to its engine, with two of the three blades displayed S-bending with nicks on their leading edges. One of the left prop blades was consumed by fire; the other two displayed curling and both were bent rearward. Examination of the airplane did not reveal any preimpact anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.

Probable Cause

The NTSB determined this accident’s probable cause(s) to include: “The unstable approach in blackhole conditions, resulting in the airplane overshooting the runway extended centerline and descending well below a safe glidepath for the runway. Contributing to the accident was the lack of monitoring by the copilot allowing the pilot to fly well below a normal glidepath.”

Both pilots were experienced generally and at night, and they both were familiar with the airport. However, noted the NTSB, that familiarity may have led to complacency during the landing approach. Adequate visibility and moon disk illumination were available to the pilots. “However,” noted the NTSB, the area preceding the runway is a marsh and lacks cultural lighting, which can result in black-hole conditions in which pilots may perceive the airplane to be higher than it actually is while conducting an approach visually.”

“It is likely that the pilot did not maintain adequate crosscheck of his altimeter and radar altimeter during the approach and that the copilot did not monitor the airplane’s progress; thus, the flight crew did not recognize that they were not maintaining a safe approach path. Further, it is likely that neither pilot used the visual glidepath indicator at the airport, which is intended to be a countermeasure against premature descent in visual conditions.”

I can understand the complacency involved in landing back at a familiar airport in a familiar airplane. But ultimately, the pilots also were complacent in failing to use the PAPI to monitor the glidepath.

Aircraft Profile: Beech 65-A90-1 (Army U-21D) King Air

Engines: P&WC PT6A-20

Empty Weight: 5,680 lbs.

Maximum Gross Takeoff Weight: 9,300 lbs.

Typical Cruise Speed: 216 KTAS

Standard Fuel Capacity: 384 gal.

Service Ceiling: 30,200 feet

Range: 1,160 nm


Limitations Of Visual Glidepath Indicators

The FAA’s Aeronautical Information Manual advises that the lights from a precision approach path indicator (PAPI), an on-glidepath example of which is to the left of the runway in the image at right, “are visible from about 5 miles during the day and up to 20 miles at night. The visual glide path of the PAPI typically provides safe obstruction clearance within plus or minus 10 degrees of the extended runway centerline and to 3.4 NM from the runway threshold. Descent, using the PAPI, should not be initiated until the aircraft is visually aligned with the runway.”

As with the visual approach slope indicator, VASI, the AIM advises that, “[i]n certain circumstances, the safe obstruction clearance area may be reduced by narrowing the beam width or shortening the usable distance due to local limitations” or the device may be offset from the extended runway centerline. Both VASI and PAPI installation may involve a glidepath greater than 3.0 degrees.

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

For more great content like this, subscribe to Aviation Safety!

Lockheed Introduces Lunar Lander Concept
Kate O'Connor

Lockheed Martin revealed its new concept for a fully reusable lunar lander at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Bremen, Germany on Wednesday. The lander will be designed to dock with NASA’s planned Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway for service, refueling and storage in between missions. According to Lockheed, it will be capable of carrying 2,000 pounds of cargo and supporting a crew of four on the Moon’s surface for up to two weeks at a time.

"NASA asked industry for innovative and new approaches to advance America's goal of returning humans to the Moon, and establishing a sustainable, enduring presence there," said Lisa Callahan, vice president and general manager of Commercial Civil Space at Lockheed Martin Space. "This lander could be used to establish a surface base, deliver scientific or commercial cargo, and conduct extraordinary exploration of the Moon."

Lockheed says that it will be reusing some of the technology developed for NASA’s Orion deep space exploration vehicle, including avionics, life support, and communications and navigation systems, to reduce cost and development time for the lander. Lockheed is the primary contractor for Orion, which is scheduled for its first launch in 2019 and first crewed flight as early as 2021. An expected completion date for the lunar lander project has not yet been announced.

Crewed Lunar Lander Concept from Lockheed Martin Space on Vimeo.

MAF Providing Disaster Relief Flights
Kate O'Connor

In partnership with Ethnos360 Aviation and Helivida, the Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) is providing disaster relief flights in Sulawesi, Indonesia, after a magnitude 7.4 earthquake and the resulting tsunami devastated the region on Sept. 28. MAF says it has been flying evacuation and emergency personnel transport missions since Tuesday. The organization has also set up a satellite communication system at the Palu airport.

“We’ve put together a collaborative team operating two Kodiak airplanes and one helicopter, which gives us the ability to reach the towns that have seen destruction as well as the more remote areas where people [are] suffering,” said MAF global director of disaster response John Woodberry. “Our folks at the site are seeing houses that have crumbled, huge boats stranded on land by the tsunami, and some areas near the shore that have been wiped clean of any structures.”

Recent reports indicate that more than 1,400 people have been killed as a result of the earthquake and tsunami. The disaster has also displaced an estimated 71,000 people and damaged 65,000 homes. MAF is a nonprofit Christian organization that operates a fleet of 128 aircraft from bases in Africa, Asia, Eurasia and Latin America, including seven bases and 15 aircraft in Indonesia. MAF President David Holsten shares more about the organization’s aircraft and operations in the video below.

FAA Investigates Police Helicopter Flight
Kate O'Connor

The FAA is investigating an incident in which a police helicopter was used in an effort to disperse a large tailgate party that took place before a Penn State vs. Ohio State football game at Penn State University’s Beaver Stadium last weekend. As shown in the video below, a Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) helicopter flew low enough over the event to fling tents and debris into the air. According to authorities, the crowd of several hundred had gotten out of hand and become a risk to people and property.

“The crowd began to turn unruly and two PSP horses were assaulted and a trooper was injured,” said a statement by the Pennsylvania State Police. “Following this incident, the Pennsylvania State Police Aviation Unit was called to assist. A helicopter was utilized to issue commands to disperse via loudspeaker. When personnel on scene noticed the helicopter was low enough to disturb items on the ground, the helicopter pulled up to a higher altitude.”

Concerns were quickly raised about safety and legality of the operation, and a complaint was made to the FAA. The agency did not say how long it expects its investigation to take. Penn State University issued a statement on Tuesday saying that it will not be using helicopters for crowd-related announcements at its football stadium until after an assessment has been completed.

AirFleet Capital || Contact Us for a Quote - Click Here or Call (800) 390-4324
Picture of the Week, October 4, 2018
A small dog on Pilots N Paws (PNP) trip, somewhere over Georgia. Copyrighted photo by James Kleen.

See all submissions

Air Force One Replica Moves To D.C. Area
Mary Grady

A vintage Boeing 747 that was repurposed to resemble Air Force One has left the Rhode Island airport where it had been for several years, and traveled on a barge up the Potomac River to National Harbor, Maryland, in the Washington, D.C., area. The airplane is a retired cargo plane and no longer flies. The exterior has been painted in Air Force One regalia, and the interior has been reconstructed to resemble the presidential airplane. The owner of the aircraft, the Air Force One Experience, offers public tours.

The airplane arrived at Quonset State Airport in Rhode Island several years ago, still bearing Evergreen livery. The exhibit opened to the public last year. In Maryland, it will remain dockside on the barge, where it will be open for tours starting Oct. 18. The 747 is expected to stay in Maryland until at least early next year. According to the project website, it will then move to New York City.

This video of the 747 passing under the Harry Nice Bridge on the Potomac River was shot by Brendan Moon.

Engine Corrosion Tips From RAM Aircraft
Paul Bertorelli

With flying activity declining, many aircraft sit idle for months at a time. This causes serious corrosion issues inside the engines and in this AVweb video, RAM Aircraft of Waco, Texas, tells us how to avoid these problems.

Brainteasers Quiz #248: Love Is In The Air

Airline passengers may not feel the love that the carriers seem to be showing for just about anyone with a Commercial certificate, a pulse and, of course, the ability to ace this quiz.

Click here to take the quiz.

Sponsor Announcement
Buy and Download 'Transition to Glass' Now
Transition to Glass
The new flight and navigational display capabilities now at your fingertips are amazing. But matching your needs with the array of available products can be overwhelming. The editors of IFR Refresher and IFR magazine have kept pace with the glass invasion over the years and are pleased to announce a new e-book — Transition to Glass — filled with articles and advice to help pilots purchase, install, and safely master these new miracles of technology.

Buy and Download Now
Home Contact Advertise Help
Unsubscribe Manage Subscriptions Privacy Policy