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Volume 25, Number 41b
October 10, 2018
 
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EAA: 3600-Pound LSA Just A Starting Point
 
Paul Bertorelli
 
 

The FAA’s just-revealed report that it would consider raising the light sport aircraft limit from 1320 pounds to 3600 pounds is just a proposed talking point and any rule is at least a year and a half away, according to EAA. And no, the 3600-pound figure isn’t a typo nor confusion over kilogram conversion, as some have speculated.

In this exclusive AVweb podcast, Sean Elliott, EAA’s VP for advocacy and safety, says the 3600-pound number is real enough, but it’s just one idea placed before the FAA as part of a broader program called Modernization of Special Airworthiness Certificates or MOSAIC. That project, which encompasses a broad range of potential changes in the experimental, light sport, certified and UAS segments, has been underway for about two years. Elliott says it’s unlikely to yield any specific Notices of Proposed Rule Making until at least 2020, if not beyond. EAA said on Wednesday that chairman Jack Pelton erred over the weekend when he said the NPRM would appear in January when in fact the rulemaking process will start then. 

“What comes out as far as weight is yet to be seen. There’s a lot of work yet to be done to get to that final point. But essentially, it’s a good news story. The FAA and the industry together are achieving meaningful change,” Elliott said.

News stories over the weekend ignited hopeful speculation, but also confusion as amateur regulatory sleuths tried to imagine how a 3600-pound airplane could be limited to two seats. But Elliott says proposed changes won’t necessarily keep the light sport aircraft rule just as it is now.

“It’s going to be reasonable. I think you’ll certainly see an increase in the number of seats, although we don’t know that for sure. What’s comes out of the other end of the rulemaking process will certainly give us those indications,” Elliott said. Raising the seat count, the speed and removing other limitations would pave the way for grandfathering legacy aircraft and that’s definitely on the table, Elliott said.

The underlying thinking is that the industry has convinced the FAA that risk ought to be seen as a continuum, with for-hire and scheduled airlines at one end and personal flying in light aircraft at the other, with regulatory and certification limitations adjusted accordingly. “It’s what makes sense for these kinds of aircraft,” Elliott said. “What the final number or a final set of performance values or metrics, remains to be seen.”

Serving the training market is a major animator for both the FAA and the GA industry. “A big part of this for EAA is to help find pathways forward for new aircraft that can fill those voids in the Mom and Pop flight training organizations. Right now, you see most of these organizations operating 40- and 50-year-old-airframes. And it shows. For the unwashed citizen who shows up at a flight school excited about getting involved with aviation, for some, it’s a very quick turnoff,” Elliott said.

Less expensive ASTM consensus approval standards in lieu of Part 23 certification might stimulate new entries. But will legacy manufacturers go along? The test of that has been EAA’s STC program to push non-TSO’d avionics into certified aircraft. “Initially, there was a fair amount of negativity about it, about how this was going to be damaging and they put all their energy in their own products. And that very quickly morphed into the manufacturers saying, ‘We can do this too,’” Elliott said.  

LSA Weight Increase: Pop The Champagne Cork?
 
Paul Bertorelli
 

Is the FAA about to go all-in and all but remove the weight restriction on light sport aircraft? Here, key the ecclesiastical music, insert the visual of the clouds parting and Jack Pelton descending the mount with the stone tablets, or at least a USB drive announcing something intriguing.

But let’s tap the brakes and see what develops. We heard over the weekend that a proposal is coming from the FAA to raise the light sport weight limit to 3600 pounds. For a benchmark, that’s what a Cirrus SR22 weighs and also a Piper Saratoga. Yeah! Riding to the pancake breakfast in style at last.

In a moment of giddy enthusiasm, I’m mixing apples and oranges here. The light sport airplane rule and sport pilot privileges aren’t the same thing. But for argument’s sake, let’s say this proposal—and we have absolutely no confirmed detail on it yet—mashes together the airplane rule, the light sport pilot rule and BasicMed. Pour that out of the blender and you get 3600-pound single-engine piston airplanes that a pilot could fly with up to six occupants, with driver's license certification.

You could operate VFR or IFR within the U.S. at altitudes below 18,000 feet and not exceeding 250 knots. If this rule actually does that—and I’m speculating here just to entertain myself on a slow Sunday night—this could be, well, yyuuuuge. Or at least moderately stimulative, as BasicMed appears to have been. (Hard numbers are elusive.)

This idea is not a new one, by the way. It was circulating about four years ago as a kind of background proposal. Same 3600-pound gross weight, but the idea was that it would allow manufacturers to use ASTM consensus standards—same as LSA—to design, build and certify new models, rather than the more restrictive FAR Part 23, which requires extensive test programs. You don’t need to be a bean counter to understand how this would reduce the cost of bringing new airplanes into the market, although how much is impossible to say.

It could very well encourage new entrants who otherwise might take a powder because of low volume and daunting certification costs. Regardless of the real cost reduction, it would undeniably be a positive thing for general aviation, even if it reduces new model sticker prices by just a third. I wouldn’t expect too much more than that based on where Icon finally settled out with its prices: almost the equal of a new Cessna 172.

There’s a possible dark side, too. And you know what it is. The existing light sport industry could be impacted on several fronts. One, legacy airplanes would suddenly gain more utility and more value, making not-that-cheap LSAs somewhat less attractive. And if new ones aren’t selling, used ones won’t be as attractive, either. We’ve been expecting the light sport market to shake out significantly, but it hasn’t yet. Grandfathering more older airplanes into no-medical-required eligibility seems certain to have an erosive effect.

But what many people miss about this equation is that even though light sports are expensive, they’re still the cheapest new airplanes. By a lot. A new Flight Design CTLS retails for about $180,000, less than half the price of new Skyhawk. The CTLS is faster and burns less gas. Yeah, it carries only two people, but then abundant data show that most GA trips carry one or two people, not four. Still, lots of buyers like to carry around seats they never use.

But that’s a bad example. The better one is Vashon’s new Ranger, which I reviewed here. Nice airplane and one poised for the kind of efficient, automated production you don’t see in general aviation. But the Ranger is heavy and lacks enough useful load. I’m not thrilled with the O-200 engine, either. A higher weight limit could transform the airplane and if it were me, I’d slap an IO-240 into the airframe or maybe even a Rotax 915, which would make it a real hot rod and something more interesting than it already is.

We’re told that this proposal may surface sometime next year as an actual NPRM. Twixt cup and lip and all that. But even if nothing ever comes of it but this delusional blog, that’s something, right?

Experimental Accident Rate Lowest Ever
 
Mary Grady
 
 

The rate of fatal accidents in experimental amateur-built aircraft dropped last year to the lowest rate ever recorded, EAA said last week. The annual activity survey conducted by the FAA shows the estimated number of hours flown in experimental aircraft rose from about 890,000 hours in 2016 to 950,000 in 2017. At the same time, the number of fatal accidents fell from 32 to 26, dropping the rate from 3.6 fatal accidents per 100,000 hours to 2.63.

“These statistics show that growth and safety are not mutually exclusive in our community,” Sean Elliott, EAA’s vice president of advocacy and safety, said in a news release. While the progress is excellent, Elliott said, the goal is to continue to improve. “We cannot afford to be complacent,” he said. “EAA will continue to be highly engaged in initiatives and programs to enhance aviation safety.”

Restoring a World War I DH-4
 
Baxter Van West
 
 

When the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, it had no suitable combat aircraft so the British-designed DH-4 was adopted and manufactured in volume in the U.S. Because the 400-HP Liberty engine was used, the American-made DH-4s were called Liberty Planes. Very few survive to this day, but in this AVweb video shot at AirVenture, we offer a detailed tour of the airplane and how it's being restored. 

FAA Funding Bill Now Law
 
Mary Grady
 
 

The FAA’s new reauthorization bill was approved by both the House and the Senate over the last few weeks, and now has passed the final hurdle—the president’s signature—to become the new law of the land. The bill provides $90 billion in funding over five years, making it the longest-term FAA bill since 1982. GA advocacy groups welcomed the new law, noting several GA-friendly provisions—no user fees, no ATC privatization, and insurance protections for volunteer pilots conducting charitable flights. The bill also removes some restrictions on designated pilot examiners that should make it easier for pilots to schedule checkrides.

In a statement posted online, the FAA said the bill “delivers a safer, more secure and efficient aviation system to the traveling public and helps fuel economic growth and competitiveness.” It will strengthen the FAA’s infrastructure and maintain U.S. leadership in innovation, the FAA said, adding: “We applaud the House and the Senate in crafting a bipartisan bill, and with its signing, the FAA is ready to get to work on the bill’s key provisions.” NATCA President Paul Rinaldi also welcomed the bill. “The five-year reauthorization is a key part of providing long-term stability for the FAA, which NATCA has advocated for over the last several years," he said in a statement. "It supports air traffic control services, staffing, hiring and training, long-term modernization, preventative maintenance, ongoing modernization of the physical infrastructure, and maintaining services to all segments of our nation’s diverse aviation community."

Garmin Expands Retrofit NXi Availability
 
Kate O'Connor
 
 

Garmin announced today that it is expanding the list of aircraft eligible to upgrade from the company’s G1000 integrated flight deck to the newer G1000 NXi. The NXi upgrade is available immediately for G1000-equipped Daher TBM 850/900 and King Air 200/300/350 aircraft. Garmin also said that it expects to add upgrade eligibility for the Citation Mustang by the end of 2018, along with the Embraer Phenom 100/300 and Piper M500 in 2019.

According to Garmin, the G1000 NXi provides better readability, smoother display panning and faster map rendering. Other features include data transfer between the NXi system and Garmin Pilot, FltPlan Go and ForeFlight mobile apps, the ability to display ADS-B In benefits such as traffic and weather, a geographical map overlay within the horizontal situation indicator (HSI), and visual approach guidance. The company says the upgrade does not require panel and wiring modifications since it uses the existing display footprint and connectors.

Garmin also announced that it has made progress toward certification of the G5000 for the Citation Excel and Citation XLS with the addition of a second test aircraft. The system has currently undergone more than 125 hours of flight testing in addition to several thousand hours of ground tests and system development. Certification is expected in early 2019.

AOPA: FBOs Now Publishing GA Fees
 
Mary Grady
 
 

An ongoing effort by AOPA and some GA industry allies has met with some success—Signature, the biggest FBO in the U.S., with about 200 locations, is now publishing its fees online, at least for piston aircraft. “This is a step in the right direction,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. AOPA’s staff review of the posted fees found they vary according to airport size. Big busy airports charge higher handling fees, such as $49 for a single, $99 for a light twin piston and $149 for a heavy twin piston, while smaller GA airports charge $29, $39 and $49. Fees also tend to be lower at fields with more than one FBO, AOPA found.

“We are not done here,” said Baker. “Fee transparency for all categories of aircraft and alternative access are critical to the protection of general aviation. This is a small victory for GA pilots. I look forward to working with FBOs and the FAA as we strive to improve the state of general aviation for all.” The rates for individual FBOs can be found at Signature’s website.

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Seeing The Invisible
 
Mike Hart
 
 

Most pilots venture into windy conditions with enough skills and smarts to know how to either avoid or cope with them. But wind-related accidents are still commonplace, so clearly we don’t always get it right. One reason for this may be fairly simple: With the exception of blowing snow, tornadoes, dust devils and some cloud formations, wind is usually invisible. To visualize what is going on, you have to visualize wind currents, which is where my experience whitewater rafting has served me well.

I have found that the best way to avoid unpleasant surprises is to anticipate them. Wind socks and bent trees are great clues, but even without them it’s possible to know when and how an encounter with wind will affect your aircraft. To visualize what is going on, you need to have a bit of scientific understanding, a bit of imagination and the humility to accept when you need to run away.

Laminar Vs. Turbulent Flow

Unobstructed straight winds, more precisely known as laminar flow, shouldn’t be much of a problem for most pilots. Wind that flows in a constant stream is easy to visualize, especially when it causes the airplane’s tail to weathervane and the pilot knows that crabbing into the wind will counter the effect.

Turbulent flow is much more of a problem. When laminar flow interacts with ground features like buildings, rows of trees or—at a larger scale—features in terrain like ridges and canyons, the resulting turbulence can hold some nasty surprises. Turbulence and wind shear often catch pilots off-guard and can result in mishaps such as hard landings, ground loops, excursions off the runway or overstressed airframes.

When I fly, I translate my understanding of how water flows over rocks, funnels through gaps and pours over ledges into a mental visualization of the air flow, both laminar and turbulent. I try to visualize it as though it were visible, where it flows freely and where it flows over obstacles and terrain features. I don’t always get it right, but it usually helps me predict what the wind or thermals might be doing before I encounter the actual effect.

When I am near a ridge, I combine my knowledge of the winds aloft forecast and my understanding of the aspect of the slope of the terrain with respect to shade and sun. I try to anticipate where I will encounter the resulting updrafts and downdrafts, either from wind or from thermal activity. It’s nice to be able to give passengers a heads-up about when we might encounter turbulence, what form it might take and how long it might last. It’s even nicer when my understanding allows me to adjust my flight path to avoid the invisible obstacle altogether.

Turbulence And Rotors

Water and air are both fluids and follow very similar flow patterns. Study a river and look at the downstream side where water flows over an obstruction and you will see a hydraulic feature called a wave. When the flow is high and the gradient steep, the top of the wave will be punctuated by a breaking feature. If the obstruction is uniform and mostly perpendicular to the flow, the wave evolves into a strong hydraulic reversal where the wave is all but missing and the reversing roller is all that remains. Boaters call this a hole, and sometimes they can be fun to run. But when waves and holes coincide with a steep drop or one that is very uniform across the flow, the hydraulics can be powerful enough to stop or even flip a boat. Holes like these are often referred to as drowning machines.

When flowing air encounters obstructions, it produces very similar hydrodynamic features as those found in rivers. At the ground level, a stiff wind passing over a line of trees or a building will have a turbulent zone on the downwind side. The magnitude of this turbulent zone scales with both the magnitude of the wind and the size and uniformity of the obstruction. When strong winds are flowing at a 90-degree angle to an extremely uniform obstruction, the same dangerous strong hydraulic reversals that turn a weir or low-head dam into a drowning machine can emerge. Pilots call these a rotor.

I once landed at a small airport on the windy plains of west Texas with a strong 90-degree crosswind. The wind favored neither of the two runways, and I could literally choose either one because conditions were within the demonstrated crosswind component of the Cessna 182 I was flying. Right above the runway in the flare, I got caught in a violent rotor that first pushed me to the runway in a very hard landing, then pushed me in the direction opposite the crosswind. I salvaged the landing, but the wind was entirely unexpected. It shouldn’t have been.

It didn’t take long to deduce what happened. There was a long uniform line of trees and hangars on the windward side of the runway to my left. They created a uniform obstacle directly across the flow of the crosswind and, like a weir or low-head dam, they induced a violent, resonant roller. As I began to flare, I was hit by a downdraft followed by a counter-intuitive push back toward the direction of the obstruction. A plastic shopping bag carried on the wind proved it. At about 20 feet aloft, it hit the same rotor. It swirled down to hit the runway, blew backward across the runway in the opposite direction, flew back up into the air and then continued onward across the field in the crosswind.

Since then, I have always been on the lookout, knowing that any strong crosswind flowing across a uniform barrier can create unusually strong turbulence due to resonance. Since runways are typically aligned with prevailing winds, turbulent rotors near the ground stemming from orthogonal obstructions to the runway will generally be more uncommon. However, runways in forested or wooded areas are often lined with trees, which can create strong, uniform rollers once you drop below their tops. This same rotor effect gets scaled up with terrain, even small mountain ridges. Uniformly straight ridges tend to create resonant flow patterns, which are amplified as the wind angle approaches 90 degrees. Whenever winds aloft are perpendicular to a mountain ridge, especially straight unbroken ridge lines, stay clear of the leeward side.

Mountain ranges like the Tetons, Sierras, Appalachians and the Basin and Range mountains of the Great Basin all have strong linear trending ridge lines that make them amplifiers of resonant waves—mountain waves that are carried into the flight levels. When winds hit these ridge lines at a 90-degree angle, it can be a bad idea to be on their leeward side. (The wind effect known as a mountain wave is a totally different animal worthy of a separate article.)

Thermal Effects

Thermal effects are another condition pilots should consider besides obstacles and winds. Slopes facing the sun will have rising thermals. Slopes in the shade will often have descending air. As you approach ridges or tall obstacles, imagine how the flow of wind across them interacts with the rising and sinking air due to slope, aspect and solar angle. With a little imagination, you can visualize where the rotors, updrafts and downdrafts will be forming in the invisible fluid.

The general way to avoid dangerous ridgeline wind currents is to either cross well above them or try to avoid them entirely. When winds are particularly strong and the obstacles particularly high, you may not find a refuge above, but can often find shelter from the effects of the wind shadow of the mountain. On the other hand, while hugging the ground well below a mountain range may provide a smoother ride, it also has the distinct disadvantage of having less altitude in the bank to buffer you from other hazards, like a faulty engine or poor fuel planning.

Much of the time, I fly out of Salmon, Idaho, which nestles at the confluence of three main mountain ranges. They are very linear, trending from the northwest to the southeast. When winds aloft are strong and from the southwest, the rollers on the leeward side of the mountains can be powerful. Flying in the shadow of the mountain provides little safety. That said, on the windward side, the orographic lift of air hitting the southwestern slopes of the mountains will turn a crosswind into a helpful, though often-turbulent orographic updraft that can be amplified a bit by solar-induced thermal lifting. If it is too nasty near the uplift, I can seek refuge flying in the middle of the valley, gauging my distance with the strength of the wind and my past experience. There are always options for increasing safety and comfort if you know how and where to look for them.

Terrain Channeling

Just as a river’s banks will constrain and accelerate the flow of water in river channels, terrain can force wind into a channel-like flow. Whenever wind direction aligns with constrictions in the terrain, there is a Venturi effect, where localized winds near the constriction will accelerate and areas on the boundaries near the constriction can be turbulent. For example, when predominant westerly winds squeeze into Idaho’s Snake River Plain, the Venturi effect makes straight winds of 30 to 50 knots fairly common. Because this funneling is caused by lower level obstructions, winds aloft may be doing something entirely different, creating a shear zone that can include turbulent interaction. When you see the winds aloft shifting dramatically in direction with altitude, anticipate turbulent conditions.

One More Tool

Air is much more free-flowing than the water in a river, which represents a highly idealized fluid flow constrained by the river’s banks. Air flows in three dimensions, has fewer constraints and many more currents, and varies in behavior with altitude. It is altogether more complex, but I have found that I am better able to anticipate winds and avoid unpleasant surprises by making a conscious effort to visualize, analyze and predict what will happen. Besides, there is nothing more fun than impressing your passengers by announcing, “Updraft coming in 3, 2, 1…” and on the mark, feel the updraft right when you called it.


Size Matters

In water, small waves and micro currents affect smaller boats much more than a large, heavy gear boats. This same effect is true with wind and aircraft. Small, light planes, like Piper Cubs, Cessna 150s and various light sport aircraft can be a real handful in windy conditions and are tossed about by turbulence and wind shear much more readily than heavier aircraft like King Airs and Caravans.

On the bright side, just as kayaks and small boats are more maneuverable, lighter aircraft tend to be easier to fly and more responsive to control inputs. So when gusts or downdrafts get you into trouble, a quick addition of power will often allow a go-around.


Wet Wind

In my early twenties, I was a hydrodynamic fluid flow specialist—I guided or was a River Ranger on whitewater stretches on a handful of rivers in Colorado. I was a specialist running Class III through V whitewater and made a living off my ability to “read water.”

Reading water is a term of art used by whitewater boaters that reflects understanding of the way water flows down a rapid and how the resulting hydraulic features will affect the boat. Reading water is critical to both safety and earning tip money. You can maximize the fun (hitting whoopie-water for the tourist) but you also need to avoid the perils of the more dangerous parts of the river like particularly powerful features like the reversing “hole” at Skull Rapid and asymmetric lateral waves that appear below Funnel Falls at some water levels.

Reading whitewater rapids is relatively easy, because you can see the features like tongues, reversals, eddies, standing waves, breaking waves and lateral waves. You can also ask other boaters how a particular feature is behaving based on changing water levels. Experience eventually teaches you how each feature will affect your craft.

Dealing with wind is similar, in that your skills increase with experience, but reading the wind requires a bit more imagination.


Mike Hart flies his Piper J3 Cub and Cessna 180 when he’s not schlepping people and their gear. He’s also the Idaho State Liaison for the Recreational Aviation Foundation.


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

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

NASA To Host Air Taxi Challenge
 
Mary Grady
 
 

To support the ongoing development of aviation technology, NASA says it will host a series of Grand Challenges, starting in 2020, to promote “public confidence” in urban air mobility. The agency now is planning an “Industry Day” in Seattle, Nov.1-2, to discuss the role NASA will play in the first UAM Grand Challenge and its expectations from participating partners. During the event, NASA says, it will discuss the plans, objectives and execution strategy for the challenge; outline participation requirements and schedules; and facilitate networking among partners.

NASA now is accepting applications to attend the Seattle event. Those who should participate include aircraft manufacturers, sensor manufacturers, communication providers, FAA UAS test sites, others interested in testing specific UAM technologies and media. NASA said it is eager to work with industry partners who are “highly motivated to participate and work with us to achieve a safe, commercial operating capability.”

FedEx Offers Senior Pilots $110,000 To Keep Flying
 
Russ Niles
 
 

Santa Claus wears captain’s bars in the e-commerce economy but it’s some of the pilots who are getting gifts this holiday season. FedEx is offering its retirement-age captains as much as $110,000 in retention bonuses to keep working through this year’s busy time. Last year, FedEx and its competitor UPS had record years thanks to mouse-clicking Christmas shoppers and are expecting more business this year. The bonus offers, which range from a low of $40,000 to the $110,000 cap, are included in a new contract obtained by Reuters.

The news agency said the contract provisions suggest FedEx, the world’s largest air freight company, is getting tight on pilots. But frankincense and myrrh aside, a pilot shortage at either of the top two companies wouldn’t just disrupt the flow of good cheer. The global economy is heavily dependent on the aerial parcel delivery industry and any disruption would be felt worldwide. FedEx is downplaying the contract provision. “FedEx Express is well staffed with pilots at this time, however we’re always looking toward the future,” spokesman Bonny Harrison told Reuters.

General Aviation Accident Bulletin
 
 

AVweb’s General Aviation Accident Bulletin is taken from the pages of our sister publication, Aviation Safety magazine, and is published twice a month. All the reports listed here are preliminary and include only initial factual findings about crashes. You can learn more about the final probable cause in the NTSB’s website at www.ntsb.gov. Final reports appear about a year after the accident, although some take longer. Find out more about Aviation Safety at www.aviationsafetymagazine.com.


July 3, 2018, Springhill, LA.

Piper PA-46-350P Malibu Mirage

The airplane collided with terrain at about 1300 Central time. The pilot and passenger were not injured; the airplane was substantially damaged. Visual conditions prevailed.

According to the pilot, while attempting a go-around, he raised the landing gear and flaps. However, the engine was not producing power. The airplane descended and impacted the ground beyond the runway. The fuselage was substantially damaged.

July 5, 2018, Daytona Beach, Fla.

Swearingen SX300 Experimental

At about 1345 Eastern time, the airplane was destroyed while landing at the Spruce Creek Airport. The private pilot was seriously injured; the pilot-rated passenger sustained minor injuries. Visual conditions prevailed.

The pilot-rated passenger later stated he verified that the flaps were down and the three green landing gear lights were illuminated in the cockpit during the approach. Just before landing, he heard the angle of attack indicator alarm. The airplane landed hard, and he heard a loud pop and felt the left main landing gear fracture. The airplane then slid off the left side of the runway, colliding with PAPI lights, and continued sliding until the right wing dug into the ground. The airplane then flipped over and caught fire. The cockpit canopy was jammed, but several observers helped open it and egress the two occupants.

A witness reported observing that the airplane’s left landing gear was “trailing behind.”

July 7, 2018, Gulf Shores, Ala.

Piper PA-34-220T Seneca III/IV/V

The airplane was substantially damaged at 0920 Central time during a forced landing in wooded terrain. The private pilot and four passengers sustained minor injuries. Visual conditions prevailed.

Before takeoff, the pilot checked fuel levels and estimated 30 gallons of fuel were aboard. The pilot reported no anomalies with the airplane during the flight. The pilot encountered difficulty when landing and, after the third or fourth bounce, decided to go around. After setting full power and observing a positive climb rate, he retracted the landing gear. He then observed the left engine was losing power and “surging.” The left engine stopped producing power, the stall horn sounded and the controls “started to buffet.” The pilot chose to land straight ahead into trees.

July 10, 2018, Hydaburg, Alaska

de Havilland Canada DHC-3T Turbine Otter

At about 0835 Alaska time, the airplane sustained substantial damage during an impact with rocky, mountainous, rising terrain. Of the 11 occupants, the airline transport pilot was uninjured, four passengers sustained minor injuries and six passengers sustained serious injuries. Marginal visual conditions prevailed for the Part 135 operation.

While in level cruise flight at about 1,100 feet MSL, visibility decreased rapidly from three-to-five miles to nil. The pilot initiated a climbing right 180-degree turn, during which he saw what he believed to be a body of water and became disoriented, so he leveled the wings. Shortly thereafter, he realized that the airplane was approaching an area of snow-covered mountainous terrain, so he applied full power and initiated a steep, emergency climb to avoid rising terrain ahead. The airplane subsequently collided with rocky, rising terrain. The airplane’s floats were sheared off and it sustained substantial damage to the wings and fuselage. The pilot stated the terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS) was in inhibit mode at the time of the accident.

The U.S. Coast Guard located the accident site at 1156. By 1308, all 11 survivors had been hoisted into a rescue helicopter and transferred to a staging area for transport back to their departure point.

July 12, 2018, Plainville, Conn.

Rutan Defiant Experimental

The airplane impacted terrain at about 1042 Eastern time, sustaining substantial damage. The solo private pilot was fatally injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

A witness reported observing the accident airplane climb out and immediately veer to the left. The airplane was at 150-200 feet AGL and continued in a steep (80-to-90-degree) left bank until it disappeared below the horizon and crashed. The airplane collided with upsloping terrain about 0.4 miles southwest of the airport center. The aft engine and its wood propeller remained attached to the fuselage. They were generally undamaged, with the exception of minor non-rotational surface scratches on the propeller blades.


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

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

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