World's Leading Independent Aviation News Service
Volume 26, Number 3a
January 14, 2019
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NATCA Sues Federal Government
Kate O'Connor

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government alleging that NATCA members had been “unlawfully deprived […] of their earned wages without due process” as a result of the partial government shutdown that began on Dec. 22. A hearing has been scheduled for Monday in District Court in Washington. The suit also alleges that the federal government violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by a “failure to pay at least the minimum wage to air traffic controllers and other NATCA members” and “[failure] to promptly pay overtime.”

Controllers and other federal employees were due to receive their checks for the first pay period of 2019 on Friday, the day the lawsuit (PDF) was filed. NATCA has requested an expedited hearing (PDF), asking that its case be heard before funding for the United States Courts lapses on Jan. 18 and citing harm caused to its members who are excepted from furlough and currently working without pay. According to NATCA, it represents nearly 20,000 air traffic controllers, engineers, and other aviation safety-related professionals.

As previously reported on AVweb, NATCA and other aviation associations have been calling attention to the strain the shutdown has placed on the industry, pointing to issues such as disruptions to training and testing for aviation professionals, federal employees working without pay, and a lack of resources to investigate some aircraft accidents. On Thursday, a group of organizations including the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Airlines for America, Commercial Drone Alliance, Experimental Aircraft Association, General Aviation Manufacturers Association and Helicopter Association International sent a letter (PDF) to the president and congressional leaders calling for a resolution to these and other shutdown-related issues facing the industry.

Top Five Reasons to Hate Top 10 Lists
Paul Berge

Not a big fan of Best-Of lists. They rank number eight on my Top 10 Least Favorite Things list, right below raindrops on roses. Recently, AOPA published survey results of a Top 15 list of “classic” airplanes. The Waco F-series caught my eye. These are the stoutly gorgeous open-cockpit biplanes from the 1930s and 40s, with my favorite being the Waco UPF-7, built in a time when fresh-air seating was giving way to cabin models, such as the Spartan Executive monoplane (number nine) or lighter and cheaper Piper Cubs.

I was disappointed that Waco polled at number 12, barely nudging out the achingly cute Ercoupe, which has kept pilots suffering from podofleugaphobia (fear of using one’s feet in flight) aloft since 1940.  

Surprising to some, the venerable Cessna 150—or its elder cousins, the 140/120—didn’t make the list.  A cursory perusal of FAA stats, that only I have seen, shows over a billion pilots learned to fly in the two-seat, aluminum vomit-makers since 1958. I trained in a 150 and threw up in a 150 Aerobat. Color me sentimental, but I admire Cessna’s long-ago devotion to low-cost primary training and have spent many cramped hours teaching in C-150s. Based on that experience I’ll say that 150s make great single-occupant airplanes if you don’t mind going slow, which I don’t.

So, if the 150 got the cold shoulder on AOPA’s list, why did the Piper Cherokee (GA’s equivalent of the 1961 Chevy Biscayne) make the cut, albeit barely at number 14? Yes, they’re decent airplanes, but in the same company as a Cessna 195 (number 6) or the twin-amphib Grumman Goose (number 11) that exudes adventure from every smokin’ rivet? Where’s the romance in a Cherokee 140? And don’t point to the Cherokee’s cameo in Ms. Galore’s air wing in the 1964 James Bond film, Goldfinger. I’ve taught in Cherokees, owned one and admit they do the job. But never did a starry-eyed fledgling gaze at my Cherokee 180 and say, “Gee, Mister, that’s the swellest aeroplane!”

Designed in part by Fred Weick, the same guy who created the Ercoupe, Cherokees are useful but hardly sexy, unlike the three classic Beechcrafts—Staggerwing, Bonanza and Twin Beech—that took second, third and fourth in the survey. I realize that no one could ever afford any of those, but what price beauty? I once thought I owned a Bonanza. She was old, she was beautiful, and she drained my bank account in exchange for the sweetest flying ever. Should I win a Mega Lottery I’ll seek another Beech to rapidly deplete my millions and die a happy pilot.

Crossing the finish line at number 15 is the Cessna 182, what pilots really wanted when dealers sold them a 172, which was the nosewheel compromise to the prettier Cessna 170 (number 10). The 172, produced in greater numbers than anything else in this review, didn’t make the list.

Hardly awe-inspiring in visuals, the Cessna 182 is a flying pickup truck but, in my weathered opinion, no classic until you move the nosewheel to beneath the tail, where nature intended, making it almost a Cessna 180. Now, there’s a classic. Not convinced? Skim NTSB incident reports for C-180 versus C-182 in loss of directional control events, and you might find that the tailwheelin’ Cessna 180s far exceed the 182s in wiping out gear legs, props and runway lights. I mean, where’s thrill in holding the centerline in a crosswind with a tri-geared 182, when the swaggering 180 pilot can regale hangar crowds with ripping yarns of ground-looping splendor in the grass?  So, Cessna 180 usurps the 182 on my list. I’m unairworthy of even approaching a Cessna 185.

Slots six and seven on AOPA’s dream sheet contain the Globe Swift and the Navion, excellent candidates both, if you’re of a certain age and not into speed or easy maintenance. Both low-wing, retractable-gear airplanes came out of general aviation’s optimistically gilded age after World War II. Marketed with the mistaken notion that returning flyboys would step from Mustangs into Navions and fly into the sunlit suburban uplands with their pliant wives—who were likely WASP pilots during the war—seated at their sides without touching the controls. Didn’t happen. Still, the Navion is an easy-to-fly, great-in-turbulence, bear-to-maintain, almost-fast, complex airplane that’s built tough and handles grass or paved short runways.

Two-seat Swifts garner attention on the ramp, mostly because the cowling sports a smiling grill that makes anyone happy who’s about to walk into the prop while admiring it. Not much utility, but they compensate by not being terribly fast without any mods that make them seem faster. Loved and flown both but haven’t owned either. Which brings us to the top of the classics list, where, by divine right, exists the legend-in-its-owner’s-mind, Piper Cub. To non-flyers, all small airplanes are Cubs, as all classic cars are Model Ts. 

I love Cubs. Some of my best friends fly Cubs, particularly the ubiquitous J-3 plus its descendants, the Super Cruiser (my favorite) and Super Cubs that have been towing gliders, splashing Michigan lakes and skimming Alaskan tundra in search of remote sandbars on which to land, get stuck and be mauled by bears. But, man, what a small price for adventure in one of the best airplanes ever?

Seriously, that’s a question: What does a Cub cost? Answer: Legends come with legendary pricing.

For discount legends, think Aeronca Champ, which stumbled onto the list at number five, despite basically being a J-3 Cub with a real door ... and more room … and better visibility … and you get to fly solo from the front seat, unlike the J-3 Cub which keeps a lone pilot in the back as though the real pilot bailed out mid-flight. Admittedly, I’m prejudiced. I bought my 65-HP 7AC Champ for $5000 in 1982 after recoiling from 65-HP Cubs bringing twice that price. 

So, Top Whatever lists are dubious, but please list your top favorites that didn’t make AOPA’s roster or your Top Reasons That My Comments Were Stupid. I’m counting on you Ercoupe pilots to come through.

How to Land An Airplane On The Freeway With Style And Grace (And Survive)
Paul Bertorelli

Lately, there seems to have been a rash of airplanes landing on highways. What's going on? In this AVweb video, Paul Bertorelli explains how to land an airplane on a highway in an emergency. Just try not to do it because you ran the airplane out of gas.

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Shutdown Delays Navigation Update
Russ Niles

The government shutdown is delaying an urgent update of the World Magnetic Model, the underlying basis for all modern navigation systems, and those systems are in danger of becoming unacceptably inaccurate. Magnetic North, the wandering point near the North Pole that is the reference for navigation services, is racing away from Canada toward Siberia. It’s moving so fast that all navigation data needs a reset. The World Magnetic Model is a joint responsibility of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the British Geological Survey and geophysicists were planning to issue the update Jan. 15, but the U.S. scientists are furloughed. The new model is now tentatively set to be released Jan. 30 but that will depend on whether the shutdown is over by then.

The current model was supposed to be good until 2020 but the magnetic pole moved more than 30 miles last year and that’s enough to throw the readings on everything from smartphones to ships’ navigation systems out of whack. The earth’s magnetic field is created by molten iron in the earth’s core and it moves around quite a bit. “The location of the north magnetic pole appears to be governed by two large-scale patches of magnetic field, one beneath Canada and one beneath Siberia,” Phil Livermore of the University of Leeds told a recent American Geophysical Union meeting. “The Siberian patch is winning the competition.”

Pizzas Across The Border For Controllers
Russ Niles

In a show of solidarity with their unpaid U.S. counterparts, Canadian air traffic controllers ordered pizza for FAA controllers at facilities across the U.S. over the weekend. It started with controllers in Edmonton, Alberta buying pizza for the staff in Anchorage. The movement quickly spread and by Sunday, every Canadian ATC facility had been paired with one or more U.S. tower or center to supply some free meals for them. Many of the paired centers work closely with one another handing off aircraft between them but others, like Kelowna and Reno, are far removed from each other but shared the same sentiment as those in Vancouver. Vancouver controllers posted a photo of a sign urging staff to chip in $5 each for the gesture to thank U.S. controllers “for showing up to work and keeping things safe.”

The gesture caught the attention of controller forums and websites and Toronto Center controllers explained the rationale. "As a gesture of solidarity with our fellow American controllers, we will be sending pizza to the Cleveland Center controllers for dinner,” the Toronto controllers said in a post. “They are in the middle of the government shutdown and as of yesterday did not receive their pay cheques. All the ACC's across the country will be buying pizzas for their adjacent centers.” Doug Church, a spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association said the membership was overwhelmed by the generosity of the Canadian controllers and expressed thanks on their behalf. Meanwhile, anonymous donors have joined the effort, some chipping in as much as $500 to keep the effort going. Canadian controllers say they'll keep the pizzas coming until the U.S. controllers are back on the payroll. A three-week government shutdown has resulted in 800,000 essential workers across the U.S. working without pay.

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SpaceX Laying Off 10 Percent Of Staff
Russ Niles

After celebrating a series of successful launches, including the final shipment of Iridium satellites to low earth orbit last week, SpaceX has announced it’s laying off about 10 percent of its staff. The company told Reuters that it faces some “extraordinarily difficult challenges ahead” and needs to lean out its operation. “To continue delivering for our customers and to succeed in developing interplanetary spacecraft and a global space-based Internet, SpaceX must become a leaner company,” Reuters quoted a SpaceX spokesman as saying in an email. “Either of these developments, even when attempted separately, have bankrupted other organizations.” SpaceX didn’t specify the difficulties it’s girding against but it does face significant competition on several fronts.

Its Starlink satellite Internet service is in a race to market with OneWeb and Canada’s Telesat to bring web service to all corners of the earth. A couple of months ago, SpaceX founder Elon Musk fired seven senior managers of the Starlink program over the pace of the development. The company also has some capital-intensive projects on the front burner, including a trip to Mars and creation of a crew capsule service for the International Space Station. The retro-looking SpaceX Starship was unveiled on Friday.

Herbert Kelleher Dead At 87
Kate O'Connor

Co-founder of Southwest Airlines Herbert Kelleher passed away on Thursday at the age of 87. Kelleher incorporated the Air Southwest Company with businessman Rollin King in 1967 with the goal of creating an affordable airline service in Texas. The first Southwest flight took off in 1971 after several years of legal battles. Kelleher, who was known for his unique leadership style and employee-first approach to management, served as Southwest Airlines executive chairman from March 1978 to May 2008 and as president and CEO of the company from September 1981 to June 2001.

“His stamp on the airline industry cannot be overstated. His vision for making air travel affordable for all revolutionized the industry, and you can still see that transformation taking place today,” said Southwest CEO Gary Kelly. “But his legacy extends far beyond our industry and far beyond the world of entrepreneurship. His true impact can only be accurately measured by the hearts and minds of the people who he inspired, motivated and engaged on a daily basis.”

Kelleher was born in New Jersey in 1931. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan and a law degree from New York University. Before founding Southwest, he relocated to Texas. Kelleher was recognized for his leadership and influence on the aviation industry throughout his career, including being inducted into the U. S. Chamber Business Leadership Hall of Fame and National Aviation Hall of Fame, named CEO of the Year and one of history’s top three CEOs by Chief Executive magazine, and awarded the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy.

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Boeing-Embraer Deal Approved
Russ Niles

Boeing and Embraer now have all the approvals they need to move forward with two joint ventures that will change the commercial and perhaps military aircraft market. Boeing will take over 80 percent of the Brazilian company’s passenger plane business and will also take a 49 percent stake in the development of the KC-390 military transport. Both the Brazilian government, which has veto power over Embraer’s decisions, and the company board of directors have approved the deal. All the paperwork is expected to be done by the end of 2019. The government had sovereignty concerns about allowing such a large foreign investment but Boeing and Embraer were able to convince officials the deal would be good for the country and the company.

Under the deal, Boeing will take over the day-to-day management and operation of the commercial aircraft operation, allowing it to compete directly with Airbus in the small airliner business. Airbus assumed control of Bombardier’s CSeries airliner business last July and the rebranded A220 has attracted some large orders since then. Embraer’s answer to the A220 is its E series of airliners, which effectively had the 100-160-seat market to itself until CSeries entered service in 2016. It hasn’t been announced if the E-series will be rebranded with a Boeing nameplate.

The joint venture on the military aircraft could expand cooperation on marketing the aircraft, which is seen as a faster, more capable and cheaper-to-run alternative to the venerable C-130. The KC-390 is a twinjet that can carry 57,000 pounds, compared to 42,000 for the Herc. Brazilian media has reported that Boeing may build the KC-390 in the U.S., making it easier to offer the aircraft to U.S. military forces. Embraer put the KC-390 through its paces at Farnborough last summer.

Picture of the Week, January 10, 2019
I took this picture of a fellow pilot in the back seat of my Breezy. Taken with a Samsung phone. Photo by Dan Hall.

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MiG-23 For Sale In Texas
Russ Niles

You don’t have to join the Air Force and wait for the next generation of supersonic business jets to fly a Mach-busting jet. The only flying MiG-23 in the U.S. is for sale in Texas and it can go Mach 2.35, although not legally over land in the U.S. The Cold War-era Soviet fighter has some updates, like GPS, a new transponder and radios along with refurbished ejection seats and spruced-up cockpits with English labels on the controls and instruments. Training is also available. The asking price is $1.4 million.

The MiG-23 was called the Flogger by NATO and recorded some significant developments in Soviet military aircraft development. It had the first look-down, shoot-down radar and was the first to launch missiles at targets beyond line of sight. It also had swing wings so it could use shorter runways. The aircraft is still in service and in combat use by the Syrian air force. It’s also in the North Korean inventory and operated by Cuba. A half-dozen other countries have small numbers of the aircraft, mostly in training roles.

Top Letters And Comments, January 11, 2019

Remembering Herb Kelleher

Just wanted to say thank you for publishing Myron Nelson's beautifully crafted remembrance of the late Herb Kelleher. It was spot on. I was privileged to oversee the induction ceremony of Herb in 2008 (along with Sean Tucker and two others), while serving as Executive Director of the National Aviation Hall of Fame. By that time, I had known Herb for three years, but it felt to all of us at the NAHF that we were welcoming a lifetime friend to Dayton for the "party." One volunteer recalls going out during the ceremony to grab a smoke, only to find it was Herb that gave him a light!

The stories are legendary - and countless. I am grateful to have additionally had his enthusiastic participation in the National Aviation Heritage Invitational along with other NAHF enshrinees at Reno annually. Unforgettable times. He was a titan of the business community but did not act like it. We all benefit from his legacy. Thanks again to Myron for sharing. He is not alone in his admiration for this innovative maverick of American aviation and commerce. R.I.P. Herb Kelleher.

Ron Kaplan

Herb was man who knew the value of his employees, appreciated them, and encouraged them to grow as professionals in their respective jobs. That pride in demonstrated performance is always refreshing whenever I board a SW flight. His humor was infectious. He looked at his company and its employees as something to protect while nurturing it's growth. That is rare in the business world today, airlines or otherwise. He promoted a company philosophy that every employee counts and the customer deserves the best employees. Great article. Thank you for sharing from an employee’s perspective.

Jim Holdeman

Many years ago, I had the opportunity to fly Southwest on Halloween night. It was truly an example of Herb's influence on having fun at work. The gate agent was Frankenstein, complete with green skin and a bolt through his neck. One of the flight attendants was impressed that I guessed his costume as a character from the obscure movie, A Clockwork Orange. That actually netted me a free drink. And, nothing inspires confidence in the crew as seeing your captain, dressed in a tutu, enter the cockpit. Rest in peace, Herb. You will be missed.

John McNamee

Government Shutdown

With the FSDO's closed, you can't get ferry permits. I have a C182 stranded.

Larry Stencel

Another effect on GA: no approvals of operating limitations so no airworthiness certificates for newly completed homebuilts. I got this email on Friday: From: _________ Sent: Friday, January 4, 2019 1:40 AM Subject: Automatic reply: Operating Limitations for your approval I am not in the office due to a lapse in funding. I will respond to your e-mail upon my return. If you need immediate assistance, please call ___________. Aviation Safety Inspector, Mfg.

Art Zemon

SpaceX Releases Image Of Spaceship

"Operational Starships would obviously have windows, etc." Not totally obvious. It's largely dark out there, and windows are heavy. Multi-spectrum cameras might be the way to go.

Thomas Boyle

The photograph included with today's SpaceX article is extremely misleading. That is not a photograph, but rather a rendering of a fantasy. Please do a quick internet search and examine what it actually being built in order to understand how ridiculous this 'starship' project is.

An honest publication would put out a correction with a photograph of what is actually being built which resembles a billionaire’s junior high science project. SpaceX has had several failed fundraising attempts recently and this 'starship' just reeks of desperation if you examine what is actually being built.

Scott Stearns

Looks like something out of a cartoon, or a 1950's space movie.

Thomas Ibach

Bernoulli Effect Letter

Good morning! Let me begin by saying that I really enjoy AvWeb and the articles that it provides, and it was nice to meet Paul at XPonential 2018 in Denver last May. Having studied aerodynamics (undergraduate through Ph.D.) and having taught it for 14 years in the Aerospace Department of Middle Tennessee State University to pilots (student through CFII) and engineers, I have found that misconceptions concerning lift production are pervasive in aviation.

Fluid dynamics is a conceptually and mathematically rich field full of nuance and intuition defying relationships. Pilot focused literature and CFI-to-student lessons are fraught with oversimplifications (or errors) on aerodynamics, particularly lift production. Even among those who study and conduct research in this field, there can be disagreements about what description of lift is more basic/fundamental; however, a correct and simple presentation of lift production is possible. The Bernoulli Effect letter presented in AvWeb Flash betrays a lack of understanding of the topic that would more than likely cause confusion for anyone without a firm grasp on the subject.

Nate Callender

Short Final: Highway 101

Heading north from Santa Monica to Oakland and approaching San Jose, I heard the following:

Approach: “N1234, remain east and north of highway 101.”

N1234: “Ah, 1234, roger.”

Approach: “N1234, please remain east and north of the freeway.”

N1234: “Ah OK, 101, 1234.”

Approach: “N1234, do you see that long thing on your right with the cars going up and down it? Stay north and east of that.”

Harry Saddler
Oakland, CA
Brainteasers Quiz #251: Fly Outside Your Comfort Zone

Thin air, slick runways and puking passengers are all part of flight outside the average pilot's envelope. But these are the challenges that separate those who can or cannot ace this quiz.

Click here to take the quiz.

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