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Volume 26, Number 5a
January 28, 2019
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NATCA Issues Statement On Sick Calls
Russ Niles

The leadership of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association has distanced itself from any notion that a staff shortage that caused delays at some East Coast airports on Friday was orchestrated to pressure the government to end the shutdown. The union issued a statement shortly after an uptick in sick calls at Washington Center reduced system capacity and caused delays and a temporary ground stop for traffic headed to LaGuardia Airport. “NATCA does not condone or endorse any federal employees participating in or endorsing a coordinated activity that negatively affects the capacity of the National Airspace System or other activities that undermine the professional image and reputation of the men and women we represent,” President Paul Rinaldi said in the statement. “Air traffic controllers take their responsibility to protect the safety of the flying public at all costs very seriously. Nothing else matters except safety.”

Shortly after the statement was issued, President Donald Trump announced that he would sign bills that would end the 35-day shutdown. It was widely speculated that the relatively modest disruption in airline service was the tipping point for legislators to take a time out from the hard-line posturing that led to controllers and 800,000 other government employees missing two paychecks. NATCA has now joined all government employee organizations in calling for a diplomatic resolution before the current funding bill expires on Feb. 15. “Although the news today is positive, we must not lose focus on the short-term nature of this agreement, and the need to continue to make our voice heard to avoid another shutdown on Feb. 15, 2019,” he said in a statement issued later on Friday.

The ATC Crisis That Wasn’t
Paul Bertorelli

If you’re traveling by air today—your own airplane or via airlines—you’re having a much better experience than would have been likely if the government hadn’t been reopened on Friday. With the paychecks again flowing, a massive flu outbreak among air traffic controllers has been miraculously avoided. In the annals of disease prevention, it may stand as the most effective vaccine ever. Why even TSA workers are suddenly feeling better.

Writing in The Washington Post over the weekend, Joseph McCartin, the author of Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike That Changed America, postulates that spiraling rumors that controllers were about to stage a sick out finally convinced the political class to end the stupid shutdown and get these people paid. While I claim no insider knowledge about the ATC workforce, I can read FlightAware’s MiseryMap and no one should have missed the shot across the bow on Friday when Washington Center issued ground stops for Newark and LaGuardia because of staff shortages.

With nasty weather forecast in the Northeast for Sunday and more set to hammer Chicago on Monday, the situation was about to deteriorate to the point of making the lead on the evening news. Given the tight staffing levels at many facilities and a dose of weather chaos, it doesn’t take much to hobble an air transportation system with minimal reserve capacity.   

NATCA, the controllers' union, was as plain as it could be about this. Controllers working without furloughed support staff—and unpaid, by the way—were declaring themselves medically unfit to be on position. Legally, under the Federal Service Labor Management Relations Act of 1987, controllers are prohibited from striking. But like pilots, they are required to self-certify as medically fit, including being adequately rested. “Rested" is a between-the-ears concept not to be determined by anyone other than the restee. Even the FAA understood that sending legions of controllers out for doctors' notes would be a losing strategy.

Public sentiment for this particular work action is difficult to gauge because there has been no specific polling on it. An NPR/Ipsos poll found that 74 percent of Americans say they were embarrassed by the shutdown. The same poll found that Americans also believe federal workers were unfairly impacted by the shutdown. Our own AVweb poll found that 42 percent say controllers and TSA workers would be justified in staging a work action, 36 percent said they would not be.

For several reasons, I’m in the 42 percent. For one thing, a sick out is not a strike. It exists in the impossible-to-define murky world of a work action. Second, in my view, it’s utterly unacceptable for the general public to expect federal workers to work without pay and to uniquely shoulder the burden of these political shenanigans while feeling none of the pain themselves. If you find yourself stuck in an airline terminal for 12 hours, you may be compelled to give your congress people a jingle. That’s as it should be. Personally, if I had travel planned, I’d have canceled it, but still made the call.

Air traffic controllers are well paid—average pay about $84,000—and the benefits are often better than in the private sector. Still, they’re not all at that pay level and I find the argument that they should put aside sufficient resources because the government might shut down to be utterly unpersuasive. It’s especially unpersuasive when you consider Coast Guard members, who aren’t paid nearly as well, were also expected to deploy while their families coped sans pay. If we as an electorate deem controller jobs to be sufficiently critical to prohibit strikes, then we should accordingly assure that their pay isn’t stopped for political posturing.

When a worker is hired—public or private sector—there’s a contractual understanding that he or she will be paid for the work. That doesn’t mean there won’t be pay cuts or layoffs. But it does—or should—mean that no one is expected to work without pay merely to advance a political agenda. When that does happen, I think they’re justified in focusing attention on their plight in the hopes that the electorate will send more competent and mature people to Washington. This is, of course hopelessly naïve, but it beats accepting shutdowns as a legitimate means of doing business.

We face the prospect of another shutdown three weeks from now. One hopes it will be averted. But if it isn’t and controllers once again force the issue, bully for them.   

Product Minute: Avdec Anti-Corrosion Sealants
Paul Bertorelli

Corrosion in the aging GA fleet is a major problem and maintenance expense. A company called Avdec makes a line of sealants for antennas and metal-to-metal joints that can help. It is commonly used in the commercial aircraft industry.

Tornado Tosses Airliners In Turkey
Russ Niles

A tornado ripped through the airport at Antalya Turkey on Saturday, injuring 12 people and causing millions of dollars in damage as it marched down a line of airliners parked on the ramp. None of the injuries are considered life threatening. The wind knocked over buses and service vehicles on the ramp and pushed equipment into the airliners. Large pieces of debris also struck the planes and the terminal building. Officials said three buses and several pieces of ground equipment were toppled.

The twister was one of as many as five that touched down in Antalya, which was just recovering from a tornado and major storm that hit the region on Thursday. The same storm brought heavy rain to the coast and snow to the mountains of the Balkan region and Turkey.

Flight Attendant Dies On Flight
Russ Niles

A Hawaiian Airlines flight from Honolulu to New York diverted to San Francisco after a flight attendant fell ill and died over the Pacific on Thursday. The 50-year-old flight attendant suffered an apparent heart attack on the flight. There were reportedly several doctors on board who administered aid but could not revive the crew member. 

A coroner pronounced the flight attendant dead in the aircraft. Passengers were put on other flights to New York while local authorities conducted an investigation.

LightHawk, Surfrider Collaboration Tracks Tidal Impacts
Kate O'Connor

Conservation flight organization LightHawk teamed up with fellow nonprofit The Surfrider Foundation to capture high-level views of rising tides on the U.S. Atlantic and Pacific coasts on Tuesday. LightHawk coordinated more than 20 volunteer flights along the coasts during the "king tides" that occurred on Jan. 22. King tides, more scientifically called perigean spring tides, occur several times a year due to the gravitational pull of the moon and sun and result in significantly higher-than-average tides. According to LightHawk and Surfrider, the effort aimed to “capture a glimpse of the future of sea level rise and climate change impacts.”

“Better understanding what future sea level rise might look like for coastal communities is imperative,” said Surfrider Coastal Preservation Manager Stefanie Sekich-Quinn. “Over the next 30 years, nearly 300,000 homes and commercial properties in the U.S., valued at over $136 billion, will be vulnerable to sea level rise […] We are hopeful our King Tide flights will inspire decision-makers and local communities to improve coastal management in light of future climate change impacts.”

The flights carried elected officials, photographers, subject experts and reporters to view impacts of the higher-than-normal tides. The organizations also said the flights will provide local communities with information about where and how to implement future adaptation strategies including relocating vulnerable infrastructure, improving building codes and increasing zoning setbacks from the coast.

Sport Expo: Icon Ramps Up Production
Paul Bertorelli

After months of production delays, Icon Aircraft is ramping up production of its A5 light sport amphibious aircraft. Showing a demo model at the Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring this week, Icon’s Scott Rodenback said in this exclusive podcast that about 90 airplanes have been built. The company says some 1300 are on backorder.

Rodenback said Icon produced about 14 airplanes in December. The model on display at Sebring is one of six at the company’s St. Petersburg, Florida, training facility. Icon has a similar facility at its headquarters in Vacaville, California. At St. Petersburg, the company is offering only training; rentals aren’t available.

At AirVenture last summer, Icon announced a company-sponsored fractional ownership program, but has since abandoned that effort. “We decided to focus on selling whole aircraft,” Rodenback said.

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Podcast: Icon Gears Up Production
Paul Bertorelli

After months of production delays, Icon Aircraft is ramping up production of its A5 light sport amphibious aircraft. Showing a demo model at the Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring this week, Icon’s Scott Rodenback said in this exclusive podcast that about 90 airplanes have been built. The company says some 1300 are on back order.

Sport Expo: Sebring Gets LSA-Based Flight Academy
Paul Bertorelli

Veteran FBO and flight school operator Lou Mancuso has opened a new flight academy at Sebring, Florida, that he says will provide fast-track training for pilots planning professional flight careers. In this exclusive podcast recorded at the Sport Aviation Expo 2019 show in Sebring, Mancuso said the school will rely on light sport aircraft, specifically the Bristell.

“We want to produce a pilot who has 1500 hours and an ATP so he can get a corporate or an airline job in the shortest time for the least amount of money,” Mancuso said. Sebring is the good hub for this, Mancuso says, because overhead is low, the weather is favorable and the airport has good facilities.

While the school will have a single Cessna 172, Mancuso predicts the school will phase it out. “Everybody loves the Bristell. I doubt we’ll have the 172 for more than a year,” Mancuso said. Mancuso said the program will be two years long and will cost $19,700 for the initial segment totaling about 150 hours. After that, pilots can hire on as light sport instructors to build time.

Podcast: Sebring Gets LSA-Based Flight Academy
Paul Bertorelli

Veteran FBO and flight school operator Lou Mancuso has opened a new flight academy at Sebring, Florida, that he says will provide fast-track training for pilots planning professional flight careers. In this exclusive podcast recorded at the Sport Aviation Expo 2019 show in Sebring, Mancuso said the school will rely on light sport aircraft, specifically the Bristell.

Top Letters And Comments, January 25, 2019

Drones Cause Newark Ground Stop

For what it's worth, I am a retired air traffic controller, non-current (as of three years ago) private pilot, and very active drone operator.

I find it ironic that when a human being is accused of being a mass murderer, the press gives them the benefit of the doubt by calling them the "alleged murderer." It seems we should at least give same benefit of the doubt to the drones in this case. A much better headline would've been "Drones allegedly cause...."

Sunset on Monday in Teterboro was at 5 PM. It also was one of the coldest days of the year. For anyone to open flying drones at all, never mind at 3500 feet, in such weather requires a stretch of credibility to start with. That a pilot could actually identify a drone as the sun is going down over the horizon adds to that lack of credibility. (yes, at 3500 feet since it may have been just a few minutes later.)

Can we please stop jumping on the "drones are going to kill us" bandwagon so quickly in the future please?

Bob Lamond

Is TSA Necessary?

I thought more about the TSA and its impact on travel with this one article today than I have on any previous TSA oriented submittal, possibly combined. Bravo for a clear and concise submission. I travel frequently on the aluminum tubes for business, often internationally. I think it was spot on.

David Braun

An interesting discussion, though the initial question was something of a straw man. Given the treaties in force, not to mention the power of insurance companies, going back is very unlikely.

Still, I do think a lot of what goes on is theater. The security-industrial complex, by its very nature is profit driven and will always one step behind (anything a person can think up another can get around), hence there is no end to its growth whether this makes sense or not. After all, this is the gang that thinks 1 person with 1 liter of water is a threat, but 10 friends traveling together each with 1/10th of a liter are not. And body scanners--as an American I am utterly ashamed that people will put up with this crap, but they came in after Obama went to India with the president of the company that makes them and somehow found stimulus money for their construction in Malaysia (campaign contributions, anyone?)

Or the matter of demanding IDs. Why should Americans show any sort of internal passport within our own country? Well, as explained to me by a person who helped set the system up (after Clinton used the phony excuse of Flight 800's crash to justify doing something) it lets the airlines control black marketed tickets. It certainly is worthless except to keep tabs on where citizens are traveling. Yet once again people accept such crap in the name of fear.

The biggest danger of the system is that Americans become used to being checked. So now baseball stadiums, more and more corporations, some theaters are doing such of the free and home of the brave? A joke. And as I said there is no end to it. Senator Byrd wanted to make every little FBO a fortress--ridiculous, but who is to say that won't happen down the road?

I could go on, but you get the idea. While some protection may be necessary, demanding that citizens be passive objects of mistrust is not the answer. Sadly, we may be beyond rational public discussion on the subject. Like the "war on drugs," or pointless foreign wars based on lies (great for making enemies which in turn justifies more measures), there are big profits to be made here. And that, and the simultaneous power to control the public, are all that are needed.

Richard Weil

Landing On Roads

I loved Paul's video on road landings - it was both humorous and instructive. One quick correction - the aircraft that landed on the NJ highway was a Cessna 205 or P206 (note the fixed gear and the smaller utility door on the left side, versus the double door on the right side of a U206), not a 210.

John Moalli

Tipping Flight Attendants

I just retired after 39 years on the flight deck. I am opposed to tipping of flight attendants. I don't want them giving "extra attention" to a generous passenger during an emergency, such as moving them closer to an exit etc. More importantly, I don't want them "bending" the security rules such as preventing them from congregating near the forward nav or moving through separate cabin classes. No one has considered the dynamics that can come from this such as dissension among the passengers and jealously among the flight attendants, which already occurs and will only be aggravated by tipping. It is a terrible idea.

Gregory West

I think of myself as a good tipper but it has never occurred to me tip a flight attendant. Their responsibilities are passenger safety and comfort, and the ultimate service they deliver is getting you off the airplane safely in an emergency. They are professionals who should be treated respectfully by passengers and compensated fairly by the airlines that employ them. By contrast, most waiters and waitresses earn a so-called tipped minimum wage, meaning their hourly compensation is likely to be less than the prevailing wage, with the expectation that tips will [more] than make up the difference. We can be forgiven for speculating about Frontier's long-range compensation plan for FAs. What will the airline do for the cockpit crew? Pass the hat?

Jerry Fraser

Several years ago I read one of those frequent articles on tipping protocol. It explained in fair detail who and how much to tip among the various service providers we encounter every day. I was surprised when I came across the part about tipping flight attendants, as I had never considered doing so. It explained that, while most people rarely think it appropriate, flight attendants are related to the stewards aboard ships, and they routinely receive a gratuity from passengers. However, the guide suggested that, as with waiters in restaurants, the tip be given at the end of the trip rather than at the beginning or during. That way, it was to reward good service rather than appearing to curry favor in advance. I admit that Frontier's approach seems in poor taste, and could cause issues with service during the trip as well as becoming a bargaining chip at contract time. My personal opinion is that tips are a reward for good service and should not be considered as a routine part of any transaction.

John McNamee

Would Controllers and TSA Workers Be Justified In Staging a Work Action Because of No Pay?

All Federal workers should expect to undergo these temporary politically caused paycheck delays. A savings of 3 months expenses is the beginning of a sound emergency plan and an indicator of good judgement. Allowing employees to vent their disagreement with the delays to their congressional representative is already legal and the only action that can effect a change. Other demonstrations of political disagreement that affect the public's right to travel should be discouraged through their union education channels. Having the public lose empathy will cause a degradation of their value to society. If someone must re-employ temporarily for their own financial situation (e.g. new hires with less than 2 years), they should be rehired ASAP and without workplace penalty.

Michael Amick

Industry Round-up, January 25, 2019
AVweb Staff

AVweb’s weekly news roundup found reports on a survey for IFR helicopter pilots, the Cirrus Training Center of the Year, a new training management system for Pacific Sky Aviation, flight animation software for Kalitta Air and a partnership between Carlisle Air Group and Worldwide Jet Charter.

The National EMS Pilots Association (NEMSPA) and the U.S. Helicopter Safety Team (USHST) are conducting a survey to gather information and insight on issues and limitations facing IFR helicopter pilots. The information gathered through the 10-minute survey will be presented to the FAA and other industry stakeholders.

Wisconsin-based Capital Flight has been named Cirrus Aircraft Company's 2018 North American Training Center of the year. The award was presented at Cirrus' annual partner convention in Knoxville, Tennessee. Capital Flight offers services including training, sales, management and maintenance.

Pacific Sky Aviation announced that it has purchased a new cloud-based training management platform. The company will be using the Fox Training Management System by Britannica Knowledge Systems to help oversee pilot training at the Pacific Sky Flight Training Center in Calgary. Also getting new software, Michigan-based cargo airline Kalitta Air will now be using CEFA FAS (Flight Animation System). CEFA FAS animates data from the flight data recorders for review after a flight.

Aircraft management firm Carlisle Air Group has partnered with Worldwide Jet Charter. The collaboration will allow Carlisle Air aircraft owners to access Worldwide Jet's charter fleet and support network, and provide aircraft management options for Worldwide clients.

Short Final: That Can't Be Right

Eastbound through Chicago O’Hare’s Class Bravo, we were on frequency with a controller rattling off instructions to several airplanes in rapid fire. We heard him say in mid‑stream, “But wait, that can’t be right! No it is ... Sometimes I amaze myself.”

He then continued with his rapid fire instructions.

Carmen Fria
Santa Fe, NM
General Aviation Accident Bulletin

AVweb’s General Aviation Accident Bulletin is taken from the pages of our sister publication, Aviation Safety magazine. 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 Final reports appear about a year after the accident, although some take longer. Find out more about Aviation Safety at

October 12, 2018, Midland, TEXAS

Cirrus SR22

The airplane impacted a parking lot while descending under its airframe parachute at about 1045 Central time, following a loss of engine power shortly after takeoff. The pilot and passenger received minor injuries; the airplane was substantially damaged. Daytime instrument conditions prevailed for the flight.

According to the pilot, shortly after departure and at about 500 feet AGL, the engine “surged.” The pilot turned back toward the airport, but the engine lost power. The pilot recognized the airplane would not make it back to the airport, so he deployed the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS). The airplane descended under the parachute into a parking lot and impacted a parked automobile.

October 12, 2018, Culpeper, Va.

Van’s RV-8 Experimental

At about 2000 Eastern time, the airplane was destroyed when it collided with terrain while maneuvering. The solo commercial pilot was fatally injured. Night visual conditions prevailed.

The accident airplane was half of an aerobatic team participating in an airshow. The full flight sequence was planned to last about five minutes. The two performers were in the middle of their routine when the accident occurred. A video showed both airplanes completing a double aileron roll maneuver. Both airplanes were observed in a shallow descent and, after the maneuver was completed, the lead airplane began to climb while the accident airplane entered an inverted dive, which continued until it collided with terrain.

October 13, 2018, Westhampton Beach, N.Y.

Piper PA-34-200T Seneca II

The airplane was substantially damaged when it experienced an in-flight breakup at about 1100 Eastern time and impacted the Atlantic Ocean. The flight instructor, the private pilot receiving instruction and a passenger were fatally injured. Instrument conditions prevailed.

Shortly after takeoff, the flight requested VFR flight following with a planned climb to 8500 feet MSL. The airplane continued to climb, however, and as it climbed through 15,700 feet, ATC advised that other aircraft in the area were reporting IMC and asked the flight to confirm it was in visual conditions. The pilot responded that they were “trying to maintain VMC” and that the attitude indicator was “unreliable.” The controller declared an emergency on behalf of the airplane and suggested a heading toward VFR conditions. The flight asked ATC for the height of the cloud tops and was told the last top reports were at 19,000 feet. The flight replied that the airplane would be climbing to 19,000 feet.

The airplane continued on a southeasterly heading, and its crew reported “VFR on top” and unable to descend below the clouds. The flight requested vectors to visual conditions and the controller instructed the airplane to turn west, but the airplane continued southeast. About two minutes later, after the controller repeated the instruction to turn west, the airplane entered a figure-eight turn and began to descend rapidly. Radio and radar contact was lost shortly thereafter. A witness reported seeing the airplane “nosedive” out of the clouds and into the ocean. A second witness saw two large pieces of the airplane descending from the sky. The airplane came to rest in 20 feet of water on the ocean floor. A portion of the right wing was recovered floating above the airplane about ½ mile offshore.

This article originally appeared in the January 2019 issue of Aviation Safety magazine.

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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.

Picture of the Week, January 24, 2019
It feels good to get out in the desert for a landing on fresh powder...happens about twice a year. Photo by Dennis Bleazard.

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