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Volume 26, Number 6a
February 4, 2019
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Plane Hits California Homes (Updated)
Russ Niles

Five people were killed and three injured in the crash of a Cessna 414A in a neighborhood in Yorba Linda, California, east of Los Angeles. Early reports and video from the scene show aircraft parts on a street in front of two houses on fire. Fire officials confirmed the casualties and said only the pilot was on the plane. 

Update: Video has surfaced on the New York Post website purportedly showing the Cessna descending rapidly after bursting into flames. 

The injured were taken to the hospital with burn injuries. The video below shows that the aircraft was shedding major parts before it came down and it was apparently falling debris that caused the fires. The bulk of the aircraft ended up in the back yard of a house and the fuselage was largely intact. It's early in the investigation and more details will be forthcoming.

A Sad Year For Airshows
Jeff Parnau

As I've stated before, airshow flying is risky. So is practicing to fly in an airshow. Thankfully, not all years include the death of a civilian or military pilot practicing for or flying in a show. But sadly, 2018 was not a good year at all, resulting in the deaths of civilian and military performers, and one who flew in the Reno Air Races for more than 40 years.

The six performer/pilots who passed away during 2018 weren't rookies. Their aviation credentials and experience were unquestionable. Those in the airshow world gather for an annual meeting, at which they mourn the loss of those gone west. And they declare that next year, everyone will make every effort to fly safer, or slower, or higher—or whatever. What else can they say?

The six pilots mentioned below will be deeply missed by their families, friends and peers, and the hardcore airshow fans who all hope, but don't necessarily believe, that next year will be a safe one. These reports were collected during 2018, and are based on research by Jim Froneberger, the editor of World Airshow News magazine.

Stephen Del Bagno

Major Stephen “Cajun” Del Bagno, the #4/Slot Pilot for the USAF Thunderbirds, died on April 4 in a training accident at Creech Air Force Base, located about 50 miles northwest of Nellis AFB near Las Vegas. It was the first fatal crash for the team since the stunning “diamond crash” in January 1982 that claimed the lives of all four pilots who were flying a diamond formation. That accident also happened at Creech.

Before joining the Air Force, Stephen was a civilian flight instructor, corporate pilot, skywriter and banner tow pilot. After joining the U.S. Air Force, he  served as an F-35A Evaluator Pilot and Chief of Standardization and Evaluation, 58th Fighter Squadron, Eglin AFB, Florida. He logged more than 3500 flight hours in over 30 different aircraft, including 1400 hours as an Air Force pilot. Del Bagno was in his first season with the Thunderbirds.

Elgin Wells

Aerobatic pilot and talented musician Elgin Wells died on April 25 when his Starjammer aerobatic aircraft crashed during a practice flight prior to the Zhengzhou Air Show in Zhengzhou, China. He was 68.

Elgin built his monoplane, Starjammer, which included a custom onboard sound system and over 200 LED lights, for his night show performances. A computer system he designed coordinated the lights with the music broadcast from the onboard sound system and airshow PA system.


Legendary Reno Air Race pilot John Parker was killed on May 1 when his aircraft overturned at Reno-Stead Airport. He was 80 years old. Parker competed in the Reno Air Races for more than 40 years, and was a four-time class champion: three in Formula One and one in the Sport Class. In recent years he flew his Thunder Mustang, Blue Thunder, in Reno’s Sport Class.

Dan Buchanan

Airshow performer Dan Buchanan died on June 2 after a hang gliding accident during an airshow at the Gunfighter Skies Air & Space Celebration at Mountain Home AFB in Idaho.

In 1981, while landing a hang glider in bad weather, Dan suffered a spinal injury that left him paralyzed from the waist down.  He resumed flying hang gliders less than six months after his accident and flew his first airshow in 1989. His credentials included being a licensed commercial sailplane pilot with more than 3000 hours of flight time in both hang gliders and sailplanes. His airshow acts included a daytime hang glider demonstration, and a nighttime powered hang glider performance with pyrotechnics.

Ken Johansen

Pilot Ken Johansen of the GEICO Skytypers was killed on May 30 when his SNJ crashed on Long Island after departing Republic Airport in Farmingdale, New York, for an airshow in Maryland. There were no injuries on the ground.

Johansen, 52, had flown with the Royal Netherlands Navy and the U.S. Navy before becoming a commercial pilot, first  with TWA, and then with United Airlines. More recently he flew out of  Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, as a Navy Reserve instructor pilot, flying DC-9s.

Jon Thocker

On Oct. 12, Jon Thocker, 60, of Redline Airshows, was killed during a night performance at the Culpeper Air Fest in Culpeper, Virginia. At the time of his crash, he was performing with flight leader Ken Rieder, who landed safely after Thocker’s accident.

Thocker had a 25-year career as an airline captain flying heavy jets in worldwide cargo operations. He retired in order to become an airshow performer, flying his homebuilt Van’s RV-8 alongside teammate Rieder. They flew a two-ship formation for both daytime and night airshows.

* * *

I mentioned that each year, those in the industry mourn the loss of their cohorts. This occurs during a convention that is currently held in Las Vegas. It's nothing like the Consumer Electronics show, which sees 180,000 attendees these days. The airshow convention draws approximately 1500 people.

I first attended the convention in 2004. The opening session included a video honoring those who, in one way or another, lost their lives during the year. There were those who died of natural causes, or motor vehicle accidents, or something directly related to airshow activities. Initially, it was weird to witness 1500 people being stone silent as the video was presented.

A few years later, I was at the opening session, and it was suddenly "that time" for the video salute to those who were no longer with us. I left the room. One of the persons who would have soon been on the screen was a friend of mine. I haven't watched the salute since.

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.

Boeing, FAA Probed In Lion Air Crash
Russ Niles

A New York Times investigation of the Oct. 29, 2018, Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX crash suggests marketing considerations were at least partly behind Boeing’s and the FAA's joint decision to not specifically train pilots in the maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS) that may have played a role in the crash. The Times story quotes various named sources as saying that Boeing wanted to maintain the cross compatibility between the new aircraft and earlier versions of the 737, thus simplifying conversion training and reducing costs for airlines buying the MAX.

The difficulty was that the physically larger engines that accomplish the plane’s main selling point—better fuel economy—had to be mounted higher and farther forward than on its predecessors and that significantly changed low-speed flight characteristics. MCAS was designed to compensate for the MAX’s increased tendency to stall in a low-speed turn by adjusting the angle of the horizonal stabilizer. The system takes data from one of two angle of attack indicators (there’s no redundancy or agreement requirement) and was designed to automatically push the nose down if an incipient stall was detected. Boeing convinced the FAA that because the system maintained the basic flight characteristics of earlier versions that pilots did not need specific training on MCAS even though its inclusion was considered necessary for certification of the aircraft.

The Times story also notes that other regulators at least initially determined that pilots should be made aware of MCAS. European regulators wanted pilots to be trained on it but eventually accepted the FAA’s and Boeing’s position. Brazil, however, stuck to its guns and required specific training for pilots on MCAS.

Boeing didn’t hide the addition of MCAS. It’s described in operation and maintenance manuals and was explained in technical briefings with prospective customers. It also included an emergency checklist covering disabling the system. But because they were not specifically trained in its use, most pilots didn’t know it was there and that it operated fundamentally differently from the speed trim system that operated the stabilizer setting on earlier 737s. Notably, pulling back on the yoke on older aircraft disables the automatic trim. Pulling back does not deactivate MCAS on the MAX.

Something the Times couldn’t determine was whether MCAS was tested in a failure mode, either in the simulator or on the aircraft itself. The predominant theory on the root cause of the crash was that faulty AOA data resulted in an erroneous and extreme reaction from the MCAS, pushing the aircraft into a high-speed dive that the pilots could not recover from. Boeing and the FAA are under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and Indonesian authorities to determine if the decision to skip pilot training in the new system played a role in what became the worst air crash of 2018.

F-35 Problems Persist
Russ Niles

The Marine Corps version of the F-35 might only last 25 percent of its presumed life expectancy according to a Pentagon report obtained by Bloomberg. The news service is reporting the short takeoff-vertical landing F-35B may only last 2,100 hours instead of the projected life limit of 8,000 hours. At a unit cost of about $252.3 million that works out to more than $120,000 an hour. It also means that the first B models will hit their best before date in 2026, just 10 years after entry to service. That’s only one issue in a long list of expensive deficiencies chronicled in the report on the F-35 program as a whole.

The Pentagon says the aircraft is “well below” its projected 80 percent dispatch rate, its computers are vulnerable to hacking and the planes take longer to fix than expected. The onboard maintenance diagnostic tool doesn’t work properly and there are “pervasive problems with data integrity.” It also notes the gun used in the Air Force model of the F-35 isn’t accurate enough for air-to-ground use.

Honda Fined For Hiring Discrimination
Russ Niles

Honda Aircraft has been fined $44,626 for apparently trying a little too hard to do the right thing when hiring staff. The Justice Department announced this week that Honda was fined for discriminating against prospective employees based on their citizenship because the company misunderstood export restrictions. Under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), employees of businesses engaged in making things that are covered by those regs must be “U.S. persons” and Honda appears to have taken the term too literally. It posted ads the Justice Department says violated the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Honda advertised at least 25 job vacancies “that unlawfully required applicants to have a specific citizenship status to be considered for the vacancies,” the Justice Department said in a news release. The department said the term “U.S. persons” refers to “U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, lawful permanent residents, asylees, and refugees.” In addition to the fine, Honda had to make sure none of its job ads contain the discriminatory language. Some Honda employees will have to take training in the discrimination provisions and the company will have to make sure trained employees review all job postings.

Tom Brady Highlights Wheels Up Ad
Russ Niles

Air charter membership company Wheels Up is leveraging all the attention on the Super Bowl by running national television ads this weekend featuring New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Brady is among several celebrities seen boarding and sitting in the company’s King Airs and Citation aircraft. Brady and numerous other high-profile celebrities are members of the service, which charges annual fees in exchange for on-demand access to aircraft. Founder Kenny Dichter told a news conference at NBAA last October that celebrity testimonials are part of its marketing program.

Wheels Up will be flying plenty of its members to Atlanta for the big game and it always holds a well-attended party at the event. The location is kept secret but invited guests will get to rub shoulders with plenty of well-known entertainment and sports celebrities. The party includes live entertainment and plenty of Wheels Up swag for attendees.

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Top Letters And Comments, February 1, 2019

Winter Flying

Just a quick note to say I really enjoyed Paul's recent article on winter flying. Having just returned from the frozen wasteland of Hoth or Iowa. Whatever they are calling it these days, I could appreciate his sentiment. I was supposed to be painting an airplane here in NC, where it blessedly says that it has to be at least 65 degrees, 70 is better, for the paint to work properly right on the instructions, so throw another log or seven in the wood stove.

Instead I trundled off into the Midwest for a surprise Angel Flight, straight into the polar vortex and 60 knot headwinds, right on the nose.

And turbulence. There were pireps all over my route for moderate to extreme turbulence. Give me a thunderstorm any day. I can at least see that blasted thing and avoid it.

By the flight home had 50 knots on the tail and our patient received his treatment and was home for dinner so I guess it all worked out.

Funny. I spend summers in a rural area near Oshkosh. On the airport where my toys freeze all winter, there's an AWOS and I have privileged access to the airport's security cams. The coldest temp seen was -33 deg K and the coldest wind chill was -57 yesterday. On one pic I saw, it looked exactly as you described ... something out of Dr Zhivago with snow plows and snow blowers competing for snow removal on the ramp.

Dan Moore

The first year I operated from up there, I learned to make multiple sweeps of the hangar prior to heading south to make sure nothing that could freeze and explode was left behind. Year one taught me that a case of coke left will make one helluva mess. At my home, I leave the heat on AND have multiple backup pure electric heaters in case the gas furnace poops out. I have actually seen bars where the only vehicles out back are snowmobiles.

Over the weekend, it's going to warm into the 40's for a couple of days. That's the way Wisconsin is. Don't like the weather ... wait a few days. I have neighbors who think I'm out of my mind for leaving during winter; I believe that THIS winter may change their minds? When things close down in Wisconsin... you KNOW it's cold out.

Larry Stencel

ATC Sick Calls During Shutdown

In reading your article "The ATC Crisis That Wasn't" I was so disappointed to see that you too have dropped to the level of "mainstream" media. ATC employees are not working without pay. They will be paid for every minute they work. Their only financial hardship was a delay in receiving their paychecks.

Your article, like almost every other media outlet, leaves the reader with the impression that Air Traffic Controllers are working for free.

Even if you characterize your article as an OpEd piece, the half-truth of claiming that Controllers are working "without pay" is beneath you.

Kris Larson

As a pilot, I have been following the impact the government shutdown might have on ATC. Each time I fly I self-assess my physical and mental preparedness to fly using the "I'M SAFE" acronym, checking: Illness, Medication, Stress, Alcohol, Fatigue and Eating and only if confident in my suitability for flight, do I fly. I would expect and hope that my ATC eyes in the sky have a similar checklist they perform to assess their readiness to be the eyes for my flight.

I find it interesting that higher absenteeism is reported as a coordinated sick-out. What I would expect is that the emotional strain of mortgage, food and other bills to support a family would increase the stress of an ATC employee in an already stressful environment resulting in their inability to perform their job safely, resulting in a sick day. Since the entire ATC team is under the exact same stress, higher levels of absenteeism should be expected.

I truly respect and value my ATC partners and feel blessed that they are so good at doing their jobs that we have the safest system in the world. I just can't image the stresses of the last 35 days.

Tom Nery

They signed up for this when they took the job. I know it's tough, but we shouldn't hear the whining. They should either work or quit.

Jim Monroe

However the NATCA leadership cares to deflect sick call attention, that's fine with me. I've been flying about during the shutdown, and the controller's performed admirably. Despite what was typical deplorable Washington behavior. The controllers were definitely the adults in the room in this situation.

Tom O'Toole

Do Big Players Getting Into Urban VTOL Convince You That It's Real?

Sentiment among the AVweb Commentariat runs against VTOL services and electric propulsion in general. However, I don't really trust the judgment of old-timers who dote over the J-3 and fear FADEC. It sounds like they're yelling "Get a horse!" at the new technology.

Boeing, Airbus, Siemens et al may or may not be able to put viable eVTOL systems in place in cities around the world. I'm guessing they'd have their greatest success in new cities with rich elites who don't think of themselves as pilots. (i.e. outside the U. S.)

AVweb is my favorite GA site. I enjoy the articles that appear here. The grumpy old men who comment on them, not so much. Guys like them are holding GA back.

Rollin Olson

Whelen Acquires LoPresti Aviation
Paul Bertorelli

Whelen Engineering, the well-known manufacturer of aircraft lamps and strobe lights, announced Friday that is has acquired LoPresti Aviation, another manufacturer of aircraft lighting systems and aircraft mods. The new entity, to be called Whelen Aerospace Technologies or WAT, will be based in Chester, Connecticut, Whelen Engineering’s long-established home. Whelen also has an extensive line of automotive lighting products.

Included in the deal is LoPresti’s speed mod business, its HID lighting line and a new division it established recently to market its own line of LED landing and taxi lamps. LoPresti pioneered HID lighting for light aircraft with its Boom Beam product. Over the years, it expanded that line into ever-larger aircraft, including turboprops and business jets. As cheaper LEDs eroded the HID market, LoPresti branched into that technology as well, with the Illumivation line.

LoPresti is also known for its speed mods for Pipers, Mooneys and other aircraft. These include cowls, spats and gap seals. It recently introduced a brake cooling mod for the Cirrus called Ice Skates. That business will continue and it, along with the LoPresti lighting division, will remain in Florida. For now, the WAT website shows three nameplates: Whelen, Illumivation and LoPresti Aviation. The Illumivation line will eventually roll into Whelen’s Parmetheus aircraft lighting line.

Whelan president and CEO George Whelan says the combined resources of the two companies will allow WAT to expand its product line and better serve customers globally. Our sister publication, The Aviation Consumer, will publish a detailed review on LED lighting in the March 2019 issue.

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Three Killed In Medical Helicopter Crash
Kate O'Connor

Three people were killed in the crash of a Bell 407 medical helicopter in Vinton County, Ohio, approximately 75 miles southeast of Columbus, on Tuesday. The helicopter, which was operated Survival Flight Inc., departed from Mount Carmel Grove City hospital and was en route to pick up up a patient from Holzer Meigs hospital in Pomeroy, Ohio.

According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Survival Flight notified them at about 7:20 a.m. that they had lost contact with the helicopter. Highway Patrol officers located the wreckage at about 10:15 a.m. in a wooded area east of state Route 278. No emergency communications were received from the aircraft prior to the accident.

The victims have been identified as pilot Jennifer Topper, 34, and flight nurses Bradley Haynes, 48, and Rachel Cunningham, 33. There were no patients on board at the time of the crash. The NTSB, FAA and Ohio State Highway Patrol are investigating.

Industry Round-up, February 1, 2019
AVweb Staff

This week, AVweb’s news roundup uncovered reports on acceptance for a new flying boat, a company’s 10,000th transponder delivery, an anniversary for an online ground school provider and an organization taking applications for an aircraft competition. The roundup also found announcements about an acquisition in the aviation lighting industry, a new aircraft maintenance pickup and delivery service for Eclipse owners, the opening of an aviation insurance agency and the launch of a pilot recruitment firm.

Russian aircraft manufacturer AeroVolga has received a letter of acceptance from Transport Canada for its Borey Model A Advanced Ultra-Light Aeroplane (AULA). The Borey is a two-seat amphibious flying boat that first flew in 2016. Also passing a milestone, ACSS has delivered the 10,000th production unit of its ADS-B compliant NXT Mode S Transponder family. ACSS’s NXT transponders entered production in 2014. The third group to reach a landmark recently is Helicopter Online Ground School, which is celebrating its seventh year online. The organization provides online video ground school courses along with free helicopter training videos and safety webinars.

Applications are now open for the National Aviation Heritage Invitational (NAHI), a vintage aircraft competition that will take place alongside the STIHL National Championship Air Races from Sept. 11-15, 2019, in Reno, Nevada. The competition includes five categories: Antique Aircraft, Classic Aircraft, Contemporary Aircraft, Large Aircraft and Military Aircraft. Applications will be reviewed by a five-member judging team.

Whelen Engineering Company has completed an acquisition and spinoff of its aviation division with LoPresti Aviation. Whelen’s aviation division and LoPresti will be combined into a single organization named Whelen Aerospace Technologies (WAT), which will continue to design and manufacture aviation lighting. Aircraft sales organization AEROCOR has partnered with Henderson, Nevada-based Part 145 repair station Apex Aviation. The partnership will provide free aircraft pickup and delivery for AEROCOR’s Eclipse 500/500 maintenance customers.

Texas-based Airspeed Insurance Agency has announced its entry into the aviation insurance industry. The company began operations in January 2019. Finally, GOOSE Recruitment is also launching an aviation venture. The group is offering pilot recruitment services and has set up offices in the U.K., Singapore and Houston.

Short Final: Mach 3

A few days ago, departing Minot North Dakota for Duluth in a Skylane, I asked ATC if the NOTAM for military training at Duluth had the airport closed, or whether it was open to GA traffic. He asked me to stand by for a minute, and then said, “It’s closed at the moment, but will reopen in 30 minutes, so unless you are doing Mach 3, you should have no problem.”

Brian Samuels
Vancouver, BC
Brainteasers Quiz #252: Let's Play Risk™

In aviation, the game of Risk™ is often perceived as the antithesis of Life™, even though the two metaphors must coexist in order to fly safely and to ace this quiz.

Click here to take the quiz.

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