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Volume 26, Number 14a
April 1, 2019
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Sun 'n Fun Launches Tuesday
Russ Niles

Everything from gliders to state-of-the-art business jets will be on display as the flying world flocks to Lakeland, Florida, for the official start of the airshow season at Sun ’n Fun 2019. Exhibitors were already setting up on Sunday in preparation for opening day on Tuesday. Thousands of aircraft will be visiting Lakeland Linder International Airport for the five days of Sun ’n Fun. Supplying the background noise for our extensive multimedia coverage will be the elite of airshow performers, including the Marine Corps Blue Angels and two night shows on Wednesday and Friday. Anyone looking to buy anything aviation-related can find it in the air-conditioned hangars brimming with exhibitors.

Weather is expected to be mostly benign in Lakeland for the duration of the show with mostly sunny skies and moderate temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s for the week. The weather is also looking generally good for those flying from other areas to Florida for the show. Forecasters are not predicting any major systems or severe weather to get between Florida and the rest of the continent in the coming week.

The show has been powered by volunteers to become one of the most significant events on the aviation calendar and it gives back to the aviation community. “What began with a passion for aviation is now a driving industry force,” said SNF CEO John “Lites” Leenhouts. "Over $2 million in direct education and scholarship funding is given each year through our cause, the Aerospace Center for Excellence."

AVweb Editor Arrested
AVweb Staff

AVweb editor-at-large Paul Bertorelli was placed under arrest yesterday afternoon following a high-speed chase near El Paso, Texas. The long-time AVweb staff member was believed to be heading for Mexico when he was taken into custody following a warrant filed by the FBI stemming from a complaint issued by the Federal Aviation Administration.

“We’re trying to get to the bottom of it now,” said AVweb Senior Editor Kate O’Connor. The company has declined to make bail, O’Connor said, but the staff is starting a Go-Fund-Me.

“Not a good time to go off the rails, frankly, with Sun ‘n Fun right around the corner,” said O’Connor. “He’s always looking for an excuse to avoid Lakeland, but this time he might have gone too far.”

O’Connor said Bertorelli has been a flight risk since last year when he made a false claim that the FAA is pushing back the ADS-B deadline.

“I mean, Paul said he was sorry,” said O’Connor. “And the assault charge after that little dust-up at the Tampa FSDO was dropped. I am guessing the Feds want to keep him incarcerated at least through April 1.”

O’Connor said when Bertorelli got wind of which book they were going to throw at him, he got away in his Piper Cub. Prior to his apprehension near the Mexican border, Bertorelli called O’Connor from somewhere near the Alabama-Florida line: “He said he had a headwind and was flying backward so he was going to land and try to steal a motorcycle,” O’Connor said.

That’s when the multi-talented Marc Cook, ex-Kitplanes and ex-Motorcyclist editor, stepped up. In order to curry favor with the notoriously churlish Bertorelli, he supplied AVweb’s editor-at-large with a Kawasaki crotch rocket. “I just hope he doesn’t hurt himself,” Cook was later quoted.

“There’s an unconfirmed report Russ Niles somehow got his hands on some C-4 explosive and had blasted a hole in the southern border for Bertorelli’s escape,” O’Connor said. “But that let in some remnants from ‘the Caravan’ and now ICE is after him. They had his mug shot on Hannity.”

Niles has been charged as an accessory and is currently in hiding. He later commented: “We’re pretty sure Paul’s plan was to go to earth somewhere in Chihuahua. Makes sense because he’s been going to the dogs for a while.”

O’Connor continued: “Tell you the truth, none of this surprises me. He always gets a little wacko this time of year.”

She added a hopeful note: “Key will be to keep the straight jacket on so he can’t use a keyboard. Management has issued anti-anxiety pills to the staff, and there’s a loaded dart gun in the newsroom in case we need to tranquilize him. We’ll keep you posted.”

Russian Airline Owner Dies In Epic LT Crash
Russ Niles

The co-owner of Russian Airline S7 (Siberian Airlines) and one of Russia’s wealthiest women, Natalia Fileva, 55, died in the crash of an Oregon-produced Epic LT turboprop single outside of Frankfurt on Sunday. Two other people on the plane were also killed. Epic, based in the resort town of Bend, Oregon, is owned by Russian MRO company Engineering LLC but it’s not immediately clear what, if any, relationship there is between the airline and the MRO. Social media reports connect the three companies. The crash airplane had Russian registration and Epic promotional text on its exterior. The aircraft is an experimental in the U.S. It is the owner-built version of the Epic Dynasty, which has been undergoing a lengthy FAA certification after the company changed hands several times. The Russian owners are reported to have fully funded the certification effort.

Fileva was flying from France to Frankfurt when the aircraft went down in field near Egelsbach. There were no details immediately available on the crash. It happened about 2:30 p.m. local time. The weather was reported as sunny and warm. The LT is the forerunner of Epic’s Dynasty certified model that will be built in Bend. It’s a high-performance single that was built as a factory assist experimental in Bend until recently. The provenance of the crash airplane wasn’t immediately known.

Lycoming 'When can an engine give you 200 extra flying hours?'
NTSB Urges Piper Spar AD Changes
Russ Niles

The NTSB is urging the FAA to back off on its one-size-fits-all approach to potential wing spar cracking in 20,000 Piper singles, saying the cure may be more dangerous than the condition in some cases. According to the Piper Owners Society, the board says many of the aircraft swept up in the AD are likely at low risk for developing cracks and the pulling everything apart to look at the spars on those aircraft may actually increase the risk of failure. It says the heavier and higher performance planes that use the spar design, including the PA-28-235 (Cherokee 235) model, all PA-28R (retractable gear) series airplanes and the PA-32-260 and PA-32-300 (Cherokee Six) model airplanes, are mostly at risk.

“The NTSB notes that the data showed that the risk of fatigue cracking on all affected PA-28 series airplanes other than the PA-28-235 is significantly lower over their assumed useful life,” the board said in a letter to the FAA. “We are concerned that the risks associated with disturbing the joint to complete the inspection may outweigh the risk of fatigue cracking in all affected PA-28 series airplanes other than the PA-28-235 and urge the FAA to reexamine the applicability of the proposed AD.” EAA and AOPA have also weighed in, saying there are less invasive and expensive ways to address the potential problems than a blanket inspection AD. The AD was prompted by the failure of a spar in an Embry-Riddle Arrow in 2018 that killed a commercial pilot candidate on his checkride and the FAA examiner doing the test.

Air Force One Replacement At $5.3 Billion
Russ Niles

The final price tag for two new almost-new VC-25B executive transport aircraft for the Air Force is now pegged at $5.3 billion. Defense One is reporting the Pentagon has asked for $4.68 billion for the conversion of two mothballed Boeing 747-8i airliners in its 2020 budget request and full implementation of the program will add the other $600 million or so to create the aircraft, which are used to fly the president and are designated Air Force One when he’s onboard. “The total VC-25B acquisition cost … is $5.3B and encompasses all costs associated with fielding the system,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek is quoted as stating in an email to Defense One.

The final program cost is about $1.4 billion higher than the $3.9 billion that had been touted by the administration. After intervention from President Donald Trump over the cost of the program, the Air Force bought two white-tailed airframes from Boeing that had been orphaned in desert storage by the bankruptcy of Russian airline TransAero. It’s believed stripping the seats and some of the civilian systems from the planes, which have been stored in the open for more than two years, will add to the cost. The sticker price for the two Russian airframes is $390 million each but the Air Force has never released what it actually paid for them. The first of the stored aircraft took off from Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville last week heading to the Kelly Field Annex in Texas where modification work will begin in 2020.

Included in the $600 million of program implementation costs is a new hangar for the aircraft at Joint Base Andrews near Washington. There’s nothing wrong with the existing hangar except it’s a few feet too small to hold the longer and wider 747-8i. The new hangar is expected to cost $86 million. Despite the ballooning cost (about the same as a new Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carrier according to, the new airplanes will lack the endurance of the existing VC-25Bs because they will not be able to refuel in flight. By using inflight refueling, along with large refrigerators for food and provisions for other necessities, the existing aircraft were designed to stay in the air for days at a time in times of crisis.

Ethiopian Max Crash: Flight Data Implicates AoA Sensor
Paul Bertorelli

A faulty angle-of-attack sensor appears to have incorrectly activated the MCAS stall-protection system on the Boeing 737 MAX 8 that crashed in Ethiopia on March 10, according to sources briefed on the flight data recorder readout. If confirmed in the final report, that would make the accident a repeat of the October 2018 crash of Lion Air's MAX 8 in Indonesia.

Sources briefed on the FDR readout told The New York Times and other outlets that the finding confirms a systemic design flaw in Boeing’s execution of MCAS. Last week, the company revealed that it has recast the MAX software to incorporate AoA data from the airplane’s two sensors, not just the single sensor that previously fed the system.

Boeing added MCAS—Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System—to the MAX because the airplane’s forward-mounted engines tend to create a pitch-up moment when the aircraft is flown at high angles of attack and load factors. MCAS is an automatic background envelope-protection system that rolls in nose-down stabilizer trim when the aircraft is flown at high AoA with the autopilot off and the flaps up. It’s intended as an anti-stall system.

The Lion Air preliminary accident report revealed that MCAS was active during the crash sequence and trimmed more than 20 times as the pilots struggled to counter the nose-down force. The flight data from that crash revealed repeated pitch and altitude excursions and based on ADS-B data, the same pattern occurred in the Ethiopian Airlines crash.

“Generally speaking, aviation components are highly reliable,” Mel McIntyre, a retired Boeing engineer who worked with sensor systems told the Times. “But everything can fail. Nothing is invincible,” he added.

The FAA allowed Boeing to certify the system with single AoA input because it evidently believed a sensor failure would not be a catastrophic event. Boeing has been widely criticized for not making pilots and operators of the MAX aware of MCAS. Failure of the system presents as an intermittent runaway trim abnormal, which pilots are trained to counter by using the aircraft’s stab trim cutout switches. It’s not known if the Ethiopian crew did this, but the airline said both pilots had been briefed in detail following the Lion Air crash.

Meanwhile, more than 350 MAX series aircraft remain grounded throughout the world. Southwest Airlines, which operates 34 MAX 8 airplanes, has planned its schedules at least through May without using the airplanes.

EAA Announces Year Of The Fighter At AirVenture 2019
Kate O'Connor

The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) has announced that a wide array of military aircraft ranging from historic World War II warbirds to currently active fighters will be on display for the “Year of the Fighter” at AirVenture 2019 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Special programs and activities highlighting military aircraft will take place throughout the week. Events include the Oshkosh debut of the XP-82 Twin Mustang, a salute to World War II ace Bud Anderson, observance of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, U.S. Air Force Heritage Flights and U.S. Navy Legacy Flights.

According to EAA, the events have been planned in partnership with the U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command, EAA Warbirds of America and individual aircraft owners. “Oshkosh is known for being a collection of aircraft and people that is unmatched anywhere in the world, and that will again be the case in 2019,” said EAA vice president of communities and member programs Rick Larsen. “We are grateful to the U.S. Air Force and the Air Combat Command for their assistance and to the EAA Warbirds of America to make possible these kinds of activities, for which AirVenture is known and eagerly anticipated each year.”

Aircraft scheduled to attend include examples of the F-15, F-16, F-22, F-35, A-10, P-51, C-47, F4U and others. AirVenture 2019 will take place Monday, July 22 to Sunday July 28, centered around Wisconsin’s Wittman Airport (OSH).

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MGF's New Head Up Display
Paul Bertorelli

A week ahead of Sun 'n Fun 2019, MGF is finishing certification work on its new SkyDisplay light aircraft HUD (Head Up Display) and AVweb's Paul Bertorelli took a demo flight in it with the company's Charlie Schneider.

Continental Motors Gets A New Name
Paul Bertorelli

Continental Motors, a unit of the Chinese-based AVIC International, has rebranded itself with a new name and a new logo. Now the company will be called Continental Aerospace Technologies and while the change reflects what the company says is a modernized theme for its marketing, the firm’s business organization remains unchanged.

AVIC International bought what was then Teledyne Continental Motors in 2010 and it later acquired the bankrupt assets of the former Thielert Aircraft Engines, giving it a major position in the niche aerodiesel market. In 2015, Continental bought Danbury Aerospace, the parent company of Engine Components International, a major general aviation PMA house. All of these disparate business units will now reside under the Continental Aerospace Technologies brand.

None Dare Call It Murder
Paul Berge

Non-fatal accident/incidents bring easy derision from those of us who’ve never been caught screwing up. Which is why each year IFR magazine runs Stupid Pilot Tricks, a jolly romp through NTSB accident reports, from which we present the best of the worst offenders for sanctimonious ridicule. If you think that’s sophomoric, it is. But I challenge anyone to not become cynical after reading through the roughly 1500 new reports each year (way down from decades past as Paul Bertorelli reported), many repeating the same stupid mistakes with the same results.

One rule for the Stupids column is we never make fun of the dead. Still, some of the fatal accidents seem blatantly avoidable and dumb to the point of criminality. In that vein, here’s a review of a crash, which doesn’t deserve to be called an “accident” in the sense of Oooops, didn’t see that coming. Caution: Nothing funny here, just four dead.

On September 5, 2015, at 11:50 a.m. a 1963 Cessna 310H departed Flagstaff, Arizona, heading VFR to Amarillo, Texas, 483 miles almost straight east. Didn’t get close to the destination. VFR weather was reported and forecast along the intended route. North of that, not so good.

At 14:08, the C-310 crashed 247 miles northeast of Flagstaff, near Silverton, Colorado. Weather at Telluride, Colorado, 12 miles northwest of the wreckage, was VFR but included thunderstorms in the vicinity. Observations closer to the crash site reported rain and high humidity consistent with cloud cover and mountain obscuration. The NTSB reports: “The wreckage path was estimated to be about 1050 feet long along an estimated northerly direction in up-sloping mountainous terrain … wreckage distribution was consistent with a low-angle, high-speed impact.” Picture that—a thousand-foot skid mark on a mountain, aligned perpendicular to the C-310’s proposed easterly route. They hit fast and hard. Except for the empennage, little was recognizable as airplane or human.

The NTSB listed probable cause as: “The non-instrument-rated pilot’s improper judgment and his failure to maintain situational awareness, which resulted in the flight’s encounter with (IMC) and controlled flight into terrain during cruise flight.” A sad but not uncommon end to a chain of bonehead decision making, forged with many deadly links.

The NTSB continues: “…no flight plan had been filed. The pilot was not using air traffic control (ATC) services.” So what? A flight plan (VFR or IFR) cannot prevent an accident; it’s paperwork. Flight plans are required for IFR flight and help locate VFR wrecks. That’s about it. ATC services cannot prevent stupidity.

Here’s where it slides into criminal stupidity. The “non-instrument-rated” private pilot/owner was not multi-engine rated and didn’t seem to know diddly about flying—at least safe flying—in anything. The trip began innocently enough early that morning at the Twin Cessna’s home base at Big Bear City Airport, California, for a 36-mile hop to Barstow-Daggett to pick up the (three) passengers, one of whom was a single-engine, non-instrument-rated pilot.

The PIC’s daughter later reported to the NTSB that they were “going to fly to Amarillo, Texas, following Interstate 40, where they were going to have dinner and then return the same day.” A reasonably safe VFR plan. Interstates are great navaids that also offer emergency landing sites. A fuel stop was planned at Flagstaff. Good so far … other than not being multi-rated. But things got weird on approach into Flagstaff.

Transcripts between the Twin Cessna and Flagstaff’s control tower show a confused pilot. For example, the NTSB says, “He was set up for the left base leg instead of right base leg as instructed.” A minor glitch, but the pilot further vexed tower controllers by misidentifying “in every transmission the make and model airplane he was flying, referring to his airplane as a Piper Comanche instead of a Cessna 310.” Admittedly, I screw up callsigns, particularly as a CFI hopping from airplane to airplane, so I won’t throw stones here.

Once safely on the ground, the Twin Cessna (not Comanche) “almost hit another airplane and golf carts,” the NTSB reports, “and it was taxied close enough to the fuel pumps that it ‘knocked’ a ladder with one of its propellers.” Prop damage couldn’t have been too severe, because the pilot refueled and took the down time to get an abbreviated briefing from AFSS for the leg from Flagstaff to Amarillo, telling the briefer that he intended to land at “L51.” Problem.

The identifier for Amarillo is KTDW, while L51 is the identifier for Heller Farm Airport, Winifred, Montana, located north of the accident location and in a direction consistent with the airplane’s direction of travel at the time of the accident. The sectional chart’s data box for Amarillo airport shows “L51,” although, it’s not the identifier but, instead, the length of Amarillo’s longest runway at 5100 feet.

The accident airplane was no gem. Onboard flight instruments were reported by a witness at Big Bear airport as “very old” and “… not all that good.” The daughter reported that a GPS was onboard. While the instrument panel was destroyed on impact, it’s possible—likely—that “L51” had been entered into the GPS as the destination. My speculation. The dutiful GPS would have pointed the VFR pilot north from Flagstaff for Heller Farm (L51) Montana, 750 miles away, instead of east toward Amarillo (KTDW). It gets worse.

As rough as the non-multi-rated pilot’s performance was on arrival to Flagstaff, he was arguably more dangerous outbound. The NTSB states: “During the departure for the accident flight, the pilot taxied to and attempted to take off from an active runway without any radio communications with or clearance from ATC, which resulted in a runway incursion of an air carrier flight on final approach for landing to the runway.” When I was a tower controller, I experienced several WTF moments with situations like this, usually followed by a command to taxi to the ramp and “call the tower,” which included a verbal butt-chewing by a tower supe and a mea culpa from the contrite pilot. No need getting FSDO involved.

Around 11:50 a.m. Flagstaff tower cleared the Cessna 310 for takeoff, and it turned north toward Montana, instead of east toward Texas. This being class D airspace, tower controllers were under no obligation to provide ATC navigation. Phoenix Approach Control provides ATC radar service in the area, but the C-310 was outside Class B airspace and not required to utilize the service. Squawking 1200, the doomed airplane was tracked heading north—way off course.

Accident investigations involve more than inspecting the salvageable pieces. Investigators recovered the aircraft and pilot logbooks, revealing that the C-310 was overdue for its annual inspection so technically was unairworthy. But airplanes don’t fly or crash because of logbook entries.

The non-flying, passenger-pilot is tragically irrelevant to the accident, although he may have been involved in GPS navigation. We’ll never know. The flying pilot’s logbook showed no record of having ever received instruction in the accident airplane. He did log time in a Twin Comanche and had logged a total of 150 hours of multi-engine time. The NTSB noted, “However, there were no logbook entries documenting flights in multiengine airplanes before the page indicating that he had 150 hours of multiengine flight time.” Meaning it’s vague if he had any multi training or when he acquired this non-specific 150 hours. He was also overdue for a flight review. His last review, 26 months earlier, had been in a Cherokee 180.

The NTSB discovered that the pilot had carried passengers in the C-310 on previous flights and further noted that “The pilot’s logbook showed that he had once made low-altitude (10 feet above the ground) passes over a parade in the same airplane.” Good of him to log it and not his first admission to buzzing parades. Celebrating Independence Day, 2012 at Daggett, California, he recorded in his logbook that he “Flew over parade 10 feet off ground made six passes.” Boasting or just criminally stupid? Or both?

To sum up: There’s little point in concluding that the dead twin Cessna pilot was irresponsible. That’d be like saying tsunamis are bad. Every bit of evidence depicts a pilot with absolutely no grasp of the seriousness of flight in a high-performance twin, nor the consequences to himself and others for failure.

From the 45+ years I’ve been a GA fixture, I can envision the ghosts of too many stupid pilots who’ve splattered into mountains, snagged powerlines, miserably failed at demonstrating steep banking departures and flown equipment for which they were legally and/or morally unqualified. Truth is I could easily—and several times over—have joined that ignominious ghost parade.

No one likes to snitch on a fellow pilot, but when stupidity runs to the depths that this Cessna owner displayed, then there’s no pilot at the controls. That’s borders on the criminal, a airplane driver who killed three others while being stupid. Conclude whatever you want, but there’s nothing funny about it.

Note to Readers: No, it's not something you said. Because of persistent denial of service attacks against AVweb, we're moving the site to another platform. The commenting section will be unavailable for a time. We apologize for the inconvenience, but the site will be better for it in a week or two. In the meantime, if you have a comment, email me us and we'll append it to the blog.

Short Final: Magic Words

I was flying home late one night into my home base which is a non-towered airport near a Class C airport. Approach asked me to "call the field" when I had it in sight. It was the end of a long day and I didn't respond with a cancellation as usual. Instead I replied, "Field in sight, I can cancel anytime."

ATC: "I need to hear the magic words."

Me: "Abracadabra?"

ATC: "N1234, Sqwuawk VFR. Good Night."

Shane DeWeese

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