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Volume 26, Number 17c
April 26, 2019
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Drone Company Receives Air Carrier Certification
Kate O'Connor

Google’s Wing Aviation made history as the first drone delivery company to be certified as an air carrier by the FAA on Tuesday. The certification will allow Wing to start a commercial delivery service in the U.S. that will use all-electric drones to deliver small goods to local homes and businesses. As shown in the video below, Wing reports that it has already flown more than 70,000 test flights and made over 3,000 home deliveries to customers in Australia.

“Wing demonstrated that its operations met the FAA’s rigorous safety requirements to qualify for an air carrier certificate,” the FAA said in a statement. “This is based on extensive data and documentation, as well as thousands of safe flights conducted in Australia over the past several years.” According to Wing, its data showed that “delivery by Wing carries a lower risk to pedestrians than the same trip made by car.”

Prior to certification, Wing partnered with the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership and Virginia Tech as one of the participants in the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program (UAS IPP). As a next step, the company says it will be furthering its participation in UAS IPP in Southwest Virginia with the goal of launching a delivery trial in the Blacksburg and Christiansburg areas later in 2019.

Pilot Rescued From Treetop
Kate O'Connor

A pilot has been rescued after his Piper Cub crashed and lodged in the top of a tree near McCall, Idaho, on Monday night. The pilot, identified as McCall resident John Gregory, 79, was able to contact 911 after the crash. In addition, the Valley County Sherriff’s Office was contacted by the International Emergency Response Coordination Center (IERCC) regarding the activation of a SPOT locator beacon and by U.S. Airforce Rescue Command after they detected the activation of an unregistered EPIRB near McCall. The Valley County Sherriff’s Office and McCall Fire & EMS made their way to the site via snowmobiles and found the aircraft approximately 60 feet up in the tree.

According to McCall Fire & EMS, two helicopters were dispatched to assist with the rescue but were put on standby due to concerns that the rotor wash would dislodge the aircraft from the treetop. After the rescue team assessed the situation, McCall volunteer firefight Randy Acker, who also owns and operates a hazardous tree removal company in the area, climbed up to rescue Gregory. “He made his way to the top, limbing the tree as he went up,” McCall Fire & EMS said in a statement. “Once at the top, he secured the plane with webbing to the tree top and then made contact with the pilot. Acker was able to get a safety harness on the pilot and then the pilot was belayed down the tree to safety.” Gregory walked away with no injuries.

The cause of the accident has not yet been determined, but it has been reported that the aircraft lost power before the crash. Authorities are asking local residents to stay away from the crash site while they figure out how to get the aircraft down safely.

LAX 24L: A Runway With A Tragic History
Myron Nelson

After having had scores of airline crew overnights in Los Angeles over the last 32 years, in a variety of area hotels, one I stayed in recently had special meaning for me.

As I arose in the morning and opened the drapes, I was presented with a direct view of the approach end of Runway 24L at LAX. It was one of those rare and melancholy moments in life that spur deep reflection. I pulled up a chair to the window just as one of my company's aircraft was gracefully touching down.

My mind drifted back more than 28 years when in a previous life I had a training/evaluating position at SkyWest Airlines. When administering recurrent checkrides in those days, a common scenario was to position the rudimentary SA227 Metroliner simulator position at LAX, primarily using Runway 24L for departures and 24R for the requisite instrument approaches. The simulator itself was physically located in Salt Lake City; however, for purposes of the checkride, its simulated position would be in Los Angeles. Today’s modern flight simulators can be virtually positioned at any major airport in the world.

One simulator session that I administered that I will never forget was with a captain by the name of Andy Lucas.

One of the federally mandated squares to fill on a checkride form is a rejected takeoff in minimal visibility. As I was role playing the applicable air traffic controllers, I cleared the flight for takeoff with the advisory of "no delay, traffic on final." Prior to the V1 takeoff decision speed, I initiated the anomaly that would inherently require the takeoff abort. The captain’s subsequent rejected takeoff was perfectly performed per our procedures and performance standards.

Once the procedures were complete, the captain commanded the first officer to immediately advise the control tower that they had aborted the takeoff and had remained on the runway. While most professional pilots have no trouble with the mechanical procedures like a rejected takeoff, a lot of pilots often miss some of the broader, what we call situational-awareness aspects like an aircraft behind on short final. This especially true in simulators, which no matter how realistic they get, still amount to role playing and pretending that it’s all real.

I made a special note of Captain Lucas' superior level of situational awareness and effort in my attaboy notes for the checkride debrief to follow. Before the ride was over, I had several attaboy notes compiled. Check airmen often say that the checkrides they most remember are the really bad ones and the really good ones. The majority are soon forgotten, but I still remember that particular event as it was truly exceptional.

Within a few weeks of that simulator check ride, Captain Andy Lucas was killed in a tragic accident ... at LAX … Runway 24L. You’ll probably remember it. He died while sitting in position on the runway awaiting takeoff clearance as directed by the control tower while a USAir Boeing 737 that had been previously cleared to land touched down just a few feet behind the Metroliner and crushed them on the rollout. This caused both aircraft to slide en masse until careening into a vacant fire/rescue office, killing the USAir captain who had actually survived the initial collision with the other aircraft.

Other crew members who perished in addition to Captain Lucas were SkyWest First Officer Frank Prentice, USAir Captain Colin Shaw, and a USAir flight attendant, along with 32 passengers on both aircraft who died either by collision trauma, subsequent fire or smoke inhalation. From my vantage point at the hotel window, I could clearly see the exact spot where the tragedy had happened 28 years earlier.

As the check airman who had administered the deceased SkyWest captain's most recent evaluation, I participated to a small degree in the subsequent investigation of the accident. Like most aircraft accidents, there was no one single smoking gun failure that could be attributed as the primary cause. It was a tragic quilt of otherwise minor anomalies that came together at precisely the worst moment causing a horrible loss of life and treasure.

Both crews were doing exactly what they were directed to do by a controller who was twice distracted by other errant aircraft, one on the ground, one in the air, neither of which were tuned into the proper frequency they were assigned to. There was also something as silly as a poorly placed light pole that insidiously obstructed the tower's view of the Metroliner on the runway, and a seemingly innocuous airframe design decision decades earlier that turned out to be complicit in the error chain.

A re-creation of the accident scenario on the subsequent day with the same visibility conditions (setting sun in a thick haze) showed that a Metroliner sitting in position on the runway—at an intersection near the touchdown zone—was essentially invisible from behind until it was too late to correct. The small steady white light on the tail just blended in devilishly with the runway lights. It was reported that the USAir crew first noticed the sitting Metroliner when their landing lights illuminated the propeller arcs, the fate for both, already sealed.

That one accident, like most do, catalyzed myriad changes to procedure, airport design and even aircraft configuration. Intersection takeoffs after sunset were prohibited in most cases. The tail lights on Metroliners and other similar aircraft were changed to higher visibility strobe lights. Procedures were changed in cockpits and control towers the world over. An abandoned and vacant building was torn down. It had been in just the wrong place and caught the intertwined aircraft as they slid, killing the USAir captain and igniting the fire that killed several of the passengers who actually survived the initial impact.

The first responders on the scene didn’t even know that there were two aircraft involved until an alert fireman noticed a propeller blade underneath the primary wreckage and knew that Boeing aircraft didn’t have propellers.

The accident was a catalyst for today’s highly advanced runway incursion lighting systems that are now in the process of being installed. It’s quite possible to presume that this particular accident, horrible as it was, has served to save an even greater number of equally innocent lives through safety measures and changes that it inspired.

As comforting as it might be to know this accident changed things for the better for the traveling public, it still doesn’t change the fact that those who remain and whose lives were painfully changed that day are still hurting.

No family is ever prepared for an unexpected snap of the reaper’s fingers. An amazing number of accident-related human interest stories, tragic, bizarre, and even (eventually) wonderful, emerged from this single accident. The operations agent at the tiny station of Palmdale, California—the intended destination of the SkyWest flight—was left with dealing with anxious families and military officials. Palmdale is home to some key military development facilities. She also had to deal with local and national press, and a litany of other inquiries, all the while knowing that her own husband was actually on the flight as he had just called her as he was boarding. Her boss, the SkyWest Palmdale station manager, was also on the flight. A special flight to bring her support and relief had to be painfully delayed for a last-second maintenance issue.

When early on, the investigators were exploring the possibility of asserting that Captain Lucas deserved some responsibility for what happened by erring in his situational awareness of sitting on a runway with an aircraft approaching from behind, I vigorously argued otherwise, submitting my notes of his recent checkride example on the self-same runway. I never fully appreciated the concept of bittersweet until that moment.

Aviation is replete with examples of advancements to procedure and design that were initialized by tragedy, a reality sometimes referred to by insiders as "tombstone engineering." Those actions have contributed to building a mass transportation system that overall is remarkably safe and efficient.

The entire aviation world is safer today, in part, because of that terrible accident on Runway 24 Left. We all would like to think that something like that could never happen again, but alas, such hope would be folly. As this is written, the latest variant of arguably the most successful airliner in history, the Boeing 737 that both my son and I fly for a living, sits grounded after two recent tragic accidents. No doubt lessons will be learned from the subsequent investigations of those events and this will undoubtedly save lives and serve to make an incredibly safe system even safer.

It’s a safe bet that decades in the future we will undoubtedly know some things then that escape us today. The esteemed author Ernie Gann wrote that sometimes fate is the hunter.


We continue to make progress as best as we humanly can; however, sometimes the hunter just won't be denied. Godspeed Andy and to all who perished on LAX Runway 24L that fateful day.

Lycoming 'When can an engine give you 200 extra flying hours?'
Garmin Goes Supersonic
Marc Cook

Here’s a case of an old, albeit fast dog learning new tricks: Garmin is celebrating the first flight of a G3000 integrated flight deck in an F-5 fighter. Garmin says that training firm Tactical Air Support finished the design and installation of the multi-panel suite over six months, giving the 1950s-era Northrop fighter the reliability and capabilities of modern avionics to go with its rakish good looks.

“The maiden flight of the G3000-equipped F-5 is a significant achievement as it is a testament to the rapid implementation time and flexibility afforded by a Garmin integrated flight deck,” said Carl Wolf, vice president of aviation sales and marketing. “In just under six months, Tactical Air was able to complete the engineering design, installation and achieve first flight. Through their hard work, dedication and our strong relationship together, we’re thrilled that they’re already in the air with the Garmin G3000 in this iconic aircraft. I am confident that the Tactical Air pilots will enjoy flying behind Garmin glass.”

Managed by Tactical Air, the F-5 will be used to “provide air-to-air combat training, close-air support training, tactics development and evaluation support. The upgraded F-5 used by Tactical Air will be used in an aggressor training role and the G3000 will transform the entire fleet of Tactical Air F-5s with sensor and system capabilities similar to current fighter aircraft.”

“The first flight of the F-5 was flawless and achieved the main objective of verifying Pilot Vehicle 
Interface (PVI) of aircraft systems, displays, controls and the new Caution/Advisory System (CAS). The PVI and CAS, when combined with the G3000, results in a more capable fighter aircraft,” said Ken Hamm, Tactical Air chief test pilot. “As a career test pilot with over 7,000 flight hours, I have flown aircraft from the simplest to the space shuttle. Without a doubt, I can say the F-5 cockpit is one of the most capable and flexible of all.”

Garmin’s big push to get the G3000 into this role is cost. Compared to elderly systems aboard these legacy fighters, the off-the-shelf systems provide more capability at much lower cost. As expected, the F-5's Garmin suite supports state-of-the-art synthetic vision (SVTTM) that blends an out-the-window view of surroundings on the primary flight display, terrain awareness, ADS-B traffic and weather, capabilities for communication, navigation, surveillance and air traffic management (CNS/ATM), and video interfaces.

First flown in 1959, the Northrop F-5 jams a prodigious amount of Jet-A through a pair of General Electric J85 turbojets on the way to a Mach 1.6 top speed.

EAA B-25 Flies Again After Two Decades
Kate O'Connor

EAA’s historic World War II-era North American B-25H Mitchell bomber, Berlin Express, made its first flight in approximately twenty years last Saturday after a restoration that took thousands of man-hours and nearly four and a half years. The project began with the goal of making primarily cosmetic improvements to the aircraft and evolved into a mission to restore the B-25 to fully airworthy condition. As shown in the video below, the restoration included rebuilding the nose of the aircraft, installing new avionics, adding seating, new paint and fabric work, X-ray and eddy current inspections, and much more.

“There’s no question that flying this airplane, getting it airborne again and sharing it out on the road will inspire thousands of people,” said EAA Vice President of Advocacy and Safety Sean Elliott. “It tells a story that only EAA can tell in this very special way, and you can’t get that from reading a book; you can’t get that from watching a program on television.” EAA will be taking Berlin Express on tour throughout the country as part of its living history outreach program.

The aircraft was built in Inglewood, California, between 1943 and 1944. It appeared in the 1970 movie Catch 22 and has been part of EAA’s collection since the early 1980s.

ACJ319neo Makes First Flight
Kate O'Connor

Airbus’ ACJ319neo business jet successfully completed its first flight on Wednesday. According to the company, the one-hour-and-55-minute flight is the beginning of a short test program designed to verify the aircraft’s “corporate jet features” including extra fuel tanks in the cargo hold, which enable intercontinental range. The ACJ319neo being tested was built for Germany’s K5 Aviation and has been equipped with five additional center tanks. After delivery, Airbus says the aircraft will be outfitted with a VVIP cabin by Fokker Techniek in the Netherlands.

Based on the A320neo, the ACJ319neo is powered by either CFM LEAP-1A or Pratt & Whitney PW1127G1 engines and has a maximum range of 6,750 NM. In addition to new engines, ACJ319neo design features include “wingtip-mounted Sharklets” (winglets) to reduce fuel burn and lower cabin altitudes to increase passenger comfort. The corporate version of the A320neo, called the ACJ320neo, first flew in November 2018. Airbus says it currently has about 200 corporate jets in service worldwide, along with orders and commitments for 14 “ACJ320neo family-derived aircraft.”

AOPA Offering New Fly-In Workshops
Kate O'Connor

AOPA will be celebrating its 80th anniversary at its upcoming Frederick, Maryland, fly-in with a fly-over by the D-Day Squadron, a drone show and some new educational offerings for attendees. The fly-in, which will take place on May 10-11 at Frederick Municipal Airport (KFDK), will kick off a series of paid ground school workshops that will be appearing at all of AOPA’s fly-ins this year. Workshop tuition—$99 for those who register in advance or $120 at the door—provides access to any four workshops during the two-day events.

“This is a great opportunity for pilots to visit AOPA’s headquarters and see where all the magic happens,” said AOPA Senior Director of Outreach Chris Eads. “We are very excited to offer several new paid workshops this year for all skill levels and there really will be something for everyone. From mountain flying and short field landings to upset recovery training with the talented Catherine Cavagnaro, we have worked really hard to provide top-notch opportunities for everyone attending our 80th anniversary celebration and fly-in event.”

Workshops offered at the Frederick fly-in are “Getting Down: Operating Your Aircraft to its Potential in the Backcountry and Beyond,” “IFR Refresher and Pro Tips,” “VFR Advanced: 500 NM and Beyond,” “IFR Advanced,” “Introduction to Formation Flying,” “Aircraft Maintenance” and “Flying on the Edge: Controlling Your Aircraft in an Emergency.” Sessions will take place Friday, May 10, and Saturday, May 11, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. According to AOPA, workshop attendees can get a logbook endorsement attesting to the completion of three hours of ground training per workshop, which will be applicable towards ground school requirements for certificates or flight reviews.

In addition to the paid workshops, AOPA will be offering free seminars at the event on a wide range of topics including how to purchase an aircraft, tips and tricks for Garmin avionics, decision-making in a crisis and spins. Other fly-ins on the organization’s schedule this year are Livermore, California, on June 21-22 and Tullahoma, Tennessee, on Sept.13-14. General admission for the fly-ins is free.

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Brainteasers Quiz #254: Flying Is So Easy ...

... It's the other stuff that interferes with slipping surly bonds of reality while attempting to touch the face of the insanely glorious notion that humans -- and a few dogs -- can fly, provided they can ace this quiz.

Click here to take the quiz.

Picture of the Week, April 25, 2019
Earlier this month we got to travel to Chile. Caught this scene out of the corner of my eye while careening down the Carretera Austral (mostly) gravel highway, just past Chaiten at the Park Pumalin Sur. We had passed the undulating patch the day before but I didn't realize there was an angle at which a flat grass runway appeared. No tower or hangar, no markings that I could see, just one set of wings. It must be such a privilege to fly in this scenery between the glaciers and the ocean. C207 Soloy conversion with a RR turbine. Shot with my Samsung A5 mobile. Photo by Peter De Ceulaer.

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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 on 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

January 13, 2019, Adrian, Mich.

Piper PA-32R-300 Lance

At 1746 Eastern time, the airplane was substantially damaged when it landed short of the runway after its engine failed. The airplane impacted a fence and terrain; the solo private pilot received minor injuries. Visual conditions prevailed.

Post-accident examination of the Lycoming IO-540-K1G5D engine revealed a crankshaft gear bolt, p/n 13S19649, was fractured. The engine logbook stated an AN8-14 bolt had been installed. The illustrated parts catalog and a mandatory service bulletin specified an AN8-14A bolt.

January 13, 2019, Port Hadlock, Wash.

Beechcraft B35 Bonanza

The airplane collided with trees at about 1400 Pacific time following a loss of engine power. The solo commercial pilot received minor injuries; the airplane was substantially damaged. Visual conditions prevailed.

The pilot reported that shortly after takeoff the cockpit door opened, and that while turning onto left downwind to return to the runway, the engine lost power. The pilot subsequently initiated an off-airport forced landing, during which the airplane struck a stand of trees.

January 15, 2019, Salt Lake City, Utah

Piper PA-28-140 Cherokee 140

At about 1050 Mountain time, the airplane landed hard on a road following a partial loss of engine power during a go-around. The solo commercial pilot was not injured. The airplane sustained substantial damage to its landing gear and right wing. Visual conditions prevailed.

While on final approach, the airplane was high, so the pilot initiated a forward slip to lose altitude. He reduced the throttle but instead of decreasing, engine rpm increased. The pilot opted to initiate a go-around to troubleshoot the problem, retracted the flaps and added full throttle control. The engine would only develop about 1500 rpm, however, which was not sufficient to maintain altitude. The airplane continued beyond the runway and subsequently landed on the road.

January 17, 2019, Ellensburg, Wash.

Piper PA-23-250 Aztec

The airplane impacted terrain at about 1645 Pacific time. The solo commercial pilot was fatally injured and the airplane was destroyed. Visual conditions prevailed.

A witness about 2300 feet from the accident site reported observing the airplane about 200—300 feet above the ground, “diving down sideways.” Another witness reported seeing the airplane at about 300 feet AGL and heard the engines “gunning.” He observed the air plane impact the ground at about a 45-degree angle, right-wing low.

January 18, 2019, Beechwood, Wis.

Piper PA-24-250 Comanche 250

At about 1520 Central time, the airplane was substantially damaged during a forced landing after a partial loss of engine power. The solo private pilot sustained minor injuries. Visual conditions prevailed.

The pilot was cruising at 3000 feet MSL when he noticed the carburetor temperature gauge moving through the yellow arc (cooling) toward the red arc (getting colder). About the same time, the engine began to lose power and rpm was dropping. The pilot performed remedial actions and, after applying carburetor heat, engine roughness worsened. With only partial power, the pilot selected a field for a gear-up forced landing.

January 19, 2019, Keshena, Wis.

Stinson 108 Voyager

The airplane impacted trees and a road at about 1130 Central time during a forced landing. The pilot and one passenger sustained serious injuries and two passengers sustained minor injuries. The airplane sustained substantial damage. Visual conditions prevailed.

While in cruise, the engine experienced a momentary and substantial loss of rpm. The pilot enrichened the mixture, activated the carburetor heat and switched fuel tanks. The engine recovered and the pilot left the carburetor heat on for about three minutes, then slowly turned it off. About two minutes after the carburetor heat was turned off, the engine ceased producing power. The pilot reported that once the engine stopped, it did not “windmill” and the starter would not engage. An asphalt road with trees on both sides was chosen for a forced landing. During the landing, the airplane impacted the trees and bounced on the road, coming to rest upside down on a snow-covered embankment.

January 21, 2019, Kidron, Ohio

Douglas DC-3C

At about 0912 Eastern time, the airplane was substantially damaged during a takeoff attempt. The captain and first officer were fatally injured and the airplane sustained substantial damage. Visual conditions prevailed for the positioning flight.

A witness observed the airplane lift off about a third of the way down the runway. Soon after it became airborne, white smoke was seen coming out of the left engine. The airplane began to veer to the left and did not climb normally. The witness watched the airplane descend over a building until he lost sight of it. The airplane struck power lines and trees before impacting the ground and came to rest about 200 yards beyond the runway’s departure end.

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

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