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Volume 26, Number 20a
May 13, 2019
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Boeing Buffing Up MAX Reputation
Russ Niles

While Boeing engineers and the FAA put the finishing touches on the software makeover for the Boeing 737 MAX, a potentially more daunting task has been handed to the company’s marketing department as it restores confidence in the aircraft. Some online travel agents have added filters to their search engines to alert customers if they’re scheduled to fly on a MAX and surveys suggest plenty of potential passengers will pass but some analysts say it will all blow over. “The consumer has a very short attention span,” George Ferguson, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, told The Associated Press. He noted there have been plenty of airliners that had early-service catastrophes and went on to commercial success. Others aren’t so sure.

Nick Cunningham, a founding partner at Agency Partners, said he’s concerned “this has become too serious and too protracted for the Max to escape unscathed” and that the world attention on the two fatal crashes of MAX aircraft and its aftermath “will have acted to permanently lock it into people’s memories.” Others reference safety issues with the Ford Pinto and Chevrolet Corvair that killed those programs and continue to be cited in relation to the MAX. For its part, Boeing says it has no plans to change the name and it’s going full throttle for re-entry to service with a comprehensive program. “It’s a multifaceted approach to taking the steps necessary to preserve the fleet, return it to service safely and restore any lost confidence that pilots, regulators and the traveling public have had in the Max,” Boeing spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. A May 23 summit of operators and regulators will lay the groundwork for re-entry to service.

Flight Trial: Aspen Evolution MAX
Larry Anglisano

With brighter screens, faster processors, larger fonts and a variety of other enhancements, the Aspen Evolution MAX PFD and MFD product line competes in a crowded market of retrofit flight displays. Still, Aspen's upgrade pricing is competitive—starting at $4995 for existing Evolution owners—and $10,995 for new installs. In this video, Aviation Consumer Editor Larry Anglisano went flying with the new displays with Aspen's James Buck in his MAX-equipped Cirrus to take a look.

A Hanger By Any Other Name
Paul Berge

It’s difficult to share wistful reflections of my favorite coat hanger, but since it hangs inside my hangar, I suppose it has aeronautical cred. With that point about the most misused homonym in aviation properly bludgeoned, I now invite everyone into my hangar, a 42-foot 36-foot pole barn in central Iowa crammed with memories. Bring a jacket; there’s no heat but plenty of wasps in summer and mice year-round.

In 1984 my wife and I abandoned the Chardonnay glow of California where I was an air traffic controller at the most laid-back ATC facility in the FAA franchise. A place where winter and summer were indiscernible in coastal fog, and beautiful people flowed from Citations like melting gorgonzola. Monterey wasn’t the end of the rainbow but, instead, the refracted illusion itself.

Heading east in a reverse Steinbeck, we left behind airports where you could expect to hang on the hangar waiting list for 10 years. When scouting an Iowa airstrip, by contrast, I inquired about hangar availability, and the farmer replied with a Midwest understatement, normally reserved for presidential candidates, that implies you’re an idiot: “Just build yourself one.” So, I did, although, it remains a work-in-progress after 35 years. Like constructing a medieval cathedral, a proper hangar takes time and divine inspiration to create something greater than a storage bin for airplanes. But greatness should never be rushed, so whenever I feel the need to work on it, the divine says to go flying until that feeling subsides.

A hangar is more than the sum of its walls, floor and a leaky roof. It’s what we jam inside that establishes its character and possibly our own. Recently, I took inventory of the inspirational crap I’ve accumulated beneath the guano-streaked rafters while admiring the simple genius that is the structure itself.

The main door is 40 feet wide, a one-piece tribute to Edwardian-era engineering with cables, hand crank, counterweights and pulleys, requiring no electricity. It faces north, an admittedly poor choice when snow drifts against it, locking the airplane inside until spring, which arrives between March 15 and May 1 … maybe June. There’s a small westside door, now sun-bleached to chalky primer gray. We take security seriously here, so if you forget your hangar key, use the spare hidden above the door frame but remember to glance over both shoulders before retrieving it, so terrorists—or TSA—can’t overwhelm you and gain access to the 1946 Aeronca Champ inside … not that they would know how to hand-prop it … or fly a taildragger. The airport gate’s secret security code is—like most airports—the CTAF. Forgetting that, just walk around it. Don’t pet the dog. She doesn’t bite but does like to roll in things organic.

Once inside the hangar, flip the light switch, but until I replace the three bulbs, dead since 1998, allow time for your eyes to adjust to the semi-darkness. Take the opportunity to inhale the aroma of butyrate dope from leaking cans and listen to the wind rattle the steel siding, their ring-shank nails now so loose the building shudders and moans like Marley’s ghost in any wind over nine knots. And the wind is usually well over that here.

A counterclockwise scan reveals a work bench, where very little work occurs but does hold seemingly useless airplane parts. Eisemann magnetos, Stromberg carburetors and Continental cylinders so rusty they wouldn’t make decent door stops. All are right where I left them after the last overhaul. Inoperable flight instruments removed from every airplane I’ve owned—six so far—are lined up along metal shelves coated with the dusty residue of spent time.

Classic radios, such as my 90-channel Bayside, await the day when the digital world implodes, and the semaphore cry goes out for analog rescue. I’m prepared and so look forward to resurrecting the 1950 Lear Orienter ADF or the prize of my avionics retro-panel, the 1957 Narco Superhomer transceiver. Tricky getting vacuum tubes for these, but I have a source at Radio Shack with a private stash in the stockroom. This hangar is a living time capsule with ramparts that Huawei’s 5G tentacles can’t breach, provided I never get rid of any of this stuff. Midwesterners living outside city limits rarely throw anything away, and I’m well outside any perceived limits of time.

From the earliest cave drawings, walls have invited personal expression. Hangar walls invite staple guns, and three-and-a-half decades of moldering Aeroshell posters, aeronautical charts and fly-in promos are tacked to the water-stained plywood like deflated balloons from Gatsby’s last dinner party. One section displays business cards left by visitors from around the world who’ve passed through this hangar over the years. Each card is attached with a single staple, and most are now curled and fading, there as testimony to forgotten lives briefly touched by this building and its airplane.

I once encountered a municipal airport where soulless management decreed that nothing but operable aircraft could be stored inside its sterile hangars, and that once a flight was complete, the pilots shall immediately exit the premises through electric gates that bolster the mutually inclusive myths of threat and security. Heaven forfend pilots should linger inside their hangars to savor that sacred post-flight moment when the bugs are wiped from leading edges, and sunset waxes the most beautiful thing humans have ever created—a machine that flies. Top that, iPhone!

A hangar (not hanger) is a jewel case, and we should appreciate the sanctity of the structure in which aero-fantasy resides. “Otherwise,” to quote Edward R. Murrow completely out of context, “it’s nothing but wires and lights in a box.” Of course, in my case, the lights don’t work … but you get the point.

Lycoming 'When can an engine give you 200 extra flying hours?'
Virgin Galactic Moves To Commercial Spaceport
Russ Niles

Virgin Galactic took a big step away from its test program toward commercial development of space tourism with a move from the high California desert to a purpose-built passenger flight facility in New Mexico. CEO Richard Branson announced Friday that it will be moving a significant part of its operation to a taxpayer-funded spaceport in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. All of the testing of the passenger-carrying space plane and its launch aircraft has taken place at Mojave, California, and that’s just about wrapped up. The business will be conducted at an essentially private $200 million runway and hangar at Truth or Consequences built by the New Mexico government. Virgin Galactic will keep building its aircraft and space vehicles in Mojave.

More than 600 people have put up $200,000 each for a ride to the edge of space, nominally set at about 62 miles high. Branson envisions a new space tourism industry with hotels in space and a network of spaceports allowing global hypersonic flights but he insists it’s not all about bucket list rides for the rich. “Our future success as a species rests on the planetary perspective,” Branson said. “The perspective that we know comes sharply into focus when that planet is viewed from the black sky of space.” The serial entrepreneur billionaire said there’s a practical side to achieving that perspective. “We need the financial impetus to be able to do all that,” he said. “If the space program is successful as I think … then the sky is the limit.”

Blue Origin Unveils Lunar Lander
Kate O'Connor

Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon and Blue Origin, introduced a new Blue Origin lunar lander on Thursday. Called Blue Moon, the cargo version of the lander is designed to deliver payloads of up to 3.6 metric tons to the lunar surface. According to Blue Origin, Blue Moon will be equipped with fuel cells that will allow it to remain powered through the two-week-long lunar night. It will also be capable of autonomous navigation.

“Blue Moon is a flexible lander delivering a wide variety of small, medium and large payloads to the lunar surface,” Blue Origin said. “Its capability to provide precise and soft landings will enable a sustained human presence on the Moon.” Blue Origin has also designed a larger variant that will be able to carry a 6.5-metric-ton, human-rated ascent stage. The company says the lander will be ready to go in time to meet the current administration’s goal of returning U.S. personnel to the Moon by 2024.

Blue Moon will be powered by Blue Origin’s new BE-7 engine, which uses a combination of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellants. The company expects to conduct the first hotfire of the engine this summer. Blue Origin says that once complete, the engine will be available for purchase.

Fuel Truck Rams Dash-8
Russ Niles

A fuel truck driver at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport has been charged with dangerous driving after his truck ran into the front left side of an Air Canada Express Dash-8 Friday. The truck collapsed the fuselage below the captain’s seat on the regional airliner as it was taxiing to the gate about 1:30 a.m. The pilots, a flight attendant and two passengers were taken to a local hospital for a check while the remaining passengers were assessed on the scene by paramedics. There was no fire.

The aircraft may be a write-off and the incident capped an already stressful flight for the occupants. The plane was originally headed for Sudbury, about an hour away, but turned back because of fog. "It hit the front of the aircraft, threw the aircraft in one direction, it spun the opposite way, and it looks like either the front or the rear of it hit the back of the airplane,” passenger Paul Frontczak told the CBC. "It stopped pretty quickly, but then we started to smell aviation fuel and that's when panic started," he said. "Everyone was like, we got to get out—we got to get out like now."

JP Instruments 'Primary JPI EDM 930'
Crew Age, Experience Gap Cited In Taxiway Accident
Russ Niles

India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had some unusual crew resource management advice for Air India Express after a seasoned captain dumped a Boeing 737-800 in a drainage ditch at Cochin Airport in April of 2017 despite repeated warnings from his much younger female first officer. In its report, the DGCA tribunal said the airline shouldn’t put old left seaters in the cockpit with young FOs. “Air India Express shall ensure proper crew pairing taking into consideration age factor, experience etc.," the DGCA said in its safety recommendations in the report. What the recommendations didn’t say is that while the 28-year-old FO had only a fraction of the time the 59-year-old captain had, she had regularly flown into Cochin over the previous eight months while it was just the fifth trip there for the captain.

The captain was pilot flying when the aircraft touched down in heavy rain just after 11 p.m. The ground controller told the crew to take Taxiway Foxtrot to go to their gate. The FO told the captain she was having a hard time seeing the taxiway markings and signs. She recommended they call for a “follow me” vehicle to lead them to the gate. The captain pressed on and the FO told him when he’d passed Taxiway Echo and that Foxtrot was next. About 200 feet before Foxtrot, the captain turned left and put the Boeing into the concrete drain, collapsing the nosegear and coming to rest on its engines and tail with the mains hanging in the channel. Despite the FO’s pleas, the captain added power three times to try to bull out of the ditch but finally gave up. No one was hurt but the aircraft was heavily damaged. Cause of the crash was the “incorrect judgment of the PIC” in turning before the taxiway. It also said fatigue and poor visibility were contributing factors along with “disagreement of PIC with co-pilot for requesting 'Follow Me' jeep at Taxiway C.”

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Cropduster Allowed To Use Roads As Runways
Russ Niles

In the “git ‘er done” spirit of the heartland, a South Dakota county has granted an aerial application company the right to land and take off on county roads to fertilize local fields. Brookings County has been drenched by storms in the critical first few weeks of the growing season and Isaac Wilde, of Wilde Air Service, has been hampered by soft field conditions on the farms he fertilizes from above. “As you know, it’s pretty wet out there right now. We’ve been getting a lot of requests. In Brookings County, there isn’t a whole lot of airports, and the closer we can get to these fields, the cheaper we can make it for the customer. … The closer we can get to the field, the quicker we can get done, the less fuel we burn, the cheaper it is,” the Brookings Register quoted him as saying.

The practical-minded commissioners apparently agreed and passed a motion that will allow Wilde to set his 1972 Thrush down on roads adjacent to his customers’ fields. The ruling allows Wilde “to operate, take off or land an aircraft on any county road in Brookings County for the purpose of servicing said aircraft in preparation for aerial application of chemical or fertilizer materials.” Flaggers will be in place when the roads turn into runways and Wilde assured commissioners his insurance will cover any incidents.

Top Letters And Comments, May 10, 2019

Boeing 737 MAX

That design is so utterly incompetent and the FAA allowing it is so utterly incompetent that it boggles the mind of this pilot flying for 35 years!

Clearly the airline rule of requiring redundancy of any component with a greater than 1 in 10,000,000 chance of failure was ignored. Considering the MCAS system, even with two AOA sensors, the chance of failure, such as in icing, of sticking the nose in the ground and killing everyone when flying at low altitude is much higher than 1 in 10,000,000.

We've seen two cases of massively fatal accidents when, likely, without the system there would have been no accident. At the very least the FAA should have required:

  1. The system also considered GPS groundspeed (yeah, install two $100 GPS sensors) so that if good groundspeed and hence likely good airspeed MCAS stays sleeping.
  2. An altitude sensor (radar, etc.) so that if close to the ground do not point the nose down!
  3. A clear warning when it is activated.
  4. An OFF switch so that a pilot can disable it before or after it "grabs" the stick.
  5. Real training.

I should note that I am a retired electrical engineer and computer programmer specializing in designing redundant computers and software and computer security so I'm experienced at analyzing failure modes. I bet that Boeing's engineers objected to this terrible system but management overrode them. A real investigation likely will bear this out, similar to Challenger.

Bob Toxen

I did not read all of the comments because I was shocked at the callous indifference to human life. If only one person died - FAA, Boeing and the attention of everyone else should have been focused on caring for the loss. For anyone to be faced with finding an attorney to seek help is not right. Lives are more important than reputation, bureaucracy or business. On the matter of concern for safety and any loss of life - I find everyone guilty and lacking.

Don Lineback

Your coverage has disgusted me. Any trim runaway on the B737, from the beginning, has had the potential to overpower pilot inputs. The non-normal procedures resolve the issue, when applied appropriately.

While it appears that implementation of MCAS introduced an additional failure mode, it also appears that Boeing has moved expeditiously to fix that issue. What [...] else should we expect?

Wayne James Justinen

While the pile on Boeing continues to grow I have several questions.

One; What was a 200-hour pilot doing in the right seat? By the accounts I have read he hammered home the final nail in the coffin when his lack of training, understanding and competence led him to reactivate MCAS by turning the trim system back on.

Two; The two MAX crashes and Air France 447 were all related to Angle of Attack sensor failures. How many other AOA sensor failures have been squawked since they've had a decisive hand in aircraft fly by wire systems? Of those, how many were on third world airlines? Is there data to compare the various maintenance centers and their handling of AOA issues?

Three; Where is the press to pile on the AOA manufacturer whose sensors failed? How did bad or marginal sensors escape their quality system and get out into the world? How much long-term testing has there been on their product?

Four; I can't help but notice how the call for AOA indicators to be installed on every aircraft has gone quiet of late. Could it be that we are finally going to call for airmanship to be practiced rather than putting another gadget in the cockpit to pull the pilot's situational awareness from the sky around him to the panel?

Richard Girard

Picture of the Week, May 9, 2019
We departed Augusta, Kansas (3AU) on an early morning departure to spend the weekend with our granddaughter in Iowa City, Iowa. Having a 1947 Bonanza and a great copilot (my wife Cheryl) makes the 2.7 hour flight easy. Taken with an iPhone 6. Photo by Gerald Sheehy.

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Brainteasers Quiz #255: The Wind Is Your Friend

Even when tilting at windmilling propellers, pilots must understand the many ways seemingly innocuous air moves and scoffs at the best laid flight plans of those who wish to ace this quiz.

Click here to take the quiz.

Short Final: PIC

I was piloting N7304Y, a Miller Twin Comanche (a veritable “hot rod”) from San Antonio’s Stinson Airport to Houston Hobby Airport early in the morning. Houston Center passed me to Approach and then to the final controller for Hobby.

Approach: “Say your indicated airspeed.”

04Y: “Indicating 140 knots on the dial.”

Approach: “Maintain 140.”

04Y: “Will do. Be advised I’ll have to slow to gear speed prior to final.”

Approach: “Direct Carlo—maintain 3,000.”

04Y: “Will do. Will slow to gear speed prior to Carlo.”

There was no response to this. I was slowing down and had passed Carlo when Approach called me again.

Approach: “04Y say indicated.”

04Y: “120 slowing to 110.”

Approach: “I told you to maintain 14 0.”

04Y: “Junior, there’s only one PIC on this airplane and it’s not you!”

The remainder of the approach and landing went as expected. However, when it was time to return, I spent a protracted amount of time “in the penalty box” awaiting my takeoff clearance. Whereupon, I used enough energy to qualify for a noise abatement takeoff—nearing my altitude limit of 1,500 feet prior to the end of runway.

Patrick Andrews
Neosho, MO
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