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Volume 26, Number 20b
May 15, 2019
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NASA Wants $1.6 Billion To Hurry A Moon Landing
Paul Bertorelli

Although originally planned for 2028, NASA says it can accelerate the next Moon mission to 2024 and it wants more money to do it. NASA and the White House have requested a $1.6 billion budget amendment to fly the so-called Artemis mission four years sooner than planned. The project is named after the Greek goddess of the Moon and Apollo’s twin sister.

Vice President Mike Pence announced the accelerated schedule in March, but offered no detail, especially budget numbers. NASA’s current allocation is $21 billion and of the additional $1.6 billion being requested, $651 million would be used to accelerate work on the delayed Space Launch System booster and the new manned spacecraft, Orion, which would ride atop the stack. The vehicles were scheduled to fly in 2020, but that date remains uncertain, according to NASA.

The new Moon project includes plans for a small lunar orbiting space station called Gateway. Astronauts could prep and stage in Gateway before descending to the lunar surface. With Artemis getting the rush-rush, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine says the agency might opt for a scaled-down Gateway instead, consisting of a small power and habitat module. The president’s original budget request included $824 million for Gateway, but the amendment reduces that to $503 million.

Time's Up on FAA ADS-B Rebate
Marc Cook

If you’ve been waiting to place your reservation for the FAA’s $500 rebate to install ADS-B Out avionics, well … you’ve waited too long. The FAA announced on Monday that it had taken the last of the 20,000 reservations begun in September 2016.

All is not lost, however. According to the FAA, “Some rebates are returned or expire. Each week from now until October 2019, we will make these returned and expired rebates available. Check back here each Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET to see if any rebates have become available. These additional rebates are in short supply and we expect they will go quickly each week.”

As a reminder, here are the rules.

Eligible aircraft: U.S.-registered, fixed-wing, single-engine piston aircraft first registered before Jan. 1, 2016. Rebate is also limited to new ADS-B installations completed after Oct. 12, 2018.

Eligible equipment: ADS-B Out avionics that have received an ADS-B Technical Standard Order authorization and meet ADS-B Out rule requirements (software upgrades of existing equipment are not eligible). Rebates are not available for aircraft already equipped or for which the FAA has paid or committed to upgrade.

Proof of equipage: Rebate reservations can only be made within 90 days of installation. Within 60 days of installation, aircraft must be flown in "rule airspace" as defined in 14 CFR 91.225 for a minimum of 30 minutes with at least 10 aggregate minutes of maneuvering (AC 20-165B contains flight maneuver recommendations).

Rebate Flight Validation Requirements: The ADS-B rebate flight validation MUST be flown in the ADS-B mandated airspace defined in 14 CFR 91.225 (above 10,000 feet MSL in Class E or within the boundaries of Class B and Class C airspace) for 30 minutes. This type of flight is essential to validate that the new avionics were installed properly and are FAA rule compliant.

Rollercoaster Technique Could Have Helped 737 MAX Crews
Marc Cook

An old-school technique tested by a U.S. flight crew in a 737 simulator might have helped the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airline crews had they known about it. Colloquially referred to as the “roller coaster,” the procedure requires the aircraft experiencing an out-of-trim condition to descend with reduced elevator input so that the horizontal stabilizer (used as pitch trim in the 737) could be “unloaded” enough to be manually adjusted. Then elevator inputs are resumed to arrest or slow the descent, and the procedure repeated until the aircraft is back in trim.

As reported by Aviation Week, the simulator crews set up the accident scenario from the Ethiopian Airlines flight and were able to demonstrate that despite following procedures in place after the Lion Air crash, they were unable to add enough nose-up trim manually without this special procedure. “Keeping the aircraft level required significant aft-column pressure by the captain, and aerodynamic forces prevented the first officer from moving the trim wheel a full turn,” said the report.

After the Lion Air crash indicated that the MCAS was erroneously driving nose-down trim, Boeing recommended using the trim cutout switches to disable electric trim as part of the recovery procedure. Removing power from the electric trim also deactivated MCAS. Boeing did not, however, indicate that the flight crew might not be able to manually move the trim wheel. Based on these simulator runs, this appears to be a possible scenario: that the MAX was simply too far out of trim and going too fast for the crew to successfully re-trim with the manual wheel alone.

We do know that the Ethiopian crew used the electric trim to offset the initial MCAS inputs, but they apparently moved on to other troubleshooting avenues before getting the 737 MAX completely in trim. They described the trim system as “not working,” which is widely understood to mean the manual system. This supposition is backed up by the U.S. crew’s recent simulator experience.

According to the Aviation Week report, “Boeing’s assumption was that erroneous stabilizer nose-down inputs by MCAS, such as those experienced by both the [Lion Air] and ET302 [Ethiopian] crews, would be diagnosed as runaway stabilizer. The checklist to counter runaway stabilizer includes using the cutout switches to de-power the stabilizer trim motor. The ET302 crew followed this, but not until the aircraft was severely out of trim … Unable to move the stabilizer manually, the ET302 crew moved the cutout switches to power the stabilizer trim motors.” This step is contra-indicated by the checklist, in part because it would put MCAS back online.

As we’ve reported, changes expected with the MAX’s software are expected to eliminate the chance that MCAS will continue to offer corrections. The issue of revised simulator training to precede the MAX’s return to service is still being discussed.

In other MAX news, Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam told NBC News on Monday that he’s unsure if his airline will fly the MAX again. "At this stage I cannot, I cannot fully say that the airplane will fly back on Ethiopian Airlines. It may, if we are fully convinced and if we are able to convince our pilots, if we are ever to convince our traveling public. We have not got a time to discuss on the return to service and we have made it very clear on several occasions we would not be the first one to return their airplane back to air.”

Why Boeing MAX Coverage Goes On And On (And Why It Should)
Paul Bertorelli

Weeks of critical coverage of Boeing’s 737 MAX program has dented Boeing’s stock price—although not much—and left the flying public with diminished confidence in the MAX, if not Boeing itself. For Boeing and the news-consuming public, the story has been an intermittent drip-drip of new revelations, none of them particularly dispositive for the airplane maker.

Barclay’s Investment Bank just released a survey of 1765 passengers and 44 percent said they would wait a year before flying on a MAX. That’s neither a ringing endorsement nor a stinging condemnation, but it does show people are paying attention. It will blow over because people have perishable memories of such things and Boeing is doing its best to paper over the damage.

You can read some of the reactions to ours and other press coverage here and here. Comments addressed to me personally have been mixed with a noticeable subtext that Boeing really failed its customers and the flying public. A surprising number of these came from former Boeing engineers and employees. Some also think the press is beating up unfairly on Boeing and that the company should be a source of national pride.

But it’s not the job of the press to be a cheerleader for Boeing nor any other company, nor for the FAA, the NTSB nor any foreign investigatory agency. The MAX story has been persistent because it’s probably the most important commercial aviation development for the last decade, at least. If we were only about national pride, we wouldn’t print stories that explained how Boeing knew about issues with MCAS, but didn’t tell airlines or how it declined to make the existence of the system known to pilots training on the new airplane. Or even gave test pilots much detail on it.

But we are obliged to print such stories. And here a nod to the news outlets who have done yeoman’s work in revealing the outlines of the MAX story, specifically, The Seattle Times, The Wall Street Journal, Aviation Week and The New York Times. We’ve quoted their reporting frequently on AVweb and I expect we’ll continue to. I know it’s fashionable to bash the press under the rubric of “fake news.” So go ahead and bash if you must, but the reality is that without this aggressive reporting, this story could have been buried along with the victims of two MAX crashes.

And the story, in my view, is that a potentially flawed airplane got through certification procedures that are specifically designed to prevent just that, with multi-layered checks and balances. Airline safety has improved so radically since the mid-1990s that transport-category certification has proven all but bulletproof.

Yes, I’m pulling a punch by saying “potentially” flawed because the accident investigations aren’t complete. Even when they are, there’s the danger that given that these are both foreign crashes, the conclusions could be politicized by agencies with a nationalistic agenda our own NTSB has shown itself capable of avoiding. If you doubt that, watch this NBC interview of Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam who vigorously denies that the pilots in command of the second crash could have improved their odds by simply slowing down. Denial has no place in aviation safety, whether from an airline, pilots or Boeing or in the interests of waving the flag of any country.

At Aviation Week, Fred George observed that some in the industry think Boeing may need a refresh at the top, with a new board and new CEO. Or at the very least an independent outside review of the company of the sort done following recent business scandals, some related to sexual harassment and discrimination. A move to split CEO Dennis Muilenburg’s combined CEO/Chairman duties was recently voted down by stockholders and the board professed confident support for Muilenburg. Why wouldn’t they? Since he assumed the reins at Boeing in 2015, the stock price has almost quadrupled and although it’s off its record high, it’s up 15% on the year. If you owned 100 shares, you're $4000 richer just this year.

Since modern American business is all about the stock price and shareholder value, you can see how there’s a fiduciary inertia to keep things exactly as they are, even if they’re a little or a lot broken. Boeing’s 737 order book hasn’t taken a significant hit yet and might not. By the end of the year, I’ll wager that the stock price will be back on the rise.

All of that argues for keeping things exactly as they are, right? Sure, if you’re on the current board or you’re a stockholder. It might not bode quite so well for preventing another MAX from slipping through the certification cracks if Boeing, in fact, has institutional and management shortcomings that blind it to potential safety shortfalls.

That is the fundamental import of the MAX story. We shouldn’t accept that “Boeing made a mistake and now they’ve fixed it.” A thorough probe worthy of the name should reveal why and how the mistakes were made and what role the FAA did or did not play. Did the agency reasonably perform as expected? The FAA is a government agency and citizens have a compelling right to know if it's effectively serving their needs. The point of these investigation is to reveal both flaws in the machines and the people who operate it, but also to correct underlying cultural, management and oversight shortcomings so the same thing doesn’t happen again.

I’m not saying such shortcomings exist, but how could we possibly know if an investigation doesn’t turn over all the stones? The rosy glow of fat dividend checks shouldn’t derail that.

Note to Readers: Our commenting section will be back to normal by next week. Promise. We apologize for the inconvenience, but the site will be better for it. In the meantime, if you have a comment, email us and we'll append it to the blog.

Mr. Bertorelli’s recent article on Boeing and the 737 Max was masterful in its clarity regarding the role of the press in this evolving story. If something went wrong at Boeing, nobody other than the press is going to bring it to light. In the long run, both Boeing and the flying public will be better off for it.

Fred Gerr

The aviation audience, commenting, postulating, and criticizing is a small group in comparison to the US and global audience.

The US public has tired of this story and has already moved on. “Barclay’s Investment Bank just released a survey of 1765 passengers and 44 percent said they would wait a year before flying on a MAX” proves the public has and is moving on from this issue. Airline boarding’s have not changed. And how could they? What is the alternative? AmTrak?

Right now Boeing is engaged in mining reaction data. Boeing has been sending the CEO to various aviation functions. The CEO says something in what appears inane and sticks a finger in the air to determine the pushback. The press, aviation savvy or otherwise, publishes these comments to see who and how much reaction is generated. People, from experienced MAX pilots to the average John Q. Public offer their respective opinions. And we all know opinions are like #$%holes, everyone has one. Combine these opinions with Boeing’s drip by drip release of an ever changing MAX training protocol regarding MCAS activation and emergency procedures , you have a perfect recipe for confusion. Out of this confusion Boeing lawyers will weave their defense argument to handle the coming litigation.

There are many issues with MCAS. Ultimately, if a flight stability augmentation program, stall prevention system, or whatever Boeing or other aircraft builders decide to design and engineer into their airplanes for “safety” and similar flight feel to older, existing airplanes, if that system at MAX (no pun intended) capacity/throw exceeds any capacity for manual pilot input for returning to level flight, that is downright dangerous.

For both the Lion Air and Ethiopia Airlines crew, the MCAS had an opportunity to go full down trim in a very short time, at one of the most critical and busy times of any airline flight. Plus, these two crashes show what the outcome can be with a mix of very experienced crews with exception of one low-time co-pilot. 75% of the pilots were highly experienced. In both cases, whatever they similarities or differences in circumstances… the stab went to full nose down position. Once that happens, no amount of heroic and/or desperate manual inputs will prevent a virtually vertical dive into oblivion.

Why would Boeing engineer that into their design? That is the question the lawyers will sort out, behind closed doors, which will take years to process. By then, there will be many other stories of drama, mayhem, and destruction occupying “inquiring minds”.

With continued press coverage of the two MAX crashes, their causes, and all the subsequent investigations, a potential for US aviation certification requirements to change enough to strangle the progress made allowing new technology to be used in airplanes as a distinct possibility. Should this happen, the first victim of this knee-jerk reaction led by politically correct, aviation ignorant politicians, will be GA…which does not have the resources to fight this very real, distinct possibility. Boeing’s design, engineering, and certification processes using these more recent certification practices specifically demonstrated by this MCAS fiasco could lead as back to the former archaic, expensive, and time consuming certification processes. AML STC’s could go away as a result of this MCAS mess.

With a backlog of 5,000 orders, losing a few to early public reaction fallout has been factored in. MCAS gets re-engineered, MAX8/9’s return to flying status, stock prices stabilize and may even climb. The FAA gets some scrutiny for a while. Designated delegated engineering takes the brunt of the criticism and will be the primary recipients of the blame game. The dust settles…GA takes the biggest hit. And the beat goes on.

Jim Holdeman

Boeing should take a page from NASA. They only killed 20 people and got raked over the coals for months each time.

Where are the Frank Bormans and Neil Armstrongs when we need them.
This is a (excuse the blasphemy) come to Jesus moment for Boeing.
Hopefully share prices, something NASA didn't have to worry about, doesn't (trump) the results. NASA only had its very existence to worry about!
Ray Toews

Agree with your recent article but think you did pull some punches. The news article on the “rollercoaster” technique was a revelation in what it says about the available trim options in this scenario..

Let’s see, the POH says to disable MCAS which disables powered trim. That means someone at Boeing meant for you to use the manual trim. How much imagination does it take, on the part of an engineer, to suspect that aerodynamic forces would be high at the time the manual trim was used?

One must infer either that Boeing is tenuring a much lower caliber of engineers than it used to, OR, that they were ignored. Neither of these is a good thing and neither of these will necessarily be fixed by virtue of the MAX getting fixed.

I have to say my confidence in Boeing is shaken for years to come.

Colyn Case

I have been following this story off and on for the many months. Back in the early 1980’s I was a flight control test engineer for Boeing. Since then I have gone on to a 35 year career for the Air Force as a flight control/flying qualities engineer. It is hard for me to fathom that a responsible flight control engineer would design a system that makes input into a primary flight control system with a single point failure such as MCAS. Yes, there were pilot procedures in place in case of a failure, but that those procedures were to be used after only one failure. The sensor input into MCAS should of been at a minimum dual redundant. The challenge is determining which angle of attack system is correct. There are many ways to implement redundancy management and fault detection, but these require a lot of lab testing as part of the development process. I fear that cost and/or schedule on either Boeing’s part or the FAA’s DER/DAR process, forced decisions that regrettably resulted in the loss of many lives. Hopefully, the various investigations will shed light on where the failures, be they technical, management, process, or a combination of all three occurred.

Richard Mutzman

Randy Lervold Is Glasair Aviation's New CEO
Marc Cook

Industry veteran Randy Lervold is joining Glasair Aviation as its new CEO effective today. An experienced pilot and homebuilder, Lervold will be responsible for spearheading “Glasair’s refreshed presence in the market.”

“This is a great opportunity to build on Glasair Aviation’s rich history and legacy,” he says. “I think we can improve operations and sales, and we’ll be looking hard at product improvements as well.” Lervold also said that more details about Glasair’s next steps will be announced over the summer. Currently, the company produces the Sportsman kit aircraft that can be built as part of its Two Weeks to Taxi builder-assist program at its Arlington, Washington, facility.

Lervold was most recently VP of marketing and sales at Dynon Avionics and before that president at Cub Crafters. He helped launch the original Carbon Cub and was instrumental in getting the xCub to market.

Two Tourist Seaplanes Down Near Ketchikan
Marc Cook

Ten people are injured and at least five dead in a midair collision of two seaplanes carrying tourists from a cruise ship near Ketchikan, Alaska. One passenger has not been found. All were passengers on a Royal Princess cruise out of Vancouver.

The aircraft were a DeHavilland Otter flown by Taquan Air and a Beaver floatplane on a separate sightseeing tour. The U.S. Coast Guard said that on Monday afternoon, “… there’s 10 people that are accounted for and they are receiving medical care. The extent of their injuries right now is unknown. We do know now that three people are confirmed deceased, and we are looking for three unaccounted for people right now.” CNBC is confirming the death of the fifth passenger.

“We are incredibly distressed by this situation, and our thoughts and prayers are with those onboard the planes and their families,” the cruise company said. “Princess Cruises is extending its full support to traveling companions of the guests involved.”

Taquan Air said in a statement that it has suspended all flights and added, “We are devastated by today’s incident and our hearts go out to our passengers and their families. At this time, we are in the midst of an active crisis response, and our focus is on assisting these passengers, the pilot, our staff, their families and loved ones, and first responders.”

According to a statement by the Coast Guard, it is searching with the cutter Bailey Barco, an Air Station Sitka MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew, an HC-130 from Kodiak is flying in relief crews from Sitka and two Station Ketchikan 45-foot Response Boat-Mediums. “In a remote area such as this, given our limited resources, we rely on our partner agencies and appreciate the support that good Samaritans have rendered to this point," said Capt. Stephen White, Coast Guard Sector Juneau commander. "With the loss of life in this case, we know that the impact to Alaska is immense and our thoughts are with the community here."

Next SpaceX Launch To Carry 60 Satellites
Marc Cook

SpaceX head Elon Musk tweeted out a photo of 60 Starlink satellites packed into the nose of a Falcon rocket. SpaceX is slated to launch the rocket Wednesday, but the photo previews Musk’s desire to provide internet access around the world where ground-based infrastructure is impossible to too expensive.

The 60 Starlink satellites are the current production spec, whereas the two launched in February 2018 were development mules. Musk says that at least another six launches of 60 satellites each will be needed for “minor” internet service. SpaceX hopes to have the internet service starting next year, while it continues to launch bundles of satellites through 2024.

Unlike other satellite-internet providers, SpaceX wants to fly several of its non-geosynchronous satellites at lower-than-customary altitudes to help reduce signal latency. Originally intended to fly its satellites between 690 and 823 miles, SpaceX has asked for (and received) permission to fly almost 1600 of those satellites as close as 340 miles up.

Starlink could eventually offer internet service to any location on the planet with a fleet of 12,000 satellites. To ensure that non-functional satellites are removed from their orbits (a gambit to reduce their impact as "space junk"), the satellites are designed to burn up completely as they re-enter the atmosphere.

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Wise Guy B-52 Escapes The Boneyard
Marc Cook

Boeing’s mighty B-52 has yet to exhaust its cat-like nine lives. This week, the U.S. Air Force’s 307th Bomb Wing in at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana was delivered a B-52H that had previously been mothballed at Davis-Monthan AFB.

“Wise Guy,” parked in 2008, underwent a brief refurbishment of just over a month at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Davis-Monthan. That project got the BUFF airworthy but it won’t enter a full refurbishment until the fall.

Col. Robert Burgess, 307th Operations Group commander, led the three-man crew bringing the B-52 back from Arizona. “We are excited about the wing’s role in bringing this jet back into service,” Burgess said. “Its return is a testament to the skill of our airmen in restoring the bomber for regular use in the Air Force.”

It’s also a testament to the B-52’s longevity and flexibility. The B-52 has a unique place in aviation history, which partly explains the desire to keep the 67-year-old design available in the age of UAVs. “Wise Guy” is the second B-52H pulled out of retirement. “Ghost Rider,” which was brought out of retirement in 2015, underwent a 19-month refurbishment before rejoining the fleet. When “Wise Guy” is fully operational, the USAF will have 76 B-52Hs at its disposal.

According to Air Force Technology, “The B-52H, with a weapons payload of more than 70,000 pounds, is capable of carrying the most diverse range of weapons of any combat aircraft.”

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