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GAMA has been working for several years now to change the way small aircraft are certified by the FAA, and this week, some progress in Europe has encouraged their effort. On Tuesday, the European Aviation Safety Agency issued a notice that it intends to modernize its CS-23 certification process, which is similar to Part 23 certification for in the U.S. The proposed rule was developed with international participation and is largely based on the work of the FAA's Part 23 Aviation Rulemaking Committee, GAMA said. The changes aim to make general aviation airplanes safer and promote the introduction of new technologies while reducing the burden and costs of certification. GAMA said it hopes the FAA will follow up with a similar proposal this summer.

The new regulations would be enforced through a set of international consensus standards overseen by the ASTM Committee, similar to the way light sport aircraft now are regulated. Under the initiative, each of the world's aviation authorities will modernize its design certification rules. "The CS/Part 23 rulemaking continues to be a top priority for general aviation manufacturers, and we are pleased to see EASA take this important step forward," said GAMA President Pete Bunce in a news release on Tuesday. "Our industry has strongly advocated that EASA and the FAA issue a concurrent Notice of Proposed Amendment and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, respectively, and seek to craft final CS/Part 23 airworthiness standards that ensure the highest degree of harmonization possible. We will continue to work with both European and U.S. authorities closely on this issue, and look forward to seeing a NPA and NPRM this summer."

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As investigators probe into the history of first officer Andreas Lubitz, searching for insights into why he apparently crashed a Germanwings A320 into a mountain last week, workers at the crash site are still recovering debris and human remains, and searching for the flight data recorder. They also are building a road into the remote valley to make it easier to access. A Lufthansa official told local reporters the FDR may never be found. Meanwhile, the known facts about Lubitz and his medical history have raised questions about how pilots can be better screened for suicidal tendencies. According to Matthew Nock, a professor of psychology at Harvard, the problem may not be that pilots are inadequately screened, but that there are no adequate screening protocols.

"As a field, we're not very good at accurately predicting who is at risk for suicidal behavior," Nock told NPR this week. He said studies show that mental health professionals "perform no better than chance" when it comes to predicting which patients will attempt suicide. Guohau Li, a medical researcher at Columbia University, told NPR that only one or two pilots kill themselves by crashing an airplane each year, and they are nearly always general aviation pilots flying alone. In a study published in 2005, Li and his co-authors examined several dozen pilot suicides, and found many of them fit a profile: young, male, with a history of mental health problems and relationship problems. That profile appears to fit Lubitz "very, very well," Li says. But the profile also fits thousands of pilots who will never have any problems while flying, Li said. "There is no reliable way for any airline to predict which pilots are going to commit suicide by airplane," he told NPR.

Nock has been experimenting with tests that may be able to reveal suicidal tendencies without depending on a subject volunteering the information, but the testing is still being studied, and it's not clear if detecting suicidal thoughts in a patient will reliably predict suicidal behavior. In Lubitz's case, the psychology is complicated by the fact that his final act, which investigators say was an intentional crash, not only was suicide but also a homicide, causing the death of 149 other people. According to a statement from the Dusseldorf public prosecutor's office on Monday, Lubitz had been treated by psychotherapists "over a long period of time," however, in more recent follow-up visits, "no signs of suicidal tendencies or aggression toward others were documented."

First officer Andreas Lubitz, who was at the controls of the Germanwings A320 that crashed last week, had told his employers at Lufthansa in 2009 that he had suffered from severe depression, The New York Times reported Tuesday. Lufthansa officials said they had searched their records and found an email from Lubitz to its flight-training school, seeking to rejoin its training program after he had been absent for several months. Lubtiz's email included medical documents that described a "previous episode of severe depression," the Times said. Last week, Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr had said the airline had found Lubitz to be "100 percent flightworthy without any limitations."

Germanwings pilot Frank Woiton told German broadcaster WDR on Saturday he had flown with Lubitz several weeks ago and had formed "a quiet, normal notion of him." Woiton added that Lufthansa has an "unfit to fly rule" that allows pilots to take time off if they don't feel physically or emotionally well enough to do their job. Lufthansa is the parent company of the budget Germanwings airline. The A320 crashed in the French Alps on March 25, killing all 150 people on board.

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A Boeing B-52H Stratofortress will take center stage at EAA AirVenture this summer, marking the first time one of the big bombers has ever been on ground display during the event. The B-52H will visit from the U.S. Air Force Reserve's 93rd Bomb Squadron of the 307th Bomb Wing, based at Barksdale Air Force Base, in Louisiana. The strategic bombers have been in active military service for 60 years, serving in every combat operation since Vietnam. Each aircraft receives regular upgrades to modernize its flight equipment and capabilities. More than 65 still are flying in military service, and government officials estimate they will continue to be useful for at least another 25 years.

The aircraft is driven by eight Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines, flies at speeds up to Mach 0.84, and carries a payload of 35 tons. It can travel more than 8,800 miles with a crew of five, and with aerial refueling it has flown as far as 16,000 miles nonstop. The B-52H models were the last ones built, at Boeing's facilities in Wichita, Kansas, between 1958 and 1962. "EAA AirVenture creates unmatched opportunities for people to see aircraft in one place that you cannot see anywhere else in the world," said EAA's Rick Larsen. "It's only fitting that on the B-52's 60th anniversary of active military service that it comes to Oshkosh and, for the first time, will be on ground display for the world's aviation enthusiasts to see up close." AVweb's Glenn Pew spoke with U.S. Air Force Major David Donatelli about the B-52 about three years ago; click here for the podcast.

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L-3 Aviation was among several ADS-B manufacturers presenting new, mandate-compliant solutions to the flight training community at the 2015 National Training Aircraft Symposium (NTAS) at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida.  In this video, Aviation Consumer editor Larry Anglisano presents an overview of the Lynx product line with L-3's Todd Scholten.

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Are we asking the right questions with respect to the Germanwings tragedy? How do you teach a door to determine friend or foe?  That is a tough one.  Here is one that is not so tough; how do you teach an airplane not to fly into the ground?  From the technical standpoint, that is easy.  The real question to be asked is what is society ready for?  

Is it ready for the airplane to be the last say in an argument with a pilot or other person?  Or, are we going to start probing the minds of our already over-poked and prodded professional pilot population? How do you make an airline career even worse? Have a psychologist asking how your marriage is an hour prior to each flight?

On the other hand, if society is ready for the airplane to have the last say, this is an easy fix with today’s modern fly-by-wire airplanes. The airplane already has a digital map of the elevation for all of Earth’s terrain. We already have systems that provide an alert as to an impending intersection with the ground. Is it that far a stretch in technology to have the airplane fly away from that impending doom on its own?  

No. In fact, the newest software load on F16s has just such a system. This system is constantly comparing the projected trajectory of the aircraft to the digital map of the Earth. In the event that it predicts an impending intersection, the aircraft assumes control and employs a very simple control law to avoid the terrain. In this case, it rolls wings level and pulls up to avoid a crash. Afterwards, the airplane releases the control back to the pilot. 

This is one more step towards “carefree” flight. This is the idea that the pilot does not have to worry about bad things happening to the airplane. The pilot only need be concerned with the mission. In this case, combat. The pilot no longer needs to worry about overstressing the airplane or having it depart into uncontrolled flight. The envelope protection limits the G-loading, angle of attack and sideslip angle. Now add to that not having to worry about keeping track of where the ground is. Push as hard as you want. In a game of combat “chicken,” the F-16 pilot just aims at the mountain and the airplane pulls out just missing the terrain. 

With some tweaking of the systems control laws to account for the lower roll rate and climb performance of an airliner, this could be implemented on today’s airplanes. Additional control laws could be installed that would not allow the airplane to fly in places where it should not fly, like over the southern Indian Ocean. This would have prevented MH 370 from vanishing, at least in that locale. It is very likely that this could be done to most airliners with a software only modification.

This is where the slippery slope starts to kick in. Because you have to now think of how an ill-willed pilot would defeat this new system. As an example, the airplane could not avoid the terrain if all the engines are shut off. It would glide down to a not so pleasant off-airport landing. Thus, the now final-authority computer, would also have to make a decision not to shut engines off or move fuel in a way not in the best interest of the airplane. There would be a significant number of flight critical commands that would have to be left, in the final evaluation, to the computer.

Where does it go from there? Connecting all the dots, you would see that a modern airplane would turn into a UAV with one exception: it would be manned. That is to say that the airplane could fly itself from takeoff to touchdown without any human intervention. Society may not be ready for flying in airplanes that have no on-board operators. Future pilots may end up more as systems operators. People that troubleshoot the computer when the computer fails. Or, when our own failure of imagination presents our well-trained computers with a situation that had not been anticipated.

We are in a time when technology is no longer the limiting factor in the equation, but rather public policy, perception and fear. The technology exists to have the airplane safeguard itself. It is much easier to teach an airplane to fly than to teach a door psychology. 

Dr. Richard Pat Anderson is an ATP, CFI-AGMI, A&P, IA and a Professor of Aerospace Engineering.

It's Time to Upgrade Your Old 530 to an IFD540 FMS/GPS/Nav/Com from Avidyne

Daher recently opened a new sales, maintenance and support facility in Pompano Beach, Florida. AVweb was there and shot some video of the event.

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EAA has two Ford Tri-Motors touring the U.S. this spring, one in the East and one out West.  AVweb's Russ Niles went for a ride in Naples, Florida.

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