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This might define the term “rude awakening” for pilots. Various media sources are reporting that two Delta Air Lines pilots commanding a flight from Germany to Kuwait fell asleep at the controls of their Boeing 767-400ER and only woke up after flight attendants banged on the cockpit door to tell them there were two Greek F-16s on their wing. To make matters worse, the incident occurred only a few hours after EgyptAir Flight 804 disappeared in the same general area. We’ve asked Delta for confirmation of the sleeping part but so far the airline has only issued the following reassuring statement: "While transiting to Greek airspace, the flight crew of Delta flight 8957, a charter operation from Hahn, Germany to Kuwait, was unable to establish radio communications with Greek air traffic control for a short period. This occurred during a handoff between air traffic control agencies and communications were expeditiously re-established. At no point did the Boeing 767-400ER leave its planned route of flight.”

In the cabin, however, things were apparently not so calm, according to media reports. After repeated attempts by ATC to contact the airliner with no result, the F-16s were scrambled. The fighter pilots tried to raise the big Boeing on the radio and when that didn’t work, they tried lights and hand signals from abeam the aircraft. They reportedly could clearly see the snoozing pilots. When the fighters moved up beside the airliner, they were, of course, in full view of the passengers, who alerted the flight attendants. It apparently took a few raps on the cockpit door to rouse one of the pilots. The aircraft landed routinely at its destination but it’s likely that things will be anything but routine for the pilots for the next while.

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HondaJet, which recently announced its first delivery in Europe at Germany’s Aero event, today said at the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition in Geneva it has officially received European certification from EASA. The HondaJet was certified by the FAA in December, and deliveries have already begun in the U.S. and Mexico as well as in Europe. EBACE, which opens officially tomorrow, has a sold-out static display with 60 aircraft, NBAA President Ed Bolen said. More than 450 exhibitors fill the exhibit hall, with the biggest footprint ever, and more than 13,000 people are expected to attend. Textron also released an update on its new turboprop design today.

Textron announced last August it would develop a new, clean-sheet single-engine turboprop design. Today, the company revealed further details, including performance specification targets, cabin features and the program’s timeline. The airplane will cruise at speeds up to 285 knots and fly up to 1,600 nm, Textron said. The cabin, which will be the widest for its segment, will seat up to eight passengers and feature a flat floor and a 53-inch-wide aft cargo door. The single-pilot cockpit will be equipped with Garmin’s G3000 touchscreen avionics suite.

The company has previously announced the airplane will be powered by a new engine by GE, with a five-blade McCauley prop. The company also said at EBACE it is accepting letters of intent from buyers. Textron said it has developed a cabin prototype, which it is showing to customers in Wichita, and plans to have it on display at this summer’s EAA AirVenture at Oshkosh. First flight is targeted for 2018, and the price will about $4.5 million.

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image: NASA

Our planet’s transportation systems are on the cusp of a radical change to “on-demand mobility,” according to several of the presenters at last week’s CAFE symposium in California. “The technology push and the market pull are converging,” said Bruce Holmes and Roger Parker, of AirMarkets Corp. “A large and growing market for ODM exists and is convergent with technologies for sustainability, safety, affordability and accessibility.” Florian Reuter, managing director of e-volo, said his company’s recent successful flight of its Volocopter design shows it’s possible to achieve “revolutionary simplicity in piloting, unprecedented safety and absence of emissions.” The message: Increasingly safe, autonomous aircraft driven by quiet, emissions-free propulsion systems will create new markets for urban, personal transportation.

Reuter added that e-volo plans to certify the Volocopter by the end of next year, distribute it to selected flight schools early in 2018 and start operational use by customers by the third quarter of 2018. Emerging markets for the technology could include an on-demand commuter network in Silicon Valley, or urban air travel for individuals, as soon as 2020, if existing regulations can be modified. NASA researcher Mark Moore also explored the potential for a VTOL air-taxi system in Silicon Valley. Launchpads could be sited at freeway cloverleafs, he said, using small aircraft that are quiet, efficient, highly redundant and reliable. “The convergence of distributed electric propulsion and autonomy is why this is possible in the next 10 years,” Moore said. AVweb will follow up with more details from CAFE, and an interview with Moore, later this week.

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AP photo

A Cessna 182H with a pilot, two skydive instructors and two tandem jumpers on board crashed and burned shortly after takeoff from the Hawaiian island of Kauai about 9:30 Monday morning; there were no survivors. The airplane was operated by Skydive Kauai from Port Allen Airport, a small field on the south shore. One witness quoted in news reports said the airplane had just taken off when the engine seemed to quit. The airplane then appeared to turn back toward the airport, then caught fire and went down. The fire spread briefly, but was quickly contained by firefighters.

Four of the victims were pronounced dead at the crash site, according to local news reports. One man was taken to a local hospital, where he also was pronounced dead. Twenty visitors to the Hawaiian Islands died in aircraft crashes from 2005 to 2014, including one skydiver, according to The Associated Press. Over the same period, 24 residents were killed in air crashes, including four skydivers.

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I got a note from a reader commenting on Friday’s blog on pilot starts and populations. His view was that everything is more or less about the Benjamins and more people would fly if it were cheaper. We’ve reduced that dead horse to molecular slurry so I won’t argue the case for or against. It could very well be true.

But it got me wondering how I financed my own slog to the private pilot certificate and why I did it. I’ve lost my original logbook, but some numbers I do remember. The airplanes rented wet for $7 an hour and I earned my private right around the 54-hour mark. Instruction was $5 per hour and there were some related expenses for books, an E6B, charts and groundschool.

I think I had about 30 hours of instruction, so that totaled a whopping $150. The airplane time came to about $400, I’d guess, because I flew some other types in there, including a spanking new Cardinal that I reckoned at the time was like a little airliner. It had eyeball vents. So altogether, I’d say $600 to the private. Adjusted for inflation, that’s about $3700 today.

The eye opener for me was that I did that flight training between November 1969 and May 1970, when I passed the private checkride. At the time, I was stationed at Fort Bragg and flying in the Aero Club there, hence the heavily subsidized $7 an hour for a Cessna 150. So in seven months, I accumulated the 54 hours flying, probably, a couple of hours a week. At the time, I was an E-3 and was promoted to E-4 some time in mid-1970. According to the pay tables of the day, I was paid $167.70 per month or $1034 adjusted for 2016 dollars.

You’re probably ahead of me in doing the math in your head, but during that seven months, I was paid $1173 and I spent a little more than half of it learning to fly. Easy to do when you’re living on post with three hots and a cot, you aren’t married and you have absolutely, positively nothing else to do or at least nothing I’d write about now as being lawful behavior. (Whatever it was, it must not have been very expensive.)

Running the math here, if anyone was so motivated today to do the same thing at current training prices, they would need—in addition to free housing, medical care and meals—to earn about $18,000 to $20,000 a year, 10 times my meager monthly check. For a sport pilot certificate, the total might come to $3000 to $4000, so double that and then some for the required annual income.

That anyone would do this is unmoored fantasy for several reasons. Are there still people today who would spend half their income to learn to fly? Yes, maybe, but not very many. That business of the free meals and housing would be problematical. The modern military still provides and it pays much more—an E-3 today earns $1847 a month, but I kinda think they work the PFCs a little harder. (Adjusted for inflation, a 2016 E-3 earns not quite twice what I was getting in the non-volunteer, green-boot Army.)

The military Aero Clubs, of which there were many in 1970, were part of the general aviation boom of the period. I don’t know how heavily they were subsidized by the base social activities budget, but I suspect quite a bit. There aren’t many Aero Clubs left, but I note the one at Edwards Air Force Base rents a 16-year-old IFR Cessna 172 for $131 per hour wet. That’s the equivalent of $21 in 1970 dollars. Could I have afforded that in 1970? No, but I’d have done it anyway, borrowing the money just to keep flying. After all, I had a place to sleep and I wasn’t going to starve to death, so badly did I want to fly. Are there still people like this today? Yes, maybe, but not very many.

I couldn’t have imagined in 1970 that what was then a vibrant industry would gracefully degrade to the point that new airplanes would be the exception rather than the rule. As were most flightlines, ours was populated largely by leaseback aircraft. We would get a new one once a month or so. The fleet had more than a dozen airplanes, if I remember correctly, and a ramshackle old club house just down the taxiway from a line of parked Hueys. It reeked of old pine paneling, stale oil and cigarette smoke and we loved it. I distinctly recall complaining to the club manager that a favorite 150 of mine, N3008X, had been displaced by a brand-new model that I’d have to get used to. Boo-hoo! How silly. (If I’ve got the N-number right, that airplane is still on the registry.)

Dredging up these recollections and looking at the pay table, I remember we were always paid in cash. But I never remember getting that 70 cents. Maybe they still owe me. If so, totaling up the interest owed, I’d have enough to buy almost a gallon of gas.

Dynon Is Too Certified

The FAA’s Alison Duquette wrote to say that my describing EAA’s initiative to develop STCs to install Dynon equipment in certified airplanes is misleading. Specifically, I called the Dynon equipment uncertified, which has a specific connotation for general aviation pilots. But that’s incorrect, says Duquette.

“The FAA is not allowing installation of non-certified avionics on certified airplanes. The FAA has approved a supplemental type certificate (STC) for the installation of an avionic product that is similar to a product that is commonly used in the experimental fleet. Dynon Avionics created this certified part for this specific supplemental type certificate. This product has been shown to comply with the Part 23 airworthiness requirements and the FAA has found it to be compliant. Reproduction of this part is performed per S 21.9(a)4 as a commercial part listed on an FAA approved commercial parts list as part of the STC,” Duquette says.

So for FAA purposes, the equipment is certified.

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