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The FAA said on Tuesday it will launch its ADS-B $500 rebate program next Monday, Sept. 19. The program will fund 20,0000 rebates, available on a first-come, first-served basis. “We promised that we would help aircraft owners equip with ADS-B, and I am pleased to say that today we are honoring that commitment and we are delivering on our target date,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We are encouraging aircraft owners to start equipping now. Do not wait until the last minute, because you may not be able to get an appointment with a certified installer.” The rebates were announced in June, but the start date wasn’t announced until today. Aircraft equipped before the start date won’t be eligible for the rebate. The FAA estimates about 160,000 aircraft need to be equipped by the deadline of Jan. 1, 2020.

ADS-B is a NextGen technology that transforms aircraft surveillance using satellite-based positioning. ADS-B Out, which is required by the deadline, transmits information about a plane’s altitude, speed and location to air traffic control and other nearby aircraft. ADS-B In, which is optional, allows aircraft to receive traffic and weather information from ground stations and to see nearby aircraft that are broadcasting their positions through ADS-B Out. Total cost of an ADS-B Out system should start at about $2,000, according to the FAA.

To be eligible for the rebate, owners must install the avionics after Sept. 19, 2016, and within 90 days of the rebate reservation date. Aircraft owners then will have 60 days after the scheduled installation date to validate their equipage by flying their aircraft, and will then be able to claim the rebate. The reservation system will require an N number, installation date and the planned ADS-B equipment being installed. Aircraft owners who have a standard airworthiness aircraft may have a repair station or an appropriately licensed A&P mechanic install the ADS-B equipment. Owners of aircraft certificated as experimental or light sport must adhere to applicable regulations and established standards when installing ADS-B equipment. Aircraft that fly only in uncontrolled airspace where no transponders are required, and aircraft without electrical systems, such as balloons and gliders, are exempt from the mandate. Owners can register for the rebates online at the ADS-B Rebate website.

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Pilots are not allowed to fly commercially in the U.S. if they have insulin-dependent diabetes, but a recent 18-month study of insulin-dependent commercial pilots flying in the United Kingdom found that no incidents were reported of pilot incapacitation due to blood sugar that was too high or too low. The study, conducted by the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority and the Royal Surrey County Hospital, analyzed monitoring records from the 26 insulin-treated pilots flying for U.K. airlines, covering 4,900 flight hours. The pilots’ average age is 41. The records showed that 96 percent of the 8,897 readings were in the safe “green” range, and 0.2 percent, or 19 readings, were in the “red” range. Besides the U.K., only Canada and Ireland allow insulin-dependent pilots to fly commercially.

"A growing number of insulin-treated pilots have successfully applied for commercial pilots' licenses in the U.K. and most recently Ireland," said Dr. Julia Hine, who reported on the study’s results at a recent medical gathering in England. "To date, the CAA protocol has [been] shown to work well in the cockpit, with no reported safety concerns, and without deterioration of diabetes control." The CAA protocol mandates that pilots must show they have their condition under control, and then record regular blood glucose tests in the cockpit, to ensure that any variability in blood sugar is detected and can be corrected early. "If pilots are unable to test their blood sugar due to operational demands, the protocol dictates that they should consume 15 mg of carbohydrate as a precautionary measure and then test within 30 minutes,” Hine said. She added that the American Diabetes Association is working to develop recommendations to share with the FAA that would enable officials to identify diabetic pilots who are at no greater risk for incapacitation than any other pilot.

The ADA says its position is that “individual assessment of people with diabetes is the appropriate approach to determining whether a person is qualified to perform certain activities, and the FAA's blanket ban is not medically justified.” The Association is developing recommendations to share with the FAA that it says would enable the FAA to identify pilots who are at no greater risk for incapacitation than any other pilot.

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Jeremy Martin via Airlive and WSJ

The engine that came apart at altitude on a Southwest B737 last month lost one of its fan blades during the flight, the NTSB reported in an investigative update on Monday. The jet was en route from New Orleans to Orlando, Florida, when the incident occurred, and the crew diverted to Pensacola. They landed safely and nobody was hurt. Initial examination of the engine by NTSB investigators found that one fan blade had separated from the fan disk and the root of the separated fan blade remained in the fan hub; however, the remainder of the blade was not recovered. Initial findings from the NTSB’s metallurgical examination include that the fracture surface of the missing blade showed curving crack arrest lines consistent with fatigue crack growth.

The fatigue crack region was 1.14 inches long and 0.217 inches deep. Also, the left engine inlet separated from the engine during the flight, the NTSB said. Debris from the inlet damaged the wing and empennage, and left a 5-inch-by-16-inch hole in the fuselage just above the left wing. No debris from the engine was found in the hole, and the passenger compartment was not penetrated. The cabin did experience depressurization during the incident. The jet engine was made by CFM International, a joint venture between General Electric and Safran. The NTSB investigation is continuing.

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The FAA has issued a Safety Alert reminding instructors, students and other general aviation pilots that the advised procedure for practicing slow-flight maneuvers has changed. The FAA’s new advice intends to correct “inconsistencies” in the previous standard for maneuvering during slow flight, as outlined in the Airplane Flying Handbook published in 2004, and the latest Private Pilot Airplane Test Standards, which took effect on June 15. The 2004 AFH advised students to practice the slow-fight maneuver at “the slowest airspeed at which the airplane is capable of maintaining controlled flight without indications of a stall—usually 3 to 5 knots above stalling speed.” Yet for most Part 23 airplanes, the stall warning would be activated at those speeds, which is considered an indication of a stall. The new test standard says private pilots should demonstrate slow flight at 5 to 10 knots above stall speed, or just above the stall-warning threshold, and recover before the warning activates.

“Advocating maneuvering the airplane just below the critical angle of attack with the stall warning activated is neither desirable nor intended,” the FAA says. The revised evaluation standard requires the pilot to maintain a speed referenced to the 1G stall speed. One way to set up for the maneuver is to slow the airplane to the stall warning in the desired configuration and note the airspeed. Next, pitch down slightly to eliminate the stall warning, adjust power to maintain altitude and note the airspeed required to perform the slow flight maneuver in accordance with the standard, the FAA said.

The FAA is currently revising the AFH, and expects to publish the new version next month. Meanwhile, the FAA advises student pilots, flight instructor applicants, flight instructors, flight schools, part 141 pilot schools, part 142 training centers and private pilot – airplane evaluators to familiarize themselves with the information in the Safety Alert (PDF) and adjust training and testing for the slow-flight maneuver accordingly.

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Nobody was seriously hurt when a Delta MD-88 ran off a runway at New York’s La Guardia Airport, in March 2015, but the NTSB said this week the crew made some mistakes in dealing with the situation. The flight crew’s decision to land on the snow-covered runway was “not inappropriate,” the safety board said, and “consistent with [Delta] policy.” However, once the airplane touched down, the captain applied “excessive reverse thrust,” which caused a loss of directional control by “blanking out” the rudder. The reverse thrust probably would not have caused a problem on a dry runway, the safety board said. The cabin crew also made mistakes in managing the evacuation, which took longer than it should have.

Passengers didn’t start to exit the airplane till 12 minutes after it came to a halt, the NTSB said, and it was 17 minutes total time before everyone was off. Practice drills generally aim to empty an airplane within 90 seconds. The accident also raised the issue of inaccurate passenger manifests. The crew at first thought there were 125 passengers on board, but two small children weren’t counted because they hadn’t been issued boarding passes. Also, the plane’s left wing had hit a perimeter fence and was leaking fuel during the evacuation. “We are fortunate to have gained these insights without any loss of life and only minor physical injuries,” said Christopher Hart, the board chairman. “This was a very close call.”

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Blue Origin, the aerospace company founded by tech billionaire Jeff Bezos, announced Monday a new family of heavy boosters capable of putting manned and heavy cargo payloads into earth orbit and beyond. Bezos, Amazon's CEO, said there will be both two- and three-stage versions of the booster and that one version will be capable of landing for reuse.

The new rocket family is to be called New Glenn, after pioneering Mercury astronaut John Glenn, and is expected to fly by the end of the decade. Both the New Glenn 2 and New Glenn 3 would be powered by a cluster of seven liquid-natural-gas-fueled BE-4 engines with a liquid oxygen oxidizer. These are being developed by the same Kent, Washington, company that's building engines for the United Launch Alliance's new Vulcan booster, also a reusable design.

In an email, Bezos said the two-stage New Glenn will be 270 feet long while the three-stage version will be 313 feet long. The system will be capable of 3.85 million pounds of thrust, a little more than half of the thrust the Saturn V system that launched Apollo astronauts to the moon had.

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Try this thought experiment: Before USAir 1549 splashed down in the Hudson, if you put 10 airline crews in a simulator and ran the same scenario, how many would achieve results identical to the real event? Hold that thought for a moment, I’ll get back to it.

Of course, you can’t unknow the details of USAir 1549, which ditched in the Hudson River on Jan. 15, 2009. Seven years is a decent interval for the story to stew into a movie and this weekend, Sully arrived in U.S. theaters, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Tom Hanks as Chesley B. Sullenberger III with Aaron Eckhart as Jeff Skiles. Because this is a simple story—jet takes off, birds snuff engines, jet lands in river, everyone saved—injecting enough tension into the script to keep viewers engaged could have sent the thing off the rails. With just one excursion through the tulies, Eastwood and scriptwriter Todd Komarnicki kept the story reality rooted.

As the title suggests, Sully tells the story through the eyes of Sullenberger himself and, surprise, it doesn’t descend into sticky hagiography, but portrays an aviation professional who tried to do the right thing but who is racked with self-doubt and second guessing, just like the rest of us would be. In numerous interviews, the real Sullenberger comes off not as a closet Five Striper, but as an unremarkable, modest and self-effacing professional. The script allowed Hanks to convey that, which he does almost to the point of stoniness.

Since the film lacks the explosions and fires of real Hollywood air disasters, it employs the title character as a means of illuminating how stressful it is for an aircrew lucky enough to survive an accident to then suffer though the investigation. In real life and in the film, this becomes so all consuming for the pilots involved that for many months, if not longer, it’s as though nothing else exists.

Because accident investigation can be adversarial at times, pilots quite rightly feel they’re under suspicion and are assumed to be guilty until proven innocent. In Sully, this is conveyed through a panel of scowling investigators who ask the crew if they got enough sleep or maybe have some problems on the home front. Sully and Skiles were kept in New York for days after the accident and were hounded by the press for interviews. In one clip that made my skin crawl, the filmmakers cobbled together a scene revisiting the crew’s appearance on David Letterman’s The Late Show, with Hanks and Eckhart dropped into the footage. It’s mercifully short but almost unwatchable, illustrating how ordinary people are dragged into the spotlight for the fleeting amusement of the rest of us and a few ratings points.

Because as pilots, we know far more about the 1549 accident than the freckled-neck masses watching the film do, the draw for us to see how the filmmakers will depict the actual event. Will they get the details right? Will it look and sound convincing? Technically and cinematically, Sully is tightly constructed. At just over 90 minutes, it’s short for a modern film and the effects are impressive. If anything in the film is Oscar worthy, it ought to be the sound designer's work. Listen closely to the cockpit and cabin background noise and you’ll hear a lot of texture;: impacts as the birds strike, bumping, rotational sounds as the engines roll back and all sorts of system warnings. The CGI for the airplane in flight against the skyline is superb, but they didn’t get the touchdown just right—it looks a little too much like a model. Also, look closely at a couple of medium shots where passengers are evacuating the floating fuselage. The trees in the background are in full green bloom. Minor stuff, to be sure, but it caught my eye.

Far less minor was how the NTSB investigators were portrayed as almost dishonestly determined to find fault with the crew’s decision making. In the denouement, Sullenberger and Skiles are before a tribunal of investigators who play simulator footage showing that the Airbus could have easily been landed back at LaGuardia or across the river in Teterboro. Under questioning from Sully, they admit it took 17 tries to achieve the results and that the sim pilots knew what was coming. I could hear someone in the theater behind me muttering something about those lousy government bastards.

Of course, that scene was a complete confection. It never happened. As part of an observational study—and this is in the public docket—investigators did run 20 simulations on the accident. Of the 15 that produced good data, eight successfully landed, either at LaGuardia or Teterboro. But all of them were commenced immediately after the birdstrike, with the pilots knowing what was coming. When the 35-second real-world decision-making fog was considered, the sim pilots couldn’t make it to either airport. The filmmakers tie this into a nice bow by listening to the CVR tape and then recanting, declaring the two pilots as heroes through admiring eyes.

Bleeech.

This license has drawn the ire of some in the NTSB and I don’t blame them. “There was no effort to crucify him or embarrass him. If there were questions, it was to learn things,” Malcolm Brenner, an NTSB behavior specialist, told Bloomberg News. I suspect Brenner would have been especially annoyed when the Hanks character explains that when human factors are considered, the glide back to the runway was not in the cards. The scene is played as though the NTSB hadn’t thought of that.

This by no means ruins the film, in my estimation. Sully still tells the story effectively and supposedly conveys how Sullenberger actually felt. Only he knows that. Look, I was paying attention in English lit when we talked about the need for dramatic conflict, but in this case, it was wholly unnecessary—like hitting a carpet tack with a 10-pound maul. The tension was already well established. I think it sullies—if I may revert to the verb rather than the noun—the NTSB’s reputation for no gain. (Sullenberger insisted that the names of the actual investigators not be used in the film.)

Now back to the thought experiment, which may help you gauge how heroic you think Sullenberger really was. An accident investigator friend of mine said he thought 10 out of 10 crews would have pegged the same decisions and achieved the same outcome. My guess was seven out of 10 because human nature is, if nothing else, defined by inexplicable variables. For that reason, I don’t see Sullenberger as particularly heroic. I see him—and Skiles—as highly competent. And near the close of the movie, Hanks as Sully says as much. But evidently, people need heroes and will pay money to scratch the itch. Otherwise Clint Eastwood wouldn’t make movies about them.

 

The foregoing is opinion and commentary based on disclosed facts. AVweb welcomes other points of view, including guest blogs.

A group of Canadian pilots will bring history to life by flying replica First World War fighters over a ceremony commemorating the Battle of Vimy Ridge next April.

 

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Hundreds of pilots filled a theater in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada on Wednesday to watch a preview of Sully, the much-hyped account of the Miracle on the Hudson. There were some minor quibbles but Sandy Dubrow, who was among the pilots, told AVweb's Russ Niles the reaction was overwhelmingly positive.

While you vacationed on remote mountain airstrips, aero-administrators were hard at work making more work for instructors and examiners. But despite enhanced e-paperwork shuffles, pilots can preserve basic aerodynamic sense by acing this quiz.

Click here to take the quiz.

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