Category: How to Become a Pilot

Six Light Single-Engine Planes They Totally Need to Bring Back!

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Airplanes are sexy; no one would argue that point, at least not in these pages! But being in the airplane manufacturing business? Extremely unromantic. It’s expensive, there’s limited profit potential, there’s liability out the ying-yang, and when you think about it, the market is a tiny one. Hence, airplanes come and go. But in our little neck of the aviation woods, where light planes rule, the stars are well known, and even many of those bright lights are no longer being made. And there are other, long-gone planes we love, one of which we think is so cool we thought it worthy of consideration even in this shortlist of planes they need to bring back (and soon!), even if that is very unlikely to ever happen.

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AA-5B Tiger: Photo By Alan Wilson Via Wikipedia Commons

AA-5B Tiger

There’s no top of this list of planes they totally need to bring back, but if there were, the Tiger would be right up there. The four-seat, all-metal, roll-back canopy low-winger was one of the greatest accomplishments of the late Jim Bede’s aircraft design legacy. It was revolutionary—its unassuming looks fool people into thinking it’s plain vanilla, but it’s got a free-castoring nosewheel, bonded wing skins and lightweight, expanded-aluminum airframe structures. And it flew great. Introduced by American Aviation of Yankee fame, the AA-5 first flew in the summer of 970 and had its first keys tossed to a customer the next year, but the first model called the Tiger hit the airways a few years later. By then, it had gotten the correct engine, the 80-hp Lycoming, which gave it the kind of Skylane-level cruise speeds and sprightly climb performance that made owners fall in love with it. I flew one for a few years. It might be my favorite airplane ever. Nostalgia, perhaps, but it’s a great ride. Surprisingly roomy, visibility to die for, low maintenance costs and a great instrument platform. No fewer than five different companies have signed up to build the Tiger after their predecessors shut the hangar doors. It’s currently not in production, and with 3,282 built over 35 years (with several long pauses along the way), there really aren’t that many out there. Bring it back! 

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Beechcraft V-35 V-Tail Bonanza: Photo By The Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum, Public Domain.

Beechcraft V-35 V-Tail Bonanza

Some Bonanza fanatics think that there’s no such thing as a Bonanza without a V-tail. The original Bonanza was, indeed, a V-tail model. Introduced in 1947, it was light, fast, modern and easy to fly and is arguably the most revolutionary light plane in aviation history. And for the next decade and a half, if you wanted a Beechcraft Bonanza (and we are not counting the Twin Bonanza), the V-tailed Model 35 was the sole menu item. Straight-tail “Bonanzas” started showing up in the early ’60s, and there are so many arguments to be made as to why that configuration is an improvement over the V-tail. Models 33 and 36 are each more stable than the forked-tailed version. They have better safety records, there are fewer structural problems with their tails, and the tendency to Dutch roll is gone. But the V-35 is just so beautiful. It handles like a bobsled on a smooth and fast track, it’s beautifully appointed and, from an aesthetic perspective, it’s just the coolest. A real work of art in the hangar. But it hasn’t been around since 1982, when the last one rolled off the line from Wichita’s east-side airplane maker. Don’t expect a resurrection anytime soon. Beech built an enormous amount of Bonanzas over the decades, more than 10,000, in fact, and many are still flying. But wouldn’t a brand-new Bonanza be the best? 

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Varga Kachina: Photo By Aeroprints.com Via Wikipedia Commons.

Varga Kachina

Here’s one you might not be familiar with, and if that’s the case, it’s certainly understandable. Between the plane’s introduction in 1948 and its last hurrah in 1982, fewer than 200 of the comely little tandem two-seaters hit the sky, and most of those were built between 1975 and 1982. A lot of them are still flying, probably right around 100 of them, and it’s easy to see why. The thing is just the cutest little bug of a plane you’ve ever seen. At the same time, it’s also got this strangely military feel to it, probably because it resembles in general configuration, down to its straight-standing tail, the Beech T-34 Mentor that, make no mistake, is way more airplane than the Kachina. That said, the little Varga is a joy to fly, and I flew one years ago. On its not-so-little 150 hp or 180 hp Lycoming engine, it climbs great, and the visibility is spectacular, which is handy for spotting make-believe bogeys at your six, and the handling is beautifully harmonized. Fast, it is not. But, c’mon, is fast what this kind of airplane is all about? Besides, when they bring it back, which they most assuredly will not do any time soon, they will certainly improve the aerodynamics and make it aerobatic, as well. We can dream, can’t we?

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Cessna 177 Cardinal: Photo By Bidgee Via Wikipedia Commons.

Cessna 177 Cardinal

When Cessna brought back its greatly abbreviated lineup of single-engine planes in the mid-1990s after a 10-year hiatus, perhaps the omission that most grieved enthusiasts was that of the Cardinal, which is arguably one of the, if not the, most beautiful Cessnas ever built. Introduced in the late ’60s, the Cardinal was intended by Cessna as a replacement for the 172, which sounds like a bad joke today. It didn’t work, and Cessna built many thousands of 172s after that, but by gum, the Cardinal was much beloved by those who owned and flew them. Don’t get the wrong idea. It was far from a niche offering. Cessna built more than 4,000 in the decade following the type’s introduction in 1968. And it was cool, with its two major features being the cantilever high wing and the setback of said wing, both of which allowed easy access to the seating area. And Cessna did a great job with the interior as well. It was comfortable and had terrific visibility, but it wasn’t fast, with a cruise speed of around 120-125 knots. Even the retractable-gear 177RG isn’t much faster than that. And if you note the Cardinal’s passing from production in 1978, seven years before the company pulled the plug on the rest of its singles, you might get the idea that it wasn’t selling well. Correct. Though Cessna did, indeed, get a lot of low-pressure urging to put the plane back into production, the all-metal model wasn’t cheap to build—cantilever-wing designs tend to require lots of production hours compared to their strut-braced brethren. And in a way, Cessna almost did bring back the Cardinal, or at least a Cardinal wannabe, when it floated the idea of a high-winged, no-strut, all-composite plane it called the Next Generation Piston (NGP). It never took off, production-wise, and as far as beauty is concerned, it couldn’t hold a candle to its sheet-metal inspiration. 

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Cessna 210: Photo By “Fast” Eddie Maloney Via Wikipedia Commons.

Cessna 210

Early 210s were a work in progress, but once they got the cantilever wing, the classic Centurion body and the big motor, they were and are simply an outstanding aircraft. If Cessna had modernized the 210 and maybe even thrown in a chute to appeal to the prospects who buy Cirrus SR22s, might it have been a contender instead of sitting out the last 36 years in retirement? Are you kidding—of course it could have been a major player. The 210 has it all. It has a prodigious payload, terrific true airspeeds, the turbo model is a beast, and the plane is both capable and a pretty one. With its updated glass panel, as so many existing 210s are sporting today, who wouldn’t have wanted one? Yes, it would have been expensive. At the same time, isn’t it in the same class as the SR22, but with a couple more seats, or the Beechcraft G36 Bonanza? Instead of resurrecting the Centurion, Cessna opted for buying a composite airplane program, the Columbia 350/400, which it probably saw as a cheaper-to-build airplane and one that better appealed to modern sensibilities. I don’t know. I’ve got a good bit of time in a 210, and it’s one of the very best airplanes I’ve ever flown. Let’s bring it back. 

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Photo By Peter Bakema Via Wikipedia

Commander 112/114

Of all the planes featured here, the Commander, and perhaps the Tiger, are the ones most likely to make it back to production, though neither’s chances are all that great. Like the Tiger, the Commander, launched by Rockwell Aircraft at the dawn of the ’70s, was ultimately produced in decent numbers. Around 1,200 of the four-seaters made it out the factory doors. Like the Cardinal, the Commander incorporated not new ideas so much as ideas that few existing singles were making use of. In the case of the Rockwell single, this feature was cabin size. It’s a roomy plane from an era when rubbing shoulders with other pilots was a literal expression. Book numbers for the Commanders are among the most ambitious in aviation, but with its 260 hp (some were turbocharged), the roomy, cruciform-tailed Commander could do around 150 knots at cruise. Early models were payload limited—it’s fuel or passengers; you decide—but the aesthetics and quality work inside and out were among the best in the biz. A very solid cross-country and instrument platform, the Commander was good at doing just what it was designed to do, though everyone wished it was about 15 knots faster. With the new production ones we’re imagining as we write, we are certain that this concern will be addressed.

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Photo by Aleksandr Markin Via Wikimedia Commons

The 9 Most Beautiful GA Planes

The Ugliest Light Planes (That Only Their Owners Find Beautiful)

Categories: How to Become a Pilot

High Sierra Wraps Up Big Event; FAA Launches Alaska Safety Programs and Feds Still Looking for Pilot Of Missing Plane In Midair.

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The 2021 edition of the High Sierra Fly-In wrapped up last weekend after a successful event that hosted 1,000 airplanes and 3,000 participants. The incident free event also featured moderate temperatures and the usual amount of blowing dust. The event was canceled last year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Well, where was one incident. Well-known aviation personality Mark Patey broke his leg in a one-wheel accident. Patey, whose twin brother Mike, is also a popular flying personality,  is recovering after surgery to repair the break and is already on his feet. Speedy recovery, Mark!

An Oregon pilot was missing after his Cessna 150 never showed up in Orland, California, after he took off from Ashland, Oregon, earlier in the day on Thursday headed for Orland.  It’s about a 200-mile flight. Local authorities are asking for tips from anyone who might have heard the plane flying low around or near Northern Shasta Country, California, near where the plane last made contact.

The FAA has released the outline of a comprehensive plan to improve air safety in Alaska, the state most dependent on general aviation for its transportation and other infrastructure needs. The plan, which was created in concert with Alaska pilots and other stakeholders, includes more and better automated weather gathering equipment, more mountain pass cameras, better ADS-B coverage and improved instrument approach procedures.

The NTSB is trying to locate the second of two planes involved in a midair collision near Sutton, Alaska, earlier this month. A Cessna 180 was damaged, but the pilot was able to land the plane safety and escaped injury. The other plane? Well, the 180 pilot said it just kept on flying, and so far, the NTSB has been unable to find the plane or pilot.

The EAA is conducting a study on turn backs to be conducted by a blue-ribbon group. The maneuver, which is done when a plane loses engine power shortly after takeoff and the pilot attempts to make a turn back to the airport to land. They are, EAA said, a significant part of the overall GA accident picture.

A pilot whose plane lost engine power over dense forest just outside of Eugene, Oregon, escaped without injury after he deployed the BRS whole airplane recovery parachute system in his Lancair ES homebuilt. The chute let him down gently into dense trees, and while responders were on their way, the pilot made a persuasive pitch for such recovery chutes.

The NTSB is investigating the crash of an MD-87 jet after its crew tried to abort takeoff from Houston Executive Airport, in Waller County, Texas. The plane went off the runway, though two fences, over a roadway and took out power lines in the overrun. All 21 onboard survived, even though the plane was destroyed in a post-crash fire. Two of the passengers suffered injuries. The lead NTSB investigator said that his team was looking into the plane’s maintenance, as it had not been flown for around 10 months.

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The University of North Dakota paused its flight training program in the wake of the death of flight school student pilot John Hauser on a solo training flight. UND is home to one of the largest aviation training programs at a four-year university. The NTSB is investigating the mishap, the first fatal crash of a UND plane since 2007. The school planned to resume training on Thursday.

Categories: How to Become a Pilot

High Sierra Fly-In Was Nuts

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Photo by Jim Raeder
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This week’s Plane & Pilot Photo of the Week comes from the talented aviation photographer Jim Raeder, whose lens was trained on the hijinks at the High Sierra Fly-In (HSF) at Dead Cow Lake in Nevada last week. A big part of HSF is the spirit of pushing-the-limits fun that is hardly limited to just the airplane flying. Over the past couple of years, the Onewheel has been central to the extracurriculars at Dead Cow, and Kevin Palmer has taken the technology to the next level by combining the spirit of excitement and experimentation with vintage lawn chair living. We’d say 11/10 on the design and on the modeling, Kevin.

Check back on Tuesday for our High Sierra Fly-In web gallery, with high lights (and low lights?) from what might just have been the best HSF ever.

Miss last week’s Photo of the Week? Click here: Shatner in Space!

Categories: How to Become a Pilot

NTSB Searching For Second Plane That Was In Midair And Is Nowhere To Be Found

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The good news to start with. It’s most likely that nobody onboard the two planes involved in a midair collision was hurt when two planes ran into each other near Sutton, Alaska, earlier this month. But that’s a best guess. Because we don’t know. Because the NTBS doesn’t know either.

A Cessna 180 was cruising along in the early afternoon when it collided with another plane, substantially damaging the Cessna taildragger’s wing. But the pilot was able to make a safe landing in the damaged plane. The other plane, said the pilot in the damaged one, just kept on flying. No information was available on what kind of plane it was. The NTSB says it looked at plane tracks and examined the ATC tapes, but with no luck. It’s a mystery.

This is where it gets even weirder. No one has any idea what happened to that other plane. Now, it’s not unknown for one plane or both of the planes involved in a midair collision to go missing. It’s rare, but it’s happened. And this wouldn’t be the first time that just one of the two planes was lost while the other was found. But in this case, it’s probably a better outcome than that, but an even stranger one.

It’s possible the other airplane wasn’t aware it was in a midair. This happens too. A Cirrus SR22 about six years ago in Texas got the convertible treatment after a Cessna 150 collided with it near College Station. The Cirrus, flown by a Cirrus rep, was still controllable, and the pilot was able to bring it back in for a landing. The Cessna trainer, on the other hand, wasn’t aware it had even been in a midair until the student pilot, on her first flight, ever noticed that the main gear outside her window was nowhere to be seen. It had been what hit the Cirrus.

So, the NTSB is trying to figure out if that or something else happened. It was, after all, an aircraft accident, and the NTSB’s charter is to get to the bottom of such things.

Our theories are as follows:

  1. Plane 2 never knew what happened. It had no damage. The pilot flew home. Landed. Ate a caribou steak and called it a day.
  2. Plane 2 did crash, and it has not been found.
  3. The pilot of Plane 2 knew it got hit, but for whatever reason, kept on going anyways. Theories about on why the pilot would do that, though we doubt it’s because it was an alien craft. One observer was guessing the pilot might be un-certificated. Stranger things have happened.

We’re guessing it’s #1 or #3. We’ll update this and let you know when we learn more.

Categories: How to Become a Pilot

Pilot Records Post-Crash Video Before First Responders Show!

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A pilot flying a Lancair ES, a kitplane that was the genesis of what eventually became the Cessna TTX, was in deep trouble when the big engine in his piston single hesitated briefly before taking the rest of the day off with the airplane over dense forest in the Northwest U.S. The plane was descending into Eugene, Oregon, when things started to go bad.

As he wrote in his Facebook post documenting the mishap, “Crashed my airplane yesterday descending into Eugene, 35 miles out or so, over the mountains, bit lower than I would normally be for a broken cloud layer. Sudden engine decel and misfire. Ruhroh. Made a quick glide assessment, nothing but forest. Went through all the emergency checklist items in my head, engine just got worse, cockpit starting to fill with some smoke, not a ton of altitude, committed to a forced landing. Let ATC know where I was at, surveyed my glide options again, nothing but dense forest.”

He had another option, though. “Committed to an airframe parachute deployment, yanked the handle and after a wild ride bouncing through the trees, the BRS Aerospace parachute delivered me safely to the forest floor.” He then editorialized on the subject, “Kids, if you fly single engine over hostile terrain, get an airframe parachute. Not sure I would have survived that without it. I believe BRS has a better than 99% survival rate when deployed within the operating parameters.”

The “chute” comes as standard equipment on all Cirrus aircraft and can be installed on a retrofit basis on a handful of others. The Lancair ES the poster was flying is a kitplane, so the builder/owner can decide to install a chute, if such an installation is available for that model, as it is for the Lancair ES.

We are sure it must have been a wild ride indeed, and we are so happy that it turned out the way it did.

Categories: How to Become a Pilot

Bonjour Air Senegal

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October 21, 2021

AIR SENEGAL is a new and expanding carrier poised to become one of the largest in the region. Based out of the new (and boringly designed) Blaise Diagne International Airport near Dakar, the carrier has opened up routes to Europe and the United States.

We haven’t had a serious West African contender since the days of Air Afrique, the pan-national collective whose green-and-white jets were a familiar sight from 1961 until 2002. I’ve spent a lot of time in Senegal and have a fondness for the country, so at least for me the emergence of new national airline is exciting.

What someone needs to explain, however, is this clown show of a livery…

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Air Senegal A330 1024x602 - Bonjour Air Senegal

What a shame. It’s disappointing because the colors and patterns of the Senegalese flag offer so many handsome possibilities. The constipated typeface, with its little serifs and skinny letters, is not only unattractive, but distractingly out of synch with a tail design that looks, quite literally, as if it were drawn by a child.

The weirdly truncated star is an especially ugly and bizarre flourish. That they’ve splashed this design, broken star and all, onto the engine nacelles as well, only makes it worse.

The only part to like is maybe the tricolor arrow design near the cockpit. Seems they could have expanded on this motif in lieu of that dizzying amoeba.

Grade: F-minus

Air Senegal Detail - Bonjour Air Senegal

 

Air Senegal photo courtesy of Ryan Taylor

Speed Is Life (And Momentum Is Its Sidekick)

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There is more to the relationship between airspeed, energy management and aircraft control than meets the eye. The fighter pilot’s motto, “Speed is Life,” is the gospel in combat, where those who are most skillful at energy management generally win the fight. Multi-engine pilots know that precise air speed control is critical when engines begin to fail. And our colleague, Sir Isaac Newton, reminds us that in addition to the four forces of flight, there is a fifth force, momentum, that significantly impacts aircraft performance. So, let’s start this journey by taking a quick trip back to high school physics class! 

TRIGGER ALERT: MATHEMATICAL FORMULA FOLLOWS… In the most memorable line from Top Gun, Maverick loudly proclaims, “I feel the need, the need for speed.” Test pilots, engineers and geniuses aside, most pilots are not into theoretical equations, or, worse, the dreaded need to do math in public. But in this instance, we think Tom Cruise is referring to what is commonly known as the coefficient of lift equation, or Cl = ½ Rho V2 S. 

However, when you are flying, this formula is much simpler than it seems. Once airborne, we pilots can’t do too much about Rho (which relates to air density) and nothing at all about S (wing or control surface area) unless we count extending the flaps. However, we are the masters of V (velocity)! And to our delight, V is squared, which means that every time we increase our airspeed by a couple knots, the effectiveness of our lifting and control surfaces is increased fourfold. Now this is some math we can all get behind. 

During jet fighter combat maneuvers, this formula, and an ample application of afterburner, allows fighter pilots to turn airspeed into energy and live to fight another day. In the airline pilot’s world, the rare engine failure at altitude turns first into a “drift down” maneuver from cruise altitude to maintain ample V (velocity) until safely at or below the single-engine service ceiling. This is followed by an energy management descent, approach and landing profile designed to keep the aircraft comfortably above engine-out minimum control speed, all the while retaining excess energy and control authority until just before actual touchdown. 

In light twins, blueline speed defines the “best single-engine climb speed.” This speed will yield the best single-engine climb rate while maintaining aircraft control. However, if the pilot is losing roll control authority due to unforeseen problems or configurations, every single additional knot of airspeed will result in significantly increased control authority and allow the pilot to keep the shiny side up.

Now, down here in single-engine land where most of us live, the normal traffic-pattern speed schedule is designed to retain additional energy until just prior to touchdown. Getting slow on base or the turn to final can be deadly. Remember, slowing a couple knots also squares the loss of energy and control effectiveness. 

Additionally, the lift formula can play an important role in many inflight emergencies. When encountering a severe bird strike, split flaps, control surface damage or other control issues, the speeds listed in the POH may no longer apply. In this case, a controllability check to determine how slowly the pilot can maintain control will let the pilot know if the landing speeds in the POH are still valid. 

While still at altitude and on the way to the nearest airport, configure the aircraft for landing and slow ever so carefully to the POH final approach speed. If the aircraft begins to roll or turn uncontrollably before reaching the final approach speed, lower the nose, recover and decide that the landing will be made at least 5 to 10 knots above that speed. Then, maintain a gentle continuous descent to the touchdown point, just like the big iron pilots are taught, carrying some extra airspeed and energy until landing is assured. If the newly identified touchdown speed is too high, then maybe a longer runway is required. The goal here is never to lose control of the aircraft inadvertently before you reach the ground. Speed is life. 

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Now, as we begin to fly larger singles and twins, that fifth “force of flight” momentum begins to be a factor. Sir Isaac’s first two laws state that “an object in motion will tend to remain in motion” and “force equals mass times acceleration.” These two laws describe what we commonly call momentum, or “mo” for short. If you need an extreme example, imagine a 100-car freight train making an emergency stop. The overwhelming mass of the train, combined with even modest velocity, makes for a lot of sparks, squealing brakes and not much deceleration. Think about that the next time you watch someone try to sneak around the local rail crossing gate!

Modern airliners, while certainly lighter than trains, often have a range of weights for landing that vary by nearly 100,000 pounds. During the landing flare, a 300,000-pound jet carries a lot more momentum than a 200,000-pound one. Thus, the pilot is required to reduce thrust sooner at the higher weight than at the lower weight. At first, this seems counterintuitive, as the lighter-weight airplane requires less velocity and thrust to fly. We are not talking about flying but rather slowing down—or, as Isaac might have also said, “mass times deceleration.” Yes, but we don’t all fly the big jets.

Back here in single-engine land, a Cherokee Six’s inflight weight can range from approximately 2,000 to 3,400 pounds, a range of over 42% of its maximum takeoff weight. If the Cherokee Six must land near maximum gross weight, say, on an immediate return to the airport, the pilot will need to fly faster with more power on final. However, when it comes time to slow down in the flare, the big Cherokee’s higher weight and increased momentum may require a more rapid power reduction than at the more familiar lighter weight. 

The same aircraft with a single pilot and 15 gallons of fuel will require significantly less power to maintain the final approach. However, its lower mass will tend to decelerate much more quickly once the round out and flare have begun. So, landing at the light weight requires the pilot to reduce power at a slower rate. And, of course, “mo” affects stopping distances as well. So, if the runway is short and snow or ice covered, the higher landing speed, long landing and increased momentum result in more than a few departures from the far end of the runway. 

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The late, great Bob Hoover, a famed flight test and airshow pilot, famously said, “Fly the aircraft as far into the crash as possible.” A survivor of multiple aircraft crash landings in wartime, flight test and even on takeoff in his misfueled Shrike Commander, Mr. Hoover knew what he was talking about. Simply put, loss of roll control, or stalling the aircraft after takeoff or before touchdown, is nearly always unsurvivable. Maintaining airspeed and energy as long as possible provides the pilot with multiple options. The constant focus on maintaining flying airspeed that our CFI drummed into us works for normal operations, abnormal operations and even critical off-airport landings. 

So, speed is truly life! Thanks to some amazing aircraft designers and engineers, we get to fly some of the safest and most efficient aircraft available. And we can learn something from our friends in the professional ranks. Precise airspeed control, maintaining a reserve of energy, and always maintaining aircraft control are Job One, especially when out-of-the-ordinary situations arise. 

How Fast A Plane Do You Need?

 

FAA Unveils Its Alaska Safety Initiative. Our Big Takeaway: Yes!

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In an open call among stakeholders, the FAA has revealed its plan to improve safety in Alaska, and the great news is that it’s not the usually edict-from-above based approach but a cooperative one that makes use of Alaskan aviators’ wish list for safety upgrades, a thoughtful airspace management plan from the FAA, along with what seems a reasonable focus on equipage with no mandate.

Alaska accident and fatal accident numbers are alarming to most in the Lower 48, but the nature of flying in the geographically extreme and diverse state is different than in any other place in the United States. The accident rate is nearly three times that of Lower 48 states. Then again, the Alaska populace makes more use of aircraft for critical infrastructure than any other—by around three times as much according to some metrics.

Weather reporting improvements top the list of potential improvements, and these are mostly of two kinds, the installation of more and better automated weather reporting systems and the installation of more mountain pass cameras. The biggest danger to flyers in Alaska is the presence of high terrain in places where low weather is also common. Mountain passes are the biggest danger zones, and more and better reporting stations and remote mountain pass camera installations would go a long way toward helping Alaskan pilots know what they were facing ahead of time. These are also, according to the FAA, the two most requested system upgrades.

But they were not the only ones. Navigation and charting enhancements could help pilots know where they are in relation to terrain in low visibility, and it can help them make flight plans using waypoints that today aren’t charted. While it’s true that pilots could create their own custom waypoints, it’s much easier for pilots to use existing charted and databased waypoints, not to mention the due diligence the FAA will do in creating these charted waypoints. Two big thumbs up on this idea.

The FAA’s list of planned or existing updates to navigation aids and procedures is laudable. Included in the agency’s plan were new WAAS approaches with vertical guidance, especially in more remote places, and even more so at airports with challenging obstacles. The FAA is even discussing modifying the criteria it uses to create WAAS approaches, making it easier for the agency to create and approve approaches that will improve safety in places where the previous standards would have disallowed them.

Another bullet point on the hit list is improving satellite coverage and availability through a number of initiatives, none of which will be cheap but all of which will go to give Alaskan flyers more tools to stay safe.

And the FAA is looking to build out new, charted low-level routes around the state.  This would include the resuscitating of outmoded R-routes and the addition of new T-routes, as well.

Another key program goal is to increase the availability of ADS-B data, for both traffic alerts and weather information, though the installation of new ground and satellite hardware, none of which will be cheap but all of which will help keep critical safety information flowing to pilots.

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There’s much in the FAA’s plan, but the big takeaway in our view is that the Feds are really listening to Alaska aviators and they are committed to working as a partner to make flying safer in the 49th State.

Learn more about flying Alaska:

Lessons Learned About Flying (and about life): About Alaska

Categories: How to Become a Pilot

“Miraculous.” No Fatalities As Chartered MD-87 Crashes Near Houston.

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No one was killed when a privately owned McDonnell Douglas MD-87 crashed in Waller County near Houston on Tuesday morning, apparently after going off the end of the runway during an attempted takeoff. The passengers were headed to Boston to see Game 4 of the Major League Baseball American League Championship Series at Fenway Park in Boston. 

The plane crossed a roadway and came to rest, bursting into flames. Early reports are, and this is hard to believe seeing these photos, that all 21 passengers and crew escaped the wreckage with only one casualty, a back injury, among them. Kudos to the passengers and crew for pulling that off.

The MD-87 is a stretched version of the MD-80, which is a modernized and stretched version of the Douglas DC-9, for years one of the most popular short-haul airliners in the United States. Within recent years, airlines just about everywhere have mothballed their MD fleets. American Airlines over the years has operated nearly 400 of the various models, all certificated under the DC-9 type.  It retired the last of its MD’s in 2019, when it shipped 26 of them for long-term storage in Roswell, New Mexico. Delta, TWA, Allegiant and Alaska were longtime operators. All of them have retired their fleets. (TWA, of course, is no longer.)

Other airlines around the world still operate the type. There are an estimated 160 of them in current use. For those looking to get their hands on a used one, they can be had cheap. Flyable examples reportedly go for as little as a few hundred thousand dollars.

We’ll update this story as we learn more.

Categories: How to Become a Pilot

Arrivederci, Alitalia

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Alitalia 747  1024x647 - Arrivederci, Alitalia

October 18, 2021

LATE LAST WEEK, Alitalia operated its final flight and officially ceased to exist. For seventy-four years, Linee Aeree Italiane S.p.A., as it was formally known, had carried Popes, kings, despots, movie stars, and tens of millions of tourists, across a network that once spanned six continents.

Its demise was both a complete surprise and not the least bit shocking. The airline spent its existence in a more or less permanent state of distress; yet it always managed to pull through, be it from a government bailout, cash from a foreign partner, or some combination. Not this time. Thus, one of the most recognized names in the industry has disappeared, joining the likes of Swissair, Sabena, Malev, and the other classic European carriers that have vanished.

Alitalia Routes 1970s 988x1024 - Arrivederci, Alitalia

Alitalia long-haul routes in the early 1970s

A new, government-owned entity, Italia Trasport Aereo (ITA) is taking its place. With the whole thing being schemed out in advance, it’s more of a reincorporation — a reinvention — than a shut-down in the traditional sense, with ITA absorbing most of Alitalia’s assets and employees. Could they not have done this without totally dissolving such a well-known brand? Though, maybe, having left such a legacy of struggle, that was the point.

The transition has so far been messy. The ITA website and mobile app have been plagued with problems, and the new airline has struggled to receive U.S. government approval to operate here. While they sort things out, let’s do the fun thing and have a look at the identity they’ve come up with…

ITA A220 1 1024x517 - Arrivederci, Alitalia

ITA A330 1024x572 - Arrivederci, Alitalia

I can’t get my head around this one. It’s not ugly so much as confusing. Or maybe it’s confusing and ugly. The colors and styles are so mis-matched as to seem almost arbitrary — a big, weird, non-sequitur. The patterned tail motif reminds me of a doily, or the kind of tablecloth you’d find in certain Italian restaurants. To replace Alitalia’s iconic “A” emblem, worn since the ’70s, they needed to step up. They didn’t.

About the only positive thing is the ITA logo. The typeface is distinctive and elegant in an old-school sort of way. (In fact it’s almost too old-school, reminiscent of a made-up airline from a movie.) And smartly, they’ve kept the red, white and green, which is a nod to Alitalia and the colors of the flag. On the airplane, however, the letters are rendered only in white, so the whole effect is lost.

In an annoying last-minute decision, they went and added “Airways” into the carrier’s name. “ITA,” just by itself, was smoother, simpler, and perfectly adequate. But no, they had to jam “Airways” in there, because apparently passengers are stupid and might forget that it’s an airline. Loosely translated, the carrier is now called “Italian Air Transport Airways.”

With or without the extra word, it lacks the poetry of “Alitalia.” Still, it’s better than “Italian Air,” “Prego,” or any of several other garish possibilities. We may have dodged a bullet there.

Grade: D-minus

ITA Logo 1024x480 - Arrivederci, Alitalia

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