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By Jeff Pardo

For flight, our most vital faculty is our vision, but when the lights go out, sometimes the things we do see aren’t even there, and these illusions take many forms.  Continue»

By Jeff Pardo

If you are a VFR-only pilot, you'll soon see that night flight is (or, in a heartbeat, can be) much like flying on instruments -- because you may have to. You might find this out soon after you point your nose skyward on your first night fright...I mean, flight. But there's more to the story...  Continue»

By Editor Staff

Engine problems may have been a factor in the crash of a domestic Dana Airlines flight five miles short of its destination airport in Lagos, Nigeria over the weekend. All 157 people on board died; rescuers suspect many more died on the ground when the plane plowed through a shantytown as it crashed. Air traffic control recordings indicate that one, or possibly both, of the engines on the MD-83 aircraft had stopped working in the moments before the crash. The weather was clear at the time of the accident. Though Nigeria’s aviation industry has long had a lackluster safety rating, it got improving marks and an overall upgrade from the FAA two years ago. Sunday’s crash was the deadliest in Nigeria in 40 years, prompting the country’s president to declare a three-day period of mourning. Even still, it was the fourth aircraft accident in Nigeria since 2008 to kill at least 100 people. Dana Airlines operated the MD-83 since 2009. Before that, it had been flown by Seattle-based Alaska Airlines, when it was involved in a pair of precautionary landings related to smoke from worn electrical wiring harnesses.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/47671917#.T80vNxxO5vg

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By Editor Staff

 

The Nigerian government has suspended Dana Air’s flights indefinitely following the crash of one of its MD-83 aircraft Sunday. The accident killed all 153 people on board and at least six more on the ground when both of the plane’s engines and it hit several buildings in a poor neighborhood about five miles from the airport in Lagos. In response to public outcry in Nigeria over lax aviation safety, government officials have pledged to audit all of the country’s domestic airlines. While Dana Air was a private company, observers indicate that the seriousness of this accident could imperil the government’s legitimacy if officials do not address the perceived weak safety record of the country’s airlines. While the cockpit voice and flight data recorders have been recovered, their contents haven’t been made public yet, so it is unclear why the plane’s engines failed. Nevertheless, airline officials said neither Dana Air nor the flight crew were at fault, since the plane had been pre-flighted by the crew before it took off Sunday.

http://www.voanews.com/content/nigeria-crash-stirs-political-economic-fallout/1204559.html

 

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By Paul A. Craig

If you have a system onboard the airplane that can turn a dark night into a sunny day and turn a cloud layer into clear skies, would there really be a difference between VFR and IFR?  Continue»

By Paul A. Craig

When I am sitting back in the coach section of an airliner (row 28F) on a dark and stormy night, I don’t much care that the airplane’s captain can execute a perfect Lazy Eight maneuver. What I care about is his or her ability to make good decisions in tight situations and get me on the ground safe and sound (at my intended destination). So if the goal is to complete the ‘mission’ of the flight, why do we place so much emphasis on ‘maneuvers’ that may or may not have direct application to the flight?  Continue»

By Editor Staff

Imagine flying through clouds for hours on end up the middle of a winter cold front, an never having to flip on the de-ice switch or worry about clear ice building up behind the leading edges of the wings. A group of researchers at Harvard say they’ve found a way to treat metal surfaces to make them impervious to ice buildup. The two-stage technique first involves applying a thin, porous nanostructure coating to existing metal surfaces, like a wing or vertical stabilizer. Next, a liquid lubricant coats that surface, filling in every imperfection and creating a totally smooth surface as it solidifies. Any ice that forms on a vertical surface immediately falls off, since there are no molecular valleys or peaks to which the ice can adhere. The slightest force – like propwash – makes ice slide off horizontal surfaces as well. Unlike current de-icing technologies, which protect only critical flight surfaces, this coating could be applied to the entire wing and fuselage of a plane. So far, the coating has only been tested in lab settings.

http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2012/06/ultra-antifreeze-prevents-ice-from-even-forming/

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By Editor Staff

Garmin announced this week a new wireless GPS receiver that can send rapid location updates to tablets and other mobile devices. The Garmin GLO will gather data both from the GPS constellation of satellites maintained by the U.S. military, as well as from Russia’s similar GLONASS system. The added coverage means the Garmin GLO will work better in deep canyons and urban environemtns where large portions of the sky are blocked and other GPS receivers can have difficulty determining their location, Garmin said. The receiver has a 12-hour battery life and transits its data via Bluetooth to a mobile device up to 10 times per second. Pricing is set at $99 for the receiver alone. A package that includes a glareshield mount and six months of access to the Garmin Pilot tablet app is $129, with deliveries starting in August.

http://garmin.blogs.com/my_weblog/2012/07/garmin-glo-portable-gps-and-glonass-receiver-brings-high-integrity-gps-capability-to-mobile-devices.html

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By Editor Staff

America’s fleet of aerial firefighting aircraft could get a boost in the coming weeks and months as a variety of new aircraft join the fight. Following two accidents involving aging Lockheed P-2V air tankers in recent weeks, several more P-2Vs have been grounded, stretching thin the resources needed to fight several massive wildfires in the West. Help in Alaska is coming in the form of the Air Boss, a modified agricultural plane on floats that can skim lakes or rivers to take on 800 gallons of water at a time. Officials will soon have three Air Bosses at their disposal, in addition to several larger tankers and water-dropping helicopters. Meanwhile, new legislation could make it easier to start using new larger air tankers capable of dropping retardant or water. Once several bureaucratic hurdles are cleared, the U.S. Forest Service will be able to call up three BAe-146 jets modified as air tankers. And eight more C-130 military transports outfitted with 2,400-gallon tanks can also be put into service. Still, the Forest Service’s air arsenal is smaller than it was a decade ago, the result of a string of crashes that grounded older planes used in fighting wildfires.

http://www.ajc.com/news/nation-world/as-wildfires-rage-modern-1458076.html

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By Paul A. Craig

What is the effect of first hooking up your computer to the Internet? You already know. It is like opening a door to an unlimited world of information.  Continue»

By Editor Staff

Fractional jet operator NetJets has announced that it will order up to 425 new jets from Cessna and Bombardier as it overhauls its fleet and angles to compete with other corporate jet companies flying newer aircraft. NetJets has firm orders for 125 aircraft starting in 2015, with options on 300 more in the years after that. The Bombardier Challenger 300 and 605 large-cabin aircraft will join the NetJets fleet, as will Cessna’s recently announced midsize Latitude jet. In all, the 425 orders and options have a combined value of $9.6 billion, making it the largest private aviation order in history. NetJets, which operates under the callsign “ExecJet,” has a large fleet of aircraft ranging from the Citation Bravo and Excel to the Hawker 800, the Falcon 2000 and several Gulfstream models. In recent years, it has added the Embraer Phenom on the small and short-range end of the spectrum, while picking up ultra-long-range Bombardier Globals on the other end.

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/netjetsr-inc-announces-largest-private-aviation-order-in-history-2012-06-11

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By Editor Staff

Now that so many smartphones have video cameras and more people are taking small cameras like the GoPro on trips, perhaps it was only a matter of time before videos of crashes and collisions from inside planes made their way onto the internet. Most recently, it was the Saturday midair collision of two airplanes advertising competing political parties above a beach in the Netherlands. The two planes appear to be flying in formation before one drifts too close to the other. With wings temporarily jammed together, the two planes descended in tandem before separating. The way the video has been edited, it is unclear how long the two planes spent flying together as one. One plane made an emergency landing on the beach, while the other was able to return to a nearby airport. The footage from the ground after the collision shows the left wing of one plane punctured, with its left flap dented and bent in the middle. Fortunately, there were no injuries in the accident, though both planes were heavily damaged.

http://news.ninemsn.com.au/world/8530308/light-plane-collision-caught-on-cockpit-camera

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By Thomas Turner

I was in the right seat of a Beech Baron over Hutchinson, Kansas. KHUT is a sleepy little controlled airport just northwest of Wichita (it has a great restaurant, too!). My student and I were on a left downwind for Runway 31 toward the end of a long day's training.  Continue»

By Editor Staff

U.S. aircraft operators won’t have to worry about paying a carbon offset fee to the European Union for at least another 18 months. EU officials pushed back the start of the program after facing criticism from many foreign and U.S.-based airlines and business jet operators. Ed Bolen, the president of the National Business Aviation Association, praised the delay, calling the program unfair and costly. Under the Emissions Trading Scheme, foreign operators would have to pay the EU a variable fee based on the total length of each flight, not just the segments in EU airspace. European carriers already have to pay the fee for their flights within that continent. The soonest non-EU operators would have to pay the fee is now April 2014, but Bolen and others hope that ICAO, the international governing body for aviation, will issue more comprehensive guidance on emissions controls at its summit in the fall of 2013.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/businessaviation/2012/11/26/europe-stops-the-clock-on-deeply-flawed-aviation-emissions-scheme/

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By Paul A. Craig

I have a friend who uses a GPS unit everywhere he flies. One day his GPS told him that the distance from Memphis to Nashville was 1,928 nautical miles on a heading of 280 degrees.  Continue»

By Paul A. Craig

Flying to one of America's National Parks and seeing the landscape that makes that area special is one of the greatest thing you can do with your pilot's certificate -- if you know what you're doing.  Continue»

By Editor Staff

A specially equipped F/A-18 using a new computer program to control fuel flow is finding new ways to save fuel in flight. NASA’s research project found fuel savings of 3 percent to 5 percent during cruise flight by making slight adjustments in fuel flow to keep the plane’s engines running as efficiently as possible. Since most jets spend the bulk of their time in cruise flight, even small fuel savings can add up to significantly less fuel burned and money spent over time. Next summer, the NASA fighter will fly with a unique thin-film sensor spread across one wing. The sensor will record data on wing loading and lift generation across the entire airfoil, giving designers a wealth of new information that could eventually be used to design new wings. The data will for the first time measure actual flight loads across every part of the wing, letting engineers compare the data with the wing’s load limits.

http://www.redorbit.com/news/space/1112748796/test-flights-nasa-aircraft-reduce-drag-save-fuel-121412/

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By Editor Staff

NASA’s latest satellite research mission, to study black holes and other galactic objects, will launch later this week using a relatively new method. Rather than using a ground-based rocket to lob the satellite into orbit, NASA will use its Pegasus XL rocket, released from the bottom of a Lockheed L-1011 jet flying high over the Pacific Ocean. NASA says the procedure is less expensive than launching from the ground, since at 40,000 feet, where the Pegasus XL will be launched, there is slightly less gravity to overcome. The rocket will free-fall horizontally for several seconds after separating from the belly of the L-1011 before igniting the first of three stages. After just 13 minutes, the NuSTAR satellite will be in its final low-earth orbit, 340 miles above the surface. The satellite is carrying an X-ray telescope with a 33-foot image-focusing boom that will deploy once in orbit.

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-169

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By Editor Staff

A drone equipped with advanced Doppler radar and other weather sensors developed by NASA will fly high above hurricanes and tropical storms in the Atlantic Ocean starting in August. This will be the third mission for which NASA has deployed the Global Hawk drone – the same unmanned aerial vehicle used by the military in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere – but the first time NASA’s Global Hawk has been used in hurricane research in the Atlantic. The drone won’t fly through hurricanes, as the well-known Hurricane Hunter aircraft do. But it will be equipped to deploy dropsondes into clouds to measure wind and other atmospheric conditions. The suite of new sensors will collect a wealth of data on the dynamic forces inside hurricanes, including how the storms respond to changing conditions at the ocean’s surface. The research could eventually help spot early warning indicators that a hurricane or tropical storm is about to intensify. The Global Hawk, which can fly as high as 60,000 feet for 28 hours at a time, will fly missions between August and October.

http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/1112547049/unmanned-aircraft-to-study-hurricanes/

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By Editor Staff

A Global Hawk drone equipped to gather a wealth of atmospheric data spent time last month flying over the Atlantic Ocean studying hurricanes. It is the first mission for NASA’s newest aircraft, which cruises at 60,000 feet and for up to 31 hours, much higher and longer than manned Hurricane Hunter missions. During its mission, the Global Hawk surveyed hurricanes Leslie and Nadine, which both remained at sea for their entire lives. NASA worked out agreements with about 50 countries so that its drone can fly above the Caribbean and all the way to Africa and back, potentially during a single flight. The Global Hawk will also be able to gather data about the Saharan Air Layer in the eastern Atlantic, masses of fine dust particles that may have an effect on hurricane formation and development. Scientists have conflicting data about the role of those dust particles, which at times seem to promote hurricane growth, but which at other times seem to keep storms from forming.

http://www.usatoday.com/weather/story/2012/09/24/robot-plane-spying-on-hurricanes/57834730/1

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By Editor Staff

Police in Alamogordo, N.M., recovered $25,000 of avionics stolen from a Cessna Skyhawk less than a week after a flying club reported the missing equipment. One day after the heist, detectives found what appeared to be the missing equipment listed on eBay, and were able to trace the seller’s account to a German man who was staying in a local hotel. After bringing the man in for questioning, police searched his hotel room and found the missing equipment. The plane belongs to a flying club at Holloman Air Force Base but had been parked at White Sands Regional Airport at the time of the theft. The man charged in connection with the theft allegedly used another person’s security badge to get onto the airport ramp.

http://www.alamogordonews.com/alamogordo-news/ci_21073802/police-detain-german-man-stealing-airplane-equipment?source=rss

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By Paul A. Craig

Some airspace symbols on the sectional chart are not defined on the chart's legend; that's not so helpful, but maybe this is.  Continue»

By Jeff Pardo

Your hands freeze on the controls as your instructor barks out "No! Don't do that! Why on earth did you just do that? Who told you to do it that way?" Ever been there? Say, somewhere between righteous resentment, and being humiliated into a near-comatose state?  Continue»

By Chad Austin

Oil is the lifeblood of your aircraft engine or engines. Despite what a few vendors will try to show you about additives, without engine oil, most aircraft engines will self-destruct quite quickly. This is one of the reasons why we are all trained to check the oil during our preflight and oil temperature and pressure soon after engine start.  Continue»

By Thomas Turner

The engine failure didn’t happen suddenly.... I was flying a Mooney M20C in clear, cool air, 7500 feet above the Kansas/Oklahoma border.  I’d flown the 1962 speedster from Augusta, Kansas (just easy of Wichita) to Oklahoma City, picked up a passenger and flew to a meeting in southeast Oklahoma, and was now, on the solo leg of my trip homeward.  My first clue of impending trouble, however, appeared much earlier that day.  Continue»

By Chad Austin

I happened to remember the other day while I was driving this experience from my life as a pilot. I was on my way back from an American Bonanza Society (ABS) Service Clinic, where experts on the Beech aircraft line went over my plane with a fine-tooth comb, looking for problems. They poked and prodded, did a retraction test of the landing gear, and found a few problems that needed to be resolved.  Continue»

By Laurel Lippert

Flying across two-thirds of the U.S. in an old airplane can seem like crossing the Great Plains in a wagon train if the weather goes bad. It's forever from home. However, the country can just as easily shrink to the size of the local park after landing in a strange place and meeting someone who feels like a good friend.  Continue»

By Jeff Pardo

Moving up to larger, more capable, aircraft can be intimidating, but airplanes are airplanes and some simple truths about them always hold true. The rules of physics still apply, and the intensity of their application is still independent of how many little old ladies you helped across the street last year or how much time you donated to local charities. If you've been flying "trainers," you're used to a fairly tight performance envelope. As you move up, and performance grows, so too (usually) does the performance envelope. More capable aircraft often have a wider range of behavior consistent with their expanded performance envelope. Some attention to details will help.  Continue»

By Jeff Pardo

Learning to fly is something very few people ever do, and we all take pride in our own aviation achievements. As our skills expand, along with it, so does our life. It becomes part of what we do, who we are, and what we come to take for granted. And it's only human nature that such a pre-selected group of goal-driven individuals would also want to continue to improve their tribal standing.  Continue»

By Jeff Pardo

Stuff you probably didn’t know, take three...  Continue»

By Chad Austin

Last week, you read about Tricky Rick, the airplane dealer who tried to sell us a Skyhawk but concealed its damage history -- unfortunately, it wasn't our last encounter with Rick.  Continue»

By Chad Austin

We had even more questions on fueling as a result of the article on explosive potentials in fueling your airplane from a fuel truck. One reader pointed out that he has a professional contractor's tank in the bed of his pickup, and that he uses that tank to fuel his airplane. He wondered if using this rig could expose his plane to a potential static electrical charge, and in doing so, introduce the potential for an explosion while he was fueling his airplane.  Continue»

By Jeff Pardo

A funny thing happened this morning on the way to the traffic pattern. Actually that’s an untruth; it wasn’t very amusing. In a few years I might look lightheartedly back upon this, because the fact of the matter is, I had to consciously stop hyperventilating.  Continue»

By Thomas Turner

With a little guilt and the same morbid curiosity that prompts viewers to watch footage of the same tragedies over and over on television news channels, I check the FAA and other accident-reporting web sites daily.  Continue»

By Thomas Turner

“Just pull the red knob until the engine runs rough, then push it in a bit” ... oh really.  Continue»

By Thomas Turner

The air temperature was about 80 degrees, which is hot for an airport 7700 feet above sea level in the Rocky Mountains.  Continue»

By Editor Staff

Cessna and Cirrus posted flat numbers on new aircraft deliveries compared to last year, though overall shipments across all manufacturers are up slightly for the first half of 2012. While Cessna delivered 252 planes in the first half of this year, that's seven planes fewer than it had delivered by this time last year. Cirrus is likewise trailing its deliveries compared to last year by a small margin. Its 105 shipments in the first half of this year were enough to give the company a third of the global market share for new piston planes, but was still 13 planes less than what rolled off its production lines in the first half of 2011. The General Aviation Manufacturing Association reported overall GA delivery gains of 6 percent, with the most growth coming from a 13-percent uptick in business jet shipments and 10-percent growth in turboprop deliveries. Those overall numbers, combined with steadily growing sales in used aircraft, were enough for GAMA to say that the industry as a whole has probably weathered the worst of the Great Recession.
http://www.kansas.com/2012/08/10/2446253/airplane-deliveries-from-wichita.html
http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/event/article/id/239922/

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By Jeff Pardo

They used to call it “prop wash”: A turbulent wake that is present behind any aircraft in flight.  Continue»

By Chad Austin

Excluding certain personalities, AvGas is the most explosive part of your piston-powered airplane. For the energy that AvGas contains, it actually can pose a significant threat to the safety of flight.  Continue»

By Thomas Turner

Maybe one of the best "flying lessons" I ever got took place 60 feet below ground level! Back in the Bad Old Days of the Cold War I served as an Air Force Minuteman launch control officer. How I came to do that for a living, when I took command of the Air Force's Precision Sitting Team, the "Thunderchairs," and why I actually launched an ICBM in 1987 are all stories for some other forum. But the pressure-cooker environment of potential total nuclear war, 60 feet under the Missouri plains, strangely did much to prepare me for the single-pilot cockpit of a piston airplane. One thing the "missile business" did for me was to teach the concept of minor, major, and critical errors.  Continue»

By Editor Staff

All six people aboard two police helicopters in Pasadena, Calif., escaped with minor injuries when the aircraft hit at a helipad on Saturday. One helicopter was taking off and the other was landing when their main rotor blades hit, causing substantial damage to both of the Bell OH-58 helicopters. It’s unclear from preliminary news reports how high off the ground the helicopters were when they hit. Photos and video of the scene showed one helicopter with its tail boom bent downward and the other with its main rotor blades snapped off. The six people aboard the helicopters were all released from hospitals by the next morning. One helicopter had been assigned to fly over a football game, while the other was on a regular patrol mission. The city of Pasadena has a fleet of six police helicopters.

http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/news/ci_22022307/federal-officials-investigate-crash-between-pasadena-police-helicopters

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By Reader Submission

One of the most attractive English aircraft to come out of the 1930’s, the Miles Hawk Speed Six is truly a thing of beauty.  Continue»

By John Dale

This month I am examining FS-Meteo, CaptainSim publications L-39 and Mig-21 packages and FScene from the Netherlands.  Continue»

By John Dale

It seems just like we are just about used to one program and some add-ons and have downloaded some wonderful plane and scenery files, when Microsoft forces us to part with some more money.  Continue»

By Editor Staff

An Air Force C-130 crew’s decision to fly into severe weather while dropping retardant on a South Dakota wildfire in July contributed to the plane’s crash, which killed four crewmembers and injured two others. Air Force officials released the findings of their investigation into the crash this week. The C-130 was following another plane 15 seconds ahead of it that was supposed to communicate retardant drop locations and weather conditions. The lead plane flew into the microburst and avoided hitting the ground by about 10 feet, but did not have a chance to warn the C-130 about the microburst. The tanker was slow on a first retardant drop a few minutes earlier, and investigators said it shouldn’t have attempted the second drop given the weather conditions. But the investigation board credited the tanker’s pilot, who died, with landing the plane slow and nose-up on a forested plateau in a way that apparently provided an escape route for two loadmasters in the back of the plane.

http://www.stripes.com/news/crew-decision-to-fly-in-severe-weather-contributed-to-fatal-c-130-crash-report-finds-1.197197

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By Chad Austin

In the flurry of messages that came in the wake of the story on fuel tank explosions during fueling, one of our readers had a really good question. Mark asked what type of containers would be best to fuel his plane at remote locations -- metal or plastic cans. The answer depends a lot on when the plane is fueled, but lets look at the factors involved.  Continue»

By Chad Austin

The runway at an airport has a specific purpose -- to present a surface amenable to consistent takeoff and landing; things get complicated when the surface itself isn't so consistent...  Continue»

By Paul A. Craig

The primary privilege of holding a pilot's certificate is the ability to act as Pilot in Command of an aircraft, but that certificate is useless without a current medical certificate to go along with it.  Continue»

By Paul A. Craig

In the near future using barometric pressure to determine altitude will be a thing of the past, but until then, it will pay to know a few of the altimeter's tricks.  Continue»

By Jeff Pardo

Did your instructor ever pull the power on the upwind leg and then say: "OK, your engine just quit. What now?" Even as a student pilot, I knew that it wouldn't be a casual event on downwind at pattern altitude -- let alone at 250 AGL on the upwind leg. Needless to say, I do remember frantically scanning for some friendly real estate. Those taunting memories always bothered me. What would I do, if it actually quit?  Continue»

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