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When a SilkAir Boeing 737 crashed in a river in Indonesia in 1997, killing all 104 people on board, the impact shredded its cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder tapes. James Cash was the one to bring together several U.S. government agencies aiding in the investigation to digitize the audio from fragments of tape and reassemble a partial transcript of the seconds before the crash. Cash recently received a Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal, awarded by a nonprofit group that recognizes outstanding career achievements by public servants. Cash is the NTSB’s chief technical advisor in the office of research and engineering. He also played an important role in the NTSB’s 4-year investigation following the explosion of TWA Flight 800 after takeoff from New York in 1997. Cash used sound analysis techniques he developed to compare the explosion sound caught on the last quarter-second of the cockpit voice recorder on that flight with sounds the NTSB gathered blowing up a second Boeing 747 during its investigation.

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.

A new system that takes advantage of the ground surveillance radar at Denver International Airport should make ramp operations smoother for pilots and passengers. Most of the airport’s gates are controlled by ramp towers, which are separate from the FAA’s control tower. The ramp towers are responsible for pushing back aircraft and clearing them into their gates, something that has to be closely choreographed. But during times of low visibility, the ramp towers had few tools to help them see where planes were located. The new system provides a real-time display of each plane’s position on the ramp and where it’s headed, helping ramp controllers plan ahead and work more efficiently during peak times of day and in poor weather. If the system can save each plane five seconds during its taxi, that would add up to $2.2 million in fuel savings over the course of a year, officials said. The system is already in use at six other airports in the U.S., including Newark, JFK and Atlanta.

American Airlines is inspecting eight of its Boeing 757s after a row of seats on one of its planes came loose during flight from Boston to Miami on Saturday. That plane made an emergency landing in New York, and there were no injuries. The company said it believed there was an issue with the design of the new seats and how they fit into tracks in the floor of the aircraft. After the incident, American found another 757 with a loose row of seats; both planes had recently had their rows of seats adjusted to change the amount of legroom between rows. During the inspection, mechanics found additional rows of seats on both planes that weren’t properly secured to the floor.

General aviation pilots in Portland, Oregon, and Anchorage, Alaska, have airspace changes coming their way that could affect how they fly. In Portland, starting on Nov. 1, the FAA is creating Class Delta airspace around Pearson Field, a popular GA airport very close to Portland International Airport. Pilots arriving or departing from Pearson will first have to get approval over the radio from PDX’s control tower. Once approved to arrive or depart, pilots will then self-announce on Pearson’s CTAF frequency, which controllers at PDX will monitor. In Anchorage, the FAA wants to create Class Delta airspace around Bryant Army Air Field, which is currently uncontrolled. The change would restrict VFR corridors in Anchorage, where three controlled airports – Anchorage International, Merrill Field and Elmendorf Air Force Base – and high terrain to the east already limit the routes GA pilots can take through and around the area. Pilots have until Oct. 9 to comment on the proposed changes to Bryant Field.