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TSA Gives Up On GA Security Plan

From AvWeb


By Mary Grady

The Transportation Security Administration has withdrawn its proposal to establish a security program that would have affected private and corporate aircraft operators, the agency said on Friday. The agency had proposed the “Large Aircraft Security Program” in 2008, suggesting operators of GA aircraft that weigh more than 12,500 pounds should be required to implement security programs, vet their crews and check passengers against federal watch lists. The TSA held a series of public meetings and reviewed more than 7,000 comments from the public that were submitted in response to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. On Friday, the TSA said that based on all of the information they received, and “a re-evaluation of the proposal in light of risk-based principles,” they have decided to abandon the effort.

Nobuyo Sakata, AOPA’s director of aviation security, said the GA community’s active opposition to the plan was key to the TSA’s decision to withdraw the proposal. AOPA said in a statement they will continue to actively participate in the Aviation Security Advisory Committee and work cooperatively with the TSA to address security concerns and improve other security programs such as the DCA Access Standard Security Program for Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and the Alien Flight Student Program. NBAA, GAMA and EAA also lobbied against the proposal.

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ATC Privatization Derailed

From AvWeb


By Russ Niles

Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., has announced he is no longer pursuing the separation of air traffic control from the FAA. After a couple of attempts and massive opposition from hundreds of groups with a stake in aviation, Shuster, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman, conceded Tuesday his bill doesn’t have the support to pass. “Despite an unprecedented level of support for this legislation – from bipartisan lawmakers, industry, and conservative groups and labor groups alike – some of my own colleagues refused to support shrinking the federal government by 35,000 employees, cutting taxes, and stopping wasteful spending,” Shuster wrote in a statement. Instead, he said he’ll work toward long-term funding for the FAA in a proper reauthorization bill.

Shuster proposed moving air traffic control to a nonprofit corporation run by a board of directors that most in general aviation believed would be dominated by airline interests. The initiative also had the support of President Donald Trump but Shuster could not muster enough congressional support. AOPA was the first to react and while President Mark Baker acknowledged the massive lobbying effort that helped kill Shuster’s bill, he also pledged support for Shuster’s call for stable funding for the FAA. “We look forward to working with Chairman Shuster and other leaders in Congress on a bill that improves aviation for every American and ensures our skies remain the safest in the world,” Baker said.

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“Undetectable” Defect Blamed For Engine Failure

From AvWeb

american383_feb18By Mary Grady

An internal defect caused an uncontained engine failure, leading to a fire, during the takeoff roll of a Boeing 767 in October 2016, the NTSB said in its probable-cause hearing on Tuesday. The subsurface defect led to cracking in a turbine disk. The cracks were undetectable using current inspection methods, the investigators found. “Even though there have been significant advances in the safety performance of passenger airplanes over the last few decades, this accident shows there are still improvements that can be made,” said NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt. “Current inspection methods – those that can fail to uncover a defect in a safety-critical component of an airliner – need a closer look.”

The American Airlines flight, bound for Miami, was on its takeoff roll at Chicago O’Hare International Airport when a turbine disk in the right engine failed, sending metal fragments through a fuel tank and wing structure. Leaking fuel fed a fire. The flight crew aborted the takeoff and stopped the airplane on the runway. All passengers and crew evacuated and survived. One passenger was seriously injured after encountering jet blast from the good engine, which was still running. The NTSB found several problems with the evacuation procedures, including a lack of communication between the flight crew and cabin crew. The airplane was damaged beyond repair.

The NTSB made one recommendation to American Airlines, one to Boeing, and seven new recommendations to the FAA. The NTSB also reiterated two recommendations to the FAA on emergency evacuations because that agency has yet to favorably act upon them. The complete accident report will be available in a few weeks. The findings, probable cause and safety recommendations, as well as Sumwalt’s prepared remarks and the PowerPoint presentations given on Tuesday, are all available online.

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Warning To Pilots To Monitor Critical Approaches

From Airline Ratings


By Geoffrey Thomas

Australia’s crash investigator has urged airlines and pilots to give heightened attention to risk areas such as understanding your aircraft systems, and adhering to cockpit monitoring and communication procedures to ensure a stabilized approach during the approach and landing phases of flight.

In a special release, related to a serious incident in Perth in 2016, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said that “unexpected events can substantially increase an already-high cockpit workload. If the criteria for safe continuation of an approach are not met, flight crew should initiate a go-around.”

The incident occurred at night on 19 February 2016, when an Indonesia AirAsia A320 was arriving from Denpasar, Indonesia. During the cruise, the captain’s flight management and guidance computer (FMGC1) had failed, and the flight crew had elected to use the first officer’s duplicate systems.

The ATSB said that “the flight crew were conducting an instrument landing system (ILS) approach to Perth Airport. They made a number of flight mode changes and autopilot selections – normal for an ILS approach with all aircraft operating systems available, but some of which relied on data from the failed FMGC1. As a result, the autothrust system commanded increased engine thrust and the crew, who had not expected this response, elected to conduct a go-around. An increased crosswind then prompted air traffic control to effect a change of runway to a runway without a precision instrument approach procedure.”

The unresolved system failures, the conduct of the go-around, and the subsequent runway change all resulted in a significant increase in cockpit workload. This, combined with the crew’s unfamiliarity and preparation for the non-precision instrument approach to the new runway, hampered their management of the next descent said the ATSB.

“During the approach to the new runway, the crew descended the aircraft earlier than prescribed, but believed that they were on the correct flight path profile. They became concerned that they could not visually identify the runway, and focused their attention outside the aircraft. This distraction meant that the crew were not effectively monitoring the descent and the captain descended the aircraft below the segment minimum safe altitude.”

As the aircraft continued to descend, the air traffic controller received a “below minimum safe altitude” warning for the aircraft. The air traffic controller alerted the crew to their low altitude and instructed them to conduct a go-around. The crew then conducted another approach and landed without further incident.

ATSB Chief Commissioner Greg Hood said that the approach to land is one of the most critical phases of flight, and stressed the importance of flight crews understanding their aircraft systems and adhering to cockpit control, monitoring and communication procedures to ensure a stabilised approach during the approach and landing phases of flight.

“The approach and landing phases of flight are amongst the highest of workload for flight crews, and domestically and internationally where we see the highest accident rate” Mr Hood said.

“It’s a complex operation at the best of times, but when something unexpected occurs such as a failure of an aircraft system in-flight, it can add substantially to flight crews’ workload.

“It is critical that flight crew fully understand their aircraft systems and how they will respond in a degraded mode, and adhere to cockpit protocols and procedures to ensure a stabilized approach resulting in a safe landing. In this case, there was considerable added complexity for the flight crew as a result of adverse weather, and an air traffic control change to a runway without a precision approach.”

“The ATSB urges all flight crew to ensure that they understand their aircraft systems, and how the aircraft will respond in a degraded mode, and to adhere to cockpit protocols and procedures to ensure a safe approach and landing. If there’s any doubt or confusion, or if the stable approach criteria is not being met, communicate it, and never hesitate to conduct a go-around,” said Mr Hood.

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Jet Airways Pilots Fired For Leaving Cockpit Unattended During Flight

From The Independent


By Lydia Smith

Jet Airways has fired two pilots who allegedly got into a fight and stormed out of the cockpit during a flight, leaving the controls unattended.

The Indian airline said in a statement it had “terminated services of both the cockpit crew with immediate effect”.

The staff involved, a man and a woman, were taken off flight duties following an investigation.

The incident occurred on a New Year’s Day flight from London to Mumbai, during which the male co-pilot reportedly slapped the female pilot after they got into heated argument.

The female pilot is believed to have left the cockpit in tears, followed briefly by the co-pilot.

As a result the cockpit was left unattended on the flight which had 324 passengers and 14 crew on board.

Aviation safety rules state at least one pilot should remain at the controls at all times during a flight.

The incident is alleged to have happened shortly after the Boeing 777 took off, at around 10am UK time.

The plane later landed safely and no one was injured.

The Indian Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) told the Press Trust of India news agency that the pilot had also left the cockpit unattended twice during the incident, breaking safety regulations.

“Shortly after the plane took off, the two pilots had a fight,“ a source told The Times of India.

“The co-pilot slapped the lady commander and she left the cockpit in tears. She stood in the galley sobbing.

“The cabin crew tried to comfort her and send her back to the cockpit, but in vain. The co-pilot also kept buzzing [on the intercom to] the crew, asking them to send the second pilot back.”

The source added: “However, they had a fight for the second time following which she came out again.

“This time, the cabin crew was quite afraid of the fight happening in the cockpit. They requested her to go to the cockpit and fly the plane safely to its destination.”

A spokesman for the airline told the newspaper that an investigation had been launched after the incident.

“At Jet Airways, safety of guests, crew and assets is of paramount importance and the airline has zero tolerance for any action of its employees that compromises safety.”

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Delta 747s operate final charter flights.

From Airline Ratings


By Steve Creedy

The last Boeing 747 passenger jets operated by a US airline are doing the rounds on Delta Air Lines sports charter flights before heading off to be parked in the desert on January 3.

The handful of NFL charters to airports such as Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles and New Orleans signal an end of an era for US airlines, although the plane lauded as the “Queen of the Skies” will fly on in other parts of the world.

After operating its last scheduled 747 flight between Korea and the US, Delta hosted an “All Hail The Queen” farewell tour for employees and select frequent fliers before Christmas.

The tour included manufacturer Boeing’s Paine Field as well as Atlanta and Los Angeles before ending in the former Northwest Airlines hub of Minneapolis-St Paul.

It ended in style with an officially-sanctioned “missed approach” by a Boeing 747-400 after circling the twin cities at low -altitude.

But the airline says planespotters and other enthusiasts will still have a chance to see a Delta 747-400 through January 2 as four of the big jets visit several airports on charter duties.

Remaining destinations are available on @DeltaNewsHub on Twitter and after that, Delta notes, the big planes will disappear from the skies.

“It’s only fitting that the Queen of Skies finishes her career with Delta carrying teams on to victory, said Bill Wernecke, Delta’s managing director, charter sales and operations. “The 747 has been an excellent ambassador to our military, sports teams, and corporate customers, and it has been an honor for our employees that flew, served, loaded, maintained and sold flights on this aircraft.”

The 747 was the first widebody to sell 1500 units and was instrumental in making air travel more affordable for millions of travelers by allowing airlines to fly more people for less cost.

But giving life to the plane that changed the world was a challenge that brought Boeing, the world’s biggest aerospace company, the then-biggest engine maker Pratt &Whitney and the legendary Pan American World Airways to their knees.

Boeing was immersed in an attempt to build an ill-fated supersonic transport, dubbed the Boeing 2707, and the 747 was considered an interim solution that might carry passengers for five to 10 years until supersonic transports took over.

It was the combined dream of Pan Am founder Bill Trippe and Boeing chief Bill Allen that brought the plane to fruition.

Boeing announced plans to build a 490-seat plane in April 1966, at a new plant in Everett, Washington.

The first Boeing 747-100, City of Everett, rolled out of the plant on September 30, 1968, and made its first flight the following February.

Pan Am operated the first commercial flight from New York to London on January 21, 1970, and Continental Airlines put it on domestic routes in June that year.

In following years, B747s would break records, carry space shuttles and transport US presidents.

Delta received its first 747 in 1970 and like many airlines of the day introduced luxury on-board lounges, including a six-seat space known as the Penthouse which came with its own dedicated flight attendant.

The 747 was also the first of the carrier’s aircraft with overhead bins for carry-on bags instead of open racks.

The airline would retire the last of its 747 fleet in 1977 and would not operate them again until it acquired a new fleet of 747s from its merger with Northwest Airlines in 2008. The merger would give Delta 16 747-400s, two 747-200s and 747-200 freighters.

Northwest had been the first airline to operate the Boeing 747-400 in 1989 and the enhanced version of the 747 would go on to be the biggest selling variant of the Queen of Skies. It included a two-crew glass cockpit, improved engines, optional additional fuel storage and a more efficient airframe.

Its reign has been ended by the emergence of fuel-efficient twin-engine planes with which it could no longer compete.

In Delta’s case, the 747s are being replaced by Airbus A350s. However, Boeing’s 787 and 777 aircraft have also done as much to hasten the demise of the plane.

The US manufacturer has continued to produce a new, more fuel-efficient iteration of the 747, the 747-8, in both passenger and freighter versions.

But it last year hinted it may end production if it failed to receive more orders for the program.

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Airbus on track to fly its electric aerial taxi in 2018

From Tech Crunch


By Darrell Etherington

Airbus is looking to put its flying taxi in the air next year, confirmed CityAirbus chief engineer Marius Bebesel this week. The schedule is on track after CityAirbus conducted successful ground tests of the electric power system it’s using to propel the vehicle through the air.

The CityAirbus craft is a vertical take-off and landing craft that uses a four rotor design, and that would be able to take up to four passengers on short flights in dense urban areas, with the aim of connecting major transportation hubs including train stations and airports. It’s designed to be pilot operated at launch, but to eventually transition to being a fully autonomous vehicle once the tech catches up.

CNBC reports that Airbus is aiming to operate the craft along fixed, predetermined routes, with top air speeds of around 80 mph. They’ll be able to skip over the traffic that can dramatically increase travel times entering and exiting busy city transit points, which would theoretically also help alleviate ground congestion.

Short hop flights are also an ideal application of battery electric tech, since that’s all that vehicles will be able to manage using fully electric power sources in the near-term. Plus, battery unit swapping or autonomous dock charging could help make it easier to make these vehicles fully self-flying in the future.


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AeroUnion Boeing 767 Engine Catches Fire in Los Angeles

From Aviation Voice


AeroUnion Boeing 767-200 freighter, performing freight flight from Los Angeles to Guadalajara with 2 crew, was in the initial climb out of Los Angeles when a crew about to taxi into position called out “engine on fire”.

Tower immediately followed advising AeroUnion of smoke coming from their right hand engine (CF6). The crew advised they would continue on runway heading, tower offered a right turn onto runways 06 or 07 on pilots discretion, the crew decided to stop climb at 1500 feet and return to runway 25L.

The aircraft joined a right downwind for 25L, tower instructed one aircraft on final for 25L to go around and another one to immediately change to approach frequency again. The 767-200 landed safely on runway 25L about 8 minutes after departure, emergency equipment checked the aircraft and reported pretty heavy smoke from the engine, the crew advised they had already discharged one bottle of fire agent.

The occurrence aircraft is still on the ground in Los Angeles about 24 hours after landing back.

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Japan Airlines Commits to Boom Supersonic Aircraft

From Airline Ratings

boomsst_12517By Geoffrey Thomas

Japan Airlines and US-based Boom Supersonic have announced a strategic partnership to bring commercial supersonic travel to passengers with a commitment to 20, 55-passenger supersonic jets.

Through this agreement, JAL will provide its knowledge and experience as an airline to support Boom in developing the Mach 2.2 aircraft.

As part of the agreement, JAL has made a strategic investment of $10 million in Boom and is collaborating with the company to refine the aircraft design and help define the passenger experience for supersonic travel.

“We’ve been working with Japan Airlines behind the scenes for over a year now,” said Blake Scholl, founder, and CEO of Boom Supersonic.

“JAL’s passionate, visionary team offers decades of practical knowledge and wisdom on everything from the passenger experience to technical operations. We’re thrilled to be working with JAL to develop a reliable, easily-maintained aircraft that will provide revolutionary speed to passengers. Our goal is to develop an airliner that will be a great addition to any international airline’s fleet.”

“We are very proud to be working with Boom on the advancement in the commercial aviation industry. Through this partnership, we hope to contribute to the future of supersonic travel with the intent of providing more time to our valued passengers while emphasizing flight safety,” said Yoshiharu Ueki, President of Japan Airlines.

The JAL Group will continue to embrace new technology to deliver greater customer convenience and comfort, enhance its networks, and improve the quality of its products and services.

Including the JAL commitment Boom as 76 options for its supersonic airliner.

Virgin Atlantic announced 10 options in mid-2017 and there are three other operators for the other 46 aircraft.

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First A330-300P2F Enters Service With DHL

From Aviation Tribune


DHL Express has become the first operator to take delivery of the A330-300 Passenger-to-Freighter (P2F) converted aircraft from Elbe Flugzeugwerke (EFW), the joint venture between ST Aerospace and Airbus.

This delivery, which took place at EFW’s freighter conversion facilities in Dresden, follows the successful completion of test flights in October and awarding of the Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in November. DHL Express has firm orders for eight A330-300P2F units in total, with additional options to receive another 10.

“DHL Express is very excited to be bringing the first A330-300 P2F into commercial operation within our international air network,” said Geoff Kehr, SVP, Global Air Fleet Management, DHL Express.

“The first aircraft is scheduled to strengthen our Asia Pacific air network, bringing added capacity and increased efficiency to a market where we are seeing dynamic express volume growth.”

“We congratulate DHL on the delivery of its first A330-300P2F. We are confident that this new-generation and efficient mid-sized freighter will bring significant benefits to DHL’s international express operations,” said Christopher Buckley, Airbus EVP Sales.

“With its large internal volume and unbeatable economics, the A330-300P2F allows operators to step up capacity in markets where existing mid-sized freighters are becoming too small.”

The A330P2F conversion programme, launched in 2012, is a collaboration between ST Aerospace, Airbus and their joint venture EFW. ST Aerospace, as the programme and technical lead for the engineering development phase, is responsible for applying for the STCs from EASA and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Airbus contributes to the programme with OEM data and certification support, while EFW leads the industrialisation phase and marketing for the freighter conversion programme.

The A330P2F programme has two variants – the A330-200P2F and the larger A330-300P2F. The latter is ideal for serving the international express B2B and e-commerce cargo markets, which typically have a higher volume and lower density. The aircraft can carry up to 62 metric tonnes over 3,650 nautical miles, while offering 20 percent more cargo volume and lower cost-per-tonne than other available freighter aircraft types with a similar range.

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ATR-72 Veered Off Runway After Captain’s Seat Moved Fully Backwards

From Aviation Safety Network


Starbow flight S9 104, an ATR 72-500, suffered a runway excursion during takeoff from Accra-Kotoka Airport in Ghana.

During take off roll from runway 21 and before reaching a speed of 70 kts, the captain's seat suddenly moved full backwards violently and shifted to the left. Whilst controlling the aircraft with the nose wheel steering, the violent seat movement led to the captain turning the tiller to the left causing the aircraft to veer off the left side of the runway. The captain could not gain control of the aircraft until it came to a stop close to the perimeter fence after efforts by the copilot to retard the power levers.

All propeller blades of the no.1 engine were damaged with some prop tips severed after impacting barbed wire at the airport perimeter fence.
Five occupants sustained minor injuries.

The aircraft, 9G-SBF, had only been delivered to Starbow on 22 November 2017.




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Airbus To Lead BAe 146 Electric Propulsion Demonstration

From AIN Online


Using a BAe 146 airframe, the E-Fan X demonstrator would fly with one of four engines replaced with an electric motor some time in 2020. (Image: Airbus)

By Gregory Polek

Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and Siemens will collaborate on a hybrid-electric technology demonstrator expected to fly in 2020 called the E-Fan X, the companies announced Tuesday at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London. The partners plan to replace one of the four gas turbine engines in a BAe 146 test bed with a two-megawatt electric motor. Plans call for the replacement of a second gas turbine with an electric motor once the program achieves sufficient system maturity, said Airbus.

“The E-Fan X is an important next step in our goal of making electric flight a reality in the foreseeable future,” said Airbus chief technology officer Paul Eremenko. “The lessons we learned from a long history of electric flight demonstrators, starting with the Cri-Cri, including the e-Genius, E-Star, and culminating most recently with the E-Fan 1.2, as well as the fruits of the E-Aircraft Systems House collaboration with Siemens, will pave the way to a hybrid single-aisle commercial aircraft that is safe, efficient, and cost-effective.”

The E-Fan X demonstrator will explore the challenges of high-power propulsion systems, such as thermal effects, electric thrust management, altitude and dynamic effects on electric systems and electromagnetic compatibility matters. The program aims “to push and mature” the technology, performance, safety and reliability for quick progress on the hybrid electric technology. It would also establish the requirements for future certification of electrically powered aircraft while training a new generation of designers and engineers on the technology.

Under the development plan, Airbus will assume responsibility for overall integration and the control architecture of the hybrid-electric propulsion system and batteries, along with its integration with flight controls. Rolls-Royce, meanwhile, will contribute the turboshaft engine, two megawatt generator and power electronics. Along with Airbus, Rolls-Royce will also work on the fan adaptation to the existing nacelle and the Siemens electric motor. Finally, Siemens will deliver the two megawatt electric motors and their power electronic control unit, as well as the inverter, AC/DC converter, and power distribution system. The Siemens contribution adds to the E-Aircraft Systems House collaboration between Airbus and Siemens, which aims at development and maturation of various electric propulsion system components and their terrestrial demonstration across various power classes.

“In April 2016 we opened a new chapter in electric-mobility with the collaboration with Airbus,” said Siemens chief technology officer Roland Busch. “Building up electric propulsion for aircraft, we are creating new perspectives for our company and also for our customers and society. With the E-Fan X partnership, we now take the next step to demonstrate the technology in the air.”

The companies see the studies as a step toward meeting the EU technical environmental goals of the European Commission’s Flightpath 2050 Vision for Aviation, which calls for a reduction of CO2 by 60 percent, a reduction of NOx by 90 percent and noise by 75 percent. “These cannot be achieved with the technologies existing today,” said Airbus. “Electric and hybrid-electric propulsion are seen today as among the most promising technologies for addressing these challenges.”

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Autonomous Commercial Aircraft - Who Asked For It Technology

From Blue Hawk Aviation


In the seemingly unstoppable rollout of who-asked-for-it and what’s-next technology, automated commercial airliners seems to be a hot topic these days. To this end, a just released UBS study argues that a vast savings realized from putting pilots out of work will overcome our demonstrated reluctance to not having a Sully Sullenburger, or anyone for that matter, in the cockpit when the poop hits the fan.

Fortunately, writing for Forbes Dan Reed penned a much more cogent and ordered response to this “Wall Street knows best” report than I am able to for this blog. Read it here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/danielreed/2017/08/11/heres-why-technology-artificial-intelligence-arent-good-answers-for-the-growing-pilot-shortage/#5006b9ef3527

Mr. Reed argues that any lower consumer costs can only get us so far up this particular mountain because there are very significant barriers to autonomous airliners, especially when one considers that in commercial air travel, the safety “bar” is set at a zero failure rate (i.e. no fatalities). These barriers include: nowhere near ready for primetime technology, as of yet undreamed of regulatory requirements and schemes, conveniently and vastly underestimated financial barriers, and a widespread and persistent lack of consumer acceptance that will likely span generations.

The technology piece is probably the lowest of these hurdles to leap, which isn’t to say it will be anything approaching easy. In high reliability industries like commercial aviation and nuclear power generation, outright adoption of disruptive technology doesn’t just happen because a tech billionaire has a wet dream. Technological change is stepwise, and even glacial, and with very good reason. These are industries where even the smallest of human errors can result in catastrophic and outsized loss of life and property. Proponents speak as if many pieces necessary for autonomous control of aircraft are on the shelf and ready to go. Tell me how Equifax just lost the most personal information of fully half the American population to hackers, yet we are somehow ready now with AI and to harden and protect the IT, control systems, spectrum and data links needed to control and back-up an autonomous commercial airliner? There is a nice looking, slightly used CIA RQ-170 drone now owned by Iran that might tell a very different story.

Predictably, UBS envisions that the incentives to autonomous airliners will revolve around money. The UBS report concludes that lower expenses for the airlines will inevitably mean lower ticket prices for consumers, which in turn will inexorably drive demand in our relentlessly cost conscious society. Reed however, wisely touches upon the cost of R/D, certification and investments in consumer acceptance as just some of the expense categories which don’t seem to be addressed in the UBS report.

Boeing and Airbus will have to spend untold billions developing and certifying fully autonomous airliners, but to what end? Simply lowering Delta’s costs out of the goodness of their corporate hearts? No chance. Anything to do with airplanes, especially their development and certification is very, very expensive and these staggering costs will be passed along in the sticker price of the airplanes eventually delivered. Further, we aren’t just talking about the certification of a new airplane, which is already an expensive and risky undertaking (787 anyone), but equally importantly will be the necessary development of an entirely new operational and regulatory paradigm for commercial aviation, something that will need to be paid for and proven to be as safe as the current one, a mark that is currently well in excess of 99.9% safe for the major US air carriers. Untold years of development, testing and certification await. None of this comes cheap and consumers will be expected to pay, if they can even be found to fill the seats.

Speaking of reluctant consumers, one can envision the airlines flying empty autonomous planes around until the concept is proven to be as safe as our current commercial aviation model. Also, Boeing and Airbus will likely have trouble finding companies willing to be on the pointy end of this particular spear because the United, American and Delta’s of the world understand the existential risk of crashing even one airplane. If history is any guide though, it’s a safe bet that airplane manufacturers will do what any industry with an army of lobbyists and an expensive and untested new product facing a questionable market would do: lobby the government to provide financial, regulatory and liability assistance with the development and certification of the aircraft and to deliver tax and liability incentives to early adopters of the new technology.

Put another way, we’ll all get to pay for technology the vast majority of us don’t want, won’t be fundamentally better than what it is replacing and won’t meaningfully lower consumer prices for a long, long time, if ever.

We are living in a golden age of aviation safety. In fact, from 2010 to the present there have been zero fatalities on US passenger airlines. That is not to say however, there haven’t been accidents, errors and mistakes made by humans, pilots included, during the past seven years. Yet high reliability industries like commercial aviation have developed an incredible safety system which recognizes and accounts for the centrality of humans to the process of keeping airplanes out of the dirt. This safety system employs a many layered approach built around humans’ inherent strengths and innate weaknesses.

Put another way, it’s because of well trained and proficient pilots that commercial airplanes don’t crash more often, not despite them. As the saying goes, the pilot is always the first person at the crash scene. Self-preservation has been a prime and generational motivator when it comes to the marvel that is aviation safety. The same cannot be said about the drone operator, computer programmer or Boeing and Airbus’ CEOs – they will all go home to their families at the end of a bad day, regardless of how many mistakes they make at work. And if a computer was controlling US Airways flight 1549 in January 2009, it wouldn’t have even registered the loss of 155 lives stemming from its inability to conceive of reacting the way Captain Sullenberger and First Officer Skiles did to save those people and themselves on that cold day.

It’s instructive to note that the US Department of Defense reports that it lost at least 140 unmanned aerial vehicles, and probably many more that we don’t know of, during the last seven years. This is an astounding accident rate. To be sure, a few of these were lost to enemy fire, which is a risk airliners generally don’t face. However, the overwhelming majority were not. Every one of those drone operators packed up his or her gear and went home to their families after the aircraft they were flying turned into a smoking hole somewhere. Self-preservation is a powerful motivator.

It’s possible that some disruptive technology is just a waste of money. The problem, to my mind is when the money wasted is mine (in the form of tax dollars), the return on investment doesn’t justify the expense and most importantly in aviation, safety is compromised. Perhaps the time, money (private and public) and brain cells that will have to be spent on developing, testing and certifying autonomous airliners that few consumers will want to fly in could be directed towards a more noble pursuit. Let’s get back to developing airplanes that fly higher, faster, farther, cleaner, quieter and ever more safely. We should also develop systems that enable pilots to more intuitively interface with the important and necessary automation that will help them fly these future airplanes more safely and with less fatigue.

I cannot fully envision the cockpit of 100, or even 50 years from now, but I hope it will be a marvel, blending augmented reality and seamless man-machine interfaces all focused on perfect safety – and I definitely see pilots in it. Simply put, if I’m sitting in the back, then someone’s ass needs to be on the line up front.

Copyright©Blue Hawk Aviation

And..... for a little more:  Pilotless Commercial Airplanes? No Thank you.

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A Good Laugh Is Needed Sometimes

From AVWeb


DHS Hacked Airliner Systems

By Russ Niles

The Department of Homeland Security has reportedly told a cyber security conference it was able to hack the internal systems of a Boeing 757 sitting on the ramp at Atlantic City Airport with no help from anyone on board or anywhere near the aircraft. “We got the airplane on Sept. 19, 2016. Two days later, I was successful in accomplishing a remote, non-cooperative penetration,” DHS cyber security expert Robert Hickey is quoted as saying by Avionics Today. “[Which] means I didn’t have anybody touching the airplane, I didn’t have an insider threat. I stood off using typical stuff that could get through security and we were able to establish a presence on the systems of the aircraft.” Hickey was speaking at the CyberSat Summit in Virginia Nov. 8.

How the hack was done is classified but Hickey suggested it gave the hackers comprehensive access to the aircraft’s systems. Hickey noted that newer aircraft like the Boeing 737 MAX and 787 and Airbus’s new A350 have more robust security but 90 percent of the fleet has the same vulnerabilities as that 757. Two years ago a security researcher claimed to have gained access to an airliner's flight systems through its entertainment system but those claims were never verified.

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Engine Failure Takes Out Two Engines of SA Airlink RJ85

From Aviation Voice

Airlink_1117SA Airlink Avro RJ-85, performing flight from Harare to Johannesburg with 34 passengers and 4 crew, was enroute nearing the top of descent towards Johannesburg when the #2 engine suffered an uncontained failure ejecting parts of the hot section and turbine towards the #1 engine causing the engine to fail, too.

The aircraft continued to Johannesburg, was vectored for an approach to runway 21R (runways 03 were active) while other aircraft were pulled off the approaches to runways 03 and landed without further incident, vacated onto taxiway L and taxied to the apron followed by the emergency services awaiting the aircraft.

The airline reported all passengers remained uninjured and wrote: “While en route one of the four engines suffered an uncontained failure which then caused damage to its adjacent engine. Upon assessing the damage and status of the aircraft, the crew elected to continue to Johannesburg where it landed safely under the power of its remaining two engines.

At no point was the safety of the passengers or crew in jeopardy. Airlink has notified the South African Civil Aviation Authority, which will launch an investigation into the event in order to determine its likely cause. Airlink will provide whatever technical assistance is requested by the SACAA.”




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When Automation Fails, Qantas Pilot Employs Military Training

From AIN Online


By Pete Combs

When the autopilot suddenly switched itself off aboard Qantas Flight 72 on Oct. 7, 2008, pilot Kevin Sullivan was puzzled. The Airbus A330, on a flight from Singapore to Perth, was approaching the coast of northwest Australia near the town of Exmouth. The weather was clear and the aircraft seemed to be operating normally.

The mystery was compounded by the jarring sound of the stall warning. Odd, Sullivan thought. He was in cruise configuration at 37,000 feet on a clear day. Whatever the A330 was doing, it wasn’t stalling. A moment later, Sullivan found himself staring straight ahead at the Indian Ocean and his world changed forever. The aircraft’s complex automation had malfunctioned and the only thing that stood between Qantas Flight 72 and the deep blue sea was Sullivan’s extensive experience.

“It was an aggressive pitch-down—violent, without warning,” Sullivan told AIN. “I had to brace myself on the glareshield. There are no warnings that say the airplane can maneuver violently on its own. But it did.”

Sullivan hauled back on the sidestick, pulling it almost to the stop. Nothing happened. So he reverted to his training as a high-time U.S. Navy fighter pilot. He neutralized the controls.

“I was looking at the Indian Ocean filling my windscreen. My control input was not effective. I was basically a passenger at that point, not a good place to be if you’re pilot-in-command. So I let go of the stick,” he said.

At the moment of the pitch-down, the Airbus had been holding a nose-high attitude of +2 degrees. Two seconds later, the nose had dropped -8.4 degrees. The wings sliced through the air with an audible rushing sound as the aircraft went from +1g to -.8g.


In the back of the airplane, dozens of passengers who were standing or seated without wearing their seatbelts were thrown up to and in some cases, through the carry-on bins and ceiling panels.

“What the hell just happened?” asked Sullivan’s second officer, who was flying right seat.

“That’s when the startle hit,” said Sullivan, a veteran pilot who had logged more than 17,000 flight hours. He didn’t know what happened, but he figured the A330’s computers were reacting to something. He noted a fault in one of the flight control primary computers (FCPC). Sullivan reset the FCPC, known as PRIM3.

Again, without warning, the aircraft violently pitched down. Again, Sullivan was unable to stop it by pulling back on the stick. Again, he let the stick go to neutralize the controls.

“I’m in trouble,” Sullivan remembered thinking. “I don’t know what’s happening and the airplane isn’t communicating with me. I’m getting master caution chimes. But every time they sounded, a message would flash on the computer monitor and quickly disappear. We couldn’t discern what was wrong.”

Unwilling to trust the A330’s automation anymore, Sullivan left the autopilot off. He disconnected the auto-trim and autothrottles. He declared a Pan (indicating an urgent situation that was not immediately life-threatening_ and, moments later, a Mayday.

The closest airport was a sleepy joint military/civilian field called RAAF Base Learmonth, approximately 37 kilometers south of Exmouth. Given the number and extent of injuries on board, Sullivan opted to land there rather than continue another hour-and-a-half to Perth. Exmouth had a small hospital with just two ambulances. ATC told Flight 72 the hospital would need a half-hour to prepare. That was fine with Sullivan. He needed the time to figure out how he would land his crippled A330.

The stall warning continued to sound—as did the master caution and overspeed warnings. The cacophony was terribly distracting, Sullivan remembered. Ignoring them required a special effort, he added, since company policy called for a mandatory response to some of the warnings. Unable to ascertain the extent to which his aircraft was malfunctioning, Sullivan again reverted to his military training.

“In the Navy, we used a ‘high-energy’ approach in single-engine jets when we suspected airframe or engine damage due to combat,” Sullivan said. From 37,000 feet, he would pull the throttles back to idle, then approach the field in a high-angle, high-energy configuration.

Even then, the aircraft refused to cooperate, Sullivan recalled. His first officer had returned to the flight deck by this time, his nose broken in the pitch downs. The first officer tried to enter a non-precision approach to Learmonth. The computer refused to accept it.

Manual Approach and Landing

Flight 72 circled Learmonth, descending until it was abeam the field at 11,000 feet. That’s when Sullivan began his visual approach. He recalls his thoughts during the experience.

Thrust to idle.

Nose down.

We need to lose 8,000 feet to arrive at 3,000 feet for a ten-mile final.

Sullivan turned to base at 5,000 feet, constantly worried that the aircraft would again pitch down. Using the radio, the Second Officer activated the PAPI as Flight 72 turned to final.

“Speed,” warned the first officer.

“Acknowledged,” replied Sullivan. He wanted to be fast as he aimed just shy of the runway threshold.

Gear down. That worked. Good.

Flaps at configuration 2.

Trim manually.

Throttles still idle.

1,500 feet, still descending at 3 degrees, verified by the PAPI.



From the back of the air plane, the passengers gave Sullivan and his flight crew a rousing cheer. The stall, master caution and overspeed warnings continued to sound even as Flight 72 taxied to the small terminal at RAAF Learmonth.

As medical crews rushed aboard to help the injured passengers and crew, Sullivan walked aft through the passenger cabin. He was “heartbroken” at the devastation. Images of the bruised and bloodied passengers and crew seared themselves into his brain.

Sullivan remained in command of both passengers and airplane until all of the injured had been cared for. He then shepherded the remaining passengers into the terminal. Hours later, two Qantas aircraft landed at Learmonth to fly the passengers and crew back to Perth. Only after they arrived at their original destination, said Sullivan, did he allow himself to relax.

Post-flight analysis by the Australian Transportation Safety Bureau (ATSB) showed one of the A330's three air data inertial reference units (ADIRUs) was sending faulty information to the FCPCs in spikes every 1.2 seconds. The flight control computers misinterpreted that data, causing them to react as though the aircraft was in a nose-high stall. That led to the pitch downs.

Sullivan and his crew were commended by the ATSB for their professionalism

In all, 110 passengers and eight crewmembers were injured in the pitch-down incidents—some severely.

And you can add one more casualty to the list.

Plagued by post-traumatic stress syndrome and the memory of those who were so badly hurt, Sullivan attempted several times to resume his career as a pilot. But after seven torturous years, he gave up in 2015, convinced that his future lies somewhere other than in the cockpit.

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747 Flies Final U.S. Passenger Flight

From AvWeb


Boeing’s 747, the iconic humped two-decker jet, flew its last flight for United Airlines on Tuesday. The four-engine widebody has lost ground to more-efficient modern aircraft. A United Airlines crew flew the final trip, from San Francisco to Honolulu, tracing the same route as the first United 747 flight in 1970. “From a 1970s-inspired menu to retro uniforms for flight attendants to inflight entertainment befitting of that first flight, passengers will help send the Queen of the Skies off in true style,” United said in a news release. The 747 will remain in Honolulu, United said, and passengers on the final flight were booked to go home on a different airplane. United was the airplane’s last U.S. operator in the passenger capacity. Delta retired its last 747 on Sept. 7.

British Airways, Korean Air and a few other international airlines still fly the jets on passenger trips. Boeing will continue to produce the 747-8F, exclusively for freight operators. The freighter can carry up to 224,900 pounds, with a range of 4,120 NM, and the ability to open up the whole nose of the airplane is a key feature when loading large items.

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Canada Dropping Checks On Check Pilots?

From AvWeb


By Russ Niles

Transport Canada might leave all pilot proficiency checks on airline pilots up to the airlines themselves, according to documents obtained by the union representing government inspection pilots. The Canadian Federal Pilots Association, which represents mostly federal government pilots, says its reading of the documents suggests airline check pilots will no longer be evaluated on their competence to assess the skills of line pilots as of next spring. The change is scheduled for April 1, 2018, for aircraft carrying 50 or more passengers.

"I think it's very, very important that people understand we are getting closer to self-regulation all the time," said union president Greg McConnell. "It's just more cutting, more dismantling of the safety net.” It’s also a shift away from international standards but the documents, obtained under a freedom of information request, appear to suggest that Canada will get away with it.

The International Civil Aviation Organization, which is based in Montreal, mandates regular pilot evaluations by the 190 member states’ regulatory agencies. But in their risk assessment document accompanying the proposal, Transport Canada staff say check pilots almost never fail their evaluations and inspection staff time would be better spent on higher risk areas of aviation. "It could be argued that Canada's experience and relative maturity with systems-based surveillance will adequately complement this shift of responsibilities ... and therefore mitigate any concerns other states or trade associations may have with response to such a departure from globally accepted practices," the risk-assessment document says. The documents also say that Transport Canada is having trouble hiring qualified inspector pilots.

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Mexican airline interested in buying Russian MC-21 passenger jet

From RT

MC21The Mexican carrier Interjet is interested in acquiring Russian MS-21 aircraft, company president Miguel Aleman Velasco told RIA Novosti.

"We are very interested in the MC-21, because its components are lighter, it consumes less fuel… Its engines are from North America, but we hope that Russia will make its own engines, which will make the jet even lighter," he said after a meeting with the Russian Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov.

Russia has been working on the Irkut MC-21, a twin-engine short- to medium-haul jet airliner that can carry 151 to 212 passengers depending on the model and seating configuration. The jet is designed for the mass-market travel industry to compete with Boeing's 737 and Airbus' A320.

The producer hopes the plane will replace the aging fleet of Soviet-made passenger aircraft and compete for a share of the global market, thanks to its relatively low price and higher cruising speed.

The first examples of the airliner are to be powered by Pratt & Whitney PW1400G engines, while those for the domestic market will use the new PD-14 engine.

The plane maker promises significantly more space for passengers given the MC-21 has the widest fuselage in its class. It also has extra-large windows. According to the maker, there are orders for 175 MC-21 jets, mostly from Russia’s largest carrier Aeroflot.

The MC-21 maiden flight took place in Russia's Irkutsk in May.

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FAA: Ban Laptops From Baggage Holds, Not Cabins

From AvWeb


By Paul Bertorelli

Just months ago, government security agencies were contemplating a ban of electronic devices larger than a cellphone from airliner cabins, but this week, the FAA is calling for the opposite. In a paper filed with the International Civil Aviation Organization, the FAA said its tests show that large electronic devices such as laptops can cause fires that could overwhelm the fire suppression system airline baggage holds are equipped with. The paper said such a fire could be serious enough to result in a hull loss.

Last summer, the Department of Homeland Security was considering banning laptops from airliner cabins of inbound international flights because of what it described as potential terrorist threats. The agency encountered plenty of pushback and decided not to pursue the ban, which would have displaced laptops from the cabin to baggage holds. The FAA's proposed baggage hold ban will be on the agenda at an ICAO conference on dangerous goods to be held in Montreal next week.

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