Pilot Briefing

December 1, 2002

To pull or not to pull the chute

Dallas architect Lionel Morrison became a celebrated accidental test pilot when he pulled the rocket-launched parachute in his crippled Cirrus SR22. Morrison's adventure marked the first time a certified aircraft has landed using an airframe parachute, and it raises an interesting question for pilots of Cirrus aircraft now that they know the system works in the wild: When do you pull the handle?

In Morrison's case, it was a simple decision. On October 3, the left aileron — which had just been serviced — almost came off during a return-from-service flight and was left hanging by a hinge. The 53-year-old said he had to use both hands on the side-stick yoke to keep the aircraft level. There was no doubt — he had to pull the handle. He didn't want to land with one good aileron while the other was flapping in the breeze. (See " Out of the Pattern, Ready for Anything," page 121.) The airplane hit thick cedar and mesquite trees in northern Texas, and as a result the wings absorbed most of the load instead of the landing gear. It then nosed over and Morrison felt a strong jolt as the prop hit the ground. He was uninjured. Morrison's adventure in parachuting has a much-anticipated event in the general aviation industry. With more than 500 aircraft in Cirrus' fleet, it was only a matter of time before it happened. "I was waiting for it," Morrison joked. For Cirrus and the parachute system manufacturer, Ballistic Recovery Systems (BRS), the incident vindicated a system that had been jeered by critics. (The BRS parachute system has been used to save the lives of more than 150 ultralight pilots and was recently certified as an aftermarket option for Cessna 172s. It is also available for Cessna 150 and 152 aircraft.)

Morrison was the second Cirrus customer to fire the chute. In March, SR20 owner Paul Heflin tried to activate the system over Lexington, Kentucky, when he and another instrument-rated pilot experienced instrument failure in IMC. Heflin exerted numerous hard pulls on the handle, but the chute didn't fire until after he successfully executed a dead-stick landing in a field. Concerned about variability in the force needed to activate the system, Cirrus made modifications to make the handle easier to pull and revised the way owners should operate the handle.

Morrison said he had studied the factory's recommendations and had prepared mentally for such an emergency. He also had made up his mind in advance that his life was more important than the airplane. This may seem like a straightforward philosophy; however, before certifying the aircraft, the FAA did consider the fact that some pilots might try to recover from any scenario so as not to destroy the aircraft by launching the parachute.

The FAA acknowledges that an unknown percentage of pilots will probably try to recover the airplane and will crash. This is the same scenario that the military experiences with ejection seats. "The majority of crews use the ejection seats and survive, but some crews stay with the airplane, passing up the opportunity to safely eject," according to FAA certification documents.

Cirrus maintains that the system is to be used as a last resort. Examples include midair collisions, control impairment, mechanical failure, pilot incapacitation, or fuel exhaustion over hostile terrain. Besides the chute, Cirrus officials said other safety features played a role in the successful outcome of the incident. The airplanes have seats tested to 26 Gs, four-point harnesses, and a roll cage that offers up to 3 Gs of rollover protection. (See " Cirrus SR22: Clear Vision," page 70.) "Even under the best of circumstances, crises can happen," said Cirrus President Alan Klapmeier. "Our goal was to design an aircraft in which they didn't have to be fatal."

Study cites need for increased aviation capacity

A new economic study quantifies the tremendous impact of civil aviation on the U.S. economy. The study, released by DRI-WEFA (an economic information company, formerly Data Resources Inc. and Wharton Econometric Forecasting Associates, now a combined subsidiary of Global Insights Inc.), found that civil aviation contributed more than $900 billion and 11 million jobs to the nation's economy in 2000. General aviation represented a significant portion of those figures, adding in excess of $100 billion and 1.3 million jobs to the U.S. economy. "General aviation is a critical link in our nation's air transportation system. This study certainly confirms that point," said Ed Bolen, president and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA). "Given the clear relationship between aviation and the economy, it is imperative that we invest in the future." A copy of the study is available online ( www.generalaviation.org/EconomicImpact/). — Michael P. Collins

Bombardier slows production, lays off workers

Poor economic conditions have led Bombardier Aerospace to lay off 1,930 employees, including 20 percent of its management, at facilities in Canada, the United States, and England. Layoffs, which began in October, include 210 workers in Tucson, Arizona, and 50 in Wichita. Hit hardest is Montreal, where 915 workers will be laid off. Bombardier will also slow production at several locations including Wichita, where production of the Learjet 45 and 60 was to be interrupted for four months beginning in December, affecting 500 employees in Wichita. In Montreal, production of the Bombardier Challenger 604 business jet was to be reduced over a four-month period. In Toronto, all manufacturing work was to be interrupted for six to eight weeks beginning in late November, affecting the Bombardier Q-series turboprop aircraft and the Global family of business aircraft. Some 1,600 employees will be affected during this period. The Challenger 300 and Learjet 40 development programs and entry-into-service schedules were unaffected. — Alton K. Marsh


Headlines pulled from recent editions of AOPA's e-mail newsletter

Vintage biplane to wing it over Everest

Calling it an "epic retro-flight to the Himalayas," a group of adventurers is planning to fly a 1930s Westland Wallace biplane over Mount Everest. By recreating the flight next year, the Wings Over Everest team plans to celebrate three anniversaries: the Wright brothers' first powered flight in 1903, the biplane flight over Everest three decades later, and Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's successful ascent of the mountain in 1953.

Cirrus produces first SR22s with ice protection

Cirrus Design has produced the first SR22s with TKS ice-protection systems. Cirrus has offered its customers the option to upgrade with TKS any existing orders for 2002-model SR22s scheduled to be completed through the end of the year. The company originally planned to debut the TKS-equipped SR22 in March 2003, but Aerospace Systems and Technologies (AS&T), the British company that produces TKS, was able to ramp up production and certification of the system well ahead of schedule.

MiG-15 crashes

Dr. Tom Righetti, an airshow performer and co-founder of the Wings Over Miami aviation museum, died September 18 in a remote North Carolina forest after his MiG-15 jet fighter crashed while en route to an airshow performance at Oceana Naval Air Station, Virginia. Weather may have been a factor.

Museum to open on time

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum officials say they need another $93 million to complete funding for a new companion facility at Dulles International Airport, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. The museum will open on schedule in December 2003, just in time for the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers' first powered flight.

Diesel-powered Cessna crosses nation

An international consortium flew a Cessna 182 from Daytona Beach, Florida, to Carlsbad, California, in 16 hours running on Jet-A fuel. The 230-horsepower SMA SR305-230 turbodiesel engine showed a 40-percent increase in range over regular avgas engines, according to Riley Aero International, the company that is pursuing a supplemental type certificate (STC) for the 182.

Tiger wins production certificate

Tiger Aircraft has received an FAA production certificate for the AG-5B Tiger. The Martinsburg, West Virginia, company has completed nine of the single-engine, four-place aircraft, with one more in the paint shop, for a total of 10 Tigers to come out of the factory in the 10 months since type certification was acquired in late 2001. The production certificate will allow Tiger Aircraft to ramp up production.

To sign up for the free AOPA ePilot or to view the archive, see AOPA Online ( www.aopa.org/members/files/pilot/epilot/).

NASA to test wing-warping fighter

Engineers at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center are getting ready to show that, in a very Wright brothers sort of way, twisting or warping flexible wings can enhance aircraft performance.

The team has conducted ground tests of the Active Aeroelastic Wing (AAW) on a modified F/A-18A. At press time, the team was readying the aircraft for its first test flights. The program aims to investigate the use of lighter-weight flexible wings for improved maneuverability of high-performance military aircraft.

"The project reflects both a return to aviation's beginnings, when the Wright brothers devised a primitive wing-warping method to control the Wright Flyer, and a gateway to the future — a future where aircraft will sense their environment, morph, and adapt their shape to the existing flight conditions," said Denis Bessette, Dryden's AAW project manager. "These future aircraft will take advantage of years of evolutionary lessons exhibited in birdlike flight."

The test aircraft has been modified with additional actuators, a split leading-edge flap, and thinner wing skins that will allow the outer wing panels to twist up to 5 degrees. Engineers hope to see similar roll performance with smaller control surface deflection when compared to production F-18s. AAW research also could enable thinner, higher aspect-ratio wings on future military and commercial aircraft, which could result in reduced aerodynamic drag, allowing greater range or payload. The program is a joint project sponsored by NASA, the United States Air Force, and Boeing.

Latest Rutan vehicle in testing

No, it isn't a Klingon war vessel that has just de-cloaked. It's the latest creation from Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites, which was recently readied for a test flight at Mojave Airport Civilian Flight Test Center in California. The aircraft, powered by two jet engines, is veiled in secrecy but is rumored to be designed to carry a contender vehicle for the $10 million X Prize Foundation award. The prize is intended to jumpstart the space tourism industry through competition among the most talented entrepreneurs and rocket experts in the world. The $10 million cash prize will be awarded to the first team that privately finances, builds, and launches a spaceship able to carry three people to 100 kilometers (62.5 miles), return safely to Earth, and repeat the launch with the same ship within two weeks. — AKM

Blakey pledges better TFR information

The only thing worse than a temporary flight restriction (TFR) is not knowing about it. The FAA has vowed to get better at communicating about these pilot certificate-threatening forms of airspace.

As new FAA Administrator Marion Blakey pointed out in her first major address at AOPA Expo 2002 in October, TFRs have become a way of life after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. "Many restrictions will have to remain in place as long as we are in our current situation. That's just a matter of common sense. You can't fly over Crawford, Texas, or downtown Washington, D.C., without expecting a companion at your wing tips, and they'll want to talk to you on the ground. This is wartime, and national security cannot and will not be compromised," she said.

At the same time, Blakey said the FAA is not going to expand TFRs on an ongoing basis where the threats are nonspecific. The administrator thanked AOPA for its efforts in educating and informing pilots about TFRs and said that the FAA will take a similar approach by using the Internet, quick notification to flight service stations, and direct mail to pilots. "You have every reason to expect consistent answers from flight service specialists on TFRs. You need good information — and you're going to get it," she said.

Following in AOPA's lead, the FAA has teamed up with Jeppesen to create electronic graphical depiction of TFRs superimposed over aeronautical charts. "They're in a format clear and familiar to pilots. And they're down-to-the-inch accurate. Right now, we're deploying this capability to our flight service stations. We plan to have it available to AOPA and the public early next year," she said.

Lancair gets a badly needed cash infusion

Negotiations are nearly complete and an investor has emerged to get production rolling again at Lancair Company. Production was halted last summer as company officials announced they were searching for a $25 million cash infusion. The current economy made finding the funds difficult, however. Preliminary news of a pending deal was announced in late October during AOPA Expo in Palm Springs, California. Agreement was close to completion at press time.

The new investor will become a controlling partner in the company. However, the amount of the investment was withheld. Lancair had been looking for $25 million, but apparently the upcoming investment will exceed that amount. Lancair chief Bing Lantis said the company will stay in its present position on its current business plan and under the same management.

Operations at the Lancair plant, shut down since July, were to reopen in November with 99 percent of the former staff in place, Lantis said. Certification of the Lancair 350, a so-called all-electric airplane, is expected in January, with the Lancair 400 gaining certification as early as next April. There is a backlog of 180 aircraft for which deposits have been taken — half are 400s and half are 300s. There are 56 Lancair 300s currently flying. The company sold three 400s just prior to AOPA Expo. Production rates when work resumes will be 10 aircraft a month, with a goal of much higher production rates. — Alton K. Marsh


A new airplane and world records highlight AOPA Expo

During the last major general aviation trade show of the season, the manufacturers gave the GA community some exciting things to look for in the future. And in the sunny Palm Springs, California, skies there was a faint buzzing as one man realized a record that had eluded him in Florida.

Adam Aircraft is now the latest company to enter the personal jet market with the introduction of the A700 at AOPA Expo 2002 in October. The composite aircraft, powered by two Williams International FJ33 engines, is designed to cruise at 340 knots and fly as high as 41,000 feet. With an introductory price of nearly $2 million, it's priced between the Eclipse 500 jet and the Cessna Citation Mustang. The glass-cockpit A700 will offer space for six seats and a lavatory. The new airplane is an extension of the yet-to-be certified A500 piston airplane that was designed by Burt Rutan. Adam plans to fly the A700 in the second half of 2003 and receive FAA type certification in late 2004.

Elsewhere in the personal jet world, Vern Raburn, president and CEO of Eclipse Aviation, announced a four-part flight-training program for Eclipse buyers. The four parts of the program are a home-study Jet Transition Precourse, a Type Training Admission Evaluation and Preparation course, the Type Rating Course, and a mentor program. If the evaluation phase indicates that an Eclipse pilot requires further training before advancing to the type-rating phase, this training will be provided by UND Aerospace in Albuquerque. Training prerequisites for entering the Eclipse 500 program are at least a private pilot certificate with multiengine and instrument ratings.

If you don't want to wait for Eclipse or Adam, you can build your own Maverick Jet. The homebuilt has a new fan, aviation legend Bob Hoover. The Melbourne, Florida-based company gave Hoover a couple of demonstration flights, including the highly experienced test pilot and airshow performer's "regular test flight," and Hoover signed on as an official spokesman. Chief Pilot Jack Reed said the jet is a "much safer airplane than it was" after numerous changes to the wing and landing-gear placement, among other modifications. The $750,000 kit includes everything needed to complete the aircraft, including company-remanufactured T-58 engines (now designated as MC-750 turbofans with 750 pounds of thrust each) and avionics. There are no current plans for a production version.

Not everyone needs a jet to fly as high as jets. The time-to-climb record that had dogged Bruce Bohannon earlier this year is his, unofficially. A piston-engine airplane, the Exxon Flyin' Tiger, set a world record — actually four world records — by reaching 41,300 ft in 32 minutes and 2 seconds. He also set records in the C-1b aircraft class for sustained horizontal flight at that altitude and for absolute altitude. The record flight took place at Desert Resorts Regional Airport near Palm Springs.

If you're a fan of the four-place DA40-180 Diamond Star, you have a new avionics option. Diamond Aircraft is now taking orders for airplanes equipped with Avidyne's FlightMax Entegra integrated flight deck, with the first deliveries scheduled for mid-2003. The Diamond Star version of the Entegra will be the first to include EMax primary engine instrument display capability. The Entegra system consists of two 10.4-inch diagonal screens — a primary flight display and a multifunction display. The Entegra-equipped Diamond Star is priced at $247,000 while the autopilot-equipped airplane is priced at $263,000.

In engine-related news, Teledyne Continental Motors and Aerosance announced that their full authority digital engine control (FADEC) system is now available through several piston engine aircraft manufacturers. In addition to the FADEC system being offered as standard or optional equipment on the Adam A500, the Cirrus SR22, the Diamond C-1, the Lancair 350 and 400, and the Liberty XL-2, retrofit approval for installation of the FADEC system on Beechcraft Bonanza models has been approved. A certified system with a full warranty for the Bonanza is being offered at an introductory price of $9,999. Additional supplemental type certificates (STCs) are being developed for the Beechcraft Baron and Cessna 210 and 206 aircraft.

See " AOPA Expo: Desert High," page 102 and visit Virtual Expo on AOPA Online ( www.aopa.org/expo/).

Yeager retires after amazing career

Now Chuck Yeager is one of us — a pilot of small, nonmilitary airplanes.

But for most of his career, the conqueror of the sound barrier has flown the best and the worst of all the military planes available in this country and elsewhere. In late October, Yeager easily sliced through the sound barrier in a military jet one last time in his role as a dollar-a-year consultant to Edwards Air Force Base before announcing his retirement, the Los Angeles Times has reported. From now on, the 79-year-old legend will devote more time to hunting and fishing, he joked. Considering his most recently announced hunting plans, the elk in Oregon had better watch out.

Member in the news

Greg Marshall, AOPA 635435, and his copilot Merce Marti won the 1,885-mile Marion Jayne Air Race, breaking Ken Johnson's two-year winning streak. The team raced in a Piper Lance dubbed the Spirit of Freixenet. Marshall donated his share of the $5,000 prize to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Bruce McAllister, AOPA 469693, has published Wings Above the Arctic: A Photographic History of Arctic Aviation. To compile the book, McAllister interviewed many Arctic pilots and gathered hundreds of photos from throughout the world. The book includes chapters on Canadian, Russian, and U.S. pilots who have dared the Arctic. Other chapters highlight Greenland's key role in World War II, Alaska's oil strike, and a collection of unusual Arctic aerial photos. The 240-page soft-cover book is available for $39.95 plus $5 for shipping and handling from Roundup Press, Post Office Box 109, Boulder, Colorado 80306-0109. It will be available in bookstores in early 2003.

Jeremy D. I. Vandersluis, AOPA 1376218, has written They're All Trying to Kill Me! (Or How I Managed to Survive as a Flight Instructor). The book, published by 1stBooks Library, is an anecdotal look at the ups and downs of teaching flying. Vandersluis gave up a career in computing and financing to pursue flying. He began teaching several years ago. Now 34, Vandersluis, a native of Windsor, England, residing in Naples, Florida, relates in vivid detail harrowing and near-death experiences with his students. The book is available through 1stBooks Library online ( www.1stbooks.com).

Robert L. Marks, AOPA 903898, has been appointed vice president of the Western Pacific Region for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. Marks is responsible for representing more than 2,300 air traffic controllers, engineers, architects, staff specialists, and other aviation professionals in California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, and U.S. territories in the Pacific. Marks holds a commercial pilot certificate with multiengine and instrument ratings.

Mark W. Danielson, AOPA 2249883, has published Danger Within, a suspense novel about Kevin Hamilton, a DC-10 cargo pilot who is blown out of the sky and ends up bobbing in the cold ocean along with two crewmembers. The mystery leads Hamilton to a warehouse in Los Angeles where a firebomb threatens his life once again, leaving Hamilton wondering why he left the military for a seemingly steady airline career. The author is a former military pilot who currently works as an airline pilot. Danielson frequently contributes to AOPA Flight Training magazine. Published by Durban House Publishing Company, the soft-cover book sells for $15.95 and is available in bookstores.