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Airmanship still matters more than equipment: Proliferation of glass panel cockpits in GA aircraft has not had a dramatic impact on safety, according to new research by the Air Safety Institute, the most comprehensive analysis of the subject to date. While glass panels may have advantages that cannot be documented—for example, there is no way to know how many pilots may have used them to successfully escape VFR flight into instrument meteorological conditions—an analysis of accident data from 2001 to 2010 suggests that overall, glass cockpit displays had a “negligible” effect on the accident patterns among similar aircraft. “What you have on the panel doesn’t matter nearly as much as what you’re flying and how you’re flying it,” said Air Safety Institute Manager of Aviation Safety Analysis David Jack Kenny. Read more >>
Leading Edge: Glass isn’t the issue
When electronic flight instruments were introduced to general aviation cockpits, there was widespread belief that this innovation could make a difference in safety. There were also fears that poorly trained pilots would be slamming into hillsides on IFR approaches. Neither projection happened exactly the way some expected. AOPA Foundation President Bruce Landsberg offers a few thoughts for your consideration. Read more >>
Stricken P-51 lands with help from Bob Hoover
Circling above Mobile, Ala., on Feb. 26 with the left main gear of the vintage P-51 stuck halfway down, pilot Chuck Gardner calmly worked the procedures. When that failed to work, a little advice from fellow aviators—including 90-year-old aviation legend Bob Hoover—proved helpful. The veteran military, airshow, and test pilot had talked many pilots through trouble over decades at the Reno Air Races. “Somebody would have a problem almost every other race, and over the years I must have talked down 30 or 40 airplanes that were in real trouble,” Hoover said. “As a test pilot, I had more experience, probably, than most people.” Read more >>
Air Force halts controversial contract
The Air Force announced on Feb. 28 an abrupt about-face following a well-publicized dogfight over a contract to build light air support aircraft for Afghanistan. Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley, in a short statement that caught many by surprise, said the decision to award the contract to Brazilian manufacturer Embraer, by way of Sierra Nevada Corp., will be “set aside” pending an internal Air Force investigation. Read more >>
Astronaut with GA roots prepares new generation of explorers
The main engines lit six seconds before liftoff, filling the space shuttle Discovery with a low rumble. “Almost like an engine on a car, a big engine on a car,” recalled NASA astronaut Nicole P. Stott, one of six astronauts on board the final Discovery mission, launched Feb. 24, 2011. Nothing, Stott said, can prepare a person for what happens as the clock strikes zero: solid rocket booster ignition. Liftoff was instant. Stott’s 13-day mission in 2011 was her second trip to space—Stott spent 91 days aboard the International Space Sation in 2009—a highlight, if not the culmination, of a space flight career launched, in many ways, at a small Florida airport, riding in her father’s Skybolt. Read more >>
Policy role seen for Build A Plane
Aviation learning organization Build A Plane could be part of a strong state-federal alliance dedicated to developing national science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, the Aerospace States Association said in a letter to President Barack Obama. Read more >>
Fly like a Fighter: To go or not to go?
Who aborts an F-15 during takeoff because of a lack of thrust? Retired Air Force F-15 pilot Larry Brown shares why he should have aborted a takeoff in which he used 6,000 feet of an 8,000-foot runway to get airborne. Read more >>
Icon, Microsoft make dreams a virtual reality
Flying a sleek airplane built for two low over the Big Island of Hawaii may be a dream flight, but Microsoft Flight and Icon have teamed to make that scenario a little more realistic. Microsoft has launched its Microsoft Flight PC game, which offers the Icon A5 light sport aircraft flying over the Big Island of Hawaii as a free download. Read more >>
Houston, we have a pilot
On Feb. 25, as George Smith returned to the ramp, the designated pilot examiner pronounced his performance “not bad, for a rookie.” Smith, 17, thus became the first private pilot his Texas high school produced—this year. Students in the Sterling High School Aviation Sciences Magnet Program—one of very few in the country to offer flight instruction at the high school level—are given a combination of traditional coursework and aviation classes, including a private pilot ground school. Four more students have soloed this year. Read more >>
‘Pilot Getaways’ acquires American Air Campers Association
Pilot Getaways has acquired the American Air Campers Association (AACA) and its database of more than 620 public airports that offer camping facilities. The changeover was announced on Jan. 24. Pilot Getaways will manage the AACA website and database. AACA members will have uninterrupted access to the website for the duration of their current subscription. They will receive a subscription to the magazine good through June 2012, as well as an introductory membership to the Recreational Aviation Foundation that is good until May 1. Read more >>
Special Sun 'n Fun admission discounts for AOPA members
New in 2012: AOPA members can enjoy a $5 discount off daily admission to the thirty-eighth annual Sun ’n Fun Fly-In, every day of the show from March 27 through April 1 in Lakeland, Fla. Come celebrate “Spring Break for Pilots”! AOPA is once again the Platinum Sun ’n Fun sponsor and will have many exciting activities going on around the show grounds throughout the week. Make your travel plans now! For show details, highlights, and ticket information, visit the website. To receive the admission discounts, show your membership ID at the admission gates (the discounts are not available through advance online purchases at this time).
NTSB: Action needed on ECi cylinders
The National Transportation Safety Board is recommending that the FAA require repetitive inspection of some cylinder assemblies on Teledyne Continental Motors Model 520 and 540 engines not covered by existing airworthiness directives issued following engine failures. Read more >>
Vermont CFI, DPE is National CFI of the Year
Hobart Caleb "Hobie" Tomlinson of Huntington, Vt., has been named the 2012 National Certificated Flight Instructor of the Year. Tomlinson is one of four aviation professionals who received top accolades in this year's National GA Awards. Read more >>
Reporting Points: GA to the rescue of stranded ship
General aviation came to the rescue of the powerless cruise ship Costa Allegra after fire broke out on the ship. A twin-engine Vulcanair coordinated helicopter support for the crippled ship; Eurocopter Colibri EC120B helicopters dropped hundreds of flashlights, fresh bread, and communications equipment.
Reporting Points: If you see this, you're on final to Tahiti
Have you been following the adventures of the Slovenian pilot flying around the world in a Pipistrel motorglider? AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Al Marsh shows you the breathtaking view that the pilot saw as he landed in Tahiti to investigate engine vibrations and a leaky carburetor.
Another day, another island
It's almost always VFR in the Bahamas. AOPA President Craig Fuller, along with five AOPA staff members and Greg Rolle, aviation tourism director for the Bahamas government, flew to the offshore islands that have been a top international destination for U.S. general aviation pilots for decades. GA visitors are especially important to the pristine "out islands" because few cruise ships stop at such places. "Every island and its people have their own unique character," Rolle said. "If you don't like one island, go to another and see if it's better. You can go to a new island every day for two years in the Bahamas and still not visit them all." Read more and watch AOPA Live ® >>
Goodyear Ground School: Tire inspection
During the airplane preflight, tire inspection requires more than a glance and a good kick. Two important items to check: inflation and tread. Proper inflation is critical for getting long life out of your tires and for their safe use. As you’ll learn in this installment of the Goodyear Ground School, 10-percent underinflation can lead to internal tire damage. And you can't tell by looking at the tire. Check pressures daily—before the first flight of the day. Learn more in this latest tip produced in cooperation with Goodyear >>
For daily news updates, see AOPA Online.
Safety & Proficiency
The death of a 58-year-old crop-duster on January 10, 2011, was one of those random tragedies—and like many others, it could have been prevented. The 26,000-hour commercial pilot was killed when his Rockwell S-2R hit an unmarked meteorological evaluation tower while he was treating a field in Contra Costa County, Calif. This “nearly invisible” tower should have been dismantled a year and a quarter before the accident. Read more >>
IFR Fix: Real or imagined?
How are things in the real world today? That’s where we're headed, so let’s find out. Give flight service a call. Tell the briefer we need weather for a trip from here to the real world and back. In the remarks section, please be sure to note when you file that this is a training flight with a focus on IFR flying under real-world conditions. As a realm distinct from the so-called training environment, the instructional concept of the real world has made huge inroads, suggesting a tough and unforgiving milieu where pilots must fend for themselves, and everything is for keeps. Read more >>
Are you a risk taker?
Whether you've logged thousands of hours or recently began learning to fly, the decision-making and risk-management process can sometimes be arduous. While airline pilots consult company guidelines, general aviation pilots are mostly left to their own judgment for go/no-go decisions. Worried about external pressures fouling your decision? Take a more formal approach. Plug your profile and expected fight conditions into the ASI Flight Risk Evaluator and let the application suggest the best course of action. Of course, as pilot in command you're still in charge of the final go/no-go decision.
Between a cloud and a hard place
Don’t take a look-and-see attitude when it comes to weather. Do you have personal weather minimums? If not, develop them now. Think about it: While you're on the ground, visibility might seem just right, and the ceilings may look like they're at a comfortable height. But, it’s the unexpected, deteriorating weather that catches pilots off guard; sometimes they fly into an unrecoverable situation. Especially critical is the temperature/dew point spread. Learn to interpret the weather in the Air Safety Institute’s WeatherWise: Ceiling and Visibility course.
Preventive maintenance 101
As pilots, most of us are not mechanics by training or occupation, yet many of us derive satisfaction from tinkering with mechanical things, especially aircraft. By performing routine maintenance on our own aircraft we not only gain personal satisfaction, but also become better educated about the equipment we fly, making us better and safer pilots. The opportunity also exists to save a substantial percentage of the annual maintenance costs associated with aircraft ownership. Learn more about preventive maintenance >>
Hover Power: IMC encounters
Using a simulator, researchers at the University of Illinois conducted a study with 20 pilots who had no instrument training to see the survivability of an encounter with instrument meteorological conditions. All of them lost control, and the only variable was how long it took. The range was as short as 20 seconds to as long as 480 seconds with the average being 178 seconds. This was done in a fixed-wing simulator. A helicopter pilot with little or no instrument training would likely lose control in a much shorter time. Continued VFR flight into IMC has caused many helicopter accidents. Read more >>
The FAA's new long-term reauthorization reverts the federal government's match of Airport Improvement Program funding to pre-2003 levels, which could threaten local ability to match funds for some airport projects. However, the Virginia Aviation Board and Department of Aviation have taken steps to ensure their airports won't suffer. The new federal match will cover 90 percent, instead of 95 percent, of the funding for a project, leaving the state and local levels to come up with the remaining 10 percent. Virginia aviation officials acted to increase the commonwealth's share so that local entities would not need to pay more. Read more >>
FAA publishes first officer qualification rule
The FAA has published its expected notice of proposed rulemaking revising the qualifications for air carrier first officers. The NPRM gives the aviation industry its first look at the details of a regulation that could have far-reaching implications for the flight training industry, student starts, and the future pilot population. The proposal would change air crew hiring requirements by making it necessary for all air carrier first officers to hold an airline transport pilot certificate instead of a commercial pilot certificate, in effect increasing minimum flight time hours from 250 to 1,500. Read more >>
FCC urged to close LightSquared case
The Federal Communications Commission should proceed with plans to suspend LightSquared’s authorization to build a wireless network that threatens the GPS system, and "expeditiously bring the administrative process to a close," said AOPA and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA). The two associations, in joint comments filed Feb. 29, urged the FCC to proceed with its announced plans to vacate LightSquared's authorization to build a mobile-satellite network dependent on ground transmissions shown by tests to overwhelm the much weaker adjacent GPS signals. Read more >>
AOPA/EAA medical exemption request strong, steady
AOPA and the Experimental Aircraft Association are unwavering in their effort to open more aircraft to pilots using a driver’s license and medical self-assessment, despite the FAA’s recent denial of a pilot’s request to expand the driver’s license medical to private pilots flying aircraft 6,000 pounds or less. The FAA on Feb. 2 denied a 2009 petition by David Wartofsky, owner of Potomac Airfield in Friendly, Md., that had received more than 1,000 supportive comments. The AOPA/EAA exemption request proposes to expand the driver’s license medical beyond sport pilot to those flying recreationally in an aircraft with an engine of 180-horsepower or less, four seats or fewer, and fixed landing gear. Operations would be limited to a maximum of one passenger and flight during day-VFR conditions. Read more >>
Fuller: Keep flying, we’re fighting for you
In recent years, general aviation has faced some of the toughest challenges in its history, including a severe economic recession, a dwindling pilot population, and numerous legislative threats. The best action pilots can take to keep GA healthy is to get in the air and fly, AOPA President Craig Fuller told attendees at the Northwest Aviation Conference and Trade Show in Puyallup, Wash., on Feb. 25. “We want to keep pilots flying in the face of some significant challenges,” he said. Fuller outlined numerous steps the association is taking to protect GA and help keep pilots in the air. Read more >>
AOPA Now: A view from the Northwest
The skies may be gray in the Northwest, but the prospects for general aviation are sunny, AOPA President Craig Fuller reports from the road. Read more >>
Three new discounts add value to AOPA membership
Three more companies have joined the AOPA Lifestyles Member Discounts Program, a free core membership benefit available to all AOPA members. New offers include $10 off any $100-or-more online order at Desser Tire and Rubber Co., the world’s largest aircraft tire distributor; a 10-percent discount toward the purchase of a new hangar from Worldwide Steel Buildings; and a 10-percent discount on all aviation interior services from Aviation Design. Read more >>
AOPA Legal Services Plan not just for violations
You may have never seriously considered joining AOPA’s Legal Services Plan. After all, you’re a careful, precise pilot, and the possibility of your violating FARs may be slim in your mind. Then, too, you are confident about how you would handle a ramp check or other FAA inquiry. That may all be true, but there are other reasons, beyond planning ahead for the day you find yourself “in trouble,” that makes signing up for AOPA’s Legal Services Plan a good idea. Read more >>
AOPA Career Opportunities
Ever dream of turning your passion for aviation into a career? We’re looking for a director of new market development, manager of regulatory affairs, associate project manager, online product manager, marketing specialist–products, aviation education program developer, accounting manager, and associate editor–Web/ ePilot. To learn more about other AOPA career opportunities, visit AOPA Online.