This autumn has certainly produced a burst of activity for several type-specific organizations with three, mainly turbine-oriented, groups holding their annual conventions within four weeks of each other. The TBM Owners and Pilots Association held its convention in Phoenix in late September; the Malibu/Mirage Owners and Pilots Association (which also includes Piper Meridian and M600 owners) met in New Orleans in early October; and, most recently, the Citation Jet Pilots Association held its eighth annual convention Oct. 19 to 23—also in New Orleans.
The Citation Jet Pilots Association has some 900 members, 348 of which showed up at the convention site in New Orleans’ famous Roosevelt Hotel. Of those, 102 members flew their own Cessna/Textron Aviation Citations into New Orleans’ Lakefront Airport for the event, and all of them were parked in Lakefront’s “ballpark,” a squarish ramp area on the west side of the field. As is the custom, arriving pilots had their landings recorded on video, to be played back before a convention hall packed with their peers (the TBM Owners and Pilots Association convention features this feast of skill—or deficiency of it). To make things more interesting, each pilot’s name was subtitled as each Citation landed. The videos are fun to watch, especially if you’re not among the subjects and therefore free of criticism.
Other speakers included air safety investigator Greg Feith, a 20-year veteran of the National Transportation Safety Board, and Chuck Hosmer of Cessna Citation training center Proflight LLC, who gave a talk on flight planning, using a Twin Otter rescue mission to Antarctica and a presidential visit to Iraq as examples. FlightSafety International’s Dann Runik gave a presentation entitled “Standardization—Why Bother?” It sounded like an invitation for a nap, but it was anything but. Should you question the reason behind every move you make in the cockpit? Runik mentioned the hapless crew of a long-ago Northwest Airlines flight flying a night trans-Atlantic crossing as an example of how a lack of this kind of standard practice could backfire.
Newfoundland’s Gander Center noticed the airliner’s transponder was putting up random squawk codes, but the crew didn’t know it. One of them was 7500, the hijack code. “Confirm you’re squawking 7500,” Gander said. Interpreting that as a clearance, the first officer promptly complied and entered 7500. The captain didn’t know because he was taking a restroom break at the time. Soon, the president of the United States and the prime minister of Canada were awakened. Northwest executives had to figure ways to learn about the situation without attracting the attention of any “hijackers,” so they sent an ACARs message saying, “Weather looks good. How are you feeling?” Thinking this some kind of joke, the crew responded by typing in, “It is dark, and we are scared.” About that time, the captain noticed the 7500 code, but it was too late. Fighter jets had intercepted the airliner. All ended well, but none of this would have happened if there had been a standardized check and review of everything that happened in the cockpit during the time a crewmember left the flight deck. Today, such a standard procedure exists.
Master flight instructor and renowned turbine mentor pilot Neil Singer—a regular contributor to AOPA Pilot’s Turbine Pilot edition—gave a talk about an ill-fated Piaggio Avanti pilot attempting a westbound trans-Atlantic crossing. Singer listed the sequence of events—flying too low for a conservative fuel burn, flying at too high a power setting, missing an approach in Greenland, and accepting a too-low cruise altitude to his distant alternate—that led up to the airplane crashing on the Greenland icecap, well short of his alternate.
Motivational speaker Jessica Cox, born without arms, gave a moving talk about overcoming life’s obstacles. Cox, a black belt who drives a car and flies airplanes, put things in perspective.
The jet pilots association runs a companion flying program, which includes pinch-hitter ground school and flight training. The goal: Train spouses and significant others to be able to take the controls and land a Citation should its pilot become incapacitated. Run by instructors from brokerage firm jetAVIVA, and its CEO Cyrus Sigari, this year’s ground school taught 33 pinch-hitters the essentials, then followed it up with dual instruction in the jets their partners flew to New Orleans. In all, there were 23 flights over two days.
The Cessna jet pilots can be a raucous, partying group, and this was on full display at an evening auction. Proceeds go to charitable organizations. The least-pricey item up for bid was a companion flight training program featuring Sigari as instructor, at the airport of your choice. The auctioneer asked for $12,000; the winning bid was $10,500. At the other end of the spectrum was a set of Tamarack ATLAS Active Winglets, with an asking price of $240,000. The winner got a set for $225,000. Folks, this is a wealthy crowd.
AOPA President Mark Baker was on hand to explain AOPA’s many initiatives aimed at increasing the pilot population. From 800,000-odd pilots in 1980 to today’s 593,000, Baker drove home AOPA’s mission to counter the trend through the association’s You Can Fly initiative, Rusty Pilots seminars, flying club network resources, and scholarship program designed to foster science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs in high schools with the help of Purdue University. Baker also mentioned the success of AOPA’s regional fly-ins, which have drawn more than 40,000 people—pilots and nonpilots alike—to local airports around the nation.
At the end of his speech, Citation Jet Pilots Association Executive Director Andrew Broom and the board of directors presented Baker with the Crystal Eagle award for his many contributions to promoting general aviation.
AOPA Pilot attended several sessions devoted to issues relating to the Citation Mustang. Other sessions focused on legacy Citations, the Citation M2, and the CJ series of Citations. It’s from these technical sessions that manufacturers like Textron, Pratt & Whitney, Rockwell Collins, and Garmin International receive valuable customer input concerning maintenance and safety-of-flight items. For example, there have been problems with five- to six-year-old Mustangs experiencing strong, sometimes violent, nosewheel shimmying after landing. Textron’s answer: It’s caused by worn nosewheel bushings. The solution: Replace the bushings, which can be done separately or as part of the mandatory, six-year landing gear overhaul.
Other concerns are vibration and cracks caused by worn bushings in the Mustang’s starter-generator drive shafts. Seems that the unit’s electrical grounding path runs through the shafts’ ball bearings where they mount in the accessory case. This path causes arcs and pitting of the bearings, creating metal shavings. It’s the shavings that set up the vibration, with the worst outcome being not just the failure of the starter-generator, but cracking of the accessory case. That’s because oil can escape from the cracks and cause an engine to fail. What to do? There are no checklist items for this problem in the airplane flight manual. Some experts in the room suggested reducing power. Others said to shut down the engine. A Pratt & Whitney representative said to have the accessory case inspected after landing. Bottom line: The issue remains unresolved, but the pressure’s on to delve deeper into the matter.
The convention wrapped up with a group visit to New Orleans’ World War II Museum. The museum, officially designated by Congress as America’s National World War II Museum, features many airplanes of that era, along with tanks and other military hardware, movies, and historical displays.
Next year’s Citation Jet Pilots Association convention will take place Oct. 4 through 7, at Phoenix’s Arizona Biltmore Hotel. Anyone who owns or flies a Citation will find the event worth the trip.