Briefing: April 2020



Crashes that kill celebrities tend to be a catalyst for safety changes in aviation and the tragic crash of a Sikorsky S-76B that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others may follow that trend. The helicopter crashed north of Los Angeles while on a Special VFR transition of the busy airspace to Bryant’s basketball academy in Thousand Oaks in marginal VFR conditions due to fog. The mainstream media has focused on the foggy weather, the lack of IFR certification by the helicopter operator and pilot, the absence of flight data and cockpit voice recorders and whether TAWS should be required on commercial helicopters. Even without the recorders, the NTSB has issued a statement saying it will be able to determine a cause of the crash with the other evidence it has been able to gather. The NTSB is also likely to issue recommendations based on those findings.


Gulfstream flew its latest flagship, the G700, for the first time in mid February and is fast-tracking its certification with an expedited development program. The huge bizjet (110 feet nose to tail) seats up to 19 in as many as five cabin zones and will have a range of about 7500 nautical miles. It was announced at NBAA-BACE last October but by then all five flight test aircraft were well under construction. They were all finished by the February flight and the static load tests had been completed. The four flying aircraft will launch immediately into the certification program and Gulfstream is eyeing 2022 for deliveries. The Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General will audit FAA flight training requirements due to concerns raised in the fallout from the crashes of two Boeing 737 MAX airlines in 2018 and 2019. Various investigations have pointed to overreliance on automation by pilots and their apparent struggle to deal with malfunctions in the flight management and control systems. The audit will examine the FAA’s training standards and application of those standards with an emphasis on automation.


Airbus may be changing the shape of commercial aviation with the formal launch of its blended wing body research program. The company flew an RC model of the aircraft at the Singapore Air Show saying it could result in airliners that burn 20 percent less fuel. The model looks like a cross between the Space Shuttle and an MD-11 with twin tail-mounted engines and a delta wing with a thickened center section that holds the passengers and cargo in any future full-size model. “Although there is no specific time line for entry-into-service, this technological demonstrator could be instrumental in bringing about change in commercial aircraft architectures for an environmentally sustainable future for the aviation industry,” said Airbus Executive VP Jean-Brice Dumont.


A loss of pitch trim control has prompted recommendations that airlines flying first-generation E series airliners check for wire chafing in elevator trim systems. A Republic airlines E-175 took off from Atlanta in November and when the captain who was the pilot flying, tried to turn on the autopilot, the switch that deactivates the manual pitch control wouldn’t work and neither did the one on the right side. He declared an emergency and turned back to Atlanta but it took both pilots pushing on the yoke to keep the nose down and the airplane flying. The FO’s button finally worked and the aircraft landed normally. Investigators found a chafed wire in the captain’s control column and about 10 other aircraft had the same issue. There are about 1500 of the regional airliners worldwide, 667 of them registered in the U.S.


Bombardier is keeping its business jet division after selling off its stake in the A220 … NBAA cancelled ABACE over COVID-19 fears … The FAA is challenging Hawaii’s plan to vacate Dillingham Airport on O’ahu … Pilatus gained unimproved file certification for its PC-24 business jet … Service Bulletin issued on replacement aileron hinges on most Cessna singles … See for breaking news in general aviation.


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