Briefing: August 2019


Pilots Defended

Allied Pilots Association President Daniel Carey vigorously defended the Ethiopian Airlines pilots who died when their Boeing 737 MAX overpowered their determined but ultimately futile attempts to keep the airplane from diving into the ground. Carey and several others testified at a hearing held by the House’s Subcommittee on Aviation as a stakeholder in the aftermath of the lengthy grounding of the new aircraft. Carey said public comments that cast doubt on the skills and professionalism of the Ethiopian crew are baseless and offensive. “I am very familiar with Ethiopian Air’s pilot training program and facilities, and I can tell you that they are world-class,” he told committee members. “To make the claim that these accidents would not happen to U.S.-trained pilots is presumptuous and not supported by fact.” He also called for changes to the FAA certification process and warned of training shortcomings for pilots returning to the MAX with its new software.

Unconscious Pilot

The NTSB says pilot incapacitation led to the fatal crash of a Cessna Citation in May but it will likely never know what caused the pilot to lose consciousness at the controls. Gonzalez Mejia, a 9000-hour commercial pilot, was delivering the aircraft from Alton, Illinois to its new owner at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport when he stopped communicating and the airplane headed out over the Atlantic. A couple of Air Force F-15s caught up to it and saw Mejia slumped over the controls. The aircraft presumably ran out of fuel and dropped into the water. Neither the aircraft nor Mejia’s body was found so there’s no way to determine if Mejia suffered a medical issue or if a problem with the aircraft led to his loss of consciousness.

Tamarack Citation Fleet Fixed

Most Citation 525-series that had a popular active winglet mod were quickly repaired after EASA and the FAA issued emergency ADs grounding them. Tamarack Aerospace said it supplied owners with the parts necessary to prevent the uncommanded rolls that prompted the AD. The company and most owners were already taking action to replace parts in the faulty actuator responsible for the spurious rolling. But while the aircraft were expected to get a clean bill of health, the company was forced into bankruptcy. Company spokespeople said the company is restructuring and will continue to support the aircraft equipped with the mod. The winglets reduce drag but also change the center of pressure on the wings and have built in spoilers that deploy in gusty or turbulent conditions. In the original design, a small screw in an actuator could fall out, short it out and cause asymmetrical movement causing the roll. At least five incidents were reported.

Airbus Launches A321XLR

Airbus has answered Boeing’s musing about a new midsize airplane (NMA) with a nuts and bolts long-range version of the A321. The A321XLR was green-lighted at the Paris Air Show and will pack in as many as 244 people on a nine-hour (4700 NM) trip from, say, Chicago to Barcelona, and will require minimal flight crew training because it will be essentially the same as earlier A320neo models. Airbus is also claiming a 30 percent reduction in seat mile costs, which is bound to get the attention of airlines. Airbus also says the new model’s development costs are minimal.

Flapping Wingtips

Airbus is testing a new wing design that allows the wingtips to “flap” in response to turbulence and wind gusts. It has flown a scale model of an A321 with aeroelastic hinges on the wingtips. By allowing physics to naturally relieve stress from the wing structure, Airbus engineers are hoping they can take weight out of the wing structure and reduce drag. They plan to scale up the testing to eventually put it on an airliner.


IAG ordered 200 MAX 8 and 10 aircraft at the Paris Air Show…Boeing apologized for the 346 lives lost in two MAX crashes…A United 757 may have been written off in a Newark hard landing…CubCrafters added 11,000 square feet of space for its builder-assist program…Aspen introduced a VFR version of Evolution EFIS aimed primarily at flight schools…Breaking news in general aviation can be found at


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