Briefing: January 2020


Lion Air Report Issued

The final report on the first of two catastrophic crashes that led to the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX was released by Indonesia’s air safety board in late October and it painted a damning picture of missteps at every stage leading up to the downing of Lion Air 610 in the Java Sea. From poor basic design, to pilot error and faulty design, the report listed at least nine causal factors for the crash, which killed all 189 people on board. “From what we know, there are nine things that contributed to this accident,” Indonesian air accident investigator Nurcahyo Utomo said in a news conference announcing the report’s findings. “If one of the nine hadn’t occurred, maybe the accident wouldn’t have occurred,” he added. One of those factors was the fact that the pilots didn’t react the way Boeing designers predicted pilots would respond to emergencies such as the faulty angle of attack data triggering the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) into thwarting their attempts to keep the aircraft from diving into the ocean.

Aviation Fatality Rate Jumps

The number of deaths from civil aviation accidents in the U.S. was up substantially in 2018 over 2017 from 347 to 393 and that moved the fatality rate noticeably from .935 per 100,000 flight hours to 1.029 per 100,000 flight hours. Of those who died in 2018, the vast majority, 381, were involved in general aviation mishaps. Part 135 operations accounted for all but one of the remainder and the only airline-related fatality was the death of a woman on a Southwest flight who was partly sucked out of the aircraft after an uncontained engine failure shattered a window.

Mooney Plant Shuts Down

Mooney Aircraft ceased operations in early November and in the first couple of weeks following the closure there was no information available on the company’s future or what it meant for the existing fleet. There were only about 50 people working at the Kerrville plant when it closed and production had waned to a trickle with only six aircraft sold in the first nine months of the year. Anyone calling the plant gets a voicemail saying that all employees have been laid off. There have been unconfirmed reports that the business might be sold. In past closures, the company has continued to produce parts to support the fleet but in the weeks following the latest closure there were no announcements about that.

Mandatory Inspections for 210s, Bonanzas

Cessna 210 owners and many Bonanza operators are heading to their favorite shops for inspections on the wings of their aircraft. In early November, Textron issued a mandatory service letter that requires inspection of the wing carry-through spars for corrosion. Virtually all aircraft except the early models with struts have to be inspected. About 4100 Bonanzas need their right aileron connections checked according to an airworthiness directive issued by the FAA. A string of 17 failures in five different models of the aircraft prompted the AD for models that share the design involved in those failures.

Garmin Introduces Emergency Autoland

Garmin introduced an emergency autoland system that can be activated by a single button or will automatically engage if the system detects that the pilot is no longer in control of the aircraft. The system picks the best airport available and flies precision GPS approach to a landing on a suitable runway, all the while keeping tabs on the terrain, weather, obstacles and the aircraft’s performance. It also communicates the emergency to ATC or on the unicom at the field it has chosen. The system is for emergency use only and can be instantly deactivated by switching off the autopilot.


FAA may allow Type 1 diabetics to get commercial medicals … Thrush Aircraft has restructured to emerge from Chapter 11 protection … NASA unveiled its Maxwell electric aircraft test bed … Vancouver’s Harbour Air converts Beaver floatplane to electric power … Some UK politicians want to ban business aviation … for breaking news in general aviation.


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