Briefing: May 2019


Boeing Software Updates

Boeing took the first steps to get its 737 MAX aircraft back in the air in March with a software update to reduce the influence of an automated pitch control system and reduce the chances that it will trigger spuriously. The focus of the update is the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, which was chiefly designed to counter the MAX’s tendency to pitch up at high angles of attack while being hand flown and push the nose over in the case of an impending stall. In the original design, MCAS used data from one of two angle of attack indicators to determine the deflection angle of the horizontal stabilizer. It’s believed faulty data from an AOA played a role in the fatal crashes of a Lion Air MAX 8 last October and an Ethiopian Airlines MAX 8 in March. The new software is reported to draw data from both AOAs and limit the MCAS to moving the tail feathers only once, instead of repeatedly countering pilot inputs. Implementation of the software was expected in April after FAA review.

Cirrus Aileron Bolts Need Checking

The FAA is warning Cirrus owners to make sure the safety wire securing the bolts on the aileron roll actuators are in place and undamaged. The Aviation Maintenance Alert was issued in March after an accident investigation involving a Cirrus SR20 in Houston in May of 2018. The maintenance alert also applies to SR22s. In the Houston mishap, the pilot reported loss of roll control immediately after takeoff and was able to land on the overrun. The bolt and wire on the left aileron were missing. The bolt is easily accessible and visible during the walkaround.

ADS-B Crunch Time

With only eight months to go before the ADS-B mandate is in force, the crunch is on for those who have waited until now to comply. The race to equip has resulted in an unanticipated uptick in associated panel upgrades which is tying up shop time and reducing capacity for procrastinators. A survey of avionics shops showed that while a standard ADS-B retrofit might require a week or less, many aircraft are spending longer in the shop to get new autopilots and other upgrades. As demand continues to increase, some shops are reporting backorders on some equipment, further adding to delays. On January 1, 2020, aircraft that don’t have ADS-B Out will not be cleared into most controlled airspace.

BVLOS Drone Deliveries Begin

The FAA has allowed drone company Flirtey to start using its drones to deliver heart defibrillators to those helping heart attack victims in Reno, Nevada. Although everyone hopes the need will be small for that kind of service, it’s significant because it will mark the first time that drones will be legally allowed to deliver a package beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) of the operator. The pilot will maneuver the drone using the aircraft’s onboard camera sending images to a ground monitor. Of course, the goal is to expand the service to all sorts of deliveries and Flirtey has Domino’s Pizza and 7-Eleven as significant investors.

Thank You, Mary Grady

Long-time IFR contributing editor Mary Grady died March 12 after a long illness. Regular readers might not recognize her name but she wrote this “Briefing” page for the magazine for more than seven years and the feature didn’t carry a byline until this issue. “Her material was always first rate and required no copy editing at all. I often mused that I wished I could bottle her professionalism, enthusiasm, respectful cooperation, and general excellence,” said IFR Editor Frank Bowlin. Grady was a contributing editor for AVweb and covered aviation for Robb Report. She also won many awards for environmental reporting and published three books.


More than 4500 people attended the Women in Aviation International meeting in Long Beach…Visibility obscured by the setting sun may have been a factor in a fatal runway collision in Compton, California…Switzerland stopped commercial flights in historic Junkers JU-52 aircraft in wake of fatal crash…Breaking news in general aviation can be found


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