Briefing: October 2019


Robotic Pilot Tested

The Air Force and tech company DZYNE have created an ungainly-looking device that can take off, fly and land an airplane like a human pilot and without tearing the aircraft apart. The Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) Center for Rapid Innovation flew a Cessna 206 with the ROBOpilot at the controls for two hours on Aug. 9 and said the idea is to make the machine interchangeable with human pilots. “Imagine being able to rapidly and affordably convert a general aviation aircraft, like a Cessna or Piper, into an unmanned aerial vehicle, having it fly a mission autonomously, and then returning it back to its original manned configuration,” said Dr. Alok Das, senior scientist with the Center for Rapid Innovation, in a statement. A video with the news release shows the robotic pilot making corrections to keep the centerline during takeoff and a bounced, but ultimately safe landing.

Special Attention On AOAs

The FAA is reminding aircraft operators to keep a close eye on their angle of attack sensors, warning the devices are particularly vulnerable to careless damage on the ground. “There are multiple entities involved with the operation and maintenance of aircraft, such as aircraft operators, certificate holders, maintenance providers, ramp service providers and miscellaneous service providers,” the agency said in an Information for Operators sheet in August. “Regardless of certification basis, it is imperative that all operators are aware of the criticality of AOA sensors and the potential for damage during normal operations, maintenance procedures, servicing procedures, and any other procedures around an aircraft where damage to an AOA sensor could occur.” Faulty AOA data is suspected as a factor in the crashes of two Boeing 737 MAX aircraft and suspect AOAs resulted in the temporary grounding of Cirrus VisionJets earlier this year.

Cherokee Fuel Selector AD Eyed

The FAA is considering an airworthiness directive to mandate the replacement of early model fuel selectors in Piper Cherokee and Archer aircraft because it can be too easy for pilots to shut off the fuel entirely when trying to select a different tank. Piper asked for the AD but first the agency wants operators of both types to let it know if they’ve ever accidentally shut off the gas or if they have any other concerns about the issuance of an AD. Piper has redesigned the selectors twice since the first Cherokees were built in 1961 but there are still aircraft flying with the original valves. An AD was issued in 2008 to replace the second generation fuel selectors with the third generation models but there is no such mandate for the first generation valves.

Tecnam Traveller Certified

The Tecnam Traveller, a high-wing twin commuter aircraft, has been certified by the FAA and will soon start service with Cape Air in New England. Cape Air has ordered 100 of the new planes to replace its current fleet. The company has more than 90 aircraft and more than 80 of them are Cessna 402s. Most are used for short hops around New England. The Traveller has two 375 horsepower Lycoming TEO 540 C1A engines and a Garmin G1000NXi panel.

CO Poisoning Behind Malibu Crash

Carbon monoxide poisoning is likely behind the crash of a Piper Malibu in the English Channel that killed the pilot and a famous soccer star. The U.K.’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch says it’s now working with the NTSB to figure out how high levels of the odorless lethal gas got inside the cabin of the Malibu that was flown by David Ibbotson and was carrying soccer phenom Emiliano Sala from France to the U.K. Sala’s body was recovered from the wreckage and an autopsy showed a CO saturation level of 58 percent in Sala’s blood, more than enough to incapacitate him. Ibbotson’s body has never been found but it’s assumed he was similarly affected.


NTSB held a safety roundtable for 135 operators in Alaska … Embraer Praetor certified in Brazil … New FAA Administrator Steve Dickson sworn in Aug. 12 … for breaking news in general aviation.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here