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Briefing: February 2020

Harbour Air flew a De Havilland Beaver on floats on pure electric power for the first time in early December as the first step in its program to fully electrify its fleet of historic seaplanes. The Vancouver-based airline serves dozens of communities off British Columbia's west coast and most of its flights are 30 minutes or less so the company believes new advances in battery technology will enable it to safely carry out the dozens of commercial passenger flights it operates every day. The December flight was a demonstration of the motor in a plane near its gross weight with batteries and lasted about 15 minutes. CEO Greg McDougall lifted the almost-70-year-old airframe off the Fraser River and later reported that it flew like a Beaver. He said newer, lighter batteries that are becoming available will allow room for passengers and cargo and the savings on maintenance and downtime will ultimately pay off.

Briefing: January 2020

The final report on the first of two catastrophic crashes that led to the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX was released by Indonesias 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 reports findings. If one of the nine hadnt occurred, maybe the accident wouldnt have occurred, he added. One of those factors was the fact that the pilots didnt 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.

Briefing: December 2019

FlightAware and FlightBridge are teaming up to organize private aircraft travel from doorstep to doorstep with predictability and accuracy. At the recent NBAA-BACE convention in Las Vegas, the two companies announced an integration of their two systems that will let business and private travelers plan their journeys down to the last detail while harnessing machine learning to ensure they go as smoothly as possible.

Briefing: November 2019

Redbird closed its Skyport FBO at San Marcos Regional Airport in Texas citing poor financial performance. In its eight years of operation, the Skyport has never made a dime. Not even a profitable quarter, Redbird founder Jerry Gregoire wrote in a blog post. Had it not been for Redbird Flight Simulators explosive growth and profitability over those years, the Skyport might have found itself in deep trouble very early on. Gregoire said the company miscalculated some fundamentals in building the FBO in 2011, including its location. It was, however, well received by users. It won ACE and STAR awards for best FBO at an airport with less than 4000 annual arrivals in 2018. Employees were offered jobs with the simulator company.

Briefing: October 2019

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.

Briefing: September 2019

uAvionix is working on a wingtip ADS-B Out device that will work with satellite-based ADS-B systems that will be used in several countries and the U.S. system, which relies on ground stations. The skyBeacon X will pack upward and downward pointing antennas into a compact integrated device that will also replace a wingtip position light. The development project was spurred by contact from Canadian pilots who could be required to install ADS-B Out as early as 2023. Nav Canada, the not-for-profit corporation that supplies air traffic services in Canada, will use the Aireon satellite system for ADS-B surveillance and that requires antennas pointed skyward. Most ADS-B systems now available for GA aircraft are designed for the U.S. terrestrial system and the few that do offer the so-called antenna diversity required in Canada are significantly more expensive. uAvionix hopes to have the system ready for sale in 2021.

Briefing: August 2019

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 Houses 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 Airs 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.

Briefing: July 2019

A prominent Alaskan airline and tour company voluntarily ceased operations in late May after two fatal crashes involving its floatplanes in a week. A total of six people, most of them cruise ship passengers, died May 13 when two Taquan aircraft collided while taking the passengers on a flightseeing trip. On May 21, a pilot and passenger died when a Taquan commuter flight from Ketchikan to Metlakatla Harbor cartwheeled on landing and came to rest inverted with the cabin submerged. On May 22, the airline issued a statement saying it had stopped flying indefinitely and that the tragedies left the company and staff reeling.

Briefing: June 2019

Boeing 737 MAX pilots will get increased ground training on the aircrafts Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) but wont drill the anti-stall software in the sim according to updated training requirements under consideration by the FAA. The Boeing 737 MAX Flight Standardization Board (FSB) has sent draft recommendations to the agency saying MCAS ground training must address system description, functionality, associated failure conditions, and flight crew alerting. These items must be included in initial, upgrade, transition, differences, and recurrent training. To this point, there was no requirement for pilots to be trained on MCAS, which is an anti-stall system designed to push the nose of the aircraft down. In fact, many MAX pilots were unaware that it had been added to the aircraft to combat an increased tendency for the plane to pitch up because of the revised placement of the larger and more powerful LEAP engines.

Briefing: May 2019

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 MAXs 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. Its 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.

Briefing: April 2019

ADS-B innovator uAvionix is offering an online instruction program to qualify A&Ps to install its recently certified skyBeacon ADS-B Out device and its soon-to-be certified tailBeacon product. The skyBeacon adds the ADS-B transmitter to wingtip navigation or nav/strobe lights and requires no panel work or antenna installation. The tailBeacon replaces the position light on the tail. The simple system satisfies the FAAs Jan. 1, 2020 mandate requiring ADS-B Out on aircraft operating in almost all controlled airspace. The devices cost less than $2,000 and installation time is about an hour. The program is in response to demand from shops and independents across the country. uAvionix said it hopes to alleviate the building backlog of conventional ADS-B installations, which can take up to 25 hours of shop time.

Briefing: March 2019

The Airbus A220 became the smallest airliner to be approved for 180-minute extended diversion time operations (EDTO), formerly ETOPS, and that could open up lucrative transoceanic routes outside of the normal hubs. The former Bombardier CSeries program, which was acquired by Airbus in July of 2018, targets the 100-150-seat niche and the approval by Transport Canada widens the scope of operations for the highly regarded fly-by-wire airliner. The aircraft was also approved for steep approaches of up to six degrees last summer and with EDTO approval, direct flights from London City Centre Airport to the east coast of North America would be allowed. The approval will also allow the aircraft to be used between Hawaii and the western U.S.