The Asiana Airlines flight crew mismanaged the descent of a 777 into San Francisco International Airport last July, the NTSB said in its probable-cause hearing in June. The pilots made several mistakes and by the time they decided to go around it was too late. The airplane hit the seawall, causing a fiery crash that killed three passengers and seriously injured 49. The board also found the “complexities” of the auto-throttle and autopilot flight director systems contributed to the crash, and should have been more clearly described both in Boeing’s documentation and in Asiana pilot training. Crew fatigue also was a factor. The board also said emergency responders on the scene, who ran over one of the crash victims with a fire truck, should have been better trained and equipped. The board followed up with 27 safety recommendations to the airline, Boeing, the aircraft firefighting group, and the city and county of San Francisco.
To fly around the world powered only by the sun is a goal that has inspired the Solar Impulse project for more than 10 years. In June, the team drew nearer to that flight with the successful launch of Solar Impulse 2. The solar-electric aircraft, with wings stretching 262 feet across, flew from its base in Switzerland and stayed aloft for about two hours, with test pilot Markus Scherdel at the controls. The airplane carries electric motors that are powered from 17,000 solar cells on the wings. On the test flight, the aircraft reached altitudes up to 5,500 feet and averaged a 30-knot ground speed. The team plans to launch the ‘round-the-world flight next year.
A former Blue Angels commanding officer was found guilty of misconduct by a U.S. Navy investigation completed in June. Officials found that U.S. Navy Capt. Gregory McWherter, who served as commanding officer of the Blue Angels for two terms between 2008 and 2012, failed to stop repeated instances of sexual harassment, condoned widespread lewd practices within the squadron, and engaged in inappropriate and unprofessional discussions with his junior officers. McWherter was given a letter of reprimand that will most likely end his Navy career, officials said.
General aviation advocacy groups reacted swiftly and strongly to a three-part story about GA safety in USA Today in June. The story, titled “Unfit for flight,” cited GA accident statistics and said “deaths and injuries were caused by defective parts and dangerous designs” and “manufacturers covered up problems, lied to federal regulators and failed to remedy known malfunctions.” Pete Bunce, president of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, called the story “sensationalistic” and said it ignored advances in GA safety, the declining fatal accident rate, and the exhaustive certification process for aircraft. AOPA and EAA also issued critiques of the report.
A fiery crash at Hanscom Field, a busy general-aviation airport near Boston, killed all seven people on board a Gulfstream G-IV on May 31. A preliminary NTSB report two weeks later left questions about what went wrong. The jet ran off the end of the runway, hit a gully, and was destroyed by fire. The report states the aircraft’s flight data recorder showed “the elevator control surface position during the taxi and [attempted] takeoff was consistent with its position if the gust lock was engaged.” However, the control lock handle, located on the right side of the control pedestal, was found in the off position, and the elevator control lock latch was found not engaged. The NTSB investigation is continuing.
Continental unveiled a new six-cylinder diesel engine…A Tennessee couple plans to retrace the cross-country Flight of Passage in the original, restored Piper PA-11…FAA opened more areas for unmanned aerial systems research and, in Alaska, allowed the first commercial flights over land…an air traffic controller said he was “kidding” when he told a Delta pilot to go around at Atlanta Hartsfield Airport…Boeing certified a stretched 787…Breaking news in general aviation can be found at www.avweb.com.