NC Student Places in National Aviation Art Contest

Green Hope High School student Cameron Fitz is being recognized for placing third at the national level in the 2017 Aviation Art Contest. Fitz, 17, placed second in this year’s state competition, sponsored by the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Division of Aviation.

Fitz’s artwork was sent to Switzerland, where it will now compete in the international contest.

“Cameron’s artwork is an impressive representation of the theme ‘Beyond the Clouds,’” said Division of Aviation Director Bobby Walston. “We are proud to see a North Carolina student advance to the international contest.”

The artwork for the national competition was judged for originality, creativity and use of the theme. Winners will receive ribbons and a framed reproduction of their artwork.

The national competition’s panel of judges included former U.S. Representative to Fédération Aéronautique Internationale and former NASA Education Coordinator Debbie Gallaway, educator and artist Margaret Finch, National Aeronautic Association Director of Awards and Events Stephanie Berry, and Smithsonian Institution National Air & Space Museum Specialist and Photographer Carolyn Russo.

The top finishers in each category of the national contest include:


  • First Place: Katherine Lee, New Jersey
  • Second Place: Gabriel Sanedrin, California
  • Third Place: Oliver Chen, New York


  • First Place: Sophia Shin, California
  • Second Place: Jennifer Meng, Michigan
  • Third Place:  Kelly Xu, Texas


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Fly Safe: Prevent Loss of Control Accidents

Fly Safe: Prevent Loss of Control Accidents

March 30– The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and General Aviation (GA) community’s national #FlySafe campaign aims to educate GA pilots on the best practices to calculate and predict aircraft performance and to operate within established aircraft limitations.

 Message from FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta:
The FAA and industry are working together to prevent Loss of Control (LOC) accidents and save lives. You can help make a difference by joining our #FlySafe campaign. Each month on, we provide pilots with a Loss of Control solution developed by a team of experts. They have studied the data and developed solutions – some of which are already reducing risk. We hope you will join us in this effort and spread the word. Follow #FlySafe on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I know that we can reduce these accidents by working together as a community.

 What is Loss of Control?
An LOC accident involves an unintended departure of an aircraft from controlled flight. LOC can happen because the aircraft enters a flight regime that is outside its normal flight envelope and may quickly develop into a stall or spin. It can introduce an element of surprise for the pilot.

  Maneuvering Flight: Low-Level Safety
This month we’re focused on how to maintain safety during the maneuvering phase of flight: during take-off, landing, and while you are maneuvering in the traffic pattern. Other examples of maneuvering flight include aerobatics formation flight, turns around a point, and aerial application.

 Did You Know:

  • Maneuvering flight accidents can result in fatalities, serious injuries lost wages, severe damage to the aircraft, insurance claims, and lawsuits.
  • More than 25 percent of general aviation fatal accidents occur during these flightsbelow 1000 feet Above Ground Level (AGL).
  • Most of these accidents involve stall/spin scenarios and buzzing attempts.
  • Many occur before you’ve left the traffic pattern.

Relative Wind and Angle of Attack

Pilots learn during flight training that the relative wind is opposite the direction of flight.

  • Any discussion of relative wind should include Angle of Attack (AoA), the angle between the chord line of the wing and the relative wind.
  • When the aircraft exceeds its critical angle of attack, it will stall in nose-up and nose-down flight attitudes.

Training and technology are available to help pilots avoid exceeding the critical AoA. An AoA indicator warns when you are about to exceed a wing’s lift capacity. Consider adding one to your safety toolkit!

A pilot can stall at any flight attitude and airspeed. However, most fatal stall/spin accidents occur at low altitudes, when recovery is unlikely.

  • Stay safe by practicing stalls, or approaches to stalls, at a safe altitude with an experienced instructor.
  • Remember that turns, either vertical or horizontal, load the wings and increase the stall speed dramatically.
  • Be aware of how stall/spins happen and how you can get out of them.

Traffic Pattern Rules
In the pattern, you’re flying at low altitudes, low airspeeds and high angles of attack. Know your aircraft’s limitations and remember these simple rules:

  • Base to final: “Cheating” on the turn after overshooting final is very dangerous. Keep a normal turn going. If the approach is not salvageable once you roll out, go around!
  • Stabilized approach: Airline crews stop maneuvering 1,000 feet above when on approach for landing. For lighter aircraft, 500 feet could be the maneuvering “hard deck.” This means the flight is on airspeed, at the right altitude, with the appropriate descent rate and aligned with the runway. Not stable on approach? Go around!
  • Before-landing checklist: Complete your checklist, with the possible exceptions of landing flaps and props full forward before turning base. If you are interrupted, run the checklist again. It’s better to take your time than to miss an important item. Don’t have time? Go around!

Target Fixation
Each pilot has practiced turns around a point to build skill in wind compensation, aircraft ground track control, orientation, and division of attention.

However, you will increase your risk for stalls if you do this maneuver while close to the ground. They are called “moose stalls” in Alaska and “coyote stalls” in Arizona because the pilot is focused more on the target point than flying the aircraft. Bottom line: focus on your flying, and not an object outside of the cockpit!

Formation Flying

It’s critical that you know the skills of the pilot next to you. A miscommunication or lack of skill can be deadly. Practice, practice, practice before attempting this type of maneuver.


Buzzing over your friend’s house to show off your plane or flying skills is NEVER a good idea. It’s reckless, and could lead to a violent AoA stall. Buzzing accidents account for many maneuvering accidents and are preventable. No amount of skill will allow recovery from a spin below 1000 feet. Be safe and don’t do a buzzing stunt!

 Canyon Flying

Experienced mountain pilots are trained to fly in canyon conditions, are familiar with the terrain, and make sure they always have an out. Following a river at low altitude, with terrain on either side, can turn into a dangerous situation. Surprises can be around the next bend including wires, hills, or another aircraft. If your aircraft is not capable of making a 180-degree turn in the confines of the canyon, don’t go there. Do not fly below canyon rims!

More about Loss of Control

 Contributing factors may include:

  • Poor judgment or aeronautical decision making
  • Failure to recognize an aerodynamic stall or spin and execute corrective action
  • Intentional failure to comply with regulations
  • Failure to maintain airspeed
  • Failure to follow procedure
  • Pilot inexperience and proficiency
  • Use of prohibited or over-the-counter drugs, illegal drugs, or alcohol

Did you know?

  • In 2015, 384 people died in 238 general aviation accidents.
  • Loss of Control was the number one cause of these accidents.
  • Loss of Control happens in all phases of flight. It can happen anywhere and at any time.
  • There is one fatal accident involving Loss of Control every four days.

Learn more:
Take the FAASTeam Online Course, Maneuvering: Approach and Landing.

Bearhawk now flying on five continents

General Aviation News

Bearhawk Aircraft reports its line of utility, transport and recreational aircraft are now flying on five continents.

The Barrows Bearhawk was originally conceived and first built in the mid-1990s in Virginia. Today, three models are offered in both plan and kit form for amateur aircraft builders.

Designer Bob Barrows originally brought the aircraft to fruition as a means of transporting aircraft engines in support of his engine overhaul business.  Bob has ties to North Carolina being a member of EAA Chapter 8 at Shiloh Airport in Rockingham County.  Meeting times and more information on the chapter is below.

The original four-place Bearhawk served its designated utility role well. But not one to sit on his achievements, Barrows proceeded to work on subsequent models to include the Bearhawk Patrol, a tandem two-place rendition in 2002. The first kit-built Bearhawk LSA debuted in 2012. Also a two-place aircraft, the LSA is a lightweight all-new design that meets Light-Sport Aircraft requirements­­ while sharing the backcountry qualities of its predecessors.

The latest incarnation is a derivative of the original four-place Bearhawk airframe incorporating design features of all three previous aircraft. This “Model-B” Bearhawk offers increased speed, improved handling, and other features, according to company officials.

Today Bearhawk aircraft are operating on five continents, including Africa (in South Africa), North America (in 36 states), South America (in Brazil), Europe (in Norway and Germany), and Australia (in New Zealand’s “Southern Alps”).

In 2013, there were 82 Bearhawk aircraft on the FAA registry, while today there are 112. Many more kits and plans have been sold. As these aircraft are completed, the number of Bearhawk operating around the world is increasing, company official said.

Stoneville, NC

President: Don Collins
Contact: 336-404-0063 |
Meetings: 2nd Sat., Noon 12:00p
Location: Shiloh Airport
2691 Settle Bridge Road
Stoneville, NC

Aviation Technician – Greensboro

Avionics Technician – Greensboro, NC

Strom Aviation •
Greensboro, North Carolina, USA

Position Type: Contractor

Job Description:

Looking for Avionics / Electrical Tech – 3-5 years of relevant industry experience
Long term work working on KC10’s.
Job Requirements:

  • High School diploma or equivalent.
  • Must provide own tools as indicated on company tool list.
  • Language (read, write, speak, and understand English).
  • Three (3) or more years experience troubleshooting and effecting Avionics repairs on Military or Commercial aircraft


  • FAA Airframe and Powerplant or FAA Airframe certificate.
  • FCC License.
  • Three (3) or more years experience troubleshooting and effecting Avionics Repairs on heavy transport category aircraft in and MRO environment
Salary Range: Neg-Neg
Job Ident #:

Triad college names director of newest aviation program

Katie Arcieri – Triad Business Journal

Guilford Technical Community College said Monday that it has named Daniel Reed as program director of the college’s new aerostructures manufacturing and repair degree program that will begin this fall.

Under Reed, the college’s program will “prepare students to assemble, fabricate, inspect, manufacture, repair, test and manage the construction of aerostructures in an industrial setting, as well as in other areas of the advanced manufacturing world,” according to school officials.

Reed has been named program director after years of planning by GTCC, whose new program complements the school’s other aviation concentrations in aviation management, career pilot, aviation technologies and avionics. The fifth degree program will also include work dealing with cabin solutions and interiors to assist area aviation manufacturers.

“It is a great honor to be part of the development and implementation of a new aviation program at this institution,” Reed said. “I have several years of experience in aviation and production management. I know what the aerospace industry is looking for in a new employee, and I want to be part of creating that.”

Reed has a dozen years of experience in aircraft maintenance, manufacturing, and flight operations and most recently worked as a production manager for HAECO Cabin Solutions, where he managed the sub-assembly and final assembly of airliner passenger seats, as well as a plastic thermoforming and CNC routing manufacturing shop.

He began his aviation career as a structural mechanic in the U.S. Air Force at Pope Air Force Base, N.C. and as a helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army.

“Dan brings real-time, local aerospace manufacturing experience to the aviation programs at GTCC,” said Nick Yale, Director of Aviation at GTCC. “This local experience is key in ensuring the programs we develop meet local employer’s needs, with students progressing through the program. Dan’s contacts in aviation manufacturing locally and nationally also will benefit GTCC by giving us technical support as we grow and mature the program.”

Honda faces long haul to recoup jet costs

Aerospace & Defense

After three decades building an airplane from scratch, Michimasa Fujino, 56, chief engineer of the Hondajet, might have to reach a ripe old age to see Honda Motor Co’s pet aviation project recoup its development costs.

Honda has declined to reveal the costs, but the automaker has been researching aircraft development since 1986, and Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis at aerospace consulting firm Teal Group, thinks it has likely spent roughly $1 billion on the jet program since the early 2000s – more than double the $400 million typical for similar jets.

A five-year delivery delay and developing its own engine bumped up the bill.

The company that gave the world the Honda Civic, which revolutionized compact cars in the United States in the 1970s, is betting its $4.5 million dollar, six-seater light business jet, the first aircraft developed by an automaker since World War Two, will expand the fuel-efficient private jet market.

The jet began deliveries in late 2015 and is priced slightly higher than competitors in the conservative light businessjet segment.

“The biggest mistake people make when getting into the aircraft business is (thinking) that the cash hemorrhaging ends once you start delivering aircraft,” said Aboulafia.

“But very often, it increases,” he said, citing marketing and production ramp-up costs.

Fujino, CEO of Honda Aircraft Company, has said he expects it will take at least five years to start generating profits, and Aboulafia thinks it could take much longer to recoup sunk costs.

“If they, miraculously, can generate $1 million in profit on each aircraft, then they need to sell 1,000 planes, after they build the (first 100 or so) aircraft that are unprofitable,” he said.

The project has depended on Honda’s deep pockets. The automaker’s net profit for the 2016 financial year was around $3 billion, more than triple that of Textron (TXT.N), maker of the rival Cessna Citation M2 jet.

Honda hopes the project will have intangible benefits – varnishing its brand image to claw back automobile market share in North America, which has slipped below 10 percent in the past few years, and leveraging jet-engineering skills to raise the efficiency and performance of future car models.


Fujino acknowledges that customers, particularly first-time buyers, may need convincing.

“We want to show customers that even though we don’t have a history of selling aircraft, we’re in the market because we have something new to offer,” he told Reuters in an interview.

“For us that’s more important than having a track record.”

Businessjet operators have shown interest, as it would offer an upscale alternative to turbo prop jets, often used for small charter services.

“The Hondajet would provide a new product for that segment, which is now mostly rattling around on old turbo props,” said Richard Hodkinson, vice president of aircraft sales and acquisitions at aircraft services operator Clay Lacy Aviation in Van Nuys, California.

“It wouldn’t be bigger than a turboprop in terms of the cabin, but it would be new, it would be quiet, it would be more efficient, and you’d be in a jet.”

To sell the jet, Honda, which is targeting wealthy individuals and business owners, has taken a page from the auto industry playbook, establishing a dealership network across the Americas and Europe, though it plans to sell directly to fleet operators.

“The car dealership model works for achieving high-volume, localized sales. The model may not be perfect, but Honda U.S. car sales have expanded by leveraging the strengths of the dealer system,” said Fujino.

Some think that could be a mistake.Established makers often sell directly to customers and offer maintenance and parts services through their own sales outlets, which takes time and resources to establish, but enables them to control quality and consistency of service.

“You can’t transfer the dealership model from the auto industry to aircraft,” said Aboulafia. “You’re sending a message that you’re not going to be a big player … If they want to develop a family of products and really get out there and be a force in the market, then it’s a missed opportunity.”


Unlike the cheap-and-cheerful Civic, the Hondajet is marketed like an expensive sports car, presented on a slowly rotating platform in the company’s delivery room, a pristine, high-ceilinged hangar at its headquarters in Greensboro, N.C.

“The Hondajet is meant to evoke the image of being the sports car of business jets. We wanted it to have the ‘wow’ factor of a beautiful car,” Fujino said late last year.

The jet has been a labor of love for Fujino, who confounded industry colleagues with the craft’s engineering masterstroke: engines mounted on the wings, not the fuselage, which reduces cabin noise and makes space for a full-sized washroom, a first in its segment.

He also says he found an aerodynamic sweet spot for the engine placement, helping the jet use an average of roughly 15 percent less fuel than rivals, which include the Phenom 100, made by Brazil’s Embraer SA (EMBR3.SA), and the Citation M2, its biggest competitor.

In the delivery room, Fujino obsesses over every detail of presentation, angling the lighting to highlight the contours of the aircraft’s softly pinched nose, inspired by a Ferragamo stiletto.

He often personally hands over the keys to new owners and says he intends to keep that up even as annual production rises from around 25 now to perhaps 80 in the coming years, nearly double the Citation M2, according to Teal estimates.

“I know the faces of all of our current customers,” he said.



It’s a beautiful October morning and Conor Dancy and his wife, Sam, are flying the coast of North Carolina.

The slender strip of land that comprises the state’s famed Outer Banks and the Cape Hatteras National Seashore is below. In the high season of tourists and sunbathers and fishermen, this coastline would be filled with families, SUVs, and fishing poles. Today it’s just the hum of the Cessna Skylane’s engine. For the 25-year-old Dancys (they were high school sweethearts), this is a getaway the hardworking young couple could not imagine in the heat and high prices of July. They are bound for the farthest tip of these Outer Banks, to a barrier island accessible only by water or air.

Conor and Sam’s three-day vacation takes advantage of reduced rates and few tourists in the off-season. Conor is a corporate pilot who, while on the road quite a bit, rarely gets to enjoy flying just for fun. Sam is a human resources professional who also works long hours. They’ve rented a Skylane from Conor’s former employer, a flight school in Leesburg, Virginia.


  • Barrier Island Flying
    Taking a selfie at the Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.
  • Barrier Island Flying
    North Carolina’s coast stretches 300 miles along the Atlantic Ocean. Photography by Chris Rose
  • Barrier Island Flying
    Flying to Ocracoke in their rented Skylane are Conor and Sam Dancy.
  • Barrier Island Flying
    Local seafood is a main attraction on this barrier island.
  • Barrier Island Flying
    Sunset on Silver Lake, the town harbor and marina.
  • Barrier Island Flying
    Taking a selfie at the Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.

There are just six airports granting access to the 200-mile stretch that is the Outer Banks, beginning at Sandbridge, Virginia, and ending just past Ocracoke Island, North Carolina. Fuel is only available at mainland airports Currituck County Regional Airport in Currituck (ONX) and Dare County Regional Airport in Manteo (MQI) so GA pilots plan accordingly. The string of peninsulas and islands separate three sounds—ocean inlets—from the mighty Atlantic Ocean. This stretch of ocean has claimed many ships, from seventeenth-century pirates to German U-boats, in what is rightly called the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.”

The trip is in hurricane season, falling a week after Hurricane Matthew caused flooding and damage in the Outer Banks. “In the days leading up to our departure I kept a close eye on the National Hurricane Center’s forecast,” Conor says. “Thankfully the atmosphere was quiet during our trip, and nothing materialized.”

Flying from the Washington, D.C., area, the Skylane skirts the no-fly zones around the nation’s capital and later the massive military installation at Norfolk, Virginia. How inspiring the United States armada looks from here, peering down at the aircraft carriers and other U.S. Navy ships in port. The couple tries to identify the ships and talks about the amazing engineering marvel that is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, a 20-mile-long four-lane bridge and tunnel structure first constructed in the late 1950s. Between its suspension bridges are two two-mile-long underwater tunnels so that from the air, it looks as if the bridges simply disappear.

The first stop is to see the Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kitty Hawk. Touching down at First Flight Airport (FFA) after overflying the monument, the site is more imposing than expected for the uninitiated. Visitors feel a certain sense of history and inspiration here, the brothers’ copper busts and the 60-foot granite monument towering above. The couple walks the memorial grounds to the locations where the brothers flew, visit the 9,900-square-foot visitors center, tour the reconstructed camp buildings. There’s a pilot lounge here, accessible by access code, as are others at the unattended airstrips on the Outer Banks. It’s hard to believe this well-maintained 3,000-foot-long airstrip was built in 1963.

Heading farther south, the couple stop at Hatteras Airport (HSE). It’s a lonely spot on this fall day but the perfect weather beckons them to walk to “town” for lunch. The walk is longer than expected and they begin to notice that things aren’t quite right here; television sets and washers and dryers and mattresses and toys and broken pieces of furniture are on the roadside, haphazardly piled up and strewn about. Hurricane Matthew cut a nasty swath through here just a week before and cleanup had not yet begun. Other than some chips and sodas from the bait and tackle store near the airport, they don’t find much. Such are the challenges of traveling in the off-season.

Back in the air again and headed for the prize: Ocracoke Island. This barrier island has been called “enchanted” and like Brigadoon, that mystical Scottish village that only appears once every 100 years, Ocracoke appears off the right wing like a vision. There are 16 miles of windswept beach here and a tiny village just one mile square. Visitors can easily walk into town from the airport (W95) and more easily walk straight to the beach, but the hotel has a van and a driver waiting. The van rattles and thumps toward the village (the van has seen better days) and arrives just in time to see the moment visitors have been rhapsodizing about for years—sunset over Silver Lake, the small hidden harbor inside the village.

The Anchorage Inn is modest, although its views are not. Balconies overlook Silver Lake and the marina, where anglers have been bringing in their catch since the early eighteenth century. It’s romantic, peaceful, tranquil: three words that doubtful could be used at the height of the season, when the thousands of tourists who arrive here on one of the three ferries to the island disembark. There are waterfront bars and restaurants, bicycle rental shops, gift stores, and wine and cheese shops. Tonight? It’s bedtime at 8 p.m. Or read a book by a bedside lamp. Or sit on the balcony and sip wine and trade flying stories. There’s a 10 p.m. noise ordinance in the village always, so even when the tourists are here, it’s a quiet place. Good sleeping town.

Transportation around the village is on foot, by bicycle, or by golf cart. Conor and Sam are avid bicyclists and have an app on their phones they are anxious to use and record their miles. It’s an easy loop around the village when you’re moving at their pace. To start the day, they have breakfast at The Pony Island Restaurant. “The Pony,” as the locals call it, is the oldest restaurant on the island and is owned by Vince O’Neal, whose family are original settlers on the island. The restaurant is famous for its big Southern breakfasts, but small plates for this sporty couple are very reasonable. It won’t win awards for décor, but its simple furnishings and remarkable old photographs from the restaurant’s beginnings in 1959 are charming.

Ocracoke is known for its wild ponies, believed to have washed up here from shipwrecks. They don’t wander quite like they used to; picket fences around the original old homes were to keep them out because they once roamed free. Now they’re protected on the national seashore. The Ocracoke Lighthouse was built in 1823. There are 90 family cemeteries on the island, some very old, some more modern. There’s a historic one that commemorates British sailors who were killed by a German submarine and whose bodies washed ashore during World War II. It’s actually a little piece of Britain and the British flag flies there all the time.



Visitors can’t do the town justice if they don’t partake in some pirate lore and plunder some shops. Teach’s Hole is where Blackbeard the Pirate, aka Edward Teach, lost his head in 1718. On Pamlico Sound he fought and lost his last battle; it took five pistol shots and 27 cuts to his body to bring him down, and then the British sailors chopped off his head. You can find out all the gory details at the Teach’s Hole and Blackbeard Exhibit on the Beach Road. However, every October the town is usually overrun with swashbucklers for the annual Blackbeard’s Pirate Jamboree. Sadly, Hurricane Matthew had put the kibosh on the 2016 jamboree and although Ocracoke has been cleaned up from the storm, measurements at buildings all throughout the island show the record water level the hurricane had caused.This is a working waterfront, and at 4 p.m. the charter fishing boats bring in their catch. You can watch them unload, divvy up the catch, and clean the fish while enjoying a cocktail at Smacnally’s Bar & Grill.

Even budget weekends deserve a nice meal and the Flying Melon Café on Back Road did not disappoint. It was the word flying in the name that enticed the travelers, but the New Orleans-style cooking kept them there. Chef/owner Michael Schramel is not a pilot, but he has a big head, hence the “melon” in the restaurant’s name.

Charming, kitschy, romantic, relaxing—but all good things must end, so it is time to preflight and head back to the real world. At the airport is another couple who has flown their Cherokee in just for a stroll on the beach and lunch at Howard’s Pub (the restaurant had picked them up but they’d walked back). Stopping for fuel at Manteo, Conor and Sam discover another great flying destination on North Carolina’s Outer Banks—and make plans to return.


Distractions Are Deadly: How You Can Avoid This Accident

Swayne Martin – BoldMethod

While pilots are usually good at multitasking, too many accidents each year are caused by distractions in the cockpit. Most distraction related accidents boil down to two problems: not knowing your airplane well enough, and not maintaining a sterile cockpit.

Let’s take a look at what happened…


The Fatal Accident

On May 24th, 2013, a twin-engine Piper PA-34-200T Seneca broke up mid-air over Johnstown, NY. Both the pilot and single passenger were killed. According to the NTSB, “the volunteer medical transport flight was established on course toward an en route navigational fix. Upon reaching the fix, the flight was expected to continue toward the initial approach fix for an instrument approach at the Rome, NY Airport (KRME). About 5 miles southeast of the en route fix, the airplane began to deviate off course.”


“When asked by an air traffic controller about the reason for the deviation, the pilot stated that the airplane had turned “the wrong way” and indicated that he had incorrectly loaded the instrument approach into the airplane’s GPS. The controller provided a vector to the pilot to return the airplane to the previously established course, and the pilot acknowledged. About 1 minute later, radar contact with the airplane was lost” (NTSB).

How One Distraction Led To Deadly Disorientation

Spatial disorientation most commonly occurs when pilots lose exterior visual references. According to weather data, the pilot was likely in IMC.

Restricted visibility, turbulence, and the airplane’s unexpected off-course turn were all factors leading to spatial disorientation. But worst of all, the pilot became distracted with the operation and configuration of the GPS. Before reaching the fix, the sudden unintended course change clearly resulted in the pilot struggling to fly the airplane in a level attitude while figuring out correct avionics settings. According to the NTSB, the resulting ground track, rapid turning descent, and breakup were consistent with a loss of control as a result of spatial disorientation.


Undetected Spatial Disorientation

With his head down inside the cockpit, correcting for improper autopilot and GPS settings, the pilot most likely didn’t notice the airplane entering an unusual attitude. When bank and pitch changes at rates slower than 3 degrees per second, your inner ear (the vestibular system) has a hard time detecting the change, especially in cases where visual references are totally lost.


While inside the clouds and focused on the autopilot and navigation systems, the pilot probably didn’t sense any change in bank, pitch, or speed. According to the NTSB, “radar data indicated that the airplane entered a rapidly-descending left turn in the final moments of the flight during which it reached an estimated 80-degree left bank, lost about 3,700 feet of altitude in 36 seconds, and accelerated to an airspeed of about 240 knots before breaking up.” The airplane’s Vne speed was 195 knots.


How You Can Avoid This Outcome

While there wasn’t a cockpit voice recorder or surviving witness, there is one important lesson we can learn from this accident.

You must know how to operate all of your aircraft’s systems. In this tragic case, it’s likely that the pilot was startled by the unintended course change. As he struggled to re-load the approach and reset the autopilot, the aircraft entered an undetected unusual attitude. The saying “Aviate, Navigate, Communicate” holds true in this case study. Always ensure you’re maintaining positive aircraft control before troubleshooting navigation systems or contacting ATC for assistance.


Why Sterile Cockpit Procedures Are Critical

A distraction or two can turn deadly quickly, whether you’re flying VFR or IFR. That’s why airlines have strict sterile cockpit rules for their pilots during critical phases of flight to reduce distractions. In a sterile cockpit, attention is focused solely on operational procedures and situational awareness. Even if you aren’t flying for an airline, there several things you can do to maintain a sterile cockpit:

  • Stop non-essential conversations (with both passengers and crew)
  • Keep your eyes outside the cockpit and scanning for traffic
  • Silence your phone and put it away
  • Don’t reset or operate any cameras you might’ve mounted to record your flight
  • Monitor the correct frequencies and listen for your callsign
  • Perform and verify all your checklist procedures

Critical phases of flight are usually checklist-saturated, traffic-saturated, and require a high amount of focus. Some of these critical times include traffic pattern operations, takeoff, climb, descent, and landing. Don’t just limit your sterile cockpit to these times, however. If you’re approaching bad weather, near other traffic, or in busy airspace for instance, you should follow the same precautions.

Sterile cockpits are all about eliminating unnecessary distractions. They’ll help you fly safer and more efficiently during the times you need it most.


Trump budget calls for spinning off ATC

General Aviation News

President Donald Trump released his first budget proposal March 16, 2017, which calls for spinning off Air Traffic Control from the FAA to an independent non-government organization.

The proposal mirrors that of a report released recently by the Eno Center for Transportation’s Aviation Working Group.

“The purpose of spinning off air traffic control from the federal government is to create a safer and more efficient system with the potential to continue the growth of America’s aviation industry. If the FAA was freed of its role of directing air traffic, it would be able to focus on its core mission as the aviation safety overseer,” said Eno’s President and CEO Robert Puentes.

By not being subject to budget sequestration, spending caps, government shutdowns, and hiring freezes, an independent entity would also be better able to undertake upgrades, as well as go to the capital markets for funding.

“Necessary, but sometimes cumbersome, federal procurement rules have hindered the government’s efforts to modernize air traffic control,” said Eno aviation expert Rui Neiva. “This shift would save taxpayers money and help make this crucial part of our economy more efficient.”

The ATC tower at DuPage Airport in Illinois

Not surprising is GA’s continued opposition to the possible privatization of ATC, with worries that a private entity would be controlled by the airlines.

GA advocates worry that an ATC controlled by the airlines will restrict general aviation access to certain airports or airspace. They also are opposed to the implementation of user fees to fund the system.

“We know that the notion of privatizing ATC has for decades been pushed by large airlines,” said Bolen, president and CEO of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA). “Under such a proposal, the ATC system – which is a natural monopoly that currently serves the public’s interest, and is overseen by the public’s elected representatives – would be turned over to a non-governmental entity effectively controlled by the airlines.

“Under such a scenario, the small and mid-size towns that rely on access to general aviation for everything from civil services, to emergency support, to business access and more, could have their access to airports and airspace threatened,” he continued. “This is among the many important reasons NBAA has long been very concerned over the big airlines’ proposal. Simply put, privatization of the ATC system would benefit commercial airlines at the expense of the citizens, companies and communities that rely general aviation.”

Removing ATC from FAA control and oversight would pose a significant risk to general aviation’s long-term access to the National Airspace System (NAS), echoed officials with the Experimental Aircraft Association.

“We cannot stress enough the threat ATC privatization poses to our ability to enjoy recreational aviation as freely as we do today,” officials said in a statement released March 16, 2017.

“Under such a system, ATC would be overseen and managed by a board made up of commercial interests, with the nation’s airlines having the most powerful and numerous voices,” EAA officials said. “These interests would inevitably drown out whatever token representation and economic impact GA would have on such a board, creating an ATC system that would serve commercial interests with the greatest financial resources.

“Proponents of such a system claim it will make our NAS more efficient, comparing the proposal to other privatized systems around the world,” the EAA statement continued. “But the size and complexity of the U.S. NAS dwarfs those airspace systems, and in many of those systems general aviation has been stifled.”

Additionally, proponents claim that the proposal from the White House, as well as previous privatization proposals, would save U.S. taxpayers millions of dollars, but fail to specify how that would be achieved when all existing labor and infrastructure costs would be transferred to a corporatized system, EAA officials continued.

“The truth is, these proposals do not address the underlying problem of a stable Congressional funding stream for ATC services and system modernization,” the statement noted. “A privatized system would inevitably rely on the flying public, including general aviation users, for its operations and capital investments, with resources flowing to the areas of greatest economic impact: Air carrier hubs and urban facilities.

“As such, ATC privatization would likely threaten funding for infrastructure improvements to rural airports such as towers, instrument landing facilities, and other safety-critical needs for general aviation,” the statement continued. “In fact, consistent with this shift in resources from rural needs to major air carrier commercial operations, the White House budget eliminates funding for the Essential Air Service program, which is designed to preserve commercial air service in rural areas.”

EAA officials note that the FAA and Congress “are the only unbiased arbiters ensuring fair access to the NAS to all of its users.”

“Access today is on a first come, first served basis,” they noted. “The trend under the FAA’s modernization programs has been toward a best equipped, best served model while still preserving access for general aviation operations that cannot meet new equipment mandates. Once responsibility for the air traffic system is taken out of the hands of the FAA and given to a corporate entity, the fair arbiter is lost and the organization that controls the nation’s airspace becomes beholden solely to commercial and economic interests. Those stakeholders that are the best funded, best equipped, and/or carry the most passengers will likely be the best served in a privatized system. General aviation will lose over time to economically powerful interests whose primary goal is to obtain control over the system and its resources. They will seek to minimize their own direct operating costs by reducing or eliminating services that do not directly address their needs and/or by shifting cost burdens onto other users of the system.

“The White House will be relying on Congress to draft this proposal into law under the upcoming FAA reauthorization legislative process intended to be completed by the end of September,” EAA officials said, noting the association is  “already advocating on Capitol Hill on behalf of our members and general aviation as a whole to ensure any changes to the air traffic control system serve the needs of GA.”