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The End of the PTS: New Airmen Certification Standards are Coming!

by Sarina Houston 1. July 2015 22:37
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In order to obtain a pilot certificate of any kind in the United States, a pilot must take an FAA Practical Test, better known as a check ride. The checkride standards haven't changed much in years, but recently the FAA has announced that they practical test standards that we all know so intimately will be overhauled. But will it be a productive change?

The first official pilot license was issued to William P. MacCracken, Jr., after the creation of the Air Commerce Act in 1926, which introduced new rules for pilot certification and the first ever regulations pertaining to aviation, along with a host of other things like new navigational aids and designated airways.

At some point, the FAA also created the Practical Test Standards, which were introduced to standardize the requirements for FAA check rides. These practical test standards outlined more specific expectations for pilot applicants and gave pilot examiners a rubric with which to evaluate pilot applicants. The test standards began mostly as a maneuvers-based evaluation, making sure the pilot could take off, land, recover from stalls, navigate by means of pilotage and dead reckoning, and others. Today, we still use these same practical test standards, although they've been modified over the years to include advanced navigation and new safety protocols. Still, the practical test standards remain primarily maneuvers-based: The PTS lists what the applicant should be able to do, the conditions under which each task is to be performed and an acceptable performance standard for each maneuver or task.

The trouble, as accident data suggests, is that mastering a maneuver to a certain level, while it requires effective airspeed and altitude management, is not the most effective indicator of a safe pilot. The Nall report, for example, tells us year after year that improper decision-making and improper planning are common causes of accidents. The 2010 Nall report states that, "After excluding accidents due to mechanical failures or improper maintenance, accidents whose causes have not been determined, and the handful due to circumstances beyond the pilot’s control, all that remain are considered pilot-related. Most pilot-related accidents reflect specific failures of flight planning or decision-making or the characteristic hazards of high-risk phases of flight."

The PTS was created principally to provide objective standards for evaluating and certifying pilots. We have since learned that most of the qualities and abilities that separate safe from unsafe pilots are very difficult to quantify. In an effort to focus attention on these more subjective qualities – knowledge, discipline, risk assessment and management – the flight training community has in recent years created training techniques designed to incorporate these concepts. These techniques would include scenario-based training, FITS (FAA-Industry Training Standards), and training focused on technically advanced airplanes. Most thoughtful flight instructors make every attempt to include risk management in the training regimen.

The question remains as to how to evaluate these principles, which are really processes of thought, mental and emotional approaches to flight, in the course of a practical test. In recent years, these concepts have made their way into the existing PTS as front matter as “special emphasis areas," but only now, with the FAA's new Airmen Certification Standards (ACS), has there been a serious attempt to integrate these concepts into the specific objective tasks of the PTS.

But what exactly does this mean? Will it accomplish anything productive or valuable to flight training? The most prevalent change you'll see will be in the task list included. What we know currently as the PTS will be incorporated into the ACS, and the task list items, which were fairly brief, will be expanded to include many more specifics. For example, the current version of the Private Pilot PTS has 10 objectives listed for the Soft Field Approach and Landing task. It looks like this:

The new ACS project, to be implemented over the next year, will have much more specific tasks in four different areas under the Soft Field Approach and Landing task: Objective, knowledge, skills and risk management. It goes into much more detail about what could be evaluated on the check ride, including an entire section on risk items. It will look like this:

Some students and instructors may be relieved to know that there will also be a change in the FAA's written knowledge tests. The FAA admits that over the years, parts of the knowledge test question bank has become redundant and outdated. With the new ACS, we should see the demise of old questions about NDBs and and irrelevant and poorly worded questions that include multiple calculations and interpolations. That's good news.

The FAA wants us to look at the new ACS as an improved PTS. They define it as "a holistic, integrated presentation of specific knowledge, skills, and risk management elements and performance metrics for each Area of Operation and Task." I'm not entirely convinced that this will be anything new or unusual for instructors or examiners. The performance standards will remain the same, and, according to the FAA, the ACS will not change the check ride. Most instructors teach (and judge) decision-making and risk management without the added bullet points on the PTS/ACS, anyway. In the end, this is a change that is past due, but that will go almost unnoticed.

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Aviation Safety | Flying | Sarina Houston

Behind the Scenes at the Air Race Classic

by Tori Williams 30. June 2015 10:50
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Last Monday I had the opportunity to be a small part of history. 50 teams participating in an air race dating back to 1929 were landing at an airport right in my backyard and I had the opportunity to visit and help as they arrived. As the all-female Air Race Classic came to their third stop along the 2,200 NM route, Clark County Airport in Jeffersonville, Indiana, a small army had gathered to welcome them, provide them with food, fuel, and transportation to hotels. I was a volunteer “greeter,” meeting the racers as they came into the airport and providing them with answers to any questions that had about operations. Most importantly, I directed them to the restrooms and food.

The Air Race Classic had not been in the area since 1981, so spirits were high as many people worked hard to make this the best stop of their trip. In addition to an abundance of food and desserts provided by UPS, racers were offered complimentary massages and transportation to their hotels. The stop had a Kentucky Derby theme, so several volunteers wore colorful derby hats. The men’s restroom had a sign saying “Fillies (Women); Men’s Restroom Outside,” to accommodate the 123 women who would be flying in.

Special accommodations had to be made for the 123 women flying in.

Preparations for this day started almost an entire year ago. Once the route for the race was announced, Honaker Aviation teamed up with several local pilots and organizations to gather volunteers and create a game plan for the day the racers arrived. It was difficult to predict how weather would affect the day from months away, so Stop Chair Amy Bogardus prepared for every possible outcome. An online scheduling system through Sign Up Genius was set up with slots for Timers, Greeters, Transporters, Hospitality, and Stuff to Bring. Time slots were available for each task for Monday-Thursday. The organizers anticipated racers being able to spend the night and leave out Tuesday, but with the unpredictable weather it was best for there to be too many volunteers than too few.

My time slot was from 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm but I ended up staying until 6:00 pm. My younger sister has recently taken an interest in aviation, so I brought her along to meet all of the Ninety-Nines who were volunteering and to experience the race. I had been watching the racers make their way towards our stop since they took off in the morning through the live tracking at Trackleaders.com. Excitement was building as I arrived at the airport and watched the same live tracker from a large TV in the command room. All volunteers were given bright yellow arm bands to identify themselves, and we were ready for racers to begin flying in.

Stop organizers and spectators watched the live feed of aircraft flying in all morning, ready to serve as soon as they arrived.

The first few racers came in at a moderate pace, having left the last airport sooner than the others. After an hour or so of airplanes steadily coming in 10 minutes apart, the bulk of the racers came and it was amazing to see them doing a high speed pass and landing one after another. Because the race is judged on a handicap speed, the only time that the racers had to beat was their own.

The first few arrivals enjoy food provided by UPS.

My sister commented on how young many of the collegiate racers looked, as most of them are in their early 20s. I could see in her face that her dream of becoming a pilot seemed more and more realistic as she saw these shining examples of female pilots casually walking into the airport from their aircraft. It was different for her from hearing about my piloting adventures and actually being at an airport and experiencing the sights and sounds. The entire drive home she excitedly spoke about how she was beginning to find her purpose in life, and that becoming a pilot and flying medical missions was her dream.

I had an amazing experience volunteering at the Air Race Classic, and all racers said that the Clark County stop was well done and efficient. A huge thank you to every single volunteer, organizer, and sponsor for making the day incredible for everyone.

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Flying | Tori Williams

IcyBreeze Cools Cockpits Quickly, Cheaply

by GlobalAir.com 17. June 2015 14:25
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Bixby, OK – Summer temperatures inside aircraft cockpits can rapidly rise to unhealthy levels. The options for air conditioning in small aircraft have been expensive. However, that changed this summer with the introduction of IcyBreeze, and eco-friendly air conditioning cooler that will swiftly bring down ambient air temperature and keep the cockpit cool on long cross country flights. An IcyBreeze unit can easily be stored in the back seat or baggage area of any single or light twin to keep beverages cold and cockpit air cool.

IcyBreeze

We are able to provide all the benefits of a cooler plus true air conditioning, in a compact and portable unit that has no Freon or chemicals and gives off no harmful exhaust,” said Andrew Jenkins, IcyBreeze CEO and President. With some ice and a little bit of water, the 38-quart smart cooler can blast cool air recycled from inside the cockpit and driven by a small electric pump. Many people are surprised at how well IcyBreeze cools, providing a 25-mph breeze at temperatures 35 degrees cooler than the surrounding air.

The air conditioner feature is powered by a rechargeable 12V battery which keeps cool air running up to seven hours on the standard setting. The battery allows pilots to use the cooler in their aircraft, boat, camper, or at a picnic or sporting event. There are two adaptor options for continuous use. When stocked with ice and water an IcyBreeze weighs 46 pounds, including a battery (dry weight is 21 pounds). The cooler measures 23.5” long X 16.25” wide X 18.5” high.

Pilots can choose from one of three price packages and a choice of colors at IcyBreeze.com or by calling 855.216.6300 for more information.

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Why the P-51 is Still the Most Beloved Airplane at the Air Show

by Sarina Houston 16. June 2015 10:50
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Perhaps the most influential warplane of all time, the P-51 Mustang is still one of the most beloved aircraft in the air show circuit today. Seventy years past its prime, the Mustang remains a steadfast and prominent part of air shows, only occasionally and temporarily overshadowed by the appearance of a modern fighter jet. Reliable and distinguished, people who know the P-51 recognize it and greet it the way they do an old friend - with respect and admiration. Why do people love the Mustang so much? After decades of innovation and an abundance of new sleek, capable aircraft, why do people still marvel at the sound of the Merlin engine?

A war hero…
The Mustang is an airplane with a story. It's a war hero - a sigh of relief in a dark time, a ray of sunshine that helped end an uncertain era in our nation's history. It's quick, easy on the eyes and music to our ears. The P-51 Mustang is so well loved and so respected because it tells the story of innovation, speed, valor and beauty during a time of difficulty.

As the first aircraft designed around a laminar flow wing, the Mustang was ahead of its time. And it wasn't just the 425+ mile per hour airspeed that made it impressive. The aircraft was rolled out in record time -about 100 days - making it one of the fastest aircraft to be produced, even during wartime. In a 1943 Popular Science article, author Andrew Boone predicted, "When the history of this war is written, there may be a hundred days underlined in red pencil - a period in which a young engineer and a veteran designer took a theory on airflow and turned it into the deadliest change-of-pace fighter airplane this stage of the war has yet produced." He was right.

The production of the P-51 was a demonstration of our nation's ability not only to innovate, but to innovate rapidly and on demand. The P-51 was designed by request of the British Purchasing Commission, and around 100 days after signing the first contract with the British Purchasing Commission, North American rolled out the first P-51, initially dubbed the NA-73X.

The British ordered 320 more aircraft from North American in March 1940, and soon after, America jumped on board, too. The U.S. Army Air Force took possession of its first Mustangs in March 1942. The airplane flew in every theater during World War II and continued to serve throughout the Korean War. By the end of World War II, it had destroyed 4,950 enemy aircraft - more enemy aircraft than any other fighter aircraft in Europe.

That engine...
There's no doubt that the P-51 Mustang, with its numerous capabilities, had a tremendous effect on the outcome of the war. But we should give credit where credit is due, and the Merlin V-1650 engine, originally designed by Rolls Royce, was a game-changer.

Early on, the P-51 was fitted with an Allison V-1710 engine and used as a dive-bomber and for reconnaissance missions. But the Allison engine, as good as it was, lacked performance at high altitudes, and in 1942, Mustangs were fitted with more powerful 1,430-hp Packard-built Merlin V-1650 engines. The aircraft's capabilities expanded greatly, marking a turning point in the war.

With the Merlin engine, the P-51 could fly up to 441 miles per hour at almost 30,000 feet. Flying at altitudes without losing power made the Mustang capable of both long-range, high altitude escort missions as well as its low-altitude reconnaissance missions that it was known for.

The sound of the Merlin engine is one that's not easily forgotten. It's a slow, rumbling sound that sneaks up on you, maybe startles you, only to put you at ease, knowing that behind the whir of the engine is the sound of victory that many people know and remember. In a 1943 article in Popular Mechanics, the author describes the airplane as fast and quiet. "There is no distant engine drone, growing louder as the plane approaches, but a sudden screaming roar overheard and the wild horse is upon you."

Pure elegance…
Today, we marvel at the history and the airplane and the sound of the Merlin, but we also stand in awe of an airplane that it not only fast and practical, but absolutely stunning to look at. With its bubble canopy, its sleek lines and silver wings... the P-51 Mustang is simply one of the most beautiful airplanes in the word.

Never has an airplane surpassed the P-51 when it comes to utility and beauty in one. It's strong and powerful, yet quiet and elegant. It's a natural performer, and it demands respect without the dog and pony show. For those who witnessed its prowess during the war, it's evocative. For the others who marvel at it during air shows today, those who can only look into its past and wonder, it's an airplane with a strange pull, an often unexplained attraction.

You may wonder why they're so drawn to an airplane that is before your time, why this particular airplane is such a showstopper. Because whether you know the history of the airplane or not, the Mustang is an airplane that stops you in your tracks. Its beauty captivates you, lures you in, and makes you want to hear its story. And it's a story worth repeating, air show after air show.

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Aviation History | Flying | Sarina Houston

Retrofitting a Hawker to Meet Your Mission

by GlobalAir.com 3. June 2015 10:58
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By Adam Doyle, Paint & Interior Sales Manager
www.elliottaviation.com

Hawker

When modifying an aircraft to meet your mission, there are many factors that must be considered. Recently, a customer requested their Hawker 800XP be retrofitted to a double club when it is currently designed with a standard divan. Though it may sound easy, this modification is anything but simple and includes a list of items that need to be addressed which will determine the possible solutions.

In this case, the floor plan requested was not available for the Hawker 800XP due to safety regulations. Though this option was impossible, the next best option is to add seven cabin seats instead of the eight. Eliminating a seating position when opting for seven over eight cabin seats allows for an upgrade to either a cabin seat with a cabinet or even a full berthing seat.

Although possible, changing the floor plan of the Hawker 800XP from a standard divan to seven cabin club seating is a significant amount of work. However, the average retrofit of this caliber may cost less than you might think. Each modification is specific in need and pricing will vary due to the amount of parts and work needed to complete each retrofit.

Since there is not currently a STC for the Hawker 800XP with a double club configuration, an STC will be required before the modification can be done. Next, proper burn documentation will be needed for all interior mods to be included in a 8110 package before the aircraft can be released.

Adding the new seating will affect many things. The left aft closet and the divan will have to be removed to make room for the new seating. By doing this, new up-wash lighting will be needed along with modifications to the headliner, window, lower cabin panels, and carpet since they are currently not there where the closet and divan once were. The headliner, window, and lower cabin panels will have to be extended while the carpet will have to be patched or replaced.

Changing the seating positions also affect the oxygen requirements. If the O2 boxes are positioned incorrectly for the new arrangement, they will have to be moved and in most aircraft, the masks are out of date or deteriorating which will require replacement. By moving boxes, the headliner will then need to be modified or unfurnished to accommodate the new box placements.

The lav door operation will be affected and will only be able to open a third of the way due to binding against the seat’s inboard armrest. The only option is to change the door style to accommodate the door movement.

When adding the new cabin seats, the new frames must match the original frames. If matching frames are unavailable, purchasing all new frames is the next option.

If a 7 place modified double club configuration is desired, the aft closet would need to be removed. The seat pictured would move back and the lav door would need to be modified. Lower sidewalls and window panels would need to be extended.

Additionally, new card tables will need to be constructed, as they were not originally there. If the aircraft has existing front card tables, the process can be smoother. It is possible to reconstruct new aft card table structures based on the original front under the stipulation that the floor plan is approved. If the aircraft does not have any existing card tables, then an STC must be obtained for a new approved floor plan.

Once having approval for the card tables, modification or refurbishment of drinkrails will be needed since the closet and the divan covered where they would typically be. Also because of this, relocation of the cabin switches, phone, and new outlets to match the rest of the aircraft will be needed. Lastly, if there are existing tables, plated accents from the front will need to match the new aft tables if they are available.

There will be further choices to consider when doing the Hawker 800XP retrofit to meet your mission. The above describes a small number of them that will arise with this type of modification of a standard divan to double club retrofit. Modifications can be done but proper information is needed to do it. A simple modification may seem easy, but nothing is simple in aviation.

The best time to do any modification is when a major evaluation is scheduled. This timing would allow the aircraft to be modified simultaneously instead of grounding the aircraft at two different times. A down aircraft could result upwards of $1K/day loss in revenue. We strive to maximize evaluation, maintenance, and modification schedules and minimize down time. Instead of an aircraft being down for eight or more weeks, maximizing the schedule for both the evaluation and the modifications to a possible six weeks is essential.

Standard divan in a Hawker 800XP

What may seem like a simple modification can be incredibly complex. Remember to think about having all the proper information before starting a modification. Think about what the retrofit could affect and if the floor plan is approved, what is the most cost effective option, when and how long is the downtime, and finally, would it be better to sell the current aircraft and purchase another with the desired floor plan.

Adam Doyle joined Elliott Aviation in 2000 as an interior technician after graduating from Wyoming Technical Institute. While at Elliott Aviation, Adam has earned many different promotions on the shop floor including Install Team Lead, Soft Goods Team Lead, Assistant Interior Shop Manager and Seat Shop Manager. Adam’s most recent promotion has been to Paint and Interior Sales Representative for Elliott Aviation. He uses his experience with various vendors, products and processes to educate our clients by providing direction and helping plan for future investment with realistic and accurate figures.

Elliott Aviation is a second-generation, family-owned business aviation company offering a complete menu of high quality products and services including aircraft sales, avionics service & installations, aircraft maintenance, accessory repair & overhaul, paint and interior, charter and aircraft management. Serving the business aviation industry nationally and internationally, they have facilities in Moline, IL, Des Moines, IA, and Minneapolis, MN. The company is a member of the Pinnacle Air Network, National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), National Air Transportation Association (NATA), and National Aircraft Resale Association (NARA). More information can be found at www.elliottaviation.com

 

 

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Aviation Technology | Maintenance





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