Aviation Technology - Page 5 Aviation Articles

For Pilots, Driving is Harder Than Flying: Busy Airport Taxi Tips

For pilots, getting from point A to point B on the ground is often more challenging than doing so in the air. The maze of runways, taxiways and ramps at large airports like Atlanta or JFK can be intimidating even for the most professional pilots.

If you’re terrified of making the wrong turn at a busy airport, you might be somewhat comforted to know that most taxiway and runway incursions are made by airline pilots. Of course, airline pilots frequent the busiest airports more often than small airplane pilots do, but it’s still helpful to know that even professional pilots have a difficult time navigating through the taxiways of LAX or Chicago O’Hare. I pulled up a few NASA ASRS reports made by pilots and controllers who experienced a runway or taxiway incursion. Most of these reports are wrong turns, many are the result of not checking NOTAMs and others are from vehicles on the runway.

It’s interesting to note, however, that a surprising number of ASRS reports are from pilots who mistake another airplane’s call sign for their own, accepting a clearance that was not theirs because they thought they heard Ground Control say their call sign. In addition, a surprising number of reports are from pilots who took off of landed from the wrong runway. And finally, maybe less surprisingly, there are numerous reports from pilots who moved beyond the runway hold short line or otherwise entered a protected are due to a distraction in the cockpit or because they lost situational awareness.

So how do you prevent a runway incursion? How do you ensure that you never hear those dreaded words November 00000, call tower after parking? Start with these tips:

Study ASRS reports.
In just a few seconds, I pulled up 245 pages of runway and taxiway incident reports from NASA’s ASRS database, totaling 12,218 reports. But you can narrow the search more by studying the common problem areas for airports you frequent. If you’re planning an flight to DFW, for example, a review of the common ASRS reports citing a runway incursion or excursion will give you some valuable insight into what goes on on the ground at that particular airport.

Study the airport diagram.
If you know which runway is likely to be in use, you can study the likely path that a controller might give you to your destination on the ground. In real life, it might not happen perfectly the way you hope it will, but if you run through a few likely scenarios that you might encounter when you get your taxi clearance as part of the preflight planning process, you’ll be glad you did. And always have an airport diagram on hand in the cockpit! (P.S. You can find all of the airport diagrams on our website.)

Ask the controller for progressive taxi instructions.
The Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) states that if a pilot is unfamiliar with the airport, he or she may "request progressive taxi instructions which include step-by-step routing directions." It’s a service provided to help unfamiliar pilots. If you’re one of those unfamiliar pilots, why not just make the request for progressive taxi instructions?

Know your taxiway and runway signs and markings.
Study up. It’s possible that if you often fly out of small airports, you’re used to a single runway with a single parallel taxiway, and the signs are pretty easy to interpret, even if you haven’t read up on them lately. Large airports with multiple runways, intersections and a variety of taxiways that go in every direction, the runway and taxiways signs can be confusing. Know which signs are location signs, which are directional and which are mandatory will help a lot when it comes to navigating the taxiways.

Read back all hold short instructions.
On the ground at JFK is not the time to skimp on radio calls. It’s mandatory that you read back the taxiway clearance properly, including any hold short instructions. Controllers are required to get a read back of all hold short instructions from pilots. If you don’t read back the taxi clearance in a way that includes the hold short instructions, the controller will continue to tell you the clearance until you do. Listening to ground control on a handheld radio or on LiveATC.com would be a useful exercise for pilots who want to get used to how to red back these clearances properly.

Minimize distractions.
Many runway incursions happen when one or both pilots are heads-down in the cockpit, or are busy talking to the passengers or on another frequency. Many of these incursions included pilots who taxied just a few feet past the hold short line of a runway without clearance just because they were recalculating TOLD data or pushing buttons on the CDU. Pay attention while you taxi.

Never cross a runway without a specific clearance.
Never, ever taxi onto a runway or other protected area with knowing for certain that you are cleared to do so. If you aren’t sure, query the controller.

If you aren’t sure, ASK!
As a final note, if you’re ever in doubt about which way to turn or whether you’ve been cleared onto a runway or to cross a runway hold short line, always ask. In all cases, it’s better to be absolutely certain than it is to hear the controller screaming at the Boeing 777 on final approach to go around because you taxied onto a runway when you weren’t cleared, which will always be followed by N0000, call tower when you land.

The Rise of the Angle of Attack Indicator for General Aviation Airplanes

Earlier this year, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) added the prevention of loss of control accidents in general aviation to its Most Wanted List, a list of advocacy priorities the organization releases yearly.

Loss of control accidents (stalls, spins, etc.) made up 40 percent of fatal fixed wing general aviation accidents between 2001 and 2011, according to NTSB statistics. More than 25 percent of all fatal general aviation accidents occur during the maneuvering phase of flight, and more than half of these maneuvering accidents result in a stall/spin scenario. The NTSB continues to emphasize an industry-wide need to focus on preventing these accidents in order to reduce the accident and fatality rates for general aviation pilots. Preventing loss of control accidents should include awareness, as well as educating and training pilots, says the NTSB, and the organization is taking their own advice - in October the agency will host a forum to discuss some of the ways the industry can improve. The topics of discussion will include a statistical review, new training techniques, and equipment and technology improvements, and will most certainly include the installation and use of angle of attack (AOA) indicators in light general aviation aircraft.

Over the past few years, the NTSB, FAA and General Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC), with support from industry groups like AOPA, have been working together to advocate the use of AOA indicators in light airplanes as a way to encourage recognition and prevention of stall accidents. In the past, pilots and aircraft owners haven’t been all that eager to install them, though, based on cost and the red-tape problems associated with the installation process. In 2014, the FAA streamlined the process of installing AOA indicators, making it easier for aircraft owners to enjoy their benefits.

We know that a stall will occur any time the wing’s angle of attack - the angle between the chord line and the relative wind – exceeds its critical limit. But historically, pilots have been trained to monitor and fly precise airspeeds in order to prevent stalls. This is helpful, but only when the aircraft is in straight and level, coordinated, unaccelerated flight, when the aircraft’s stall speeds are quite low and where they are known and familiar for that particular flight configuration. But an aircraft can – and will - stall at any airspeed, any weight, any configuration, and any attitude when the critical angle of attack has been exceeded. While airspeed is a good guideline to use, it shouldn’t be the only one. Pilots should understand that the angle of attack, which is invisible, matters much more than the airspeed.

Enter the much talked about angle of attack indicator. It’s designed to help pilots determine the aircraft’s true angle of attack in real time, allowing the pilot to "see" the angle of attack in a way that’s not possible otherwise. This will be especially valuable to new pilots, who, through its use, will better understand the concept of angle of attack as it relates to different aircraft configurations and phases of flight.

So what will it take to install an AOA indicator? According to this article on AvWeb, not much. After the FAA approved the more streamlined process, most general aviation aircraft will not require an STC and the modification can be done by any A&P mechanic with just a logbook entry. AOA indicators for small general aviation aircraft like the Cessna 172 cost between $400 - $2000, depending on whether it’s electrical or mechanical, heated or not, pressurized or not, and other variables.

The Hidden Costs of Maintaining Outdated Avionics

By Mark Wilken – Vice President of Avionics Programs and Operational Logistics

King Air C90B

With many companies currently budgeting for 2016, it’s important to consider some of the hidden costs of maintaining outdated avionics, specifically old CRT (tube) EFIS displays. CRT display manufacturing is becoming obsolete and will inevitably become non-existent. This means that the pricing for these units is going to increase substantially and the availability is going to continually decrease. Let’s take King Airs as an example.

Avionics Maintenance Costs

By current market pricing, typical yearly costs just to maintain a Collins Pro Line 2 equipped King Air is about $20,000 per year. If you plan on keeping the aircraft for another five years under current market conditions and a traditional ADS-B mandate solution for about $75,000, you would be paying about $175,000 just to continue to maintain your current avionics package.

Traditional Upgrade

If you want to make additions to a Pro Line 2 avionics system, a WAAS/LPV upgrade would cost about $95,000 and RVSM would cost another $83,000. Combined with maintaining current avionics and ADS-B compliance, the total cost for five years of ownership with traditional upgrades is going to cost around $353,000. Not only are these costs high but these upgrades do not add value to your aircraft.

G1000 Upgrade

While an average base install of a Garmin G1000 in a King Air costs around $325,000, it adds an average value increase to your aircraft of around $275,000. In addition, it includes all of your upgrades like WAAS/LPV, ADS-B, RVSM and is safer, lighter, more reliable and can be completed in just 15 days.

Upgrade or Maintain

While some operators may choose to maintain their current avionics system, older avionics are becoming obsolete and will continue to increase in price and be less reliable. Your avionics system is critical to the operation and safety of your aircraft. An upgraded avionics system will ensure you are getting the most out of your aircraft.

Mark Wilken joined Elliott Aviation in 1989 as an Avionics Bench Technician. He was promoted to Avionics Manager in 1996 and joined the sales team in 2003. Mark has led many highly successful avionics programs such as the King Air Garmin G1000 avionics retrofit program. He recently led efforts for Wi-Fi solutions in Hawkers, King Airs and Phenom 300’s. Mark holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Aviation Management from Southern Illinois University and is a licensed Pilot.

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).

The Evolution of In-Flight Entertainment

By Conrad Theisen, Avionics Sales Manager

Historically, cabin entertainment systems have been very heavily reliant on hardware. They have required several cabin monitors, potential cabinet modifications to accommodate other monitors, DVD players and large receivers to run the system. In addition to bulky equipment, older systems included complex and expensive repair to mounted in the drink rails and armrest. Many times, when a switch was added, interior had to be sent out for plating adding additional cost and downtime.

Also, many membrane type switches were notorious for going bad and could be very expensive to replace. Eliminating all of the switching saves literally hundreds of hours in engineering, custom design and installation.

Luckily, cabin avionics has evolved with consumer electronics to allow streaming entertainment, nearly eliminating the need for a heavy and expensive cabin entertainment system for many customers.

Gogo Business Aviation recently announced business aviation’s first turn-key, on-demand in-flight entertainment system, Gogo Vision. Gogo Vision is an in-flight streaming entertainment system that works directly with your laptop, tablet or iPhone to give you a full library of movies, TV episodes, news, destination weather, flight progress and moving maps.

This service is available with the installation of the Gogo Business Aviation UCS 5000 smart router and media server, which can be purchased for about $40,000 plus installation cost and requires Gogo Biz or Swift Broadband on board.

Compared to other cabin entertainment options, Gogo Vision is lightweight and affordable. In addition to equipment and installation, the Gogo Vision service fee is $395 per month and includes 3G/4G modem service, mailed USB updates, unlimited content updates at participating Gogo Cloud locations, news, weather, flight progress and moving maps. Each movie is $10 extra and each TV episode is an extra $6. Gogo Vision’s costs will be in addition to your monthly data provided by your Gogo Biz or Swiftbroadband package.

Comparatively speaking, the Gogo Vision can be cheaper, lighter weight and easier to maintain than most cabin entertainment options out there today.

Conrad Theisen has been with Elliott Aviation since 1996. He started his career as an Avionics Installer and was promoted to Avionics Manager in 2001. In 2009, he led the Customer Service and Project Management teams for all in-house aircraft. He joined the Avionics Sales team in 2012.

Retrofitting a Hawker to Meet Your Mission

By Adam Doyle, Paint & Interior Sales Manager


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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