News - Page 7 Aviation Articles

Eclipse 550 Receives Approval for Part 23 Auto Throttle and Anti-Skid Brake Systems


Photo © Eclipse Aerospace

Eclipse Aerospace announced on Thursday that the company has received a supplemental type certificate (STC) from the FAA for new auto throttle and anti-skid brake (ASB) systems for its Eclipse 550, a new-production very light jet that the company says is the "most fuel-efficient jet in the world."

The new auto throttle system was developed in conjunction with Innovative Solutions & Support, and this STC is the first of its kind for a jet certified under FAR Part 23. The new auto throttle system will allow pilots to input the intended airspeed into the autopilot system and the auto throttle system will automatically adjust to the correct power setting. To gain the STC, the auto throttle system had to conform to some Part 25 standards, including quick disengagement controls for each pilot.

The Anti-Skid Brake system, also approved with this STC, was designed by Advent Aerospace and is the only light aircraft ASB system that doesn't require a bulky hydraulic system. Advent Aerospace boasts that it's a lightweight, easy-to-install system that provides better control and improved stopping distance for very light jets.

The Anti-Skid Brake system can also be retrofitted to fit Eclipse 500 aircraft that have the IFMS Avionics package.

Since the Eclipse 550 is in the very light jet category, it can be certified under FAR Part 23, which is designed for light general aviation aircraft under 12,500 pounds. Since most general aviation aircraft fly under Part 91 and occasionally Part 135 operating rules, FAR Part 23 is less restrictive than FAR Part 25.

FAR Part 25 certification stadards apply to commercial operations including business jets. Aircraft certified under Part 25 are required to have certain standards of system redundancy and procedures in place that would allow for the safe continuation of flight in case a system fails.

According to a federal register docket regarding the Eclipse 500 auto throttle STC, FAR Part 23 does not "sufficiently address autothrottle technology and safety concerns" and in response, required special conditions to be met for approval of the Eclipse 500, and ultimately, the Eclipse 550.

The Eclipse 550 has two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW610F engines rated at 9oo pounds each, giving the lightweight aircraft enough power to cruise at 375 knots to 41,000 feet smoothly and efficiently. The Eclipse 550 starts $2.9 million.

Valdez STOL Aircraft to be Showcased at AirVenture

Specially modified aircraft originally created for Alaskan bush-pilot necessity that also created one of the world’s most unique aviation competitions, will be part of the "Valdez STOL" (short takeoff and landing) flying activities at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014.

EAA AirVenture 2014, known as "The World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration" and the 62nd annual convention of the Experimental Aircraft Association, will be held July 28-August 3 at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh.

Demonstrations featuring the unmatched capabilities of the airplanes that compete at the annual

"Most people think of airport runways of concrete a mile or more in length, but these aircraft can land on almost any flat surface – sometimes in less than 100 feet," said Jim DiMatteo, EAA’s vice president of AirVenture features and attractions. "The necessity of creating aircraft that can serve Alaska’s remote population also inspired a competition that is nothing like you’ll see in the Lower 48."

Further details and schedules of the Valdez STOL aircraft activities will be announced as they are finalized.

For footage of aircraft at the Valdez fly-in, see the video below:

Why You Could Land at the Wrong Airport, Too: Confirmation Bias in Pilots


Photo © Scott Scheiffer/Twitter

As humans, we tend to see what we want to see and believe what we want to believe. It's a psychological impediment known as confirmation bias, and it leads us to subconsciously seek information that affirms our beliefs and neglect information that might disprove the decisions we've already made.

We're all guilty of it, whether we know it or not. In fact, you're probably reading this right now with a hint of confirmation bias, seeking out the words and sentences on the page that confirm the thoughts or opinions you may already have.

It might sound like a lot of psychological babble, but it's a huge problem for pilots. Pilots trust in automation even when it's wrong because time after time, it works perfectly. Pilots land at the wrong airport even when the visual cues are there to tell them they're in the wrong place because they believe they're in the right place and look for indications that support that belief.

On two different occasions recently, aircraft have mistakenly landed at the wrong airport. Additionally, many aircraft accidents and incidents can be partially attributed to confirmation bias. Here are a few examples:

  • In 1989, a Boeing 737 operated by British Midland Airways crashed after encountering engine problems Both pilots incorrectly identified the engine that was malfunctioning and shut down the incorrect engine. When the perfectly good engine was shut down, the vibration lessened, confirming the pilot's belief that they chose the correct engine to shut down. The pilots then chose to ignore various other indications regarding the affected engine, like the engine instrument system (EIS). Confirmation bias was studied as a result of this accident.

  • In 2006, a CRJ-100 operating as Comair Flight 5191 crashed during takeoff from the wrong runway at Bluegrass Airport in Kentucky. Though there were many contributing factors in this accident, confirmation bias was listed in the NTSB findings.
  • In November 2013, a Boeing 747 Dreamlifter landed at Jabara airport, a small uncontrolled field in Wichita, instead of their intended destination, McConnell Air Force Base.

  • In January 2014, a Southwest Airlines crew landed at the wrong airport with a Boeing 737 full of passengers. The runway length at M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport, where the 737 landed, is just over 3,700 feet and the Boeing 737 stopped with just a few hundred feet to spare.

    The investigations for these incidents of airplanes landing at the wrong airport are incomplete, and I'm no investigator, but it's very possible that confirmation bias played a role in both of these incidents, causing the pilots to see and believe that they were on approach for the right airport while ignoring important visual cues such as runway lights, heading and instrument indications, which could have given them a reality check.

Preventing Confirmation Bias:
It's easy to fall into the confirmation bias trap, and general aviation pilots are not immune. In fact, confirmation bias is especially dangerous for GA pilots, who often fly by themselves. And we don't know when we're doing it, so it's a difficult problem to fix.

The FAA recommends that pilots make a conscious, unbiased effort to make decisions and remain cognizant of how reality might differ from our perception. A second person in the cockpit can help with this since two minds are better than one, but the accidents and incidents mentioned above tell us that confirmation bias can affect us, even with two or three people in the cockpit.

Another method for avoiding confirmation bias involves constantly looking for reasons to disprove your beliefs or decisions. If you see more reasons faulting the decision than supporting it, it's time to reevaluate.

While there is no absolute solution for confirmation bias, being aware of it is a step in the right direction. Knowing it exists might just help you evaluate - or think twice about - your decision making process.

Music and Aviation: A Match Made in the Sky

Dee Welch, a member of the Seaplane Pilots Association (FMA Corporate Member), has donated a guitar to be raffled off to support the Seaplane Pilots Association's New Headquarters project and the Flying Musicians Association. This is just one example of the projects the FMA is involved in.

"Many people don’t have a passion; we are fortunate enough to have two!"

This is the driving force behind the Flying Musicians Association – a non-profit 501c3 organization that is bringing aviation and music together – according to co-founder John Zapp. Formed in 2008 and incorporated a year later, Zapp and Aileen Hummel formed the company to aid pilots who are musicians to share their passions in order to inspire, educate, and encourage others by creating enthusiasm and promoting personal growth in both fields.

The FMA has an extensive list of goals – the first of which is to encourage youth to embrace STEAM power (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) through the use of aviation and music. Zapp and Hummel noticed much discussion for the need to grow the pilot population, and have identified musicians and music students as the most likely demographic to succeed. The musically-inclined have an aptitude for listening, scanning, multi-tasking and their pursuit of perfection – all skills and practices needed for piloting aircraft. The US Air Force completed a study of students in their flight training program to see which academic fields were the most successful in completing flight training. It wasn't the engineers who had the highest percentage of completion or any other discipline, it was the music students.

The FMA has already established chapters at Tarrant County College in Fort Worth, the University of Texas at Arlington, and the Western Michigan University in an effort to extend their goals into learning institutions, and continue to seek expansion into other colleges, high schools, and aviation communities. They have also received a partial grant from the Wolf Aviation Fund to help FMA spearhead the "Focus on the Future" program held at the FAPA.aero Global Pilot Career Conference & Job Fairs and the Regional Airline Pilot Job Fairs.

Zapp attributes much of their success so far to their own promotion, as well as their corporate members, which include organizations such as the AOPA, Sky-Tec, That Other Label, Barmstorming the Movie, Bose," Zapp listed as an example.

You can show your support for their cause as well – it’s only $25/year to become a member ($15 for students), and special rates for Life and Corporate Members as well. Funding, grants and sponsorships are their greatest need to continue the growth they’re experienced for the last five years.

Congress Takes Action on Driver's License Medical

Photo © Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr

An overwhelming majority of pilots are in favor of new legislation that AOPA says would allow certain pilots to fly without an aviation medical certificate. This proposal isn't exactly new - it began years ago as a proposal addressed to the FAA but the FAA has either responded negatively or failed to act in each case.

So two members of Congress took the situation into their own hands. On December 11th, AOPA announced that a legislative proposal was submitted that would make it legal for pilots to fly without a medical certificate, as long as they remain under VFR flight rules with less than six passengers. The legislation, called the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act of 2013, is proposed by Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), House General Aviation Caucus member and Sam Graves (R-Mo.), House General Aviation Caucus Co-Chair.

It's the result of multiple failed attempts on behalf of AOPA and the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) to enact an exemption to the aviation medical certificate standards. In March 2012, AOPA and the EAA submitted a combined request to the FAA to allow pilots who took additional medical training and had a valid driver's license to be exempt from the medical requirement for recreational flying purposes. Although more than 16,000 responses were collected from the aviation industry, according to AOPA, the proposal failed to manifest.

So here's the deal: The new General Aviation Pilot Protection Act proposes that pilots be allowed to fly without obtaining an aviation medical certificate under these circumstances:

  1. The pilot holds a state driver's license and complies with any medical restrictions on that driver's license.
  2. The pilot flies with no more than 5 passengers.
  3. The pilot flies in visual flight rules (VFR) only, in visual meteorological conditions (VMC).
  4. The pilot would not be able to operate:
    • for compensation or hire
    • above 14,000 feet MSL
    • above 250 knots
    • >outside the United States
  5. The pilot is restricted to flying aircraft that weigh less than 6,000 pounds with no more than six seats.

If enacted, pilots would be able to fly almost any type of single-engine piston airplane and some light twin engine aircraft like this Beech Baron 58 or a Cessna 310.

House member Rokita, a pilot himself, made this statement: “This bill eliminates a duplicative and therefore unnecessary medical certification regulation that drives up costs for pilots and prevents the general aviation industry from fulfilling its economic potential.”

Opponents:
While the overwhelming majority of pilots are in favor of the new proposal, opponents argue that pilots shouldn't be trusted to self- evaluate their own medical health. The fear is that with this initiative, many pilots will be encouraged to fly with known medical conditions and without seeking medical advice from an aviation medical examiner.

In addition, some opponents argue that a deteriorating medical condition is cause for concern and should be evaluated by a medical doctor in order to really assess the situation properly and keep pilots safe.

The role of an aviation medical examiner is also important in determining what the FAA allows and disallows when it comes to prescription medication. A regular doctor might prescribe the most common type of medication for a medical condition without regard to flying, making it possible for a pilot to be prescribed medications and given medical advice from a regular doctor that violates FAA medical policy.

Proponents:
The verdict among pilots and aviation advocate groups is almost unanimous: The act would certainly benefit pilots and the industry as a whole, making it easier for pilots to fly without going through the process of obtaining a special issuance aviation medical certificate, a lengthy but necessary process for those with both minor and major health conditions.

Proponents of the act argue that pilots are perfectly capable of self-assessing their health and flying fitness. The sport pilot certificate has demonstrated this with a perfect record so far- no light sport aircraft has crashed due to pilot medical insufficiency. And with a third class medical certificate valid time of five years, that means for the five years in between exams, pilots are self-assessing their own health already. What's to say they can't continue to do it in a safe manner, without the check-up every five years?

AOPA and the EAA are both heavy advocates of the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act, which will certainly garner more interest in aviation and potentially make it cheaper and easier to become a pilot.

Share Your Story
What do you think? Is this act a "no-brainer" or are there hidden risks that pilots are missing when advocating this proposal? Do you have a medical story to tell? Share it with us in the comments below!

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