There have been a couple of accident reports that have come to our attention in which the NTSB cites as a probable cause the accident airplane making a downwind turn. Don’t get me wrong: The statement of probable cause is often little more than a way of saying the airplane crashed because, well, it crashed. The statement, “the pilot failed to maintain control,” is one of my favorites. Yes, we can tell he did, by the way the airplane crashed.
Naming the “downwind turn” as probable cause rises to a whole new level, however.
As many of you already know, I recently started flying a new Diamond DA40 XLS as one of the inaugural “members” to sign up with DiamondShare, a new concept in aircraft ownership that is seeking to dramatically alter the economic equation for buyers.
At the General Aviation Manufacturers Association's annual press briefing in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, GAMA president and former military aviator Pete Bunce gave an impassioned argument about the necessity for the FAA to simplify its certification standards, a program the FAA is actually deeply involved in, with GAMA as one of its prime supporters. To illustrate the need for the change, Bunce used the example of angle of attack (AOA) indicators, which are available both on the Experimental market and as certificated products.
In the creation of the Light Sport Aircraft category, the FAA did a lot of things right in promoting a new segment of light airplanes intended for sport use that would allow manufacturers to come up with easier-to-certify models. The key was the use of industry consensus standards for certification, and it was a stroke of brilliance. Only problem was, it didn’t work.
Consensus standards are fine, so long as the manufacturers stick to them.
On January 16th, 2013, the crew of an All
Nippon Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner
was forced to make an emergency landing
after a battery caught fire. Aviation regulators
quickly grounded the 787 worldwide.
What’s wrong with the Boeing 787, which has suffered the unthinkable, unexplained battery fires in places that are inaccessible in flight to the crew? One such battery fire caused an All Nippon Airways 787 to make a forced landing last week. The domestic flight, bound for Tokyo from Southern Japan, made an emergency landing short of the intended destination after the pilots became aware of the battery problems and the smell of fire entered the cabin.
The plight of the glider pilot who was arrested for overflying a nuclear powerplant in violation of zero federal or local laws reminds me of another instance in which overzealous police overstepped their bounds after a pilot did exactly what he was supposed to be doing.
By now, hopefully, you’ve heard the story of pilot Robin Fleming’s lazy glider flight one fine day last summer in the blue skies of beautiful South Carolina. Well, that’s the way it should have turned out, but it didn’t. Instead, that would-be great summer flight ended with Robin getting thrown in jail after a high-stakes criminal drama.
Except in this case, there was no crime involved. Not even a whiff of one. Mr. Fleming, an articulate and conscientious 70-year-old glider pilot and instructor was instead arrested simply for going flying.
I was a panel member of a group of aviation journalists a few weeks back at a lunchtime meeting of the Wichita Aero Club, and the mood in the room was a little bleak. Even some of my fellow panelists were making dire predictions about the demise of general aviation. Everything good about what we do, they seemed to be saying, was behind us.
It’s nonsense. There’s unimaginably cool stuff in our future.