Top 20 Aviation Stories of 2013

Flying takes a look back at the biggest events of the year 2013.

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From Washington showdowns to harrowing crashes of heavy-iron airplanes, 2013 packed more drama into the span of 12 months than perhaps any other of the last decade. Join us as we look back at the year that was, counting down the top 20 aviation news stories. If you’ve been a faithful reader of Flying’s Enews, you might have already guessed our No. 1 story, along with many others that made the list. —Stephen Pope Click here to start our Top 20 Aviation Stories of 2013 list. _
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20. 747 Crash in Afghanistan Caught on Video In one of the most dramatic crashes ever caught on camera, a Boeing 747 loaded with heavy armored vehicles can be seen dramatically pitching up moments after takeoff from a U.S. airbase in Afghanistan before descending tail first into the ground and exploding in a massive fireball. The National Airlines 747 had just departed Bagram Airfield on a mission for the U.S. Air Force Air Mobility Command to Dubai. Unconfirmed reports said a crewmember made a radio call saying cargo had broken free and shifted. A dashboard camera in a vehicle traveling near the airport recorded the crash. U.S. government officials later confirmed that the video is authentic. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash. See the video and read the full story here. Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.YouTube
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19. Military Pulls the Plug on Airshows As the U.S. government sequestration, an effort by the government to reduce spending by about $85 billion in 2013 alone, kicked into effect this spring, "non-essential" military flying was cut, including popular formation jet performances such as the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds. Both teams were forced to cancel all scheduled performances beyond April 1, which likely deterred some habitual air show visitors from attending their local events. Scheduled military air shows were cancelled all together. While similar government spending cuts are planned each year through 2021, the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds have announced full show schedules for 2014, each with upcoming performances at about 40 different air shows around the country. Read the full story here. Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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18. Redbird Unveils Diesel Skyhawk Redbird Flight Simulations continued to make news with the launch of a remanufactured airplane, named the Redhawk. The company plans to rebuild 30 of the 1970s and '80s vintage planes in 2014. The airplane gets a complete makeover, with a frame up restoration with new upholstery, paint, glass, avionics and engine. The last one is a big deal. Redbird will be installing a Centurion 2.0 turbo diesel engine that, of course, runs on jet-A. Redbird has already completed a couple Redhawks — Flying was first to fly one of them. We reported that it flies, well, like a Skyhawk with a faint aroma of kerosene. Target price for the updated, like-new Skyhawk is around $200,000. Read the full story here. Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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17. Southwest 737 Lands Nose First at LGA A Southwest 737 caused lengthy delays at LaGuardia in 2013 when its nose gear collapsed upon landing, forcing the airplane to skid nose-down along the runway, spewing sparks from its belly until it finally came to a stop 19 seconds later. While the cause of the incident was initially unknown, a later statement from the National Transportation Safety Board indicated that the airplane touched down nose-gear first. The Boeing 737 went from an attitude of two-degrees nose-up four seconds before landing to being pitched down three degrees at touchdown. The NTSB reported that there was also a change of control when the airplane was below 400 feet, with the captain taking control from the first officer. Southwest later terminated the captain, while the first officer received additional training. Read more about the story here. Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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16. Icon A5 LSA Granted Weight Exemption After much contemplation by the FAA, a controversial decision was made to grant the Icon A5 LSA a weight exemption Icon Aircraft had requested. The company claimed it needed the additional weight in order to provide what it claims to be spin resistant qualities that meet Part 23 standards. The exemption granted an additional 250 pounds beyond the 1,430-pound limit imposed on amphibious LSAs such as the Icon. However, Icon claims only 80 pounds of additional weight were needed, giving the A5 a max gross weight of 1,510 pounds. Icon also received a $60 million cash infusion in June to establish production and develop future products. However, five and a half years after the Tehachapi, California-based company introduced the A5, the first of thousands on order has yet to be delivered. Read the full story here. Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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15. EAA's AirVenture Controller Fight with FAA AirVenture Oshkosh nearly faced a crisis in 2013 as FAA budget cuts moved the agency to impose fees for air traffic controllers at busy air shows. AirVenture claims it brings about 10,000 aircraft to the area each year, creating a need for additional controllers at Wittman Regional Airport and at nearby airports, such as Appleton and Fond du Lac, an airport that is generally uncontrolled but gets a temporary tower for the week. The EAA paid $448,000 to the FAA for ATC services, but has filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals to have its money returned. Other air shows around the country, such as the Copperstate Fly-In in Casa Grande, Arizona, were unable to pay the user fees and opted to have pilots fly in without temporary controllers. Read the full story here. Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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14. UPS A300 Crash in Birmingham On August 14 a UPS Airbus A300 crashed on approach to Runway 18 at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport in Alabama, killing both pilots. The freighter had flown in the pre-dawn darkness from UPS’s Louisville hub in good weather. According to National Transportation Safety Board investigators, the crew received two EGPWS warnings for excessive sink rate at about the same moment one of the pilots indicated the runway was in sight. The Airbus crashed into a hill about a mile short of the runway, badly damaging the airplane. A 26-member NTSB Go Team traveled to the crash site to launch the investigation, at which time the A300’s cockpit voice and flight data recorders were recovered. The investigation is expected to be concluded sometime next year. Read the full story here. Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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13. Garmin Introduces VIRB Camera and D2 Pilot Watch Late in the year Garmin jumped into a whole new aviation market when it introduced the VIRB, a hi-res action cam that quickly became the best selling cam among pilots and skyrocketed in popularity with other action cam enthusiasts, from bikers to wakeboarders. At the same time the avionics manufacturer came out with a pilot watch, the D2, which is worn on the wrist and has more capability than Garmin’s early panel-mounted GPSes, with moving map, databases, nearest airport functions and much more. To top it off, the D2 is a remote control for up to 10 VIRB cameras. Read about the D2 Pilot Watch here and the VIRB Camera here. Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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12. Pilatus Unveils PC-24 Building upon the success of its incredibly popular PC-12, Pilatus this year officially launched a new airplane called the PC-24 that boasts many of the same assets as its turboprop predecessor, but in twinjet form. Powered by dual Williams FJ44-4A engines mounted high up on the side of the fuselage, the planned medium-light bizjet is tailor-made for small airports and even unpaved airstrips, introducing a completely new category of bizjet unlike any other. If everything goes according to plan, the "off-road compatible" vehicle will boast 6,000 pounds worth of fuel carrying capacity, 425 knots at top cruise, 1,800 nm in range and a large side cargo door, just like the PC-12. Read the full Pilatus PC-24 story here. Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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11. FAA Issues New ATP Rules for Airline First Officers The FAA on August 1 adopted a long-awaited rule increasing the minimum requirements to become an airline first officer from 250 hours of flight time and a commercial pilot certificate to 1,500 hours of flight time and an airline transport pilot license. With the change the FAA also created a new license known as a restricted ATP that allows certain pilots to be hired by airlines with fewer hours and at a younger age. The R-ATP applies to pilots trained in the military or who have graduated from an approved aviation college or university. Raising the hourly requirement was prompted by the crash of a Colgan Air Dash 8 Q400 in Buffalo, New York, in 2009 and was part of a broader overhaul of airline training. Read the full story here. Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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10. Redbird's $1 Gas Promotion This fall Redbird Flight Simulations partnered with more than a dozen aviation organizations, including Flying, to sponsor a month-long promotion to sell avgas for the time-traveling cost of $1 per gallon at its San Marcos, Texas, Skyport FBO. Redbird founder and chief pilot Jerry Gregoire told Flying the experiment was designed to see just how much fuel prices affect how much GA pilots fly. Skyport personnel collected a great deal of survey data from pilots who flew in for fuel in the effort. In the end, Redbird halted the program after a couple of weeks due to unexpectedly high demand, but only after Gregoire had declared the operation a success. Read more about the story here. Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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9. FAA Sleep Apnea Rules If the FAA was looking to infuriate pilots, it couldn't have done much more damage than by imposing without the opportunity for public comment a rule designed to counter sleep apnea in pilots, a problem that has had almost zero safety ramifications. The rule requires Aviation Medical Examiners to take a pilot's body mass index and require those with a BMI of 40 or greater to get mandatory evaluation by a sleep specialist before a medical certificate can be issued. The cost of the evaluation is estimated at between $3,000 and $5,000 per pilot. AOPA has encouraged members of Congress to get involved to fight the unprecedented FAA move, with legislators moving to require the FAA medical division to go through a formal rulemaking process. Read more about the story here. (Photo by Rachel Tayse) Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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8. Dassault Launches Falcon 5X At the National Business Aviation Association Convention in Las Vegas in October, Dassault formally launched its new large body jet program. The $52 million Falcon 5X (formerly code named SMS) will boast the widest cabin of any Falcon, the largest windows, fly-by-wire flight controls and an updated EASy flight deck. The big bizjet will also boast Silvercrest engines, which will, according to French engine maker Safran, boast the best fuel specifics of any business class turbofan in existence, lowering the cost of operation of the 5X to best in class levels. Dassault is already constructing the first 5X at its factory outside Paris. First flight is planned for 2015 and certification in 2017. Read the full Falcon 5X story here. /p> Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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7. Small Airplane Revitalization Act Signed into Law In November President Obama signed the Small Airplane Revitalization Act, a key piece of GA legislation aimed at overhauling the regulations governing Part 23 aircraft. The legislation, which aims to increase the safety of Part 23 airplanes and cut certification costs in half, was spearheaded by dozens of regulators and industry leaders, who met over the course of several months to discuss new certification standards. The legislation marks a major win for an industry that has struggled to thrive under a rigid set of regulations meant to apply to a vast range of aircraft including everything from single engine pistons to business jets. Champions of the Small Airplane Revitalization Act say the new law will treat aircraft differently from a regulation standpoint depending upon their size and complexity, eliminating a major challenge for many of today’s small aircraft manufacturers. How much of the benefits of the legislation will reach aircraft buyers in the form of money saved, however, is yet to be seen. Read the full story here. Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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6. Boeing 787 Grounded Worldwide after Battery Fires One of the most exciting airplanes in decades, the composite fly-by-wire Boeing 787, got a rude entry into service when it suffered numerous mechanical setbacks early in its work life. The most serious were battery fires in a rear compartment, one of which came close to destroying an All Nippon plane that had to make an emergency landing in Japan after a battery caught fire. No one was injured, though inflight fires are about as scary as a mechanical failure can get. For a time the small but growing fleet was grounded. Boeing's fix for the problem, a beefed up battery box and better venting, cost nearly half a million dollars per airplane, and the 787 is flying again. Read more about the story here. Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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5. Unleaded Avgas Issues After the FAA launched the Unleaded Avgas Transition Aviation Rulemaking Committee (UAT ARC) in 2011 to develop a transition plan away from leaded aviation fuels, several companies have come forth to offer unleaded alternatives. An Arizona startup called Airworthy Aviation is producing a 93-octane unleaded Avgas, a product that was evaluated this year by companies such as Lycoming and Piper Aircraft. Piper and Lycoming also evaluated a 100-octane unleaded product produced by Shell, which the company claims can serve as an immediate replacement once it is certified. Another company called Swift Fuels LLC has developed a 100-octane unleaded fuel, named 100SF. The FAA plans to evaluate several potential 100LL replacement alternatives next year. Read more about the story here. Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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4. Government Shutdown Halts Aircraft Sales The political theater that led to the partial government shutdown on October 1 put an immediate halt to aircraft sales transactions when the FAA registry office in Oklahoma City was ordered closed. Billions of dollars worth of sales transactions were put into limbo until the showdown between Republicans and Democrats ended 16 days later. When the dust settled, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association said the shutdown delayed the deliveries of 150 general aviation airplanes worth $1.9 billion. While the U.S. government has been temporarily shut down many times since the mid 1970s, this was the first time the FAA registration office closed during such an action. Read the full story here. Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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3. FAA Moves to Close Contract Towers In the wake of the government sequestration that went into effect in March, the FAA announced it would slice 75 percent of its Contract Tower Program in an effort to meet the agency's required $600 million in budget cuts. The policy was slated to close a total of 238 contract towers around the country, including such notable airports as Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and Lakeland Linder Regional, home of the annual Sun 'n Fun fly-in every spring. The policy triggered a quick and widespread outcry from the aviation community, prompting the FAA to delay the implementation for a few months. But it was thanks to the Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013, prompted in large part by security line delays at larger commercial airports, that the contract tower closure policy was officially axed in May. Read more about the story here. Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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2. Asiana 214 Crash After years without a fatal airline accident on American soil, 2013 saw the crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 while attempting to land at San Francisco International Airport in July. Although a final accident report has not yet come out, the basic facts are already known. In the simplest of terms, the airplane's airspeed decreased to a dangerously low level on approach, causing the 777 to impact a sea wall short of the runway. But investigators also believe the pilots' misunderstanding of the way the autothrottles functioned may have contributed to the accident, reigniting the continuous debate over the role of automation in the cockpit. Amateur video captured the harrowing crash, which killed three passengers, including one who died after being struck by an emergency vehicle at the accident scene. Read more about the Asiana 214 crash here. Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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1. Customs and Border Patrol Pilot Stops Pilots got a rude awakening this year when reports began to surface of pilots being stopped with no apparent probable cause by agents of the Department of Homeland Security's Custom and Border Protection agency (CBP). Pilots, a number of whom contacted Flying directly, were essentially ramp checked by DHS agents, had their airplanes searched and were detained until the operation was over. The program, Flying learned through a law enforcement source who went through the training for it, was designed to interdict drug smugglers using small planes. If there has been even a single arrest made through the program, we are unaware of it. Late in the year after ignoring requests from AOPA for records of the detentions, the CBP tried to make records of its searches of pilots secret. Congress is now getting involved, calling upon the CBP to explain its questionably legal operations conducted against law abiding citizens. This story is far from over. Read more about the story here. Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.