Saturday, 15 August 2009

Hudson mid-air

Alongside the speculation and rumour, the facts of this accident are starting to emerge. According to the NTSB, the Teterboro controller working the Saratoga called the pilot 40 seconds before the collision with a frequency change instruction (Newark on 127.85). Also according to the NTSB, there were several potential conflicts ahead of the aircraft that the pilot wasn't told of. While the Teterboro controller was confirming the Newark frequency, the Newark controller was calling the Teterboro controller to ask him to give avoiding instructions to the Saratoga pilot. Although calls were made there was no response.

The Teterboro controller was engaged in a 'non-business related' telephone call at the time of the accident. That call is widely reported to have been to his girlfriend. Both the controller, and the ATC supervisor who was not present at the time, have been suspended by the FAA. Although the FAA has stated that there is currently no reason to believe that the controllers' behavior led to the accident, they are both likely to be dismissed.

The area is covered by TIS, traffic data that is uplinked via a Mode S transponder and displayed in the cockpit if suitable equipment is fitted (typically a GNS430/530 in older aircraft). If the traffic is seen by radar (as it was in this case) then it too would be uplinked. The equipment fit of each aeroplane has not been released.

There's a YouTube video of the collision, reportedly made by friends of the five Italian tourists who were in the Liberty Tours Squirrel.

Tough times continue for business jet employees

There may be some talk of green shoots, but even if they are real they'll be of little comfort to many working in the jet world, particularly if they are involved in building them!

Hawker Beechcraft last week sent out letters to employees warning of further significant job cuts.

I hear that Wichita is the world's biggest parking lot for unsold jets right now. A year or two ago people were prepared to pay a premium for positions near the head of the delivery queue, and sales people wouldn't negotiate, now all you need is a pocket full of dollars to do some spectacular deals at your local Business Jet store.

NetJets, the world's leading fractional ownership company, is restructuring after Chairman and CEO of 25 years Richard T Santulli resigned with immediate effect. The company lost $350m in the first half of 2009 following an 81% drop in aircraft sales and a 22% drop in revenue hours.

Friday, 14 August 2009

UK Cape challenge postponed until 2010

Steve Noujaim has decided to postpone his attempt at the Cape record until early 2010. Steve will use the extra time to further improve the aircraft, fitting long-range tanks and a Garmin G900X integrated avionics suite to replace the Blue Mountain screens that were part of the initial build.

The extra time will also give Steve the chance to raise some extra sponsorship and to put another 30 or 40 hours on the aeroplane before setting off for South Africa.

Good AFPEx news

Forget the addressing stuff for now, the good news is that the next release of AFPEx, due in October, is intended to alleviate the need for a large download every time, and will probably also remove one of the security stages.

The next release will also make the software fully compliant with the latest version of Java.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Oshkosh video

Just found this great video that nicely captures at least part of what Oshkosh is all about.


Oops, can't get this to fit properly, click on the video to watch the original

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

A guide to VFR flight plan addressing for France

The VFR addressing changes for flights to, or from, France seem to have caused a bit of a stir. They've also been used by many as a reason not to use AFPEx, which in my opinion is a bit of a shame. Anyway, here's a short, simple guide to addressing French VFR flight plans.

The way it was...
When you filled in a flight plan online using AFPEx, the system auto-filled the addresses for the departure, destination and alternate airfields. You then right-clicked in an address box, clicked through to 'Add VFR Addresses' and added the collective* address for each of the FIRs through which you would be flying. For France, the pop-up box also told you to manually add the ICAO codes for the destination and alternate with the suffix ZPZX for each.

*A collective address is something created by the AFPEx people at NATS, so rather than having to know the addresses of each FIR in France for example, they have all been 'collected' under one, AFPEx-supplied address.

You will need to download or open this file

The way it is (for now)...
AFPEx will still auto-fill the departure, destination and alternate fields for you. As above, you will need to follow the 'Add VFR Addresses' for the FIRs that you will fly through, including France.
Open the document from the French AIP (linked to above) and go to the VFR addressing bit that starts on page 12 of the document.

At the top of the page you will see that they want the following
  1. Departure ICAO code + ZPZX
  2. Attaching BRIA code + ZFZX
  3. Destination ICAO + ZTZX
  4. Attaching BRIA + ZFZX
  5. FIR (In France) crossed + ZFZX
  6. SIV concerned + ZTZX
  7. Any additional addresses specified
The rest of the AIP document provides a useful table giving all of the necessary addresses's fairly simple to go through the table and dig out the correct addresses.

However, from the list above, AFPEx will auto-fill the departure or destination fields adding the suffix ZTZX. The sharp-eyed will notice that the French now have different addresses for the same airfield depending on if it's being used as a departure or destination! To be foolproof, the AFPEx team is suggesting that you manually add ZPZX to all departure, destination and alternate fields in France. You also will have entered the AFPEx-generated collective address when you used the pop-up 'Add VFR Addresses' to put in VFR France. This collective address now contains...
  • Every FIR in France
  • Every BRIA in France
...meaning that all you have to enter is the relevant SIV, and any additional addresses. These can be easily found in the AIP document. AFPEx is trying to make things easier by persuading the French BRIAs to forward the flight plans to the SIVs, and if they succeed I'll update these instructions.

Given the amount of addresses that could be required for some destinations, it's worth using the 'Store' function in order to create saved, correctly-addressed flight plans for your favourite destinations.

BRIA Bureau Regional d'Information Aeronautique - think FBUs of old
SIV Service Information Vols - think Flight Information Area

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

French flight plans and AFPEx

I know people who like AFPEx, people who hate AFPEx, and people who haven't even heard of AFPEx (the internet-based Assisted Flight Plan Exchange). I belong to the group of people who like AFPEx. When I file a flight plan I know that it has been done, and that I'm not relying on a couple of other people to get my plan into the system.

With IFR plans there's an almost instant ACK message that gets sent to your AFPEx mailbox indicating that all is well. There's no acknowledgment with VFR flight plans, but I've never had a problem with them going missing, until yesterday that is.

My flight had started in Quiberon, but I planned a stop in Cherbourg to complete Customs formalities, i.e. walking through the empty Customs corridor. I'd logged on to AFPEx in the morning and filed a flight plan from Cherbourg back to the strip in the UK. On my way from Quiberon to Cherbourg, I called Jersey to get a crossing through the south-east corner of their zone and to get an early idea on the status of D036. Jersey mentioned my flight plan; when I first called, they'd looked it up on their system. Imagine my surprise when Cherbourg said they hadn't seen it, and neither had Nantes, the BRIA (French Flight Brieifing Unit) for that region.

Despite knowing that it was in the system somewhere, I ended up having to call Nantes and file over the telephone. I called AFPEx this morning to find out if I’d done anything wrong and found out about a recent change that the French have introduced.

When using AFPEx to file a flight plan you are offered a degree of help with the VFR addressing. This is accessed by right clicking in one of the address boxes at the top of an AFPEx flight plan form and clicking through ‘VFR addresses’ and ‘Add VFR addresses’. You’ll then be presented with a box in which there is a list of addresses which are pretty much all collective addresses. By collective addresses I mean that the people at NATS behind AFPEx have grouped the appropriate addresses together under one single address, making life simpler for the user and reducing the possibility of errors.

However, scroll down to France and then extend the box and you’ll see a note that suggests you consult the French AIP, specifically ENR 1.11. This is a document that sets out some new addresses for French airfields, addresses that right now AFPEx does not take into account. As an example, any flight departing from or arriving at Cherbourg will need the following list of addresses.

if you are departing from Cherbourg, or

if you are arriving at Cherbourg

Right now, AFPEx does not seem to differentiate between departing or arriving, using LFRCZPZX for both. The collective address for VFR in France, EGZYVFLF is an AFPEx collective and may or may not contain some or all of the required addresses. I suspect my ‘lost’ flight plan was due to it not being properly addressed as per the new instructions

To say this is a bit of a mess would be an understatement. The AFPEx team are well aware of this issue and are discussing it with the French with a view to finding a nice simple solution. In the meantime (and I’ll update this as and when I get news) the only way to be squeaky clean is to print a copy of the French AIP ENR 1.11 and follow the instructions there.

Monday, 10 August 2009

HMEC-25 Headsets

Have you used these before? If so, I'd like to know how you found them. Please drop me an email or leave a comment.



CAA issues LSA clarification

This is the SportCruiser, one of the new breed of aircraft hoping to get a Permit while waiting for EASA to finalise the regulations. There are others, some have Permits (CTLS, Remos G3), some are still waiting (SportCruiser, SuperStar). Those with Permits have non-renewable Permits, when/if those without get their Permits they'll also be non-renewable. The plan is that by the time their two-year Permit expires, EASA will have it all sorted, and the manufacturers will have the required Part 21 approvals.

The CAA has recently issued a letter, which suggests that they are somewhat concerned about some of the incorrect information that is out there, including things that have been written by people who should know better in a magazine that should also know better.

Here's the letter in full.

Dear Sir,

Light Sport Aircraft (LSA)

With the increasing interest in Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) it is important that operators and potential purchasers are aware of the current situation regarding the European Aviation Safety Agency’s (EASA) plans for the aircraft.

At present, EASA will provide ‘Flight Conditions’ for these aircraft. This potentially allows these aircraft to qualify for an EASA Permit to Fly (PtF), which will be issued by the State of Registry, e.g. the UK CAA. The aircraft are being delivered from the manufacturer, accompanied by an EASA Form 52. This attests to the build status of the aircraft but, at present, these documents have no legal validity as the production process currently sits outside of the established EASA Implementing Rules for certification under Part 21. This means that aircraft which have had a PtF issued, have not been designed or manufactured to a certificated standard and will be restricted in their use. For example, ab initio flying training or its use for hire and reward will not be permitted.

EASA has recently agreed to formalise the requirements for certification and manufacture of these LSA types. We believe that EASA intends that they will be designed to a code, Certification Specification (CS) -LSA, based on the US ASTM specification. It will also be a requirement that the production organisation be approved, in accordance with Part 21. In the absence of the Part 21 approval, the aircraft will not be eligible for anything other than a PtF and thus will be restricted in use.

Aircraft manufactured and delivered when the Part 21 production approval is in place will initially be issued with a PtF but once the aircraft has been evaluated against the design code, may be eligible for the issue of a CofA. EASA is considering further the likely operating rules that will apply to LSA aircraft with a CofA and it is hoped that this will include flying training.

There are three further points worth noting. Firstly, kit-built versions of these LSA aircraft will only be eligible for a National PtF, e.g. a UK National PtF issued by the CAA and administered through the Light Aircraft Association. Secondly, an aircraft with an EASA PtF is not necessarily eligible for flight in the airspace of another country, even the EU Member States, as EASA has yet to take on the legal competence for airspace use and access. Thirdly, LSA aircraft on a PtF cannot be hired out, this constitutes hire and reward, but can be operated by a group in accordance with the current group rules defined in the UK Air Navigation order (max 20 members sharing the costs).

In the meantime, prospective purchasers of these aircraft should be aware that the EASA requirements are not yet in place.

Jim McKenna

Head of Strategy, Policy and Standards

Airworthiness Division

Safety Regulation Group

Civil Aviation Authority

50lph and only 120kt

There's no doubt about it, filling the 182's tanks with avgas is expensive. They empty themselves at the rate of about 50lph and the energy released propels the C182 along at about 120kt. It'll go faster of course, but you pay dearly for the extra speed and unless there's a very good reason 2nm a minute is a decent compromise.

It's not all bad news though. The picture above shows the stuff we took for a two-night stay in France, and some of the stuff we brought back: there's a small suitcase and a holdall (and they never do); a bag of shopping (tins, jars and all sorts); a freezer bag with ice packs (keeps the fresh fish, err... fresh); bag containing laptop and assorted wires; a flight bag with a Jepp manual, charts, radios and documents; a couple of headsets; a couple of life-jackets; a dinghy and a couple of quarts of oil. After all that I still had a couple of seats at the back going empty.

When I compare that lot with the space and weight restrictions 'enjoyed' by some smaller aircraft, I realise that the C182 offers compromises that suit my flying - from short strip stuff to IFR touring. The 50lph still hurts though.

Air/Ground radio

I called in at Compton Abbas for some fuel on Saturday. Compton's callsign is Compton Radio which indicates that they ofer an Air/Ground service, and they do it properly, which is to say within the regulations. Air/Ground cannot provide instructions to a pilot either in the air or on the ground, so when you call final they'll tell you the wind, that's all. When it's time to leave, an Air/Ground service can't give you taxi instructions or give you clearance to take off - they can give you the wind direction and strength.

Landing at Compton on Saturday it was surprising how many people (it was heaving) kept announcing that they were on final, then short final, then very short final. Each time the A/G operator gave them (correctly) the wind direction and speed, adding the information that they were an Air/Ground service. The airwaves were also pretty full of people asking for taxi instructions, and calling ready for departure at the hold, expecting to be cleared for take-off.

Don't get me wrong, this is not a general moan about the quality of RT, but some of the people suffering from a lack of understanding were (correctly) using the Student prefix. In my opinion the fault lies with their instructors who should know better, and who should have ensured that their students understand the different services available, particularly as they're supposedly under supervison.

CAP413 has the details.