30 October 2012

Hawker Beechcraft Buyout Off

As I previously reported Hawker Beechcraft was under offer to be purchased by Superior Aviation Beijing. The deal looked close to a done-deal in the middle of the summer, but it failed to be completed and Hawker Beechcraft is back to looking at emerging from bankruptcy on its own.

So what scuttled the deal? That depends of who you listen to. Different sources have each attributed it to:

  • national security concerns as "the company's defense operations were integrated with its civilian businesses that proved difficult to untangle"
  • "advisers in the U.S. had trouble negotiating with Chinese representatives unfamiliar with U.S. finance and bankruptcy law."
  • CEO of Hawker Beechcraft, Steve Miller, had attributed the failure to "China-bashing by U.S. presidential candidates may have contributed to failure of the talks"
  • A press release from Hawker Beechcraft simply said that, "the proposed transaction with Superior could not be completed on terms acceptable to the company."

So what now?

The company has indicated that it plans to emerge from bankruptcy protection as a stand-alone company and will be renamed Beechcraft Corporation. The new entity will focus on the company's most profitable products, which will mean piston aircraft manufacturing and refurbishing older aircraft, including turboprop and diesel upgrades for piston planes. In other words ending jet production.

The latest news this week is that the Beechcraft Premier will be produced as a single engine turboprop design with seating for up to 11 passengers, that looks remarkably like a Pilatus PC-12.

It will be interesting to see what happens over time as the company emerges from bankruptcy protection.

27 October 2012

Flight 8 Member Killed in Collision

Longtime COPA Flight 8 member Dennis Pharoah, 49, died when the car he was driving collided with a tree on Cavan Street, between Raven Avenue and Larose Street. The collision happened shortly after 4 pm on Wednesday 24 October 2012. Ottawa Police indicated speed was a factor in the collision.

Pharoah was involved in aviation for most of his life, flying single and twin-engined airplanes for both recreation and professionally. He worked in aviation as well, as an Accident Investigation Technician for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada laboratory at the Ottawa International Airport, specializing in the analysis of Flight Data Recorders and Cockpit Voice Recorders.

Flight 8 members will always remember Pharoah for his insightful and penetrating questions directed at speakers at the flight's meetings and also for his habit of being the last flight member to arrive. When Dennis showed up the meeting could then begin, although sometimes Flight Captain Mike Shaw would jump the gun and start the meeting without Dennis.

Pharoah was also an avid curler, playing on the Flight 8 Curling Team. He played Second on the Flight 8 team that were runners up in section B of the 2012 ATC Bonspiel held in Niagara Falls in April 2012.

Dennis's presence as a member of Flight 8 will be greatly missed.


Media report:

18 October 2012

New Edition of the Aeronautical Information Manual

The latest edition of the Aeronautical Information Manual from Transport Canada is now available!

The AIM was at one time the AIP and only available on paper. Today is it primarily an on-line publication, with html versions of each chapter on the TC website and also the full book available as a free PDF download. VIP Pilot Centre also offer a paper version for sale for $19.95.

The AIM is released twice a year, in April and October. This new version includes many illustrations now in colour.

13 October 2012



Civil Aviation Issues Reporting System (CAIRS) is a new system put in place by Transport Canada. Transport’s website says, “The CAIRS provides our stakeholders, including our clients and the public, with a means to raise issues (concerns, complaints, compliments, and suggestions for improvement) to the Civil Aviation Program of Transport Canada.” http://bit.ly/RonR6d

Well, I tried it and I am disappointed with the results, at least when compared to how well Nav Canada replies to queries. Since hearing about CAIRS at a Transport Canada safety seminar (http://bit.ly/RonFUy) in Ottawa last month I have posed a couple of queries but had no response, not even acknowledgement that they were received.

The CAIRS process requires filing-in an MS Word document that one can download, fill in and send to CAIRS email address, CAIRS_NCR@tc.gc.ca. Alternatively one can download the same form as a “pdf” file and fill that in by hand and send it to the above-noted email address.

27 September I sent CAIRS their form indicating that pilots were being confused by the wording in the TC Airman’s Information Manual (AIM) on joining the circuit at uncontrolled airports. The substance of my comments were based on my blog posting, http://bit.ly/Roo1L1. This confusion was amplified by the discussions at the above-noted safety seminar.

Also on 27 September I copied CAIRS on my note to Nav Canada suggesting they eliminate the VFR reporting point called Rockcliffe Park, adjacent to Rockcliffe Airport and close to restricted airspace over Rideau Hall (CYR 538).

On 28 September Nav Canada confirmed by email that they had received my query and told me who would be handling it. On 5 October Nav Canada replied by email that they agreed with my analysis and would be eliminating the Rockcliffe Park reporting point, see http://bit.ly/Roo9tY.

CAIRS has yet to acknowledge my queries. Transport Canada should at least let their “stakeholders, including our clients and the public” know that they received a query and what their intentions are with respect to it. In fact, why not put them all on the TC website so we can all see them and track activity and results?

The bottom line, Nav Canada gets an “A” for excellence, Transport Canada CAIRS less.

Nonetheless, I thank Transport Canada Civil Aviation Inspectors Oonagh Elliott and Claude Hurley for delivering a stimulating safety seminar for COPA Flight 8 on 26 September 2012.

11 October 2012

Oonagh Elliott Answers Questions

Transport Canada Civil Aviation Safety Inspector Oonagh Elliott made a note of some questions asked by attendees at the Safety Seminar that was presented as COPA Flight 8's September meeting.

Here are the questions and the answers:

1) Radio Licence:

Pilots are required to have a radio-telephone operators' certificate when operating an aircraft radio. One attendee indicated that his certificate was included in his old paper licence. However, as that licence is no longer valid, and he is using the Aviation Document Booklet, he should obtain a replacement radio certificate from Industry Canada. They will do this free of charge. What people in this situation need to do, is email their request to Industry Canada at spectrum.certificates@ic.gc.ca. They need to provide their full name, date of birth and mailing address.

2) MF, Standard Radio Calls @ 5 minutes

The five minute reference is contained in CAR 602.101 and it is qualified by a "where circumstances permit" statement.

3) IFR/VFR traffic at MF airport (VMC)

General procedures in the vicinity of an aerodrome are contained in CAR 602.96. MF procedures for VFR and IFR are contained in CAR 602.97 to 602.103 IFR procedures at uncontrolled airports are contained in CAR 602.104. This clarifies the fact that IFR aircraft are NOT required to conduct a VFR circuit when arriving at an uncontrolled airport. They have several options to choose from depending on the circumstances of the day. They are operating under IFR, which requires them to follow published IFR procedures, including published approach procedures. These procedures generally involve a straight in on final approach to the runway from an FAF. The pilot may choose to conduct a circling approach in some cases, which may or may not have a higher inherent risk in itself. He may alternately choose to cancel his IFR flight plan and then conduct a VFR arrival, however, once the flight plan is cancelled, the SAR portion also disappears, therefore, there is a higher inherent risk in this case also. The key is communication between all traffic to sort out any potential conflicts.

4) Transborder Flight Plans

Must be filed, and must be opened on departure. COPA/AOPA have both published guides relating to transborder flights.

5) ELT 406 Update?

No new information was available on this subject.

07 October 2012

Rockcliffe Park VFR Reporting Point to Go.

vta ow044For sometime I have wondered why there is VFR reporting point 1 mile west of Rockcliffe Airport only half a mile from Restricted airspace (CYR 538). I had never heard any pilot or air traffic controller use it. As well, there had been in increase in aircraft entering CYR 538 over Rideau Hall. It seemed to me that the VFR Reporting point might potentially sucker pilots into violating the restricted air space. This topic came up at a TC safety seminar in Ottawa.

I wrote to Nav Canada’s Services folks and suggested they eliminate the reporting point. They checked with ATC, Gatineau FSS, local flight schools and concluded that my suggestion made sense. Below is there reply.

“A submission has been made to remove the check point from the Ottawa VTA and the VTPCs in the CFS and Water Aerodrome Supplement (WAS). This change should be reflected in new Ottawa VTA due in February 2013, the Jan 10, 2013 CFS and the next WAS due March 7, 2013.”

Thanks for listening Nav Canada!

01 October 2012

What's Up With Landings?

Landings, or at least bad landings, seem to be making the aviation news lately. At Flight 8's recent Transport Canada Safety Seminar Claude Hurley & Oonagh Elliott pointed out that 53% of recent light aircraft accidents have been landing accidents and, of those, half were assessed as being due to lack of skill. Judgement only made up 25%, so lack of skill is twice the problem that judgement is at present.

On 30 September 2012 AVweb's Paul Bertorelli published a blog post entitled Johnny Can Read, But He Can't Land making some similar observations about the accident record in US Light-Sport Aircraft. He noted "The leading type of accident for most aircraft is what we call R-LOCs or runway loss of control. This broad category describes a multitude of aeronautical blunders—from crosswind-induced excursions, to drop-ins, to landing long or short or just running into stuff. (Runway lights, localizer bars and, yes, cows.)"

Why is it that lack of skill mostly shows up in landing accidents, rather than in other phases of flight? Bertorelli sums this up very succinctly "Of all the tasks in flying, landing requires the most refined motor skills and hand-eye coordination in reaction to a stream of subtle cues." In other words it is the hardest part of aircraft flight and a lack of skill will show up first and worst in landing accidents.

So why are pilots suddenly turning up with lack of skill accidents? Bertorelli focuses on lack of transition training to the lightweight and easy to over-control LSAs. I am sure that is a factor, but the TC statistics show this same trend in all types of privately-flown light aircraft.

Like everything in flying, landings take time to initially learn how to do them right, but then they require constant practice or else the skills get rusty and deteriorate. I believe this is the crux of the problem.

The recent 2012 COPA membership survey shows some disturbing trends when comparing data to the previous 2007 survey. One of the most worrying to me is the reported median number of hours flown annually, which in that five year period dropped from 40 to 27. This means that half the pilots flew less than 27 hours in 2011. On top of that almost half the pilots (46.6%) reported flying fewer hours in 2011 than previously, with only 15.7% reporting flying more.

The number of hours a pilot needs to fly annually to be sufficiently safe varies a lot and there are many factors involved. Higher total time pilots can get by with fewer hours, as they lean on their accumulated experience. Lower time pilots need more recent practice. The median reported total flying time in the COPA survey was 680 hours, which makes the vast majority of pilots surveyed quite "low time". Flying complex tasks, like helicopter vertical reference long-lining requires a lot of recent practice unless you want to wrap the line around a tree or ten. Fixed wing, day, VFR flying is less demanding.

I think that for low time pilots 27 hours a year is not enough to fly safely, even if they are only flying day, VFR and in light winds. That is barely two hours a month. If you fly that infrequently someone is going to get hurt and the accident statistics exactly bear that out.

There are lots of reasons why people don't fly more, but "too expensive" seems to be at the head of many people's lists. This is supported by the COPA survey again that shows an average member age of 57.2 years, meaning a large number of pilots are retired and living on pensions. They used to be able to afford to fly more and now they can't.

If the high cost of flying is keeping people from flying enough to be safe then something has to be done to reduce costs. Many pilots I listen to grumble about high fuel prices, but even today fixed costs, like maintenance, insurance and hangarage add up to more money than gas does for most aircraft. I think the problem here is that owners have to pay the fixed costs and then many of them pay for gas out of what is left over after that, which often doesn't leave much.

There are lots of ways to reduce the cost of flying. One of the easiest ways is to take on partners. Four partners will cut the fixed costs by 75% per person. It always amazes me how many people insist on owning their own plane, which they can barely afford and can't fly much, but always have excuses to not take on partners.

There are lots of other solutions to high costs as well. The new generation of electric aircraft, like the Yuneec International E430 can be flown for pennies an hour in fuel costs and have much lower engine maintenance costs as well. For many people if you aren't flying much and only locally renting makes more sense than owning.

Whatever the reason is keeping pilots from flying enough to be safe really doesn't matter. We have to look at our own circumstances and if we aren't flying enough to be safe then we can't just keep doing that until we have an accident. Instead we need to either find creative ways to fly more or admit we can't fly enough to fly safely and hang it up.