Pilot Safety News
A Safety Journal for General Aviation
July/August, 2007 

by Max Trescott, Master CFI & FAA Aviation Safety Counselor
www.sjflight.com  (650)-224-7124

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This is our traditional Oshkosh issue. We’ll also talk about some other things as well, such as the recent rash of runway incursions. No, not by small airplanes, but by fully loaded commercial airliners. Some of the recent close calls are enough to make you think twice about flying commercially.

We’ll also talk about the “new” FAA Wings program. I’ve just completed my “Basic” WINGS under the new program and will tell you the ins and outs of the new program. You'll also find updates on the CFI Shortage and Hiring at the Airlines.

Also, I want to encourage you to subscribe for free email updates from my new blog on General Aviation Advocacy and Air Safety. That site will be update much more frequently than this one and will include current news and analysis. You'll find it at www.maxtrescott.com. It's also an easier way for me to share photos, and you'll find a large number of photos I took at Oshkosh on the blog.

Getting back to Oshkosh, if you were there, you already know how great it was. If you’ve never been to Oshkosh, then I need to remind you of your sacred responsibilities as a pilot. You must get to Oshkosh at least once in your life. So stop right now, pull out your calendar and note the dates for next year: July 28-August 3, 2008. Although the show runs a week, take whatever time you can, whether it’s just a day or a weekend.  The least expensive way to get there is to fly into either Chicago O’Hare or Midway airport, rent a car and drive the three hours to Oshkosh. You can also fly into Milwaukee to cut the travel time in half, or Green Bay to get just 45 minutes away from this pilot’s version of Disneyland.

Oshkosh, or rather AirVenture 2007 which is its official name, offers the best of everything there is to experience in aviation. Regardless of your interest, you’ll find it here. Home builts, war birds, ultra lights, helicopters, military and seaplanes are all here in larger quantities than you’ll find elsewhere. Every afternoon there’s an airshow which changes somewhat each day.  Best of all are the people. If there’s anyone you want to talk to, whether it’s the President of Cessna or the author of your favorite obscure book, they’re all here and interested in talking with you.  So make plans now to be here next year—and look me up when you get here! In the meantime, have fun and fly safely!

best regards,
Max Trescott, Master CFI and Master Ground Instructor

Runway Incursions Can Happen to Anyone
Simulations show that a Runway Incursion could Ruin your Day!
In recent issues, we talked about an aircraft that took off without a clearance while I was on final to land. At the time, I was ready to see the book thrown at him, and wasn't particularly sympathetic to his explanation that he had headset problems and "thought" he heard a takeoff clearance. What should be obvious to all readers is that if you're ever in doubt about a clearance, you should use the most conservative interpretation. In that case, the pilot should have continued to hold short and ask for clarification.

My view is more sympathetic now, thanks in part to your reader feedback as well as contemplation of my own past mistakes. It's also been revealing to see details on close calls that have occurred with the Commercial airlines. They show that none of us is immune from these kind of problems and that we all need to maintain a high level of vigilance when flying.

The NTSB has posted two video simulations or runway incursions that occurred between commercial airliners earlier this year. You can watch the videos at http://www.ntsb.gov/events/2007/Most-Wanted-Progress/AnimationDescription.htm.

We've posted a snapshot image from the San Francisco incident that occurred between a Republic Airlines Embraer 170 and a SkyWest Embraer 120 on May 26, 2007. Most aircraft at San Francisco land on runways 28L and 28R, and most departures occur from runways 1L and 1R. The SkyWest plane, shown in the circle, had landed on runway 28R, while the Republic Airlines plane was cleared to takeoff on 1L.

At about the point shown in this image, the tower controller said "Uh --Sky... uh Skywest 5741 hold hold hold." The captain of the Republic jet took control from the first officer and took off prior to the intersection, clearing the SkyWest jet by as little as 50 feet depending up witness reports. The other animated reconstruction is between A320 and a Delta Airlines B757 at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport on July 11, 2007.

The moral of the story is that as pilots, we need to constantly be aware of our surroundings. Never enter a runway unless you're absolutely certain that you've been cleared onto it. Never enter a runway without looking out on the final to see if another aircraft is landing. Listen to the radio calls of other aircraft to build a picture in your mind as to where all other aircraft are located. For example, if you're cleared into position and hold, it would be helpful to have been listening beforehand to see if another aircraft was cleared to land. Finally, never takeoff without checking the entire length of any intersecting runways for any potential conflicting traffic.

We have the safest air traffic transportation system in the world. However, it only works when pilots and controller check and monitor each others action so that mistakes are caught and rectified quickly. Remember, the life you save may be your own!

New FAA Wings Program
A Good Alternative to the BFR or Flight Review
As many readers know, I’ve been huge supporter of the FAA’s WINGS program. Now there’s a new program with a number of new twists. But before we get to that, let’s back up and explain the old program for those who might not be familiar with it.

Over twenty years ago, an FAA district office in the Midwest piloted (in a manner of speaking) the WINGS program and it was later rolled out to rest of the country. Essentially, it’s an alternative way of meeting the Flight Review requirement (formerly known as a BFR) that pilots must meet every two years, but with a focus on safety. A traditional flight review requires an hour of ground instruction (usually of rules and regulations) and a minimum of one hour of flight until the pilot reaches proficiency. Years ago, no Flight Review was required, but then a study was performed that showed that more than half of all pilots would be unable to pass a checkride again just two years after they got their license.  Subsequently,  the Flight Review requirement was added to assure that pilots get some recurrent training every two years.

The WINGS program differs from the Flight Review in that it’s more specific about the content of the recurrent training. In the old WINGS program, pilots were required to attend a Safety Seminar and then fly for a total of three hours, an hour of landings, and hour of maneuvers and an hour of simulated instrument (hood) time. However, unlike the Flight Review, which requires the pilot to achieve proficiency (to PTS standards), the WINGS program didn’t require any proficiency—just that you fly the three hours.

The FAA Safety program has undergone a major restructuring over the past year. Whereas in the past, each FSDO had a Safety Program Manager that reported to the local FSDO Manager, the new program has few Safety Program Managers covering larger territories, but they all report to a National Safety Program Manager. The program has also been renamed FAAST, for FAA Safety Team.

At Oshkosh, I had dinner one night with Kevin Clover, the National FAASTeam manager and his deputy, and they explained the rationale for some of the changes in the WINGS program.  Apparently only 2% of all pilots were participating in the old WINGS program. This was a shock to me, as I no longer do Flight Reviews and only offer the WINGS program to my clients for a variety of reasons. For example, our local FAA Safety Program Manager has often referred to the WINGS program as a “get out of jail free” card for participants. I’m not sure it will get you out of every jam you might get yourself into, but it’s bound to help if you have a minor infraction, as it says something about a pilot’s orientation toward safety.

Besides low participation, the old program also suffered from administration issues. Since it was run locally by each district FSDO, data on WINGS completion was recorded differently, and there was no way to “roll the data up” so that you could look at all of it on a national basis. The downside of that is that there’s been no way to relate participation in the WINGS program with accident data. Obviously the FAA—and insurance companies—would like to be able to compare those two databases so that it could be determined just what effect participation in the WINGS program has on accident rates.

New Wings Program
The new WINGS program was rolled out this summer and is running in parallel with the old program for a few months.  Here are some of the key changes:

·         All credits for the new WINGS program are tracked online at www.sjflight.com
·         A certificate is issued immediately upon completion of the program
·         Instead of twenty phases, there are just three: Basic, Advanced, and Master
·         To complete a phase, you need three ground credits and three flight credits
·         Ground credits are accrued automatically for taking online courses (usually one credit each)
·         Flight credits are approved by an email exchange with a flight instructor
·         Flight maneuvers must be demonstrated until PTS standards are achieved
·         There is no minimum number of hours required to complete the three flight credits

There are lots or pros and a few cons to the new program, but overall it should be a net benefit.  One of the best benefits is getting the WINGS certificate immediately upon completion. I printed mine out as an Adobe pdf file and was able to immediately send it as an email attachment to my local flight school to demonstrate that I was current. If you don’t have the Adobe Acrobat software, you can print the certificate to a printer and then scan it or mail it. One con: you no longer get a nice pin for each phase you complete.

Completing the ground credits was easy. I attended two seminars at Oshkosh in the FAA Forums building and received ½ credit for each. I forgot to turn in one of the forms at Oshkosh, but was able to get credit by sending an email to the FAA Safety Program Manager in Wisconsin. I took also took two online courses at www.faasafety.gov which were good for one credit each. The big benefit of online courses is that you can do them at your leisure—you no longer have to show up at a safety seminar in person.

The flight portion is also straightforward. I printed the list of requirements for each of the three flight credits and brought them along with me to the plane. I’d highly suggest that you do the same thing, as there are a number of activities required and there’s no way to know whether you completed them unless you have a list. For example, one of the credits for the Basic level requires that you complete all of the following to PTS standards:

·         slow flight
·         Power-off stall
·         Power-on stall
·         Instrument Maneuvers: straight and level, turns, unusual attitudes

One of the flight credits has a number of items from which you can choose, each of which offers a quarter of a credit.  For example, I flew with another instructor who wanted to do some instrument approaches after I finished my WINGS requirements. By planning ahead, I made sure that I was the one to do the preflight (1/4 credit) and the taxiing (1/4 credit). I then did a soft field takeoff and voila, three-quarters of a credit was accumulated before we had more than a few clicks on the HOBBS meter.

So, the big benefit to you as a pilot—if you are reasonable proficient—is that you can complete the three flight credits in significantly less than the three hours required of the old program.  A future benefit you may accrue is lower insurance rates if the FAASTeam is able to demonstrate a relationship between pilots that participate in the WINGS program and lower accident rates.

A great way to use the WINGS program is in tandem with checking out in a new type of aircraft. If you’ve been lusting after flight time in a high performance aircraft, light twin or even a new light sport aircraft at your nearby flight school, a checkout in any of these planes will probably require demonstrating most of the same maneuvers required by the WINGS program. You know that you need to meet the FAA FAA’s flight review requirements every two years, so as long as you’re spending the money, why not get your WINGS and checked out in a new airplane all on the same dime?

So here’s a challenge to all of our readers. Go to www.faasafety.gov and start working on the ground requirements for the BASIC WINGS level. Then print the requirements for the flight elements and bring along an instructor so that you can get credit for the required maneuvers.  Then, send us a note and let us know what you like and don’t like about the new program. We’ll print some of feedback in future newsletters.

AirVenture 2007--Oshkosh
I spent five days at Oshkosh this year, and it was fabulous as always. It was definitely on the warm side (high 80’s), but not intolerably hot. The main announcements at the show seemed to split to either the low end of aviation—light sport—or to the high end in the very light jet market. Let’s start with the former.

Light Sport
Probably the biggest announcement in Light Sport was that Cessna has made the decision to go forward and produce their new light sport aircraft, designated the Cessna 162 Skycatcher. Think Cessna 152 replacement but with—and we’re not making this up—a glass cockpit!

Their display featured an order booth with a large LED sign showing the number of orders taken at the show. When I was there, more than 500 had been sold and I’d heard that over 700 sold by the end of the show. I think we’ll see many aging Cessna 150 and 152s replaced by this attractive new plane, but it won’t happen overnight. First shipments won’t occur for two years, and even then, plans are to build only 50 planes in the second half of 2009. A few hundred more will ship in 2010 meaning that if you place your order today, you won’t see your new airplane until 2011!

IBM made famous the marketing strategy of introducing new high end computers months and years before they ever shipped. This held the competition at bay while they finished the product. Garmin—a company I greatly admire—seems to have taken a page from this playbook. The Skycatcher model on display featured a new Garmin G300 glass cockpit. However, no one seems to know anything about the G300 features, other than it will be ready when the Skycatcher ships in two years. I guess by then even Cessna will know what a G300 does (does anyone remember when Cessna used to build their own radios in Boonton, NJ?).

Cirrus Design also announced a new light sport aircraft, however they’ve taken a totally different tact. Rather than design a new plane from scratch, they’re partnering with a European company and modifying the design somewhat. Since a light sport aircraft is required to have a true airspeed of no more than 120 knots, Cirrus will probably make history when it become the first company that’s ever had to redesign an airplane—to make it SLOWER!  How ironic, for a company that prides itself on its sleek, fast designs!

VLJ Market Segments itself
Prior to Oshkosh, I thought of the VLJ market for new light jets as being essentially one class of airplane, albeit with some airplanes a little bigger than others. However, it became clear to me that, going forward, there will be two distinct product categories: single-engine and twin-engine VLJs.

Early in the week, Eclipse not only announced a new single-engine VLJ, but they also flew it in and put it on display. That was a stunning move from the company that already dominated the “old” VLJ market with their twin-engine Eclipse 500, and seemingly didn’t need another product. However, it does allow them to reset the clock and once again sell jets for less than $1million, though with one less engine that their original sub-million jet.

Computer modeling played a big part in allowing Eclipse to rapidly design and build this new single-engine prototype. Apparently much of the aerodynamic modeling was accomplished by using the original twin-engine computer models, but with one engine turned off to simulate the thrust of a single engine design. Clever, but not surprising for a company as innovative as Eclipse.

If you’re budgeting for your next jet, consider this. You’ll now have at least five single engine jets to choose from in this rapidly growing sub segment that only a year ago Diamond seemed to have all to themselves with their Diamond D-Jet. Prices start at under $1 million, and you’ll be able to choose from Cirrus, Diamond, Eclipse, Epic or Piper.

If you don’t want to have the tiniest jet on the ramp however, you may want to buy from the growing number of twin engine jets, though figure on spending a minimum of $1.6 million. Currently only the Eclipse 500 and Cessna Mustang are shipping, but others are soon to follow including Adam, Epic, and Embraer.

The Middle Class
I’m not sure if we have a disappearing middle class, but there didn’t seem to be the same focus here as there was on the low and high end. Cessna was showing off a model of their NGP or next generation piston. Apparently this will be a family of aircraft with turbo and non-turbo versions and models with different numbers of seats. The current discussion is around a five seat version, but that could change prior to introduction.  Virtually everyone who walked up asked how fast the plane would be and got the same answer—fast, really fast. But not retractable. Cirrus, Columbia and others seemed to have proven that with the new, slick composite designs, there’s just not much more speed to be gained by sucking up the gear, so they don’t. The price for their first plane will probably be north of $600K. Look at competitive planes from Columbia and Cirrus and you’ll quickly settle on that number.

If you’re looking for a long term prediction on where this market is going—here’s mine. This is totally a guess on my part, and not based on any inside information of any kind (in which case I probably wouldn’t share it). My bet is that the NGP family will ultimately replace Cessna’s metal airplanes, though we may not see it happen for ten or more years. They’ll probably start at the high end, offering nice alternatives to the 182 and perhaps the 206, and eventually have a model that competes with the 172.  So in 2017 when this happens, you can say you read it here first!

Update: In late November, 2007, Cessna purchased Columbia aircraft. It's now fairly clear that the new Cessna (formerly Columbia) 350 and 400 will be the fast airplanes to compete with Cessna, and indeed the NGP will more likely be designed as a replacement for the 172/182/206 family.

The Million Pilot Challenge
I attended the NAFI Master CFI breakfast, which is one of the big benefits of being a Master CFI. Why? Because everyone is there. It’s a relatively intimate environment with perhaps 80 people attending so it’s easy to mingle and talk. This year’s attendees included Paul Poberezny, Chairman of EAA, Hal Sheevers, head of Sporty’s, Marion Blakey, FAA Administrator, Barry Valentine, former acting FAA Administrator, along with all of the NAFI management.

The most important thing I heard was Paul Poberezny speaking on the criticality of growing the pilot population to 1 million pilots. Over the last 2 years, the pilot population has declined from around 800,000 to about 600,000 today. There are a variety of factors, including the lack of a GI Bill, which funded the cost of learning to fly for an earlier generation, rising fuel and insurance costs, and many more activities that compete for our time.

It’s critical that we reverse this trend, so that pilots continue to have a strong voice in American politics, which can not only where we can fly, but how much we’ll have to pay for the privilege.  Notice I say privilege and not “right” as the constitution doesn’t guarantee our right to fly. We must continue to work on a daily basis to assure that we continue to have reasonable access to the skies.

There are a number of factors that will help. The new light sport aircraft will attract new segments of pilots who previously weren’t attracted to flying current aircraft. AOPA’s Project Pilot is a good first step that encourages members to sign up and mentor friends who have the interest and means to become pilots.

There’s no question that the single biggest battle we face now is user fees, and AOPA is leading a good fight against them. You should contact your representatives in Congress and urge them to support House Bill 2881 which won’t require user fees to fund the FAA, and to vote against Senate Bill 1300 which would introduce user fees. Assuming we succeed in defeating user fees in the next few months, the 1 million pilot challenge should be foremost on your mind. I you have ideas on how best to reverse the decline in the pilot population, send me an email and I shall some of your feedback.

Update on CFI Shortage
Good news for pilots; Bad news for flight schools
In the last issue, we talked about the growing shortage of CFI’s. However, it’s getting worse so I wanted to give you an update. First though, I have to relate comments two people made to me when I brought up this issue at a recent presentation. Ostensibly, I was there to show photos of my Oshkosh trip, but, since I was in front of an audience of gray-haired, experienced pilots, I decided to update them on the shortage and encourage some of them to consider becoming CFI’s.

Afterwards, a number of people walked up to chat with me. One person commented that there aren’t enough CFI’s because “the pay is so low.” A few minutes later, someone else walked up and said that the reason we don’t have more pilots “is because CFI’s charge so much!”  The contrast was funny, but it did illustrate perceptions on both sides of the coin. By the way, my premise that there might be a lot of potential instructors lurking in the audience was correct. Two people came up to me and asked about becoming flight instructors and two others asked about becoming ground instructors. So one solution to the shortage of CFI’s may be readily at hand.

At Oshkosh, I talked with two regional managers in the Cessna booth, one of whom told me of a recent survey conducted among their Cessna Pilot Centers or CPCs. They surveyed all of the CPCs in the U.S., and of the nearly 100 that responded, 30% said that they have all of the CFI’s they need, while 70% said that they currently had unfilled CFI positions. Of those with unfilled positions, on average they had four and a half unfilled CFI slots. When multiplied out against 70% of all the CPCs, this represents just over 1,000 unfilled CFI positions. I’m not sure anyone knows exactly what share of the flight training market is held by CPCs, but if it’s around 25%, than we may be short approximately 4,000 CFI’s.  

Airline Hiring Remains Strong
Cheap alternative to air conditioning for any airplane
In the last issue, I told you that airline hiring minimums had dropped to around 1,000 hours. At Oshkosh however, people in the know told me that Regional airlines are now hiring people with just 500 hours of total time. In addition, I’ve heard of three cases where people have been hired with less than 300 hours.

If this seems odd to you, I assure you it’s not.  We’re just in another cycle that played itself out six years ago. In 2001, airlines were also hiring heavily, their hiring minimums dropped (though not quite this low) and CFI’s were busy teach round the clock. This all came to an abrupt halt on 9/11, when demand for airline flights dropped, airlines stopped hiring and soon after began furloughing pilots—many of whom went back to being flight instructors.

The current cycle will also run its course, though we have no way of knowing what will reverse the fate of the airlines this time. It will probably be far less cataclysmic, possibly a mild recession that causes the entire economy to slow up. In the mean time, if you ever had a hankering to become an airline pilot, a CFI or a ground instructor, there’s no better time than the present! Speaking of which, if you live in the San Jose, CA I’ve heard that TradeWinds Aviation is planning to hold a class for potential CFI’s. If you’re interested, call 408-729-5100 and ask for Walt.

Pilot Safety News
© 2007 by Max Trescott
Master CFI & FAASTeam Member
Please contact me with your feedback or if I can be of service to you.
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