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Vol 53 No 4
Features 8 POSITION & HOLD Optimizing return on investment in a depreciating asset by Anthony Kioussis 26 OPERATOR PROFILE Polymer Resources by Brent Bundy Plastic manufacturer upgrades from Pilatus PC-12 to PC-24 to expand travel profile, reach more customers and build business.
32 IMPROVEMENTS FOR GPS The future of aviation navigation by David Ison Next steps for satellite navigation and beyond. 38 SPECIAL MISSION AIRCRAFT Commercial off-the-shelf platforms offer design versatility by Don Van Dyke Acquiring, modifying and deploying COTS business aircraft is an effective strategy to lower costs, improve fielding and enhance performance for service operators requiring specialized equipment.
44 WEATHER BRIEF When a forecaster says ... by Karsten Shein Meteorology has its own language. Understanding it can help pilots make more sense of weather reports. 48 INCREASE OF RULES The legalization of safety by Peter Berendsen Are you really safe or is it just on paper? 52 DANGERS IN THE SKY Mitigating bird strike hazards at airports by Shannon Forrest There’s no magic way to miss an avian collision. It’s still see and avoid.
56 INTERNATIONAL OPS Bizjet missions to Southeast Asia by Grant McLaren Beware: complications can arise and costs are often high. 59 EVENT COVERAGE IOC 2019 by Brent Bundy International Ops Conference in San Francisco CA celebrates 46th meeting. 60 CONVENTION REPORT Schedulers and Dispatchers by Brent Bundy Annual show gathers 3000 attendees and 600 exhibitors in San Antonio TX.
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DU NC A N AV I AT I ON H AS 1 47 AV I ON I C S T E C H N I C I A N S AT 2 8 OF T H E B U S I E ST B U S I N E SS A I R P OR TS I N T H E U N I T E D STATE S. I N A D D I T I ON TO AV I O N I C S S U P P OR T, T H E Y C A N P R OV I D E B AT TE RY MAINTENANCE AND NOND E ST R U C T I V E T E ST I N G .
Vol 53 No 4
Departments 14 VIEWPOINT Bristol Associates Managing Partner Bob Rockwood explains how much government shutdowns have impacted aviation. 16 TERMINAL CHECKLIST Quiz on procedures when flying into MSN (Madison WI). Answers on page 18. 20 SQUAWK IDENT Pro Pilot readers express their feelings about the FAA making upset recovery training mandatory for obtaining the ATP license. 24 SID & STAR The pilots fly Oscar Lugnut to a dairy farm in Allentown PA to take care of a client and the team stays in town for a festival.
Cover Polymer Resources of Farmington CT recently acquired a Pilatus PC-24 that provides them access to their network of facilities and customers across the USA and beyond. At home field of OXC (Waterbury-Oxford Airport) are, (Front) Chief Pilot/Mgr of Flt Ops Todd Hotes, (Top of stairs) Founder/Chairman/CEO Les Klein, (R) Pres/COO Scott Anderson. Photo by Brent Bundy.
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POSITION & HOLD an editorial opinion
Optimizing ROI in a depreciating asset By Anthony Kioussis President, Asset Insight
ach day, countless organizations collect and disseminate vast amounts of data points relating to business aviation. The challenge has always been translating such data into useful, actionable and timely information. While computers can process immeasurable statistics at the speed of light, their analytical capability must be intelligently guided to generate useful conclusions, as opposed to new data points that further complicate, rather than answer, the original questions. And, perhaps even more important, computers are dispassionate workhorses that can objectively convert massive amounts of data into useful information.
Asset Quality Rating When it comes to aircraft, one of the most basic objective analytics able to act as a planning and decision-making tool is the Asset Quality Rating – a standardized scale by which one can measure the maintenance condition of any asset. Asset Quality Rating is comprised of 2 data points. The first one is the aircraft’s Maintenance Rating, which grades an asset’s maintenance status on a standardized scale relative to its Optimal Maintenance Condition (maintenance condition on the day it came off the production line). In very simplistic terms, the figure is computed as follows for a theoretical asset that has only 2 maintenance events: Maintenance rating Remaining useful life Event #1
Averaging the Maintenance Rating and Financial Rating figures derives the aircraft’s Asset Quality Rating: Asset Quality Rating [Maintenance Rating: (5.000) + Financial Rating (2.955) ] / 2 = 3.978
To simplify the Asset Quality Rating explanation we assumed the asset had only 2 maintenance events. In reality, an aircraft may have hundreds of maintenance events. Also, each aircraft must be continually compared against its own Optimal Maintenance Condition. Using this methodology, Asset Quality Rating permits us to establish a measurement standard that can be applied to all aircraft and allows us to compare different make/model assets directly on the same measurement scale (see Pro Pilot, Aug 2018, p 14). The Asset Quality Rating scale ranges from a low of -2.500 to a high of 10.000, and the significance of the figures are detailed on Table A. The Maintenance Rating scale ranges from a -5.000 to a 10.000, while the Financial Rating scale ranges from 0.000 to 10.000. There are 2 reasons for this: 1, an operator flying on Part 91 can overrun the OEM’s “recommended” maintenance time-period, at which point the Maintenance Rating for that event would post a negative value. And 2, the financial Rating can be no less than the cost for conducting the event, therefore its value cannot go below zero. Asset Quality Rating -2.500 – 2.000
Maintenance Rating: (25% + 75%) / 2 / Perfect score 10.000 = 5.000
The 2nd data point is the aircraft’s Financial Rating, which grades the asset’s financial condition on a standardized scale relative to its Optimal Maintenance Condition, meaning the aircraft’s Maintenance Rating is weighted by the estimated cost to complete each maintenance event. While the Maintenance Rating for this asset is 5.000 (see above), the asset’s Financial Rating is 2.955 by virtue of its proximity to future scheduled maintenance events (Remaining Useful Life) and the anticipated cost to complete each maintenance event (Maintenance Event Cost). Financial Rating Remaining useful life
Maintenance event cost
Remaining financial value
Poor asset quality
Below average asset quality due to upcoming scheduled maintenance
TABLE A 4.000 – 6.000 Most aircraft will score within this range
8.000 – 10.000
Very good asset Exceptional quality (usually asset quality associated with (typical of new, recent production or nearly new, aircraft) production aircraft)
Maintenance Rating -5.000 – 2.000 Poor asset quality
Below average asset quality due to upcoming heavy scheduled maintenance
4.000 – 6.000 Most aircraft will score within this range
8.000 – 10.000
Very good asset Exceptional quality (usually asset quality associated with (typical of new, recent production or nearly new, aircraft) production aircraft)
Financial Rating 0.000 All scheduled maintenance events due
4.000 – 6.000
Aircraft with upcoming, high cost, scheduled maintenance events
Most aircraft will score within this maintenance status cost range
7.000 Aircraft facing relative lost-cost maintenance events
8.000 – 10.000 New or recent manufactured aircraft
Financial Rating: ($3250 / $11,000) x Perfect score 10.000 = 2.995
8 PROFESSIONAL PILOT / April 2019
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There are 2 other objective analytics that can help an aircraft owner plan an aircraft replacement strategy that optimizes their investment in the asset: Maintenance Equity and Maintenance Exposure. Maintenance Equity represents, in financial terms, the amount of maintenance value embedded in the asset. It defines the difference between the aircraft’s maximum scheduled maintenance financial value (achieved the day the aircraft came off the production line), LESS the maintenance financial value consumed through utilization. Maintenance Exposure represents, in financial terms, the amount of maintenance value consumed through utilization, LESS maintenance completed on the aircraft. There is a widely-held misconception that aircraft maintenance condition deteriorates dramatically over time. While some maintenance event costs increase as the asset ages, an aircraft’s Maintenance Equity is renewed as maintenance is conducted. Table B depicts the percentage of Maintenance Equity retained by an aircraft during its first 5 years in operation, and the percent of Maintenance Equity available during operating years 15 through 20. The initial Maintenance Equity is available due to the aircraft’s recent production date, while scheduled maintenance completion will renew the asset’s Maintenance Equity in later years. TABLE B
Justifying an ask or offer price Knowing an aircraft’s Quality Rating and Maintenance Equity allows the seller or prospective buyer to justify their ask or offer price, respectively. Table C compares the Quality Rating and Maintenance Equity of a specific aircraft to the average figures for the inventory fleet. As the specific aircraft’s figures are above the for sale fleet’s average, the Aircraft Value is also estimated to be higher – all other things being equal. TABLE C
Maintenance Equity & Estimated Value
Aircraft age vs Maintenance Equity
Average for sale Maintenance Equity
Comparing a specific aircraft to the average aircraft listed for sale helps sellers and buyers justify their ask and offer prices.
quality assets enter the inventory fleet and/or when lower quality assets are the ones primarily trading. Conversely, Maintenance Exposure increases when lower quality assets enter the inventory fleet and/or when higher quality assets are the ones primarily trading.
Maintenance Equity and Maintenance Exposure
Aircraft age Aircraft age does not necessarily correlate with maintenance status. Although this example represents an actual make/model, except for the exact time-periods, its concept can be recreated on virtually any aircraft.
While the aircraft’s Maintenance Equity may be higher during year 20 than during year 5, that is not to suggest this asset will be worth more during its 20th year as opposed to its 5th. However, if you are an in-service aircraft buyer, you may wish to focus your search on aircraft that are between 18 and 20 years old. If you’re a seller, your optimum value may be realized by operating your aircraft into year 18, and then listing it for sale – once the necessary scheduled maintenance has been completed. The value received may not fully refund the recently-completed maintenance, but your aircraft will have greater market appeal and the buyer will have no basis by which to deduct for the potential unknown major maintenance that may surface following purchase. From a macro perspective, whether the Asset Quality of inventory aircraft is improving or degrading can be determined by examining how Maintenance Exposure is trending. Maintenance Exposure decreases when higher
Aircraft marketability can be objectively measured through the Maintenance Exposure to Ask Price Ratio (ETP Ratio). The ETP Ratio calculates an aircraft’s Maintenance Exposure as it relates to the Ask Price. Achieved by dividing the former with the latter, the asset’s value increases (in relation to the aircraft’s price) as the ETP Ratio decreases. Days on Market (DoM) analysis has proven that when the ETP Ratio is greater than 40%, a listed aircraft’s DoM increase – in many cases by more than 30%. It is important to understand that the ETP Ratio has more to do with buyer and seller dynamics than it does with either the asset’s accrued maintenance or its price. For any aircraft, maintenance can accrue only so far before work must be completed. But as an aircraft’s value decreases, there will come a point when the accrued maintenance figure equates to more than 40% of the aircraft’s Ask Price. When a prospective buyer adjusts their offer price to address this accrued maintenance, the figure is all too often considered unacceptable to the seller and a deal is not reached.
Hourly Cost Maintenance Programs The potential improvement to an aircraft’s marketability through Hourly Cost Maintenance Program (HCMP) enrollment, especially when the majority of their model’s fleet is enrolled on HCMP, cannot be overstated. Program
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Hourly Cost Maintenance Program Impact to Value
TABLE D $10,000,000
As an aircraft’s value decreases over time, the equity built up through HCMP coverage can eventually equal the asset’s value.
coverage has now reached the point where some aircraft brokers refuse to represent sellers whose aircraft engines are not enrolled on HCMP. Table D demonstrates how much of an aircraft’s value is contributed by HCMP engine coverage during the first 15 years in operation. The value percentages will vary based on the specific model and the engine’s scheduled maintenance requirements. However, in this example, engine HCMP coverage is anticipated to exceed 80% of the aircraft’s total value starting around year 14. Some sellers feel that HCMP enrollment at time of sale is expensive. This might be true, especially when considering the loss of protection and value-add benefits not secured during the (unenrolled) ownership term (see Pro Pilot, Dec 2017, p 18). However, the potential holding costs due to the aircraft’s decreased marketability might more than offset the program’s buy-in fee. Lastly, the value of HCMP coverage is neither theoretical nor insignificant. When a prospective buyer accounts for the cost to conduct aircraft engine maintenance, HCMP coverage is likely to make the difference between a successful transaction and an unacceptable offer.
HCMP and the ETP Ratio Earlier we discussed how an aircraft’s marketability is likely to be impacted when the ETP Ratio exceeds 40%. Since the ETP Ratio is calculated by dividing the aircraft’s Maintenance Exposure by its Ask Price, HCMP coverage can favorably impact the ETP Ratio by effectively decreasing the asset’s Maintenance Exposure figure by the amount covered under HCMP.
Residual Value: Trend vs Actual Traditional Residual Value (RV) forecasts have started by estimating the aircraft’s current value, then degrading it based on the aircraft model’s average historical annual depreciation percentage. The result has been a graph showing a RV Trend Line that fails to account for the aircraft’s future maintenance condition, perhaps the most important value influencer. In reality an aircraft’s RV increases and decreases due to maintenance completion or maintenance accrual, respectively. Additionally, it is
Determine actual RV based on maintenance status
Maintenance impacted Residual Value
Comparable aircraft range
— Aircraft Residual Value — HCMP Value as a percent of aircraft residual value
important to place the aircraft’s RV into context using logical comparable aircraft – which may include make/model assets that differ from the subject aircraft (Table E). There are those who believe it is not possible to predict an aircraft’s RV more accurately than basing the aircraft’s future value trend on the model’s value degradation history. Today, this is simply not the case, as high-speed computing allows for complex formulas to utilize dozens of historically-proven value influencers to calculate RVs that account for maintenance with a high degree of confidence.
Residual Value trend Aircraft age
Putting it all together Whether you are a buyer or a seller, objective analytics allow you to define your view of an aircraft in precise, financially comparative terms, and to make decisions based on historically-proven statistics. While there are many experienced brokers that can help you buy or sell an aircraft, understanding how market dynamics are likely to impact any aircraft can help your planning and decision-making, allowing you to buy at the right price, pay the least for maintenance during your ownership term, and plan to replace the asset during one of its optimum remarketing periods. Those seeking to purchase an aircraft may wish to read my article entitled “Optimizing value when acquiring an aircraft” (Pro Pilot, Nov 2018, p 10). Anyone considering selling their asset might find it useful to review “Optimizing value when selling an aircraft” (Pro Pilot, Feb 2019, p 10). Both these articles can help optimize your return on investment – no matter what model you have elected to own. Anthony Kioussis is President of Asset Insight, which offers aircraft valuation and aviation consulting services. His 40+ years of experience in aviation includes GE Capital Corporate Aircraft Finance, Jet Aviation, and JSSI.
12 PROFESSIONAL PILOT / April 2019
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VIEWPOINT an editorial opinion
Photo courtesy NTSB
Government shutdowns, at what cost to aviation?
Only 1.5% of the NTSB investigative force was active during the government shutdown. As a result, what might we never know from accidents that ocurred during that time?
By Bob Rockwood Managing Partner, Bristol Associates
ven in this day of news cycle microbursts that last 24 hours or less, we still look back on and talk about the government shut down that bridged 2018 and 2019. It ruined many a Christmas celebration and not a few lives. As I write this, the insecurity that resulted marches on, since it is entirely possible another shutdown could be triggered on February 15th, which is when the current funding runs out. It is not my intent, nor is it in my best interest, to castigate nor judge in any way the players in this production. Rather, I am interested in exploring the effects any government shutdown has on aviation. There have been 21 shutdowns since 1976 so there should be plenty of data to draw on. It has been estimated that the direct cost of this latest shutdown was $11 billion. When you consider that the government will have paid out $90 million per day for people not to work, this number doesn’t seem farfetched. Just this payroll cost, when multiplied by 35 days, comes to over $3 billion. I have read estimates of the indirect cost of the shutdown that come in between $55 billion and $105 billion. We will never know an exact number, if only because the criteria for what should be counted, and how, will never be agreed to. Further, when compared to a $22 trillion deficit, it seems like chump change anyway. In point of fact, these estimates serve little purpose other than to cause one’s eyes to bug out when reading them. The real cost can only be seen in the narrative. Consider this: The NTSB stopped their investigations into 97 incidents, 15 of which were aviation-related. Further, work had to be stopped on 1800 ongoing safety issue questions. What if any one of these would have resulted in the discovery of a potential catastrophic failure in an engine that was installed on any 737 made from 2000 until 2010?
The amount of evidence that has been irretrievably lost due to the delay in immediately responding to an incident is scarier. Researching Aviation Safety Network (www.aviation-safety.net) you will find 44 incident reports just since January 1, 2019. Some would, and should, have been investigated by the NTSB. Since December 20, 2018, 5 incidents involving N-registered aircraft have resulted in the loss of life, and 3 of these occurred during the actual shutdown dates. It is unlikely the other 2 received anything approaching a normal investigation. What information will be lost because the response to these events was not immediate? Given that only 6 (unpaid) of 397 NTSB investigators were on the job, it’s safe to say it is a bunch. Moving on, let’s talk about the shutdown’s effects on air traffic control. We saw in the headlines that unpaid controllers were calling in sick with the result being under-staffed towers. Who could blame them? What was their upside? Would they receive a bonus or some form of interest on their delayed paychecks? Ultimately, delays at some of the largest airports are credited with forcing the government’s hand to end the shutdown. But in the meantime, how much risk was added to the system? As with estimating the cost of the shutdown, no concrete answer will ever be available. What won’t go away quickly is the effect on training new controllers. There is already a starved environment for fully trained controllers. The shutdown caused the cessation of the class going on in December, and it is unknown when they will come back into the system. Few people realize the severity of the controller situation. Due to Reagan’s firing of all of them 37 years ago, coupled with the mandatory retirement age of 56, the system lost 21,000 trained people between 2011 and 2017. This is nearly double the number of trained controllers currently in the system, so we can’t afford to lose training time. Adding fuel to this fire, the shutdown has affected some long-term programs. It is likely it will delay the implementation of ADS-B and is even more likely to slow down the advent of CPDLC. There is no shortage of criticism about the FAA’s laggard modernization efforts coming from various sources in downtown Washington. I will remind them that, when they point a finger, 3 fingers are pointing back to them. Finally, the inability of Congress and the executive branch to agree on matters of this import erodes the people’s faith in their congressional and executive branches to govern and bring about change for the good. I’m not sure anymore that they can even agree on what is good. It makes it hard to pack your enthusiasm for the job next to your lunch and trudge on into work. In the long term, this is the biggest cost of shutting down the government. Bob Rockwood has been in the aircraft brokerage business since 1978. During his tenure at Omni Intl Jet Trading Floor he began writing The Rockwood Report, which discusses the corporate aircraft market. In 1986 he joined Bristol Associates as a managing partner.
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Terminal Checklist 4/19 Answers on page 18
Reproduced with permission of Jeppesen Sanderson. Reduced for illustrative purposes.
6. Select all that apply. Flying a continuous descent final approach (CDFA) to LNAV minimums requires _____ a PAPI. b Special authorization. c Use of the 3.00° glidepath angle. d WAAS-certified GPS equipment.
4. Select the true statement(s) regarding waypoints on the approach procedure. a RW36 and AYECO are fly-over waypoints. b DEKEY is an intermediate fix when flying from WENAT. c A descent from 3000 ft MSL to 2500 ft MSL should be initiated at FELIL. d When performing the course reversal, the aircraft must stay within 5 nm of DEKEY. 5. Flying an RNAV (GPS) approach with vertical guidance always provides for lower landing minimums than an approach with lateral guidance only. a True b False
3. Select the true statement(s) regarding the feeder routes to the initial approach fix. a A course of 302° applies from DEBOW to DEKEY IAF. b A minimum altitude of 3000 ft MSL applies to each feeder route. c Flying the initial approach segment from THEBO is not authorized for arrivals on V341 southwest bound. d An aircraft arriving at Janesville VOR on the 180° radial is not authorized to fly the transition route from Janesville to OFAGO.
2. The statement “unreliable” in a GPS NOTAM for the destination airport means that a problem exists with GPS signal integrity and a GPS approach may not be flown. a True b False
1. Select the true statement(s) regarding approach requirements. a RAIM must be available to fly the approach. b Baro-VNAV equipment may be used to fly to LPV minimums. c GPS equipment must be WAAS-certified to fly to LPV minimums. d GPS equipment must be WAAS-certified to fly to LNAV/ VNAV minimums. e The WAAS channel must be entered into the GPS equipment to fly to LPV minimums.
ison WI) when necessary to answer the following questions:
Refer to the 12-6 RNAV (GPS) Rwy 36 for KMSN/MSN (Mad-
Not to be used for navigational purposes 9. Which are correct LPV landing minimums? Select all that apply. a DA 1062; RVR 40 with PAPI out. b DA 1062; RVR 40 with ALFS-II out. c DA 1062; RVR 24 with HUD to DA. d DA 1062; RVR 18 with ALFS-II and a flight director to DA.
7. Select all that apply. When flying the approach to LNAV minimums _____ a The stepdown fix of ZIMIT applies. Select the true statement(s) regarding continuing the approach b The missed approach point is at RW36 or timing from OZMIX. 10. c The GPS receiver will perform a RAIM prediction at least if WAAS service is unavailable. a The flight must proceed to an alternate airport. 2 nm prior to the DEKEY. b The approach may be completed to LPV minimums provided d If RAIM is not available prior to initiating the approach, a lateral flag or integrity alert does not appear. another type of approach system should be used. c The approach may be completed to LNAV minimums 8. What items are required to fly the approach to a DA of 1062 ft provided a lateral flag or integrity alert does not appear. MSL with a minimum visibility of RVR 18? d If a lateral flag or integrity alert appears, ATC can issue a a Operative PAPI. c WAAS-certified GPS. clearance to remain in holding pattern until the flag/alert b Operative ALSF-II. d Flight director or autopilot or HUD. disappears. 16 PROFESSIONAL PILOT / April 2019
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Bleed: 8.625” w x 11.125” d
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Answers to TC 4/19 questions 1.
c To fly to LPV minimums, the aircraft must have WAAS-certified GPS equipment, which does not require RAIM. Baro-VNAV equipment may not be used to fly to LPV minimums. According to the AIM 1-1-17, if RAIM is not available prior to beginning an approach to LNAV minimums with non-WAAS GPS equipment, another type of navigation and approach system should be used. The WAAS channel number shown in the primary navigation facility box is normally stored in the GPS database and can be used to verify that the correct approach is selected.
b According to the AIM 1-1-17, the terms “unreliable” and “may not be available” used in GPS NOTAMs are advisories that indicate the expected level of service may not be available. “Unreliable” does not mean there is a problem with GPS signal integrity. If GPS service is available, pilots may use the displayed level of service to fly the approach.
3. c Ballflag note 1 on the plan view states that flying the procedure from THEBO is not authorized if the aircraft arrives at THEBO on V341 southwest bound. This type of restriction typically is imposed because TERPS approach transi tion criteria do not allow turns of more than 120°. Although a minimum alti tude of 3000 ft MSL applies from THEBO and DEBOW, the minimum altitude of 3100 ft MSL is shown along the course from Janesville VOR. A course of 302° is flown from DEBOW to COBLE IAF. The initial approach segment from COBLE to DEKEY is flown on a course of 305°. The 180° radial is not located between R-206 clockwise to R-044 listed in the ballflag 2 note on the plan view for Janesville VOR (JVL). 4.
a, b, d The missed approach point and missed approach holding waypoint (indicated by the waypoint symbol in a circle) are fly-over waypoints. DEKEY is both an initial approach fix and intermediate fix when flying the course reversal and an intermediate fix when flying from the IAFs of WENAT, OFAGO, and COBLE.
b As shown in the landing minimums section, the LNAV MDA of 1300 ft MSL and the minimum visibilities or RVR 24 and RVR 40 are actually lower than the LNAV/VNAV minimums (DA 1331; RVR 60). This is because performing the approach to the LNAV MDA brings the aircraft closer to the
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runway before reaching the missed approach point (as shown in the profile view) and different obstacle assessment areas apply to each approach type.
6. c AC 120-108, Continuous Descent Final Approach, states that a CDFA requires the use of a published VDA or barometric vertical guidance (in this case, the glidepath angle of 3.00°). No specific training or aircraft equipment (other than that specified by the title of the approach procedure) is required. However, operators should provide flight crews with appropriate ground training before performing CDFA operations. 7. a, d As depicted in the profile view, the aircraft should remain at 1420 ft MSL until passing the stepdown fix of ZIMIT at 1.6 nm to RW36. The missed approach point is at RW36 as shown on both the profile view and the descent/timing conversion table. According to the AIM 1-1-19, if RAIM is not available prior to beginning the approach, use another type of approach system. When flying an approach with non-WAAS GPS equipment, the receiver performs a RAIM prediction at least 2 nm prior to the FAF. 8. b, c, d WAAS-certified GPS is required to fly to LPV minimums. The ALS (in this case an ALSF-II) must be operative to use a minimum visibility of 24 RVR and note 1 in the landing minimum section specifies that to decrease this minimum to RVR 18, the aircraft must use a flight director or autopilot or HUD to the DA. The VGSI is not considered part of the ALS so an inoperative PAPI does not affect the landing minimums. 9.
b, d According to the landing minimums section, the LPV DA is 1062 ft MSL. The minimum visibility of RVR 24 increases to RVR 40 if the ALS (in this case an ALSF-II) is inoperative. The VGSI is not considered part of the ALS so an inoperative PAPI does not affect the landing minimums.
c, d AC 90-107 indicates that if WAAS service is not available prior to reaching the FAF, the pilot may complete the RNAV (GPS) approach to LNAV minimums if no lateral flag or other integrity alert appears. However, if the pilot sees a lateral flag or integrity alert, the pilot should request a clearance from ATC: • To enter and remain in a holding pattern (fuel permitting) until the lateral flag or integrity alert disappears, • For a different approach using ground-based navigation aids (if available), or • To fly to an alternate airport.
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Up to 5 miles
Vortices spread laterally from the rear of the aircraft
The FAA recently made upset training a necessity for obtaining the ATP license. Have you experienced disturbing wake turbulence occurrences? What are your feelings about needing upset training?
ince FlightSafety can show that just about every upset in the last 30 years that resulted in fatalities was recoverable, in my opinion all pilots should be exposed to upset training. Jeff Jacober ATP. Gulfstream G650 Chief Pilot Renco Group Bensalem PA
y feeling is that, although I have never been schooled in a formal upset training, the more training we as pilots can get, the better! Therefore, I do believe training for upsets caused by wake turbulence is a good idea. Dick Cole ATP. Hawker 900XP Senior Pilot CRC Aviation Alvada OH
bsolutely! Let’s give pilots the training to handle the challenges that we know occasionally occur. By doing so, we may continue to be the world leaders in aviation safety. Let’s also get behind the proposals for new and better rest requirements for the same reason. And never allow our ATC to be given over to the airlines. Jeffrey Graham 007 ATP. Citation Latitude Captain NetJets Cleveland Heights OH
pset training should be given to all pro pilots in their flight training. John Lombardi ATP. Gulfstream G650/G450 & Global Express Dir of Operations CPI Alpha Wings West Palm Beach FL
Viewed from behind the generating aircraft, the left vortex rotates clockwise and the right vortex rotates counter-clockwise. They spread laterally away from the aircraft and descend 500 to 900 ft at distances of up to 5 miles behind it. Vortices tend to descend 300 to 500 ft per minute during the first 30 seconds.
ecades ago when I was flying a Twin Comanche on a canceled check run, I experienced wake turbulence following a Lockheed 1011 going into Atlanta. Beautiful night, clear skies, almost no wind. I watched the L-1011 in front of me on short final, and then I hit the wake turbulence. After I recovered, tower asked if I was okay. I replied yes. But I never took it lightly after that night. I became proficient in aerobatics after that, and later became a test pilot performing maintenance test flights on large transport aircraft after heavy maintenance checks. I then learned 2 things: 1. Get a block altitude when doing full stalls in large jets, and 2. Be ready to see the world in unique viewing positions. Taking the training for upset recovery is really a good idea. Randy McLain ATP/CFII. Citation V/III Av Safety Inspector/Retired Pilot Apple Valley MN
erhaps I’ve been fortunate, but all of the wakes I’ve encountered have been bumps/turbulence, versus rolling. Some wing rock but never anything 90 degrees or greater. When in trail of another aircraft, I try to find out what it is and if I may encounter its wake. On several occasions, I’ve queried the controller and was immediately given a heading change. Had I not done this, maybe things would have been different. Use of TCAS, keeping a lookout and listening to ATC have been the biggest deterrents to encountering wake turbulence. Sometimes, flying a bit higher on the approach or taking an immediate turn on departure is required too. It all depends on the situation and you have to be vigilant. Mike Massell ATP. Falcon 20 Chief Pilot CRST Aviation Business Center Cedar Rapids IA
hen I flew North Atlantic crossings I often experienced wake turbulence on many of those crossings even when using SLOP procedures. Now with the advancements regarding ADS-B and C and also the mandated changes for in-trail and on-approach spacing for wake turbulence incidents will decrease. Testing is already in place on certain tracks, and it won’t be long before it is implemented as a mandate on most, if not all, routes/tracks. Upset training is still very valuable when the separation requirements along the North Atlantic are fully implemented. I would have hoped not to experience being vectored too close in trail of a B757 landing in Denver (the old airport, Stapleton). I was flying a Learjet 35 and had intercepted the localizer and had been cleared for the ILS approach in a blowing snow storm. As we descended on the glideslope, we got into the landing 757’s wake turbulence. It turned the Lear up on its side over 90 degrees, and there was nothing I could do about it in a nanosecond! Luckily, and because of previous experiences and training, I recovered. Douglas Brittain ATP. Citation Latitude, Beechjet 400, Challenger 601 & Premier I Dir of Operations Professional Flying Services Dayton OH
have been in wake turbulence a few times, but never experienced an upset as such. Upset training seems to be a logical progression from unusual attitude training. Always a good thing to become familiar with a situation while training in a controlled environment before it is sprung upon you in real life. Gordon Williams ATP. Falcon 2000EX Dir of Flight Ops Academy Partners/Logistics Mgmt Evergreen CO
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es, I believe the requirement for upset training to obtain the ATP license is long overdue. Accidents are still happening because pilots are ending up in an attitude they are not familiar with or not recognizing an upset leading to stall. Previous training in simulators never took the pilot far enough outside the envelope to allow for exposure and recovery. Agnar Jorgensen ATP. Falcon 7X Captain SPA Castle Rock CO
ilot training which works to improve basic hand flying skills is important. Yes, upset training for the ATP should be required and major training facility simulators need to be capable of providing this. Chris Hershberger ATP. Citation XL/Bravo GM Flight Operations Mid-Ohio Aviation Wooster OH
experienced wake turbulence when I was flying a Cessna 172 as I was approaching to land behind a Boeing 737. It was horrible. But I don’t think upset training should wait for obtaining the ATP license. I think it should be done sooner when the pilot is going through instrument training. Marco Lima ATP. King Air 90L, Robinson R44 & Airbus H125 Pilot Aeroservicios Lima Miami FL
f course having upset training should be a requirement for the ATP license! Ron Roland ATP. Citation Excel President Ron Roland & Associates Richardson TX
ore than once I experienced wake turbulence. I believe upset training is a necessary requirement for the ATP so that the pilot recognizes wake turbulence as well as normal turbulence and learns how to recover from it. Landon Switzer ATP. Gulfstream Astra & Learjet 35/31 Chief Pilot Albatross One Centennial CO
pset training should have been part of ATP licensing all along. I went to SAS decades ago to get great upset training for my type rating in a DC9 and found it to be totally worth it. I have not in all my decades of flight experienced wake turbulence from other aircraft. In my flight training I purposely encountered it in order to feel what it was like. And then I would react as best possible and recover. I agree that all pilots even without ATP need to have training for this very dangerous situation which could lead to a fatal upset accident. Harry Burr ATP. Falcon 900LX CEO & President Burr Satellite Jets Intl Spring Hill FL
lthough I never was to the point of rolling my aircraft, I had wake turbulence but was not totally out of control. But, yes, I have experienced severe turbulence while crossing the path of a heavy jet ahead of me. Will the training pay off? I will say yes. I believe it will save lives. Discussing wake turbulence does not fully prepare you for the day it happens. You need the training. In my recurrent training each year we do wake turbulence and wind shear training in the sims and it is always an eye opener. Charlie Danley ATP/CFI. Citation V & Falcon 50EX Chief Pilot Angel Brothers Baytown TX
here have been a lot of reports of inflight upsets throughout the years. I remember once flying a Boeing 737 on final for a straight in landing on the ILS following an Airbus A340 when suddenly I found myself in a 90 degree bank to the left. I reacted immediately and was very quick to recover from such an amazing bank with a wide body aircraft and so close to the ground. The point is that training is key in surviving all kinds of wake turbulence that we might encounter. So yes, upset training should be given to every pilot training not only to obtain his or her ATP license but also every license. William Rodriguez ATP. Gulfstream II/G200/G100 & Falcon 50 Astra Manager Constructora Sambil Miami FL
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It’s time. What are the most precious things in your life? Your family, your friends, your business? Whatever they are, the most precious resource that links them all together is time. That’s why we’ve taken the time to make CorporateCare® even more comprehensive, with additional line maintenance, expanded support and even nacelle coverage on later engine models. Supported by the industry’s leading global service network and cutting-edge digital tools, we are focused on getting you to your destination on time, every time. It’s time to protect your most precious resource. It’s time to consider CorporateCare Enhanced. For more information, email email@example.com The future. Rolls-Royce.
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Cartoon art by
We invite readers to submit story lines that would work for a 6-panel Sid and Star cartoon. Send your thoughts by e-mail to Pro Pilot Publisher Murray Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org. If we use your idea we’ll credit you by name and pay you $100.
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Polymer Resources Plastics manufacturer upgrades from Pilatus PC-12 TP to PC-24 jet to expand travel profile, reach customers and build business.
Polymer Resources recently became one of the first corporate operators of the new Pilatus PC-24 twinjet, after years of flying a PC-12 turboprop. Founder Les Klein (top of stairs) poses with Chief Pilot & Mgr of Flight Ops Todd Hotes (L) and Pres & COO Scott Anderson.
By Brent Bundy
Phoenix Police Officer-Pilot AS350, AW119, Cessna 210/182/172
Photos by Brent Bundy
ustom compounded polymers and engineered resins. Not something we often think about, although they are the building blocks of the plastics that make up many of the items we rely on, day-today. For one Hungarian immigrant, these products have also become the basis for a successful enterprise. Les Klein founded Polymer Resources over 44 years ago and has lived the American dream. Along the way, he also discovered business aviation as a critical tool that his company
relies on to service their expanding customer base. To maintain their competitiveness, Klein and Polymer Resources have turned to one of the newest, most capable players in the field: the Pilatus PC-24.
Chairman & CEO Les Klein founded Polymer 44 years ago and has been using aircraft to expand his business for the past decade.
From humble beginnings Born in Budapest, Hungary, Klein, his mother and 2 brothers fled the country to escape Soviet oppression during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. After spending 2 years in an Austrian displaced-persons camp, they arrived in New York City. Klein did not speak English but had excellent math skills.
Klein soon learned he possessed another trait that would play into his many successes in life. “I have always been able to make friends and relate to people,” Klein proclaims. “The 4 of us lived in a 1-bedroom walk-up, struggling to pay the $80-a-month rent. But it was the immigrant experience that left us with
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Pres & COO Scott Anderson enjoyed a successful career in management of various plastics companies prior to joining Polymer Resources in 2016.
the belief that, in America, with hard work, perseverance and a little bit of luck, anything was possible.” After high school, Klein earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and then began to work on his master’s in international business, but his plans changed in 1969 when he accepted a commission in the US Army Chemical Corps. After basic training, Klein was assigned to Fort Greely, Alaska as a 2nd Lieutenant testing Army command vehicles for chemical and biological exposure under arctic conditions. In 1970, he relocated to Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland where he completed his time in the service. During his time in the Army, he would often meet with visiting foreign scientists and establish international contacts that would help in his future endeavors. After 2 years of military service, Klein answered an ad in the New York Times for a plastics sales job. “I didn’t know anything about plastics but they needed someone who understood the culture of New York and could relate to the technical needs of the customer.” A year later, he joined General Electric’s plastics division, which was burgeoning, but he suspected he’d have to leave NY, which is where he wanted to be. During the 1973 oil embargo, lead times for plastic raw materials caused orders to slow to a 6–9 month delivery backlog. When the oil embargo ended in 1974, there were millions
of pounds of excess inventory. So Klein, with his knowledge of the marketplace, saw an opportunity to profit by purchasing the excess inventory. He left GE and in June of 1974 opened Polymer Resources. As the global petroleum market became more balanced over the next couple of years, Klein’s friendly nature helped establish relationships with his customers. Proof of his abilities is the fact that his very 1st customer in 1974 is still a client. Seeking more control of the product he provided, Klein opened his own manufacturing facility in Farmington CT. This eventually led to a 2nd factory in Rochester NY along with distribution centers and sales teams strategically located nationwide. Polymer grew, but not so large that they would forget their core customer. “Every major chemical company has changed, and they focus on the larger customers,” Klein declares. “We have the technical expertise and the resources and the marketing skills to compete, but we do it on the entrepreneurial level. Our original idea of being committed to the customer for the long-term has been – and continues to be – our focus. But we also focus on our employees. We share our success with our employees.”
Aviation advantage As Klein’s business began to expand, he looked to private aircraft ownership to more effectively facilitate his frequent travel. It was 2005 when he was exposed to the Pilatus PC-12 and the possibilities it offered. “The ability of the PC-12 to carry several of our employees or hundreds of pounds of our product is invaluable. So in 2009 we purchased our PC-12NG, #1103.” Klein also applauded the ability of the PC12 to get him and his team to remote locations often times inaccessible by larger planes or commercial travel. He says there is no question as to the benefits that the aircraft provided his business. “The flexibility and reliability of the Pilatus are the best. It allowed us to close more business transactions and maintain personal connections to our customers.” While Klein was very happy with the utility and performance of the PC-12, as Polymer expansion continued, he realized that the com-
Chief Pilot & Mgr of Flight Ops Todd Hotes realized his desire for the business aviation world while flying for a regional airline. He took over the Polymer flight dept in 2010.
pany needed an even more capable aircraft. And with the release of the Pilatus PC-24, the decision was easy. “There were times when the weather had impacted our mission with the PC-12. Going out west was time-consuming and challenging,” he says. When Michael Kenny of Pro Star Aviation advised Klein of what was coming with the benefits of the PC-24, “I signed on immediately,” Klein asserts. “The difference has been dramatic.” The carryover of the cargo door from the PC-12 was also a key factor. Polymer Resources took delivery of PC-24 #112 in October 2018 and was one of the first businesses to fly the aircraft in a non-charter or fractional operation. During the 9 years they flew their PC-12, it held a 99% dispatch rate and the PC-24 has been reliable as well. “It is a typical Swiss product. It has met all our expectations,” Klein states.
The right people Another important aspect to Klein is time. He values the time the aircraft gives him so that he can spend it with family. And not just his time, but that of his team as well. One of those team members keeping Polymer on their profitable path is recently appointed President and COO Scott Anderson, a Michigan native with a mechanical engineering degree from Kettering University.
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The Pilatus PC-24, with 2 Williams FJ44-4A turbofans, has been the perfect fit for the Polymer team. Its Advanced Cockpit Environment is powered by Honeywell’s Primus Epic 2 avionics and makes for an easy transition to the twinjet, particularly for PC-12 pilots.
As a student at a cooperative school, Anderson worked for GenCorp, his sponsor, 6 months of the year. “I had no interest in plastics at that time!” Anderson remarks. GenCorp was involved in plastic moldings for large trucks and this was his introduction to the industry. “In some form or fashion, I’ve been involved in plastics ever since.” After receiving his Master of Business Administration from Michigan State University in 1996, Anderson made his way to a program manager position with Cambridge Industries, which was supplied by GE Plastics. Thinking he wanted to move on from the plastics world, Anderson accepted a job with GE, hoping to expand his horizons. But that would not be
Pilot Kyle Colasanto was brought onboard in 2015. Since then, all flights are flown dual pilot for reduced workload and added safety.
the case. Being assigned to the auto division of GE, when they sold their plastics operations to Saudi Arabia-based SABIC, Anderson was part of the package. After several moves and promotions, he found himself in the New England states. When the US headquarters for SABIC planned relocation to Houston, an acquaintance put him in touch with one of SABIC’s customers, Les Klein, who needed a new president of his company. In 2016, Anderson joined Polymer Resources. Reflecting on Klein’s explanation of Polymer’s success, Anderson says, “We win on service. We don’t have a tremendous number of competitors but our connection to our customers is what sets us apart. In a nutshell, what we do is buy ‘vanilla plastic pellets’ and we ‘make them special.’ We color, formulate and create what our customer needs. At Polymer, we treat all of our customers the same, big or small. We provide a level of service that they won’t receive from the larger companies.” Anderson first experienced the benefits of business aviation and the access to customers it provided while employed at GE. He concurs with Klein on the value of time that he is given by the use of business aircraft, especially since upgrading to a jet. “The primary use for us is with the customers. What would take me a month of site visits, can be completed in a week with the plane. It saves a significant amount of time. It’s all about efficiency and speed. It has allowed us to be that service company that we want to be, and it puts a face on Polymer.” They
are also diligent about the effective utilization of the aircraft. Through proper planning, they assure the greatest number of assignments and customer visits are completed in as few flights as possible. To confirm this approach is followed, complete pre and post flight trip summaries are performed.
Small team, big service With 106 employees spread across their 2 manufacturing facilities and multiple distribution centers, Polymer Resources is by no means a large company. Just like their approach of dedication to customers, they have a similar commitment to their flight department with 2 pilots handling the workload. Heading up the program is Chief Pilot and Manager of Flight Operations Todd Hotes. His family history does not include aviation, but for as long as he can remember, flying was his destiny. “I just knew I was going to do it,” the West Hartford CT native recalls. “As a young boy, my parents would drop me off at Bradley International Airport just so I could be around aviation. They realized early on that this wasn’t just some passing fad, it was my passion.” At 12-years old, Hotes attended a 2-week Air Force camp that culminated with a ride in a Cessna 172. “That solidified everything I knew I wanted to do.” With his personal drive and support from his parents, Hotes obtained his private pilot license while in high school. One of his instructors was a former Embry-Riddle student and he steered Hotes toward the
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which adds to the overall comfort in the cabin independent of any power source on the ground. Even being a 1st-year build the reliability has been excellent, including from Williams International, who is a consistent top performer in Pro Pilot’s Turbine Powerplant Product Support Survey. When service is needed, they are covered by the Pilatus CrystalCare maintenance program, with work completed by Pro Star Aviation in nearby Londonderry NH. “We have been extremely satisfied with Pilatus and with the PC-24. It’s awesome, a real performer,” Hotes summarizes.
Polymer’s plans Polymer’s production facility in Farmington CT, along with their Rochester NY location, provides standard and custom formulated plastics for clients in a variety of fields including medical, automotive, construction, and more.
aviation academy. In 2005, he graduated from their Daytona Beach FL campus with a BS in Aeronautical Science and 1100 hours in his logbook, accumulated from near daily instructing. With ratings in hand, Hotes headed off to the regional airlines where he would spend the next 4 years, eventually becoming a check airman. He remembers, “The airlines were always my dream. But when I was doing it, although I loved my time there and everything about it, I knew it wasn’t something I wanted to continue for the rest of my career.” Hotes felt a draw to the business side of aviation and so he left airline work. He kept up his flying with charter assignments while figuring out his future. In 2010, Hotes received a phone call from Polymer founder Les Klein’s son, whom he had met at an airline internship several years earlier. “He told me his father had purchased a PC-12 and was looking for a new captain and wanted to know if I was interested,” Hotes relates. And he jumped at the opportunity. When he came on board, most of their flights were from the Farmington headquarters to the Rochester facility. Under his command Polymer began to expand their horizons, traveling more frequently to distant locations including all of the continental USA, the Caribbean, and even as far away as Iceland. Hotes also took on the responsibilities of scheduling, dealing with regulatory issues, CAMP maintenance tracking, and constant
financial analysis of their operation. When Polymer’s other pilot left for an airline position, Hotes found himself alone at the flight department. As the company began to more fully realize the benefits of their aircraft, the amount of travel became difficult for 1 person, so Pilot Kyle Colasanto was brought on board full-time. From that point, they have flown nearly all flights as a 2-pilot crew. “Polymer has been great to work with. They offer the ability to fly a brand-new, state-of-the-art aircraft as well as be part of a great team,” Colasanto declares. Tapping into his prior experience, Hotes restructured the flight department to more resemble an airline, added a safety management system, and initiated the international travel. But this presented a new problem: the aircraft. “The PC-12 was awesome but we outgrew it,” Hotes states. “It was Les’ 1st aircraft and he really liked it. When we decided to upgrade, we looked at some similar sized models but Les had loyalty to Pilatus.” So when a slot opened up in the initial PC-24 production run, they grabbed it. Hotes feels that the PC-24 is the right fit for them at this time. He echoes Les with accolades for the twin jet’s short-runway performance. The novel Quiet Power Mode available from the Williams FJ44-4A turbofans powering the Pilatus PC-24 runs the right engine at low power to act as an APU, enabling heating and air conditioning in the cabin,
The future of Polymer Resources’ flight department will continue to reflect any eventual expansion of the company. Currently, the Pilatus PC-24 fulfills their needs but Klein and Hotes constantly monitor their requirements and will modify if necessary. “For now, the Pilatus gets me where I need to be, with my customers,” Klein proclaims. However, as additional distribution and production centers are eyed around the country and beyond, the capability or quantity of the aircraft they operate may increase, as well. Throughout his life, Les Klein has been faced with many challenges. Relying on his innate ability to forge long-lasting friendships and with an eye for opportunity, he has created a prosperous company that has expanded far beyond even his own expectations. His success has both afforded him the opportunity to own, and to have been bolstered by business aircraft. The relationship Klein and Polymer Resources has established with Pilatus, much like their corporate dealings, looks to be a long and rewarding one.
Brent Bundy has been a police officer with the Phoenix Police Dept for 27 years. He has served in the PHX Air Support Unit for 17 years and is a helicopter rescue pilot with nearly 4000 hours of flight time. Bundy currently flies Airbus AS350B3s for the helicopter side of Phoenix PD’s air unit and Cessna 172, 182s and 210s for the fixed-wing side.
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IMPROVEMENTS FOR GPS
The future of aviation navigation Next steps for satellite navigation and beyond. By David Ison, PhD
Graduate School Professor, Northcentral University
hat would we do without our beloved Global Positioning System (GPS)? This unseen, space-based wonder has revolutionized position-dependent industries, especially aviation. We have seen GPS go from being a handy situational awareness backup tool to the system capable of extremely precise approaches that it is today. GPS is credited with a direct economic benefit of $67.6 billion in the US alone. It is also estimated that GPS manufacturing directly employs over 130,000 people, and some 3.2 million jobs rely on GPS. Of course, GPS is not alone out there in Earth’s orbit. Therefore, when referring to satellite navigation, “GPS” is not a comprehensive descriptor. The official name for GPStypes of wayfinding is Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS). Other countries have adopted their GPSlike systems for various reasons from improved local accuracy to Cold War fears of reliance on a system controlled by the US. Currently, Russia has its Global’naya Navigatsionnaya Sputnikovaya Sistema (GLONASS), Europe has Galileo, China has BeiDou, Japan has Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS), India has NAVIC (NAVigation with Indian Constellation), and other countries are either in progress of launching their own systems or have plans to do so. Aviation oversight entities across the globe, like the FAA, have embraced precision navigation, giving rise to an endless number of instrument approaches – many of which were never possible before such as curved approaches or approaches to places without ground-based navigation facilities. Further, the FAA and its international counterparts have seen GNSS as a means to reduce reliance on ground-based navigational aids, thus saving enormous sums in installation and maintenance there-
VHF data broadcast GPS receiver
LAAS ground facility
GPS receiver Ground Based Augmentation System
As GNSS has matured, various enhancements have been added to increase accuracy. One such improvement is location specific error correction, known as a Ground Based Augmentation System (GBAS), which can provide Cat I or better approach minimums.
of. While this move has made some in the aviation industry uneasy, it seems to be the present and future path for aviation navigation. With so much at stake in GNSS, what can we expect from these systems in the near and long term?
What is currently up in space? If you were to check out the mess of satellites orbiting the Earth, you would probably wonder how (not) on Earth do they not collide on a regular basis. Thanks to some brilliant folks, they do not, and we are left with a chaotic, yet functional constellation of satellites that promote communication, observation and, of course, navigation. Currently, the GPS constellation has 31 satellites in 6 orbital planes. On the date that this was written, 3 satellites were not operational. For reference, the nominally desired constellation has at least 24 functional satellites. GLONASS has 26 satellites in 3 orbital planes, with 2 satellites not in service. Galileo presently also has 26 satellites in 3 orbit-
al planes, with 2 vehicles in the test phase and 2 more unusable. The 2 smallest arrays are QZSS with 4 satellites, and NAVIC with 7.
Advances for more accuracy While GNSS was an excellent addition for aviation, in many cases it still was not accurate enough for precision navigation and approaches. Thus entered Satellite Based Augmentation Systems (SBAS), also referred to as Wide-Area Augmentation System (WAAS) or differential GPS (d-GPS). Not to be left out of this enhancement, other countries have implemented their own SBAS, such as Europe’s European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS), Japan’s Multi-functional Satellite Augmentation System (MSAS), India’s GPS Aided Geo Augmented Navigation (GAGAN), and Russia’s System for Differential Correction and Monitoring (SDCM). China’s SBAS, Satellite Navigation Augmentation System (SNAS), is still in the works. And others, such as Canada’s GPS Correction (GPS-C), have been scrapped.
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GPS is a single system that utilizes 31 satellites.
Private companies (eg, John Deere) have also, albeit rarely, entered the SBAS fray to supplement precision for internal navigation and position problems. Add to all of this the potential for what is referred to as Ground-Based Augmentation Systems (GBAS) or Local Area Augmentation Systems (LAAS), which provides corrections to GNSS signals based on specific geographic locales, and the potential for GNSS precision can get down to a few feet. GBAS is currently authorized for use as a Category I precision approach. GBAS is presently installed at 14 US airports and several others around the globe. Participants in GBAS approach research include Qantas, Japan Air Lines, United Airlines and All Nippon Airways.
Current problems with GNSS: jamming and spoofing As helpful as GNSS has been to us Earthlings, it is far from a perfect system. The signals from GNSS satellites are relatively weak and prone to interference. Signals are also susceptible to jamming and spoofing. The jamming of GNSS is relatively easy – the simplest way is to drown out the already weak signal with a more powerful local transmitter. Although illegal, such devices are readily available from internet sources and the do-it-yourselfers can quickly build one. GNSS jammers are so common that it was discovered that truck drivers were using jammers to prevent their bosses from tracking them. Unfortunately, when these trucks drove by the Newark-Liberty International Airport, they ended up disrupting local GNSS signals to
GNSS utilizes 89 satellites from all 4 satellite systems.
the point that GPS approaches were temporarily discontinued. GNSS spoofing, although more technically challenging than jamming, is still comparatively easy to do. Spoofing is when you convince a GNSS receiver that it is someplace other than where it really is. This is accomplished by transmitting signals denoting the spoofed location at a strength that drowns out the real GNSS signal. I saw this in action when flying in proximity to Bosnian conflict operations. Cruising along at FL330, all of a sudden our Flight Management System flagged a position disagreement. It was confused. According to the latitude and longitude being reported by GPS, we were over San Francisco yet staring out of the cockpit window I was in clear view of the Adriatic Sea and the Croatian coastline. At the time, we were being vectored by an AWACS aircraft, and I reported this navigation anomaly. Their response was “Yeah, we know. We’re doing that.” Just imagine the chaos that could ensue if a crafty rascal spoofed GNSS with the intent to play with ADS-B or aircraft on approach. Thus signal security has become a fundamental issue to future generations of GNSS satellites.
L1, L2, L5 signals Less diabolical challenges to GNSS signals also exist. As mentioned previously, GNSS signals are frail in comparison to other types of satellite transmissions. GNSS transmit a variety of signals, depending upon the age of the satellite. The 3 civilian signals that are available are L1, L2 and L5 – the latter being reserved ex-
clusively for aviation safety purposes and featuring higher power as well as improved bandwidth. There are 2 primary errors that must be corrected for the highest location precision. One is the range residual. This error is the difference in the range calculated utilizing the pseudorange and the carrier phase range. The 2nd is the ionospheric residual which is determined by comparing L1 and L2 phase and frequencies over time. L5, which is a relatively new addition, can be used to improve errors induced by the ionosphere. Unfortunately, ionosphere problems are particularly dependent on solar activity. Thus pilots should pay attention to both Earth and space weather. There was a recent solar flare outbreak which caused significant GNSS degradation. We are currently about halfway through a cycle of increased solar activity, which generally occurs every 11 years so more disruptions may be ahead. Not only can GNSS signals be impacted by the Sun’s activity due to the disruption of the ionosphere, but satellites can also be damaged by solar radiation and particle ejections. This is why backup satellites are essential to have in space to prevent the compromise of a constellation. Moreover, the existence of multiple GNSS arrays helps protect global navigation capabilities.
What comes next? With the expectation that GNSS enabled devices will provide over $700 billion in economic value over the next 10 years, it is clear that the underlying technologies must be con-
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tinuously updated and improved. A multi-billion dollar effort is underway by the US government to upgrade and back up the GPS constellation. There are currently 4 types of GPS satellites in use. The 1st, Block II-R types, of which there are 12 operational units, last launched in 2004 and have a 7-year lifespan. Go figure. There are 7 Block IIR-M units, which introduced the 2nd civil navigation signal (L2C). These also have a 7-year lifespan with the most recent addition being deployed in 2009. Block IIF types have been launched up to 2016 and introduced the L5 signal. There are currently 12 of these up in space each with a 12-year lifespan. The 1st of the next generation of GPS satellites, GPS-III, was just launched at the end of 2018. Plans are to replace all existing satellites with GPS-III (or its improved future version) on a schedule to try to keep better pace with satellite useful lives than has been conducted in the past. Part of the solution to old satellites has been addressed by the addition of commercial space launchers such as Space X. Thus there is less reliance on Air Force or other assets to budget, plan and launch GPS satellites into the constellation. GPS-III has numerous additional features and improvements over older satellites. GPS-III serves up 4 civilian signals L1 C/A, L1C, L2C and L5 (“C” signals are improved signal versions). It will also introduce 4 military-specific signals L1 and L2 P(Y) as well as L1 and L2 M. These satellites also have improved Rubidium atomic clocks which are essential to system precision. GPS-III units are expected to last at least 15 years. These enhancements are designed to provide more robust and precise data to users and also mitigate some of the risks of GNSS shenanigans. The military signals were introduced to improve the anti-jamming and secure access to GPS by the armed forces. While these advancements do not entirely protect civilian use of GPS, they do provide an appreciable advantage over older Block-II satellites. These augmentations also reduce typical errors such as those from the atmosphere, signal noise, and timing issues. With the introduction of the L5 signal as well as SBAS and GBAS, it is proposed that aircraft will be able to conduct category-III approaches relying solely on GNSS.
Aviation GPS users can check out real-time coverage plots of services at www.gps.gov, as shown above. The blue shaded area indicates where the most accurate positional data is available while the area within the red-line marks where signals allow for localizer-precision with vertical guidance (LPV) approaches. The yellow-line indicates the area in which LPV approaches to Cat I minimums are possible.
Ground tracking stations GPS-III units also transmit data that can be utilized by multi-GNSS receivers. The US is not the only one making improvements to its GNSS. Russia is launching GLONASS-K2 satellites which transmit inter-operational signals, meaning that they may be used by non-GLONASS receivers. All countries with a GNSS are consistently improving their tracking networks – the ground component of the system. People do not often think of ground tracking stations when considering GNSS, but this portion of the system is critical. These monitoring locations make sure satellites are where they are supposed to be and where they “think” they are. At any moment the precise position of a satellite is critical to the calculation of positions of users. Any error, as trivial as it may seem, to this satellite location information and the resultant user position will be highly corrupted.
More satellites for more precision to come The future also holds more satellites, which equals more precision and more redundancy. It is estimated among all GNSS there will soon be over 130 satellites available to users. Improved signals will also accompany these new satellites with better protection from interference as well as improved anti-jamming and security for military users. New GNSS receivers are coming on the market that are able to utilize signals from most if not all available GNSS. Also, newer satellites transmit inter-operational signals, making it easier for users to utilize those satellites that may be part of a different GNSS. So what does this look like for us terrestrials? Well, if you add GLONASS to GPS, you get twice the number of satellites. If Galileo is also added, you get triple the coverage. Moreover, if BeiDou enters into the mix, you end up with 4 times as many satellites. This increased avail-
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GPS control segment
Master control station Ground antenna Air Force monitor station Alternate master control station AFSCN remote tracking station NGA monitor station The oft forgotten but very important component of GPS, the Earth-based control segment, includes a series of ground monitoring and control stations. This network monitors GPS satellite health, precision, and location data that provides mission critical system error corrections and spawns NOTAMs for inaccuracies or outages.
ability of coverage takes out many concerns about satellite visibility and utility, as satellites that are low on the horizon become less useful or unusable to operators. Similarly, more satellites mean more are overhead in situations where terrain may block line of sight with space-based assets, such as is the case in valley approaches with high surrounding terrain. Some GNSS are better at pinpointing lateral location while others are superior in altitude accuracy. If you were able to combine the best of both worlds, so to speak, the result is better geolocation. Moreover, simultaneous outages of GNSS are much less likely with so many satellites in orbit.
Cellular triangulation, new algorithms and mapping Additional technologies are being investigated to augment or even replace GNSS in low altitude environments which would be vital for terminal operations. One example is borrowed from cellphone technology. Cellular triangulation provides surprisingly accurate position data. While current technology often limits the precision of cellular positioning, it is usually due to obstructions to individuals using cell phones on the ground. With unobstructed views from above coupled with new 5G and Long Term Evolution (LTE), cellular capabilities and the accu-
racy can get to the point of equivalence of say a VOR. Further, new algorithms and mapping software can utilize “local knowledge” to make adjustments for local interference and improve location precision. Another idea proposed adds a database of local radio transmitters such as radio and TV broadcasters to provide additional triangulating capabilities. Going even further, services such as Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX), which is a type of wireless broadband communication to provide WiFi to large areas that could be utilized at low altitude or, at the very least, on an airport. The advantages of WiFi are that it requires very low power in relation to GNSS receivers and has the capability of being highly secure from tampering. Magnetometers correspondingly can be added to provide additional precision through mapping of magnetic signatures of specific locations.
Possibilities for additional improvement
the time it takes to ping such aircraft from your position, your geographic location can be determined. From the bulky hand-held Garmin I bought when they first came out that took 15 minutes to acquire a few satellites, to the capability of curved approaches in mountainous terrain to Category I minima all while you watch it on a beautiful color map display, GNSS has come a long way since its introduction several decades ago. The possibilities for improvement are almost endless, and with hardware and software being refined on a daily basis, the sky is no longer the limit. By launching improved satellites, building better signals, improving security, sharing GNSS signals, and borrowing operational concepts from other industries, GNSS will move further into the 21st century with impressive gains in precision, reliability and security. If the advances we have seen in GNSS since its inception are any indication of where we have yet to go, the future looks blindingly bright.
Lastly, there is the idea that if an aircraft for some reason cannot acquire adequate position from all of these sources, an ADS-like system can be used to harness data from other aircraft in the area. Similar to cellular or other types of positioning arrangements, if the position of other aircraft are known and you figure out
David Ison, PhD, has 32 years of experience flying aircraft ranging from light singles to widebody jets. Currently he is a graduate school professor at Northcentral University.
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COTS SPECIAL MISSION AIRCRAFT
Special mission demands are met by versatile aircraft designs Acquiring, modifying and deploying commercial off-the-shelf business aircraft is an effective strategy to lower costs, improve fielding and enhance performance for service operators. missions higher, faster, farther, better and less expensively. The future of airborne Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) solutions is in multi-mission capability – platforms not dedicated to single capabilities but machines with multiple capabilities that give the decision-maker a comprehensive view of the subject environment. Fully configured SMA will include an updated cockpit, specialized radar, SATCOM, encrypted communications, intelligence and other supporting systems.
By Don Van Dyke
ATP/Helo/CFII, F28, Bell 222. Pro Pilot Canadian Technical Editor
pecial Mission Aircraft (SMA) are derived from Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) equipment to perform missions often characterized as high-risk, time-sensitive and/or requiring high security. SMA are highly specialized platforms which deliver combinations of superior speed, range, altitude, dispatch reliability, mission adaptability and operational capabilities under extreme conditions. COTS SMA are baseline designs initially intended for commercial operation which are modified to serve in military, light military, government or public service roles. The use of COTS SMA allows operators to take advantage of mature technological advances, cost savings, rapid procurement and expanded user base accruing from marketplace competition. These considerations can minimize or eliminate the need for costly, time-consuming, government-sponsored research and development programs.
Trends Use of COTS items offers significant opportunities for reduced development time, faster insertion of
E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) is a Bombardier Global Express modified to extend communication ranges, bridge radio frequencies and translate between incompatible communications systems.
new technology and lower life-cycle costs. Maximum use of commercially mature technology provides the greatest opportunity to meet program cost, schedule and performance requirements and is consistent with an evolutionary acquisition strategy. Unique special mission critical requirements (speed, range, payload, endurance, agility, reliability or physical space) are more easily met by today’s affordable, right-sized (miniaturized) and lighter technologies coupled with the agility, size, power and performance of long-range, large-cabin business jets. The result is inspired interest in versions that can cost-effectively perform specialized missions ranging from ground surveillance to maritime patrol. Unlike previous generations of single-purpose air assets, modern multi-mission aircraft use compound sensors and communications systems to collect wide-ranging data and information, process it to generate intelligence corroborated across multiple sources, and disseminate it in a timely manner. When compared with using converted airliners, business jets can often perform these
Emerging capabilities The greater reach of business aircraft has led to effective use of SMA in a number of new operating roles, including disaster relief, border security, fisheries monitoring, ice management, pollution detection and monitoring, dropsonde delivery and monitoring, general law enforcement, drug interdiction, etc. This compendium presents a range of COTS SMA selected for their proven or promised performance. All were initially intended for commercial service and only later were modified for use in innovative roles. Additional guidance on procurement, certification and application of COTS SMA is available in the June 2016 and April 2018 editions of Professional Pilot. Don Van Dyke is professor of advanced aerospace topics at Chicoutimi College of Aviation – CQFA Montreal. He is an 18,000 hour TT pilot and instructor with extensive airline, business and charter experience on both airplanes and helicopters. A former IATA ops director, he has served on several ICAO panels. He is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and is a flight operations expert on technical projects under UN administration.
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When equipped with floats, the AT-802F Fire Boss is able to land on and scoop water from nearby sources. It can deliver up 14,000 gph for extended firefighting or ground support.
The L3 AT-802L Longsword ISR/light-strike platform features 8.5-hr loiter, 11 hard points and the ability to carry 8200 lbs of fuel and munitions for light attack roles.
The AT-U (802u) is designed for Strike- ISR, SIGINT, border and maritime patrol and remote supply and transport. It’s the world’s largest single-engine TP with a 16,000 lb MGW.
The A330 Phénix Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft refuels 2 fighter jets. France renewed a pledge to speed up by 2 years delivery of 12 Airbus A330 tankers for the French Air Force by 2023.
During the height of the Ebola outbreak, an A340-300 was converted for use as an evacuation aircraft and flying isolation ward. It remains available for missions involving highly infectious diseases like SARS, avian flu or Ebola.
The ATR-72MP (ATR-72-600) is a multirole maritime patrol and C4ISR aircraft for surface vessel search and identification, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) patrol, electronic intelligence (ELINT), SAR, prevention of piracy, smuggling, drug trafficking and illegal immigration. It can also transport personnel and paratroops.
The ATR P-72A ASW (ATR-72-600) can be deployed in maritime patrol, search and identification of submarines and SAR. For anti-submarine (ASW) and anti-surface warfare (ASuW), it is armed with a pod-mounted machine gun, lightweight aerial torpedoes, anti-surface missiles and depth charges.
MC-12W Liberty (Beech 350) was developed as a medium/low-altitude ISR aircraft, equipped with belly-mounted radome for digital search radars and infrared/electro-optical (IR/EO) sensors to support USAF Irregular Warfare missions.
The C-12J Huron (Beech 1900) is a pressurized transport for combinations of up to 19 passengers and/or cargo. Other applications include medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) as well as its use in USAF GPS jamming tests.
The A319CJ Corporate Jetliner incorporates removable auxiliary fuel tanks in the cargo compartment to allow a range capability of 7015 miles. The custom cabin can accommodate between 18 and 46 VIPs/staff/pax.
The ATR-42-400MP Surveyor (ATR-42) is used for maritime surface vessel search and identification, Search and Rescue (SAR), piracy, contraband and narcotics interdiction, environmental monitoring and intervention, and security.
Beechcraft (Textron Aviation)
The RC-12N Guardrail (Beech 200) is a Special Electronic Mission Aircraft (SEMA) which obtains signals intelligence (SIGINT) by locating signals in standoff/standin modes, and uses an adaptive beam-forming antenna array to identify emitters in dense signal environments.
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E-3A/B/C Sentry (707) Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft, commonly referred to as AWACS, are operated by NATO and several allied countries. The hydraulically-rotated radar antenna revolves at 6 rpm to provide omni-directional scanning.
The E-7A Wedgetail (737NG) AEW&C features an L-band Northrop Grumman Multirole Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) surveillance radar/Integrated IFF. The aircraft supported search operations for MH370 and coalition operations in the Middle East.
The P-8 Poseidon (737-800ERX) was developed for ASW, ASuW and maritime patrol. It carries torpedoes, Harpoon anti-ship missiles and other weapons. It can drop and monitor sonobuoys and includes Early Warning Self Protection (EWSP).
Saab GlobalEye (Global 6000) AEW&C provides air, maritime and ground surveillance using the EriEye extended range (ER) AESA radar.
C-143A (Challenger 604) ISR Maritime Surveillance Aircraft (MSA) incorporates technology used on P-8A, 737 AEW&C and E-3 AWACS program aircraft. The aircraft is deployed in anti-piracy, coastal and border security operations and long-range SAR.
The USCG selected the HC-144A Ocean Sentry (CASA/IPTN CN-235M-300) to replace aging HU-25 aircraft. It is utilized for SAR, illegal drug and immigrant interdiction, marine environmental protection as well as passenger/cargo transport.
The CASA C295 retains basic characteristics of the CN-235 while providing a larger fuselage and 50% more payload. Variants fulfill marine patrol/ASW/SAR, SIGINT, AEW&C, gunship, transport and tanker roles as well as dedicated firefighting services.
Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) operates the Cessna 525C CJ4 to provide flight inspection and navaids calibration services.
The UC-35A is the US Army and USAF transport version of the Citation V/Ultra. The USMC version is the UC-35C. It is also represented by the OT-47B which was purchased by DoD for drug interdiction reconnaissance.
Based on the Global 5000, the IAI ELTA ELI3360 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) provides maritime domain situational awareness and superiority using sophisticated ISR and underwing armament systems which may include sensors and weapons for ASW and ASuW.
CASA (Airbus Military)
The C-41A (C-212-200 Aviocar) is used by US Army Special Operations Command (SOCOM) for troop infiltration/exfiltration, supply drops and airborne operations. The rear ramp is popular among skydivers and smokejumpers.
Cessna (Textron Aviation)
Northrop Grumman AC-208 Eliminator (Cessna AC-208 Armed Caravan) is a successor to the Alliant Techsystems (ATK) AC-208B Combat Caravan. ISR upgrades include EO targeting with integrated laser designator, datalink, self protection and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.
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The Daher TBM 700B-MMA is fitted with a gyro-stabilized, retractable multi-sensor turret under the aft fuselage, accommodating up to 4 sensors including IR/EO systems, and laser range finder/target designator. The MMA can be restored for passenger transport in about 30 minutes.
TBM-910 ISR includes under-wing hardpoints to equip the aircraft with sensors and large-format cameras. It retains handling qualities and flight envelope performance in the ISR configuration. The TBM-910 features Garmin G1000 NXi avionics with physical keypad.
The HU25C Guardian (Falcon 20) is a drug interdiction version for the US Coast Guard equipped with a search radar and Forward-Looking IR (FLIR) turret.
TBM-930 ISR performs photographic/surveillance missions with retractable multi-sensor IR/EO turret, radar, Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI), and COMINT systems, managed and monitored using a quick-change console mounted behind the pilot. Garmin G3000 NXi avionics with large touchscreen displays are featured.
The Falcon 900 MSA is a Japan Coast Guard maritime patrol version, equipped with search radar and hatch for dropping rescue stores.
The Falcon 2000 Maritime Reconnaissance Aircraft (MRA) is selected by the Japan Coast Guard for surveillance, reconnaissance, ASuW attack, EW and aircrew training.
EO-5C (DHC-7) is an Army SEMA platform for multi-sensor communications and imagery intelligence (COMINT/IMINT).
The Airborne Communications Intelligence Subsystem (ACIS) program for the US Army provides a global self-deployable ISR capability for COMINT and radar/imagery intelligence aboard DHC-8-300 series aircraft.
The Embraer ERJ-145AEW (R-99) is a multi-sensor AEW&C platform derived from the Embraer ERJ-145 regional airliner. The Active Electronic Scanned Array (AESA) radar can detect missiles and hostile fighters at all angles. The aircraft features inflight refueling and accommodates installation of advanced mission systems.
Royal Air Force Phenom 100 is used to provide pilot multi-engine training. The aircraft were procured to reduce the training gap between older generation Tutor T1, Tucano T1 and King Air T1 aircraft, and modern frontline aircraft, including advanced systems and glass cockpits.
de Havilland Canada (Viking Air)
The Viking Air DHC-6 Twin Otter Guardian 400 is used for ISR, SAR, HALO operations and critical infrastructure support in extreme environments. MSS 6000 mission equipment includes SLAR, datalink, surveillance and SAR.
The EMB-145MP/ASW (P-99) is the proposed ASW modification of the EMB-145MP Maritime Patrol version. It would share the R-99 sensor suite, absent – most visibly – the multi-spectral scanner and Side-Looking Radar (SLAR). It has 4 under-wing hardpoints to accommodate a variety of torpedoes and/or anti-ship missiles.
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NASA C-20A (Gulfstream III) Multi-Role Cooperative Research Platform (MRCRP) transferred from the USAF to efficiently test subsonic flight experiments for NASA, the USAF, other government agencies, academia and private industry.
G550 proposed by Gulfstream and Grumman to host the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar Systems (JSTARS), replacing the Boeing E-8C JSTARS fleet. In doing so, they face competition from Boeing (737-700) and Lockheed (Bombardier Global 6500).
Gulfstream G550 featuring an IAI ELTA Conformal Airborne Early Warning (C-AEW) multimode active phased-array system which can track up to 100 targets simultaneously to a 200 nm range while guiding air-to-air interceptions or air-to-ground attacks.
Royal Thai Air Force Fairchild AU-23A Peacemaker (PC-6 Porter) is fitted with a side-firing 20 mm Gatling cannon, 4 wing pylons and a center fuselage station for external ordnance, including forward-firing gun pods, bombs, flares, rockets, smoke grenades and propaganda leaflet dispensers.
U-28A (PC-12) with sensors, nav equipment, communications systems, survival aids, threat detectors and countermeasures. It accommodates up to 10 pax or 3000 lbs of cargo for insertion, extraction and resupply of special operations. Suitably-equipped aircraft can relay video/voice/data over secure datalinks.
The S 100B Erieye (Saab 2000) is an advanced tactical surveillance system with an instrumented range of 280 miles for AEW&C, national security and border protection missions, C&C for disaster management or for emergency ATC.
The Saab Swordfish MPA (Global 6000) features a Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD) and Selex Seaspray 7500E maritime radar for ASW in the low-level environment. Up to 1700lbs of sonobuoys and weapons stores may be carried on 4 underwing stations.
The Viking Air CL-415MP combines an ability to directly intervene on water with features of traditional surveillance aircraft, avoiding the need for dedicated vessels and aircraft.
The IOMAX Archangel (Thrush S2R-660) ISR is capable of long-duration missions for border security, COIN and other special operations, including close ground support.
Raytheon Beechcraft AT-6A Texan II (PC-9) is a single-engine turboprop aircraft built by the Raytheon Aircraft Company, bought by Textron Aviation in 2014. The AT-6 has replaced the USAF Cessna T-37B Tweet and the USN T-34C Turbo Mentor.
The Swedish Air Force S 100B Erieye (Saab 340) AEW&C platform provides multi-role, multi-mission capabilities for both military and civil needs. The S-band radar uses Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) technology to detect and track objects quickly and precisely.
Viking Air, Thrush Aircraft
The Viking Air Guardian 400 (DHC-6 Twin Otter) is used for amphibious ISR, SAR, insertion/extraction, flight inspection and other missions in extreme environments.
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When a forecaster says … Meteorology has its own language. Understanding it can help make more sense of forecasts.
Weather briefings often use words that have specific meaning. Fully understanding the terminology used in briefings is critical to anticipating weather conditions.
By Karsten Shein Comm-Inst Climate Scientist
aiting around in an FBO recently, I was half listening to the occasional chatter from the radio tuned to the tower. It was a horrible day with low scud chasing the blowing snow across the runway. A controller was advising a flight on its 2nd approach that RVR was 2000 with overcast at 300 in blowing snow. Winds were 350 at 28 gusting to 36. The pilot responded with “Roger. It doesn’t sound like the zone is improving and we’re into our reserves, so if we can’t squeak the tires we’ll skip the racetrack and bug out to our alternate.” The controller, understanding the message that the pilot didn’t have the fuel to hold if he couldn’t land, replied with a landing clearance and a preemptive climb out vector and altitude for the likely go-around departure. From “V1” to “hold short,” and “bingo fuel” to being “behind the aircraft,” pilots use a wide variety of acronyms, slang and jargon that is unique to aviation. Much of it is designed to satisfy the need to quickly and effectively communicate important or often-used information to a fellow pilot or con-
troller. But unfortunately, to the uninitiated, it can seem like a foreign language. The same goes for meteorologists plying their trade in atmospheric science and forecasting.
Jargon of weather forecasters can be complex Imagine a pilot getting a weather briefing that went something like “Isentropic upglide will produce widespread nimbostratus in the midlevels, while strong PVA and a saturated column to the west suggests areas of deep convection after 18Z between TPK and OMA.” Of course, the briefer could instead say that the warm front across the route of flight will produce rain clouds between around 15,000– 20,000 ft, and the strengthening low would likely produce thunderstorms along the trailing cold front. The most common likelihood is that the briefing will be some combination of the 2, mostly understandable, but flavored with meteorological jargon. When we speak to someone who is not trained in the ways of our profession, we try to avoid using jargon and we translate our professional short-hand into something that can be understood by others. But that can
be a challenge partly because we are so used to using it and partly because rewording the jargon can be difficult. And sometimes there’s no desire to avoid it when it’s used to communicate information to others who are expected to know the lingo. Generally, when a pilot receives a weather briefing from a forecaster, that forecaster will describe weather conditions without any advanced meteorological terminology. For example, an area with high CAPE may be translated into an area of high risk for strong thunderstorm activity. But the term “high risk” has a specific meaning to forecasters, too, and is a term that they expect pilots to know. It means there is a risk of severe weather affecting more than 10% of the forecast area. The need to better understand meteorological terminology is greater now than ever. Automated weather briefing services and weather websites have evolved to deliver not only weather digests containing what the briefer decided a pilot needed to know, but also a vast wealth of meteorological products, both raw and translated – many produced by meteorologists for meteorologists. Having a solid understanding of how briefers and forecasters convey information to pilots and among themselves is a good skill for any pilot to have.
Some basics Nearly every briefing and raw METAR or TAF contains certain descriptive words which are often encoded as an acronym or abbreviation. These words paint a qualitative picture of the weather to the lay person, but are intended to convey specific quantitative meaning to pilots. These are words such as clear, few, scattered, broken or occasional. Most pilots learn these code words during flight training, but they may not realize their specific meanings. For example, cloud cover is measured in oktas (1/8) of the sky. The terms clear and overcast are self-explanatory, but “few” means 1/8–2/8, “scattered” is 3/8–4/8, and “broken” means 5/8–7/8 of the sky is covered with cloud.
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What about meteorological jargon? Over the course of thousands of weather briefings, pilots are subjected to a great deal of terminology that they may not fully understand. Some of it is a matter of a simple explanation, while other jargon may require an advanced degree in meteorology to comprehend. Fortunately, briefers tend to avoid the latter, but the use of the former can still lead to a lack of clarity in the pilot’s ability to interpret the forecast. There are dozens of words and phrases used by briefers that mean one thing in meteorology but quite another in the non-meteorological world. Several common ones are used in connection with fronts and pressure systems. A trough, for example, generally means an area of low pressure that is seen on upper air weather maps as the base of
Metars are coded to include as much information as possible, but important information is often appended in the remarks section using not so well understood terminology. Pilots should have access to a quick reference guide for these codes.
a wave-like pattern in a jet stream circulation. This is because the weather map is showing contour lines of pressure at a given height. In the middle of the “trough” the pressure is low, creating a depression in the pressure surface. Conversely, meteorologists use ridge to describe the area of high pressure around which the jet stream wave crests. Pilots generally understand the weather meaning of these terms, but to the public, they mean a trench in the ground, something farm animals drink from, or the sharp crest of a mountain range. Another similar term is bomb. In aviation a bomb is a bad thing, it’s an explosive charge that would prompt a mayday and the response of emergency services. In meteorology, it means a rapidly intensifying cyclonic weather system – specifically central pressure dropping by at least 24 mb in 24 hours. Pilots should interpret the term as meaning that the weather they’re likely to encounter will be worsening quickly. Fortunately, we hear these words with enough frequency in aviation that most pilots have come to understand their meanings when used in forecasts.
Thermodynamics Because much of forecasting deals with atmospheric motion and the complex physics that govern it, it is far easier for a meteorologist to describe those behaviors in terms that have specific meaning to other meteorologists rather than using a lengthier phrase to describe that same behavior in lay terms. One such term is advection, which is used widely in meteorology but is very rarely used in everyday discussions or in aviation – though technically your aircraft is advecting whenever it moves through the air. In physics, advection is the directional movement of a material along with its properties. Meteorological advection refers to the transfer of energy, including heat, due to the horizontal movement of air. This is as opposed to convection which, in meteorology exclusively, describes the upward horizontal movement of air. Advection of heat and energy is a primary building block and required term in most of the equations that are used to forecast future states of the atmosphere. It is also used when describing the movement of air of a
Image courtesy NOAA
There are also acronyms such as CAVOK, meaning “Ceiling And Visibility OK.” But what does “ok” mean? It means specifically that there is, or is forecast, no cloud below 5000 ft (1500 m) or the highest minimum altitude, no cumulonimbus or towering cumuli, and a visibility of at least 6 mi (10 km) with no significant weather changes. Sometimes qualifiers are tacked on to observations to enhance their meaning. For example, 2 important visibility qualifiers are M and P. When used in temperature reports, M signifies minus, but in visibility reports it means less than. And P means greater than. It is in the remark (RMK) section of metars that many of the terms with which a pilot may be less familiar often appear. For example, FROPA means FRontal PAssage, with COFROPA or WAFROPA meaning cold or warm front passage. Frequent (FRQ) is applied to lightning and means 1–6 flashes per minute, whereas continuous (CONS) is more than 6 flashes per minute, and occasional (OCNL) means less than 1 per minute. Fortunately, METAR and TAF decoding references abound. All pilots should be able to understand the formatting of the reports and have at least the primary suite of these codes committed to memory. Given that the less frequently used codes are often deployed when the weather is adverse or quickly changing, keeping a reference sheet or website handy for deciphering those obscure codes is highly recommended to maximize the amount of weather information a pilot can glean from the reports.
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Forecaster’s discussion for the area around Huntsville AL. When discussing the things that influenced their forecast, meteorologists often rely on technical jargon that can be confusing to pilots. Learning some of these terms can help pilots make better use of these discussions to understand developing conditions.
moves out of an area at the same rate it moves into the area. But in meteorology, like advection, convergence and divergence are restricted to the horizontal movement of air. Convergence or divergence means that air will be diverted vertically to compensate for the difference in horizontal inflow and outflow. Simply put, convergence at the surface means the air will rise to compensate. Aloft it means that air will likely descend. Divergence implies the opposite. These vertical currents are critical to establishing the development or decay of large-scale pressure systems, and supporting or inhibiting convection aloft. Unfortunately, convergence and divergence also have another meaning in meteorology. Forecasters use a variety of computer models to inform their forecasts. When these models are largely in agreement about some future conditions or are coming into agreement as the forecast time nears, the models are said to be converging. Alternatively, the models are diverging if their forecasts are all over the place or are becoming more and more different with increasing lead times.
Image courtesy NOAA
different temperature or humidity into or out of a region. For example, a meteorologist might state that convection was suppressed by dry air advection at 500 mb, meaning that dry air flowed into the region at around 18,000 ft, and as a result humid energetic air that would have continued to rise from the surface encountered the dry air and became unsaturated, cooling quickly and inhibiting further convection. So, when a briefer mentions advection, they will normally use it as a modifier to describe conditions that will affect flight. If they don’t, pilots should infer that the briefer is talking about warm, cold, humid or dry air moving into the forecast area at some level, and that it will affect things like convection, visibility, winds and temperatures aloft,
icing potential, etc, and they should ask why the advection is important to their flight. Convergence and divergence are also frequently used meteorological jargon. In a simple sense, they mean what you expect them to – the coming together or spreading apart of air, but in meteorology convergence and divergence is limited to changes in horizontal air velocity into and out of an area. These terms are not to be confused with confluence and difluence, which describe air flowing toward or away from a point or parallel line. Because the atmosphere acts as a fluid, when air converges, it is moving into a given area at a rate faster than it is leaving that area. Divergence is the opposite. In reality, air always
One thing that I often recommend to pilots is to take a look at the forecast discussions that are available on forecasting websites. These discussions are often quite in depth and may be difficult for anyone who is not a meteorologist to fully follow, but they do provide insight into the reasons why and how a forecast was made and the confidence the meteorologist has in their forecast. However, the first thing that most pilots will notice is that the discussions contain a great deal of jargon and acronyms. As with any complex topic, many of the terms are rather lengthy, and are more easily communicated in a single term that has a specific definition. Similarly, where an unwieldy term is used frequently, it makes sense to use a shorter substitute, such as an acronym. For example, a discussion may state “The large PVA region and strong low level WAA suggest the system will bomb quickly and deliver blizzard conditions throughout the deformation zone. All models are converging on this solution.” This phrase is full of jargon, but can be deciphered. PVA stands for Positive Vorticity Advection and means simply that there is a lot of vertical movement of air in the low. WAA is an acronym for warm air ad-
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Image courtesy ForeFlight
ForeFlight graphical briefing. Internet flight planning and weather briefing sites are valuable tools for receiving weather information. Many sites, however, provide access to raw meteorological products filled with jargon that may be perplexing to pilots.
vection, meaning energetic air is being pumped into the system from below. Bombing means a rapid decrease in central pressure and a strengthening of the cyclone system, and the deformation zone is the region behind the low where the flow is deformed by shear and stretching. The deformation often results in cloud and precipitation, and the forecaster says the models agree that this is going to happen.
A 40% chance of rain One of the most frequently used, and misunderstood bits of weather lingo is the chance of some variable such as rain, snow or thunderstorms. Even among pilots, who are more weather savvy than most, there are widely differing interpretations of this phraseology. What’s worse is that it gets interpreted as a bad forecast whenever there is a chance of something that ultimately fails to happen. A chance of precipitation or storms needs to be taken in the context of the forecast area. While this could be a single location, such as the airport, most forecasts are area forecasts: they cover a given space which may be hundreds of square miles in extension. The
chance is a probability (between 0% and 100%) of the forecasted event occurring at some location(s) within the forecast area and over the forecast time. What a percent chance of occurrence – let’s say 40% – does not mean is that there is a 40% chance you will experience the event (and a 60% chance you won’t). It doesn’t mean that the event will occur over 40% of the forecast area. It also doesn’t mean that it will occur over 40% of the forecast period. Rather, a 40% chance of a thunderstorm only means that the probability is 40% that at least 1 thunderstorm will occur somewhere within the forecast area during the forecast period. When forecasting for an area, probabilities may be communicated with specific terms: Isolated showers or thunderstorms, also called a slight chance, translates to a 20% probability. Scattered means 30%–50%, and likely/numerous is 60%–70%. Forecasters don’t use descriptive words above 70% since such high probabilities suggest a certain assurance of occurrence. Descriptive rainfall rates also have quantitative equivalents: Heavy rain is over 0.3 inches per hour, moderate is 0.1–0.3 inches per hour, light is 0.01–0.1 inches per hour.
Learn the weather lingo Because we deal with weather forecasts as a regular part of our jobs, pilots will see and hear meteorological jargon more often than most people. When we understand it, it can help to make the forecast briefing that much more informative, but when we aren’t familiar with it, it can inhibit what we get from the forecast. Fortunately, most of the jargon can be understood in the context of the forecast information itself, and where it is not, internet searches can help define the term or phrase. Sometimes, though, even an internet explanation will not resolve confusion. However, it is always okay to ask the briefer to explain what they mean when they use a term you don’t understand. Karsten Shein is cofounder and science director at ExplorEiS. He formerly was an assistant professor at Shippensburg University and a climatologist with NOAA. Shein holds a commercial license with instrument rating.
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INCREASE OF RULES
The legalization of safety Are you really safe or just safe on paper? offer more practical usefulness in real life. Manufacturer procedures may not account for real life issues that do not happen in the flight test environment but may happen to the rest of us other pilots on a regular basis. Operator written procedures, on the other hand, work for the actual operating environment the aircraft and crew have to work with.
Using prescribed procedures
A good safety management system requires not only administrative paperwork but encourages honest communication about real safety issues.
By Peter Berendsen
ATP/CFII. Boeing 747, MD11
t my airline’s hub we have the luxury of vans that transport the crews to their aircraft. Recently, a flight attendant was injured by the van as it backed up. She was behind the van, trying to open her suitcase to get her bright yellow safety vest in order to put it on. The safety vests had recently become mandatory for all, including crew, on the apron. There were also new financial penalties in place for non-compliance. She had forgotten to put her vest on so she hid behind the crew van so the purser and captain would not see her as she corrected her mistake. She was taken to the hospital and recovered after a few weeks. Safety is a complex subject that can not always be approached with simple solutions. While you may gain an increase in safety in the area you are concerned about, there may be a hidden loss of safety somewhere else. Many times, this does not show right away or may be evident only after a thorough analysis by people who are experts, good observers,
and also know what is really going on in the field. Finding the right mix between training and trust, rules and control is not always easy. Safety is about people and their behavior just as much as it is about technology. Actually, as technology becomes even better, the human element is of ever increasing significance.
A more legalistic approach With ever increasing levels of safety, it may be that we are slowly moving away from a purely need and ability-driven safety system to a more legalistic approach. By that I mean an approach to safety regulation and culture that sometimes gives the impression of doing more to protect us and our organization from liability than from actual harm. At my company, we have over decades developed very detailed and useful procedures for dealing with all kinds of situations and emergencies in our aircraft. They are, of course, based on the aircraft manufacturer’s procedures, so we fully include them. But they are more refined and may be rearranged in sequence to
There are legal and insurance experts that say the operator may be at a legal risk if they use their own procedures and not the ones prescribed by the manufacturer. To get operator procedures approved by the manufacturer and the authority may also involve additional cost. At my operation, the decision was made to switch to pure manufacturer procedures and checklists. This included the calculation of takeoff performance at a very early stage, with variations in payload, weather and runway still to be expected. Many colleagues quietly expected problems, and they were right: The number of incidents involving wrong configurations for takeoff (wrong flap or thrust setting, etc) increased significantly. The company was properly on the safe side in case it ever needed its insurance, but the probability that there actually would be an accident and a need for insurance payouts may have also increased. Another good example is a policy that requires a crew to go around if they are not fully established (speed, configuration, power setting, etc) at least 1000 ft above runway threshold. This policy makes a lot of sense and I fully support it. But even so, there will be cases where a crew might be better of continuing an approach in 900 ft AGL instead of going around with minimum fuel in dense traffic. This decision, just like diversions, is best left to the trained and trusted crew onboard the aircraft. They are in the end responsible, and all safety rules should always retain the final authority of the aircraft commander.
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Federal regulations and operating manuals As pilots we work in an environment where many of our rules are laid down in federal regulations and specified in our operating manuals. Manufacturer and operator of the aircraft give us step-by-step instructions on how to get the aircraft going, fly and shutdown afterwards. With the extensive knowledge gained in our training and with years of experience, everyday we make good and sound decisions while we fly in dense traffic environments and difficult weather. The PIC has wide authority in an emergency, but usually stays within established practice and the manuals during normal operations. When he deviates from the standard, it is announced to the crew, maybe discussed briefly to achieve consent, and then done when there is usually a good reason. In other words, the captain is trained and experienced enough to do the right thing, he is in control and usually not questioned. When there are little occurrences such as a drunken passenger, we write a short flight report and in most instances never hear about it again. As pilots, and especially as commanders, we are trusted. We make our decisions and, if they’re reasonable, they will be accepted. Independence when making decisions is very valuable, but it’s also under threat.
Decisions based on flight safety The reason for the reliance on pilots and their autonomy is flight safety. Aircraft are isolated up in the sky, physically unreachable. Pilots are entrusted with the lives of their passengers and crew and they have to make their own decisions, often with no time to spare. We fly difficult approaches into unfamiliar airports with just good preparation and sometimes a special simulator session. Now imagine what would happen to the captain’s authority if you could send someone to come aboard whenever things get difficult. This is what happens on ships. For approaches to ports, a pilot (local captain) comes on board; for technical issues, tech people will come and make the decisions for you; to check the safety standards, local au-
Maintenance records should give a quick overview of the true technical status of the airplane to the pilots and it should not be used to postpone repairs on a regular basis.
thorities and audit firms will board, often without prior announcement; for decisions such as using a tug or sailing with defective navigation equipment, company approval is often required. The decision juggling room in which ship captains operate can be quite restricted and narrow. Both the aviation and maritime industry operate large and complex vessels in challenging environments. Yes, ships are a lot slower and usually float after an engine failure, but the challenges in managing safety are remarkably similar. While the threats to human life and safe operation of the vessel may come from different angles, operators and crews of passenger aircraft and ships have to develop procedures to manage the technical, human, regulatory and administrative details of safety. Aviation is still a relatively young industry, especially compared to the maritime trade. Our safety rules were written with blood, sweat and tears as we learned to conquer the skies. This also implies that our safety rules are easy to understand and follow because they make sense to the average pilot. Punishment for violating safety rules often is immediate and severe.
Cumbersome paperwork The aviation industry was the first to codify safety into regulation, rules and manuals. Operators developed
checklists and procedures to ensure the safest, most efficient and smoothest operation possible. Years and years of experience lead to ever deeper refinement of our operating standards. In training, real knowledge and skills counted, not paperwork. Flight plans and logs were short and to the point, and maintenance releases were kept short, clear and precise to enable speedy handovers of aircraft from crew to crew. In recent years, however, I have noticed an ever more cumbersome paperwork load on flight operations. Training reports have become so long and detailed, that debriefings last into the early morning of the next day. Countless checkmarks are placed on irrelevant items just to fill out the form. Flight plans become longer and longer with duplicate information that is on the charts or approach plates already. Maintenance releases involve countless pink, yellow and blue copies and signatures. But as any electrical item such as a coffee maker is now in the main technical logbook, it becomes hard to find out which significant writeups exist on the aircraft as you board and settle in the cockpit. Of course this all exists in electronic form as well, but the electronic form is just a different version of the same. The documents are made so voluminous and complex to cover the company in case something happens because the crew could PROFESSIONAL PILOT / April 2019 49
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Safety management systems
Rules and control alone may not be enough to achieve the highest safety standards. This is why pilot training, trust and sound decision-making should be encouraged as well.
and should have known what was in the documents. Electronic flight bags have not really helped to organize the information overflow, as nothing stops departments from adding ever more documents onto the hard drive.
Ever-more well meaning rules As much as I love flying, I also have a passion for sailing. This has led to a little 2nd career on a small square rigged sailing cruise ship where I sometimes help out as an officer. While it is nice to cruise the Caribbean islands in winter, it is also hard work to maintain the high safety standards required on a passenger carrying vessel. On my little cruise ship I observed first hand how far the focus on liability, government inspectors and auditors can carry you away from real safety. There are ever more well meaning rules, with the good intention to increase safety. There are certificates and checklists to make sure everything is covered. Many rules are also the result of regulation by the flag state authorities (so to speak the FAA) or the International Maritime Organization (IMO) – similar to ICAO. Regulation is very tight for the operation of ships. National authorities of the flag states are obliged to follow IMO rules and codes which are put into force at a national level. The ships operating manual, just like in avia-
tion, prescribes the daily details of the operation. But don’t try to actually follow the manual because there are so many rules that there is safety rule gridlock. Literally following the operating procedures for the ship as laid down in the manual would make it impossible to operate the ship, at least with the number of crew provided, within the planned budget and time constraints imposed by the cruise schedule. Operating ships requires vast amounts of paperwork. By necessity, an industry that relies on paperwork requires leaders that are good at paperwork, in a single word: administrators. The skill set required for paperwork may be quite different than the skill set required to deal with complex, urgent and possibly life-threatening situations. Command of an aircraft requires the ability to see and assess the whole situation in limited time. And it requires the leadership to make a decision based on good judgement and cooperation with your fellow pilots that may affect everyones life. But on ships I see a different type of leader evolving. They are very good at managing the safety paperwork trail that is required by the operating rules of the ship. It takes a special skill to accept a ship that is perfect on paper but may have problems as you dig deeper, and the fact that ship captains in many cases lack the financial independence and contractual security of aircraft captains doesn’t help.
I observe similar tendencies in the aviation industry. To satisfy regulators, investors and insurance companies, a detailed Safety Management System (SMS) is put into place with standards, procedures, checklists and responsibilities. Audits are used to ensure that all these rules work and are followed properly. On the other hand, cost constraints and operational pressure make it sometimes impossible to follow all these rules. A good example is fatigue management. While fatigue management is part of any decent SMS these days, try to call in and say that you are too tired to fly. Of course, at major airlines and large operators this is usually not a problem. But there are small operators that may have no other pilot to fill in for you, and these are companies that need to get the aircraft airborne for needed revenue. On ships, you do not even think about calling to say that you are too tired. You just carry on. Of course, everyone has signed a form stating that they have received training in fatigue management and that they should report if they are too tired. This form, along with many other forms about working aloft, in enclosed spaces, hot work such as welding, etc, is archived for years. If anything happens these forms will be pulled out to show that the ship’s management did everything according to the books and the SMS. The possibilities of electronic communications and internet in the sky make more outside influence in the cockpit possible, and already this is happening. As professionals, we have to ensure that we retain our independent decision-making authority. After all, people on the ground may be electronically present on the aircraft, but only the humans in the aircraft actually put their life on the line.
Peter Berendsen flies a Boeing 747 as a captain for Lufthansa Airlines. He writes regularly for Pro Pilot on aviation-related subjects.
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DANGERS IN THE SKY
Mitigating bird strike hazards at airports No magic way to miss an avian collision. It’s still see and avoid.
Reporting strikes and identifying the bird determines which mitigation measures are most effective. In VNY (Van Nuys CA) 18 strikes on corporate aircraft over a 4 year period revealed 2 distinct species to be encountered most often.
By Shannon Forrest
President, Turbine Mentor ATP/CFII. Challenger 604/605, Gulfstream IV, MU2B
he phrase, “birds on and in vicinity of airport” has become commonplace on many Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS) broadcasts. As a result, it’s easy to dismiss the significance of the situation and eschew the threat. One reason is that the statement at face value provides no actionable information. The recording is not transmitted in real time and omits the type, location or movement vector of potential avian adversaries. To be fair to air traffic controllers, there’s no regulatory requirement to inform pilots of birds. Guidance is on the order of, “if you see birds, say birds,” and delivered as a courtesy rather than a traffic management strategy. Pilots have come to terms with the fact that, since birds and aircraft share the same airspace, there’s always a possibility of a collision. The first recorded bird strike happened on Sep 7, 1905. According to Wilbur Wright’s diary, “Twice passed over fences into Bread’s cornfield. Chased flocks of birds on 2 rounds and killed 1 which fell on top of upper surface and after a time fell off when swinging a sharp curve.” Wilbur managed 52
to avoid catastrophe, but future aviators were not so lucky. The first fatal encounter between bird and aircraft occurred in 1912. While maneuvering near Long Beach CA, Calbraith Rodgers (first person to pilot an airplane across the US from coast to coast) struck a flock of sea gulls. The impact dislodged the engine and Rodgers was struck with the debris and killed.
Structural or engine damage Over the last century, aircraft design improvements and safety features have substantially reduced pilot injuries and fatalities attributed to bird strikes. If a modern aircraft hits a bird in flight, structural or engine damage is the most likely outcome. This, however, may take the aircraft out of service for repairs that can be quite costly – especially for flight departments with small fleets. According to USDA statistics, aircraft collisions with wildlife (98% were bird strikes) cost the US civil aviation industry $229 million in 2015. Telling the CEO that his multi-million-dollar jet is out of service for a couple weeks because of a 7-pound goose is a tough way to start a conversation. Answering the question, “How did this happen?” is equally uncomfortable and brings up culpability.
Can the pilot be held responsible when an aircraft strikes wildlife? FAR 91.103 specifies that, “each pilot in command shall, before beginning a flight, become familiar with all available information concerning that flight.” Embedded within subsections of the regulation are specific requirements including aircraft performance, wx reports and known traffic delays – parameters that pilots have come to expect when interpreting the regulation. “All available information” is nebulous; much like the “careless and reckless” clause when discussing safety as it can apply to just about anything if regulators try hard enough. A NOTAM that indicates “birds on and in vicinity of airport” might serve as fair warning whether a pilot reads it or not.
Sullenberger’s bird strike This year marks the 10th anniversary of a well-known bird encounter, USAir Flight 1549. On Jan 15, 2009, the A320 lost thrust in both engines after encountering a flock of birds shortly after takeoff from LGA (LaGuardia, NY). All 150 passengers and 5 crew members survived the resultant ditching in the Hudson river. The event was covered quite extensively by the media, and in 2016 the film Sully debuted. The film purportedly told the story of the Flight 1549,
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Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, and the post-accident investigation. Hollywood loves a good villain but the flock of geese wouldn’t suffice in this story. The lack of antagonism led Director Clint Eastwood to take creative liberty when retelling this story, so he portrayed the NTSB investigators looking into the event as the bad guys. Sully relates a completely fictitious and inaccurate account of the NTSB investigative process and generates a false and adversarial relationship between the flightcrew and investigators. No one at the NTSB was contacted to participate in the film nor asked to fact-check or comment on the script. Unfortunately, a large segment of the population believes the “blame the crew” tone from investigators based on the cinematic embellishment of the case, despite the final report indicating that survivability was tied to “the decision-making of the flightcrew members and their crew resource management during the accident sequence.” This falsehood sets a bad precedent in the mind of the general public in that it embeds the concept of blame rather than probable cause when investigating incidents and accidents, especially when bird strikes are involved. If the ATIS or NOTAMS indicate birds, and the pilot hits one of those birds on approach and damages the aircraft, hopefully the movie Sully is not live streaming to the passengers over the cabin WiFi.
What’s being done for protection? Pilots who consistently encounter wildlife at certain airports might wonder what’s being done to protect aircraft and if the airport has any liability as to collisions. In 2014, a General Aviation (GA) aircraft struck a kangaroo during landing at the Kempsey Aerodrome in Australia. The owners of the aircraft sued the owner of the airport to recover the costs of repairing the aircraft. The case hinged on the fact that aerodrome management had not installed a kangaroo-proof fence despite concerns about escalating encroachment of marsupials dating back over a decade. On the day of the accident, wildlife inspections showed that the kangaroos had reached “dangerous levels.” A judge ruled in favor of the plaintiff, ordering the airport authority to remit
The most well known bird encounter with a passenger aircraft occurred on January 15, 2009. After ingesting birds in both engines, Captain Chesley Sullenberger and the crew of USAir 1549 ditched their disabled A320 in the Hudson River.
payment for the damaged plane. United States airport operators are also concerned about liability. A report by the USDA-APHIS in 2017 contained a heading entitled, “Can airport authorities and managers be held liable for wildlife strikes?” The document states, “it is apparent that airport operators must exercise ‘due diligence’ in managing wildlife hazards to avoid potentially serious liability issues. In the USA, the exercise of ‘due diligence’ initially involves a Wildlife Hazard Assessment (WHA) at the airport.” Part 139 airports that conduct scheduled and unscheduled air carrier operations are required to conduct a WHA and, if necessary, develop a Wildlife Hazard Management Plan (WHMP). The former determines if a threat exists and the latter specifies how to mitigate it. Most GA airports in the US are not Part 139 certified and thus are relieved from the wildlife provisions of Part 139. However, any airport that receives federal grant money is obligated to comply with the standards specified in the FAA Advisory Circular Hazardous Wildlife Attractants on or Near Airports. The AC necessitates a WHA if the airport is near water, wetlands, or woods, and suggests a 5-mile buffer zone between the wildlife attractant and the airport boundary. In March 2008, a Citation 500 struck a flock of American white pelicans approximately 2 minutes after taking off from PWA (Wiley Post Airport, OK). Damage caused by the bird strike resulted in loss of control and a fatal crash. Because PWA was not a Part 139 airport, manage-
ment was not required to develop a WHMP. But because it was a “federally obligated” airport based on its use of federal grant money, it was required to complete a wildlife hazard assessment, which it had not done. Ironically, OKC (Will Rogers Airport, OK), located less than 9 miles from PWA, had conducted a WHA and employed a WHMP as required by its Part 139 designation.
Pilots providing wildlife data Although a WHA and WHMP are the realm of wildlife biologists, pilots play a vital role in providing data that is incorporated into the final product. All wildlife strikes, even those that occur when flying around recreationally in light aircraft, should be reported using FAA form 5200-7 found at wildlife.faa.gov. The web address also contains a searchable wildlife strike database that can be fine tuned down to specific aircraft type and airport. Data enables pilots to research the avian risk at their home airports. Airlines have policies that mandate reporting all bird strikes, but corporate flight departments might fail to document an encounter unless damage occurs. The most common scenario is that a pilot reports the collision to the mx tech, who then inspects the aircraft. If no damage is noted, the tech cleans off the bird residue (called snarge by ornithologists) and returns the aircraft to service. Because it’s nearly impossible for a pilot to definitively identify a specific species of bird while inflight, the snarge is the most important part.
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sometimes made up of over 300 birds, were routinely seen crossing the airport. Cathy Boyles, the wildlife administrator for the airport, noted that hazing was not solving the problem. Dissection of the birds revealed the pigeons were gorging on the seeds of the caley pea, a plant that was growing nearby. The solution was to manage the agriculture near the airport so that it was less appealing to the wildlife. Bird strikes precipitously dropped in response. In a similar fix, the Port Authority of NY planted grass around Kennedy airport (JFK) that birds found unpalatable. Although the cost was 2 million dollars, it’s a far better investment than losing an aircraft to birds. Structural damage is the most likely outcome from a bird strike, especially in non-reinforced areas like the radome.
Knowing the species of bird involved in bird strikes is so important that the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC maintains a highly specialized lab dedicated to the process. Every day the Feather Identification Laboratory receives dozens of samples from all over the world. Sometimes it’s an entire carcass but the typical package contains a tiny feather particle or drop of blood. At the lab, scientists use color, size, pattern, microscopic analysis and DNA to determine the species. FAA AC 150/5200-32 provides detailed instructions on how to collect and mail samples from bird strikes. The process is also described by a 12-minute YouTube video that is linked to the FAA wildlife webpage. Getting a sample is not as bad as it sounds. Flight departments can put together a home-made snarge kit consisting of resealable plastic bags, disposable gloves, a self-addressed stamped envelope, some pre-packaged alcohol wipes, and a couple of gauss swabs relatively easily and store it in the cargo compartment. Before gathering a sample, the video is worth reviewing as some things are not intuitive. For example, water breaks down DNA, so alcohol is a better method of removing the sample from the aircraft. The goal of positively identifying a bird species is that airports can apply specific countermeasures known to affect that species.
Hazing or scaring the birds away Not all birds respond similarly to countermeasures. Mimicking a natural predator through a high decibel recording or a visual representation works sporadically. Pigeons, for example, respond well to fake owls, hence the reason why plastic replicas of owls can be seen dotting the roofs of buildings in New York City and perched atop some airport jetways and hangars. Woodpeckers, on the other hand, take only a few days to figure out the owls are fake and begin to ignore the decoy. Hazing is the term used to describe the act of making an animal insecure to the point that it leaves the environment. The most common form of hazing employed at airports is a remote-controlled air cannon or pyrotechnic devices. Fixed or portable green lasers have also proven effective at deterring some species. At least 2 airports, TVC (Traverse City MI) and RSW (Fort Myers FL), have devised a creative biological approach to hazing: both employ Border Collies to rid the field of birds. Unfortunately, hazing treats the symptoms and not the cause so the birds will eventually return. To permanently decrease the likelihood of bird strikes, airport managers must address what’s attracting the animals to begin with. In 2014, DFW (Dallas-Ft Worth) experienced a record 452 bird strikes. Flocks of pigeons,
Radar proving promising for bird identification The best direction to maneuver to avoid a bird has always been controversial. At one time it was common to believe that birds always dived when encountering an aircraft and the best strategy was to climb. The “diving bird” theory has been shown to be a myth. A 2016 study by the University of Queensland that investigated how birds avoid collisions with one another delivered an interesting result. The experiment showed that birds on a collision course changed altitude but whether they climbed or descended was purely random. What was certain, however, was that, irrespective of altitude changes, birds always turned to the right to avoid a midair with another bird. The bird problem will never disappear entirely but advances in technology may give pilots more definitive information about mitigating the airborne threat. Ground-based radar specifically designed to identify birds is proving promising. For the time being, pilots must continue to practice the “see and avoid” model and understand the inherent limitations of “birds on and in vicinity of airport” admonition. Shannon Forrest is a current line pilot, CRM facilitator and aviation safety consultant. He has over 10,000 hours and holds a degree in behavioral psychology.
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Bizjet missions to Southeast Asia
Sapura Aero offers full FBO services at SZB (Subang, Malaysia) with GA parking seldom an issue. Kuala Lumpur (L) is the business capital of Malaysia, with the local populous mix of Malay and Chinese ethnic backgrounds. Bizav access to Malaysia is generally easy, straight-forward and routine.
By Grant McLaren Editor-at-Large
izav operations to southeast Asia are generally easier, less restrictive and less expensive than they are to northern Asian locations such as Beijing, Shanghai and Tokyo. This all depends, however, on where you’re going. Some SE Asian destinations are definitely more complex than others. HKG (Hong Kong), for example, can be challenging in terms of obtaining runway slots, XSP (Seletar, Singapore) has new night curfews in effect, DMK (Bangkok, Thailand) can be an issue in terms of overnight parking, and MNL (Manila, Philippines) has flared up in terms of local security issues. “Airports in this region range from modern FBO-equipped facilities to very backwater settings with limited infrastructure and services,” says Avfuel Account Executive David Kang. “Jakarta and Bali, for example, are very modern, but many smaller airports in Indonesia may not have been upgraded in decades. A few years ago, Manila and other major cities in the Philippines had been safe but now it’s more like a war zone with significant security risks. Meanwhile, recent ADS-B mandates impact more and more operators in this region who are not yet equipped.
SE Asia cannot always be assumed to be an easy, inexpensive and flexible operating environment for General Aviation (GA).” Universal Aviation Asia Pacific Ops Mgr Alan Pong routinely coordinates bizav flights throughout SE Asia, including to many smaller secondary locations. Pong points out that local ground handling services and capabilities are generally excellent. “For first time operators to the region it’s always best to plan schedule and support requirements well in advance,” he says. “Keep in mind that, in some cases, short notice permits and schedule changes can be an issue. If you try to make too many schedule changes you could run into challenges and it may add uncertainty to your trip.”
Permit requirements International Support Providers (ISPs) point out that overflight and landing permits are needed in this region and can normally be organized within 3 business days. Be mindful that longer lead times, as long as 5–7 days, may be required for some ops to Malaysia, Myanmar and Indonesia. Also, keep in mind that multiple overflight permits must be arranged if you’re conducting operations in many regions. The good news is that most countries only re-
quire standard documentation along with worldwide insurance, and China no longer mandates sponsor letters for GA landing permits. ITPS Ops Mgr Ben Fuller remarks that, as of July 2018, Thailand implemented inbound and outbound APIS requirements for 6 airports in the country. There’s an online process to do this, or you can have your local ground handler take care of these notifications for you. Charter operators face few restrictions in this region, as they’re often treated as “private” when operating aircraft smaller than the size of an ACJ or BBJ, but there can be additional lead time and/or documentation requirements to consider. Myanmar, for example, wants min 3 days for private overflights but requires 10 days lead time for charter.
Photo courtesy Sapura Aero
Complications can arise and costs are often high.
Cost considerations While operating to SE Asia can be less expensive than to Japan or northern China, this region is no longer necessarily a low-cost environment. “Some locations in SE Asia, including Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok, have become expensive,” says Kang. “You’ll encounter costs similar to Japan, but less than you’d pay at super expensive Beijing. Keep in mind that nav fees anywhere in China are very high and you’re also liable to pay airspace compensation fees.”
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Credit for handling, services and fuel uplifts are generally not an issue in SE Asia, other than for very remote destinations or when operating to Myanmar. “We had a recent trip to Myanmar where credit was difficult to set up and local services had to be paid with cash in advance,” notes Kang. The crew did not pay for anything out of their pocket but it was necessary to tie a supervisory handler to the trip for the duration.”
Complication potential Complications have somewhat intensified for operators to the SE Asia region. A foreign-registered cargo plane was recently forced to land, by Indonesian military jets while flying through airspace where no Indonesia overflight permit was needed. “The flight was over an Indonesian island but it was not within Indonesia’s FIR, when F16s intercepted the flight,” relates Jeppesen Vendor Relations Specialist Jeff Rupprecht. “Other territorial disputes, meanwhile, pop up in SE Asia from time to time.” When a new ILS was inaugurated at XSP earlier this year, Malaysia reacted by restricting and canceling use of its airspace. As a result of this spat between Malaysia and Singapore, night ops into XSP were suspended as of early January. “New Jeppesen charts show the ILS, but ILS procedures currently cannot be used due to Malaysian restrictions in contravention of ICAO standards,” explains Jeppesen Trip Support Specialist Josh Anderson. “Currently, operations in and out of XSP are curfewed 2200–0700 local. Things seem to be more and more in flux in this part of the world.”
To make ops even more convoluted, certain over water visual approaches to XSP are currently denied when ships of a certain height pass through the area. “ATC will not allow visual approaches into XSP when certain ships transit the Strait,” notes Anderson. “We work with a BBJ operator who frequents XSP and he stresses how important it is to work with local ground handlers in advance of approach, right down to verifying local shipping schedules.” Be mindful that Indonesia implemented operating restrictions on foreign-registered aircraft back in 2015, limiting in-country ops to just 1 stop. “Fortunately this hard requirement has relaxed over time and it’s now possible to obtain Indonesian permits for more than 1 stop, although this requires a special permit and at least 5 days lead time is recommended,” says Kang. ISPs advise 7 days lead time for permit applications for Myanmar and 3–4 days lead time for the Philippines. “While PPR is not needed for MNL, there are GA operating curfews to take into account and overnight parking may or may not be available,” adds Fuller. “In the case of Myanmar we recommend at least a week to set up permits, services and credit. Recently we had a trip go into MDL (Mandalay, Myanmar) and this took a couple of weeks to coordinate.” Other potential regional complications include ADS-B routings, particularly those associated with Vietnam and Indonesia but also those impacting certain routings in/out of Hong Kong and Singapore. Operators not ADS-B compliant may need to fly below FL290 or above FL410.
Which airport? When operating to destinations in SE Asia with more than 1 airport, it’s best to choose the more GA-friendly option. DMK is more welcoming to GA than BKK (Bangkok, Thailand) just as SZB (Subang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) is better set up for GA than busy KUL (Sepang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia). Meanwhile, bizav ops to HLP (Halim, Jakarta, Indonesia) are much easier to facilitate than those into the major scheduled commercial center of CGK (Soekarno, Jakarta, Indonesia). Operators headed to Taipei often prefer close-in TSA (Songshan, Taipei, Taiwan) rather than busier and more commercially-focused TPE (Taoyuan, Taipei, Taiwan), but be aware of local restrictions. “As TSA does not have regular customs/immigration hours, you’ll need to set up clearance and this is usually not possible for short-notice or last-minute trips,” says Kang. “It’s best to make requests 7 days prior to operation. Once approved, however, it may not be possible to change your schedule easily.” In the case of Manila, GA access is still doable into MNL, but plan on assorted GA operating restrictions and curfews and at least 3–4 business days lead time for slot requests. “You have the option of operating to CRK (Clark, Philippines), where access and parking is easier, but it’s a 3–4 hour drive into central Manila,” adds Pong. If you’re unable to arrange airport slots and/or parking for preferred times at HKG, you can also consider MFM (Macau), now connected to Hong Kong by a bridge that
Photo courtesy Jet Aviation
Singapore is one of the most popular destinations in SE Asia and there are 2 airports to choose from: SIN (Changi) and XSP (Seletar). XSP is the preferred bizav airport although night curfews are currently in effect. Jet Aviation XSP offers FBO, hangarage and assorted mx/repair services.
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Photo courtesy Universal Aviation
Colorful and lively Manila (L) attracts the bulk of GA movements into the Philippines. Universal Aviation Philippines is located at MNL (Manila), pictured at right. This base also provides supervisory services at all airports throughout the Philippines, including its other offices at CEB and CRK.
opened last October. Alternatively, SZX (Shenzhen, China) normally has plenty of parking available and it’s only a 45-minute drive into central Hong Kong. Be mindful, however, that when using mainland airports for your trip to Hong Kong you’ll require multi-entry China visas for all crew members and passengers. GA flights to Singapore have become more of a challenge lately. CAA discourages GA ops to SIN (Changi, Singapore) unless you have a very good reason such as a connection to a scheduled commercial flight. While XSP is the GA airport of choice, it’s become more difficult lately with new night curfews in effect, a non-operational ILS, and assorted restrictions impacting visual approaches. Some Singapore-bound operators chose to use JHB (Johor Bahru, Malaysia). “JHB is a 30 to 40-minute drive over the causeway to Singapore and there’s plenty of parking,” says Pong. “Airport and customs/immigration hours are normally 0630–2400 local, but overtime options are available.” Ops to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos are usually straight-forward with visas on arrival normally possible for both crew and passengers. “Traffic is on the increase to this part of the region but there are special permit processes you need to follow,” says Fuller. “There are no traditional FBOs in this area but ground handling services and capabilities are very good. It’s best to plan 3 business days notice for landing permits, although shorter notice options are available.”
Parking considerations While overnight parking challenges are often a factor at HKG, the larger issue is obtaining runway slots. It’s not uncommon for HKG-bound operators to have to drop, go and re-
position for overnight parking elsewhere. HKT (Phuket, Thailand) has also become restrictive on overnight parking as have many popular resort islands such as USM (Ko Samui, Thailand). “Ramp space is at a premium for many airports in this region, particularly if you’re operating ACJ, BBJ or other larger-size business aircraft,” says Rupprecht. Bangkok has also presented GA parking issues lately, particularly for longer stays. “We run into parking challenges from time to time at DMK, especially over busy or holiday periods. But there are options to consider regarding longer term parking if you’re able to secure private hangar space,” says Pong. For ops into HKG, you’re not able to request parking until your runway slot has been approved. “Sometimes you’ll only be granted parking approval long enough to reposition up to a maximum of 6 hours,” notes Anderson. Due to potential language barriers, Rupprecht advises to work with trusted local transport providers, rather than booking transportation via your hotel when operating to this region. “There was a case recently where a crew was heading out to DMK on a hotel-arranged taxi when they had a flat tire on the highway and the driver just took off. The crew started to try to change the tire on their own when the irate driver showed up and started yelling at them in Thai,” he relates. “Luckily the crew were in uniform and were spotted by a Thai Airways captain en route to the airport. The Thai captain pulled over and rescued the stranded crew.”
Summary Despite occasional operating challenges and limitations, SE Asia
remains a fairly straight-forward, flexible and uncomplicated GA operating environment. ISPs suggest that operators to this region take the time to research all airport and approach requirements well in advance of day of operation. “Many operators neglect to review airport briefing rules and NOTAMs but this practice will get you into trouble as some airports are very strict on start up, taxi and approach procedures, and have limitations on how long APUs may be run on the ground,” says Anderson. “And, remember that commercial airlines always have fuel uplift priority. We often recommend fueling, or partially fueling, upon arrival to avoid possible day of departure delays in being #7 or #8 in line for fuel.” Rupprecht suggests that operators, due to long duty days often associated with SE Asian ops, consider flying with a 3rd pilot onboard. “Many operators to this region run long crew duty days, causing sleep deprivation and associated issues. You may feel exhausted after a long flight and face local operating idiosyncrasies and/ or unique approach procedures. Or if a pilot should become partially incapacitated with medical or foodborne issues, you might end up in a situation where you’re essentially flying single pilot. Having a relief pilot onboard, as opposed to just being repositioned along the route, always seems to be the best practice,” he concludes. Editor-at-Large Grant McLaren has written for Pro Pilot for over 20 years and specializes in corporate flight department coverage.
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IOC 2019 International Operators Conference held in San Francisco CA.
Presenting on sleep deprivation and fatigue were (L–R) Dr Vladimir Nacev, Debbi Laux, Karl Kamps and Steve Thorpe.
Operators from around the world joined together in San Francisco for 4 days of education, networking, and enjoyment during NBAA’s annual conference.
By Brent Bundy
Phoenix Police Officer-Pilot AS350, AW119, Cessna 210/182/172
Photos by Brent Bundy
BAA’s 2019 International Operators Conference (IOC) marked the 46th gathering of the annual event. Nearly 700 attendees from 20 countries made their way to San Francisco CA for 4 days of informative sessions and professional networking Feb 25–28. With advancing technologies, more capable aircraft, increasingly complex trip planning, and continued instability in various markets, the extensive list of subject matter experts packed each day with seminars that were invaluable to pilots, schedulers, dispatchers and others. Scott Harrold from Signature
Flight Support emceed the program with his known comedic approach throughout the week. Each morning started off with worldwide weather briefings followed by symposiums on topics covering every aspect of international travel including regulatory updates, regional reviews, sleep deprivation, security issues, and much more. Nearly $20,000 in International Operators Scholarships were presented to 4 recipients. The evenings were filled with entertainment, relaxation and more networking at local venues. The IOC continues to grow in popularity and has become a near mandatory attendance event for anyone in the industry traveling overseas. Next year’s conference will be held in Charlotte NC Mar 16–19. Sheltair provided a “relaxation station” for attendees, hosted by Dir of Sales & Mktg Karen Kroeppel.
Greeting guests on behalf of World Fuel Svcs were Laura Mason (L) and Sandy Sabatini.
Representing Aerion and their quest for the next supersonic business aircraft were (L–R) Veronique Pedron, Rgnl VP Sales Roger Noble, Rgnl VP Sales Michael MacDermott and Program Integration Andrés Garzón.
Fargo Jet Center was represented by Sales & Mktg Kindra Mahler and VP Mktg Darren Hall.
Universal Weather & Aviation met showgoers in their corporate suite, staffed by (L–R) Dir of Sales UVair Scott White, Prod Owner Global Prod Strategy Anitha Gujjari and Marc Ledesma, Sr Mgr Corp Events Anabel Monson and Lead Mission Advisor Rick Mann.
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Schedulers & Dispatchers 2019 Annual show gathers 3000 attendees and 600 exhibitors in San Antonio TX. By Brent Bundy
Phoenix Police Officer-Pilot AS350, AW119, Cessna 210/182/172
Photos by Brent Bundy
elebrating its 30th year, the Schedulers & Dispatchers Conference returned to San Antonio. This year’s S&D welcomed a record attendance of almost 3000 showgoers from all 50 states and over 40 different countries perusing the offerings of nearly 600 exhibitors. The event was held Jan 29–Feb 1 at the Henry B Gonzalez Convention Center. S&D Chairwoman Kindra Mahler and Chairman Derek Fitzgerald opened the week at the well-attended day 1 general session, discussing the conference theme of “Celebrating the Past, Charting the Future.” Scholarships and awards were presented, including the S&D Outstanding Achievement & Leadership Award, which went to former S&D committee member and chairwoman Kellie Rittenhouse CAM, the director of aviation for Hangar Aviation Management. NBAA Pres & CEO Ed Bolen discussed the recent victory over ATC privatization and the importance of solving the impending aviation workforce shortages. Keynote speaker Karen McCullough addressed issues of change and being open to learning and new opportunities in the workplace. Day 2 keynote was presented by long-time Disney employee and consultant to multiple companies, Louie Gravance. His comedic, crowd-interactive presentation focused on the idea of “Great Service Serves the Server First.”
Throughout the week, there were numerous educational classes and NBAA Professional Development Program courses offered with topics applicable to all levels of attendees, from first-timers to experienced aviation leaders. In addition to their annual clothing drive, which collected several boxes of business attire for local organizations, the S&D Pay-It-Forward program educational initiative took 22 students to the San Antonio Intl Airport to show them the career possibilities in aviation. After 30 years, the S&D Conference continues to see annual growth and remains one of the favorite aviation conventions in the industry. Next year’s event will be heading to Charlotte NC March 10–13.
In Aug 2018, Garmin acquired FltPlan.com and has combined their products for top-notch flight planning. (L–R) FltPlan.com Mktg Dir Carole Mackay, Lead Proj Mgr Sarah Wilson, Dir of Ops Tina Gillis and Garmin Sr Biz Dvlp Mgr Troy Salwei.
At the Collins Aerospace booth (L–R) Supt & Training Spclst Matt Fahnestock, Supt Mgr Michelle Schuler, Sr Flt Coord Fred Carmona, Sr Trip Ops Coord Daniel Lightbody, Dir Flt Ops Matt Pahl and Sr Sales Assoc Charles Daneko.
Worldwide training provider FSI was represented by (L–R) Exec Dir Biz Av Dvlp Jeff Lee, Dir Sales Ann Conrad, Convention Coord Jeff Teepe and Dir Training W Murphy Ownbey.
Explaining the advantages of the AvFuel Card were (L–R) Mktg Assoc Lindsay Sarosh, Lead Mktg Designer Katie Slovan, Mktg Comms Spclst Krista Lodes, VP Mktg Marci Ammerman, Jr Graphic Designer Emma Leising, Mktg Stacey Mason, and Event Coord/Social Media Spclst Melissa Novak. Manny Aviation Services offers award-winning support throughout Mexico. Meeting customers were (L–R) Sr Ops Supv César A Rosales Calvo, Exec Chef Maria José Lardizabal, Managing Dir Manuel Romero Vargas, matriarch Mayel Romero Vargas and Mgr Mktg & Sales Stacy Stewart. From West Star Aviation’s Grand Junction CO location were Cust Svc Rep Lead Sheli Mitchell (L) and Line Prog Mgr Teresa Garner.
Greeting customers from Jet Aviation were (L–R) Dir FBO Svcs Michael McDaniel, Rgnl Mgr FBO Sales & Client Relations Susan Panos, Charter Sales Dir Victoria Reina-Duffy and VP Rgnl Ops US West Eric C Boelzner.
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Sheltair provides a variety of aviation services in FL, GA, NY and CO. On hand were (L–R) Gen Mgr ECP Michael Lerma, Cust Relations Ambassador Beverly Patton and Rgnl VP/Gen Mgr JFK Robert McAdams.
Top-rated FBO services can be found at any of Million Air’s 31 worldwide locations. Showgoers met with (L–R) Dir of Sales Dolores Johnson, Dir of Client Svcs with JetLinx Missy Kemp, Gen Mgr at HPN Lauren Rones-Payne, Client Relations Sales Mgr Janette Licastrino and Dir of Mktg Allie Woolsey.
Services at Cabo San Lucas International Airport were presented by (L–R) CSRs Yarency Flores, Rossy Cazares and Rosa Higuera. Universal Weather & Aviation Biz Dvlp Mgr Sales Ruben Perez (L) and Nationwide Ins VP & Av Gen Mgr Dan Wolfe. Pentastar covers everything from aircraft management to charter services from their Oakland County MI location. At the event were Five Star Gourmet Supv Jennifer McKenna (L) and CSR Kathleen Cortez.
Castle & Cooke Aviation was represented by Biz Dvlp & Mktg Mgr Candace Schroeder (L) and Cust Svc Mgr Natalie Hidalgo.
Wilson Air Center provided attendees ice cream as refreshing as their FBO services. Handing out the treats were Mktg Spclst Margie Katsma (L) and Cust Svc Rep Amy Brothers.
CAE offers many areas of aviation training including flight and maintenance. At the show were (L–R) Rgnl Sales Mgrs Larra Clough, Sally Stevens Genzer and Mark Curnow Jr.
Representing Clay Lacy Aviation were (L–R) Ramp Svcs Supv Manuel Hernandez, Dir Charter Svcs Elizabeth Nagy and Charter Sales Lead Kristin Malanca. Signature TECHNICAir now has 18 MRO locations across the USA and UK. Discussing their services were Sales Assoc Justin Roberts (L) and Biz Dvlp & Mktg Dir Randy Deal.
Based in Ft Lauderdale FL, Banyan Air fulfills all your FBO needs. On the show floor were Dir Cust Supt Jon Tonko (L) and Dir FBO Sales & Client Relations John Mason. Representing the UK from TAG Farnborough Airport were Head of Cust Svcs & Term Ops Sophie Lesnoff (L) and Mktg & Events Mgr Elaine Turner.
Bohlke Intl Airways continues to service visitors to the Caribbean during rebuilding after Hurricanes Irma & Maria hit in 2017. Meeting attendees were (L–R) Dir Charter Sales & Dvlp Jeremy Ojerholm, Mktg Dir Ashley Bouzianis, Sr Dir Charter & Flt Coord Alfredo Chapellin and Pres/Chief Pilot William R Bohlke.
Lincoln NE-based Duncan Aviation FBO Svcs Mgr Troy Hyberger and Engine Svc Sales Rep Susie Corn.
Monterey Jet Center is already working on the next generation of pilots with the infant onesies being handed out by Cust Svc Mgr Kawai Lopez and Ops Mgr Michael Heilpern. Go Rentals Rgnl Mgr Bruce Woodrell represented the company from their Fort Lauderdale FL facility.
Colorado jetCenter had Exec VP & COO Tony Buckley (L) and Pres Aaron Wood at the show.
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Titan Saturn’s amazing moon.
Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
This is what your eye would see of Titan: a fuzzy orange ball. Titan’s north polar haze hood is visible at the top of the image, and a faint blue haze also is above the South Pole at the bottom of this view.
years for the Saturn system to go around the Sun, and its orbital axis is tilted relative to its orbit, just like the Earth, so Saturn has seasons which last a little over 7 Earth years long. Titan orbits near Saturn’s equatorial plane, so it experiences seasons on the same timescale. That affects the lighting, particularly in the polar regions, as well as causing seasonal weather patterns. Cassini image of Titan in front of Saturn taken from the plane of the rings so they appear as a line while their shadows can be seen on the planet.
By Bruce Betts
Chief Scientist and LightSail Program Manager The Planetary Society
ther bodies in our Solar System may get more headlines, but Saturn’s moon Titan competes for the most interesting place in the Solar System. On the one hand it’s Earth-like. Titan is the only place in the Solar System besides Earth that has standing bodies of liquid including rivers, lakes and seas. And besides Earth, Titan has the only thick atmosphere in the Solar System that is dominated by nitrogen. In other ways, however, Titan is very unlike Earth. It is incredibly cold, so cold that water ice forms the rocks on its surface. And the liquid on its surface is not water but actually methane and ethane, what we call natural gas here on Earth. Let’s explore this fascinating world including some new discoveries about its wet surface and the origin of its atmosphere.
Up until only a few decades ago, we thought Titan was the largest moon in the Solar System, but it turns out to be the 2nd largest behind Jupiter’s moon Ganymede. If you include the atmosphere, Titan is the largest. That is why telescopic observations made it look like it was the largest. But Titan is still big. Titan is larger than Mercury and is 50% wider than the Earth’s Moon. Its diameter is about 5150 km (3200 mi). Saturn, and thus Titan, are almost 10 times farther from the Sun than the Earth, which means that it receives only a little more than 1% of the sunlight that reaches Earth, so it is extremely cold. The surface hovers around -180° C (-290° F).
Orbit and seasons Titan orbits Saturn in 15 days and 22 hours. Like Earth’s moon, Titan is tidally locked in synchronous rotation with Saturn, meaning that Titan always shows the same face to the planet as it orbits. It takes 29 Earth
Exploring Titan Saturn’s system was first explored by spacecraft with Pioneer 11, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 in the 1970s and early 1980s. Titan largely remained mysterious. Its atmosphere, filled with a smoggy, golden haze, completely obscured the surface at the visible wavelengths used by their cameras. Telescopic observations, as well as those spacecraft flybys, hinted at a fascinating world with a nitrogen atmosphere having a surface pressure about 1.5 times that of the surface of the Earth. But it would take an orbiter with instruments specifically designed to peer through the haze to reveal the truly amazing nature of Titan. The Cassini orbiter arrived at Saturn in 2004 and operated until September 2017. Cassini was a collaboration of NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Italian Space Agency (ASI). Once it reached Saturn, the Cassini spacecraft deployed the ESA Huygens probe which successfully floated down through the atmosphere of Titan and landed on its surface on January 14, 2005.
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Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI
Cassini radar image of the Shangri-La Sand Sea on Titan. Long linear sand dunes are visible as dark lines snaking across the surface. The “sand” is probably soot-like hydrocarbons that have fallen out of the atmosphere.
Going into the Cassini-Huygens mission, we knew Titan was intriguing. And Cassini came prepared with radar and carefully selected infrared wavelengths designed to peer below the veil. During more than 100 flybys of Titan, what Cassini found was both the familiar and the unfamiliar on a complex and active geologic world. And, of course, Cassini brought the Huygens probe to directly sample the atmosphere and go beneath the hazes.
When the rain comes Theory had said that methane and ethane could be liquid on the surface of Titan. But when the Huygens probe broke through the haze layers, what the images showed was shocking. They revealed what looks like dendritic networks similar to those we see on Earth caused by rainfall and water erosion. It took more years and more data for scientists to really understand that indeed that was what we were seeing but it was from natural gas rain. Titan is the only known body in the Solar System – besides Earth – to have liquid that collects on its surface. Titan has lakes, run-off channels, clouds and rain. Rather than a hydrological cycle, Titan has a hydrocarbon cycle. Methane and ethane, what makes up natural gas on
Image from the surface of hazy Titan obtained by the Huygens probe after landing on the surface. The rocks are made of water ice and most are only a few centimeters in size.
Earth, fills the Titan lakes and seas. Some of the seas are as large as hundreds of kilometers across and as deep as hundreds of meters. Cassini’s radar peered through the clouds, showing patterns of radar smooth lakes in amongst radar rough terrain. The near infrared was used by 2 other instruments on the orbiter to observe the surface. The story told by the combination of all the instrument data is one of an active hydrocarbon cycle, with cloud formation, rain, erosion and evaporation. The lakes and seas are concentrated mostly in the Polar Regions. Cassini arrived at Saturn during northern winter/southern summer. Over the first few years, Cassini observed cloud cover, storms and precipitation around the southern pole. A recently published study using data from 2016 showed the first evidence of rainfall in the northern polar region, coming in northern summer a little later than predicted by Titan weather models. The data used were infrared images showing a brightening of a large area which they attributed to a “wet sidewalk” effect. In other words, they were observing bright reflections off of wet surfaces that were rough and not as reflective when dry. The implied rainfall and its timing will be used to update models of weather on Titan. This study is an example that, de-
spite the mission ending in 2017, the enormous volumes of data returned by Cassini will continue to be analyzed for years to come.
More about the surface and subsurface Titan’s surface is geologically young compared to most of the surfaces in our Solar System. Like the Earth, but unlike most bodies in the Solar System, Titan has very few impact craters, which implies a youthful nature for much of it surface. This could also mean that combinations of erosion and deposition resurfaced things on relatively short geologic time scales. In addition to evidence of methane erosion, rivers and lakes, there appears to be evidence of volcanism, possibly cryovolcanism with liquid water flowing up instead of molten rock. Water ice largely takes the place of rocks on Titan as it is hard as a rock at Titan temperatures. Cassini also found Titan to have extensive sand dunes concentrated primarily in the equatorial regions. They are tall, dark, linear dunes that can stretch for tens or even hundreds of kilometers. They are thought to be made of dark hydrocarbons that fall from the atmosphere, possibly mixed with water ice grains. Many tens of kilometers below Titan’s surface, Cassini data indicate PROFESSIONAL PILOT / April 2019 63
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Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Natural color image captured by Cassini showing individual layers of haze that can be distinguished in Titan’s upper atmosphere.
Titan’s rotating south polar vortex is a swirling mass of gas. This image was taken by Cassini in natural color.
that it has a subsurface ocean, likely composed of liquid water and perhaps ammonia. That liquid water layer is sandwiched between layers of water ice. The core of Titan is thought to be rocky.
lions of years. This is much younger than the age of the Solar System. So, where is the methane being replenished from? The most likely source of replenishment is from cryovolcanoes with liquid water acting as the lava, but that also would release methane from the interior of Titan. There are a few instances of mountains that look like they could be cryovolcanoes. The other big question for Titan’s atmosphere is where did the nitrogen come from? One possible source is ammonia ice from comets. A very recent study has come up with a different cometary origin for the nitrogen and methane. The Rosetta mission to a comet discovered a surprisingly large amount of organic materials, in other words carbon-rich materials, in addition to ices and rock. Presumably, similar primitive bodies came together to form Titan originally. The recent study modeled whether you could essentially cook these organics inside Titan and generate the nitrogen in the atmosphere as well as the methane that we think must continue to belch out of the interior of Titan. The answer in a nutshell was yes. Ammonia ice from primitive bodies also may have played some role.
Atmosphere Titan is the only moon in our Solar System with a thick atmosphere. And it is very thick. The surface pressure on Titan is about 60% more than on Earth. However, because Titan has lower gravity than Earth, the atmosphere is able to expand more. It reaches a height roughly 10 times higher than Earth’s atmosphere does. The extended height and the low gravity are responsible for the Huygens probe taking 2.5 hours to descend on parachute through the Titan atmosphere. Titan’s atmosphere is about 97% nitrogen, with a little less than 3% methane, and small amounts of other gases and carbon-rich compounds. High up in Titan’s atmosphere, nitrogen and methane molecules get split apart by ultraviolet light from the Sun and by high-energy particles. The atoms recombine, forming a variety of hydrocarbons and related chemicals. It is some of these chemicals that form a kind of smog, the thick golden haze that keeps us from seeing the surface at visible wavelengths. Some of the hydrocarbons sink to the surface, particularly heavier ones which form soot-like particles. It is believed that the long dark sand dunes that dominate the equatorial regions are composed primarily of the dark hydrocarbon granules. Because it breaks down in ultraviolet light, all of the methane in Titan’s atmosphere would be converted to other compounds over tens of mil-
Life? Titan is similar to a prebiotic Earth except for the very cold temperatures. But could it host life? All life on Earth shares few things in common, but one of them is liquid water. Titan’s surface is too cold to maintain water as a liquid but life, unlike life on Earth, could in principle possibly exist on Titan using, for example, methane as a solvent instead of water. But water is particularly good at what it does for life on Earth. So, though theoretically possible to have
some form of exotic microbial life in Titan lakes, it is unlikely. We think there is a subsurface liquid water ocean in Titan, which for Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus, opens the possibility of life in the subsurface ocean. A key difference for Titan, however, is that we think its ocean is between 2 layers of ice, whereas for Europa and Enceladus we think the base of the liquid water oceans contact rock. This makes life less plausible within Titan because you lack the possibility of hydrothermal vents like we have on Earth in the deep ocean. Rather than from sunlight, communities of life at Earth’s hydrothermal vents rely upon energy extracted from compounds dissolved in the water that originated in the rock. So, life seems unlikely because Titan’s liquid water ocean is tens of kilometers under ice and lacks rock to provide a possible chemical energy source.
Conclusion Although life is unlikely on Titan, it is useful to study as an analog, though imperfect, to the early prebiotic Earth. There are ongoing studies of the organic chemistry that occurs on Titan with this in mind. Titan is certainly one of the most exotic and interesting places in the Solar System. It is complex, Earth-like and yet not Earth-like. A Titan mission is 1 of the 2 finalists in the NASA New Frontiers mission competition being evaluated now. The mission, called Dragonfly, would take advantage of Titan’s thick atmosphere and low gravity to fly an octocopter around on Titan. It would land and do surface analyses before taking off again. It is in competition with a comet sample return mission. The selection decision is expected in mid-2019. Whatever happens with that competition, studies of Cassini data and telescopic data will continue into the future as we attempt to unravel the details of Titan’s mysteries. Bruce Betts, PhD, is a planetary scientist with degrees from Stanford and Caltech. He is Chief Scientist at The Planetary Society and has done research focused on infrared studies of planetary surfaces. He also managed planetary instrument development programs at NASA Headquarters.
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Professional Pilot Magazine April 2019