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In This Issue
|Concerns Voiced About Safety Oversight Of India’s Kingfisher
Concerns over the safety oversight of financially struggling Kingfisher Airlines continue, even as the fleet–once 64 aircraft strong–has now shrunk to six A320s and five ATR 72s. The fleet reduction, driven largely by non-payment of leases, comes as a portion of the company’s pilots took strike action on August 18 to protest more than six months of back wages owed them by Kingfisher. On August 27 India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), in a seemingly benign action that critics claim was taken to protect the ailing airline, renamed a Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) previously titled, “Assessment of Impact of Financial Stress on Safety of Operations,” to a version removing any reference to an airline’s financial health during safety evaluations. Just last month, DGCA chief Bharat Bhushan was unceremoniously ousted from his position by Indian civil aviation minister Ajit Singh, allegedly over his willingness to take on Kingfisher’s safety issues.The Indian media published letters from Bharat Bhushan threatening to revoke Kingfisher's operating certificate. “Vijay Mallya has a lot of political influence in India [Mallya’s United Breweries Group holds roughly one third of all Kingfisher stock]. The DGCA’s turning a blind eye to Kingfisher’s problems is part of a recent pattern in India,” Rohit Rao, Indian aviation analyst and editor of AeroBlogger, told AIN. “Right now Kingfisher doesn’t have enough money to pay for spares or pay its mechanics. ”
NTSB Details Cause of P-51 Reno Accident
Two deteriorated locknuts were largely to blame for last year’s P-51 crash at the National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nev., according to an August 27 report by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The accident killed the pilot and 10 spectators, injuring 60 others. The report said the bad locknuts allowed the trim-tab attachment screws to loosen, initiating a crack in one. “This condition resulted in reduced stiffness in the elevator trim system, ultimately leading to aerodynamic flutter at racing speed that broke the trim tab linkages, resulting in a loss of controllability,” said NTSB investigators. The highly modified P-51, dubbed The Galloping Ghost, was in the third lap of the sixth race, passing Pylon 8 at approximately 512 mph when it experienced a left-roll upset followed by a pitch up recorded at 17.3 gs, quickly incapacitating the pilot. Seconds later, a piece of the left elevator trim tab separated before the aircraft descended and crashed. The board also identified a number of undocumented and untested modifications made to the P-51 that contributed to the accident.
Chinese Civil Airspace Is Expanding, But Slowly
While Chinese airspace is becoming more flexible for general aviation operators, the pace of improvements is still slow. At the August 23 opening of the China Low-Altitude Economy Summit in Shenyang, a Chinese air traffic control official told the China Daily newspaper, “A series of reforms to the airspace will be coming over the next five to 10 years to help stimulate the fledgling general aviation industry.” Unfortunately, the official was speaking only about altitudes below 1,000 meters (3,280 feet). “Although the airspace transitions are moving more slowly than Westerners might like, it’s still a great start,” Doug Carr, NBAA vice president for safety, security and operations, told AIN. Evidently, there is concern among Chinese officials about reforming airspace rules too quickly in ways they might regret. “The Chinese civil aviation authorities have complex, highly regulated airspace, and discussions must include convincing the military to give up some control,” added Carr. “We want to help them deliver the best mobility [solutions] while helping them remain focused on aviation system safety.”
Will Anyone Notice if DF is Shut Down?
The FAA plans to decommission the remaining 29 direction finders (DF) in Alaska unless the aviation industry raises specific objections. DF, first used before World War II, performs one simple function: telling its operator which direction a transmitted radio signal is strongest. A skilled DF operator could pinpoint the location of a lost aircraft. DF steers, as they’re called, have saved thousands of lives over the past 80 years. But now, replaced by more accurate technologies such as GPS and ADS-B, DF is seldom used. Since 2004 there have been eight flight assists, or saves, according to the FAA. Only three, however, were actually credited to the use of a DF steer. Since 2008 there have been none at all. The agency believes DF technology has outlived its useful life and should be shut down. Operators who disagree have until September 12 to voice their opposition on Docket No. FAA–2012–0571.
Committee Tackles Inconsistent Interpretation Of Rules
U.S. regulators and industry representatives are jointly addressing inconsistencies in the way that federal aviation regulations are interpreted locally through the new Consistency of Regulatory Interpretation Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC). “The lack of standardization on regulatory interpretations is costing both the FAA and industry dearly,” said ARC chair Eric Byer, vice president of government & industry affairs at the National Air Transportation Association. The FAA established the ARC to fulfill a mandate contained in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, to address challenges in regulatory consistency, particularly in the certification and application processes. The committee has developed a stakeholder survey searching for ideas to improve FAA oversight and efficiency. The survey is available until September 25. The ARC will develop recommendations and submit a final report to the FAA Administrator by December 31 this year and further report to Congress by February 15 next year. The ARC will hold a webinar September 7 at 11 a.m. EST to provide an update on its progress.
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