Runway Numbers and a Mobile Magnetic North Pole

By Scott Spangler on February 11th, 2019 | 1 Comment »

pole-600Releasing a new World Magnetic Model (WMM) was one bit of work that didn’t get done during the partial shutdown of the U.S. Government. It finally saw the light of day on February 4. But that’s not the important part. The important part is that the position of magnetic north has moved so much they had to update the WMM a year early. If you remember your ground school lessons about runway numbers, the headline should make sense, and you know why some runway numbers will be changing.

Magnetic north doesn’t move so much as wander, as the NOAA chart above clearly shows. In stories about the early WMM update (the first time it has ever happened), the New York Times said English mathematician Henry Gellibrand discovered its movement 400 years ago, and the line in the chart starts in the year 1630. More accurately, he discovered magnetic declination (or variation), the difference between true north and magnetic north.

As reported by NOAA and the National Geographic, Sir James Clark discovered the geographic position of magnetic North Pole in northern Canada in 1831. Since then, it’s been making its way north to Siberia. The dot at the end of the dotted line is its 2019 position, and if you want to see it move with history, check out the NOAA Historical Magnetic Declination map. NOAA and the British Geological Survey developed the WMM, and scientists periodically compare its accuracy with ground and satellite magnetic data observatories. In 2018, the difference exceeded the acceptable limits, leading to the early WMM release.

AirVenture preparation includes painting temporary markings on taxiway Alpha, turning it into Runway 18 Left/36 Right.The WMM’s five-year timetable parallels the FAA’s periodic check of runway headings. Given what’s involved, logic suggests that we’ll not see wholesale runway renumbering. For one thing, the new magnetic north pole will not affect all of our takeoff and landing places. Going back to those ground school lessons, a runway designation must change when its heading is off 3 degrees or more.

Given the FAA’s runway rounding rules, this will predominately affect runways whose heading cross the 5-degree midline. If a runway’s heading changes from 254 degrees (rounded down to Runway 25) to 257 degrees, it must step up an become Runway 26. The lucky runways will have a heading that steps up or down to the 5-degree midline, because they can round up or down, meaning they employ the existing designation.

On the surface, changing a runway’s number seems simple, but it involves way more than paint and new airport signs (which in themselves are not cheap). It is a coordinated effort that involves everything from the Airport/Facility Directory to VFR and instrument charts and those for every approach to that runway. And making sure the runway designation and its magnetic heading match as required matters, if for no other reason that matching it with the cockpit compass reconfirms to pilots that they are on the right runway. – Scott Spangler, Editor

Airport Circular is Wildlife NIMBY Guide

By Scott Spangler on January 28th, 2019 | What do you think? »

critter 1Officially, the FAA is seeking comments by February 28 on its draft Advisory Circular 150/5200-33C, Hazardous Wildlife Attractants On or Near Airports. After reading the 37-page document, here’s a shorter and more concise title, Wildlife NIMBY Airport Guide.

It includes a diagram with the recommended backyard proximity (separation distances) for airports that serve piston aircraft (any airport that does not sell Jet-A) and those that serve turbines. At a piston airport, the minimum separation from any NIMBY wildlife attractant (as discussed in the AC’s second chapter) like a MSWLF (that would be a Municipal Solid Waste Landfill) is 5,000 feet. It’s double that at a turbine airport.

The AC really isn’t that much different from the one it is replacing. The draft consolidates and reorganizes its discussion of land uses on and near airports that attract wildlife and updates wildlife evaluation and mitigation procedures. (If you’re curious about the details, follow the link above and have a read.)

More importantly, it emphasizes that wildlife NIMBY is important to all airports, public or private, GA or commercial. To critters, any airport is open space, a refuge from the sprawling civilization that’s overtaken its habitat. How the airfield is or is not certified and who it serves matters not to them. But it will matter to the human in an airplane that runs into one of them.

apch birdAnother change relates to the damage a critter collision can cause. The FAA moved the table “Ranking of Hazardous Species” to AC 150/5200-32B, Reporting Wildlife Strikes. Every aviator should carry a copy of it in his or her flight bag because it not only explains when and how to make a report, it includes a report form, which is a handy way to record all of the necessary details right after the strike, assuming you’re not on the way to a hospital.

The FAA distilled the wildlife table from its database of reported strikes. There are 50 critters on the list, and all of them have at least 100 strike reports. Using these reports, the FAA derived a composite ranking based on damage (unknown, minor, substantial, destroyed), major damage (anything that affected aircraft structural strength, performance, or flight characteristics and would require major repair or component replacement), and strike’s effect on flight (aborted takeoff, engine shutdown, precautionary landing or other negative effect on flight).

snow buntingFirst on the list is the white-tailed deer, with a mean hazard level of 55 and a relative hazard score of 100. The next four-legged critter on the list is the coyote, No. 12, preceded by birds, include the snow goose, turkey vulture, Canada goose, sandhill crane, bald eagle, mallard, great blue heron, and American coot. More birds separate the coyote from the red fox, tied for No. 23 with the snow bunting (above).

The next four-legged critter is the woodchuck at No. 32. The striped skunk is last on the list. All of its damage scores are zero, but there’s no mention of the lasting aroma. With so many birds on the list, the AC kindly points out that 78 percent of bird strikes occur at 1,000 feet or lower and that 90 percent occur below 3,000 feet above the ground.

As it is with aircraft traffic, see-and-avoid also works with critters—if you know what to look for. To learn what attracts them, give this draft AC a gander. To further feed your autodidactic critter curiosity, dive into the FAA pages on Wildlife Hazard Mitigation and Wildlife Management. –Scott Spangler, Editor

The Real Reason Why Air France Stopped Flying the Concorde

By Robert Mark on January 17th, 2019 | Comments Off on The Real Reason Why Air France Stopped Flying the Concorde


                 Photo by Michel Gilliand

The Real Reason Why Air France Stopped Flying the Concorde

By Rob Mark

The creation and nearly 30-year operational life of the French/Anglo Concorde, the world’s first operational supersonic airliner, is a rich history of cross-border cooperation and innovation at a time long before the personal computer revolution or the first cell phone. In fact, the origins of the first supersonic transport (SST) date back to before the election of President John F. Kennedy in 1960.

However, the end of the Concorde is indelibly etched into the memory of millions of people as a single photo of Air France flight 4590, its left delta wing ablaze, attempting to liftoff at a perilously steep angle of attack from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) on July 25, 2000. Staggering no more than a few hundred feet above the ground, flight 4590 crashed 90 seconds after it began its takeoff roll on runway 26 Right. This was the first and only fatal Concorde accident.

The Concorde ran over a piece of metal on the runway left behind by a McDonnell-Douglas DC-10 that had departed earlier from the runway 26 Right. That metal sliced though a tire on the SST sending a piece of hi-speed rubber into the wing that sliced open a fuel tank, spewing fuel that quickly ignited. At least this is the story as most of us heard it.

The Swiss Cheese Accident Analysis Model

John Hutchinson, a retired Concorde pilot in the UK tells a much more detailed version of the Concorde accident on the Podcasting on a Plane podcast. Hutchinson, a Concorde captain at British Airways from 1977 to 1992, spent an enormous amount of time analyzing the 4590 accident from the perspective of his 15-years of left-seat experience. His story explains the Air France 4590 accident was a Swiss cheese calamity that again proves most aircraft accidents result from not a single cause, but from a perfect storm of errors that eventually overwhelm a pilot or crew.

                Concorde fuel tanks by the numbers

Just a few of the issues Hutchinson uncovered include a problem with the left main landing gear long before takeoff, a crewmember who was not technically qualified to be sitting in the Concorde’s right seat, a captain who overloaded the aircraft with fuel and bags, a center of gravity that exceeded the rear limits, a runway at CDG that was under repair and a captain who pulled the airplane off the ground before it ever reached flying speed. Although the aircraft became airborne for a short few seconds, there were two additional near disasters lurking, Hutchinson said, before the airplane eventually stuck a hotel west of CDG killing 113 people.

The podcast is a fascinating update of the final flight of Air France 4590 that runs about 37-minutes. Listen to the podcast here.

Rob Mark

BTW, if you enjoyed this story, why not share it with a friend and consider subscribing … it’s free.

Note: This story was originally written for and published at

Total Coverage: The FAA Oxygen Mask Study

By Scott Spangler on January 14th, 2019 | 1 Comment »

Total Coverage: The FAA Oxygen Mask Study

o2The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 sometimes asks more questions than it answers. For example, what was behind Section 536. Oxygen Mask Design Study?

It requires the FAA to review and evaluate the design and effectiveness of commercial oxygen masks. “In conducting the study, the Administrator shall determine whether the current design of oxygen masks is adequate, and whether changes to the design could increase correct passenger usage of the masks.’

Diving into the Internet, this week’s research suggests that Section 536 was inspired by Southwest Flight 1380, where an uncontained engine failure led to the decompression of the 737’s primary people tube. Given the section’s focus on “correct passenger usage,” it seems safe to assume that this photo was an inspiration.

dixie cupGiven the Dixie-cup design of the ubiquitous commercial airline oxygen mask, which most of us have only seen in the hands of a flight attendant during the takeoff safety briefing that we’ve heard so often that we no longer pay attention to, it is easy to imagine how a real emergency could lead us to make it up in a panic. Sure, there’s a how-to pictograph on the rebreather bag, but who remembers that when panic is front of mind?

Here’s my question: what took so long? Too few actual decompression incidents, not enough Twitter photos during these events, or both?

I’m no human factors expert, but it seems logical to me that if you present a passenger, panicked or not, with a more anatomically shaped mask that makes clear where your nose and chin go, people would have at least a 50-percent chance of getting it right. And if they didn’t, feeling the breeze on their necks might give them a clue.

The FAA offers some interesting insight in Oxygen Equipment: Use in General Aviation Operations.

ga maskThe general aviation oral-nasal (mouth and nose) rebreather is a simple, inexpensive mask with an external plastic bag that inflates on exhalation. The bag mixes your exhaled air with the incoming 100-percent oxygen. According to the brochure, such masks will “supply adequate oxygen to keep the user physiologically safe up to 25,000 feet.”

The GA mask looks like the airlines’ drop-down Dixie cup, but it works differently. The Dixie cup “uses a series of one-way ports that allow a mixture of 100 percent oxygen and cabin air into the mask,” the FAA booklet says. “Exhalation is vented to the atmosphere; as a result, the bag does not inflate,“ (and I couldn’t find a reason why it’s there, either).

Finally, “this mask can be safely used at emergency altitudes up to 40,000 feet.” It didn’t say anything about keeping passengers “physiologically safe” at that altitude. But when still breathing is what really matters…

Still, the question remains, one-way valves aside, if the GA mask and Dixie cup are essentially the same, why not used the anatomically suggesting GA mask on airliners? It will be interesting to see what the FAA study has to say. Stay tuned. – Scott Spangler, Editor

What Made Herb Kelleher … Herb

By Robert Mark on January 8th, 2019 | 2 Comments »

What Made Herb Kelleher … Herb

People at Southwest Airlines knew Herb Kelleher by a number of titles during his years as president, CEO and executive chairman; founder, inspiration, chairman emeritus and of course, friend. Kelleher died Thursday at age 87.

Herb and his client/partner Rollin King incorporated Air Southwest, Inc. in 1967 to offer low-fare, intra-Texas airline service. Southwest Airlines grew into an industry giant with 58,000 employees and the largest Boeing 737 fleet in the world – 742 – operated on some 4,000 daily departures. Herb served as Southwest Airlines executive chairman from March 1978 to May 2008 and as president and CEO from September 1981 to June 2001.

From day one, Kelleher ran Southwest using a number of simple business strategies including one considered outrageous to this day, that keeping the airline’s employees happy should be the carrier’s primary focus. Happy employees, Kelleher believed, would translate into happy customers and eventually happy shareholders, a philosophy that proved to be true under his guidance. Shareholders came to appreciate that in 48 years of operation, Southwest Airlines never failed to deliver a dividend.

Kelleher focused on keeping fares low and making it clear up front to passengers that the airline didn’t offer frills along the way, except for peanuts. Southwest operated a single aircraft type, the 737, to keep maintenance and training costs in line. Another airline, Ryanair in Ireland, successfully copied the Southwest model. Kelleher and King also decided success demanded avoid operations at congested major airports like Chicago O’Hare, Boston Logan or Miami International, opting for secondary locations like Midway, Fort Lauderdale and Manchester NH.

Most of all, Kelleher was known for a personal trait normally missing from most executives in the aviation industry, a sense of humor displayed early on when Herb found a roll for himself in the airline’s early advertising. Read the rest of this entry »

Fathers, Sons and Airplanes

By Robert Mark on January 1st, 2019 | Comments Off on Fathers, Sons and Airplanes

Click above to listen

Fathers, Sons and Airplanes, by Micah Engber

The New Year comes twice a year for me. Of course there’s this time of year, the first day of January for the year we all know. But there’s also first day of Tishrei, the Jewish New Year called Rosh Hashanah. While there’s a joy to the Jewish New Year it’s more of a time of self-examination and repentance, a ten day process that ends with the holiday of Yom Kippur.

So I started to write this just as Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, had ended, it’d been a week of reflection since Rosh Hashanah. And while this little piece was started at the beginning of the Jewish New Year, it’s just as applicable for the secular New Year.

When I started writing this it had just turned 5779 according to the Hebrew calendar. I just couldn’t get used to it, and I’d been writing 5778 on all my checks, but eventually I got over it. The thing that I didn’t, and I won’t get over though, probably for the rest of my life, is that I miss my Dad.

Lew Engber, NCO in the Army Corp of Engineers during World War II, First Lieutenant in the Medical Corp of the US Air Force during the Korean Conflict, brilliant psychologist, terrific raconteur, bibliophile, pulp fiction, western and science fiction fan, trivia expert, a gourmet and at times gourmand, airplane geek, beer connoisseur, but most important to me right now, my father. He’s the man who taught me not so much all I know, but kind of, how to know it. He shaped my tastes, my likes and loves, probably unwittingly and unintentionally, but nonetheless, most certainly. Perhaps more importantly he taught me how to learn for myself, how to love and appreciate learning itself, and love to pass on my knowledge to others.

It’s wasn’t just the High Holy Days that had me missing my Dad, although that may have been the impetus. There’s another thing that had me thinking of him. You see it was also the time of year when The Collings Foundation makes an almost annual trip to the Jetport here in Portland, Maine, PWM. This year it was the Wings of Freedom Tour including the B‑24J Liberator, Witchcraft, the B-25 Mitchell, Tondelayo and the TF-51D Mustang, Toulouse Nuts. The B‑17G Flying Fortress, Nine of Nine was stuck in Vermont having just “gone tech”. Yea, I missed the B-17, but I was missing my Dad even more.

You see I grew up with these aircraft, well not these exact airplanes, but these types, or similar. It was talking about aircraft, ships, science fiction and other common interests that I shared with my Dad that helped make us close. You often hear about baseball bringing fathers and sons together, well for me and my Dad, it wasn’t baseball, it was aircraft and flying, among quite a few other things.

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A Logophile’s Look at Aviation

By Scott Spangler on December 31st, 2018 | 2 Comments »

JW-1Like many word merchants, I’m a logophile, a lover of words. When a new one catches my attention, meaning I can foresee some sentence in which it might be of use, I record it. For the past 15 years or so, my logo reliquary (“a container in which relics are kept and displayed for veneration,” also, a synonym for an aviation museum) is a reporter’s notebook I got at a Garmin media presentation at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.

Despite decades of collecting, I don’t often have the opportunity to employ many of my discoveries in my pursuit of word merchanthood. But opportunity is what you make of it, so join me for a stroll through the pages for a logophile’s look at aviation.

Without a doubt, today’s enhanced vision systems are perspicacious, which originally meant “having keen vision.” That foundation led to the leading sense of the word’s meaning, “having keen judgment or understanding; acutely perceptive,” which still applies to seeing-eye avionics.

Image result for will fly for foodHow to make a million dollars in aviation is a staple of aeronautical humor. Related to it is the t-shirt that proclaims, “Will Fly for Food.” If you want to confound your peers during your next hangar jeremiad (“a long lamentation or complaint”) describe yourself as an impecunious (“having no money; poor; penniless) aviator.

Jeremiad can also be “a long, scolding speech or sermon expressing disapproval or warning of disaster.” Who hasn’t nodded in agreement with such a sermon on the consequences of an improperly cleaned windscreen, where the residual bugs might be traffic on a collision course? But who have we every heard complimenting the line crew for a pellucid (“transparent, clear”) canopy or windshield?

Related imageInvesting in an aviator’s raiment contributes to their being impecunious. Some articles, such as a surplus flight suit, will not break the bank, but adding a sheepskin flight jacket, a watch with multiple dials, and shiny sunglasses that reflect airborne aspirations, are another story.

These reflective lenses can be helpful when an aircraft activates its fulgent lighting system. When these “very bright, radiant” lights begin to flash like lightening, it is clear that fulguration is one of their options.

Image result for cloudscapeI could go on, but you’ve likely had enough. But let me leave you with one more as we at JetWhine wish you and yours a happy and prosperous New Year. The hardest question any aviator will ever face is “Why do you fly?”

The answer is simple. Flight is many things to many people, but to all it is ineffable: “too overwhelming to be expressed or described in words” and an insatiable pursuit that many hold as “too awesome or sacred” to be spoken of. –Scott Spangler, Editor

A New Wright B Flyer for Kitty Hawk Day

By Scott Spangler on December 17th, 2018 | Comments Off on A New Wright B Flyer for Kitty Hawk Day

Wright "B" Flyer's Brown Bird is a lookalike of a 1911 Wright Model B FlyerHappy Kitty Hawk Day! And can you think of a better way of celebrating the 115th birthday of powered flight than supporting the good people who are trying to build (with modern materials and components) a Wright B Flyer at its hangar and museum at the Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport near Dayton, Ohio.

Those people united in Dayton as the all-volunteer, nonprofit Wright B Flyer Inc. when they built the first flyable lookalike Model B Flyer  in 1975. Absent any drawings, they copied the Model B in the National Museum of the United States Air Force, employing modern engineering, components, and materials to meet the current airworthiness standards and requirements. Unlike the original Model B, the lookalike, known as Brown Bird, has a robust steel skeleton, a control wheel instead of levers, ailerons instead of wing warping, and a modern aircraft powerplant.

There are many ways to support this effort. You can volunteer your time and efforts and expertise. You can make a financial or in-kind (tax deductible) donation. You can undertake a fundraising effort. And you can become a member of the organization. Members at the Aviator level donate $25 a year; Honorary Aviator’s donate $100 (which qualifies them for an orientation flight in Brown Bird); and Life members donate $200, which include the orientation flight and lifetime Aviator benefits, membership card, a quarterly newsletter, and attendance at the annual membership dinner.

Construction of the new Model B Flyer is almost complete, and the group was hoping to make its ground tests by the end of this year, if Mother Nature cooperates. If all goes well, the first flight will take place in the spring, maybe May, and after the subsequent flight testing, it should make its first public appearance at the Vectren Dayton Airshow in June 2019.

NBAA-31Like Brown Bird, the new Model B Flyer will exist to to raise and sustain public awareness of powered-flight’s roots planted by the brothers Wright in Dayton. This is an international effort, and to make overseas demonstrations more practical, the new lookalike Flyer B will be easier to ship to distant locations and operate with a small support crew.

The lookalike Flyer Bs are inspiring and important on several levels. Because they look little like what most people see in their mind’s eye when they think “airplane,” the Flyers encourage the curious to take a second look and, perhaps, ask a question or two. And for those of us already infected with powered flight, the Flyers are a reminder of human ingenuity and motivation to apply it as we pursue solutions to our present and future challenges. – Scott Spangler, Editor

Hail the Centennial of Aviation’s Modern Era

By Scott Spangler on December 3rd, 2018 | Comments Off on Hail the Centennial of Aviation’s Modern Era

CharlesLindbergh-RaymondOrteigBorn this month in 1903, powered flight matured quickly during its adolescence that ended with World War 1 in 1918. That conflict was a period of accelerated puberty for aeronautical technology that in 1919 marks the beginning of aviation’s modern era.

If you need a birthday, there’s none better than May 22, 1919. That’s when New York hotel owner Raymond Orteig offered his eponymous prize of $25,000 to the first allied aviator or aviators to fly nonstop between New York and Paris. (Raymond Orteig, right, and the 1927 winner of his eponymous prize, Charles Lindbergh.)

Orteig revealed the award in a letter to the Aero Club of America. “Gentlemen: As a stimulus to the courageous aviators, I desire to offer, through the auspices and regulations of the Aero Club of America, a prize of $25,000 to the first aviator of any Allied Country crossing the Atlantic in one flight, from Paris to New York or New York to Paris, all other details are in your care.”

The Aero Club of America confirmed its participation three days later, on May 26, and established a structure to administer the competition for the $25,000 prize. It doesn’t sound like a lot of money today, but in today’s dollars, it is $374,090.24. (And given the price of a new single-engine piston airplane today, it’s still not a lot of money, but I digress.)

A few weeks later, in June 1919, John Alcock and Arthur Brown made the first nonstop transatlantic flight in a modified World War I Vickers Vimy bomber. Their accomplishment didn’t qualify for the prize because they flew from St. John’s, Newfoundland to County Galway, Ireland, not New York to Paris. It did net them the £10,000 prize, awarded by the Daily Mail, a London newspaper.

Vickers_Vimy_(6436284927)Alcock didn’t survive to year’s end. He died, at age 27, at the controls of a new amphibious airplane, the Vickers Viking, on December 18, 1919, in foggy skies at the first post-war aerial exhibition at Cottévrard, an aerodrome near Rouen in Normandy, France. Three days before he died, Alcock was present when the transatlantic Vimy was presented to the nation at London’s Science Museum, where it remains today,

Two weeks before Alcock and Brown left Newfoundland, about the time that Orteig was writing the Aero Club of America, a U.S. Navy Flying Boat, the Curtiss NC-4, commanded by Lt. Commander Albert Read, made the first transatlantic flight. With a crew of five, it took the NC-4 23 days, and six stops, to fly from Naval Air Station Rockaway, New York, taking off on May 15, arriving in Plymouth, England, on May 31, after stops in the Azores, Portugal, and Spain.

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The Last Photo Banshee Represents a First

By Scott Spangler on November 19th, 2018 | 1 Comment »

USN-65As a former Navy photographer’s mate, the big aerial cameras under the long, windowed nose of the dark blue straight-wing jet drew me to the McDonnell F2H-2P photo Banshee. It was the Navy’s first photoreconnaissance jet. And the airplane on display was the last example, the sole survivor.

But that’s not what got my attention. The explanatory placard said that this airplane, its wing and fuselage filled with concrete, after a barge ride down the Indian River in 1959, spent nearly 30 years as a kiddie-climber at Pocahontas Park in Vero Beach, Florida. The National Museum of Naval Aviation didn’t acquire the airplane until 1988! And then it spent thousands of hours chipping out the concrete and carefully piecing the airplane back together using period parts.

USN-66Top dead center of the panel is the pilot’s viewfinder. He used it to sight his subject and to rotate the cameras from the vertical (straight down) to horizontal (oblique) positions. At night, two under-wing stores carried 20 flash bombs. With its electric heat, the windows in the camera bay did not frost up at altitude. And it could get up there. The long-legged (1,475 miles) jet had a maximum operational ceiling of 48,500 feet, and its speed (535 mph at 10,000 feet) made it a hard target for other Korean-era jets to catch.

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