I hope all of you have safely survived the Christmas and New Year celebrations and have settled down into the new year’s routine. This new year, 2021, has to be better than 2020 was. With several vaccines now coming into play, I hope we will soon be able to get rid of the masks and settle back into something similar to our old normal routine. At least, here’s hoping we can put 2020 into the rear-view mirror and look forward to a more promising future. I hope the new political future will be general aviation friendly. I guess we shall see.
For those anticipating getting one of the new COVID-19 vaccines that are becoming available, the FAA has approved both the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines for pilots and air traffic controllers with the requirement of a 48-hour wait period before conducting safety sensitive aviation activity. This waiting period applies for the administration of both doses of the vaccine, which occur 21 days apart in the case of the Pfizer vaccine.
We have recently received some bad and sad news from the Tucson Airport Authority that the Ryan Field (RYN) Tower Manager passed away from COVID-19, and the RYN Tower will be closed until further notice. The RYN Tower is not an FAA tower but a federal contract tower operated by Serco. In the meantime, flight operations in and out of RYN will be conducted per FAA AC 90-66B - Non-Towered Airport Flight Operations.
Also, The Tucson Airport Authority announced, due to COVID-19 issues, Tucson International Airport (TUS) may be having intermittent Air Traffic Control Tower closures. During these closures, the Tucson TRACON will be controlling IFR (instrument flight rules) traffic into and out of TUS. Pilots should always check the NOTAMs and check the ATIS on 123.8 for the current operating status of the Tucson Tower and the procedures for flying into and out of TUS.
Always fly safe and use caution.
I apologize if this month’s report may be brief, but because of COVID-19, a lot of the aviation information is a bit difficult to gather. Some of the usual meetings have been continuing online, and some that have been a good source of information have been discontinued for the duration.
Despite the pandemic, the FAA has kept busy with issuing Airworthiness Directives. The FAA is investigating overload failures of Cessna 120 and 140 aluminum seat belt mounting brackets. The FAA issued Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin (SAIB) CE-15-13, which recommended that owners, operators and maintenance personnel replace the aluminum seat belt brackets with steel brackets following Cessna Single Engine Service Bulletin SEB-25-03. There have been fatal accidents that have occurred where the aluminum seat belt mounting brackets have failed. See: faasafety.gov/files/notices/2020/Dec/SAIB_CE-15-13.pdf
A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation of airplane accidents experiencing loss of engine power due to loss of engine oil on certain Continental engine models attributed the power loss to a Stratus Tool Technologies oil filter adapter assembly installed under a supplemental type certificate (STC). In each case, the oil leaked from the assembly, resulting in oil starvation and a subsequent total loss of engine power. The oil loss was a result of improper installation or maintenance of the adapter. To prevent a reoccurrence of the problem, pilots and owners are urged to comply to comply with SB-001 before their next flight. The bulletin provides instructions on inspecting, then re-torquing or reinstalling the oil filter adapters to prevent the possible oil loss. The FAA is considering issuing an Airworthiness Directive (AD) on the issue.
The FAA is adopting an Airworthiness Directive (AD) for all Superior Air Parts, Inc., (SAP) Model IO-360-series and O-360-series engines and certain Lycoming Engines Model AEIO-360-, IO-360-, and O-360-series engines with the SAP crankshaft assembly installed. This SAP crankshaft is installed as original equipment on the affected SAP engines and as a replacement part under parts manufacturer approval (PMA) on the affected Lycoming engines. This AD was prompted by three crankshaft assembly failures that resulted in the loss of engine power and emergency landings. This AD requires the removal from service of all affected crankshaft assemblies. The AD is effective January 15, 2021. The link to the AD is: https://rgl.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library/rgad.nsf/0/a075f4b8a321d68f8625863b0064921b/$FILE/2020-25-12.pdf
It seems the airspace world appears to be operating smoothly, and there hasn’t been anything that we are aware of that would warrant your attention or would impact your flying activity at the moment. Just fly carefully and be aware of the airspace you are flying in and its limitations.
Continue to be on the watch for TFRs, and as always, before flight, check for TFRs, and NOTAMS, always fly informed.
Winter weather is here, and there may be times when you could encounter questionable flying weather conditions in flight, and when you do, whether or not you are instrument-rated, use extra caution. Inadvertent transition from VFR to IMC can be stressful, particularly if you are non-instrument-rated or non-current, or if the aircraft is not IFR equipped. When a VFR flight enters IMC, the transition is challenging, and while some pilots may be more suited to handle VFR flight into IMC, the result for most VFR pilots are not good at all. A loss of control is most often the result with a catastrophic ending. When faced with deteriorating weather conditions, making the 180° turn may be the best option, but trying to force a flight to the destination may prove to be a very poor option. Please Be Safe!
Some pilots seem to continue to have unreasonable expectations of their own personal performance, and the performance of their aircraft, which has contributed to fatal aircraft accidents. The General Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC) working group suggests that reasonable aircraft performance expectations can be based on observing data from available flight monitors which can help forecast system or component problems before reaching a point of failure. Pilots could also be more critical of their own personal performance. Are you rested, and in good physical/mental condition? When did you last fly with an instructor? Realistically evaluate your personal performance. A careful, realistic evaluation of both aircraft and personal performance will result in a much safer flight operation.
Aviation safety in this past reporting period didn’t appear to be very bad, but it’s hard to make an accurate assessment because aviation accident information is not presently available from the NTSB. It is still unknown when they will have their new reporting website operating. So, in the meantime information is being obtained from the Aviation Safety Network (ASN), and from individuals that submit information. One has to recognize that the ASN information is taken almost exclusively from media reports, and these reports are prepared by reporters that are often not aviation-oriented reporters. As a result, the information reported may not be entirely accurate, and the reports are brief and usually devoid of technical detail. It’s much like a report that would appear on TV. Also, the reported accidents are not based on structural damage that may have occurred, as it is with NTSB reports, but rather on the media appeal of the accident.
This month’s report contains only four aircraft accidents, and fortunately they all were relatively minor in nature, and there were not any serious injuries or fatalities. I’m not sure, but I do suspect flying activity may be down significantly because of the virus pandemic we are experiencing. I cannot believe everyone is flying that much more cautiously than before. In any event, see my November Accident Summary report in this newsletter for the details of what we have, and please, do continue to fly safe.
Evidently, funding is still being made available by the FAA, and several airports around the state have construction projects planned or in progress. Unfortunately, we don’t have all the latest details of these projects, so check for NOTAMs at your destination airport to see what may be occurring so that when you arrive you aren’t unpleasantly surprised. Always use caution, and always fly informed.
APA is actively working with numerous airports around the state assisting with updating their Airport Master Plans, thus providing the pilot and aircraft owners’ perspective in the process. Lake Havasu City Municipal Airport (HII), Superior Municipal Airport (E81), Sedona Airport (SEZ), Flagstaff (FLG), Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport (IFP), Grand Canyon Airport (GCN), and H. A, Clark Memorial Field (CMR) in Williams are currently in the Master Plan update process.
THINGS TO DO - PLACES TO FLY FOR BREAKFAST:
Because of the present virus pandemic, some of the airport restaurants may have take-out service available. Call ahead.
- The fly in breakfast at Coolidge Municipal Airport (P08) is on the first Saturday of the month and the breakfast season is operating on schedule.
- On the second Saturday consider flying down to Ryan Field (RYN) near Tucson for breakfast or lunch at Ritchie’s Restaurant. They are open from 6 am to 2 pm. They will have a breakfast special for you if you mention you are an APA member.
- The Falcon Field EAA Warbirds Squadron fly in breakfast is on hold because of the virus pandemic. They will re-start awaiting approval from the City of Mesa. Here’s hoping for an October restart.
- Grapevine is open full time, but the third Saturday of each month is a special time for a group camp dinner on Saturday evening. Come and camp for the weekend! The camp host will prepare the main course, and campers, please bring a side dish or dessert to share. Always check for TFRs because Grapevine, which lies within a National Forest, is heavily used by the Forest Service and the Military for Special Training.
- The City of Casa Grande is still planning on refurbishing the food service area in the Airport terminal area formally occupied by the Foxtrot Cafe. They have issued a request for quote for someone to provide food handling services at the airport. Hopefully, the Casa Grande Airport will again have a fly in breakfast available soon on the last Saturday of the month.
Check with the APA Getaway Flights program and online calendar for fun weekend places to fly.