782 NASA X-59 Test Pilots

Two X-59 test pilots discuss the NASA X-59 mission, the design and technology of the X-59 aircraft, the role of test pilots, and the challenges of flying supersonic.

The X-59 in flight. Graphic courtesy NASA.
X-59 in flight. NASA image.

Guests

Photo of X-59 test pilot Nils Larson.
David Nils Larson

David “Nils” Larson is a research test pilot at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. He is NASA’s lead pilot for the X-59 aircraft, and is assigned to Armstrong’s F/A-18, F-15, T-34 research and mission support aircraft, and DC-8 airborne science aircraft. Nils also serves as senior advisor for NASA aeronautical flight research. In this role, he is a strategic advisor to program directors for agency mission directorates concerning aeronautics flight research planning, execution, aircraft airworthiness, and risk management for future flight research projects.

Before joining NASA in 2007, Nils was on active duty with the U.S. Air Force. He has accumulated more than 7,000 hours of military and civilian flight experience in more than 100 fixed- and rotary-winged aircraft.

Photo of X-59 test pilot James "Clue" Less.
James “Clue” Less

James “Clue” Less is a research pilot and aerospace engineer at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. He is a project pilot for the X-59 aircraft.

Clue has worked at Armstrong since 2010 conducting flight research and airborne science missions as a pilot for the F-15, F-18, T-34, and King Air, as well as the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a  modified 747SP jetliner, and various remotely piloted aircraft, including the MQ-9 Ikhana and aircraft from the center’s subscale research laboratory.

Before joining NASA, Clue served as an officer and pilot in the U.S. Air Force for nearly 21 years. Upon graduating from Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training, he flew F-111 aircraft at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico and the F-117 Stealth Fighter at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.

Quesst

Commercial supersonic flight over land is prohibited because the noise of the sonic boom is objectionable. But NASA and Lockheed Martin believe they can turn the boom into a thud by designing the X-59 in a way that manages the shock waves. The NASA Quesst mission has two goals:

  1. To design and build NASA’s X-59 research aircraft which includes technology that will reduce the loudness of the sonic boom.
  2. Fly the X-59 over U.S. cities, collect data from the communities about the sound, and share the public reaction to the quieter sonic “thumps” with the FAA and international regulators. 

The regulators can then consider writing new sound-based rules to lift the ban on supersonic flight over land.

On January 12, 2024, NASA held a public unveiling ceremony for the X-59 supersonic research aircraft.

Video: Rollout of the X-59 Quesst Supersonic Plane (Official NASA Broadcast)

Graphic of expected X-59 sonic noise compared to other sound sources. Courtesy NASA.

Hosts this Episode

Rob Mark and our Main(e) Man Micah.

781 Astronaut

A veteran NASA astronaut, scientist, and author discusses his journey to becoming an astronaut and his experiences in space. In the news, FAA orders Boeing 737 Max 9 planes grounded, a JAL A350 collides with a Dash-8, seating layout and air rage, American Airlines launches Smart Gating, and JSX plans to buy more than 300 hybrid-electric aircraft.

Guest

Astronaut Tom Jones standing in front of the Atlantis Space Shuttle

Thomas D. Jones is a veteran NASA astronaut, scientist, author, pilot, and speaker. He flew on four space shuttle missions to Earth orbit in more than eleven years with NASA. In 2001, Tom led three spacewalks to install the American Destiny laboratory, the centerpiece of the International Space Station. He has spent fifty-three days working and living in space. Tom has written seven space, aviation, and history books. 

Tom’s latest title is Space Shuttle Stories: Firsthand Astronaut Accounts from All 135 Missions from Smithsonian Books. This book is a comprehensive oral history of the thirty years of the Space Shuttle. Tom collected stories from astronauts across all 135 shuttle missions.

Book cover: Space Shuttle Stories

A Distinguished Graduate of the Air Force Academy, Tom piloted B-52D strategic bombers, earned a doctorate in planetary sciences from the University of Arizona, studied asteroids and robotic exploration missions for NASA, and engineered intelligence-gathering systems for the CIA.

Tom’s awards include the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, four NASA Space Flight Medals, the NASA Exceptional Service Award, the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, the NASA Exceptional Public Service Award, Phi Beta Kappa, the Air Force Commendation Medal, and Distinguished Eagle Scout. Asteroid 1082 Tom Jones is named in his honor. In 2018, Tom was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.

Tom served on the NASA Advisory Council and the Association of Space Explorers and the Astronauts Memorial Foundation boards. He consults on the future direction of human space exploration, uses of asteroid and space resources, and planetary defense. A frequent public speaker, he is often seen on-air delivering expert commentary on science and space flight.

For more, see Tom’s website, follow him on Twitter/X at @AstroTomJones, and he’s also on Facebook.

Aviation News

FAA orders grounding of certain Boeing 737 Max 9 planes after Alaska Airlines incident

FAA orders temporary grounding of Boeing 737 Max 9s

A new Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 lost a plugged rear-aft door as it climbed out from Portland, Oregon. The plane depressurized and immediately returned to the airport. No injuries were reported. The FAA ordered maintenance and safety inspections.

Haneda accident outcome the sum of decades of integrated air safety lessons

What if the Haneda Accident Had Occurred in the US?

A landing Japan Airlines A350-900 collided with a Japan Coast Guard (JCG) Dash 8-300 resulting in the deaths of five members of the JCG and the total loss of the A350. All 368 passengers and 12 crew members of JAL plane evacuated safely.

Class ‘Inequity’ Fuels Air Rage

The Physical and Situational Inequality on Airplanes Predicts Air Rage study by Princeton University found that the chance of an air rage incident increased four times when the aircraft had a first-class section. The chance doubles again when boarding economy-class passengers pass through the first-class section.

Smart Gating: How American Airlines Is Using Machine Learning To Reduce Taxi Times By 20%

The American Airlines Smart Gating system is designed to streamline operations, reduce taxiing times, save jet fuel, reduce carbon emissions, and improve operational efficiency. The system uses real-time flight information and assigns aircraft to the closest gate. This can reduce taxiing time by up to 20%. Smart Gating has been deployed across American Airlines’ major hubs.

Video: American Airlines Smart Gating

JSX Plans To Add 300+ Hybrid-electric Aircraft to Fleet

Public charter operator JSX intends to purchase up to 332 hybrid-electric aircraft: 82 Electra nine-passenger eSTOL aircraft (32/50 firm/options), up to 150 Aura Aero 19-seat Era model (50/100), and up to 100 Heart Aerospace 30-seat ES-30 (50/50).

Mentioned

Ramrod to Munster by Stephen C. Ananian [PDF]

Aircraft Accident Investigation (AAI) course, University of Southern California.

The course is designed for individuals who have limited investigation experience. All aspects of the investigation process are addressed, starting with preparation for the investigation through writing the final report. It covers National Transportation Safety Board and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) procedures. Investigative techniques are examined with an emphasis on fixed-wing investigation. Data collection, wreckage reconstruction, and cause analysis are discussed in the classroom and applied in the lab.

Can you spot Max Trescott?

The Journey is the Reward podcast, Episode 60: A Conversation with Capt Jeff of the Airline Pilot Guy.

Hosts this Episode

Rob Mark, Max Trescott, David Vanderhoof, and our Main(e) Man Micah.

780 Bits & Pieces XXXI

Flying on Breeze Airways to Florida and the meetup at Largo, a story about getting into an aviation career, a family holiday tale, becoming an air marshal, the value of warbird tours, getting to know Launchpad Marzari, and a 2023 year-in-review.

Micah standing in front of the and C-12 Huron on a rainy day.
Micah and C-12 Huron

Flying Breeze Airways

Brian Coleman and our Main(e) Man Micah each flew to Florida recently. Breeze Airways provided Micah with the flight from Maine and he and Brian discussed the flight, the Tampa airport experience, hotel accommodations, and T-Mobile service.

Listener Meetup

While in Florida, Brian and Micah met at Your Pizza Shop with a few listeners. 

Getting into Aviation

Long-time listener and friend of the podcast Martin Kemp describes how he got into aviation. Martin is Head of Integrated EFB, Commercial Aviation with Jeppesen and ForeFlight, a Boeing Company.

A Family Matriarch Christmas

Micah tells a story about family and flying.

Aerial view of the Portland, Maine Harbor
Portland, Maine Harbor Visual Looking North

Federal Air Marshals

Micah and Max Flight have a conversation about Federal Air Marshals, including how to become one and the training they receive.

The Collings Foundation

Micah and Max Flight offer thoughts about the Collings Foundation and how historic aircraft tours impact the public.

The Collings Foundation

Martin Kemp tells us about getting to know our late friend Launchpad Marzari and his chocolates.

The Year in Review

Micah relates the many ways aviation touched him in 2023.

Mentioned

Video: Rocky the Airplane Dog. Rocky is an Australian Labradoodle who lives right under the pattern of Brunswick Landing, the former Brunswick Naval Air Station. Whenever Rocky is outside, he watches every aircraft fly through the airspace until it is out of sight.

Contributors this Episode

Max Flight, our Main(e) Man Micah, Brian Coleman, and Martin Kemp.

779 Aircraft Leases

Aircraft leases, engine leasing pools, and related aerospace investments. In the news, Southwest flight attendants will have to vote again on the proposed labor contract, the YouTuber who crashed his plane in a video stunt is flying again, the FAA issues an NPRM for the 737NG nacelle retrofit program, another NPRM is out for PW1100G engine inspections, DOT fines Southwest Airlines $150 million, and a new museum is created for WWII crashes flying over “the hump.”

Guest

Nathan Dickstein is Managing Director and Head of Aerospace Leasing at investment firm AE Industrial Partners, LP. The company was founded in 1998 as AeroEquity and later rebranded as AE Industrial Partners (AEI).

Nathan Dickstein, managing director and head of aerospace leasing at AE Industrial Partners, LP (AEI) on aircraft leases.

Nathan focuses on the origination and management of aircraft leases, engine leasing pools, and related aerospace investments. He has over 12 years of industry experience investing in aircraft and engine leasing at investment funds, banks, and leasing companies.

We explore various aspects of aircraft leasing and its impact on the aviation industry. Nathan discusses the challenges faced by airlines due to airworthiness directives and the need for early engine visits. Our conversation also delves into different types of leasing companies and the expertise of AEI in aircraft leasing. Nathan highlights the benefits of aircraft leases and the flexibility they offer. We also consider the growth and resilience of the aircraft leasing industry.

Before joining AE Industrial in 2020, Nathan worked in Marathon Asset Management’s Structured Credit team where he was responsible for the origination and management of aircraft and aviation-related investments. Before Marathon, Nathan was employed by Alterna Capital Partners, responsible for sourcing, executing, and realizing aircraft investments. 

Nathan’s previous industry work experience includes Deucalion Aviation Funds, the equity investment arm of DVB Bank where he was responsible for transaction analysis and deal structuring, and AWAS Aviation Capital, a top 10 aircraft lessor, where he was part of the Risk Management team.

Aviation News

Southwest Airlines Flight Attendants Forced to Rerun Contract Vote After Crew Discovered Ballot System Was Vulnerable to Fraud

Transport Workers Union Local 556 (TWU Local 556) represents Southwest Airlines flight attendants and contract negotiations have been going on for years. Recently, with 95% of eligible union members voting, the proposed contract was soundly rejected. However, some members questioned the integrity of the voting process. After an investigation, the union says the membership will have to vote again.

Trevor Jacob Goes Flying On Temporary Certificate

Two years ago, Trevor Jacob intentionally crashed his Taylorcraft for a YouTube stunt. His pilot certificate was revoked in April 2022, and he was recently sentenced to six months in prison for hiding evidence. However, Jacob was eligible to apply for a certificate after one year and he says he’s passed the written exam and completed his checkride. With that, the FAA says he has now been issued a temporary pilot certificate.

(a) A temporary pilot, flight instructor, or ground instructor certificate or rating is issued for up to 120 days, at which time a permanent certificate will be issued to a person whom the Administrator finds qualified under this part.

(b) A temporary pilot, flight instructor, or ground instructor certificate or rating expires: (1) On the expiration date shown on the certificate; (2) Upon receipt of the permanent certificate; or (3) Upon receipt of a notice that the certificate or rating sought is denied or revoked.

Code of Federal Regulations § 61.17 Temporary Certificate.

FAA Starts 737NG Nacelle Retrofit Mandate Process

Following two incidents, the NTSB recommended a redesign of the 737NG nacelle. The FAA issued three notices of proposed rulemaking (NPRMs) that would mandate that operators would have until July 31, 2028, to upgrade their aircraft with new inlet spacers and fasteners, a fan cowl support beam, a stiffer exhaust nozzle, and upgraded inlet aft bulkhead fasteners. Boeing would issue maintenance instructions by Dec. 31, 2029. The changes are intended to keep fan cowls closed, intact, and attached to the airplane in the event of a fan-blade-out event.

FAA Outlines Next Phase Of PW1100G Inspections

In another NPRM, the draft rule based on two service bulletins developed by Pratt would mandate inspections of the PW1100G. The next batch of engines needing off-wing inspection of high-pressure turbine (HPT) stage 1 and stage 2 disks were identified and high-pressure compressor (HPC) stage 7 and 8 integrated blade rotors (IBRs) are to be added to Pratt’s “fleet management plan.”

DOT Penalizes Southwest Airlines $140 Million for 2022 Holiday Meltdown

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a $140 million civil penalty against Southwest Airlines for violating consumer protection laws over the 2022 Christmas holiday and into the New Year after the operational failures canceled 16,900 flights and stranded over two million passengers. Most of the penalty will go towards compensating future Southwest passengers. In its investigation, DOT found the company violated consumer protection laws by failing to provide adequate customer service assistance, failing to provide prompt flight status notifications, and failing to provide refunds promptly and properly.

600 U.S. planes crashed in the Himalayas during WWII. A new museum shows the artifacts

An estimated 1,500 pilots and passengers were killed flying “the hump” due to incorrect maps, weather conditions, flying at high altitudes with unpressurized aircraft, and other causes.

Mentioned

American Heritage Museum

Video: Collings Foundation Hangar (Stow, MA)

Air Force Safety Center: Aviation Statistics

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Rob Mark, and David Vanderhoof.

778 China Aviation Market

We take a look at the China aviation market, including the aviation boom in China, the aircraft that will support that market, and the impact on the global aviation industry. In the news, the V-22 Osprey is grounded worldwide, a judge wants more concessions from JetBlue as they seek to acquire Spirit, how airport expansion plans can come under fire on environmental grounds, and producing Sustainable Aviation Fuel through CO₂ direct air capture technology.

Guest

Vance Hilderman photo.

Vance Hilderman is the CEO of AFuzion, a safety certification consultancy for the aviation industry. Vance is the founder, CEO, and CTO of multiple safety-critical companies. He’s a world-renowned safety-critical expert, speaker, trainer, and author.

Vance describes the growth potential of the China aviation market, the challenges and opportunities for Western companies, and the implications of technology transfer and intellectual property concerns. He highlights the importance of the Chinese market for the aviation industry and the need for strategic approaches to navigate the complexities of doing business in China.

Takeaways:

  • China is a rapidly growing aviation market with a large middle class and increasing domestic and international travel demand.
  • Western companies, including Boeing and Airbus, are eager to tap into the Chinese market, but they face challenges related to technology transfer and intellectual property concerns.
  • The Chinese government plays a significant role in the aviation industry, and partnerships and joint ventures are often required to do business in China.
  • The China aviation market offers both opportunities and risks, and companies need to carefully navigate the political and economic landscape to succeed.

Vance is a top authority in the aviation industry and has been featured in the Associated Press, Aviation Pros, and Aviation Today. He is the author of The Aviation Development Ecosystem and Avionics Certification – Complete Guide to DO-178, DO-178C, DO-254. Vance holds BSEE, MSEE (Hughes Fellow), and MBA degrees.

References:

Aviation News

Osprey Crash Triggers Worldwide Grounding

A USAF CV-22B Osprey tiltrotor crashed offshore near Yakushima, Japan, on November 29, 2023, during a training mission, killing eight service members who were aboard. The U.S. Air Force’s Special Operations Command ordered an “operational standdown” of the CV-22 fleet, and all other V-22 operators have done the same. More than 400 Osprey’s are currently in service with U.S. forces and Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force, which operates 14 of the aircraft. 

USAF Special Operations Command says, “Preliminary investigation information indicates a potential materiel failure caused the mishap, but the underlying cause of the failure is unknown at this time. The standdown will provide time and space for a thorough investigation to determine causal factors and recommendations to ensure the Air Force CV-22 fleet returns to flight operations.”

V-22 Osprey inflight with rotors in vertical flight position.
A CV-22 Osprey practices hoist operations near Albuquerque, New Mexico Feb. 22, 2021. Image: Airman 1st Class Ireland Summers Air Force.

Judge Seeks Further Concessions as JetBlue-Spirit Trial Concludes 

Judge seeks more sacrifices as JetBlue-Spirit trial ends

The US District judge concluded that fares would likely increase if the proposed $3.8B acquisition of Spirit by JetBlue goes through, and commented that JetBlue will most likely need to divest additional assets.  The airline already said it would divest gates and slots at Boston, New York Newark, and Fort Lauderdale International.

Portland jetport plan to cut trees, add surface parking draws opposition

The Portland International Jetport wants to build an additional parking lot. Meanwhile, the new Mayor has prioritized fighting climate change and expanding Portland’s tree canopy. The Jetport says demand for long-term parking exceeds capacity so travelers park at an offsite city lot and use a shuttle to the airport. They say onsite parking has the smallest carbon footprint. The opposition says clearing trees and destroying wetlands is short-sighted and environmentally harmful. They say the jetport should expand the shuttle service to include other existing parking lots.

UK’s first air capture plant is turned on to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and turn it into jet fuel

Mission Zero Technologies was founded in 2020 to develop direct air capture (DAC) technology that recovers atmospheric CO₂, which can then be used or stored. Their machine will run on solar power, recover 50 tonnes of CO₂ per year, and then turn it into Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).

Australia Desk

Mentioned

Early Winter Snow Stops Flights at Munich Airport

Video: Cessna Citation X from ARFF World

Video: EP 31: Smithy’s Southern Cross Replica Flies Again!

Hosts this Episode

777 Aviation Accident Litigation

Aviation accident litigation with a partner from a law firm that specializes in that topic. In the news, some distressing recent air traffic controller behavior, the FAA acts on Safety Team recommendations, three United Airlines employees are accused of accepting bribes, a cargo drone airline achieves first flight, the Collings Foundation ends their air tours, and Alaska Airlines looks to acquire Hawaiian Airlines.

Guest

Erin Applebaum, Partner at Kreindler & Kreindler LLP, aviation accident litigation.

Erin Applebaum is a Partner at Kreindler & Kreindler LLP. Within Kreindler’s aviation practice, she focuses on representing individuals who are injured or killed in general aviation accidents and commercial airline disasters. 

Erin currently serves on the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee for the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 Boeing 737 MAX litigation against Boeing and other defendants. She is also part of the team challenging the Deferred Prosecution Agreement between Boeing and the Department of Justice.

Erin maintains a robust practice of representing passengers who have been seriously injured during commercial flights. She specializes in litigating claims governed by the Montreal Convention and teaches a popular aviation accident CLE course for other attorneys – “Montreal Convention for Plaintiffs’ Lawyers: Representing Passenger Personal Injury Claims Arising on International Flights.” For the highly respected, industry-wide publication, “Annals of Air and Space Law,” published by McGill University, Erin contributed her insight on a recent landmark decision regarding British Airways and the application of the Montreal Convention to injuries caused by unexpected conditions present during passenger disembarkation from international flights.

Erin is a member of several legal professional groups. She was recently appointed Co-Chair of the New York City Bar Association’s Aeronautics Committee, serves as a Vice Chair on the American Bar Association’s Aviation and Space Law Committee, and is an active member of the American Association for Justice and the International Aviation Women’s Association.

Aviation News

Drunk and Asleep on the Job: Air Traffic Controllers Pushed to the Brink

Some distressing recent ATC incidents have been reported: a drunk controller, one who smoked marijuana during breaks, and an employee who threatened and “aggressively pushed” another who was directing airplanes. There are more reports of sleeping on the job and working under the influence. A New York Times investigation found that air traffic controllers are fatigued, distracted, and demoralized and are increasingly prone to making mistakes.

FAA Takes Action to Address Safety Review Team Recommendations

With the release of the National Airspace System Safety Review Team report, the FAA is taking immediate action to enhance air traffic controller training and safety reporting:

  • The FAA will work with Air Traffic-Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) Program colleges and universities to ensure that graduates from these programs have the necessary skills to begin on-the-job training at a facility. These graduates still must pass the Air Traffic Skills Assessment (ATSA) exam and meet medical and security requirements. Previously, these graduates were required to attend the FAA Air Traffic Controller Academy before being assigned to a facility.
  • FAA announced a year-round hiring track for experienced controllers from the military and private industry.
  • FAA will keep filling every seat at the FAA Academy and increase classroom capacity beyond current limits.
  • FAA will expand the use of advanced training across the country. The agency has new facilities in Chicago and San Diego and will be adding them in Nashua and Phoenix in the spring. 
  • Finish deploying tower simulator systems in 95 facilities by December 2025. The FAA will deploy the first system in Austin by January 2024. 
  • To strengthen the safety culture, the FAA will provide reports from the Air Traffic Safety Oversight Service to the FAA Administrator and Aviation Safety Associate Administrator.

Three United Airlines Employees Accepted Bribes to Award ‘Lucrative’ Multi-Million-Dollar Renovation Contracts at Newark Airport

Following a Federal probe, three United Airlines employees pleaded guilty to accepting bribes and kickbacks that included renovating their homes and receiving Rolex watches. This was in exchange for awarding contracts to a company that offered higher prices than at least two other competitors. United has terminated all three employees: a corporate real estate director, an airline senior manager, and a contractor.

Qatar Airways Partners With The World’s 1st Cargo Drone Airline

Qatar Airways Cargo and cargo drone airline Dronamics have partnered, initially to link the Dronamics droneports in Greece with Qatar’s worldwide network. The Black Swan remotely piloted aircraft has a 26-foot fuselage with a 52-foot wingspan, 770 lb cargo capacity, a 1,550-mile range, and a top speed of 125 mph. Dronamics was established in 2014 and calls itself “the world’s first cargo drone airline.”

Video: Dronamics Cargo Drone First Flight

Collings Foundation Grounds Air Tour for WWII Aircraft

The Collings Foundation American Heritage Museum newsletter says, “In the wake of the 2019 B-17 Flying Fortress accident… We are moving forward on our long-term plans to bring the aircraft from a nationwide flying exhibition to permanent display here in Massachusetts.” The Wings of Freedom tour brought access to World War II aircraft like the Boeing B-17G, B-25, B-24, and P-51D. Rides on those aircraft were offered as part of a monetary contribution to the Foundation.

The American Heritage Museum is a 501(c)(3) organization located in Hudson, Massachusetts. It displays 50 aircraft and over 90 vehicles from the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard vehicles, as well as some from other nations. The museum also has some large artifacts like a rebuilt Hanoi Hilton POW cell and a part of the Berlin Wall.

Alaska Airlines in Deal to Buy Hawaiian Airlines for $1.9 Billion

Under the all-cash transaction, Alaska would buy Hawaiian for $18 per share, valued at $1.9 Billion (which includes $0.9 Billion of Hawaiian Airlines net debt), and operate the airline as an independent brand. Alaska said it plans to expand Hawaiian’s Honolulu hub to enable “greater international connectivity for West Coast travelers throughout the Asia-Pacific region.”

The transaction agreement has been approved by both boards and is conditioned on regulatory approvals, approval by Hawaiian Holdings, Inc. shareholders (which is expected to be sought in the first quarter of 2024), and other customary closing conditions. It is expected to close in 12-18 months. The combined organization will be based in Seattle under the leadership of Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci.

Press Release: Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines to merge

Additional information about the transaction is available at a new joint website at localcareglobalreach.com and investor materials can also be found at investor.alaskaair.com and news.alaskaair.com.

Australia Desk

The GippsAero GA-8 Airvan, which in more recent years became known as the Airvan 8, has been a success story of Australia’s aviation industry over its many years of production. Originally known as Gippsland Aeronautics, the company was founded in 1977 by Peter Furlong at the Latrobe Valley Regional Airport in eastern Victoria.  He was joined by George Morgan in 1984 and together they developed the GA200 Fatman crop sprayer and the GA8 utility aircraft.  The company was purchased by Mahindra Aerospace in 2009, with production continuing until 2020.  

But there’s good news!  George Morgan has now re-acquired the company and he has a vision to get the GA8 back into production in coming years.  This could see the eventual restoration of a large number of local manufacturing jobs, along with maintenance and other work along the way.

GippsAero GA-8 Airvan in flight.
Image credit: Steve Hitchen, Australian Flying Magazine

Co-Founder buys Mahindra out of GippsAero – Australian Flying

New LCC Bonza Air has raised the ire of many, canceling all of their new Gold Coast to Darwin flights for the entire month of December.  The move has left hundreds of passengers stranded and unable to get a satisfactory response from Bonza’s app-based contact system.  The route was announced in September and had been scheduled to commence this week.

Does the move signal troubled times ahead for the fledgling new Australian carrier?  Time will tell, but they will need to improve their customer contact methods, and quickly.

Bonza cancels Darwin-Gold Coast flights for all of December, leaving customers fuming – ABC News

Virgin Australia have announced plans to increase their current order book for Boeing 737 Max-8s to 14, with 3 already delivered, and a planned fleet of 39.  Up until this point, the 737 Max models haven’t been seen in large numbers in this part of the world, and with Qantas looking to progressively replace their 737 fleet with A320s, Virgin will eventually become the nation’s largest operator of the type.

Virgin Australia increases 737 MAX-8 aircraft order

Virgin is also aiming to rekindle its former partnership arrangement with Air New Zealand, following a break of five years.  The codeshare agreement would be most beneficial to VA passengers wanting to cross the Tasman, after the airline cut back services to all New Zealand destinations except Queenstown, as they contracted operations to focus on Australia during financial restructuring in recent years.

Virgin Australia plans to revive Air New Zealand partnership – Point Hacks

Mentioned

Video: How Many WW2 Fighters Survive in 2023?

The Owners Behind the Most Expensive Private Jets in the World

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Rob Mark, and our Main(e) Man Micah. Contribution by Grant McHerron and Steve Visscher.

776 Moving to Multi-engine Aircraft

We talk with a pilot who is moving to a multi-engine aircraft, and his young daughter who wants to be a military pilot. In the news, Southwest Airlines is experimenting with an airport lounge idea, an airport just won a Best Restroom award, a hydrogen-powered engine is being developed for general aviation applications, the financial challenges of a municipal airport, and good news for general aviation deliveries.

Diamond DA62 twin engine aircraft in the hangar.
Diamond DA62

Interviews

Michael Rogers sold his Cirrus and bought a Diamond DA62 twin-engine because he needed something bigger for his family. Taking delivery in Canada, he met up with the delivery pilot and flew the DA62 cross country. We hear about transitioning to multi-engine aircraft.

Michael’s daughter Eva Rogers was 10 years old when we first spoke with her. Now at 14, she still aspires to become a military pilot, although maybe with a different service.

Aviation News

Southwest Airlines trying massive customer perk

Southwest does not operate its own airport lounges, but they have been testing lounge access with Priority Pass for select top-tier customers. The airline says, “Beginning Nov. 22, [2023] we’ll be surprising and delighting a select group of customers with a complimentary Priority Pass membership for a year, which will allow them and two guests per visit access to the Priority Pass lounge network.”

Are BWI Airport’s new bathrooms the best in the nation?

Now Boarding: Winner of Cintas 2023 America’s Best Restroom® Contest – BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport

Cintas Corporation has named the Baltimore/Washington International (BWI) Thurgood Marshall Airport the winner of the 2023 America’s Best Restroom® contest. Each year, Cintas selects one public restroom to receive the award. As part of a $55 million facelift, BWI built new restrooms in Concourse B and is modernizing restrooms throughout Concourses B, C, and D.

The newly constructed restrooms at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport maximize occupant capacity while enhancing the overall passenger experience. The entrance welcomes travelers with an aesthetic mural and seating area while they wait for their companions. The new restrooms feature bright, spacious, fully enclosed stalls for privacy, touchless fixtures and individual lactation, adult changing and family assist rooms. Each restroom features a state-of-the-art smart restroom system that integrates with color-changing, LED stall occupancy lights and digital signage at the restroom entrances showing current availability. The smart restroom system also provides real-time inventory tracking and usage counts for custodial services.

Cintas Corporation

BWI joins Tampa International Airport, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and Fort Smith Regional Airport in Arkansas in America’s Best Restroom Hall of Fame. Nominations for 2024 are open.

DeltaHawk launches hydrogen engine development program

DeltaHawk Engines has completed advanced simulation analysis of a hydrogen fuel engine for general aviation aircraft. This is a variant of the 180-hp DHK180 2-stroke piston engine that was certified by the FAA in May 2023. That clean sheet engine has an inverted-V engine block, a turbocharger and a supercharger, mechanical fuel injection, and liquid cooling.

Lewiston-Auburn airport puts biggest hangar up for sale or lease

The Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport is trying to get on a solid financial footing. Elite Airways ceased operations in 2022 abandoning three leased Bombardier CRJ-700 airplanes at the airport. The same for tools, trailers, machinery, and other property. An auction was held which netted the airport about $140,000. The 27,000-square-foot Hangar #5 was originally built in 2008 for the Lufthansa Lockheed Starliner project, which was canceled in 2018. Hangar #5 is now available.

GA aircraft deliveries continue to climb

The 2023 Third Quarter General Aviation Aircraft Shipment Report [PDF] was just released by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA). YTD, all segments of general aviation aircraft deliveries and billings increased. Piston airplane shipments increased almost 12% in 3Q23 over 3Q22. Turboprops increased almost 15% and business jets increased 2%.

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Max Trescott, David Vanderhoof, and Micah, with contributions by Brian Coleman.

775 Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

The Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey talks about the $30 Billion capital plan to rebuild airport facilities and the transportation infrastructure. In the news, an unruly passenger is fined almost $40,000 for costs related to the resulting flight delay, FAA certification for remote airport tower operations, public charter flights and regulatory loopholes, American Airlines flight attendants might strike, and the FAA is allowing graduates of college and university air traffic control programs to skip training and go right to ATC facilities.

Guest

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Executive Director Rick Cotton.

Rick Cotton is Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a post he’s held since August 2017. The Port Authority has jurisdiction over the transportation infrastructure in the region, including air, land, rail, and sea. That includes five airports: John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, Stewart International Airport, and Teterboro Airport.

Rick describes the history and function of the Port Authority, and the $30B plan to create world-class facilities that include rebuilding the airports. We discuss transportation between the airport and the city, the focus on the curb-to-gate passenger experience, and even the pricing of airport food.

Before joining the Port Authority, Rick served as New York State’s Special Counsellor to the Governor for Interagency Initiatives. He focused on the State’s major downstate infrastructure projects such as LaGuardia and JFK Airports, the Moynihan Train Hall and Penn-Farley Complex, the new Tappan Zee Bridge, the expansion of the Javits Center, and the MTA’s Second Avenue Subway project.

Rick spent 25 years at NBC Universal, where he held several positions, including 20 years as EVP and General Counsel and four years in London as President and Managing Director of CNBC Europe. He also served as Executive Secretary to the Department at the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare under Secretary Joseph A. Califano, Jr. and Special Assistant for Renewable Energy to Deputy Secretary of Energy John Sawhill at the U.S. Department of Energy. Rick received an A.B. from Harvard College and a J.D. from Yale Law School, and served as a law clerk to Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Video: About the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey

Aviation News

An expensive flight: American Airlines passenger fined almost $40,000 for being disruptive

After pleading guilty to interfering with a flight crew member, the federal district court in Arizona ordered the passenger to pay American Airlines $38,952 in restitution for delay-related costs due to her actions. The woman was also sentenced to time served in prison (3.6 months) and three years of supervised release, during which time she cannot fly commercially without prior authorization. This stems from a Feb. 13, 2022 flight where the passenger used profanity and threatened flight crew members flying from Phoenix to Hawaii. The plane was diverted and returned to Phoenix.

See also: Woman Ordered to Pay Over $38,000 in Restitution for Interference with Flight Crew on Hawaii-Bound Flight from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona.

Another Remote Control Tower Option Bites the Dust

Searidge Technologies will end its five-year effort with Colorado’s Department of Transportation to implement a remote technology (RT) digital tower at Northern Colorado Regional Airport in Loveland. Bob Poole writes that new FAA certification requirements have also forced Saab to discontinue its participation as the RT technology provider for the remote tower for Leesburg Airport in Virginia.

In March 2023, the FAA announced that to have a remote technology system certified for a U.S. airport, it must first be installed at the Atlantic City, NJ, airport. That is where the FAA Tech Center is located. In addition, the Tech Center staff must be allowed to reverse engineer the system over three years so the FAA can determine if the system meets FAA certification requirements.

Searidge Technologies is a provider of services for remotely managing air traffic control. The company says they have “technology at over 40 sites in 25 countries [and they] are a global leader and preferred partner for Digital Towers and Advanced Airport solutions.” Searidge is owned by NATS (UK). Other RT service providers include Saab, Frequentis, and Kongsburg.

Big U.S. airlines fight over safety of ‘travel hack’ charter flights

“Public charter flights” have limited schedules (perhaps once or twice weekly) and set departure and arrival times. Booking is by individual seat and these flights are typically available during the tourist season. Flights are operated by tour operators or airlines that sell seats directly to passengers. Some charter operators offer these flights from private terminals and market themselves as providing flights without the hassle of the large terminals. (Avoid long security and boarding lines.) Dallas-based JSX is an example.

American Airlines and Southwest Airlines want to see the safety and security of these operations examined. They consider public charters a “loophole.” Meanwhile, United Airlines and JetBlue don’t want to see any changes. But they each own a stake in JSX.

See also: What Is a Charter Flight: Cost And All The Basics, What is Public Charter, and Plane Talk: Public Charter Flights – US Department of Transportation.

American Airlines Flight Attendants Expected to Formally Announce Christmas Strike On Monday

The American flight attendants are negotiating a new contract with the airline. The airline proposed a 19% pay rise over the four-year contract. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) wants a 50% pay rise.

FAA Now Says AT-CTI Grads Can Skip Oke City Training Academy

The FAA is allowing graduates of college and university air traffic control programs to skip training at its own ATC academy in Oklahoma City and go directly to on-the-job training at ATC facilities.

Mentioned

Pentagon unveils new form for reporting UFO sightings

The form is available through the Defense Department’s All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO). That website provides official declassified information on UAPs, including pictures and videos, for the public to view.  At this time, the form is not meant for the public but methods are being explored to change that. See DOD press release: The Department of Defense Launches the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office Website.

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Rob Mark, Max Trescott, our Main(e) Man Micah, and Brian Coleman.

774 Why Flying is Miserable

We talk with the author of Why Flying is Miserable: And How to Fix It. In the news, the NTSB comments on the increase in near-miss aviation incidents, the FAA will appoint an ARC to examine pilot mental health, an NTSB preliminary report on the Hawker/Cessna collision, cargo pilots are offered $250,000 to go regional, and United adjusts their frequent flyer program.

Guest

Ganesh Sitaraman, author of Why Flying is Miserable: And How to Fix It.
Ganesh Sitaraman

Ganesh Sitaraman is a policy expert, Vanderbilt law professor, and the author of the book titled Why Flying is Miserable: And How to Fix It. The book was written to stimulate conversation about the state of air travel in the U.S. and what might be done to make it serve more Americans, more efficiently, with fewer federal bailouts and headaches.

Why Flying is Miserable takes the reader through the history of the U.S. airline industry and how deregulation has brought us to where we are today. In the early years of flight through the 1930’s, policies were defined by the needs of airmail. Then in the 1930s to the 1970s, airlines were regulated largely under a public utility model, ultimately through the Civil Aeronautics Board. This regulated oligopoly was changed to a free market model with deregulation in 1978. The resulting unregulated oligopoly resulted in cutthroat competition in the 1980s which led to consolidation without regulation.

Ganesh describes why flying is miserable for the flying public and miserable for the industry itself. With no changes, another bailout situation will present itself sooner or later, he argues.

Why Flying is Miserable: And How to Fix It book cover

Ganesh offers some reform principles that consider the dynamics of the industry and the goals of a national airline policy: no more flyover country, no bailouts or bankruptcies, and fair and transparent prices. He offers some creative and thought-provoking approaches to achieve those principles.

Ganesh is director of the Vanderbilt Policy Accelerator for Political Economy and Regulation. He’s the author of numerous books, previously a senior advisor to Elizabeth Warren for her presidential campaign, and is a member of the Administrative Conference of the United States and the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee

Follow Ganesh on X (Twitter) at @GaneshSitaraman. Why Flying is Miserable: And How to Fix It is available wherever books are sold, as an Audible Audiobook, and on Kindle.

Aviation News

NTSB chair says US near-miss aviation incidents ‘clear warning sign’

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chair Jennifer Homendy told a U.S. Senate aviation committee that the increase in near-miss aviation incidents is a “clear warning sign that the U.S. aviation system is sharply strained.” Homendy stated the need for “more technology for runway and cockpit alerting… We cannot wait until a fatal accident forces action.”

American Airlines dangles a $250,000 bonus to lure pilots from FedEx and UPS to fill job shortage that has led to canceled and delayed flights

American Airlines regional carrier PSA Airlines is reportedly offering cargo pilots a $175,000 bonus in the first paycheck, with an additional $75,000 after one year. As the airline cancels flights due to staffing shortages, FedEx and UPS are experiencing reduced demand and flight cuttings. So those carriers are encouraging their pilots to consider the American offer.

Hawker Crew Ignored Instructions from ATC in Houston Bizjet Collision

As previously reported, the left wing of a Hawker 850 (N269AA) hit the vertical stabilizer of a Cessna Mustang (N510HM) landing on a crossing runway at Houston Hobby Airport (KHOU). According to the NTSB preliminary report:

HOU has intersecting runways, and the local controller had instructed the crew of N269AA [Hawker] to line up and wait (LUAW) on runway 22. The crew of N269AA said in a post-accident interview that they believed they heard that they were cleared for takeoff when they took off. The collision between the two airplanes occurred at the intersection of the two runways.

N269AA was in the takeoff roll on runway 22 when the flight data/clearance delivery controller alerted the local controller about N269AA’s movement, and at 1519:47 the local controller stated “november nine alpha alpha, stop, hold your position.” There was no response from the crew of N269AA, and at 1519:53 the local controller again stated, “alpha, alpha, hold your position, stop,” to which there was still no response.

The flight crew from N269AA stated in their post-accident interview they had a rudder bias alert, and a pitch trim alert which they had to resolve as they were in the takeoff roll.

NTSB

HOU tower is equipped with an Airport Surface Detection Equipment – Model X (ASDE-X) system that the FAA describes as “a surveillance system using radar, multilateration and satellite technology that allows air traffic controllers to track surface movement of aircraft and vehicles. It was developed to help reduce critical Category A and B runway incursions.”

ASDE X collects data from 

  • Surface surveillance radar located on top of the air traffic control tower and/or on a remote tower
  • Multilateration sensors located around the airport
  • Airport Surveillance Radars such as the Mode S
  • Automatic Dependent Surveillance — Broadcast (ADS-B) sensors
  • Terminal automation system to obtain flight plan data.

By fusing the data from these sources, ASDE-X can determine the position and identification of aircraft and vehicles in the airport movement area, as well as aircraft flying on final approach to the airport. Thirty-five major airports have received ASDE-X.

FAA Naming Panel to Address Pilot Mental Health Issues

The FAA says it is appointing a Pilot Mental Health Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC). The committee will provide recommendations on breaking down the barriers that prevent pilots from reporting mental health issues to the FAA. FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said, “Mental health care has made great strides in recent years, and we want to make sure the FAA is considering those advances when we evaluate the health of pilots.”

The FAA said it would also work to address uncompleted recommendations from a July inspector general’s office report on pilot mental health, which found the FAA’s “ability to mitigate safety risks is limited by pilots’ reluctance to disclose mental health conditions.”

Source: FAA to Appoint Rulemaking Committee to Examine Pilot Mental Health.

In addition, the FAA will work with the ARC to address open recommendations from the July 2023 DOT Office of Inspector General report on Pilot Mental Health Challenges, which found that the agency has “comprehensive procedures to evaluate pilots’ psychological health.”

FAA fact sheet on pilot mental health oversight, Pilot Mental Fitness.

United Airlines tweaks frequent flyer program to reward credit card spending 

UA says they won’t change overall requirements for elite frequent flyer status in 2024. Instead, the airline will give customers 25 qualifying points for every $500 they spend on co-branded credit cards. United will also lift caps on credit card spending that can qualify for elite status. Presently, customers earn 500 points for every $12,000 spent.

Australia Desk

The Indo-Pacific International Maritime Exposition (IndoPac 2023) was held between November 7th and 9th in Sydney, and Grant was in attendance, gathering content for Australian Defence Magazine.  We take a brief look at the expo, particularly in terms of a focus on maritime aviation and defence.

Indo Pacific International Maritime Exposition

Local company Rosebank Engineering has secured a contract for RAAF F-35 component maintenance, activating their wheel & brake repair depot, east of Melbourne.

Rosebank Engineering activates F-35 repair depot

The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) this week celebrated 30 years of operations at RAAF Base Pearce in Western Australia, conducting lead-in and advanced training for their military pilots.  The Australian Defence Force enjoys a close working relationship with the Singaporeans not only at Pearce but in several other aspects of training including CH-47 Chinook training at the Army Aviation Regiment’s base at Oakey in Queensland.

The RSAF Commemorates 30 Years of Training in Pearce, Australia

And speaking of maritime topics, what exactly was Steve eating for lunch that has Grant so concerned?  Tune in to find out!  Anchors away….

Mentioned

Frank Borman (left) and Rob Mark (right) at the airport.
Frank Borman and Rob Mark.

Video: Stackhat (Australian ad – 1988)

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Rob Mark, and Brian Coleman. Contribution by Grant McHerron and Steve Visscher.

773 North American Rockwell OV-10 Bronco

We look at the North American Rockwell OV-10 Bronco with a former combat aircraft pilot. In the news, Van’s Aircraft is experiencing financial issues, the U.S. Government is getting involved in the Schiphol airport move to reduce flights, and a Federal Flight Deck Officer allegedly threatens to shoot another pilot.

Guest

Tim Plaehn in the F-16 cockpit 1985.
Tim Plaehn in 1985

Tim Plaehn is a former combat aircraft pilot who attended the Air Force Academy, graduating in 1979. Tim attended Undergraduate Pilot Training at Williams AFB and his first assignment ran from 1980 to 1984, flying the North American Rockwell OV-10 Bronco. He spent one year at Osan AB in South Korea, and two years as an OV-10 instructor at Patrick AFB. Tim received his F-16 training at Luke AFB in 1985 and served as a frontline F-16 pilot at Nellis AFB through 1987 when he separated from the Air Force.

Tim describes the very interesting OV-10 aircraft, and its design, armament, and acrobatic qualities. We hear some stories about his experiences training pilots to fly the OV-10 including several student-induced spins.

NASA OV-10 in flight.
NASA OV-10

After major maintenance was performed on an Air Force aircraft, a follow-up flight called a functional check flight (FCF) would be required. A squadron would have two pilots qualified to fly FCFs. Tim was fortunate to be an FCF pilot for both the OV-10 and the F-16.

Since his Air Force career, Tim has spent most of his working life in the investment world. For the past 10 years, he’s been the researcher and writer of newsletters focusing on the stock market. He also writes about his experiences at landflyordie.substack.com.

Video: Brilliant OV-10 Bronco Display – Abingdon 2023

Museums with the North American Rockwell OV-10 Bronco on display:

The Bronco Is Back! A Fleet Of OV-10s Will Help Train Air Force Forward Air Controllers

The OV-10 Squadron is an organization that received seven OV-10D Broncos at Chino Airport in Southern California (KCNO).

Blue Air Training Acquires Seven OV-10 Broncos

Aviation News

Van’s Aircraft reports cash crunch, prompts concern

In a video posted on YouTube, Dick VanGrunsven, founder and CEO of kit plane maker Van’s Aircraft, said, “Van’s is facing serious cash flow issues that must be addressed for ongoing operation.” Van also stated, “We are confident we can work through the situation, but some changes are required. Candidly, since early September, Van’s has only been able to continue operating through loans of operating capital made by my wife and me.”

Video: Van’s Aircraft Business Announcement from Dick VanGrunsven

Van was our guest in Airplane Geeks Episode 376.

United States Retaliates Against Netherlands Flight Cap

In previous episodes, we talked about Amsterdam Schiphol reducing the number of flights in 2024 by about 10%, and how newcomer JetBlue asked the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) to take some action to protect its interests. The DOT now says the Netherlands is violating the United States and European Union Air Transport Agreement. As a consequence,

The Department orders KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, NV; Martinair Holland NV; and TUI Airlines Nederland, BV to file with the Department, within seven days of the service date of this order, any and all of their existing schedules for air transportation services, including codeshare, common branding, and extra sections, between any point or points in the United States and any point or points not in the United States.

US DOT

The claimed violation falls under the balanced approach philosophy. According to the IATA factsheet The Balanced Approach to aircraft noise management:

The Balanced Approach requires that all available options be evaluated to identify the most cost-effective measure or combination of measures to mitigate a specific noise problem.

Each new generation of aircraft is quieter than the previous one and the noise footprint surrounding airports has reduced, but increased flight operations have counteracted some of these benefits. These factors are driving some local authorities to impose noise operating restrictions at airports, either in terms of annual movement reductions, aircraft type bans, or night operations bans.

Most of these restrictions are being implemented without ICAO’s Balanced Approach, which requires that the noise concerns of local residents be balanced with protecting the huge social and economic benefits of the airport’s connectivity for the whole country. 

IATA and its member airlines fully support the implementation of the Balanced Approach when it comes to noise management.

IATA

The Balanced Approach principle was adopted in 2001. It is included in Annex 16, Volume I of the ICAO Chicago Convention. It is enshrined in the EU regulation 598/2014, and it is also stipulated in the USA-EU Air Transport Agreement.

Pilot accused of threatening to shoot captain who tried to divert flight for a medical emergency, officials say

A commercial first officer has been indicted by a Utah grand jury for an August 2022 incident when he allegedly threatened to shoot the captain if the flight was diverted for a passenger medical event. The pilot had been charged with interference with a flight crew. The first officer “told the Captain they would be shot multiple times” after a disagreement regarding a possible flight diversion for a passenger medical event, the Office of Inspector General said.

The pilot was authorized to carry a gun on board the plane under to the Transportation Security Administration’s Federal Flight Deck Officer program. Such officers are “deputized as a federal law enforcement officer and issued a TSA-approved firearm and federal flight deck officer credentials,” according to the TSA.

Mentioned

Marshall Blythe stunning airplane models on Flickr.

Shocker: Math proves boarding planes is actually really efficient

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Max Trescott, Rob Mark, and our Main(e) Man Micah.