Video: Why We Want Boeing’s 777X Wing Folding Feature On Our Plane!

Boeing 777X Wing Folding
Boeing 777X Wing Folding

The emergence of Boeing’s 777X airliner is exciting news for a company suffering a marked lack of it lately.

The under-development airliner, which Boeing expects to be ready to fly by next year, features a wingtip, though its really more of a wing “section” or wing “panel,” that folds up to decrease span so the plane can use regular-size airline gates and navigate on standard-issue taxiways while getting all the advantages of a longer, narrow-chord wing design, known in the trade as a “high-aspect ratio” wing. Those advantages, notably, include better fuel efficiency, which is always a great selling point when your market is the airlines.

For small planes like ours, reconfigurable wings—and, really, all of our wings are reconfigurable with flaps and other devices—could, in theory, allow for higher cruise speeds while enjoying good or even improved slow speed handling and lower stall speeds. Win-win. Somebody’s just got to build it now.

Here’s Boeing’s explanation of how it all works with a cool video of the system in action. 

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EAA AirVenture To Celebrate 50 Years In Oshkosh

Twin Yak 110 Oshkosh
The wolrd’s only jet-assisted twin Yak 110. It’s aerobatic and puts on an Oshkosh-worthy performance.

This year’s EAA AirVenture Fly-In marks the 50th year the organization has been putting on the event at the central Wisconsin city that was previously more famous for its overalls. To say that Oshkosh, a name that’s its own tiny poem, is perfect for AirVenture is an understatement. It is impossible to separate the two. In fact, until EAA came up with the AirVenture brand name many years ago now, the show was simply known as “Oshkosh.” The locals called it EAA. They still do, in fact. 

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By the time EAA wound up in Oshkosh, the fly in was already a big show, so big, in fact, that it had outgrown its former home of Rockford, Illinois. But with room to grow at the expansive Oshkosh Airport, with its two large perpendicular runways, the show took off. The organization moved its headquarters to OSH in 1983, and the rest is history.

Every year at what is now known as Wittman Regional Airport, the expansive grounds are filled to slightly beyond capacity. Each year, around 10,000 airplanes fly into Oshkosh or one of its satellite airports to attend the show. And every year hundreds of thousands of airplane nuts like us go through the famous EAA AirVenture Arches to take part in the greatest fly-in in the world. 

USAF F22 at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018
USAF F22 at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018. Photo by Jim Koepnick

The theme at this year’s gathering is The Year of the Fighter, and, yes, we agree that while just about every year is the year of the fighter at Oshkosh, this year promises to be a special one.

  • Featured aircraft will include the USAF F-15, F-16, F-22 and F-35, as well as the A-10 attack aircraft. Oshkosh will also host the first AirVenture showing of an XP-82 Twin Mustang.
  • A special program honoring World War II ace (and incredible story teller) Bud Anderson, with every flying P-51 in the U.S. invited to Oshkosh to participate. While AirVenture can’t say with certainty how many P-51s will attend, it might wind up being the largest such Mustang romp since the war.
  • There will also be a gathering of U.S. Navy fighters, including a few favorites, such as the F4U Corsairs.
  • EAA will also commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, when the Allied invasion of mainland Europe began in earnest. Featured aircraft will include numerous aircraft that actually participated in the June 6, 1944, action, including C-47s just back from a historic anniversary reenactment in France.
EAA AirVenture Arch
The famous EAA AirVenture Arch during a night show in 2018.

Other highlights will include a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first flight of the Boeing 747, one of our favorite airplanes of all time; a salute to Apollo 11 Command Module Pilot Michael Collins; the remarkably popular night drone airshow—attendees raved about it last year—as well as a tip of the hat to aerial firefighting planes.

As usual, there is way too much planned for OSH to share it all here. So for more info to plan your Oshkosh getaway here

EAA AirVenture 2018: Seven Days Of Glory At Oshkosh

EAA AirVenture 2018: Night Airshow Magic

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News and Updates – U.S. Department of Transportation Announces $495M in Airport Infrastructure Grants

The 358 grants will fund infrastructure projects at 327 airports around the country.

Medical Certificate Issues Ends Flying Dream

Medical Certificate Issues
Medical Certificate issues ended a aspiring pilot’s dream of flying.

I took my son to his first air show when he was just 4 years old, about 12 years ago. He absolutely loved it. He sat up attentively, pointing at the sky and looking back at me to make sure I didn’t miss any of the colorful planes looping through their smoke trails. I had secured the perfect spot for our blanket on the lawn, right at the front of the Oshkosh flight line. From that glorious day, Joey was bitten and smitten by the aviation bug. I was sure he would become a private pilot someday, just like me.

Just a month after his 16th birthday, we made a doctor’s appointment with an aviation medical examiner, or AME for short. Our goal was to get Joe his third-class medical certificate so he could begin flying lessons. He had done well obtaining his driver’s license, passing on his first attempt, and doing it driving a six-speed manual transmission, no less! He is a competent and proficient driver. Before his medical exam, we completed all the required forms together on the MedXPress website. The exam with the AME went smoothly, or at least that is what we thought. The physician had access to Joe’s complete medical record, including medication history and diagnosis, including depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. She performed the routine exam and never mentioned that he might have a problem getting his medical certificate. She just said, “You will hear from the FAA in about three weeks or so,” and that was it. Joe and I were so excited about getting him started with flight training. We had an instructor all lined up. It was March, the Wisconsin winter snow had melted, and spring was in the air.

In April, we received a letter from the FAA. We were both so excited that Joe could finally get going on his flight training. Hooray! We sat down and opened the letter together. Much to our dismay, the letter was not an approval.

Dear Mr. Moran:

We have received your electronically transmitted application for medical certification from your Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). Based upon our initial review of this information, we are unable to establish your eligibility to hold an airman medical certificate at this time.

Please note that your medical certificate has not been denied: however …

It pained me to see the look on Joe’s face as we read on. He had gone from elation to anguish in a matter of minutes. So had I. I reassured Joe that this was just a “bump in the road,” and we would work with the AME to get the FAA the additional information it requested in the letter, as follows:

  1. An updated detailed current history and clinical examination from your treating physician regarding your history of ADHD treated with medication. The report should address diagnosis with etiology, history and symptoms, treatment plan, a complete list of medications (name, dosage, frequency of use and side effects) if no longer taking include date of discontinuance, and prognosis. Include the results of any current testing deemed appropriate.
  2. An updated detailed current history and clinical examination from your treating physician regarding your history of Depression treated with medication. The report should address diagnosis with etiology, history and symptoms, treatment plan, a complete list of medications (name, dosage, frequency of use and side effects) if no longer taking include date of discontinuance, and prognosis. Include the results of any current testing deemed appropriate.

The very next day we forwarded the FAA letter to the AME. A few days later she replied by email that it was not her responsibility to provide the additional information the FAA had requested. We would have to obtain this from Joe’s primary care physician (family doctor). I thought this was odd, since that AME and Joe’s doctor worked at the same clinic. The AME had access to his complete medical record electronically, just as his family doctor did. I was disappointed with the way the AME just “washed her hands” from the matter. She had been paid, out-of-pocket, too, since insurance would not cover an aviation medical exam. Furthermore, she is supposed to be the expert in these matters, not the family doctor.

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Joe has had the same doctor his whole life. She is our family pediatrician and has treated Joe and his older sister since they were babies. At 20, my daughter still sees her. She is simply an excellent physician. She also has a military background, having taken the Army route for her medical training. We provided her with the FAA letter requesting more information, and within two weeks she had written an extremely thorough and detailed two-page report addressing Joe’s ADHD, depression, medications and treatment plans.

The report was inspiring and a testament to her skill and ability. She even included personal information about Joe’s character as an excellent student and his involvement with school activities. She could say these things because not only is she the kids’ family doctor, but she is also a neighbor. We thanked her for submitting the information requested with such diligence, which was truly above and beyond what was needed. Joe and I were confident this would be resolved soon.

In June, Joe received another letter from the FAA. The letter came via certified mail and noted that it was sent regular mail as well. “Finally, I can get going on my flight training,” he said as he eagerly opened the letter. He read it aloud as I listened intently.

Dear Mr. Moran:

Consideration of your application for airman medical certification and report of medical examination completed on March 5, 2018, discloses that you do not meet the medical standards as prescribed in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Section 67. Specifically under paragraph…treated with the use of the Aeromedically disqualifying medications Methylphenidate LA and Bupropion ER.

Therefore, pursuant to the authority delegated to me by the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), your application for issuance of an airman medical certificate is hereby denied.

The rest of the letter again contained the legal warnings not to exercise airman privileges unless you hold an appropriate medical certificate and the Pilot’s Bill Of Rights Written Notification.

I must say that with the denial letter, I had lost hope. Joe had not. He asked me, “Dad, you’re a pharmacist. How can the FAA deny my medical certificate simply because I am taking an anti-depressant medication that is clearly helping me? You saw how I was before the medication. I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. And without methylphenidate, I couldn’t concentrate, but now I can. I have straight A’s, a 4.0 GPA, with AP classes. I’m sure I couldn’t achieve this without these medications.” He was right. I didn’t know what to say. Helpless. What I did know is that I would not want Joe to be flying with untreated depression or ADHD affecting his concentration. How ironic. Joe still wasn’t ready to give up. He felt wronged. He identified a sentence in the latest letter and, like a skilled chess player, planned his next move. The sentence read:

This denial does not constitute an action of the Administrator under 49 USC 44703 and is subject to reconsideration by the Federal Air Surgeon (FAS) of the FAA.

I was moved by Joe’s resolve and assisted him in writing a letter to the Federal Air Surgeon. The letter started out summarizing the exam, the additional information provided as requested, and the request for Special Issuance with the two medications. The most touching parts of the letter were the next two paragraphs:

I am 16 years old and greatly want to proceed with flight training to obtain my private pilot certificate. I am responsible, well mannered, and doing great with managing my depression and ADHD. I have completed my sophomore year of high school and have straight A’s so far (GPA 4.0). Obviously, this would be difficult for someone to achieve if their depression and ADHD was not controlled and well managed.

My father is a private pilot and supports my desire to move forward with flight training. He has also been a practicing pharmacist for the past 25 years. He understands the importance of ensuring pilots are not impaired by disease and/or medications to fly safely.

We mailed the letter by certified mail.

A month went by with no response. I called about it weekly, and the same tired FAA staffers would say, “Your application is under review…we do not have a response yet.”

It was the end of July. Joe and I were camping at Oshkosh for AirVenture 2018. We decided to attend an educational session at the Forums on Medical Certificate Issues. How appropriate. The FAA Office of Aerospace Medicine had a strong presence at the show. One of the presenters, an FAA physician, agreed to meet with us back at the FAA Pavilion after the presentation to review our case. Could Joe finally get his Special Issuance? We had hoped we could finally get this resolved face-to-face with the doctors making the decisions. Hooray! We anxiously waited our turn in line and eventually sat down with an FAA staffer, who pulled up Joe’s file on his computer.

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He told us, “His medical certificate has been denied because he is using Aeromedically disqualifying medications Methylphenidate LA and Bupropion ER.” I thought to myself, “Okay, tell me something I don’t know.” “I’m sorry, but there is nothing more we can do.” I asked to speak with the FAA physician we met earlier at the Forum talk. The staffer pointed the doctor out, and we strolled over. At this point, I was at the end of my rope. We had not heard back from the Federal Air Surgeon (we still haven’t). I began questioning the FAA physician with something like, “I have been a hospital pharmacist for 25 years. My son is taking two medications: one for depression that keeps him happy and allows him to get out of bed in the morning, and the other for ADHD, which allows him to concentrate and do well in school.

“He wants to become a pilot, go to college and major in aerospace engineering. Why can’t he proceed with a Special Issuance?” The physician’s response was perhaps the most disheartening thing he could have said. “I’m sorry, that’s just the way it is. Perhaps someday he will outgrow the ADHD and not need Ritalin. He could also try one of the approved anti-depressants.” I told him that Joe had tried sertraline (Zoloft), and it failed miserably. Bupropion ER is the best medicine for his depression. I am not only a pharmacist but also his dad. I see it every day.

Joe is now in his junior year of high school. He still has a 4.0 GPA, plays varsity tennis and is planning on attending college. We still go flying together occasionally and enjoy watching movies starring the actor/pilots I idolize like Harrison Ford, Morgan Freeman, Tom Cruise and John Travolta. I recently asked him if he was still interested in aerospace. He smiled and replied, “Not really; I want to go into the automotive industry.” I can’t help but feel that over the past year, the FAA has possibly displaced the next Wright brother. On the brighter side, the automotive industry may have picked up the next Elon Musk.

Let me close by adding that last week, I chaperoned a bus trip for Joe’s high school automobile class from Madison to Chicago.

We went to the auto show.

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Going Direct: Sully Flies the 737 Max Sim and Why Boeing’s 737 Max Charm Offensive Is Smoke And Mirrors

Boeing 737 Max 8
Boeing 737 Max 8. Photo by pjs2005 from Hampshire, UK, rotated by the uploader [CC BY-SA 2.0] (]

You know your company is in trouble when well-known satire site The Onion sets its sights on your aviation company. In a recent story, the send-up site’s headline read, “Boeing CEO Admits Company Made Mistake By Including Automatic Self-Destruct Function On All 737 Max Planes.” It’s funny because it’s so close to the truth.

The Onion aside, the news these past couple of weeks have been good for Boeing. Let’s rephrase that. The news these past couple of weeks out of Boeing has been good. No, that’s not it either. To give it another try, let’s say that Boeing has changed course in its response to the 737 Max crisis. Nope. But it’s closer. How about this? Boeing has launched a multi-pronged PR campaign in a desperate attempt to salvage its image. That’s the ticket.

Oh, and Sully flew a 737 Max in a scenario similar to what the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air pilots encountered in their unsuccessful attempts to save the day, when MCAS, the disastrously conceived and implemented stability system in the 737 Max, went haywire when sensors failed. More on that in a second.

Oh, and Boeing still doesn’t have a firm timetable for getting the 737 Max, grounded since shortly after the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March. The company is facing demands from several of its airline customers that the carriers be compensated for the loss of revenue they faced when the Max was grounded by regulators.

Back to Boeing’s charm offensive. My first thought, when I heard Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg talk about the crisis, you know, the one in which two planes crashed apparently after an MCAS failure (it was kind of a failure) brought down two planes in the course of a few months, killing a total of 346 people, was that Boeing was doing damage control. Nothing he’d previously said on the subject came close to accepting responsibility for the crisis. But I was keeping an open mind. 

There were two big developments in the company’s attempts to steer its image out of its self-imposed cruise in the Bermuda Triangle, and they were curiously timed to coincide with the Paris Air Show, where airlines come to talk Boeing and Airbus and other airplane manufacturers about ordering planes. It’s not uncommon in Paris for orders of hundreds of planes to get done.

And there was such a deal done at Paris, when on the eve of the show Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg announced that it had reached an agreement with International Airlines Group (IAG) for the purchase of 200 Max planes. Great news, right?

Well, again, kind of. If you go by retail value, the deal would be worth $24 billion, but no one ever pays retail in this world. And the “agreement” reportedly is a letter of intent, which is non-binding. Moreover, IAG wouldn’t take delivery of the planes until 2023, with deliveries stretched out over the next four years. IAG has precious little at stake in making this deal.

The other big non-news item was that Muilenburg has admitted Boeing made mistakes in its response to the 737 Max crisis, in which the company insisted there was nothing wrong with its design or implementation of the MCAS system, or with its lack of transparency on the introduction of the system in the MAX, the first (and surely last) Boeings to get the system.

Now Muilenburg is saying that his response was wrong and he’s sorry for it. There’s a word for an apology made long after the initial offense and only after you’re greeted with widespread condemnation. It’s called a strategy. So, no, it’s not really an apology at all, and how does this guy still have that job?

Oh, yes, back to Sully. The hero pilot of US Airways 1549, which Sully flew to a successful ditching in the Hudson River after both engines quit, flew the 737 Max simulator in a scenario similar to that of the pilots of both Ethiopian Airlines 302 and Lion Air 610. In his testimony in front of the United States House of Representatives this week, Sullenberger said, “I recently experienced all these warnings in a 737 MAX flight simulator during recreations of the accident flights. Even knowing what was going to happen, I could see how crews could have run out of time before they could have solved the problems. Prior to these accidents, I think it is unlikely that any US airline pilots were confronted with this scenario in simulator training.” 


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