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Episode 162: Go VFR at Seventeen-Five

Posted: Sun Dec 06, 2009 9:20 am
by falcon124
Hi Guys,

A couple of comments on the PelAir Westwind that ditched at Norfolk Island:

1. Cleo is a ladies magazine - the pilot has been previously included in the Cleo Batchelor of the Year list ( ... _james.htm) although I'm hearing that these days he's taken and may even have a child - totally unsubstantiated rumour - who knows :)

2. CareFlight is an Air Ambulance service sponsored by the NRMA (an insurance company and also the National Roads & Motorists Association) who run a number of medivac helicopters & aircraft. They subcontract the international charter medivac roles to PelAir, a division of REX (Regional Express), a very popular regional airline here. CareFlight medical staff will be on board but otherwise the aircraft & tech crew are from the provider - in this case, PelAir.

3. The flight was doing a medivac from Tonga to Australia via Norfolk Island and had already traveled over 1,000nm from Tonga.

4. Norfolk island is one of Australia's external territories and is located 772nm east of Australia, 582nm north of New Zealand & 414nm south of Noumea. So, as you can see, it's a LONG way from Australia but still part of us - go figure - welcome to yet another part of the "Big Empty" down here :)

5. Nearest alternates are Noumea & Auckland.

6. Norfolk has no precision approach, a tricky approach to the runway (cliffs dropping away to the sea) and a reputation for fast changing, nasty weather.

PelAir and their parent company REX have closed ranks and aren't talking to the media while the incident is being investigated (understandable). They are also now being audited by CASA to review their policies & procedures, especially as they related to this incident (fuel management being one area that they're likely to look into).

There are some conflicting reports and conjecture, not to mention the outright rumours that go around about an incident like this. Some of the questions and gossip relate to:

Why they didn't have enough fuel to divert 'cos a Westwind can carry a lot of cargo/pax & fuel - folks are saying apparently PelAir allows pilots to not carry stacks of fuel if the weather is fine and no diversion is expected but this flight apparently didn't learn of the weather going sour at Norfolk until they were well past the point of no return

Although some reports talk about the rescue boats being there quickly (expected if it's a planned ditching), there are others that say they were in the water for an hour or 90 minutes before they got out, leading some to suggest it wasn't a planned ditching & maybe they went in on one of their attempts to land.

One story has a ground staff member wondering where they'd gone (no contact for a while) and going outside then seeing lights from the life jackets in the water.

Other info says only 3 people had life jackets on as the flight crew were flat out dealing with the ditching and then getting out so didn't get theirs (which is taken by some to further indicate it wasn't a planned, orderly ditching).

So as with any incident like this, the rumours, gossip and crap is flowing big time. We're waiting for the investigation reports before we can really make comment. No doubt it'll once again be a number of holes in the cheese aligned with sad results, although at least everyone got out alive, so that's a major bonus. Got to congratulate everyone for that outcome.

We'll keep you posted as more news comes up down here but it may be a while before the accident reports start being released.



Re: Episode 162: Go VFR at Seventeen-Five

Posted: Sun Dec 06, 2009 5:18 pm
by PilotBillFromTexas
re: Cessna killing the LSA market. I really don't think so.

Knowing how the automotive factory/dealership relationship works, I'm pretty sure that it's a similar situation with airplanes. My premonition is that there will be some dealers who have not seen the light with LSA and don't want to accept the Skycatcher 1.) because the profit margin on the Skycatcher will probably be a fraction of that on a C-182, for example, 2.) the LSA will rent out at a smaller margin than a C-172 and they don't want existing customers to trade down and 3.) they are not comfortable with the whole sport pilot thing and are not interested in the lower economic end customer.

They won't have a choice. The factory will tell them that if they want to get more C-182's then they will have to take X number of Skycatchers. They will also probably mandate that the Cessna Pilot Centers adopt LSA training as part of the whole CPC program. This will bring in a whole lot of CFI's who have also up until now had no interest in the LSA concept.

It's a huge validation for the LSA concept. I don't see a downside from that perspective.

Keep antique airplanes flying

Posted: Mon Dec 07, 2009 3:52 am
by sballmer

Regarding your comment on whether we should be flying antique airplanes - yes by all means! Grounded airplanes are dead airplanes!

Shortly after getting my sea plane rating in a PA-18S Piper Super Cub up in Alaska (btw: some of the best flying I have ever done), I visited the Swiss Museum of Transport in Luzern, Switzerland. My heart sunk as I saw a PA-18S dangling from wires like a painting form the past. Switzerland has outlawed sea planes altogether... (As a Swiss citizen I apologize for my government, but hey, I fled the country...)

And recently I visited the Museum of Aeronautical Science at Narita airport here in Japan, only to see a gutted C-152.

I since stopped going to aviation museums because it is just too depressing for me. Yes those original flying machines require some extra respect, and need to be treated appropriately. But their spirit is best preserved by flying them.

Getting your PPL being foreigner.

Posted: Mon Dec 07, 2009 11:52 am
by Tomasz
Being a foreigner who just got through this process I have to add a word of clarification:

- TSA approval is needed only for initial training, instrument rating and MEL. All other ratings can be done without TSA approval.
- the documents you upload and fingerprinting happens only once - they store the data and there is no need to redo this
- and yes, you have to write the check ($130) every time you apply.

More info here: and my own comments on my process here

Not that I personally like the policy, but it's really not that big of a deal. And hey - I don't have to have this funny endorsement in my logbook saying that my CFI certifies that I'm a US Citizen and thereof I could be train without TSA approval :-)

Re: Episode 162: Go VFR at Seventeen-Five

Posted: Mon Dec 07, 2009 3:03 pm
by jackhodgson
Tomasz, I'll be happy to be corrected on the need to redo the TSA check each time. FranSan, who is the SP student I was referring to, will be posting his perspective here soon.

-- Jack

Re: Episode 162: Go VFR at Seventeen-Five

Posted: Mon Dec 07, 2009 3:07 pm
by jackhodgson
SBallmer, I was mostly playing devils advocate on the "don't fly antiques" thing. My feeling is, if it doesn't fly, it's not an airplane, it's a sculpture. But I DO think that some sort of additional special training is in order.

-- Jack

PS. You're not THAT SBallmer are you?

Re: Episode 162: Go VFR at Seventeen-Five

Posted: Tue Dec 08, 2009 11:22 am
by Laminar
In the episode, Jack says " require extra training to fly taildraggers (and complex, twin, high performance...)

I'm not sure I would have put it that way.

Where I come from an airplane with a tailwheel is called "conventional." I remember requiring extra training to learn how to fly a 172, just so I could take my flight test. I enjoyed it, I guess, but it sure was expensive to get checked out in an airplane the examiner was willing to fly.

I'm sure Champguy would agree.

-Rick (the Cub guy)

Re: Episode 162: Go VFR at Seventeen-Five

Posted: Tue Dec 08, 2009 12:45 pm
by champguy
You betcha
Conventional planes like mine, and so many others have been rebuilt from the bare tubing out, probably more than once, and may well out last the aluminum spam cans which never really recover if they ever get corrosion started.

On the other hand, when you start talking Golden Age planes you get some quirky handling that makes through checkouts a really good idea, and they should be flown by folks with a healthy, hands on respect for them. That may not be the same people who can afford to go out and buy them.

Re: Episode 162: Go VFR at Seventeen-Five

Posted: Tue Dec 08, 2009 9:11 pm
by eaglepilot
I can't remember where we were talking about this, but in answer to the question "How much does it cost?" to get your pilot's license, my new answer is "$500 a month, most people complete in 6 to 9 months"

Human nature is to think that we will always be at the "better" end of the scale (e.g. 6 months), instead of the more realistic 9 months. It also gives the questioner an engrossing calculation to make, and allows them to solve it, thereby thinking that they are smart enough to be a pilot.

Just a little behavioural marketing.

Hint-Why is it most people think they are better than average drivers, as opposed to the actual accident statistics?

Re: Episode 162: Go VFR at Seventeen-Five

Posted: Wed Dec 09, 2009 1:13 pm
by sballmer
PS. You're not THAT SBallmer are you?

I just checked my bank account - I think the answer is no... ;)

Getting your PPL being foreigner.

Having gone through the Alien Flight Student Program (AFSP) myself twice (Private, Instrument) I can confirm Thomasz's remarks. For me the process was done in about 1 week, amazingly efficient for the TSA. But before I give too much praise I want to add three more points:

  • The training approval expires after one year - if you haven't passed your checkride by then, you have to re-apply, and yes, pay again.
  • You can't train with any CFI - the CFI or flight school needs to be registered with the AFSP, and you can't switch instructors. For my club this meant that I was only able to fly with one CFI.
  • The prohibition to change CFI leads to a really absurd situation when training for an Instrument rating: As a private pilot I am allowed to fly practice instrument approaches under the hood with any safety pilot, who of course can be a CFI or CFII. But if I want to "train for an instrument rating", I have to do it with the one approved CFII (or flight school)...

-- Stefan