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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Commercial Air Travel in Fragile State

What's Up by Leroy Cook

Continuing the string of great flying weather, the weather reports encouraged aviation activity last week. After cold frontal passage, one could see tall buildings along College Boulevard in Kansas City while over Butler at 3000 feet.  Airplanes perform better in the dense cold air, reducing time to climb and shortening takeoff run. 
Some of the aircraft seen in the area last week were a UH-60 Blackhawk Army Guard ‘copter, a Piper Archer, two RV-4 homebuilts and a Piper Twin Comanche. A Beech King Air 300 flown by the FAA Flight Check division came through conducting test passes down the instrument approaches, required to confirm obstacle clearance and signal integrity.
Out of the local sheds, Les Gorden flew his Beech Bonanza F35, I had the old Aeronca Champ out for a cruise, Jeff Arnold took the Cessna Skyhawk up and Rebekah Knight borrowed a Cessna 150 to keep current. SkyDive KC had its King Air E90 jump plane up on numerous runs; the skydive season will be closing in about a month.
Keeping up to date on all an aircraft’s inspections and expirations can be a challenge. It only gets worse when you have more than one to keep track of. There’s the biggie, the annual inspection requirement that runs out at the end of the month when last year’s inspection was done. If used in commercial or training service, however, an inspection is required at 100 hours time in service from the last sign-off. Meanwhile, any mandated Airworthiness Directives have to the tracked, some of which are repetitive service-time related, with others being one-time checks. Then there are the database renewals for the GPS navigation boxes, the biennial transponder and static-system certification renewals, and the need to verify the expiration date on the emergency locator batteries. Keeps you busy.
Southwest Airlines’ flight cancellations a couple of weeks back show just fragile our commercial air transportation system can be. In an effort to maximize return on investment in airplanes and crews, an airline tries to operate flights to and from as many cities as possible with the planes it has, using personnel as many hours as rules allow, filling every seat with a paying customer. If weather and traffic backups interfere with the schedule at one end of the flight, it interferes with availability at the other end. If the flight is late, there may not be time remaining on the crew’s duty day. So, the only option is to take the flight off the schedule, leaving passengers to sleep on the airport terminal floor. Been there, done that.
Last week, we posed a World War 2 question, about the British Broadcasting Corporation’s use of a certain tone to introduce newscasts. As two readers told us, the dit-dit-dit-dah was Morse code for the letter “V”, standing for “victory.” It was obtained by using the opening bar of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. For next week’s puzzler, tell us the use of Day-Glo florescent orange paint, applied to some airplanes in the 1960’s. You can send your answer to