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Asiana Airlines fined after SFO crash

The crash of Asiana Airlines made headlines after the 777 jet clipped the seawall at San Francisco airport last summer. The latest update to the story is a ruling that Asiana Airlines has been fined $500,000 for breaking US law.  The fine is in response to the airlines failure to promptly contact family members about the status of their loved ones.  Allegedly the airline took up to 5 days to contact some family members. This crash killed 3 teenagers.

This is the first time the US Department of Transportation has fined an airline for failing to provide prompt and generous service to families of victims.

The airline will have to pay $400,000 and get a credit of $100,000 if it choses to provide educational seminars to their employees of what can be learned in wake of the crash.

Check out NTSB footage of the crash and the original story, including a flight simulator video of the accident.


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Boeing 767 Landing Gear hits Limits on Heavy Crosswind Landing

Watch this amazing video of a very strong crosswind approach and landing at Birmingham airport (BHX) in England (ICAO: EGBB).  The Boeing 767 aircraft experienced severe turbulence on approach and the cross winds were reported at 35 knots. The runways at BHX are 15 and 33, so there was no way to avoid a crosswind in this case. The strong wind was reported perpendicular to the runway and you can see it in the pilot’s aggressive crab approach.

See as this 120 ton Boeing 767 bounces along the runway and how hard it’s right landing gear hits the asphalt. It looks like it didn’t even blow a tire, which seems amazing considering how severe the landing appears.  See how the wings flex in this landing too.

These big airplanes make these types of landings routinely every day. But that doesn’t make them any less amazing!

Image courtesy of

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Short Field Take off and Landing in a Husky

Have you ever seen a shorter ground roll than the  one in this video?  No doubt the pilot is experiencing heavy winds, you can see it in his approach that the winds are quite gusty causing one of his wings to drop.

This type of plane is a very popular backcountry plane with great short field and soft field operations capabilities. Check out how little runway the pilot uses in this video, which looks like no more than 100 feet.

It’s likely so windy, that he probably needs to keep the brakes on just to keep from lifting off straight from the ground.  I’m not sure at the exact model of this Aviat Husky used in the video, but the Husky A-1C has a landing speed of approximately 50 knots.

Take-off distance with full flaps is about 200 feet, and landing distance is 350 feet.  He is clearly using much less than that on takeoff and landing, and he isn’t using any flaps.  So, it is obviously the wind that is helping him out with his short take-off and landing roll.

If you would like to see why wind allows a shorter takeoff and landing roll, check out our article on wind and performance and the video of a Super cub landing and taking off on a mountain ridge. See how heavy winds help a kit plane land and take off from a cargo ship.  Also, see what would likely happen to this plane had it been left unmanned and not tied down.

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Airliners get in the air faster with NextGen at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport

The highly anticipated NextGen area navigation, a type of RNAV equipment is now available at At Dallas / Fort Worth International Airport (DFW).   It has been very successful, allowing the airport to accommodate practically a tripling in departures.  In fact, NextGen satellite procedures allow for a 15-20% increase in departures per hour in congested periods.

What is RNAV?

RNAV is area navigation, which allows IFR aircraft to choose any route between a network of navigational beacons for route finding.  Rather than flying from beacon to beacon, aircraft can fly any route within the coverage of station-referenced navigation signals.  This allows lots of flexibility since aircraft can fly a straight course rather than zigzagging to and from beacons. The beacons are satellite serviced.

Ground based RNAV is serviced by satellites and onboard technology. Image from
Ground based RNAV is serviced by satellites and onboard technology. Image from

RNAV was introduced in the 1960’s and slowly waned in popularity as airlines began to favour inertial navigation systems rather than ground based navigation aids.  RNAV was re-introduced after the massive introduction of satellite navigation.  The procedure uses a combination of onboard equipment and satellites to ensure that aircraft follow a precise path and heading. Conventional RNAV procedures begin only once the aircraft is airborne, while ground based RNAV, such as the one at DFW, begins on the runway.

RNAV departures at DFW. Image courtesy of
RNAV departures at DFW. DFW is the fourth busiest airport in the world by aircraft movements. Image courtesy of

How does NextGen work?

NextGen starts working on the ground and only requires one nautical mile between departing aircraft. This system begins service on the runway and is provided to the aircraft as it enters high altitude airspace.

Conventional departure procedures, which require more correspondence between the pilots and ATC, call for separation minimums with departing aircraft of 3 nautical miles between take-offs. Those two miles make a difference.  American Airlines, who is responsible for 80 per cent of DFW departures, has already reported an increase in throughput of between 10 – 20%.

Most aircraft use RNAV when they are in the air, however the difference at DFW is that RNAV navigation starts on the runway – on the ground, and not in the air.  Hence separation is provided before takeoff allows smaller separation minimums to be observed.

In a congested airport like DFW, this really does make a difference. Less aircraft idling and waiting means fuel savings.  Approximately 95% of  the commercial jet fleet at DFW is equipped to fly RNAV. DFW is one busy airport – as you can see in the image above.  In fact, it is number four in the world for aircraft movements, tallying 650,124 movements in 2012.

What are the benefits?

RNAV allows to conserve flight distance, save fuel, reduce congestion as well as allow flights into airports without beacons. RNAV beginning on the runway offers more time and fuel savings, for example, American Airlines has reported an annual fuel savings of around $10-12 million at DFW due to these improved RNAV technology.  This will also improve local air quality.

Reduces possibility of verbal communication error

Since RNAV provides a pre-determined flight track programmed in the aircraft’s flight management system, this means less communication with pilots and ground controllers.   This is more expeditious than the regular procedure, in which the controller gives the pilot a heading and the pilot will acknowledge it verbally.  This gives less chance for a miscommunication to happen, and the FAA reports it has already decreased pilot-controller verbal correspondence by over one third.  This gives controllers more time to concentrate on traffic that requires more complicated instructions.

This is a very popular technology that will likely be introduced at many congested airports worldwide.



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Unmanned aircraft takes off in high winds

This video is a good example of what can happen if you don’t keep your plane tied down!

This low wing, 2-seater aircraft is parked with only wheel chocks holding it in place.   Considering that the plane actually takes lift in this video the wind must be blowing well in excess of 40 knots.  We’ve certainly had more than our fair share of winds that strong or stronger at CYBW (and most of Southern Alberta for that matter), so it’s not difficult to imagine this could easily happen to our planes should they not be hangared and tied down.

Can anybody tell what kind of aircraft is in this video?

Heavy winds are common in this area due to the effect of the nearby mountains. This fall, we had 6 days or more each month from September to December when the wind was blowing in excess of 25 knots. This also includes two days per month that the wind was blowing in over 30 knots.

High winds sure do increase airplane performance, for example on this super cub landing on a mountain ridge.

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Edmonton City Centre Airport Closure: The End of an Era

The Edmonton city centre airport, or Blatchford field is a historic Canadian airport with a rich aviation history. On November 30, it closed via issuing NOTAM to the aviating public.

Officially closed

As per CARS (Canadian Aviation Regulations), crews put white X markers along the length of the remaining operating runway 12/30.  The other runway, 16/34 was closed over 3 years ago.  The CARS states that, any aerodrome not in service, must have yellow or white X’s, 6 meters in length along the runway.   These markings must be visible from the air.  An aerodrome closed permanently must remove all markings except for these X’s.

It’s sad to see them rolling those white X’s at CYXD.

Crews closing the City Centre Airport permanently. Image courtesy of Global
Crews closing the City Centre Airport permanently. Image courtesy of Global

The airport was officially closed at 5 pm of November 30.  You can see by the image on the left, rolling out the white X markings at dusk at only 5 pm – how early it gets dark in Edmonton that time of year!

Canada’s first licensed airfield

Blatchford field was created in 1929, after Edmonton city council authorized $35,000 to be spent on the airfield (this is over $462,000 in 2013 dollars) and became Canada’s first licensed airfield.  Keith Alexander Blatchford was major of Edmonton from 1924-1926.  It quickly became a hub and allowed Edmonton to boom even during the great depression and was the busiest airfield in Canada.

Where the magic of flight began

I started my journey into flying at City Centre, or CYXD – lovingly known also as the “muni” by local pilots.  Convinced that flying was a great idea, my timing was a bit off  –  I was still in graduate school  and didn’t understand the seriousness of the commitment I was making – and the fact that aviation would change my life forever.   I enrolled in ground school and took my first few flights.

Flying out of CYXD was a lot of fun, I would rush from the university, drive through downtown, and in just a short little drive and there was the airport and flight school.  It was so close and convenient. It was also a fabulous place from which to fly. Nothing really compares to the approach to 30, flying along the North Saskatchewan river over downtown.

Site of the Grand Prix

The airport was a tight community of aviators and the site of many outdoor events. For example, starting in 2005, the airport became the site of the Edmonton Grand Prix Champ Car race, merging with the Indy and Nascar leagues.  They used a portion of runway 16/34 as part of the race track.

Challenges at CYXD

As the airport got older, newer aircraft got bigger and required more runway.  The airport needed to be expanded but this was challenging due to it’s central location.  The increasing runway requirements of larger jets made operation at CYXD impossible.  In time Fokker F-28 and 727-100’s operated from the airfield. However the newer models of these aircraft had larger range and increased weight and runway length requirements made using city centre uneconomical, hence these carriers moved to CYEG, Edmonton international. In it’s final years, it was used primarily for flight training, medevac, general aviation and air charter.

Operating restrictions due to central location

Due to it’s central city location, the airport had several curfew and noise abatement procedures. Strict noise regulations were enforced from 22:00 until 7:00 hours local time. As well, there were height restrictions on all the downtown buildings due to safety measure for approaching and departing aircraft. No building could be built higher than 150 meters. The buildings in downtown Edmonton could not be built above this height due to safety clearance for aircraft.

Closure the result of a long debate

The debate about whether or not to keep the airport open started earlier, in 1992, but in 2009 the process began to begin a phased closure of the airport for certain.  The airport had two runways, 16/34 and 12/30.  On August 3, 2010,  a few short months after I started flying there, an issuing NOTAM officially closed runway 16/34 at 3 am of that day.  We were left with 12/30.

The closure of that runway was largely seen as a political “phase out” move, as having this runway closed did not give the city any extra land to work with. But it sent a strong message that the airports fate is sealed. It will only be a matter of time before it is closed, and that was perhaps the real reason for the phased runway closure.

A special closing ceremony

The closure of the 90 year old airport was marked by several events, one of them a scheduled fly-by of two Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18’s.   The flights were grounded due to weather. It seems mother nature was not thrilled about the closure!  A Boeing 737 belonging to the Alberta Aviation Museum made it out just a few days before the closure.  Though the museum gets to stay, the plane does not fit in with new property boundaries, hence the plane needed to be moved. There was some doubt whether or not preparations could be made and permission granted in time and of the closure, but everything went well.

What will happen to the land?

Most of the area will be developed into a ‘green’ residential community in Blatchford Redevelopment. The new community will bear the Blatchford name as part of homage to the airfield and it’s history.  Some land will be transfered to NAIT (The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology).

Flight schools and charters moved from the area slowly over the years, not knowing when the ‘shoe would drop’ and the City would begin shutting down the airport.  When it finally happened in September, with a firm closure date, businesses were ready to move. Most businesses moved to Villeneuve, Alberta, CZVL, about 35 km north west of Edmonton.  Villeneuve features runways 08/26 and 16/34 (identical to Springbank).

Boeing 737 GIPW: final take off from CYXD to new home in Villeneuve.   Image from: Global News
Boeing 737 GIPW: final take off from CYXD to new home in Villeneuve. Image from: Global News

Impediments to municipal growth?

Due to approaching and departing aircraft, no building in downtown Edmonton could be built higher than 815.34 metres (2,675.0 ft) above mean sea level. This means about 150 meters above downtown. The height restrictions of downtown buildings have impeded several urban projects from proceeding, projects that have been deemed vital to urban densification and allowing more people to live centrally. Activities due to flight activity make developing compact urban neighbourhoods challenging.  The tallest building is the Manulife building, rising 150 meters above runway threshold. Without the airport, the restrictions are dropped and the tallest building could be built to 312 meters, over double the height of the tallest building.

The height restriction is certainly not an impediment to growth – the city of Vancouver also has limits to protect the view of the North Shore mountains, in Montreal the limits are about 200 meters, Paris recently moved restrictions to allow buildings taller than 35 meters to make the Eiffel tower to dominate the skyline. Washinton D.C. also has height restrictions, with buildigs in central areas are generally not higher than 50 meters.  Are those not great cities?

The reason is to control sprawl, however, many cities,  Calgary has a problem with urban sprawl and there are no height restrictions due to central airport activity. So though there are reasons for the closure, as a pilot, I find it sad and upsetting.

The last aircraft to depart City Centre Airport before it was permanently closed.  This lovely image was taken by Jeff Wallace and retrieved from flickr.
The last aircraft to depart City Centre Airport before it was permanently closed. This lovely image was taken by Jeff Wallace and retrieved from flickr.

The last flight departed CYXD on November 30, a 1963 Cessna 172D. Ident C-FWKV flown by Mr. Chris Blower.

The airport closed with this final departure and with a helicopter salute.  It makes me a little misty eyed to watch the heliopters hover outside the control tower. This will be the last flight they observe from that tower.

Goodbye CYXD, and thanks for all the good memories. I’m glad to have been a part of your history.