While you might know the workhorse Dornier 228 and 328 turboprops, you might not be aware that the company has a long history developing amphibious aircraft. Dornier brings that heritage back to the forefront with its most recent announcement: the Seastar CD2 has made a successful first flight in Germany on March 28.
The Seastar is the product of Dornier Seawings, a joint venture between Dornier and two state-owned Chinese enterprises based in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, China. The test flight utilizing the prototype—serial number 1003—was conducted from the Oberpfaffenhofen EDMO Airport (OBF) in Germany, and it lasted 31 minutes. The foundation for the design was an original Seastar developed by Claudius Dornier, Jr., in the 1980s.
Wolfram Cornelius, chief test pilot for Dornier Seawings, said, “First flight was completed successfully and confirmed the nice handling qualities of the Seastar. All systems functioned correctly. The advanced avionic[s] system reflects the state-of-the-art in cockpit design and is a good baseline for future development.”
The joint venture seeks to enhance short- and medium-haul trips at a lower cost and reduced flight time, yet with higher capacity, efficiency, and safety. The Seastar is projected to have a maximum takeoff weight of 5,100 kg (11,220 pounds), a maximum cruise speed of 180 ktas, and a range of roughly 900 nm.
The Dornier Museum in Friedrichshafen offers an in-depth look at the company’s 100-year history.
The FAA last week ruled the Collings Foundation could no longer accept money from people who wanted to ride on the organization’s World War II aircraft. The ruling included a critical look at the NTSB and the agency’s finding following the October 2, 2019, crash of the foundation’s B-17G, “Nine O Nine” at Bradley International Airport (KBDL) in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Though the NTSB conducted the investigation at the accident site last year, the notice immediately rescinding the foundation’s exemption to carry paying passengers came from the FAA. The agency’s action also halted a Collings Foundation request to renew its current exemption, an action required every two years.
The accident occurred shortly after the WWII bomber took off from KBDL about 9:45 am local time. At 9:50 am, one of the B-17 crewmembers told the tower they were experiencing an engine problem and would return to land on KBDL’s Runway 6. The crippled aircraft never climbed higher than 500 feet agl. The B-17 crashed on short final to Runway 6 and burst into flames after striking the airport’s deicing facility. The accident killed five passengers as well as the two pilots. Another six people aboard were injured.
The Collings Foundation fleet was operating under Exemption 6540P of the federal regulations that allow certain vintage aircraft with either an experimental or a limited category airworthiness certificate to carry passengers as part of the living history flight experience. The FAA “historically found the preservation of US aviation history to be in the public interest. Organizations offered to provide short in-flight experiences in exchange for compensation, leading to the term nostalgia flights and later living history flight experience and provided a means for private civilian owners to offset the considerable restoration, maintenance and operational costs.”
The FAA said the Collings Foundation failed to comply with a number of the exemption’s requirements as its reason for the enforcement action. One dealt with the crew chief assigned to the B-17. Crew chiefs are required to assist the pilots with a number of duties on each flight and require extensive training before being allowed serve in that position. The crew chief on the accident flight—who survived—later testified he’d never received any training on the aircraft. He also said he had no knowledge of what his duties should have been while aboard the flight.
The Collings Foundation was required to have established and maintained a safety management system for the entire operation. A safety management system is designed to promote a culture of safety and allow any employee—without fear of retribution—to feed important safety information back to a central source to ensure problems are resolved. The crew chief stated he had no knowledge that the foundation even had an SMS.
The investigation uncovered numerous unresolved maintenance squawks on the B-17. The PIC of the accident flight, Ernest “Mac” McCauley, had flown “Nine O Nine” for 20 years and had logged more time on the model than any other pilot. McCauley held an A&P certificate and served as the foundation’s director of maintenance.
The NTSB discovered magneto and ignition failures on the B-17’s number four nine-cylinder radial engine. “Inspection and testing of engine 4 left magneto revealed the movement of the safety-wired lead caused grounding to the case, which rendered the magneto lead inoperative,” said the FAA report. The right magneto was also “unserviceable.” The point gap on the magneto’s points was less than half of what was called for in service documents that led to the right mag delivering “weak or no spark” to four of the nine cylinders. All spark-plug gaps on the number three engine were also found to be significantly out of tolerance, making it likely neither engine on the right side was producing normal power. Witnesses reporting seeing the aircraft flying right wing low as it attempted to return to KBDL.
Finally, the investigation found the aircraft’s maintenance records lacked key pieces of information that made it impossible to verify whether some required maintenance had ever been performed on “Nine O Nine.” Though the FAA did not ask for comments to the Collings Foundation exemption renewal, the agency said it received more than 1,500. “Most were from individuals who cited the historical and sentimental value of allowing living history flight to continue.” The comments are believed to have been received before the FAA published the list of alleged violations against the Collings Foundation aircraft and the depth of its issues became known.
For the National Guard pilots assigned to keep Washington, D.C., safe from the air, an exercise called Falcon Virgo was conducted in mid-March near El Paso, Texas, to practice the kind of critically important flying needed to prepare for a certification process that occurs regularly for Guard members who will replace those currently on assignment in the nation’s capital. In this exercise, Civil Air Patrol (CAP) pilots were tasked with simulating incursions into restricted airspace to prepare Mississippi Army National Guard members for the upcoming deployment in the nation’s capital.
There were 18 aircraft from CAP and 62 CAP members assisting with exercise Falcon Virgo. Piloting single-engine Cessna airplanes, CAP pilots acted as tracks-of-interest and entered into restricted airspace while North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) aircrews responded, honing their intercept skills. The training area was a restricted U.S. Army range, which simulated the highly-restricted airspace in Washington.
“In a time when all Department of Defense units are under travel restrictions, CAP was still supporting this essential training mission as tasked by our parent organization, the US Air Force,” said Col. Joe Smith, CAP’s Southwest Region commander. “What our volunteer professionals do to help train active duty service members as part of the Total Force is invaluable.” CAP aligns under NORAD’s Continental US Region.
CAP airplanes and crews made about 18 flights per day, flying 24 hours a day from March 18 to 22 along routes designated by the exercise evaluators to meet training objectives. Falcon Virgo is a recurring exercise in support of Operation Noble Eagle, which started as the military response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, to place a greater emphasis on the surveillance and control of the airspace over Canada and the US.
The origins of CAP date to 1936, when Gill Robb Wilson envisioned mobilizing America’s civilian aviators for national defense. After the Civilian Air Reserve (CAR) was formed in 1938, it wasn’t until summer of 1941 when a proposal for a “Civil Air Patrol” made by Wilson, New York Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia, publisher Thomas H. Beck, and newspaperman Guy P. Gannett was approved by the Commerce, Navy, and War departments, and CAP national headquarters opened its doors on December 1 of that year.
According to the CAP, the following day after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a CAP Cessna 172 was the only nonmilitary aircraft allowed in the nation’s airspace and provided emergency management officials the first high-resolution images of the World Trade Center site. Today, with increased federal funding as part of the US Department of Homeland Security, CAP has received new technologies for its emergency services, and as an auxiliary of US Air Force, CAP operates the world’s largest fleet of piston aircraft (560), and sUAS (1,700) to perform about 90% of continental US inland search and rescue missions.
In addition to CAP’s more than 66,000 members who perform homeland security, disaster relief, joint training exercises, and drug interdiction missions, they also have an enhanced mission to develop of aerospace/STEM education, with CAP members serving as mentors to nearly 28,000 young people participating in Cadet Programs.