SpaceX Launch of Crewed Dragon Module Delayed

Weather held back the final minutes of the countdown to launch for the Dragon on May 27.
Weather held back the final minutes of the countdown to launch for the Dragon on May 27. (NASA/Joel Kowsky/)

The SpaceX launch of the crewed Dragon module atop a Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on May 27, was scrubbed 17 minutes before ignition/light off because of severe weather in the area. The next window for the historic mission will be Saturday, May 30, at 3:22 pm EDT. Another window takes place the next day, May 31, if needed.

While the mission has been 9 years in the making, a delay of even a couple of days heightens the level of anticipation—as Flying contributor Les Abend found as he waited during the last 59 minutes of the run-up to the launch, in the midst of celebrating another special occasion:

“Pleased that Elon Musk had made the decision to celebrate my birthday by launching astronauts to the International Space Station, my wife and I had driven to Cape Canaveral, bike rack and bicycles attached. After examining satellite photos like a CIA analyst, I had devised a strategy that involved positioning ourselves on a shoreline area with an unobstructed view of the event.

“The bicycles would allow us the mobility to park almost anywhere. Of course, no one but me had considered that plan. Within a minute of our arrival, a very polite law enforcement officer with a bona fide sense of humor informed me that he was the “fun police,” and that my strategy was not allowed. We accepted his advice that it was best to consider a libation while viewing the launch via the restaurant decks that lined the south shoreline of Port Canaveral.

“When I had awoke that morning to the sound of a Level 4 thunderstorm, I analyzed the Florida radar picture that was pixelating across my phone’s screen. My airline pilot brain told me that a launch had a marginal chance of happening. So, at T minus 59 minutes, I was surprised that the countdown was continuing. I found myself juggling between my radar app and the live NASA feed. Surely, someone at Mission Control would call me for advice. Infatuated with NASA of the 1960s—and geeked out on its trivia—I recalled the lightning strikes that had disabled Apollo 12’s navigation platform during its launch. That crisis was averted by some quick-thinking engineers, but it left enough of an impression where the current policy was established that if convective activity is within 50 miles, the launch does not occur.

“Though communication between Mission Control and the Dragon capsule held the standard monotone, airline-like demeanor, no doubt the astronauts were feeling the stress of the moment, probably wondering if mother nature was going to foil the day’s plans. At T-minus 30 minutes, my radar analysis indicated that the last band of weather needed to vacate the area more quickly to the east. If the band moved away, the next batch of convection to the southwest might just remain 50 miles away. I was amazed that propellant was still being added to the rocket.

“With approximately 17 minutes remaining, a dry humor comment from mission control that another 10 minutes was needed indicated to me that the launch was scrubbed. When the abort sequence was announced, it was time to beat the crowd. Despite the numerous TVs in the restaurant that were broadcasting NASA Live, it seemed that the other patrons hadn’t quite got the abort message. Surely, we would be the first to exit the parking lot. Once again, my strategy wasn’t an original thought.

“Though enduring the traffic was painful, I could have only imagined the frustration of NASA, SpaceX, and the astronauts. That being said, the appropriate decision was made to abort the launch. After being presented with a career of similar decisions, I had a tremendous appreciation for the protocol that was followed precisely. Thanks anyhow, Elon! Maybe next year’s birthday?”

Air Force Drops Pilot Height Requirement

Women and men outside the Air Force’s previous height ranges are being urged to apply for pilot positions.
Women and men outside the Air Force’s previous height ranges are being urged to apply for pilot positions. ( Samantha Mathison/US Air Force/)

The US Air Force still needs more pilots, despite the effects of the COVID-19 virus on the rest of the aviation industry. Last week, the Air Force removed one more barrier to recruiting the pilots it so badly needs by eliminating the height requirement for applicants. Under the previous Medical Standards Directory requirement, a pilot applicant was required to stand between 5'4" and 6'5" with a sitting height between 34 and 40 inches. While the service said its goal in dropping the height requirement was to attract a more diverse group of candidates, it admitted in a news release, “The previous height screening criteria eliminated about 44 percent of American women between the age of 20 and 29.”

According to the Air Force Times, “Instead of a blanket height requirement, the Air Force said that it will apply an ‘anthropometric screening process’ to figure out which specific aircraft applicants would be able to fly. These measurements, in addition to standing height, also measure an applicant’s eye height while sitting, buttocks-to-knee length, and arm span, are entered into a computer to determine which aircraft the applicant could and could not safely fit in.”

GAMA Reports First Quarter Delivery Numbers

Textron Aviation delivered 48 Cessna 172s in the first quarter.
Textron Aviation delivered 48 Cessna 172s in the first quarter. (Textron Aviation/)

Pete Bunce said, “While the year started off strong, the health and safety restrictions put in place to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic began to significantly impact global operations, supply chains and deliveries towards the end of the first quarter.” Bunce’s remarks were part of the General Aviation Manufacturing Association’s report of first-quarter aircraft shipments—Bunce serves as CEO of GAMA. “Many companies then supplemented ongoing activities with the production and transport of health-care materials needed by front-line health care workers and communities across the globe,” actions Bunce said serve as a testament to the adaptability and resilience of the industry’s workforce.

During the quarter that ended March 31, piston airplane deliveries declined 11.7 percent, with 219 airframes; turboprop airplane deliveries dropped a whopping 41.8 percent, with 71 airframes; and business jet deliveries declined 19.1 percent, with 114 airframes when compared to the same time period in 2019. On the rotorcraft side, turbine helicopter deliveries declined 18.3 percent with 85 airframes, while piston helicopter deliveries declined 43.9 percent sending just 37 machines out the door. Of the 404 total delivers in the first quarter, the majority–294–went to North America, 98 to Europe and nine to South America. Second quarter delivery numbers that should appear in late August are expected to reflect the full force of the COVID-19 virus on the industry.

A quick glance at some of the manufacturers showed Textron Aviation delivered 48 Cessna 172s, six Beechcraft King Air 250s and seven Cessna Citation Latitudes, while Robinson Helicopters shipped 50 airframes, including 15 R66s, 14 R44 Raven IIs, 10 R44 Raven Is, six R44 cadets and five R22 Beta IIs. Piper shipped 25 aircraft, the vast majority being Archer IIs. Pilatus shipped 11 PC-12s and seven PC-24s, while Icon Aircraft shipped six airframes and Honda Aircraft delivered seven HondaJets. Cirrus Aircraft delivered 85 aircraft in the first quarter, eight SR-20s, 20 SR-22s, 39 SR-22Ts and 18 VisionJets. Embraer shipped nine aircraft and Gulfstream delivered 23. More specific details of all delivers is available at GAMA.

ForeFlight Release Lets Pilots Multitask

The latest version of ForeFlight also brings Internet Traffic from FlightAware to the app.
The latest version of ForeFlight also brings Internet Traffic from FlightAware to the app. (ForeFlight/)

ForeFlight released its 12.4 version of the multifunctional flight planning app on May 26, 2020, with a selection of new features that bring feedback from customers into reality. Among the updates: multitasking for iPad, and global traffic (via internet) from FlightAware.

New iOS multitasking allows users to run apps side by side on the display, in a splitscreen mode—but it is only supported on the iPad, not the iPhone version. To view two apps side by side, both must support multitasking—such as Safari. While running the another app, the user swipes up about an inch to open the iOS dock, which is normally seen on the home screen. By tapping and holding the ForeFlight icon, then dragging it to the side of the screen the user wishes to view it on, the user will open the app in splitscreen mode. If the app doesn’t open this way, the underlying app doesn’t support multitasking. Though it may seem like a small thing, the mode took a lot of effort on the team’s part to get it in play—and it makes a big difference when looked at from the viewpoint of cockpit logistics. One projected use? To run the timer on the clock app side by side with ForeFlight. A demo video from ForeFlight demonstrates this and other new functionality.

Other new features include the availability of Internet Traffic from FlightAware to stream live global air traffic, allowing the pilot to analyze airport activity and check on flight status. According to ForeFlight, Internet Traffic is tied to the same Traffic map layer used to display ADS-B traffic, and that layer is now accessible any time the user has an internet connection on the ground. The layer will automatically switch to showing only ADS-B traffic when it’s connected to an external ADS-B In device.

The team also applied a layer of simplification to a number of commonly (and infrequently) used features on the app, including the development of a compact menu that can be accessed via the More tab, and which keeps you on the page you’re currently viewing. Other, less-frequently-used tabs now appear as “modals” the pilot can quickly dismiss by swiping down from the top—such as Downloads and Settings. Checklist and Logbook tabs now open into a full-screen, double-column layout to better utilize the screen real estate. The Frequencies, Services, A/FD, and More tabs have been combined into a single Info tab, and the Forecast Discussion is now nested under the TAF section.

All updates noted are for both the non-European and European versions. For more information, visit ForeFlight.

Tecnam P2010 Gets a Diesel Update

The updated P2010 features the Garmin G1000 NXi flight deck and autopilot.
The updated P2010 features the Garmin G1000 NXi flight deck and autopilot. (Tecnam/Krzysztof Niewiadomski/)

Tecnam announced a new version of its P2010 4-seat, single-engine airplane, with a new Continental CD-170 diesel engine, ready for certification by EASA. The 170 hp engine builds on the success Continental has had with the previous -135 and -155 hp models of its liquid-cooled, turbocharged, fadec-operated diesel engine series. The type certificate is expected by July 2020.

The P2010 came previously with the Lycoming IO-360 engine, at 180 hp, and its IO-390 engine at 215 hp. According to Tecnam CEO Paolo Pascale, the diesel engine enables the new P2010 to outlast its predecessors in range because of the up-to-50-percent reduction in fuel burn—with a top range of 1,050 nm possible. In a news conference streamed on YouTube on May 27, Chris Kuehn, vice president of sales, support, and services for Continental, elaborated that the new engine-airframe combination will make up to 136 ktas at 75-percent best power operation, burning about 6.5 gph (in jet-A or other approved kerosene fuels) or back down to 4.5 gph at 55-percent power, enabling the jump in range from the 660 nm previously posted by prior versions.

The P2010 comes equipped with the Garmin G1000 NXi flight deck, in a modular format that allows customers to make adjustments and updates based on future developments. The €375,000 standard price extends to the initial deliveries that Pascale projects will come in September or October 2020, to launch customers in Africa and Asia. Kuehn reiterated that the new P2010 was based on feedback from operators around the world stymied by the lack of avgas or its cost. “There are a number of potential buyers,” he said.

Picture of the Day: Sharing the ramp

Megan Vande Voort sent in this photo with a note: “Meyer Vande Voort wasn’t alone on the ramp on this spring evening and that made us so happy. A MU2 came to visit Pella Municipal Airport (KPEA) in Iowa. It was so good to see some GA life during these challenging times.” Would you like […]

Sun ’n Fun’s Home Edition Online Airshow Goes Live

The US Air Force Thunderbirds are among the featured performances planned for the event on May 30.
The US Air Force Thunderbirds are among the featured performances planned for the event on May 30. ( Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo/)

Sun ‘n Fun’s Home Edition Online Airshow live event on May 30 will benefit the Aerospace Center for Excellence, to try and make up for funding lost with the cancellation of the Sun ‘n Fun Aerospace Expo in Lakeland, Florida, earlier this month.

The nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization has lost an estimated 80 percent of its funding, which puts many of the scholarships and STEM programs delivered by the center—plus expansion of the center itself—on hold for the foreseeable future.

The Online Airshow benefit promises to be packed with a lot of the airshow entertainment that folks have come to expect from the Aerospace Expo it replaces this year—including live interviews with aviation personalities and pilots, and live commentary on show performances by the US Air Force Thunderbirds, US Navy Blue angels, F35 Demo Team, and performers such as Patty Wagstaff and Michael Goulian. The live stream starts at 1 pm EDT on Saturday—or you can catch the archived footage from this and other Sun n Fun Home Edition sessions on Flying’s Virtual Air Show

During the event, participants can join into the silent auction in order to be eligible for prizes that will be distributed. These include trips and tickets to #SNF21, gear donated by Bose, and other pilot-focused giveaways. Registration is free—you don’t have to bid on anything to win.