The Great American Eclipse

27 years ago as a young boy, I remember seeing my first solar eclipse at the Buehler Planetarium at Broward College in Davie, Fl. At the time I can remember thinking, what’s the big deal? Why are my parents dragging me to this open field on a college campus in 100 degree heat to watch the Moon pass in front of the Sun? I would much rather be playing or swimming or doing anything else except looking in the sky with these weird, ugly glasses on.

2017 Total Solar EclipseFast forward to this past Monday, August 21st and I find myself standing outside, wearing those same ugly glasses, in complete awe of what I am witnessing. I understand now why my parents made such a big deal about it all those years ago. It is an experience I will never forget. Now being a parent of 2 small children, I can’t help but think to myself that I cannot wait for the next solar eclipse so that they can witness this truly amazing celestial event.

2017 Total Solar EclipseThis eclipse was called “The Great American Eclipse” because it was the first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in nearly 100 years. The eclipse followed a 67-mile-wide path across the United States and millions of Americans witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime event as the Moon passed between the Earth and the Sun and day turned to night for up to almost three minutes. The next coast-to-coast total solar eclipse will be August 12, 2045 and will travel on a course starting in northern California and exiting the United States in central Florida. There is also another pretty great eclipse occurring on April 8, 2024 being called “The Great North American Eclipse.” It will cut a path from Mexico to Texas to Maine and the maritime provinces of Canada.latest409601712copy

Make sure you don’t miss the next total solar eclipse, it’s a must see event and make sure to get your kids outside looking skyward. It is a great big universe out there and you never know what you will see. They will appreciate you making them wear those funny looking glasses and one day they will thank you for it.

Listed below are a few great websites for information on this eclipse and future eclipses.

 

Photo Credits:  Top Image: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani – Middle Image: NASA/Rami Daud – 2nd Image From Bottom: NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory – Bottom Image: Hinode Internaational Solar Observation Satellite

 

 

 

 

 

Autopilot Troubleshooting

By James Brewer

Your guy on the inside at SEA

As an avionics tech, I have specialized in autopilots primarily. I find it quite fascinating using electronics to do motive work in flying the aircraft, and how interesting it is using the electromagnetic force to overcome gravity! At least, when it’s all working well.

When there is a problem with an autopilot, it helps to have an understanding of the system. All autopilot systems have the same basic tasks to perform and so have (mostly) the same type of components involved. In short, they need to know what the airplane is doing and what it is supposed to be doing. It does this through the use of sensors and feedback loops. (With feedback loops nested inside feedback loops and more feedback loops inside of those feedback loops.)

Let’s get into the basic components that an autopilot needs to function.

  • Gyro. Typically a spinning mass to let the autopilot (and pilot) know that attitude ofAuto pilot the aircraft. Although accelerometers are beginning to replace the spinning mass, they provide the same type of information to the autopilot. You could say it is the heart of the system, but in staying with the biology metaphor, it is more like the inner ear where we get our positional information from.
  • Computer. Something has to do all the thinking! They take on many forms, but like all computers they take in information and output control data. Newer ones are real computers with processor chips, but the older ones are able to process the data without changing it to 1s and 0s.  (personally, I find that quite amazing)
  • Control mechanism (servo). The muscle of the system. The part that changes electronics to motion. Yes. I know that technically the electronic and the mechanical energy both come from the electromagnetic force, so it’s still fundamentally the same thing being used, but it is a conversion none the less. It’s all the more fascinating when it’s a vacuum servo! I wish I could have been there the day those were invented! “Hey, why don’t we use this whoopee cushion to fly an airplane?” “Great idea! Let’s get started!”

That really sums up the basics for an autopilot system. Everything else is another layer added on to the system to change what the computer thinks it needs to do. If there is an autopilot problem, the basic system needs to be checked since all other functions are dependent on them.

In flight, the best way to check the basic system is to get the aircraft straight and level and engage the autopilot with no modes (or only flight director mode) in clean air. At this point the basic feedback loops are in use and under control by the autopilot. Any deviation will be an indicator of a problem. Such as:

  • A slow wing rock or a pitch porpoise can indicate a problem with the control mechanism; be that a drive motor, bladder, feedback motor, or loose control cables.
  • A fast wing rock or pitch porpoise indicate a problem with the gyro. This failure mode is faster because it is reacting to the feedback loop that is the airplane itself. Autopilot 2The gyro is putting out information saying that it is moving and the computer is commanding the control mechanisms to drive quickly to get back to where it is supposed to be.
  • Drifting or climbing / diving uncommanded. Just like the wing rock and pitch porpoise, this one has degrees of difference separating the failure modes. A quick turn or dive indicates a problem with the gyro, where as a slow change indicates a problem in the control mechanism.

If the autopilot system handles basic flight with no problems, add in some offset by changing the aircraft attitude. Or more simply, grab the wheel push it. Change the attitude and see how it responds. It should return to straight and level flight. If not, see the above points for suspected problems. If no problems exist, check the modifier buttons; UP and DOWN. These are generally part of the computer and change its internal settings. A failure here indicates a problem in the computer itself.

If everything is still checking out OK, you can move on to the additional layers of complexity and additional components (sensors). Start with Heading mode. If it does not follow the bug correctly, there is most like a problem in the component that provides the heading information (HSI, DG). Next move on to the Course/ NAV mode. If the system doesn’t follow the CRS pointer, then the most likely culprit is the component that has the course data (HSI/DG). If it does not follow the NAV needle it’s likely the NAV source (radio or GPS).

Staying with the roll axis, move on to Approach if the Course/NAV modes pass. If this fails but NAV was OK, it can likely be a faulty computer. There are gains in the feedback loops that are changed inside the computer when switching to approach mode. Move on to Back Course to check that the system knows the difference. Again, a failure here is likely the computer if all other tests have passed.

Moving to the pitch axis, engage Altitude Hold mode and make sure it holds. Manually change the altitude and see if the autopilot recovers correctly. Next, adjust the speed of the aircraft. This will cause the autopilot to adjust the attitude of the aircraft to compensate to maintain the correct altitude. Failures here indicate a problem with the autopilot system altitude sensor (generally not the same as an altimeter). Likewise if the autopilot is equipped with an Indicated Airspeed mode. The aircraft will adjust as necessary to maintain the indicated speed. Failures here indicate a problem with the airspeed sensor (most likely) and just as with the altitude sensor, it is probably not the same as the airspeed indicator.

Glideslope mode can be difficult to troubleshoot. But as with most inputs to the autopilot computer, it is likely the sensor (GS antenna and or NAV radio.)

Most autopilots go through quite a bit of Pitch Trim testing as part of their initial internal tests. And quite often it is manually tested on the ground as part of a preflight. Testing it in the air is the same as on the ground. Set the autopilot up for straight and level flight, and then offset the pitch axis with the control wheel. The auto trim should kick in to recover the aircraft. Just don’t offset it too much! (Not that I speak from experience with that. Many years ago. With reoccurring nightmares.) A failure here actually indicates the pitch servo as the main culprit as the sensors that tell the computer that it needs to adjust the trim setting are located in the pitch servo, not the pitch trim servo.

Aside from some other less common options, that sums up most checks and in general the additional modes are going to be related to their unique sensors. (½ Bank mode is just a nightmare so I don’t want to talk about it. Suffice to say, it’s probably the computer, or the servo, but maybe the gyro)

PanelThis of course is by no means a comprehensive troubleshooting guide, and comprises thousands of pages of technical information along with too much tribal knowledge compressed as densely and as concisely as practical. The purpose of this being to give an understanding of how an autopilot tech thinks about the system and provide a means of communicating a failure mode as precisely as possible to eliminate troubleshooting time and expenses. One of the good and bad things about autopilot failures is that they generally manifest themselves in flight. This is bad because it can be expensive to troubleshoot an odd problem, and good in that I enjoy test flights.

Of course all of the information above presupposes correct wiring and structural integrity. If there has been major work done to an airplane, check that area first before troubleshooting the autopilot. For example, if a wing has recently been replaced, it’s a good idea to pass that information on if there is a wing rock problem in the autopilot; before two techs spend 40 hours each troubleshooting, scratching their heads since it passes on the ground and fails in the air then finding out about the wing replacement and finding a loose connector that would have been looked at in hour one had that knowledge been available. Hypothetically of course.

Below is a quick checklist that I have used when checking out an autopilot system in flight. It’s quick and paints the problem with a broad brush, but it does help to narrow down complicated problems into manageable sections that can be addressed individually.

In flight (assuming self-tests pass)

  • straight and level
    • AP eng – level flight
    • Offset aircraft – recover
    • Maintain offset – trim function
    • UP / DN modifier
  • Roll tests
    • HDG mode
    • NAV
      • CRS pointer OK
      • NAV needle OK
    • APR – gains
    • BC – opposite gains
  • Pitch tests
    • ALT HOLD
      • offset aircraft / recover
    • GS – capture and follow

And as always, make sure to follow all applicable flight instructions, operating handbooks, pilot’s guides, and other such directives when flying.

P.S. I wanted to write about the recently discovered (maybe) 5th fundamental force that will (possibly) add to gravity, electromagnetism, the weak nuclear force, and the strong nuclear force. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a way to relate it to aircraft. Unless it’s the force that causes avionics to fail….hmmmm

Drone Rules for the Recreational Operator…Part 2

As the drone or UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) industry continues to flourish, the publicdrone1 continues to eat up everything drone related. The FAA estimates the number of consumer drones stands at over 1.1 million and by 2021 they are expecting that number to increase to 3.5 million. With that many drones in the sky, UAV’s are a very hotly debated topic right now. Many people and government agencies have several concerns when it comes to recreational drone use, such as:

  • Privacy
  • Unmanned Aircraft vs. Manned Aircraft
  • Skill Level of Pilots

So in Part 1 of this blog we listed several rules to follow so that you can stay out of trouble and fly safely. We are going to re-list those regulations to refresh your memory, because there have been some changes to those rules. The biggest one being that you no longer have to register your drone with the FAA, as long as they are operated in compliance with section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act. If you already registered your drone and you wish to delete your registration and receive a refund of your registration fee, access the Registration Deletion and Self-Certification Form.

Here are some of those regulations to abide by:drone2

  • Always keep you UAV in your line of sight
  • Fly below 400 ft at all times
  • Never fly above a group of people
  • Make sure your drone is under 55lbs
  • Always avoid manned aircraft and never operate in a careless or reckless manner
  • Understand airspace restrictions and requirements. Know your TFR’s (Temporary Flight Restrictions)
  • Never fly within 5 miles of an airport without previous permission from both the airport operator and air traffic control tower
  • Do not fly near emergency response efforts such as fires or accidents
  • Never fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol

These are just a few of the rules that you should be following when you are flying your drone. It seems like a daily occurance where we are hearing of another drone operator not following the rules. Close calls with manned aircraft, flying in restricted areas, or causing damage or harm to people or property are the most common regulations broken. Listed below is a list of links and their descriptions that will give you all the information you could ever want about flying drones. These links are there for you to educate yourself before flying. The more you know, the less likely you are to have an issue with the regulations. Fly safe!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Ready For Hurricane Season?

Hurricane season is upon us once again. The official Atlantic hurricane season stHurricanearted June 1 and runs through November 30. Experts are forecasting the 2017 season to be more active than historical averages with regard to the number of named storms. NOAA is forecasting 11-17 named storms, 5 to 9 of which would become hurricanes and 2 to 4 which will be considered major hurricanes.  These major storms can cause considerable damage to or total loss of your aircraft. So do you have a game plan for keeping your aircraft safe during this busy hurricane season?

GivFloridaen the unpredictable nature of hurricanes, even the best-made plans can break down in the face of a storm, but having a plan at least puts you ahead of the game. The first thing you should do is check your insurance policy and make sure it is up to date and you know everything that it covers. Here are just a few precautions you can take to give you and your aircraft a fighting chance during a major storm.

    1. Don’t take any chances and get out! Make sure you pay attention to the “cone of uncertainty” that is projected by the National Hurricane Center. Each tropical system is given a forecast cone to help the public better understand plane upside downwhere it’s headed. If you are able to get your aircraft out of this projected path you have a much better chance of making it out with no damage. Try and keep a list of airports and their contact information so that you can make educated decision on where to go. Just keep in mind you will not be the only aircraft owner or pilot getting out of Dodge. Make sure to give yourself  a sufficient amount of time to get to your chosen evacuation airport or FBO.
    2. If you don’t have enough time to get your aircraft out-of-town, the next best thing is to get it into a safe hangar. A good hangar will be the best protection for aircraft during any severe storm. You are going to want to attempt to secure a hangar spot as quickly as possible because these spots will be costly and they will be gone before you know it. Remember though that hangars are not 100% storm-proof and there is still the possibility of your plane getting damaged if the hangar were to collapse or become damaged itself. So move fast but find the safest and strongest hangar possible.
    3. It’s Hail Mary time. If you can’t leave the area and there is no hangar space available, the last thing you can do to give your aircraft a fighting chance is to tie it down. Here is a list of procedures you should try to follow if you must resort to tying your plane down:
      • Make sure the surrounding area is clear of all debris that could become flying projectiles.
      • If possible park your aircraft up wind from all other aircraft. This will Tie downprevent them from blowing into your plane if they become loose.
      • Move it to the highest ground you can to stay away from flooding.
      • Make every effort to park your plane with the nose into the wind.
      • Double check that all doors and windows are closed and locked. Also cover all engine openings and pitot-static tubes, to protect them from any flying debris.
      • Choke the wheels and deflate the tires to keep the airplane from rolling around.
      • Use both an external and internal control lock.
      • Most important is to make sure you have top rated ropes or chains and tie down anchors that are in top-notch condition. If you are not using chains, use nylon or Dacron rope because of its higher tensile strength and make sure to not leave any slack when tying off.

Hurricanes and tropical storms can turn an airport into a junk pile in a hurry. Plan ahead and make sure you have a solid game plan in place well before any storms are threatening. Take the time to familiarize yourself with your procedures, aircraft manuals, and local airport/FBO policies. Of course it goes without saying to make sure your family and home is your first priority. Keep this American Red Cross Hurricane Safety Checklist handy when the time comes. Stay informed and don’t wait until it’s too late to take the necessary precautions to keep you, your family, and your aircraft safe.

Statistics and information from NOAA, The Weather Channel, and The National Hurricane Center.

 

 

ADS-B ASAP

Tired of hearing about ADS-B yet? Time marches on as the January 2020 deadline draws closer. It is safe to say that the FAA will not extend thisCapture deadline. FAA Acting Deputy Administrator Victoria Wassmer assures everyone of that fact, “I’m going to say this as plainly as I can: the ADS-B equipage deadline is not changing. If you plan to fly your plane in most controlled airspace after December 31, 2019, you’re going to need to install ADS-B.”

The FAA has estimated that there is between 100,000-160,000 GA aircraft that will need to be ADS-B equipped to fly after the deadline. So how many of those aircraft are equipped with 31 months left before time runs out? As of June 1, 2017 the FAA reports that 26,414 GA aircraft have been equipped with ADS-B. That is a scary number. With approximately 1,100 certified repair stations ready to install ADS-B, now is the time to get serious about a solution for your aircraft. Getting an appointment in an install shop will be harder to obtain as the deadline approaches, not to mention the possibility of higher install prices. There are certain factors in an ADS-B installation that an average A&P mechanic cannot and should not handle. Equipping sooner rather than later helps in case there is an issue with the installation. This will allow you time to fix the problem affecting the performance and compliance of your system and then take your test flight to validate that your system is working properly.

So why are so many aircraft owners and operators still not ready to equip? Why does it seem like so many are waiting until the last minute?

  • Some say they are waiting for the prices on ADS-B units to drop. It does seem like prices have gotten about as low as they are going to get. Also lets not forget about the FAA’s $500 rebate, which runs for one year or until all 20,000 rebates are gone. Here’s the good news about the ADS-B rebate, it’s not too late to get yours. As of June 5 there are still 13,828 waiting to be reserved before the cut off date of September 18, 2017.
  • I’m selling my aircraft anyways, so why should I spend the money for the upgrade? Well that’s fine but go ahead and deduct the price of an ADS-B system from your ground-plane-garminidea (3)asking price, because one of the first things most buyers are going to ask is if the plane is compliant with ADS-B. The value of your aircraft will depend on whether or not you have at least a validated ADS-B Out system installed. If you still don’t want to upgrade, just find a nice parking spot for your plane because it will probably be there for a long time.
  • I just don’t see the value in getting ADS-B. Really…how is that possible? The value in ADS-B and NextGen should be very easy to see by now. It is the most advanced and most accurate way to track and position aircraft in our skies. It improves the communication between air traffic controllers and pilots, given them both an accurate and exact location of every plane in the surrounding airspace. Pilots have never had this much situational awareness in the cockpit. Not to mention if you are flying with ADS-B In, having the free weather and traffic information right in front of you is very beneficial.

Despite recent comments made by the President about ATC, the ground based radar system we have had in place for 80 years has served our airspace well.  But like all thingsADS-B Coverage it must come to an end. The state-of-the-art ADS-B system will provide safer skies by giving the ATC and pilots more information, less impact on the environment by reducing the amount of fuel you will use because of more direct routes, and by providing coverage where radar does not exist, such as the Gulf of Mexico and mountainous terrain. This will help with search and rescue operations in the event an aircraft does go down. So however the new President changes our ATC system, there is no realistic way around the foundation of ADS-B Out (i.e. GPS position data of aircraft).  While there may be plenty of other ideas and theories out there still being discussed, ADS-B is what we got and unless someone can offer any other economical, reasonable, and implantable solutions, that’s what we are going with by 2020.  If you’ve got something better, then I’ll wait to hear from you.

Destination: Florida’s Space Coast

Looking for unspoiled beaches, world-famous surfing and mind-blowing rocket launches? Look no farther than Florida’s Space Coast. stretching 72 miles along Florida’s east coast from Sebastian State Park to Canaveral National Seashore. It is only 45 minutes east of Orlando and its biggest cities include Cocoa Beach, Melbourne, Palm Bay, Port Canaveral, Titusville, and Viera. There are endless things to do and see on the Space Coast, so if you are looking for a warm and sunny adventure packed summer vacation, then this is the destination for you.

MLBYou can start your vacation by flying into Orlando Melbourne International Airport, which was recently named the No. 1 Most Scenic Airport Landing in the U.S., and No. 8 Most Scenic Airport Landing in the world by PrivateFly, then make your way to some of the best beaches Florida has to offer.

When you find your beach look up, you might just see why it is known as the Space Coast. It got its name from the relationship it has to America’s space program at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and the Canaveral Air Force Station located at Cape Canaveral. Ever wonder why the Brevard County telephone area code is 3…2…1, liftoff! Even Delta airlines got in on the space theme designating their last flight of the day from Atlanta to Melbourne as DL321. You can pretty much pick any beach or unobstructed location on the Space Coast to watch a launch, but some will offer a much more amazing view than launchothers. Here are just a few of those spots. For many more spots to watch a launch and much more info on the schedule visit: http://spacecoastlaunches.com/

  1. Playalinda Beach is one of the closest locations for viewing being just 5 miles away from Launch Complex 40 and Launch Complex 41 where the Atlas V and Falcon 9 launch from. Beware if it is a launch from Complex 39A, the beach may be closed because of how close it is to that launch pad.
  2. Max Brewer Bridge and Space View Park are best for Launch Complex 39A launches, but both are a great spot for nearly all launches.
  3. The Cocoa Beach Pier and Lori Wilson Park are both excellent locations for most launches and while waiting for the launch you can grab a drink or do some fishing at the pier.
  4. If you would like an up close viewing spot and don’t mind paying for the ticket, then the best place for you is the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. This will get you the best seat anywhere around to watch any of the launches. For more info visit: https://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/events/events-calendar/see-a-rocket-launch

ron jonDon’t like just sitting around on the beach? Well grab a surfboard and hit the waves on the surf capital of the east coast. The legendary Cocoa Beach is home to several of the worlds best surfers such as Kelly Slater, Dana Brown, and the Hobgood brothers Cj and Damien. Never surfed before and you really want to catch some waves…no problem give the Ron Jon Surf School a chance to teach you. Oh yeah don’t forget to visit the Ron Jon Surf Shop, the worlds most famous surf shop, which is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Another very cool outdoor adventure that should definitely be on your bucket list while visiting is a Bioluminescence Kayak Tour. Florida is one of 6 places in the world where you can see bioluminescence in nature. What is bioluminescence? It is microscopic organisms called dinoflagellates, or plankton, which create an ethereal bioluminescent effect as a defense mechanism. So every paddle stroke produces a glowing blue/white bioluminescence-on-shorelight in the water when the plankton are disturbed and every wake of the other kayaks leaves a glowing trail. Hopefully you’ll also get to see the fireworks show that the jumping mullet provide when they hit the water.  May through November are the best months to view this unforgettable experience. For more info on tours check out A Day Away Kayak Tours or BK Adventure.

This is just a glimpse of what Florida’s Space Coast has to offer. Some of the other must see things are the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Brevard Zoo, Exploration Tower, U.S. Air Force Space & Missile Museum, and Canaveral National Seashore. The Space Coast has so much more to offer visitors than just being the place where NASA is located. Make sure to explore all that Brevard County’s Space Coast has to offer. Southeast Aerospace is proud to call Brevard Co. home for 20 years now. You might just end up staying too.

 

Wishy Washy Warranty

By Joe Braddock

As the market continues to ebb and flow, competition has reached an all-time high. Some companies are doing whatever they can do to make a sale. Desperation leads to cutting corners, cheating customers, and sometimes even flat-out ripping someone off.  Many of us are very price driven. Most customers and even some government agencies, make it very known that the “low bidder” wins.  Understandable for the most part, but a problem in the aviation industry.

From the outside looking in, most people tend to believe that the aviation industry is heavily regulated, secure, and not the type of industry that would lend itself to ‘bargain-basement’ practices.  However, that is not the case.  Often when people who are not in the aviation industry hear that some people remove parts from crashed aircraft and resell them to put in other aircraft, they are very surprised.  However, it happens every day and has for decades. It’s not illegal but some of this is certainly questionable in the whole picture of aircraft safety.  Most of the companies fly well under the FAA regulatory radar because they have no connection to any regulatory practices or agency so they are in this “gray market” as it has been named.

Dont Worry

Many companies who are not repair stations outsource the 8130s and certification for what they sell usually to the shop that will do it for the lowest price.  Makes sense, right?  In most cases, when the low bidder shop provides the piece of paper that this parts sales company wants, they are not providing any sort of support. The bargain shop issuing the 8130 may do a quick function test and that’s about it at best. With that, no knows what could be growing inside that unit or what else might be going on with it other than it might turn on. For some, it’s just that piece of paper the 8130 is printed on that matters and that’s all.

Messy Shop.JPG

SO, WHO CARES?

How does this affect the ultimate end user?

The cliché – “You get what you pay for” – never seems tattooto be irrelevant.  If you want cheap, then in most cases you will get cheap.  However, with aircraft parts, we are talking about more than a cheap pair of $2 sunglasses falling apart in your hands.

JUST A PIECE OF PAPER

An FAA Form 8130 should mean something more than the paper it is printed on. Unfortunately, to many of these companies it is not. An 8130 form is meant to show proof that a part conforms to its original design and is in a condition for safe operation.  “Safe” iFake8130s the keyword – do you want to feel safe when flying on an aircraft?  I’m sure most people would say yes, but I guess you never know.  Low bidding and 8130 printer shops are taking the quickest, easiest route to bench test a unit. Some are not even doing that as seen by what they reference (or do not reference) on the 8130 form. As mentioned earlier, the unit is not opened up to see what might be going on inside. Using the car analogy, if you want to make sure your car is safe and will get you where you need to go, you might look under the hood at some point.

REALLY A WARRANTY AT ALL?

Beyond safety, what is your understanding of a warranty?

In most cases, low bidder shops are not backing 8130s they issue with any warranty. Therefore, the question then gets directed to the company selling the part.  Since they have no way of knowing the performance or potential reliability of the unit they are selling, they just guess in most cases.  6 months? 1 year? – “Sounds good. That will help me sell it.”

So what happens when a warranty situation arises in this scenario? We have experienced many companies who just flat out will not support the unit.  Some want to argue about the particulars of what exactly is covered under THEIR warranty.  For example, the transmitter is not covered under their warranty because the shop that gave them the 8130 doesn’t cover the transmitter in their $100 or $200 bench check.  Huh?  But you said it had a 1 year “warranty”.

So I guess there is this new definition for “warranty”.  Sure, some warranties have limits, terms, etc. such as mileage or years on a car.  Or, time and/or cycles on an aircraft engine. However, that’s not what we are talking about here.  When I bought the unit, I asked you if your warranty was a “unit” warranty and you said “yes” because you wanted to make the sale.  Now, you’re telling me “well not exactly”     because you have to spend money out of your pocket to fix the problem.car-warranty-cartoonSM

I realize that not all parts sales companies use these wishy-washy tactics.  There are still some people who will just do the right thing and do whatever it takes to resolve a problem.  I don’t know about you but that’s the type of company I want to deal with. I want to deal with people who mean what they say and back it up, even when it is an inconvenience or extra expense for them.  I believe that a company shows their true colors not when they offer you great customer service during the sale, but when a support issue or warranty claim happens.  How that company handles a challenging or adverse situation should be a big factor in determining who you call your preferred vendors.  If it’s not, then you are taking an unnecessary risk.  These types of parts companies know they are taking a risk when they sell you a part with any sort of warranty. They know this because ultimately they know they are just buying a piece of paper with their low cost 8130s.

YOU MUST LIKE RISK THEN?

Sure, one could argue that everything in life is risk inherently, however, why does buying aircraft parts have to be?

Risk management talks about controlling the probability of unfortunate events.  So, why not steer away your chance of unfortunate events by asking your vendors these questions before you buy?

  • What is your warranty and will you put it in writing?
  • Is your warranty comprehensive or ‘bumper to bumper’?
  • How will you handle my warranty claim if/when it happens?
  • Can you replace the defective unit?
  • Who will be responsible for any related expenses with a warranty claim?

If they can’t give clear answers to these questions, then maybe it’s time to look for vendors who will.

There are quite a few qualified, certified companies who sell parts with verifiable past performance and have a reputation for dependable support.  For example, did you happen to check the other company’s website for any of these?

  • Customer testimonials
  • Awards & Recognitions
  • Certifications & Authorizations
  • Anything that gives you a sense of who and what that company is about

It’s not that difficult to make the right decision the first time.  It just makes sense.

Why should I use the more expensive shops?

By James Brewer

Your guy on the inside at SEA

At the risk of sounding like the 11 o’clock news, there is (probably) something wrong with your airplane. It’s probably inconsequential and may or may not even be noticeable.

I’ve had the opportunity to work on quite a few aircraft in 27 years and very rarely have I seen one that did not have a small problem in addition to the discrepancy reported. Sometimes it’s a misrouted wire or wire bundle, sometimes it’s a missing nut or screw, sometimes it’s an open static line on a VFR airplane that came in for a radio squawk and yet sometimes it’s something so makeshift that rational thought lacks the capacity to describe that which can never be unseen.

I’ve spent many years trying to figure out how these things happen. It’s too common to attribute it to shoddy technicians or mechanics. Although I’m sure they exist, I have yet to meet a tech or mechanic that would intentionally leave anything in a condition reminiscent of Medusa’s head.

The next most obvious culprit is time. It seems time is always against us in everything we do. I mean that in a collective us, not just in reference to techs and mechanics. Look at your own hectic schedule. How many times have you completed a project with a deadline looming like an obelisk from Jupiter that wasn’t just good, but good enough? The same Time Savingholds true in aviation. With the percussive beat of the second hand on the clock, a job can be completed that is good enough to meet the standards of aviation maintenance, and apparently occasionally less than the standards if empirical evidence is to be believed. Even if you were to take your aircraft out of service and do the work yourself to ensure everything gets done exactly as you want it, conforming to the most stringent interpretation of the regulations, and conforming to an aesthetic standard the likes of which Michelangelo would be jealous of, two years later your aircraft would still be in a hangar and you will still have taken a short cut along the way so that it was not just good, but good enough. Not that I speak from experience about that in any way (It’s only been a year and 10 months so far- this time).

That leads us to resources. The most common problem I see on an airplane is a repair or a work around that has all the signs of a lack of resources. For example; a floor panel that should have fourteen #10 screws in it has thirteen #10s and one #8, with Loctite. An instrument missing its clip nuts or a stripped brass screw is quite common. Rivnuts that have been broken and replaced with aviation nuts are my favorites. Especially when I have to figure out how the heck the person who put that nut there actually did it so I can perform a feat that would make MacGyver awestruck. The best resource (and maybe even time related) work around I’ve seen is black electrical tape used to seal a leak on a static line (I knew it was going to be a bad day as soon as I saw that).

After many accumulated man-hours of puzzled looks and utterances of “how the…” my “research” has led me to believe those are the primary culprits of less than acceptable repairs. They are problems that are universal and affect every person in every profession. With the ubiquity of time and resource scarcity being paramount to life in general, they are not easy problems to surmount. But there are ways to mitigate their effects. As it relates to your aircraft, using a more expensive shop can help with reducing the effects of time, resources, and technical aptitude.

When you ask a shop that charges $110.00 / hour for a labor rate how they can justify their rates, what is the answer you receive? Having been on the other side of that question, I have had to answer honestly: “We have quite a bit invested in technical data, parts stock, training, tooling, and experience. Because of that, we have a high level of quality that corresponds to that level of pricing.” That investment covers all three of the primary culprits of poor maintenance.

More importantly, that investment helps you get a better return on your maintenance dollars. Although all of the resources work in conjunction with each other, please allow me to address them individually to show how the customer can benefit from their availability.

The amount of technical data available at Southeast Aerospace is phenomenal. There is nothing that cannot be looked up and researched quickly and easily. Fortunately, much of it is digital, so there is a time savings of not having to search an entire hangar of print material. This gives me, the technician, more time to focus directly on your airplane. Even with a time crunch of a quick turn.

The parts stock at Southeast Aerospace is beyond compare. Hardware, radios (appliances), wire, tubing, and obscure “stuff” that I don’t even know what it goes to. More times than Shipping Inventoryare countable, an instrument has a stripped nut or screw. It takes just moments to go to the traceable stock and have the part in the aircraft with everything as it is supposed to be. For troubleshooting, having the ability to put in a serviceable unit from Southeast Aerospace stock to test a theory saves hours probing and rigging up test points in the aircraft. In short, when I get assigned an aircraft, as a tech I know I have all the resources available to tackle the job, and most of the unforeseen things that always seem to crop up in any project.

The amount of training we do as technicians at Southeast Aerospace is far beyond what I have seen elsewhere. The awards from the FAA and AEA speak for themselves and cover a broad band of aviation maintenance. Aside from formal training, we have technicians with a veritable potpourri of experience on many different aircraft. As technicians, we like to talk about technical stuff with other technical people. With all that talking comes a level of training from others experience that cannot be measured or quantified but has a direct impact on the quality and time taken to perform maintenance on your aircraft. This impromptu transfer of experience, training and ‘tribal knowledge’ can be as simple as “Hey, when you’re working on that plane, don’t forget that the static bulbs are located behind this panel.” or “I worked on that airplane five years ago, the radio you’re looking for is behind the baggage and on the left side. And watch out for that wire bundle above it.” It is tips like these that cut time from a project and provide an overall higher level of quality.

Tooling is one of the easier aspects to quantify. It’s easy to see how having the proper tool to do the job speeds up the process and allows for the job to be completed properly. But there are unmeasurable aspects to having a large selection of tools as is available at Southeast Aerospace. For example: while performing a 91.411 / 91.413 inspection, the #1 radio sounds a bit scratchy on ATIS. Having a NAV/COM test set available, a quick check of sensitivity can be performed while the static system returns to ground level. No additional time has been added to the job, but another point of inspection has been performed.

All of these assets combined, reduce the amount of time directly involved in any particular aspect of aircraft maintenance and allow for things to be looked at more closely. With just an extra 10 minutes of savings from having an experienced tech pass on tribal information about a particular airplane, a #8 screw in a #10 hole can be replaced. With a serviceable parts stock that is beyond compare, two hours of troubleshooting can be cut just by replacing the suspected NAV radio for testing, vastly cutting down on a time and materials bill. Having technical data relating not just to the job at hand, but to something that “looks a little odd” unrelated to the task allows for a check of something that could turn into a pricey repair later.

The short version of this is for that $110.00 / hour rate, you’re getting far more than FAA standards on your aircraft maintenance. You’re getting the little details covered that can add up to major problems down the road. I’ll replace the worn screw on the instrument panel now so that later it won’t take an hour of billable time to drill it out and replace the hardware behind it. Or re-rout the wire bundle that is lying across a sharp edge, so that six months from now you don’t have an intermittent audio problem. Or take the black electrical tape off of the static line and fix it with the parts on hand while looking at an HSI discrepancy so your next IFR cert goes well and doesn’t have an extra four hours of labor for troubleshooting a leak. Those are some of the things that make a $110.00/hour labor rate a better return on your maintenance dollars.

What Can Drones Do For You?

These days whether you are a drone supporter or a drone critic, one thing we can agree on is drones are here to stay. Everyday we are learning about new and amazing ideas for using drones. It is an awesome time to be involved with drones. They are enhancing our everyday lives, advancing our industries, and expanding our futures. So, what you ask can these drones do?

Surely by now you have heard of at least some of the tasks drones are carrying out such as deliveries for companies like Amazon and Domino’s and the many uses they have in the military. But these Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) have some other very cool uses.

  • Drones are starting to be used more and more for Search & Rescue Missions now that the technology is getting increasingly advanced. UAV’s can get to places where humans, search dogs, and helicopters can’t. They can be immediately put into action with no delay, giving rescuers real-time information when seconds matter the most. Missing hikers and natural disaster victims will be very thankful for that little drone flying around them in their time of need.
  • sb-halftimeDid you watch the Super Bowl Halftime Show this year? Well if you did then you saw an amazing light show going on in the sky behind Lady Gaga. Those lights were actually 300 little drones with an Intel technology called Shooting Star, which allows specialist to choreograph an airborne light show with an army of drones. Disney World also recently used the same technology to put on their Starbright Holiday show in Orlando.
  • Watching ESPN a while back I stumbled upon the DRL or the Drone Racing League. drlThat’s right drone racing! Pilots fly these racing drones at speeds over 100mph around a stadium or abandoned building and through a course specifically designed for these drone races. Pilots are flying them by wearing FPV (First Person View) goggles that transmit a live feed from a small camera mounted on the front of the drone. These pilots are truly skilled at flying these drones, making split second manuevers to get to the finish line first. It really is something to watch if you haven’t seen it yet.
  • Do we have any aspiring movie directors out there? Drone film festivals are starting to pop up all over the globe giving amateur film makers a chance to show off their short movies to crowds of thousands of movie buffs. The FRiff (Flying Robot International Film Festival) , the New York City Drone Film Festival, and the European Drone Film Festival  in Barcelona, Spain this year are just a few of the more popular events showcasing these short movies shot entirely from the perspective of a drone. FRiFF had 180 movie submissions from filmmakers of 40 different countries, while the New York City Drone Film Festival had upwards of 350 submissions from 45 different countries. To say these aerial shot movies are taking off is an understatement.

So what can drones do for you? Pretty much anything you can think of and then some. Whether its movies, sports, aerial light shows, or maybe saving your life one day,  I personally look forward to seeing what the future holds for drone technology.

 

 

 

 

Social Media in Aviation…Are You Missing Out?

Social media in the aviation and aerospace industry has been particularly conservative over the last decade. Social media in the aviation industry is only getting more popular and the sky is the limit. Companies that are behind on the times or are just afraid to start using social media will soon be left behind and will start having to play catch up. This is one bandwagon you are going to want to jump on.

Here are a some facts pulled from an article on www.business2community.com by Jomes Gregorio titled “6 Hottest B2B Social Media Marketing Trends in 2017.” This year there will be 219 million new users and social media accessed by mobile devices will have grown by 283 million users. Social media advertising is projected to generate $11 billion in revenue in 2017. The top platforms used by businesses in 2016 ranked by usage were LinkedIn 94%, Twitter 87%, Facebook 84%, YouTube 74%, and Google+ 62%. The Content Marketing Institute/Marketing Profs reports that the top 3 tactics used that B2B Marketers say will be most critical to success in 2017 are Blogs 52%, Email Newsletters 40%, and Social Media Content 40%. If your company is not involved in some kind of social media, these numbers should be a wake up call for you to consider getting on board.

What are some of the reasons these aviation companies might be capturereluctant to dive into the social media world? Here are a few of the most popular.

  • The average age of employees at aerospace and aviation companies is older than a lot of other industries. These guys have been at these companies for a very long time and seem to be set in their ways, ways that have always worked for them in the past. Social media is seen as a thing that the younger generation does to connect with friends or follow celebrities.
  • They just dont understand how it works or dont feel like it will work in this industry. The lack of understanding or vision keeps some of these companies in the dark ages marketing wise.
  • Companies think it is too risky. They might not want to risk technology, data or pictures of their products or work getting out.
  • Companies feel that is will take to much time and effort to be consistent with social media. They think that it may not be productive to have one person or a group of people working on social media day in and day out.

The pros of social media far outweigh any cons companies may be concerned about. It helps get your brand recognition out to other people or companies that might otherwise have never known you existed. It is an extremely inexpensive form of marketing that has a very far reach. It can drive more traffic to your website, which in turn can spark interest in your company and create new leads. Another good reason, and an often overlooked one, is the advantage it can give you when recruiting new associates. There are a lot of very smart, qualified young candiates out there and they are getting jobs by word of mouth or searching for them on some kind of social media platform.

Social media is no longer just for finding long lost friends or keeping in touch with friends and family that live long distances. By taking the time and putting in the effort required to be successful at social media, it will payoff in the long run for your company. Social media is now a sophisticated marketing machine. Use it to your advantage.