Aviation accident reporting

I’ve just experienced at first hand appallingly wrong media reports of an aeroplane accident at our local airport in Moorabbin, near Melbourne. If the media can get so wrong a basic report like this, how can they ever be believed when it comes to more complex issues?

However, irrespective of the wrong reporting, our thoughts are with the pilot, who was taken to hospital with serious injuries.

The story goes like this: accompanied by stills and video of the accident site, reports – so similar they must have just been blindly copied from one source – said a light aircraft had ‘come down’ at Moorabbin Airport. Two people were on board and the aircraft was a ‘high wing A22 Foxbat, made in Ukraine’ owned by a local flying school. 24 emergency personnel were on site, currently working to free the pilot, who remained in the aircraft.

Even a cursory glance at the picture of the inverted aeroplane (see above) shows it to be a low wing, not a high wing. It also turns out that there was only one person – the pilot – on board and the accident almost certainly resulted from a runway departure, either on take-off or landing. Quite an exaggeration to say the aircraft had ‘come down’.

I tried to find phone numbers for the various news media which published the report – ABC, Channel 9 News, 3AW, Herald Sun and The Age newspaper – to advise them of the errors. Have you ever tried to find a phone number for these people to correct their mistakes? Forget it, they just don’t publish such numbers. Presumably, the last thing they want is people calling to point out errors in their stories, as their lines would be permanently clogged!

In the end, I sent ‘urgent’ emails to the various newsrooms to say the aircraft was not a Foxbat. Only The Age newspaper responded with an apology by email and immediate correction on their online news page. Without any kind of acknowledgement, over the next half an hour most of the others removed the reference to the Foxbat, substituting with words like ‘a small 2-seat light aircraft’. I still don’t know if the Herald Sun changed their feed as they insist you pay a subscription to see their news!

This kind of erroneous reporting brings to mind another event at Moorabbin, where one of our Vixxens made a heavy bounced landing in very windy conditions and bent the nose landing gear. Right or wrong, the pilot elected to go round after the impact, only to be warned by the tower of the bent gear. At that time, almost all the media reported that the aircraft was ‘circling while the pilot attempted to fix the landing gear’ – a clearly ridiculous statement if you thought about it for only half a second! In fact, following emergency personnel advice, he was waiting for a foam blanket to be laid on the runway before making a successful landing, during which the nose leg fully collapsed and the aircraft remained upright. Both pilot and passenger walked away without a scratch.

In my personal experience, I have learned these lessons about news stories:
1. They have almost certainly not been given even a basic facts check.
2. The media makes it as difficult as possible for you to correct their mistakes.
3. If they get even simple, easy to check, stories wrong, how on earth can their reporting on more complex issues be believed?
4. It is very easy for people to state complete lies and the news media will publish it.

You have been warned!

Aeroprakt world record again!!!

Once again the Aeroprakt team under Yuriy Yakovlyev has posted another ratified world record for distance covered on a measured amount of fuel.

This time, the famed A-40 with two people on board covered 887 kilometres – 479 nautical miles, 551 statute miles – on only 26 pounds/11.8 kilos/17 litres – of fuel. That’s just about 2 litres per 100 kilometres.

Non-stop flight time was 9.1 hours.

For reference, even a very small car will use 5-6 litres/100 kilometres.

For an aircraft, propelled by a standard Rotax 912 series petrol engine, these figures are truly amazing. Once again – congratulations to Yuriy Yakovlyev and his team at Aeroprakt on their wonderful achievement.

Aeroprakt grabs world record with A-40 aircraft

Yuriy Yakovlyev – CEO of Aeroprakt Limited – and his team have done it again! Not content to rest on their laurels after winning gold medals in two major light aircraft championships this year, they have now landed a world record.

Their A-40 competition aircraft – adapted from the well-known A20 tandem 2-seat taildragger in pusher prop configuration – has achieved a staggering and authenticated 229 kilometres on just 8.5 litres of fuel. In imperial measures, thats over 142 miles on 2.25 US gallons; over 63 miles per gallon, 3.7 litres per 100 kilometres!!

Whichever way you measure it, it’s an amazing feat for a 2-seat aircraft using a standard Rotax 912 series engine – no batteries or electric motors. Pilot and co-pilot for this extraordinary accomplishment were Yuriy’s son Timofey and engineer Taras Sotnicenko. Looks like Timofey has his father’s genes.

Very big congratulations from Foxbat Australia to all involved!

You can follow the maestro Yuriy on his FaceBook page by clicking here.

Foxbat Australia – new website coming!

After almost 5 years with our current website at www.foxbat.com.au we have developed a new, much more modern site design for Foxbat Australia which will be going live in the next week or so.

Although the old website has been widely used and favourably commented on, apart from making it more visually attractive, we have aimed to make navigation simpler – particularly for the many visitors seeking technical specifications and maintenance information.

All the details from the old site have been retained and updated, including the ever-popular ‘Used Aircraft‘ page, which is statistically the most visited single page on the site! In addition, if you want to find a school or club in Australia using Aeroprakt aircraft, we have introduced a clickable map to help you find one near to you.

There are also additions of an in-site photo and video gallery, so you don’t have to navigate away from the site to see visuals. However, our linked Foxbat YouTube channel and Foxbat Facebook Page will remain in operation – have a look, we post new items regularly on Facebook and are planning more YouTube videos over the coming months.

Once the new site is up and running, feel free to send me your comments!

Blue Angels and Willie Nelson

Blue Angels – this picture is not photoshopped!

The Blue Angels are the US Navy’s precision formation aerobatics team. Originally formed in 1946 using Hellcat and Bearcat aircraft, the Blue Angels are famed for their amazingly tight formation flying. Currently using F18 Hornet jets – which have a very short wingspan – they often seem to be flying so close their wingtips are overlapping. One of their signature formations includes mixed inverted and upright aircraft, which often look quite weird.

Two for the price of one – not photoshopped

One of my favourite vocalists/guitarists is Willie Nelson, now in his late 80’s, a country singer of global stature. I first heard him too many years ago on a track called ‘Me and Bobby McGee’, a song written by Kris Kristofferson which is probably way more famous for Janis Joplin‘s recording, although I personally find her tempo a bit too fast. Over the years, I collected a variety of Willie Nelson albums – sadly mostly on vinyl, now long gone. In an unlikely combination, Willie Nelson pays tribute to the men and women of the Blue Angels in a short YouTube video, singing another of my favourites: ‘Still is still moving to me’.

Click the picture below to see the video – sorry the resolution is a bit low; there are better videos of the Blue Angels in action, and of Willie Nelson singing, but none of the two together.

DirectFly Alto LSA

Short video of trip to Parkes, September 2019

Over the last 6 months or so, I have been flying a new-to-Australia low wing all metal Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) built in the Czech Republic, called the DirectFly ALTO. In particular, as mentioned in my previous post, I flew the Alto from our Tyabb Airport base to the recent Australian AirVenture 2019 airshow at Parkes in New South Wales and back again with my friend Mike Rudd.

The return trip totalled 9.6 hours of flying – mostly into moderate to strong headwinds – burning an average of 17.2 litres an hour. We were only around 5 kgs (about 11-12 pounds in the old fashioned measure) under the maximum gross weight of 600 kgs (1,320 pounds). Nevertheless, the Alto still had plenty of get-up-and-go and we cruised along happily – if a little bumpily at times – at around 105-115 knots True Air Speed.

The horrendous dust storms in Parkes, followed by rain, reminded me how easy it is to clean a low wing aircraft; I think we washed and leathered it off at least 4 times over the two main days of the show. I suppose the drawback is that you can’t shelter from the rain by standing under the wing!

My friend Mike, whose backside can be very critical of aeroplane seats, commented that (a) it was one of the most comfortable planes to sit in for several hours’ flying, and (b) that it handled the sometimes moderate turbulence very well. The Alto adopts a sort of ‘fishtail’ waggle through the worst turbulence – if you leave it to find its own way rather than fighting it, the ride is not bad at all.

Although I’m a definite high-wing pilot, I must say that the view out of the Alto is superb – most of the time it feels like you’re flying on a magic carpet, with an almost unobstructed view forward through about 270 degrees. With a high wing, I guess you tend to look more at the ground when flying; with a low wing, you see much more of the sky and the eve changing cloudscapes around you.

The tinted canopy and 4 powerful air vents kept us cool and un-burnt. And the forward-sliding design of the canopy presented no worries about it popping open in flight or blowing over if left open on the ground.

All-in-all a very nice low wing all metal alternative to a Foxbat or Vixxen – and the pricing is good too! PS> This demonstrator aircraft is now for sale – please contact Ido Segev 0431 454 676 for information and pricing.

Click here for more information on the ALTO.
Click here or on the photo above to take you to the YouTube video Mike made of our flight.

AirVenture 2019 – a bit of a disaster

My friend Mike and I flew from Tyabb to Parkes on Thursday 19 September, full of anticipation for the upcoming AirVenture 2019 show. A couple of owners/friends were bringing an A22LS Foxbat and an A32 Vixxen to complete our static display along with the DirectFly Alto we were flying.

We set out nice and early (well, it was for us!) leaving the ground at about 07:45. Tracking north for Wangaratta, we immediately hit some strong headwinds coming over the ranges. And so this was the story pretty well all the way to Parkes, where we arrived at about 15:00 after stopping at Wangaratta and Temora – where, by the way, we briefly ran into Ian McDonell, A32 Vixxen syndicate manager, flying down from Caboolture to Tocumwal in the opposite direction.

At that stage, the weather forecast for Parkes didn’t look too bad; breezy but clear on Friday, with strengthening winds and a late possibly showery change on Saturday, and light (head!) winds on Sunday and Monday for our trip home.

In the event, the ‘strengthening winds’ on Saturday turned out to be 30+ knot northerlies gusting 45-50 knots (YES!) raising an almost impenetrable cloud of dust in the air. The seminar and main indoor exhibitor tents were rated to about 75 km/h (that’s about 40 knots) so the whole site was evacuated at about 10:30 and did not re-open until 15:00 that afternoon. Even after that, there were intermittent and heavy rain showers, so the day was pretty well a wipe-out. However, thanks to Bob (you know who you are!) for braving the weather to come and order a new Foxbat on Saturday afternoon!

Our three planes were all pointed into wind and well tied down so we suffered no damage. They were all covered with a thick layer of dust – made to look much worse by the developing rain showers – although the insides remained mercifully clean.

As forecast, Sunday dawned beautifully clear with almost no wind…it was almost as if the previous day had just been a very bad dream.

We flew home in the Alto on Monday 23 September, again with headwinds most of the way and a dessert helping of showers as we approached the Kilmore Gap through the ranges, plus one final, very big shower overhead Tyabb – we circled out to the west for about 30 minutes, waiting for it to pass through.

The Alto performed faultlessly. Mike even commented that it was probably the most comfortable Light Sport Aircraft he’d flown in – which is high praise indeed, considering his rear end is noted for its predisposition to numbness in less accommodating aircraft! Overall, the return trip was 9.6 hours’ flying, using a whisker under 165 litres of fuel. True airspeed lingered between 105 and 115 knots but average ground speed on the two trips was just under 75 knots – which included take-offs and landings.

It was a shame that the main exhibition day was such a disaster. I hope the organisers had insurance cover (if such a thing is available) because total visitor entries must have been a fraction of what they were hoping. One of our competitors commented that there were ‘more exhibitors than visitors’, even on Sunday, when the weather couldn’t have been more perfect.

I hope the organisers survive to fight another day and run the show again next year.