The Importance Of Being Grounded

Lightning strike during thunderstorm - being grounded
Image Source – Lightning strike during thunderstorm  

The importance of being grounded has recently been highlighted by Transport Canada and the FAA. The latest Feedback for Canadian Aviation Service Difficulty Reports, highlighted the importance of correct assembly of electrical terminals. An occurrence of a melted wire on the starter connector of aircraft APU resulted.

This last month the FAA also issued an AD ordering Boeing to fix some newly manufactured 737 electrical bonding issues.

The importance of proper grounding and bonding cannot be overstated. That said, one of the more common maintenance errors that are discovered when inspecting aircraft wiring is the improper assembly of bonding and grounding points.

Bonding and grounding requirements are; to ensure that an adequate low resistance return path for electric, avionic, communication and electronic equipment is achieved. This can withstand operating conditions and corrosion. This is essential for the reduction of coupling of electromagnetic fields into or out of the equipment. Additionally, for providing electrical stability to control the currents and/or voltages caused by static charges and discharges and for suppressing the hazardous effects thereof.

SAE document ARP1870 provides for detailed information on grounding, bonding and the application of related hardware, primarily for system design. AC43-13 Chapter 11 Section 15 provides similar general information for the AME, aircraft manufacturers standard practices provide airframe specific instructions.

Some of the more common mistakes are lack of preparation of the mating surfaces, terminals installed on top of lock nuts, missing lock washers, too many terminals on a single stud.

Correct assembly of ground stud

Correct assembly of ground stud
Image from SAE International AEROSPACE RECOMMENDED PRACTICE Manual ARP1870

These errors may not be immediately apparent as all systems can appear to be working correctly. The deleterious effects result in inflight fires and critical system failures. More commonly, intermittent glitches in electronic equipment. These can take tens of thousands on dollars and hundreds on manhours to track down.

The bottom line is to be aware of the airframes standard practices. For aftermarket approvals and equipment manufacturers installation manuals, refer to AC43-13 as directed. Do it right first time and prevent future problems.


ADS-B What is all the talk about diversity?

Unlike the FAA in the United States, which over the last two decades invested in ADS-B ground stations to cover the majority of their landmass. Nav Canada invested in Aireon, a space-based ADS-B solution to cope with our vast and sometimes inaccessible geography.

Space-based ADS-B
Space-based ADS-B

This has resulted in most of the general aviation fleet having their transponder antennas on the wrong side of the aircraft, bottom verse top. So, do we just need to relocate the antenna?

It’s not that simple for several reasons. ADS-B ground stations are still located at many Canadian airports, requiring the bottom antenna to be retained. For anyone flying into US airspace only having a top-mounted antenna would not work with a ground-based system. To deal with these issues, transponders need to be diversity models.

Diversity in ADS-B

Diversity in ADS-B refers to having two antennae connected to a single transponder.

The way a single transponder system is connected to two antenna functions is through a technique called Diversity. Each antenna is connected to a dedicated receiver in the transponder. When the system is interrogated, the signal strength measured in each receiver is compared to the other and the one with the strongest signal directs the single transmitter to reply through its antenna only. The requirement for two separate receivers and the comparator circuitry is what increases the cost of diversity transponders by several thousand dollars.

ADS-B transponders are also mandated to continually broadcast the aircraft position and information regardless of interrogation. Diversity transponders alternate their broadcast between the two antennas the Aireon satellite system does not interrogate; it relies on this unsolicited ADS-B Out broadcast.

When can we expect implementation?

Unlike the United States all-or-nothing ADS-B Out equipage deadline on January 1, 2020, Nav Canada is planning a phased implementation. As to when – due to pressure from pilots and operators about the cost of diversity, Nav Canada has delayed implementation and is working with Transport Canada to finalize mandates. Stay tuned for updates.


Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow  

With the current pandemic and the associated restrictions hopefully easing soon, this is definitely the time for aircraft owners and operators to ensure their aircraft are properly equipped. Here is what you need to know about ADS-B.

ADS-B out is now a requirement to fly in most US airspace and will, in the not-too-distant future, be required in Canada.

With Transport Canada and Nav Canada still to finalize an equipage mandate, aircraft owners who wish to fly to the USA have been left in a quandary. Do they equip for US airspace and risk having to replace a new transponder if it does not meet Canadian requirements? Or, equip to meet the most stringent requirements and risk overspending?

There are ways to mitigate this dilemma. First, UAT transponders, the cheapest of equipage in the USA will not meet any Canadian mandate. So unless you only use your aircraft to fly from uncontrolled Canadian airspace across the border this is a non-starter.

An ADS-B 1060Mhz transponder will meet the US and Canadian requirements, but there is a catch. The US system is ground based, the Canadian system is space based.

If the Canadian mandate requires an antenna on the top of the aircraft to communicate with satellites then a transponder with antenna diversity will be required. This can increase the cost of the installation considerably.

When making a decision to install an ADS-B transponder in the current regulatory uncertainty it would be prudent to install a unit that is upgradeable for antenna diversity in the future.

Some like the L3 Lynx, just require the top mounted antenna and the purchase of an unlock code to enable diversity. Others will require a trip back to the factory and some will require replacing.

Example of Lynx ADS-B Transponder with traffic display
Lynx ADS-B Transponder with traffic display

If you are spending to meet the mandate, then should you not get something out of it? ADS-B in, is it worth it? Obviously that’s a decision every owner has to make, but once you’ve flown with ADS-B traffic displayed in congested airspace you’ll never fly without it.

Contact us for competitive quotes and to schedule your installation.

Missing NBAA, Oshkosh, Heli-Expo or other Flagship Industry Trade Shows

Missing flagship industry trade shows this year? Like NBAA, Oshkosh, Heli-Expo or other flagship industry trade shows. Is this a concern, a non-event, a mixed blessing?

Attending industry conference and walking the exhibition floors of trade shows is one of the best ways to keep updated on what’s going on in our industry. There is always a company with a new product or service that has not been well marketed but has great potential to our operations and businesses.

Some companies are exhibiting futuristic designs for where they envision the industry is headed. Some are destined to fail, others destined for market dominance.

Face to face meetings with suppliers and clients, along with networking with other aviation professionals can be invaluable. Add in the social aspects, as an attendee it’s usually a worthwhile event and a great perk for company employees.

RMA Team 2019 at NBAA trade show
RMA Team at NBAA 2019

For exhibiters however trade shows may be expensive, disruptive and hard to quantify in value. Some exhibitors I have spoken with at these events confess that the only reason they still attend is the fear that if they don’t their clients may see it as a sign of financial difficulty. Others have quipped that the only people who benefit from these events are the organizers and the local nightlife.

With virtual conferences now being the only events for the foreseeable future, seminars and training classes have moved online. For the tradeshow portion of these events, can exhibitors create engaging digital experiences that will overcome “Zoom fatigue”? If they do, can anything really replace the tactile experience of a live event?

No one can see into the future with certainty, but many will speculate, what does the future hold for the trade show industry? The pandemic – or at least governments reaction to it – has forced people to change their behaviors.

We’re primarily social animals, and we’ve been locked down, prevented from doing business as usual and prevented from socializing or having normal face to face interactions for many months now. With various vaccines now proving their efficacy, in twelve months we could be back to pre-pandemic behaviour.

Will trade shows come roaring back? If a company has spent hundreds of thousands on a virtual trade show presence, will they be willing to abandon the investment and return to the status quo? Will there be a blend of virtual and on-site?

Just a prediction, cabin fever is a powerful emotion, book early for 2022.

Twin Otter Ingenuity and Adaptability

In these unsettling times, we have found that focusing on ingenuity and adaptability has kept us strong and positive.  Regardless of what is happening, we are maintaining our high standards of quality and are appreciating the depth of knowledge in our staff, and the resources that we can rely on.

It turns out that innovation and ingenuity have not been stymied as a result of the pandemic. Developments that were underway have been brought to completion and can now be shared.  See our Emergency Roof Escape Hatch

Adaptability is evidenced in our response to supply chain and logistical challenges, while new Service Bulletin (SB) requirements on top of Covid-19 operational requirements have been met with in-house solutions and resources.  See our Exchange Flight Controls

It may be difficult to be optimistic given the very real challenges faced by our industry, but a “glass half full” look at uncertain times can see opportunities for increased versatility, profitability and reliability in operations.  See our Avionics upgrades

DHC-6 Taking Flight
Twin Otter Taking Flight

Twin Otter Emergency Roof Escape Hatch

For Twin Otter operators who because of regulatory requirement, or operational needs, still have the OEM Viking cabin roof escape hatch. Are you experiencing problems with fitment, delamination or other unserviceability?  Have you had no option but to continuously carry out time consuming repairs as the hatch is no longer available?

Cabin Roof Escape Hatch

Rocky Mountain Aircraft have recently received TCCA STC approval for a replacement cabin roof escape hatch. The replacement hatch is manufactured from aluminum sheet unlike the OEM balsa core material, so is immune from delamination.

The replacement part RMA-C6FS2413-11 along with the STC are in stock and ready to ship.

AOG for Twin Otter flight controls?

Did you know? Rocky Mountain Aircraft keeps most Twin Otter Flight controls in stock ready for exchange, purchase or as loaners if we are repairing yours.

Viking SERVICE BULLETIN V6/0066 for Aileron Structure Inspection requires borescope inspection equipment that many operators don’t possess and those that do may discover significant repairs required. Minimise aircraft downtime with an economical exchange from Rocky Mountain Aircrafts stock.

Flight Controls
Flight Controls

Spending a fortune on analog instrument repair and gyro overhauls?

The old electro-mechanical instrumentation that has served the Twin Otter fleet well for over fifty years has reached the end of their economical life. Attempting to coax a few more years of service out of these systems is only going to cause heartache and expense. It’s time to invest it reliability and modernity.

Modern avionics systems will increase profitability, versatility and reliability. Isn’t it time your cockpit looked like this?

Avionics Cockpit
Avionics Cockpit

Don’t Just Kick the Tires and Clean the Windscreen

As air travel and aviation in general start to take the first tentative steps to emerge from the Covid-19 lockdown, the reactivation of aircraft that have been parked for the past three of four months needs to be addressed.

Storing aircraft, even for the short-term is nothing new for most major airlines. However, for smaller regional airlines, corporate flight departments, and other commercial operators this may have been a new experience.

So were the aircraft properly stored and were measures taken to safeguard the aircraft’s ultra-sensitive avionics systems? All apertures and openings through which environmental factors – sand, dirt, water, birds, and insects – can find their way inside an aircraft are wrapped up and made watertight. That includes engines and air data probes – such as pitot, static, temperature, angle of attack sensors – engine intakes and exhausts, and APU intakes and exhausts.

Were maintenance or maintenance control staff furloughed? Have calendar-based inspections lapsed? Are the CVR/FDR, ELT, Altimeters, Transponders overdue recertification?

Emirates Airlines estimates that It may require around 4-5 dedicated employees and at least 18-24 hours to put just one of its aircraft back into service.

With the aircraft now ready to fly, what about the aircrew? Recency will have expired for most aircrew unless they had access to a simulator, proficiency checks will be overdue for some.

Start-up procedures will have to be carefully managed to ensure that public confidence in air travel, already at historic low because of the pandemic, is not further compromised.

At Rocky Mountain Aircraft we have some unique expertise at reactivating aircraft from years of improper storage or even abandonment. With our own aircraft back online we are happy to offer advice and assistance to enable our industry to soar back into the skys.

Time to reactivate - Sleeping Plane

Is Age a Factor in Aircraft Safety?

Boeings new 737 MAX have been grounded for over 12 months following two crashes and multiple loss of lives. The 737 MAX airliner only entered airline service in 2018.

Recently, the Snowbirds lost one of their aircraft, the cause is currently unknown but public speculation has focused on the age of the aircraft. The Tutors CT-114 jets first flew in 1960.

The answer to the question “Is age a factor in aircraft safety?” of course should be an emphatic no. The regulated design, maintenance and operation of an aircraft is in place to ensure that an aircraft is as safe to fly from the day it leaves the production facility to the day it is finally withdrawn from service.

What keeps an aircraft safe, is its robust safety systems to manage Design, Operation, and Continued Airworthiness. These need to be embedded into every organization that is involved in aviation, and audited by independent regulators. Jurisdictions that limit the age of aircraft are making a tacit admission that their systems and oversight are lacking.

One result of the 737 Max accidents was in design procedure failures for new aircraft types as has been highlighted. From the information released by the initial investigation, regulatory oversight had been compromised. A secure non-punitive reporting system at Boeing had failed, a toxic corporate culture had developed, and commercial pressure had resulted in an unsafe aircraft design being allowed into airline service.

The DC3 an example of aging aircraft
Kenn Borek Air DC3 Basler
Photo Credit – Alex Praglowski

While the 737 Max is grounded, the venerable DC3 designed and first flown in the 1930s is still in use with some specialist operators. Commercial air travel is still the safest form of transportation, but when accidents do occur it is normally due to complex multifaceted failures of safety systems. No accident investigation has ever come to the conclusion that the aircraft was “just too old to fly anymore”

Alberta Isn’t Short of Jobs – It Is Short of Employees

“In our one hundred and sixteenth year as a province, Alberta faces some of the biggest (economic) challenges we have ever met.” This quote from the premier of Alberta’s’ throne speech promising continued action on job creation and improving the economy.

While the energy and construction industry in Alberta are facing major challenges, one must ask are there any industries in the province that are prospering?

Look To the Sky

Aviation Industry for example. From major airlines, regional operators, aircraft manufacturing companies, maintenance organizations, plus a plethora of associated services the industry is crying out for skilled employees to enable expansion.

So what is preventing the next generation of students from selecting aviation as a career, or former energy industry workers from retraining? Lack of awareness?

Cockpit view of runway
Cockpit view of the runway

This is a fast-paced, highly professional, safety critical industry. Previously having a reputation of both a macho and glamorous industry has changed. Flying is now perceived as mundane, not glamorous. Mundane, when related to aviation being synonymous with safe, efficient, accessible. Machoism has been replaced by professionalism. The number of women in the industry has been steadily increasing, no longer are women just flight attendants but front line fighter pilots, aircraft maintenance engineers, and everything in between.

As an industry, we have to represent ourselves more effectively at high schools, colleges, career fairs. To encourage prospective future pilots, engineers, and others that becoming a successful aviation professional takes a lot of technical skills and knowledge. It also requires time invested in the proper schooling and training.

Helicopter Cockpit
Helicopter Cockpit

A passion for aviation, if not the initial driving force to enter the industry, needs to be developed during training. Passion will drive other skills needed to succeed. After gaining the skills and traits needed, new employees can look forward to new challenges, the job is never routine. Our industry is an exciting and rewarding place to work. Travel is often a possibility and one of the great benefits of aviation.

We need to get the message out to Albertans, forget unpaid internships, the gig economy, minimum wage jobs. We are open for business, hiring in all departments. Make a commitment to a fulfilling career in aviation.

Employees working on airplane
Employees working on an airplane

Rocky Mountain Aircraft is always on the look-out for hardworking individuals who strive for quality results and are passionate about excellence. Take a look at our current career opportunities.

The Story of Rocky Mountain Aircraft

For over three decades, the Stevenson’s and their team have built Rocky Mountain Aircraft into a world-class company with operations based right here in Calgary.  The Story of Rocky Mountain Aircraft began back in 1982.

Rocky Mountain Aircraft remains a family-owned and operated business, leasing and maintaining twin turbine powered aircraft, and known especially for their classic Twin Otter expertise.

Twin Otter Image with glowing rainbow in the background - Story of Rocky Mountain Aircraft
© Geoff Lawrence Photography

Founded by George Stevenson and his wife Liane in 1989 at Springbank Airport near Calgary, the company has grown in size and capabilities. Initially started with just 3 employees in a less than ideal hangar. The company now employs over sixty employees and manages a leasing fleet of more than 40 aircraft.

The technical depth and experience in aviation gained over the last three decades has allowed the company to develop unique insights into cost-effective, quality heavy maintenance for Twin Otter and other similar twin turbine aircraft.

Now entering its fourth decade of operation, the company is focused on the evolution of commercial aviation and adapting to new challenges and innovations.

Under the direction of Shannon Stevenson, the company is poised for continued growth.  Rocky Mountain Aircraft has developed as a family-owned and operated business, and will continue to do so into the next decade.

Rocky Mountain Aircraft prides itself on providing quality and reliable work, providing peace of mind to each and every customer no matter what size the job.

To learn more about the services and products Rocky Mountain Aircraft provides, visit the website, or drop us a line today.