Tackling Weather in LSAs

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In 20-odd years of doing aviation journalism, I have learned that the have and have-not syndrome applies as equally in aviation as it does in everything else. That's another way of saying pilot attitudes and preferences are strongly shaped by the experiences they've had, especially with regard to equipment. And those who've gazed down from the top of the equipment ziggurat—that would be airline pilots—tend to be not that interested in slumming down to something less if a little weather is in the offing.

I was reminded of this last week when I visited the owner of an LSA we're covering for Aviation Consumer. The owner is a retired military and airline pilot with thousands of flight hours, most of them in turbines. When we were discussing his equipment choices in the airplane, I asked if he had considered installing datalink weather capability. Not really, he replied, using a rationale that I'd heard before: If I had it, I might be tempted to use it. When sferics devices were the weapon of choice during thunderstorm season, that attitude was even more prevalent.

And when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. If your frame of reference as a "have" pilot is megawatts of thrust pushing around a radar dish the size of a card table, getting by with anything less is going to be unappealing. Age has something to do with it, too. After you've beaten around in enough weather and had your butt puckered a few times, the notion of doing it when you don't have to or if you're not being paid for it wouldn't necessarily occur. Staying on the back porch and having a beer would make a lot more sense.

Being from the have-not set, I have just the opposite view. If I owned an LSA capable of 120 MPH or so, I'd use it for serious cross country and I'd definitely want weatherlink. In one of the more ludicrous turns of technology, I can actually have datalink in our no-electrical-system Cub. I have a 12-volt battery pack that will run a GPSMap 396 for hours. I wouldn't bother because the airplane is just too slow.

The sticky point for many pilots using weatherlink is the specter of penetration into and through convective weather. I have done this with both onboard radar and with datalink, but for this comparison, "penetration" doesn't mean the same thing. With onboard radar, you can reasonably pick a soft spot between cells that may be painting green or yellow and safely negotiate it. With datalink, because of image latency, you need to pick your holes a lot more circumspectfully, which is to say give cells the widest possible birth and stay clear of clouds and precip, if possible. In that sense, you're using datalink to refine and inform the eyeball method of weather avoidance.

And that's how I'd use datalink on an LSA cross country. You can look ahead for miles, perhaps making a minor course jink to avoid an area of weather or find a worry-free hole between cells. For $30 a month, that seems like a bargain to me.

Of course, if I had 8000 hours of 737 time, I too would probably leave the LSA in the hangar if weather threatened, contemplating the serenity of that decision over a cold one. Apart from running out beer, that option isn't as likely to turn scary.

Comments (86)

I'd use it the way I HAVE used it: to identify severe weather ahead in plenty of time to get on the ground! It's not always possible to "run" from weather. In the northeast, the summer thunderstorms push offshore. If you're flying on the coast, or over Long Island, say, that blue-grey sky to the east may be the same sky that's been there all day, or may contain a thunderstorm. If the latter, you can't run away and land - there's nothing that way but water until you reach Ireland. You have to get on the ground, soon. It's better if you can do that in time to have your choice of airports. It creates an option between extreme caution ("I'm not going, there might be thunderstorms, just like almost every day in summer here") and risk-taking ("keep going, we can land if we see flashes").

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | August 27, 2011 3:16 PM    Report this comment

Running a line of thunderstorms in an LSA??? I don't think so!

Posted by: Josh Johnson | August 27, 2011 9:12 PM    Report this comment

What Josh said.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | August 27, 2011 11:16 PM    Report this comment

Most LSAs are for low-altitude, around-the-flagpole, or fair-weather out-and-back missions. Eyeballs and the Weather Channel will work just fine. Rule of thumb for LSAs: Carry a blue card in your wallet. Before flying, take out the card and hold up to the sky. If the card and the sky are the same color, you're cleared to launch.

What Josh and Thomas said.

Posted by: Gary Dikkers | August 28, 2011 4:08 PM    Report this comment

Most LSAs are for low-altitude, around-the-flagpole, or fair-weather out-and-back missions. Eyeballs and the Weather Channel will work just fine. Rule of thumb for LSAs: Carry a blue card in your wallet. Before flying, take out the card and hold up to the sky. If the card and the sky are the same color, you're cleared to launch.

What Josh and Thomas said.

Posted by: Gary Dikkers | August 28, 2011 4:11 PM    Report this comment

I wouldn't go quite as far as Gary. I do think an LSA can reasonably be operated under grey skies. The heavier, faster ones are capable of about the same missions as a Cessna 150/152, at about the speed of an older-model C172.

But I wouldn't be running a line of thunderstorms in a C150, C152, or C172 either.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | August 28, 2011 4:15 PM    Report this comment

I cant really imagine going anywhere at 120mph. 200 seems remarkable slow these days. Perhaps the rigors of the economy will mean one day I will have to travel in an LSA and if so I am sure to use datalink to get where I am going. There are so many situations where its use is nice to have and a very few where the weather is so bad its not worth trying.

Posted by: Brad Vaught | August 28, 2011 6:03 PM    Report this comment

LSA were created with the notion of recreational flight deeply imbedded in their standards. This is a big part of the reason why they cost perhaps half of similar looking and performing Type Certificated planes.

For me, recreational flight means serious cross country missions, but only in nice weather. Some other pilots may think dodging thunderstorms in a Piper Cherokee is a lot of fun. Other people think sky diving and bungee jumping are lots of fun.

People flying for business purposes can legally do it in LSA but not with a Sport Pilot certificate. An instrument rated Private Pilot can do it in LSA, but I wonder if this is evidence of good judgement. It makes a lot more sense to make such trips on multi-engine jets with two ATP rated pilots at the helm. If your business can afford and justify business travel in a King Air then that is fine too. Those who think they must dodge thunderstorms in a small single engine plane might be wise to find another line of work.

My notion of recreational travel doesn't include schedules. If you get up in the morning to find marginal weather then another day at that nice hotel is the best choice. LSA are just fine for that kind of travel. So are Piper Cherokees and Cessna 172s. I think the big difference between those planes and LSA from a mission perspective is all about the total cost to operate them and the questionable notion that you can carry 4 people in the TC'd planes.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | August 29, 2011 5:45 AM    Report this comment

I flew 7000 hours in the military and GA without WX in the cockpit. Now I have an LSA(CTLS)and I frequently fly extended XC flights--I would not takeoff without my XM weather. It expands my ability to avoid or manage weather conditions not forecast yes, occasionally there are changes! I use the CT for recreation and for getting places I wish to go and cockpit weather is vital!

Posted by: Kenneth Nolde | August 29, 2011 7:19 AM    Report this comment

I routinely make 500 mile trips in a Remos GX in one day. I check the weather before I leave to decide if the trip is possible with the forecast weather than I use my on board weather to advise me of any changes. I feel that the weather on board takes a lot of stress out of traveling in a small aircraft. I feel that traveling in a small economical aircraft like the GX is an enjoyable experience compared to the miserable,degrading experience that commercial air travel gives us.

Posted by: tommy Lee | August 29, 2011 8:10 AM    Report this comment

It's all relative. I have seen lots of times when I'm going 200mph in the Meyers that I wish it was 50 mph faster and I've done long cross country trips in a clipped Cub, perfectly content at 90 mph. I imagine there are times the SR-71 pilots are hurtling along wishing the darn thing was just 500 knots faster.

Same with weather info, at times I could care less and other times nothing less than an on-board weather bureau would make me happy. The main thing is to have the discipline to fly within the limits of your personal ability and the equipment you've got.

Posted by: Richard Montague | August 29, 2011 8:14 AM    Report this comment

It's an old aviation axiom--"The pilot that has everything does nothing--the pilot that has nothing does everything."

The less capable the airplane, the more important on-board information is. While a radar-equipped turbine aircraft my be able to thread the needle between cells, having on-board weather in an LSA means that you can start the deviation early--mitigating any time loss. At only 120 mph, ANY miles saved is important.

Another case for on-board weather in an LSA--being able to keep up with surface weather--especially winds. A quick "mouse over" the surface reporting points will quickly tell you if surface winds are becoming a problem--and all you to divert to a runway into the wind.

Posted by: jim hanson | August 29, 2011 8:27 AM    Report this comment

Flying primarily in the West using xm weather seems like a must. During the summer time air mass thunderstorms seem like an everyday occurrence. With on board weather there is an added comfort level that you can modify your routing to avoid the areas that are hot on any particular afternoon. It provides a comfort level I would hate to give up at any speed.

Posted by: Peter Marshall | August 29, 2011 9:39 AM    Report this comment

LSA's are outstandingly bad in turbulence and very limited on power. A "soft spot" between cells can easily turn into a "hard spot" in minutes. If you launch into known convective activity in an LSA then you've already handed your fate over to luck. A well equipped kite is still a kite.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | August 29, 2011 9:44 AM    Report this comment

I dunno, I've noticed that birds do well without checklists, rules, radios and XM weather. I thought LSA was supposed to be a step more in the bird direction. I suppose though, if a person were running an LSA airline, the box would be useful. Of course, deice equipment would be nice too for those inadvertant encounters; say....

Posted by: Stephen Phoenix | August 29, 2011 9:59 AM    Report this comment

"An instrument rated Private Pilot can do it in LSA, but I wonder if this is evidence of good judgement."

This is a paradox of LSA-- the notion that because it's slow, flying long distances in it will somehow turn it into a lethal pumpkin at some non-specified distance from the airport. Thus it is questionable judgement to fly distances in it.

But we've been flying long trips in slow airplanes forever. My Cub has been from Florida to Alaska and back. Most modern LSAs are faster than 150s and nearly as fast as 172s.

Although the industry may have intended LSAs to be "recreational" local flyers, cheaply equipped, that's not what buyers are buying. They're putting in dual radios, dual glass, autopilots, BRS. While some of that is gadget fever--buyers just want it--some people also use that stuff and not just to find the traffic pattern they just left.

So what are the risks? For a VFR-only airplane, weather is the big one, thus weatherlink is a plus if you use the airplane for traveling. IFR is a gray area--no pun intended--so you add the risk of lightning and icing. IMC itself represents no extraordinary risk, given the redundancy many owners are installing in these airplanes.

So in the end, it's no different than it has ever been for slow airplanes, except the weatherlink gives you a better, safer edge than you ever used to have, if you want to use it. And that's the nut of the argument. Main thing: adjust your schedule to suit the airplane or stick with your Bonanza.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | August 29, 2011 10:39 AM    Report this comment

As usual, Paul nailed it. Whether using uplinked weather to fly soft IFR (whether in a Skyhawk or a Sport Cruiser) or whether using it to stay in good VFR conditions, uplinked weather is one of the best safety systems you can install in your airplane.

Better yet--get a portable, and use it in ANY airplane. We have Garmin 496s installed in my Lake Amphibian, Cessna 206, and the Cessna 414 and King Air 200 that I fly. I've been flying instruments for 44 years, mainly in the thunderstorm and ice areas of the Midwest--and find the information invaluable for ANY airplane I'm flying.

Posted by: jim hanson | August 29, 2011 10:53 AM    Report this comment

I suspect that there are a lot of people that think that all LSA'S are bad in turbulence. I also suspect that they have not flown an LSA. I own a Piper Saratoga SP,C172L,a C152,and a 2008 Remos GX. The GX will out climb the C172,and the C152 and stay right with the Piper. The GX does just as well as any of these aircraft in turbulence.I have landed the GX in a direct 27Kt crosswind with no drama. I have about 4500 hrs of flight time in a number of different aircraft with about 450 hours in the Remos GX. I am the Remos dealer for AR,OK, and LA and I have heard many people express that LSA's did not handle well in turbulence, I have never met anyone that had any significant experience that felt that way.

Posted by: tommy Lee | August 29, 2011 10:53 AM    Report this comment

"LSA's are outstandingly bad in turbulence and very limited on power. "

I'm not sure if you've actually flown any LSAs, but I can see you haven't crunched any numbers. If you get into most LSAs, you notice that they climb like hell. That's because they have power loading better than a lot of light aircraft.

For instance, the typical LSA is at 13.2lb/hp, because most have 100 HP Rotaxes and a 1320-pound limit. By comparison, the 172 has 15 lbs/hp, the 150 around the same. Even the Mooney 201, no performance slouch, is 13.7.

So LSAs are decidedly not "very limited on power."

How about wing loading? Here, LSAs tend toward the light side, usually around 10 pounds, but some higher. The Remos, for instance, has wing loading between the 150 and the 172. In any case, it is no more "outandingly bad" than the other two airplanes.

Where traditional metal airplanes have an advantage is in structure. A 150 is several hundred pounds heavier than a typical LSA--maybe as much as 300. Some of that is engine, but some is structure, too, which is why 40 year-old 150s are still flying and many LSAs may not be.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | August 29, 2011 10:58 AM    Report this comment

The other thing about LSA travel--and I don't know if other people do this or notice it--I tend to fly a lot lower and look out the windows a lot more. It is a form of travel more connected with the earth's surface than higher and faster is.

Far more interesting and relaxing--as long as you don't have to be anywhere at some specific time and you're willing to haul up short on a moment's notice.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | August 29, 2011 11:02 AM    Report this comment

I've been flying nothing but high end LSA for three years now. In my experience, turbulence is a real issue. I believe this comes from the necessarily light wing loading. Fortunately, these planes tend to climb much better than TC'd planes because of the light wing loading and very light power loading. That means you can quickly climb above the low level turbulence popular in my part of the world.

Those who want to fly LSA in IMC need to check with the plane's manufacturer before doing so. Some LSA are suited to this environment and others are definitely not! In this discussion I am not referring to equipment on the instrument panel. I am referring to issues related to the airframe structure.

Certification for S-LSA gives authority for the IMC determination to the manufacturer along with a lot of other issues. The rules require pilots to limit their operations to those authorized by the manufacturer.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | August 29, 2011 11:32 AM    Report this comment

I had a LSA (although it was a paperwork "de-rated" version of a certified aircraft) and found it to be a fun, safe and capable cross country aircraft. It also had a 496 with XM weather and I wouldn't be without it. On one specific flight, the winds aloft function was especially helpful.

At the modest speeds LSA (are required to) fly, winds become a major issue. I was facing a 15-20 headwind that would have required a fuel stop if it weren't for the XM that showed (counter intuitively) lower winds up higher. I climbed up to darn near the service ceiling of the aircraft and found, just as the 496 showed, a slight tailwind. Without datalink weather, I would have never thought to climb to avoid the headwind.

In aviation, ignorance is never bliss. I really don't understand the mindset that believes that giving pilots more information is a bad thing. It’s what they do with it that matters and I’ve found that training in aviation decision making is often lacking. Limiting access to information doesn’t solve that problem.

Posted by: Kris Larson | August 29, 2011 11:34 AM    Report this comment

I've got a Piper Cherokee 140 with a standard IFR instrument panel and an internet-equipped iPad mounted on my yoke running WingX (thee game changer for any GA pilot in my opinion). Though I'm not running XM weather, I can still get all the up-to-the-minute METARS, Satellite pics, TAFs, etc. So for comparison's sake, we're talking the same capabilities and speeds that a nicely equipped LSA might have... You know what I've discovered after weaving in and out of complicated Los Angeles basin airspace, weather, and mountainous terrain while carrying friends and loved ones over the years? Go VFR or don't go!! (With a LIGHT layer of low lying clouds that you can IFR-to-VFR-on-top out of being thee exception.) Light and small airplanes like mine and like most LSA's, are just running the ragged edge when it comes to hard IFR flying! Do not tell your friends and family you can get them from here to there in a slow, underpowered, non anti-ice, non de-iced, airplane when there's mega clouds or any icing out and you're going to be hard IFR for a while. You are putting yourself and them at risk. Plus IFR flying is much slower, requiring longer routings, higher altitudes and more time possibly in the soup, than you want to be. I'm not saying scud run, I'm saying if a trip can't be done safely under VFR conditions, then you are looking to put your loved ones in a bumpy and often disorientating situation.

Posted by: Anthony Longobardo | August 29, 2011 11:40 AM    Report this comment

Keep you and your light airplane IFR current, but only use it if good safe VFR conditions escape you half way on your trip and conditions are getting cloudy, dark, and icy and it's time to land. Certainly do not SET OUT in those conditions! For that kind of routine flying, you need a mightier airplane; something that can climb above the icing levels or QUICKLY navigate around the storms. The first time you see ice on your wings, ice on your windshield, are at 10,000' and can't climb a foot higher with friends and family aboard and can't go lower because of mountains below you, you'll know what I'm talking about. Underpowered and underequipped airplanes aren't built for serious IFR flying.

Posted by: Anthony Longobardo | August 29, 2011 11:40 AM    Report this comment

Many LSA have exactly the same structure as traditional metal airplanes. Indeed they are traditional metal airplanes. There are over a hundred new S-LSA models and a lot more that meet the LSA definition in FAR 1.1 that actually determines whether a plane is legal for a Sport Pilot to fly.

It is not reasonable to expect all of these planes to have any structural characteristics, and comparing and contrasting LSA to "Traditional Metal Airplanes" is simply nonsense. I realize some people think of the sleek European plastic airplanes when they think of LSA, but these are a very small subset of the whole group. Even the European high end S-LSA include at least two manufacturers (Tecnam, Czech Sport) that offer only airplanes with traditional metal structure.

I agree we don't really know how durable the new composite structures are and it may be they only last a fraction of the life span of a traditional metal airplane. This issue should not be confused with the difference between LSA and Type Certificated aircraft.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | August 29, 2011 11:46 AM    Report this comment

I really wonder where people get the idea that LSA are under powered. All the ones I know about are over powered compared to small type certificated planes. They do tend to have smaller engines than similar sized certified planes, but they also weigh a lot less. It is horsepower per pound of weight that really matters.

My home built LSA (also E-AB) Zodiac has 10 pounds per horsepower when flown at gross weight and about 8 when flown solo. If this is underpowered I can't imagine what it takes to be properly powered or overpowered. Certainly you won't find a certified light plane with this kind of power loading.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | August 29, 2011 11:58 AM    Report this comment

"I'm not sure if you've actually flown any LSAs, but I can see you haven't crunched any numbers"

LSA's(by definition) are limited in both GW and speed. It's inarguable that the slowest and lightest aircraft are a handful in turbulence. The C162 is particularly tedious to fly in turbulence.

Fly an RV-10 before suggesting that an LSA's "numbers" are good in turbulence or in climb.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | August 29, 2011 12:48 PM    Report this comment

Many LSA have exactly the same structure as traditional metal airplanes. Indeed they are traditional metal airplanes

Well, not exactly, Paul. LSAs are much lighter in structure, but also...much lighter. So they theoretically don't need as much structure because the loads are accordingly lower. Except in the real world, it doesn't work that way.

We have ongoing contacts with flight schools running both LSAs and 150s and 172s. On some LSAs with just a few hundred hours, stuff breaks. Landing gear attach points and legs; nose gear mounts, door latches, hinges, vents, wiring--yes wiring, attach points, brackets and so on. (No engine complaints, though.)

Nothing on that list won't break on a 150, but it will be many, many hours before it does. And that's the point--the structure is not there to take the beating of the typical training environment. Add 200 pounds of additional material where it's needed most and you'd have a more durable airplane. You'd also have a Cessna 150 or a Katana.

That lighter weight is clearly not free and thus far, there's no evidence that corrective design will make up for it. That's not to say there won't be, but it hasn't happened yet.

I was at AMD a couple of months ago going over the Zodiac wing fix. That is a very light wing. By comparison, a Cessna 150 is the Brooklyn Bridge. My guess is it that it has margin that LSAs don't.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | August 29, 2011 12:55 PM    Report this comment

I love these arguments. I own a TC aircraft. My next plane will be a LSA. Why? Greater speed, climb performance, baggage allowance, ethanol gas capability, modern equipment, new airframe, new engine, and on and on and on. Oh, and i can do my own annual.

Posted by: Jay | August 29, 2011 1:51 PM    Report this comment

Jay, it sounds like you own an old dog if an LSA is a "step up".

Posted by: Mark Fraser | August 29, 2011 2:21 PM    Report this comment

I'm not sure how this discussion turned from "Do you use data-link weather information in a LSA" to "Can LSAs even survive bad weather".

Back on subject; assuming you're in the crowd that believes that LSA aren't strong enough to survive a brush with any significant weather you've got two choices:

1. Never leave the traffic pattern 2. Use every tool at your disposal to avoid bad weather.

If it's #2, data-link weather would be a HUGE benefit.

Most LSAs have over-the-horizon capability and range. They also aren't very fast so the weather can change quite a bit during flight.

Data-link weather is a significant safety enhancer.

Posted by: Kris Larson | August 29, 2011 3:20 PM    Report this comment

The folks who question the structural integrity of the composite SLSA aircraft should start worrying about military aircraft and civilian aircraft falling out of the air because we are using the same material and techniques to construct some of the composite SLSA'S. The Remos company gets carbon cloth from the same company that supplies Airbus and we use a robot to apply resin to the material used to ensure a high quality,consistent structure that has no known life limit and I will have no problem letting my grandchildren fly it.

Posted by: tommy Lee | August 29, 2011 4:17 PM    Report this comment

Paul B,

There are LSA and then there are S-LSA. LSA are any aircraft that meet the Light-Sport definition in FAR 1.1. Included in this class are a large number of TCd planes including Cubs, Champs, Luscombes, and Ercoupes. That makes these planes both LSA and Type Certified aircraft. So when you claim there is a difference between LSA and TCd airplanes you are saying there is a difference between a Champ and a Champ.

S-LSA are factory built planes with an S-LSA airworthiness certificate. S-LSA must meet the ASTM standard rather than FAR part 23. They must also be LSA as defined in FAR 1.1. They are a small subset of the whole class of aircraft that are LSA.

Without a doubt many of the over 100 new models of S-LSA are inappropriate for use as primary trainers.

It is not impossible that an S-LSA might be built with the same robust strength as a trainer like a C-150, but the standard that controls them won't always get you there. The standards used for TCd planes (FAR Part 23) will nearly always get you a stronger plane than an S-LSA. It is a standard that was meant for commercial aircraft rather than recreational ones. The part 23 planes will also cost about twice as much as a similar S-LSA and weigh a lot more. That means more fuel use and more overall operating costs to get slower climb and cruise rates.

All the above means I agree with you if you change your comments to apply to S-LSA rather than LSA.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | August 29, 2011 6:27 PM    Report this comment

It’s pretty arrogant to suggest that speed-limited LSAs (120 knots/138 mph) are inadequate for cross country flying. Granted, a 165 or 170 knot Mooney/Bonanza/210 will make a 1000 mile trip in a lot shorter time than my 115 knot 172 (6 hours vs. 8 2/3), but in a more typical GA cross country of 250 miles, there’s only a 45 minute difference, not enough to brag about. But in that 250 miles, a lot of weather can happen. To say that an airplane with maximum 120 knot capabilities shouldn’t be equipped with data link weather ignores that the vast majority of “slow” GA singles are equipped for IFR flight, many are flown IFR, and all could use the benefit of data link weather.

FWIW, in my 7 3/4 flight hours to OSH last month, I legitimately logged 6 1/4 hours IFR and shot 2 approaches. I was one of few GA singles to have an IFR slot reservation into OSH. Your Mooney/Bonanza/210 would have gotten there a couple hours sooner, but you’d have flown it in just as much IMC along the same route. If I’d had data link, perhaps I might have dodged a little of the weather, but probably not, because it was easy IMC, safe for a single, just a bit tiring without an autopilot. But I would have had a better knowledge of what was ahead of me, only 5-10 minutes old instead of older and instead of having to rely on the traditional methods of calling for weather enroute. So there’s no reason not to have data link weather in an LSA or other “slow” airplane, and a lot of reasons to have it.

Posted by: Cary Alburn | August 29, 2011 6:31 PM    Report this comment

---- folks who question the structural integrity of the composite SLSA aircraft should start worrying about military aircraft and ----

I don't think anyone doubts the structural integrity of composite structures. It is their endurance that is unknown. Many composites will "Sag" if they get too hot. That is why they are almost always white. Composites are also difficult (impossible?) to inspect to determine the internal condition.

It might turn out that composites last forever, but I doubt this is the case. The real question is just how long will they last in the aviation environment.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | August 29, 2011 6:35 PM    Report this comment

Not SLSAs are created equal.

Self-Certification (as is done under ATSM rules) is only as good as the "Self" doing the certification.

BTW, wasn't the LSA Zodiac the one that the wings kept folding in flight (flutter)?

Posted by: Kris Larson | August 29, 2011 6:46 PM    Report this comment


It was the Zodiac XL (now sold as Zodiac 650 or CH650) that had a number (perhaps 10) of in-flight structural failures. Eventually the same engineers that review part 23 designs went over the XL design and pronounced it lacking. They asked the company that controlled the design to fix it. An upgrade was designed and reviewed by the same FAA engineers. Then they pronounced it OK according the the ASTM standard.

This design is particularly confusing because the same design (give or take) is used for plans built aircraft, kit built aircraft - both standard kits and quick build ones, and two different versions of factory built S-LSA - one from AMD in GA, USA and another from Czech Aircraft works in Czechoslovakia. Both of those companies are no longer in business.

Sadly, the document released by the FAA guys describing their work and findings was written so poorly that only an FAA guy can get the right message from it. The alleged designer (Chris Heintz) and his sons who currently produce the kits and plans claim there was never anything wrong with the design and all the failures were the result of loose cables. The net result is there are still an unknown number (probably at least hundreds in my opinion) of XLs that have not been upgraded because the owners think the upgrade is not a great idea. I dread the day when we learn they were wrong because of another fatal in-flight failure.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | August 29, 2011 10:01 PM    Report this comment

Kris, Though still a bit off subject with apologies to Paul B., if you want a good, accurate analysis of the Zodiac wing issue read Pat Panzera's article at eaa org news 2010 2010-02-25_zodiac.asp Mr. Mulwitz is incorrect in much of what he says about the issue and his innacuracy and fearful 'dread' sounds all too familiar from some who were on the Zenith list on Matronics during that difficult time fearmongering while we builders were trying to keep positive about the tragic accidents. Dave

Posted by: Dave Miller | August 29, 2011 11:06 PM    Report this comment

Mark. My TC airplane is not a "dog" but a very capable airplane for it's time but it's no match to a Kitfox Series 7. A Series 7 will do 120 - 125 mph, carry 150 lbs of baggage, has a glass panel, can accept a two axis AP, switch from nose wheel to tail wheel in two hours, fly from floats, wheels, or skis, and, with folding wings, slide right next to my less capable TC plane in the hanger.

Posted by: Jay | August 29, 2011 11:07 PM    Report this comment

Mr. Miller,

I just read the article you mentioned and found nothing in it that was inconsistent with my statements. I don't know why you claim "Mr. Mulwitz is incorrect in much of what he says about the issue" but I would be happy to address any specific facts you think are inconsistent with my comments.

In the end, the current situation is that the FAA, Zenith Aircraft, Zenair, and myself all agree that all Zodiac XL owners should install the upgrade package to insure their aircraft are airworthy. I know there are some owners who have not done this and have no intention to do so because they believe there is no need for the upgrade. If you are suggesting they are correct and there is not any need for the upgrade I hope you are willing to take personal responsibility for any future deaths caused by this decision.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | August 30, 2011 12:17 AM    Report this comment

I am going to get up at 4:30 am in the morning and fly Remos N66NX 1145NM(KASG to 5B6). I am excited about the trip, although I am disappointed to learn that my return flight on a commercial airline (2 stops)will take longer than my trip in a lowly light sport aircraft (Remos GXNXT),and I do have on board XM weather and XM radio.

Posted by: tommy Lee | August 30, 2011 7:53 AM    Report this comment

The ensuing discussion after my mention of the Zodiac problems (which I did intentionally to prompt the discussion) highlights the problem with ATSM certification.

SLSA are self-certified by the designer/manufacture (as are ELSAs). There is no real supervising governing body to assure airworthiness. Legal action brought by claimants will likely be the mechanism used to bring about correction of unsafe conditions.

Unfortunately, our civil court system has proven itself TOTALY unable to bring about safety improvements. Money not safety is the motivation behind almost all civil action and "truth" has nothing to do with the process.

As SLSAs keep pushing the envelope in performance, useful load and price driven by marketing (i.e. Terrafugia, Icon), I'm afraid that we will likely see many more incidents like the Zodiac's followed by allot of finger pointing and denials.

I'm afraid that liability insurance costs are ultimately likely to exceed certification costs. Unlike certification, insurance premiums provide no increase in safety.

So much for Light Sport saving aviation.

Posted by: Kris Larson | August 30, 2011 11:25 AM    Report this comment

"SLSA are self-certified by the designer/manufacture (as are ELSAs). There is no real supervising governing body to assure airworthiness. Legal action brought by claimants will likely be the mechanism used to bring about correction of unsafe conditions." I am afraid that you are confusing the SLSA manufactures with an organization like the federal government, our supervising governing body, although it means well, has stifled innovation and unnecessarily forced costs so high that we now have 182's that go out the door for $430,000.00. My experience with the manufactures is that they respond a lot quicker and more effectively than a "real supervising governing body". I guess that we might have problems if they were selling every aircraft they could build and were making huge profits while protected by a governing agency that prevented competition with a huge compilation of regulations that are virtually impossible to comply with unless you have hundreds of millions of dollars to throw at the governing agency. I applaud the people that gave light sport a chance and I believe that with everyone's support it will be a resounding success.

Posted by: tommy Lee | August 30, 2011 1:44 PM    Report this comment

As a newly minted Sport Pilot, and having received my training at APA (Centennial Airport in Denver), I can't imagine taking any LSA, metal, fabric or composite, into, or anywhere near, convective weather.

I've already been in a microburst which instantly became a life-and-death race between +x and -y, and the weather at the time was about average for a Front Range afternoon. We had a weather link, and the area was painted green. Yellow? You've got to be kidding.

Posted by: Patrick Underwood | August 30, 2011 2:04 PM    Report this comment

No Tommy, While you can make that argument that regulation is the reason we don't have more aircraft designs coming to market, it isn't the reason a 182 costs so much. A large portion (VERY large portion) of that price can be attributed directly to product liability.

I'll argue that SLSAs will actually be more vulnerable to frivolous lawsuits because their self-certified nature is not subject to independent review. All civil actions will have to be defended separately and “airworthiness” proven with each case. The cost of defending the design in court may very well exceed the cost of certification.

When and if a SLSA manufacture ever becomes financially successful, it will no-doubt be come the target of (possibly frivolous) lawsuits. When that happens, LSA prices will become just as bloated as certified aircraft without the benefit of the additional safety provided by the certification process.

The biggest problem will be that changes and updates to increase safety will be driven by lawyers, not pilots and engineers and subject to a cost/benefit analysis.

The LSA rules were intended to allow conservative proven designs an easier and cheaper path to production (i.e. "Cub" clones). But instead, some of the fast, sexy, cutting-edge designs are using the LSA rules to avoid certification entirely.

Posted by: Kris Larson | August 30, 2011 2:48 PM    Report this comment


I agree with a lot of your comments, but I think there are a few things you missed in the LSA consensus process used by ASTM with regard to the Zodiac XL.

The LSA standards do force a lot of responsibility on the manufacturers of S-LSA. However the manufacturers are not alone in this. National CAAs (i.e. FAA in the USA) also are involved in the aircraft certification process. In the FAA case, there are detailed audits conducted of S-LSA manufacturers to insure they are doing what they are supposed to do.

Also, the Zodiac XL problem might be a good example of what might happen in the S-LSA environment, but the Zodiac is not a product of this process. Its design predates the LSA rule by about 5 years. Besides being S-LSA it was previously E-AB. The design flaws didn't happen at an S-LSA manufacturer at all. In this case the manufacturers were produce an existing E-AB design.

One last point. The NTSB was instrumental in getting attention to the Zodiac XL problem. I believe it would do the same for any other design that proved to be deficient through accidents. Their standard (I asked) is to pay a lot of attention to any design that has more than one in-flight structure failure.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | August 30, 2011 3:28 PM    Report this comment

Not all that comforting for the first 2 who have the structural failure is it...

Posted by: Kris Larson | August 30, 2011 6:02 PM    Report this comment


It doesn't hurt for very long . . .

The reason for needing the second failure is it establishes a pattern of failure. There is always the chance that a weird event causes a single failure, but when 2 occur on the same model plane it becomes a trend.

My point was to argue against your notion that it is the lawyers who must push manufacturers to fix problems. Indeed, the NTSB is watching and waiting for an indication that a problem needs attention.

As for the unfortunate victims of the first 2 events, there is a way to avoid being one of these. Stick to well established designs that are popular and built in large numbers. This doesn't guarantee avoiding design problems, but it helps.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | August 30, 2011 6:46 PM    Report this comment

"As a newly minted Sport Pilot, and having received my training at APA (Centennial Airport in Denver), I can't imagine taking any LSA, metal, fabric or composite, into, or anywhere near, convective weather."

And you're wise to do so. I have flown around the Front Range and over the divide and wouldn't go near some of that weather in *anything,* especially virga, which paints green and signals downdrafts.

Here in Florida, it's different. The thunderstorm are the large droplet variety and don't typically contain either hail, downdrafts or strong gust fronts, although they can. You just have to know what you're dealing with.

We routinely skirt them visually or with the help of weatherlink, if available. With good visual conditions between and enough distance, it's safe to fly between cells. In the days before weatherlink, eyeballs were the whole game. It's better now, that's for sure.

And FYI, IFR-approved composite airplanes are hardened against lightning. Some have taken hits with only minor adverse effects. (Exit burns, usually.)

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | August 30, 2011 6:55 PM    Report this comment

To those folks who think the whole LSA idea is a disaster and that Part 23 is a success: you don't have to fly LSA.

But please stop trying to block progress for those who think that Part 23 is a disaster, and that it's worth trying an alternative.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | August 31, 2011 6:28 AM    Report this comment

Thomas, "progress" means moving forward. LSA's just re-invent a small wheel. Using car derived engines is not new. Using composites dates back to the 60's. Certainly "glass panels" did not get their start in LSA's.

Don't confuse "progress" with "change". LSA's represent a somewhat cheaper forms of what we already have; nothing innovative(yet).

Posted by: Mark Fraser | August 31, 2011 8:49 AM    Report this comment

Mr. Longobardo, you posted "I've got... an internet-equipped iPad mounted... running WingX. Though I'm not running XM weather, I can still get all the up-to-the-minute METARS, Satellite pics, TAFs, etc." I don't understand. If you're running a SkyRadar ADS-B receiver, why would you need XM weather? Isn't that the same info as ADS-B NEXRAD?

Posted by: Michael Muetzel | August 31, 2011 11:03 AM    Report this comment

Mark, I suppose that the difference between a 60's era IBM computer and a new IPAD could be just described as change, as far as the Rotax 912ULS goes, I believe that it was designed to propel unmanned aerial vehicles for the US military. I also believe that if you will try the new Trutrak and Dynon glass and autopilots that there is just as much difference in them as the aforementioned computing products.

Posted by: tommy Lee | August 31, 2011 11:11 AM    Report this comment

Hi Mark, I guess you're entitled to claim there's nothing new here. I see it differently. There are over 100 new designs. There are glass panels for under $10k, and a class of aircraft that has airframe parachutes widely installed. We're seeing rapid-cycle adoption of incremental improvements without the need to certificate each. We're seeing a supply ecosystem getting started (from glass panels to engines to control sticks). We're seeing costs (finally) starting to come down (after being driven up by the strength of the euro). We're seeing competition emerging on the engine side now (from Rotax only, then Jabiru, now Continental and Lycoming). We're seeing the beginnings of the consumer awareness infrastructure (brand, reviews, active engagement in the ASTM process) that's needed to audit quality in the absence of the Part 23 regulator. I'm not sure how you see nothing new here. To me it's paradigm-shattering.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | August 31, 2011 11:14 AM    Report this comment

The LSA rules are great as long as they’re not pushed too far. They were meant to provide a less expensive way for simple, basic flying machines to come to market and a faster less expensive way for people to learn to fly them. They were not meant to spur “innovation”.

But the rules are being pushed too far. Electric folding wings, retractable gear, 180hp engines, speeds kept in check only by reducing propeller pitch so that the engine redlines before 120kts IAS, very slippery airframes with horrible stall characteristics, unknown spin characteristics, flying cars... All on airplanes that have to weigh less than 900lbs (empty).

Those who are using the SLSA rules to avoid certification are going to ruin it for those who don't need certification. The end result will be aircraft that cost just as much as certified airplanes.

If I wanted to be a test pilot, I'd fly an ELSA, not a SLSA. Let's leave the experimenting where it belongs.

Posted by: Kris Larson | August 31, 2011 11:36 AM    Report this comment

Kris, if you don't want to be a test pilot, don't! Stick to well-proven designs with significant numbers of airframes in operation and a large accumulated fleet time.

We've had essentially uncertificated aircraft for many years, in Part 103 and in E-AB. Buyers who want "non-experimental" designs in these categories, buy proven designs, and/or designs from proven companies (Wills Wing, Moyes, RV, Rans, etc.).

Of course, for the conservative buyer it's better if the factory builds the aircraft, which in fact they do in Part 103. There hasn't been a quality problem in Part 103 in decades, but there was in the early days, and the lessons don't need to be learned a second time. It requires consumer awareness, and some auditing. Dan Johnson - a former hang glider - is trying hard to make sure the lessons of Part 103 get carried over so they don't get re-learned the hard way.

There is an adjustment in realizing that only the company, and not the government, stands behind an aircraft. Once you get past the culture shock, it's a new world of options and innovation. Stop by a hang glider field sometime and ask how many of the fliers think their aircraft could be improved by FAA certification. (I'd stand well back.)

Separately, are there any LSA with "horrible stall characteristics?" I don't deny it; I'm just not aware of any.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | August 31, 2011 12:45 PM    Report this comment

"I see it differently. There are over 100 new designs. There are glass panels for under $10k, and adoption of incremental improvements without the need to certificate each."

And how is any of that different from what experimental aircraft have done(and done better)? The ONLY reason for LSA is that it's a step up from powered hang-gliders yet still avoids a medical.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | August 31, 2011 12:59 PM    Report this comment

Mark, two words: factory built.

And of course it's great not having to have a medical for basic operations (I remain a bit puzzled about why a medical is necessary for night/IFR, but there you have it).

It would be great if the rule could be expanded to allow any of the many E-AB designs to be factory built, but it doesn't (yet).

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | August 31, 2011 1:31 PM    Report this comment

I really think we are in the midst of many changes at many levels in aviation today, and because change is very hard for some, there will always be those who need to subvert anything that challenges their status quo.

Despite unusually hot weather last weekend I had the honor of listening to Erik Lindbergh at Valle, Az talk to a small group about his life and grandfather. But when he started with the second half about electric aircraft and their potential, and his personal belief that electric is absolutely coming and we need to embrace it fully, more than half of the crowd left the hangar. They returned later for pictures and refreshments...

There'll be a lot of change and transformation to come in aviation, in my opinion, but I sure hope we can embrace what works for the good of GA without so much subversion and stubborness that some insist upon.

Posted by: Dave Miller | August 31, 2011 2:28 PM    Report this comment

The Zodiacs appeared to be "well-proven designs with significant numbers of airframes in operation and a large accumulated fleet time". It didn't help all the people that died in them did it?

Just how does a lay-person who wants to become a Sport Pilot (the entire reason for the existence of the category) determine a design is "well-proven"? Consumer Reports? Talk to people trying to sell him one? (They aren't going to be biased) Check the internet? (You can believe EVERYTHING you read there). Even right here on this blog we have conflicting opinions whether the Zodiac needs to be fixed and that design has killed people.

And if you do buy a SLSA that turns out later to have a design defect, how will you know? Read the paper looking for lawsuits filed? What if they are settled out-of-court?

Innovation and Self-Certification should be mutually exclusive. If you want cheap and innovative (and don't mind being a test pilot), go ELSA. SLSA should be conservative, proven designs.

Posted by: Kris Larson | August 31, 2011 2:51 PM    Report this comment

@Thomas: Factory built? Kit's are factory built too (but assembled by owners). Vendors sell as "kits" these days that make a simple planes in "2 weeks to taxi". All I'm saying is that nothing is "unique" with LSA's except the medical waiver to operate a "real" plane.

I agree, if they dropped the medical for aircraft below say 3000# and 200MPH, then that would help a lot MORE of aviation...

Posted by: Mark Fraser | August 31, 2011 3:08 PM    Report this comment


Are you a lawyer? You seem hung up on the notion that lawyers are the way to deal with design issues on aircraft. It is true that happened to certified light planes in the 1980s, and that marked the end (in my opinion) of the fun in certified planes. It certainly increased the costs.

ElSA and SLSA are not different from each other. Now that the fat ultralight conversion process is over ELSA must be IDENTICAL to the S-LSA they are patterned from. This is why they don't require the 51% rule and don't require any more test flying than the equivalent S-LSA. That is about the same as factory test flying for certified planes. It is not about verifying the design can fly, it is about verifying the plane was properly assembled.

For true test pilot experience you need to go E-AB. This is still a lot more popular than S-LSA, and E-LSA is almost non-existent. With E-AB the builder is free to change the design any way he wishes or indeed do an entire design for his own plane. That means serious test flying is needed - and required by the regs.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | August 31, 2011 3:13 PM    Report this comment

No, I'm not a Lawyer and you haven't read what I've written very closely as I stated quite clearly that our civil law system is horrible at making things safer.

I am a realist and know that the inevitable consequence of self-certification or regulation is litigation. With litigation will come higher costs.

Just the perception of conflict of interest (which is unavoidable with self-certification) assures there will be litigation. The only thing preventing it now is the lack of "deep pockets" to go after.

Perhaps Icon will be the first to be sued as they have successfully raised more capital than any other. Maybe it will be Cessna, they have deep pockets. Maybe liability exposure is the reason Piper dropped out of the LSA market.

Whoever it is will have an expensive time proving their designs are safe without independent certification to back them up.

Posted by: Kris Larson | August 31, 2011 4:21 PM    Report this comment

Kris, I agree that self-certification is not so good. I'd like to see audits, by an independent agency.

Yes, the Zodiacs appeared to be well-proven designs, by a well-established designer. Of course, so did the V-tail Bonanza. There may be only so much you can do. The Zeniths date from 1984 (well before LSA) and there's controversy as to what - if anything - was wrong with them, with engineering reviews and flutter tests producing no "smoking gun".

It's easy to forget that there are Part 23-certificated machines out there with notoriously vicious stalls, high control forces, inadequate control authority at forward CG, highly-restricted pilot visibility, fuel selectors on the floor (dangerous in IMC), seats that slip in their tracks, poor rates of climb, minimal power-off glide capability, inadequate single-engine performance, no shoulder harnesses... and suspiciously high rates of in-flight structural failures.

If you want a conservative, proven design, there are several SLSA out there that are just that. For example, if what I have read is to be believed, Cessna's C-162 is a thoroughly tested and conservative design, from a big, brand-name, deep-pockets company. There are a few other LSAs that come from producers that have established their credibility also, and have moderately deep pockets (Tecnam and Evektor come to mind).

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | August 31, 2011 4:24 PM    Report this comment

@Mark Fraser - Fair enough. E-AB is more innovative than LSA, no question. And if we could get medical dropped for Private Pilots, it would be a big improvement. And I still want factory-built: 2 Weeks To Taxi is available for, what, 1 aircraft type?, and requires another year or so of finishing work (one weekend at a time).

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | August 31, 2011 4:27 PM    Report this comment

What ever happened to balance? After retiring from an airline and then doing turbine corporate work for a couple of years I fully retired and bought a single engine Cessna fully IFR capable. Realizing that my currency was legal but not up to my own standards. I raised my minimums higher. So the beer is more important than launching into weather that I would have tackeled before . When we do go I know I always have a way out using all the equipment including the cockpit weather information I now enjoy. We may go to a LSA soon and when we do we will adjust the minimums upwards again even with the same onboard weather information available.

Posted by: Jim Smith | September 1, 2011 9:05 AM    Report this comment


Balance is good.

When you move to LSA, if you want to continue to fly IFR you need to choose your plane carefully. Some S-LSA maufacturers approve of IMC use for some of their planes and others don't. All S-LSA are suitable for VFR day, and night is an equipment (i.e. lights) issue but IMC is not optional on many S-LSA.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | September 1, 2011 10:14 AM    Report this comment

To move this circular argument off center, perhaps a better answer to whether LSA's should be equipped for "soft" IFR (cross-country, penetrating cloud decks)and not hard IFR (convective activity, ice, high winds and turbulence)would be to eliminate the 3rd class medical for PVT/SEL/Instrument. Really, the challenges of flying hard IFR in a Bonanza are not orders of magnitude different from flying hard IFR in a Tecnam Sierra (which flies very much like a "real" airplane, minus the pop rivets). No matter who built your airplane, or how it's certified or equipped, if you mess with weather beyond you or your airplane's capabilities, you are throwing dice for keeps. True for an LSA. True for everything with wings. I don't believe there's any evidence at all that suggests medical self-certification for private pilots poses a real risk.

Posted by: Robin White | September 1, 2011 11:15 AM    Report this comment

Been flying since 1954, first as a Naval Aviator(All WX Attack Squadron). Last 18 years have been in my trusty C-172M that came from the factory IFR equipped(price was about$19K in 1974 $s). Added a Century I a/p and now have a 496 that I will not fly w/o.We fly all over this great country @ 104kts true but always get a live wx briefing and usually file IFR no matter what the forcast is. WX in the cockpit now takes a lot of the stress out of our cross countrys, notwithstanding I am in radio contact with ATC. My LSA fellow aviators need that cockpit WX only if they plan to fly lots of daylight VFR cross country trips. There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no old bold pilots. My 2 cents.

Posted by: Dan Coffman | September 1, 2011 2:39 PM    Report this comment

"I don't believe there's any evidence at all that suggests medical self-certification for private pilots poses a real risk."

It's a real risk. The question is if that risk actually translates into NTSB reports. So far, the LSA seems to indicate that older pilots are doing just fine without medicals.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | September 1, 2011 2:48 PM    Report this comment

OK Mark, I'll bite.

What is the real risk? How do FAA aeromedical bureaucrats improve safety?

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | September 1, 2011 3:38 PM    Report this comment

Simple, if you ground 10% of the pilots you reduce the risk by 10%!

Posted by: Josh Johnson | September 1, 2011 9:30 PM    Report this comment

You are right, Josh.

Also, if you make pilots pay outrageous amounts of money and time to satisfy the bureaucrats then they can't afford to buy avgas. That makes a further dent in the density of aluminum clouds.

But . . . I thought the FAA was supposed to PROMOTE aviation rather than discourage it.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | September 1, 2011 9:44 PM    Report this comment

In the 1950's I flew my BC-12D from New Orleans to Kentucky a bunch of times. I flew it to Flint, MI. and to Van Nuys, CA. And all over SOCAL. All that with a map,[Sorry, uh charts] whiskey compas and pre-flight briefings.

All you have to do is use your grey matter a little more. You will not have to depend on all that electronic pollution.

Since my first solo 12 Oct. 45, I've only been held up by weather a few dozen times. And of course an instrument rating adds utiity to your air vehicle.

Posted by: kent tarver | September 2, 2011 12:01 AM    Report this comment

All you have to do is use your grey matter a little more.>

And we're using less and less of it as gadget dependency increasingly blurs the line between master and slave. An 'electronic stare' for many, if you will.

I may have an advantage in some respects tho not needing so many aviation gadgets, living in the us southwest we often have to think how to spell 'whether', I mean 'weather,' or 'rain'. When, however, my friend from Indiana comes to visit he usually wants to know what that thing called 'density altitude' is...Hoosiers!

Posted by: Dave Miller | September 2, 2011 12:47 PM    Report this comment

"What is the real risk? How do FAA aeromedical bureaucrats improve safety?"

At a minimum, they keep out blind pilots and those with other eye problems. There has to be a base minimum requirement.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | September 2, 2011 10:24 PM    Report this comment


I have a hard time with your notion that a bureaucrat in Oklahoma City has better judgement than a pilot on the East Coast. Your notion that the bureaucrats keep blind pilots from flying assumes the pilot is not smart enough to ground himself if he is unable to fly safely. After all, it is the pilot who will get squashed flat if his judgement is deficient - not the bureaucrat who is afraid of any kind of risk at all.

I just don't trust government bureaucrats to have good judgement. My years in the government and life in general taught me that bureaucrats are generally sub-humans doing sub-human jobs with no ability at all to think. They just keep putting round pegs into round holes like they were taught decades ago.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | September 2, 2011 11:07 PM    Report this comment

Paul, Why is it so hard to believe that people exceed their better judgement as PIC? The NTSB reports are full of those that do...

Posted by: Mark Fraser | September 2, 2011 11:36 PM    Report this comment

Mark's point is shown clearly thru statements like 'sub-humans..with no ability at all to think' and the 'pilot is not smart enough.' These are arrogant assumptions - precisely what some pilots may use that exceeds their better judgement as PIC to Mark's point. Even the greatest intellect is always submissive to an undisciplined, needy ego.

After all, it is the pilot who will get squashed flat if his judgement is deficient > Or others on the ground, and/or his/her passengers.

...'the buraucrat who is afraid of any kind of risk at all' How do you possibly know this? I've spent my life in the mental health field mostly underpaid as a 'sub-human' for various forms of the government and could give hundreds of examples of strength and grace in humility and weakness in arrogance and risk-taking.

No playing field is level. That is purely an illusion. Standards and basic requirements are part of any socially responsible endeavor. Whether the 3rd class medical is eliminated or not isn't my concern.

I know it's pervasive today to join the herd and blame the government for one's failure to be self-determined and personally creative in all things for personal happiness, however, most would be shocked to learn it is really a dependent form of behavior to blame abstracts like government or inanimate objects like guns for their own problems - it displays exactly the opposite of the projected illusion of independence from those things.

Posted by: Dave Miller | September 3, 2011 4:28 AM    Report this comment

I know many good, hard-working people in government who never blame others for their own inadequacies and take personal risks in their lives that would make most people retreat, including many big bad-a..s pilots. Most try very hard to work for the good of all and do their best always, it's the right thing to do.

Posted by: Dave Miller | September 3, 2011 4:30 AM    Report this comment

I get it Dave. Your experience as a scared bureaucrat means your judgement is better than any arrogant pilot?

If you want to see sub-human behavior you should stand in the doorway of a government finance office when the quitting bell rings. You would get run over from the stampede of those caring thinking folks in their frenzied run for the exit.

I know there are lots of nice hard working people in the government. It is not their fault that the environment severely limits their ability to do anything other than the round peg in a round hole work they are limited to do by the system.

Sadly, it is not just the government or "Our" government that has this problem. It is all governments the world over and also nearly all large corporations. It is any organization where the main paradigm for workers is "Don't Rock the Boat".

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | September 3, 2011 5:17 AM    Report this comment

----- Why is it so hard to believe that people exceed their better judgement as PIC? The NTSB reports are full of those that do... ----

Mark, I agree with you that pilots exceed their ability and make bad judgements. That is part of being human. Where I disagree with you is that government bureaucrats are the answer to solve this problem.

I don't think bureaucracies solve weaknesses in human nature. They just limit risk. Fear is the dominant idea in every bureaucrat's mind. If you want to minimize risk in anything then get bureaucrats to regulate it. Unfortunately, they will have you spending your life in a rubber lined room with warm milk as your entire diet. From my point of view that is not living at all. It is just prolonging existence while waiting for death.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | September 3, 2011 5:22 AM    Report this comment

"Mark's point is shown clearly thru statements like 'sub-humans.."

No, not at all. But when I read about 2 guys at a bar for hours and then the bartender hears "let's go flying" and then the 2 guys do aerobatics(at night) in a Navion, it does make you wonder! Bureaucrats (who are people too) make just as many asinine failures of judgement.

Unfortunately us reasonable and safe PIC's (the majority) suffer from both sides. The idiots in our own ranks who make us all look asinine and the bad bureaucrats who try to "fix" that problem.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | September 3, 2011 9:22 PM    Report this comment

Never been a bureaucrat; only a mental health therapist for various gov't agencies like the VA. But I'll look out for those harried sub-humans rushing home from work from now on. One could get injured, or worse, disgusted.

Happy to see you 'got' my post and for showing me that a lifetime of specific, individually talored, oft-times difficult therapy work could have been avoided by simply using generalizations and assumptions as tools - the very things that created most of the problems for so many clients! If only I'd known that so many years ago.

Now if only I could wake up...

Posted by: Dave Miller | September 4, 2011 4:51 AM    Report this comment

"...when I read about 2 guys at a bar for hours and then the bartender hears "let's go flying" and then the 2 guys do aerobatics(at night) in a Navion, it does make you wonder!"

Mark: Those Navion pilots likely had current 3rd-class medicals and were flying a reasonably legal airplane. It was their judgement that failed them. My only point in questioning whether it makes sense for LSA's to fly light IFR was a bit different: Should LSA's be equipped as well as (or better than) normal category aircraft? Sure. Why the heck not? Not many flights (or pilots) come to grief through knowing too much about the weather, traffic, terrain, etc. And... Should private pilots be permitted to fly IFR with the same medical restrictions as an LSA pilot? I think the answer is also, why the heck not? Pilots on every level of the aviation ladder, from LSA's to Bonanzas to single seat jets to 747's, screw up from time to time. I still don't know of any evidence to suggest that medically-disqualifying conditions contribute significantly to the annual sum of bent metal. LSA pilots whould equip their aircraft for the mission. Commerical pilots are a different matter, but unless there's contervailing evidence, private pilots with a valid driver's license should be able to self-certify and launch VFR, and IFR.

Posted by: Robin White | September 4, 2011 2:19 PM    Report this comment

Robin, I agree with everything you said. Let me add a little to your comments.

S-LSA and E-AB aircraft do not require certified avionics (except transponders). With the modern equipment market for uncertified avionics it is often less expensive to get full glass instrumentation than to equip these new planes with old style gauges.

One more point. All pilots must self-certify their fitness for any flight. This is not limited to Private Pilots or any other kind. The federal medical certificate is a burden on top of self certification.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | September 4, 2011 2:28 PM    Report this comment

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