AVweb AVFlash - FRIDAY FEATURES
Volume 20, Number 8c

August 28, 2013

Aviation Access Project: Fractional LSA

Rick Mathews, the president of AAP (Aviation Access Project) thinks that common sense is one of the key ingredients needed to reduce the 80 percent dropout rate in general aviation flight training. His goal is to reduce it to 25 percent or less while also doubling the pilot population to one million or more.

That’s a tall order but according to Mathews, the industry is too dependent on pointing new pilots to rental aircraft. In fact, he strongly believes that relying on a rental strategy is unsustainable and is contributing to the downfall of aviation.   

During my recent conversation with Mathews—a sharp and outspoken entrepreneur with an obvious passion for unifying the industry—he partly blamed some of the alphabet groups for placing too much emphasis on selling the concept of flight training without selling the customer the dream of owning an aircraft.

Many flight institutions, he says, continue to set students up for rental and flight training revenue, ultimately leaving the customer frustrated with the experience. He also thinks the term ‘student pilot’ is condescending. Instead, Mathews believes the industry often forgets that so-called student pilots are also consumers and should respectfully call them such.

Part of Mathews’ solution, through the AAP business model, is to offer affordable and flexible shared ownership, where buyers can purchase a quarter, eighth, or even a sixteenth share in a brand new advanced light sport model. But his concept is more than just an affordable buy-in. The AAP model is said to represent hassle-free, turnkey ownership, aircraft management, plus a country club-like experience.   

Redefining Fractional Ownership

The AAP group was organized a couple of years ago at the Light Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida and continues to gain momentum (AAP is Incorporated and directors will own stock in the company). While the core of the program is based upon shared ownership, each shared aircraft is professionally managed by AAP (profit that’s built into the purchase price of each share).

According to AAP, this third-party management profile reduces the hassle for the aircraft owner, provides operating standards and procedures, enhances safety, and assures proper financial accountability. Mathews makes it clear that AAP is not an FBO or a flight school. Instead, it’s an owner-flown Part 91 operation.

The AAP business model focuses on establishing flight centers at airports around the country. AAP envisions the flight center network as a unique community for aviators. The flight center is intended to be customer-centric, friendly and a place where aviators can call home. AAP calls the center a Flyer’s Community—much like a country club for pilots. It’s intended to be a place for “like-minded friends and family to be together, learn together, have fun together, travel together, and celebrate accomplishments together,” according to the company web site.

While not all owners may be interested in this Kumbaya approach, AAP hopes that each center will be a positive step above the climate found at some flight schools. Currently, there are roughly 25 centers in various stages of development.

“What we want to do is establish an environment at any given airport with ultimately 1000 or more of these flight centers scattered around the country. Through the centers, designated ambassadors that act as counselors and advisors greet new pilots. They’ll offer advice, ask the pilot what it is they want to do with their license once they get it, and then recommend an appropriate LSA for a shared purchase. In the process of selling the share, AAP includes the cost of transition training. We want to make the process simple,” said Mathews.

AAP isn’t entirely focused on the light sport category and will manage nearly any aircraft a group is interested in. On the other hand, the idea is to make owning a brand new airplane affordable and light sport models (although hardly inexpensive) fit the profile. LSA ownership also solves potential problems a pilot may face with medical certification.

Mathews cautioned that AAP is unlike other so-called fractional programs that are actually disguised lease agreements. He also warns about programs that charge hourly rates. Mathews wants to rename the terms associated with fractional ownership and create distinction in the industry that shared ownership is just that—purely the ownership of an aircraft— preferably under an LLC.  

Hybrid Franchise

Flight centers at any given location are often started by someone who’s heard about the AAP concept and want to become a local center director. Mathews described the business as a hybrid franchise, with a basic licensing arrangement between the director and the company. The local director has a lengthy marketing protocol to gather potential buyers—from posters on the airport bulletin board to staging large events—and to promote new centers and aircraft.

There are multiple levels assigned to a given center, with office space generally occupied at an FBO or elsewhere on the airport. For example, a Class One center might have a basic office to conduct initial selling of the aircraft shares. A Class Two center might lease an entire hangar so the fractional fleet can expand, while creating the community (or as Mathews put it, the ‘man cave’). The Class Three center (so-called Eagles Nest) would be the ultimate pilot’s country club. It would likely have multiple facilities on site, including a café and other social areas.

As for selecting the aircraft for purchase, AAP has a preferred lineup of aircraft, broken down into levels (one through five). A level one airplane is a model in the light sport category. AAP tries to select both high and low wing designs, for variety.

“The light sport category is important to our model because to lower the dropout rate, new pilot’s need to own an aircraft to help them pursue the sport pilot certificate first. It’s the simplest certificate to get,” noted Mathews.

The level two category aircraft is a model in the 160 horsepower range, perhaps a Skyhawk or a Warrior. These lower-cost aircraft might be an avenue for the sport pilot to advance to a private pilot and perhaps earn an instrument rating. From there, owners can advance into higher-level and higher-performance aircraft such as the Cirrus, for example. Mathews thinks of the various levels as a way for pilot’s to naturally progress in both ratings and aircraft ownership.

Real-Deal Fractional

AAP has essentially adapted the Net Jets fractional model to single-engine piston aircraft. In general, they split the airplane into an industry-standard 1/8 share (they can also offer a 1/16 share, in some cases).

“Instead of someone spending $150,000 on a brand new LSA, an Initial Share Purchase (ISP) will cost around $22,000. The ISP is for a 1/8 share of the sole-purpose, free and clear LLC,” said Mathews. This $22,000 ISP example would include the management fees, insurance, transition training and non-recurring items that come up.

The monthly maintenance fee (MMF) on a common light sport model is around $200 per month (for maintenance and recurring cost items). Mathews says AAP does not use the terms fixed and variable costs and there is never an hourly charge.

The $22,000 ISP and $200 MMF pricing allows each owner an allocation of 75 flight hours per year. For owners who think they’ll need more time, they can simply acquire additional shares and own as much equity as they wish. Owners can sell their share, use the share to help move up to a bigger plane, or keep it year after year.

Since the local flight center manages the airplane, it coordinates the maintenance, cleaning, and all other activities. AAPs monthly management fee includes most all costs except for fuel. AAP says you fly your plane and you buy your gas, just like any other owner does. The monthly maintenance fee covers all the rest. The key here is you don’t have to worry about paying hangar rent, setting aside a maintenance reserve or buying insurance, since that’s all covered in the maintenance fee.

Light Sport Advantage

I spoke with John Gilmore, the US sales manager at Flight Design USA, makers of the popular CT-series LSA. For years Gilmore managed shares for a jet ownership program and is currently active in a Beech Bonanza shared ownership group. He’s well versed on what it takes to make shared ownership work and feels that shared ownership of light sport models could be more advantageous than more expensive aircraft.

“LSAs are much more likely to be used for fun rather than for business purpose. Notoriously, light sport users tend to be older folks who have more discretionary income but they might be a bit on the frugal side. For them, sharing ownership of a light sport could be a great arrangement because it’s a way to fly a brand new aircraft with the latest technology. In many ways, it’s also easy and fun to fly,” said Gilmore. 

Still, there are the downsides that tag along with any aircraft partnership and Gilmore noted that even the smallest sport aircraft is still a toy—a luxury.

“You have to play fair with others. Those not accustomed to sharing toys may find conflict trying to share a new airplane at first. Then, after six months or so, the newness wears off and nobody wants to fly anymore,” said Gilmore.

For that reason, Gilmore thinks the best partnerships blossom from a single individual. He or she buys the aircraft, flies it for a while and then attracts like-minded partners to buy in. Gilmore also hinted that light sport models are better purposed in shared ownership arrangements than in flight school environments.

“Many flight schools half-commit to the light sport on their flight line. Maybe they train one or two instructors to fly it, maybe it gets banged up or the maintenance costs get out of control and then suddenly the aircraft sits, as interest gets focused more on the schools Cessna 172,” said Gilmore.

The Flight Design CTLSi is a flagship model that fits the shared LSA ownership profile well. According to Gilmore, it’s a desirable aircraft due to its versatility. It can be used for cross-country travel or casual pattern flying and it has a good support infrastructure.

The well-equipped CTLSi sells for roughly $165,000 and comes with an aircraft parachute, leather interior, plus advanced avionics—including synthetic vision, ADS-B, and an autopilot. This is a good catch for owners looking for an economical aircraft that’s on the cutting edge of technology. Incidentally, Mathews said the Flight Design is one of the most requested aircraft for purchase. Other preferred aircraft include the Cessna 162 Skycatcher and Remos GX.

Leveraging Capital

When it comes to acquiring the aircraft, it’s important to note that AAP has been acting strictly as an agent and hasn’t put up any capital to purchase the aircraft.

Still, Mathews made it clear that his preference and pledge is to furnish the assets by continuing to pursue investment capital. Well-funded, AAP would be leveraged to pay cash for the airplanes, place them where they want, and sell out the shares—a lot like flipping real estate. When I spoke with Mathews in late August, he hinted that AAP would soon have the capital needed to begin furnishing the aircraft.

This also makes it easier for perspective buyers to demo the actual aircraft for sale. They can go to the center to see it and fly it, which makes for an easier purchase decision. AAP uses no sales people because the aircraft, says Mathews, sell themselves.

“It’s a soft sell because most potential buyers already know what they want. They either want the aircraft or not. Frankly, for someone who can’t afford to purchase their own plane, there’s no other place they can go to buy into a brand new airplane for this kind of small money.”

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Refurb of the Month: John Myers' Citabria

The Citabria is a nice, modern taildragger and one for which parts are readily available, so it's a perfect refurb project. John Myers of Sequim, Washington, sent us this report on his project:


This was a project completed at an airpark home, in a garage-hangar. I had the help from a young A&P and neighbor A/I for inspections. We included some STCs, factory upgrades, kits and parts from ACA, the current manufacturer.

It took two seasons to complete the refurbishment.  We did the wings and tail surfaces during the winter of 2011-2012  then reassembled and flew it Summer 2012.  Next cycle of refurb was the following year for the fuselage.  Everything sparkles now with new Polyfiber dacron cover and Randthane high-gloss finish.

This Citabria is an active flyer of EAA Young Eagles through our local EAA Chapter 430 in Sequim, WA. Here is the YouTube video of a particular Young Eagle who was very excited about the ride.

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Podcast: New for Reno from Mojave -- The Wasabi Racer

Aircraft designer Elliot Seguin got together with some friends from around Mojave, many of them fellow employees at Scaled Composites, with the goal to create an airplane that could compete in the Reno Air Races.  Their Wasabi Racer now is flying, and the team will bring it to Reno for the races, which start September 11.  Seguin explains to AVweb's Mary Grady how the team pooled their ideas and skills to create the one-of-a-kind Wasabi Racer.

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Seven IFR Prep Tips

 

Approach, could you read back the arrival waypoints...we can’t seem to find that arrival.” The request got my attention because it came from the aircraft somewhere ahead of me in the soup of a thick overcast, headed to the same airport. The controller had just warned of a pending change to my arrival plans by changing those of the flight ahead of me. Taking that change as a cue, it was easy to turn to the last plastic-protector page in my little IFR folder—where I’d already inserted the appropriate page. It was less luck than experience, which had tutored me on the likelihood of a traffic conflict with another airport’s arrivals.

A savvy CFII taught me preparation was my best hedge against unhappy surprises when flying IFR, regardless of the weather. In reality, any cross-country flying demands a level of preparation consistent with the trip ahead. The simple fact is consistency in what you do and how you do it in any flight planning effort both minimizes en route surprises and ensures you’ve covered all the bases. The trick? Each flight is different, its weather is different, and you have to be flexible enough in your planning to ensure all the bases are covered. Consistency and flexibility? Aren’t those two concepts in conflict? The quick answer is “no.” For the longer answer, read on.

Finding Your Sweet Spot

Consistent preparation doesn’t mean investing the same amount for each flight. After all, preparing for an IFR flight you know will be mostly in low IMC with thunderstorms or icing is a lot different than flying the same route in severe clear.

Further, as we stressed in these pages in the past, there’s equally little benefit from spending all your IMC time letting George fly. Holding the rating and maintaining currency by the light of the sun means little when we find George just broke or the VMC forecast we were counting on just deteriorated into IMC.

There’s certainly benefit from practicing all the procedures for which your aircraft is equipped to fly on those occasions the need occurs. There’s benefit every flight, however, from fully preparing and planning for the trip ahead—VMC as well as IMC—but particularly when in the clag.

Approached as an organized mission, an IMC trip need not be stressful or surprising. Instead, it should be a series of accomplishments culminating in a safe arrival and the all-time best trip description: uneventful. Such outcomes happen by dint of effort—planning more than anything, and never solely by accident.

1. Start Early

To me, flight planning is a multilayered, multi-tasked process, not a linear, follow-the-lines journey from Point A to whatever comes last. So I start the process with a careful examination of weather prognoses a day or two ahead of the planned trip, for the time of the trip, and the couple of days that follow.

Long-range forecasts, of course, are notoriously unreliable. In our view, taking as gospel anything beyond 48 hours is a waste of time. But within that 48 hours, it’s time to be looking at prog charts, including those projecting the position and movement of fronts and pressure systems.

Doing so gives us several clues about the conditions we’ll face. For example, if a low is projected to lie on our route, it could bring with itlow ceilings and rain. High pressure usually translates into clear skies. Regardless, do you know which way around them will result in the highest groundspeed?

2. Go Beyond The TAF/METAR

Pilots often forget flight planning involves more than just the weather. We also should know about facility outages, planned TFRs, Notams on runway/taxiway closures and other details often buried well below the weather data in a computerized briefing. Such information may help you decide to make or avoid an interim stop and anticipate possible deviations from your plan.

We like to plug all the basic stuff—departure, destination and time of day—into a Duat session or similar, a couple of days ahead of our departure, then peruse the results, knowing we won’t fly that brief, but knowing also it gives us a heads-up on what to expect. During our early pre-briefs, we can ignore things like Pireps or winds aloft—they’ll definitely change by game day—which affords us more time to check the facility-related details. That way, on the day of the flight, we can spend more time considering the weather and use the knowledge we gained earlier to simply confirm our understanding of what’s open and what’s not.

3. What About The Aircraft?

Briefing for a flight also includes the aircraft—assure yourself all the necessary and available equipment functions at a level that will support the flight; en route and in the clag is no place to learnthe VOR head with the ILS isn’t working or that other equipment problems plague your panel. For example, is the GPS database current? Has anyone done a VOR check lately? Is it using oil, are all the lights working or might the tires need air (or replacement)?

If it’s an airplane you regularly fly—via a club, partnership or outright ownership—there should be some kind of squawk sheet you and its other pilots use to keep track of its readiness. Go to the airport if you have to, or get on the phone and check with the other pilots, but find out what’s working, what’s broken and what’s iffy.

Finally, brief yourself. Are you rested, healthy, emotionally fit? Affirmative answers here further advance your odds of an uneventful flight.

4. Take Time To Plan For Real

When you know likely conditions, airport and airspace status, lay in your Plan A and organize your trip paperwork around it. Make sure you have the appropriate en route charts—current ones, of course—and pull any approach plates, DPs or arrivals applicable to your departure and arrival airports.

Once finished with Plan A, look at some Plan B scenarios—maybe alternate airports, an alternate route for weather and develop en route options in case of fuel problems or any other plan-disrupting event. For example, do you know where the cheapest fuel is along your route? is it available 24/7, or only during daylight hours?

By detailed planning—putting together Plans A and B, plus whatever other alternate plans you think you might need—you’re already thinking ahead. The beauty of having backup plans means when the time comes—and it will—you’ve already made the decision on what to do and where to go. All you have to do is punch in the identifier and tell ATC.

Meanwhile, executing your Plan B can also mean additional changes to your ETA, your rental car or the reason for the trip. Knowing inadvance what you’ll do and when you’ll do it helps reduce your stress and fatigue while instilling confidence.

5. Plan Each Phase

While it’s easy to envision a flight as one long, unbroken event, in reality many different phases come together to make a complete trip: pre-departure, departure, transition to en route, en route, transition, arrival/approach. 

Fly each phase as they come, as individual segments tied together producing a single trip. Dealing with each phase or segment as a standalone event helps break up any possible monotony and provides a natural decision point on the next phase.

What does this mean? It’s rather simple, actually: As you depart and start an en route climb, take time to check conditions for the next phase—and then decide to either continue and fly it, or make a new decision. As you level at altitude, you should already know whether conditions ahead remain conducive to continuing your trip.

If they don’t, that’s why we have the backup plans identified above, right?

6. Update Your Plans

Once the trip begins, tap all available resources as often as you need—Flight Service, Pireps, any in-flight weather data you may use, even ATC. You can’t have too much information or too many eyes and ears working for you—and remember to listen to all the voices, not just the ones in your head.

Resist complicating things, whether it’s your idea or ATC’s—the simpler a solution, the better. If that means declining a change—or requesting something different—when that alteration complicates your job just so it’s easier on the controller, so be it. And remember: As long as the weather’s decent, using the phrase ”cancel IFR” opens up a whole range of opportunities when ATC won’t cooperate.

We won’t hesitate to question a change we don’t like. But our ideal is also to offer the controller an alternative idea—a different altitude, for example, or a diversion in a different direction that also boosts our groundspeed thanks to a tailwind. Of course, it helps to tell ATC why yours is a better approach. And if we’ve done a proper job with our planning, we’ll have a home-run-quality response ready when ATC throws us a curve.

7. Stay Alert and Engaged

On longer trips, away from busy airspace, we usually get a direct routing. The word “boring” pretty much was defined to include two or three-hour legs on the same heading and at the same altitude without any weather challenges to keep us interested and engaged.

That’s when we can forget things, like changing tanks, or checking in on a new frequency.

One way we combat boredom is with a portable music player, hooked up to our audio panel and playing our favorite tunes through the headset. You may have your own routine or solution.

Fatigue can be another issue, especially at altitude in an unpressurized cabin. That’s when the oxygen bottle comes out—we’re noticeably perkier at the end of a long flight when we’ve used the O2 bottle. That’s important when getting on the ground at the end of a long flight means a complicated arrival, to-minimums approach or busy airspace. Or all three.

Monitor Flight Watch whenever possible; you may just hear useful information about conditions ahead—and more quickly than waiting on the system to route a Pirep to a controller. Similarly, whenever you know the next ATC frequency, monitor it, if possible, well ahead of the handoff, to give yourself a leg up on conditions and processes ahead.

In particular, monitor a non-towered destination’s CTAF well in advance. While ATC may be able to tell you there’s observed traffic in the pattern, that’s not as helpful as listening in yourself. You’ll confirm the runway used, learn whether others are flying practice approaches, even get an idea of how many aircraft are ahead of you.

Other Tips

If you’re like most of us, you’ll fly a 9.5 score some days, a 5.9 others— but striving for a solid 10 every time is the only way to go.

Once safe and sound and on the ground, score your performance and make a note in a logbook or other record. List any areas of weakness or poorer performance to work on in the near future. And give yourself an arm-breaking back-pat on those days when your best description of the flight is our favorite: “Uneventful.”

A version of this article orginally appeared in the September 2012 issue of Aviation Safety magazine.

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ECI Cylinder AD: The More You Look, the Worse It Is

Here’s my definition of a bad day: You overhauled your Baron’s IO-520s  a couple of years ago using cylinders from ECI and now the FAA would like you to remove those jugs and replace them with something else. Round it off and call that about $25,000.

That’s the basic gist of a proposed airworthiness directive the FAA announced two weeks ago and about which we’ve been reporting regularly. The AD targets about 30,000 ECI cylinders of various vintages for two kinds of cracking: a failure in the shrink band that holds the head to the cylinder barrel via an interference fit and cracking in the dome of the head. Both flaws can result in catastrophic cylinder failure, but  not necessarily complete engine failure.

On this much, the FAA and ECI agree, but they see eye-to-eye on little else. They don’t agree on the number of actual failures in the field—the FAA says more than 30, ECI says it can confirm 19. Nor do they agree on the failure mechanism. In the AD documentation, the FAA says it doesn’t know what the failure modes are, just the results, while ECI insists that the head/barrel separations were caused by overheating due to pilot engine mismanagement. Maddeningly, the government’s own NPRM process precludes the FAA from supplying specific information on its methodology or the underpinnings of its conclusion to demand removal of these cylinders. The AD docket gives some information, of course, but ECI says it has a lot of questions the FAA isn’t answering. 

In my view, no reasonable person could look at the available data—a combination of Service Difficulty Report analysis, field reports and in-house manufacturing history—and feel confident of having an accurate picture of reality. In short, the data is just too sketchy. It may be biased toward classifying failures that aren’t head/barrel separations or it may very well miss many that are. I'm not sure you can tell which is which from reviewing the data.

Taking the broader view from this too vague compilation of dodgy numbers and unsupported theories, ECI concedes this: When compared to Continental Motors OEM cylinders, its incidence of head/barrel separation is much higher, although just how much higher we don’t know. They don’t either because they don’t have accurate numbers for the Continental OEM cylinder population. ECI says it has about 25 percent of the cylinder market and during the period 2002 to 2012, ECI insists it had 19 verified head/barrel separations compared to 24 for Continental on the same 520/550 cylinders. The raw data ECI provided us showed 36 failures, but the company says many of those were unverified or improperly classified.    

Just to grasp at some kind of solid foundation in a field of numbers that just don’t add up, let’s accept ECI’s 19 failures. As these things go, that’s comparable to the Continental record, except for one thing: it applies to a much smaller population of cylinders, so the rate of failure is at least twice as high, but could be four or more times as high, depending on whether ECI’s estimate of its cylinder market share is accurate. On a rough per engine basis, the 30,000 ECI cylinders under the gun represent 5000 engines, meaning that with 19 incidents, the per engine rate is one failure per 263 engines. For Continental engines, the rate is much lower, perhaps as much as four or more times lower.

Isn’t that damning for ECI? It certainly doesn’t look good. There’s got to be some explanation for ECI’s higher failure rate. And there is, but first, let’s put things in perspective. Worst case, at least from the data we have and with the caveats I’ve described, the percentage of ECI cylinders with head/head barrel separations is 0.12 if you accept the FAA data and about half that if you take ECI’s data. Moreover, ECI's data shows a declining incidence of head/barrel separations, with none at all during the past two years. Its statistical analysis suggests the separations are in decline in the target cylinder population. 

While it’s true that these rates and percentages are worse than for Continental cylinders, we are still talking about very small risks indeed. Could it be that there have actually been many more ECI head/barrel separations than have been reported? Maybe, but if that’s so, why haven’t any of the six engine shops I canvassed two weeks ago seen them? It seems reasonable that if there’s a breaking wave of heads flying off of barrels, at least some of the shops would know about them. They don’t seem to. Nor have we heard from any readers with direct experience following the ECI story.

 As I reported two weeks ago, what some of the shops have seen is what I call pedestrian cracking—cracks around fuel injector bosses, spark plug holes and the like. Some shops think ECI cylinders are more susceptible to this and have stopped recommending them, but that’s an entirely different consideration that has nothing to do with head/barrel separations.

So against this backdrop of uncertain data and a small risk, the FAA proposes the potential of an $83.3 million AD to selectively remove these cylinders from service, the cost to be borne entirely by owners. Given the weakness of the data and the small numbers, this is obviously hitting a small nail with an exceedingly large hammer. Absent better data from the FAA, I just don’t see how this AD is justified.

But that’s not to say nothing should be done. ECI doesn’t challenge the fact that Continental OEM cylinders have a much lower rate of head/barrel separation. Their explanation for this is that their cylinders live in a different market segment that’s heavy on older or aftermarket applications in which pilots don’t have sophisticated engine monitoring and are thus more likely to mismanage engines and thermally stress their cylinders, which ECI says is the failure cause, not manufacturing or quality issues. When I visited ECI in San Antonio last week, they showed me data that clearly showed how cylinder mating threads are stressed by over temping, with the load curve heading straight up above 450 degrees or so.

But I’m not quite ready to buy this argument, frankly. Plenty of Continental OEM cylinders go on older Bonanzas and Cessnas and there’s no reason to believe the pilots of those airplanes are any more or less hamfisted with the mixture knob than are ECI cylinder buyers. And ECI doesn’t have the electronic data from any cylinder failure events to correlate the theory in the real world.

Bottom line, ECI cylinders fail at a higher rate, but not so high as to represent meaningful additional risk worthy of the FAA’s massive AD.  The risk here is too small for the FAA to wade in and dent owners with this kind of overbroad, expensive AD. While the FAA has a duty to protect the public safety, it should do so reasonably and with cost in mind. Small or marginal risks—and this appears to be in that category—should be left up to aircraft owners to judge and mitigate. In my view, a non-mandatory service bulletin that summarizes the data and advises  owners of the failure pattern and rate and how to inspect cylinders for potential cracks seems the fair way to approach this. Owners can then make their own risk/cost assessments, which is what owning an airplane is all about anyway. Then watch the situation for a couple of years and revisit as necessary. Otherwise, the AD ought to be dropped for now.

You can read and comment on the docket here.

Join the conversation.  Read others' comments and add your own.

Video: PS Engineering's PAR200 Multi-Function Audio System

There's a need for affordable audio system upgrades for basic aircraft.  PS Engineering attempts to answer the call with the PAR200 -- a three-in-one system that combines an advanced audio panel, a stereo intercom, and a remote comm radio.  In this video, Aviation Consumer's Larry Anglisano takes a look at the unit during it's introduction at AirVenture 2013 at Oshkosh.

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Video: Natural Gas-Powered Airplane

Aviat Aircraft's Stu Horn brought an aircraft to AirVenture 2013 that burns traditional aviation fuel (100LL) and can also fly on compressed natural gas.  Horn says the first 20 hours of flight testing have started to show that natural gas burns cleaner in the engine, offers more power, and is arguably safer to store than traditional liquid fuels.  Horn believes the lower cost of natural gas could become a compelling argument for flight schools and budget-conscious aviators.  He also believes that technological advances will quickly result in lighter storage tanks, making the fuel an even more efficient option.

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