AVwebFlash - Volume 14, Number 3a

January 14, 2008

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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From the FAA back to top 

Local NOTAMs Go Electronic

Pilots will soon be able to receive all NOTAMs relevant to their intended flight on their computers. On Jan. 28, all local or L-designated NOTAMs will be reclassified and published on the national NOTAM system. What it theoretically means, according to AOPA, is that pilots will no longer have to call flight services to get the local NOTAMs, which can have important information like taxiway closures. The practice might be different at first, however, and a call to FSS might be in order for the first while just to make sure. "AOPA has been advocating for this change for a long time," said Melissa Rudinger, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. "This helps simplify and consolidate information gathering for pilots while alleviating some of the call burden on flight service." It's important to note that only new local NOTAMs will be on the system at first. Existing local NOTAMs will be added as time permits and it could take months before every relevant NOTAM is available electronically. The change is part of a gradual overhaul of the NOTAM system and the new NOTAMs will include graphics that tell the viewer at a glance what service or facility is affected (taxiway, lighting, airspace, runway, etc.) By 2010, military airspace NOTAMs will also be included and the full system will be digitized and feature graphics.

Runway Marking For GA Airports, Too

On Dec. 28 the FAA released a proposed change to Advisory Circular150/5340-1J, Standard Airport Markings. The updated AC would require all 567 airports certificated under Part 139, not just the 75 large air carrier airports that are already affected, to install surface-painted holding position signs and enhanced taxiway centerlines. The AC would also apply to all airports receiving federal funds under the Airport Grant Assistance and the Passenger Facility Charge programs. Public comments on the proposal are due by Feb. 26, and airports would have one year from the date of the final rule to comply. Enhanced taxiway centerline markings are yellow and contain glass beads. Surface-painted holding position signs have a red background with white lettering, and are outlined in black on light-colored pavements. The proposal is part of the FAA's recent push to reduce runway incursions and improve safety at airports. The FAA this week also released a draft of AC 150/5210-20, Ground Vehicle Operations on Airports, which proposes regular recurrent driver training for anyone with access to the movement area and ramp apron areas at all certificated airports. In 2004 the FAA issued a final rule that revised 14 CFR Part 139 and established certification requirements for airports serving scheduled air carrier operations in aircraft designed for more than nine passenger seats but fewer than 31 passenger seats.

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Working Conditions back to top 

Western Michigan U. Boosts CFI Pay, Benefits

Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation is offering higher pay and benefits to its flight instructors, who have been leaping to regional airlines with increasing regularity. "A few years ago we kept a flight instructor for an average of 24 months," said WMU chief flight instructor Tom Grossman. "In the past six months, it’s become common for them to stay only four to six months before taking that first industry job." The college is now offering flight instructors up to $29 per hour, up from a maximum of $20 per hour, Grossman said, plus reduced rates on aircraft rental and jet orientation courses. Instructors are also eligible for university benefits including health insurance, tuition reimbursement, and paid holidays and vacation days. Flight instructor earnings vary widely throughout the country depending on the pilot’s experience level, type of aircraft flown, and location, though company-paid benefits such as health insurance are generally regarded as scarce.

NATCA: Controllers Inexperienced, Fatigued, Passengers At Risk

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association Thursday held a news conference and declared a staffing emergency, stating that controllers "do not have enough trained and experienced personnel on the ground to safely handle the volume of traffic" to work Atlanta, Chicago, New York and Southern California airspace. Faced with the statement that the situation is "dangerous and about to get worse," AVweb asked NATCA president Patrick Forrey if the immediate threat to public safety would prompt NATCA to reduce the volume of traffic at any of these facilities in order to safeguard passengers. Forrey responded, "I don't know, but I call upon the FAA to take the appropriate measures to do their damn job."

Click here to listen to excerpts of NATCA President Patrick Forrey speaking with reporters during NATCA's teleconference Thursday.

Resolution, according to NATCA, would (in part) begin with reopening FAA/NATCA contract negotiations to improve morale and create financial incentives to stem the tide of attrition and retirements. Forrey said well over 1300 aircraft-handling controllers were lost to attrition last year (his estimate was 1600, total, including at least 800 lost to retirement) and those were replaced with 40 new hires who trained and gained certification last year. With 1800 new-hire controller trainees in the system and only 40 certified last year, Forrey says 500 trainees have already washed out of the training program and it will take time for the rest to be able to fill the shoes of the 1600 experienced controllers already lost and 2200 more currently eligible to retire. Of those trainees who've made it through, "They're getting people as new hires working at Newark that are coming from McDonald's and, uh, actually no experience at all, and they're sticking them into one of the busiest towers in the world. These people have no clue what a 737 is compared to a DC-10." He added, "I can give you names."

Speaking of the 2200 veteran controllers now able to retire, Forrey said he believes that if they leave before summer, the system will fall into "chaos." That would be worse than the current situation described by Forrey in which "The ability to separate traffic safely has gone to an all-time low." Forrey cited poor labor relations, the lack of a contract and working under imposed work rules as contributing factors leading to extremely low morale and high attrition rates among both trainees and qualified controllers. Forrey's position is that attrition rates cannot be curbed at this point by trainees that need four to five years' experience to be sufficiently well-versed. As it sits, Forrey says he does not feel comfortable flying into the nation's busiest airports being guided by overworked, potentially inexperienced controllers working at understaffed facilities.

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Tomorrow's Jets back to top 

Adam A700 In Progress

Adam's A700 carbon composite twin-jet has completed a series of environmental tests that exposed the aircraft to extreme weather conditions -- the results will be used to improve the aircraft's design before it heads to hot and cold weather certification testing. Those tests, says the company, will be completed later this year. The extreme weather testing exposed the aircraft and its systems to freezing rain, fog, blowing snow and temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The aircraft successfully performed engine starts from the batteries at that temperature. The A700 received FAA type inspection authorization Nov. 30, allowing the company to begin flight testing. Last month, Adam announced it is expecting to add 1,225 new full-time jobs to its Ogden facilities over the next two years. Once the aircraft is certified, the company's Ogden facilities are expected to produce ten to 15 aircraft per month.

UPS Goes NextGen

The FAA last month granted operations approval for the software package SafeRoute, which works with the electronic flight bags being installed on UPS-operated 757, 767 and 747-400 aircraft. The company expects to have six aircraft flying with electronic flight bag/SafeRoute software by Jan. 21 and 55 by year-end. But the first operational flight is scheduled sooner -- for the week of Jan. 14. Flight operations using the system will be ramped up gradually from one per week as controllers and crews gain experience with the technology. The system uses ADS-B (automatic dependent surveillance - broadcast) to provide pilots with the ability to help manage spacing and provide next-generation continuous descent arrivals (CDA). "The ability for us to configure the aircraft for landing consistently at the same place all but eliminates the missed approaches, overtakes and breakouts that make the system unstable," said Captain Karen Lee, director of UPS Flight Operations. It should also provide for more efficient operations, when it comes to noise, fuel burn and emissions.

Incorporated into a NextGen airspace scenario, the package would provide cockpit crew with a designated tube of airspace that would act as an express lane from flight altitudes to the runway. The result will be a reduction in an aircraft's noise footprint by 30 percent, reduced emissions (down by 34 percent) and reduced fuel burn of 40-70 gallons per flight. UPS worked for more than ten years to develop the system and now has FAA approval to use the technology set.

Rotax Gearbox MSB Issued

Rotax has issued a manadatory service bulletin (PDF) affecting specific 912 and 914-series engine gearboxes after a fault was found with the material used in making the gears. Under severe operating conditions, it's possible for gear teeth to break. The fix calls for replacement of the gears but the good news is that Rotax is paying the shot. Removal and replacement of the gearbox, the gear set and the installation of the new gears is all covered, as is the freight. [more] This is a significant test of Rotax's constantly expanding service and supply network as its engines flood the mainstream aviation network, particularly in the U.S., thanks to the burgeoning popularity of the Light Sport Aircraft category. The MSB comes two weeks before the Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Fla. where about 80 percent of the aircraft will be Rotax-powered and their owners and manufacturers ready to give feedback.

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Travel News for Canadian Passengers back to top 

Injuries: Air Canada Reminds You To Buckle Up

Eight passengers and two crew members aboard Air Canada Flight 190 were injured Thursday morning when the Airbus 319 suffered a sudden loss of altitude and rolled sharply left and right. One passenger told Canadianpress.com "all of a sudden there were three big drops," explaining that items (and people) that were not strapped down went flying. "It was over and done with in 10 or 15 seconds," after which some crew were left "trying to dab blood out of their eyes," and the flight out of Victoria, British Columbia, for Toronto, diverted to Calgary. By Thursday evening all the injured had been released from hospital. Canada's Transportation Safety Board did not immediately characterize the event as one due to turbulence, mechanical problems, or the actions of the flight crew. Early media reports said passengers were told by the flight crew that the aircraft experienced mechanical problems or that its flight computer had malfunctioned. Other reports indicated that the crew had explained after the event that the aircraft's "computer had been knocked out" and that they were now flying the aircraft manually. The aircraft's flight path took it from Victoria east over the Kootenay Mountains. After the incident, the crew flew to Calgary. A low pressure system and front was in the area.

Canada Addresses Disability Surcharge

By year-end, severely disabled passengers flying on Canadian airlines will no longer have to pay for extra seats needed to accommodate them. The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) ruled Thursday that Canadian carriers must offer a single fare under a "one-person, one-fare" policy that apparently can include a second person provided that second person is a medical attendant. The financial impact of the decision is estimated to hit Air Canada to the tune of about $7 million, annually, which the CTA has deemed as negligible ... or at least, not an undue hardship. There are some caveats. Specifically, individuals who are obese and require two seats for comfortable air travel, but are not disabled, are not covered by the new rule. Also, disabled people traveling with a companion for non-medical reasons will not be granted any free seats. For now, the CTA's ruling does not apply to charter carriers.

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Future Gear back to top 

Holographic Interface Funded

Tarek El Dokor's work gives new meaning to the concept of making something happen in the blink of an eye. The Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Prescott campus) professor got a $50,000 Honda Initiation Grant to further his work on holographic instrument panels and displays. Now, the press release doesn't specifically mention aircraft applications (though he does work at ERAU) but it does hint at the kind of potential the stuff he's working on might have in the cockpit. "You don’t need to touch any screens," El Dokor, the director of ERAU's Machine Vision Lab, said. "Content is projected away from the dashboard and toward the user, where the user can manipulate it in many ways." So far, El Dokor and his team have been able to change the way video games are played and it doesn't take too much of a leap to see the real-world applications. "For example, his lab has developed a way for people to control the movement of video game characters by moving their own body instead of a joystick or controller," an ERAU news release says. "A camera captures the person’s movements, sending messages through the computer system that tell on-screen objects or contents what to do." The Honda grants are handed out to those working on the beginnings of technology that might be in general use in five to 10 years.

What A Concept: Sky Commuter For Sale

Has the dream of generations been tucked away in a garage in Dawsonville, Ga., for 20 years? The last remaining Sky Commuter proof-of-concept flying car is for sale on eBay. The Sky Commuter is a two-place carbon-fiber vehicle with a single front and two rear fans that was hoped to provide VTOL performance. By late Sunday, with less than a day left in the listing, bidding had reached $49,600. The seller candidly notes that the only reason this particular vehicle survived is because no one has tried to fly it. Both other concept vehicles were lost in accidents. However, he also points out that the others did get about 10 feet off the ground in free flight before meeting their ends and suggests that modern technology might solve the control issues that computers in the late 1980s simply didn't have the horsepower to manage. This Sky Commuter isn't in "flying" condition but it's nonetheless a show-stopper, he insists, attracting crowds on the few occasions he's taken it in public. And while it might seem like an anachronistic novelty, the Sky Commuter was the result of a pretty serious attempt at making that aircraft-in-the-garage dream a reality. Boeing engineer Fred Barker was behind the project, which the seller says attracted about $6 million in development funding from 60 investors. Everything about the vehicle was "cutting edge" at the time, from the carbon-fiber construction to the computer-controlled ducted fans. However, the engineers never could figure out a way to make it stable in flight and the project was dropped in about 1990. The seller doesn't explain how the last surviving Sky Commuter ended up in his garage. While he does hold out hope the project could be resurrected, it seems likely the vehicle will end up in a museum or as some kind of promotional prop. Bids close at just before 11 a.m. EST Monday.

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Reader Feedback back to top 

AVmail: Jan. 14, 2008

Reader mail this week about Cessna building in China, Boeing's great year, flying the Hump and more.

Click here to read this week's letters to the editor.

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

Our best stories start with you. If you've heard something that 130,000 pilots might want to know about, tell us. Submit news tips via email to newstips@avweb.com. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.

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New on AVweb back to top 

CEO of the Cockpit #78: Pilots Tired? No Way!

Want to find out if pilot fatigue is real? Ask for a real study by an independent agency. If you can find such an agency.

Click here for the full story.

Cruising in the sun after a long ground delay, three bouts with de-icing and a half-mile-viz takeoff on a snowy runway can really help a pilot relax. The sun was shining in the big, 767 cockpit window on my left and was slowly roasting my arm. I still had my zone heat up high and the lamb's-wool seat cover had been recently replaced, making it comfortable and uncharacteristically warm.

We had some bumpiness during climbout, but at FL370 the air was as smooth as the botoxed face of a Newport socialite. I had turned the seat-belt sign off and could hear the activity level in the back pick up: slamming galley doors, the "chunk" of the forward lav door and, of course, the every-10-minute intercom call from the back asking about sports scores.

I am a grumpy person when it comes to constantly announcing scores of games on the PA. If you are a fan of that particular team, maybe you should have stayed on the ground and gone to the game. If you aren't, why would you want to have your thoughts (and in-flight entertainment) interrupted constantly by updates?

Thankfully, the airline world has come up with a great compromise: We just ask over the ACARS and the company sends us a summary of all the important sports scores. Then all we have to do is print it and shove it under the cockpit door. The flight attendants can decide if they want to announce any of them. The cabin crew has a much better idea as to the mood of the crowd and how to handle the information anyway.

If we want a score, we just ask our friendly center controller or they announce it, just like the Denver Center high controller was doing right now.

"Anybody interested in the score might want to know that New England is up by 10."

That comment garnered a few "Roj's" and a smattering of groans on the frequency. Then everybody got back to asking about the ride. Apparently the air over the Front Range was rather bumpy ... just like it has been since flying dinosaurs traversed the area, either millions of years ago or a few thousand, depending on your religious beliefs.

A Sleeping Pilot Is A Happy One

I grew tired of listening to the same old patter on the frequency and looked over at my co-pilot Kyle in search of a conversation. He was no help at the moment. He was snoozing under an unfolded USA Today he was using as a sun shield. Now, before you get all up in my grill about sleeping pilots, I should tell you that Kyle had told me he was going to "look for satellites" and I knew he was out of the loop getting some rest.

I have always thought that a sleeping pilot is a happy pilot. If you are in cruise without much going on and your significant other wants to catch a few Zs, it is OK as long as he or she tells you first. This is important because I dislike two sleeping pilots in one cockpit as much as I admire one. Back when I was a flight engineer, there was a short time on one flight when all three of us were asleep. Not very safe and more than a little embarrassing when Center had to call us three times to get a response.

Kyle pulled the newspaper down from his balding head, stretched and looked around, bleary-eyed. We had already gone 10 hours into our day and, with the weather, it looked like we were going to bump up against our 15-hour maximum duty day before it was all over. I had planned a short nap myself in a short while, but for now, both of us were awake and more or less alert.

"Anything interesting going on?" Kyle asked.

New England is up by 10. The right engine was on fire, but I didn't want to bother you with it so I let it fall off the airplane. Oh yeah ... while you were asleep, we went to war against Canada.


That is what I like about Kyle: our long conversations.

Once we got beyond the initial kidding and Kyle was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I started to scrunch down into my seat in anticipation of catching a few minutes of rapid-eye movement myself. I then heard him let out a "Harrumph."

NASA Misses Mars By Miles But Knows About Pilot Fatigue

As he was putting his newspaper back in his flight bag, Kyle noticed an article about NASA releasing data from their recent safety study. The headline said it all:

NASA Discounts Pilots Concerns About Fatigue, Near-Misses And Safety

"I don't know all the particulars of their study because they never called and asked me," Kyle began, "but how can they discount something we said after they asked us about it? It wasn't just airline pilots in this study; it was a lot of general aviation people, too."

"It wasn't just about pilot fatigue, either," he continued. "It was about how damn hard it is to get a word in edgewise on approach frequencies. It was about an unresponsive, stuck-in-the-1950s air traffic control system. Holy crap! We're still blocking each other on frequencies like it's the vacuum-tube age or something."

I was sleepy but could see that Kyle really wanted to talk about this, so I woke up and asked him a question:

Kyle, answer me this: Where does NASA get its funding from?

"The government, of course."

Right. And where do the politicians who run the government get their funding? Do they get it from tired airline pilots and controllers who are too weary to lift their heads?

"I see where you are going with this," said Kyle. "The politicians get their money from the people who run big companies, including airlines. Those guys are looking for more ways to send their manufacturing plants to China and to drop the healthcare coverage of the employees they haven't replaced by a lower-paid worker yet. They aren't concerned with hearing about how tired the pilots are or how dangerous they really think the air traffic control system has become. If pilot and controller fatigue really is a problem, they would have to hire more pilots and controllers, which would raise costs because they can't get them from China ... yet."

That's right, I said. I think you'll notice in part of the article that NASA talks about how safe things are right now anyway. Why rock the boat while Gilligan and the Skipper are doing such a great job of steering it two and a half hours into that three-hour cruise? When the system fails and people die, they can refer to "pilot error" and perhaps how those pesky controllers keep going on and on about getting a new labor union.

It Isn't The Study – It Is The Idea Of A Study

Towers like the one in Lexington are probably still understaffed, even though they had a recent terrible crash during a time when only one controller was on duty ... and pilots like you and me are still putting in 15-hour duty days after an eight-hour layover.

"People forget about the last crash until the next one," Kyle said. "I think I'm beginning to see the logic of the whole thing. It isn't useful information they were looking for in this survey. It was a total cover-your-ass exercise."

That's what I think is going on, I said. I'm often wrong and may be wrong about this one, but I think the whole thing was a way for the government to cover their butts for later when an airplane crashes and fatigue or ATC breakdowns might be the cause. They can then say, "See? We did a really great survey five years ago that proved that tired pilots and an antiquated ATC system wasn't a problem. It wasn't our fault! It was those damn error-making pilots."

The CEO Attaches A Solar Blocking Array

I think you are close but are missing the whole point, I told Kyle, as I positioned myself for my nap by taping a chart on my window to block the sun. The NASA people are politicians just like, if not worse than, members of Congress. It is the same game; they are just wearing pocket protectors instead of member pins.

I was just about to nod off when my potential rest was interrupted by some pretty hard jolts in our ride, requiring me to straighten up and turn the seat-belt sign back on. Then we heard the "ding" of our ACARS with a re-route message for Kyle and me that added an extra leg on to our day and would guarantee that we'd have a 15-hour duty period.

I really love this job, but some days I could do with a little less of it.

Want to read more from AVweb's CEO of the Cockpit? Check out the rest of his columns.

// -->

Are You Wasting Avgas?

Probably. But at $5 a gallon, you might want to consider an even dozen ways to reduce fuel-related costs of flying.

Click here for the full story.

However unpleasant the specter of $4 avgas may be, it has become a harsh reality. The $5 barrier fell in early 2005, and as we go to press, Signature at Teterboro, N.J., can claim the highest avgas price in the country: $6.10. [Editor's Note: At the end of 2007, it was up to $8.05.] In the U.S., fuel has never been the most expensive component of flying cost, but it could soon get that way. And even if it doesn't, no other factor more threatens GA growth and usefulness than the rising cost of gas.

Although aircraft owners can't do much about the global price of crude oil, we can certainly do more to make our airplanes use less of it. Some of these measures require minor or major investments in the airframe, but the largest gains are to be had simply by flying the airplane more efficiently and learning to lean effectively. We're loathe to say it, but owners of some twins are coming to the unwelcome realization that a handful of modern, single-engine airplanes are not only faster but cost less than half as much to operate as even a modest twin. The comfort of having a second engine is likely to grow increasingly expensive, so certain aspects of the used single-engine market may soon heat up.

Herewith, presented in order of cost effectiveness, are an even dozen ideas on how to either save gas directly or reduce fuel-related operating costs. Some require minor habit changes; others require modifications or upgrades to the aircraft.

Idea 1: Lean-of-Peak

This topic has been addressed ad nauseam during the past five years, including by us. We long ago grew weary of ill-founded arguments from mechanics and engine shops that lean-of-peak operation somehow causes burned valves or reduces engine life. We reject these claims and so should you.

As far as we're concerned, the data that indicates that correctly executed lean-of-peak operation both saves fuel and lowers EGTs and CHTs is inarguable and people who claim otherwise don't know what they're talking about. We can't make it any plainer than this.

But there's always a catch. Lean-of-peak operation isn't a panacea. It doesn't work well in all engines, it requires reduced cruising speed and you need good instrumentation and some basic knowledge to use it to best advantage. And sometimes, it doesn't make sense from an operational point of view. Lean-of-peak operation isn't something for nothing; you'll have to fly slower to realize efficiency but the gains are usually worth it.

Here are some numbers. Our turbocharged Mooney 231 burns about 13.5 GPH in the mid-teens to fly at a true airspeed of about 165 knots, leaned rich-of-peak. Operated lean-of-peak TIT, the airspeed drops 10 knots to about 155 knots or a little less, on a fuel flow of 9 GPH. The rich setting delivers about 12 NMPG, the lean setting about 17 NMPG, a 42-percent improvement in economy. Looked at another way, flying lean-of-peak EGTs/TITs is like having not quite half again as much fuel capacity without paying for it.

And fuel capacity -- endurance, really -- is of itself an economy enhancer. Here's why: Having additional endurance makes it more likely that you can complete a trip without a fuel stop. For turbocharged airplanes, fuel stops are efficiency killers because the long climb (back to altitudes where the turbo's speed is a plus) requires time and fuel. Even in a non-turbocharged airplane, fuel stops cost time and fuel; they never improve efficiency. Increased endurance through lean-of-peak operation translates to more loading and weather options, too. If you have more endurance, you can reach a wider range of alternates if the weather tanks or you can shortload fuel in favor or more cabin payload.

Lean-of-peak operation works well in most Continental fuel-injected engines and somewhat less well in Lycoming fuel-injected engines, but is still worth considering as an endurance extender.

We're told by George Braly of General Aviation Modifications (GAMI), whose research has recently illuminated an understanding of lean-of-peak operation, that carbureted engines can also be operated lean of peak if partial carb heat is used to increase the induction temperature. This improves fuel atomization and distribution and reduces so-called dropouts, when fuel vapor condenses in the induction system's twists and turns. Although we've flown Continental and Lycoming injected engines lean-of-peak, we haven't tried this method in a carbureted engine. Although we're skeptical of its practicality, we think it's worth experimenting with.

Whether injected or carbureted, an engine should have a digital multi-probe engine monitor with both EGT and CHT before lean-of-peak is attempted. At high power settings, it's possible to damage valves and cylinders by hamfisting the mixture control. (This is why some engine shops think LOP damages engines and, done incorrectly, it certainly has that potential.)

And there are circumstances where lean-of-peak operation makes little sense, usually when flying into a stiff headwind when the fuel economy tradeoff just isn't worth the slow groundspeed. In this case, go rich of peak and pay for the gas. For more technical detail on lean-of-peak operation, visit GAMI or read other lean-of-peak articles here on AVweb.

Idea 2: GAMIjectors

Beginning in 1996, GAMI reinvigorated research into aircraft engine technology and among other ideas -- including a focus on lean-of-peak operation -- this yielded GAMIjectors. These are custom fuel-injector nozzles that precisely match the fuel going into the cylinder to the air available through the induction system.

GAMIjectors yield generally smoother operation and definitely more-even leaning, making it possible to operate lean-of-peak without undue roughness. Not all fuel-injected engines need or will necessarily benefit from GAMIjectors, but our surveys reveal that most have. GAMIjectors range in price from $699 to $999, depending on engine model. (Visit GAMI's Web site for more.) If GAMIjectors are required for lean-of-peak flight, at current gas prices, the payback may be in as little as 150 hours.

Idea 3: AirNav

In our view, this is one of the most underutilized services in general aviation. For several years, AirNav has been tracking avgas prices based on voluntarily submitted reports from the field. This service is well executed and available for free to anyone.. Although using it won't save gas, it will certainly save money on buying gas -- a lot of money.

For example, if you were flying along the eastern seaboard [in late 2005] and needed a fuel stop in South Carolina, you could pay Signature $4.35 a gallon in Savannah, Ga., taxi down to the self-serve pumps and pay $3.79 a gallon or route through Darlington and pay $3.05. On a fill-up of a modest single, the most/least difference is more than 40 percent and well worth considering re-routing, in our view. Further, we think FBOs who are efficient and willing to accept lower margins deserve support. This also pressures higher-priced players to offer more competitive prices. AirNav has basic utilities that allow you to plan routing based on the lowest fuel prices.

Idea 4: Bigger Tanks

The hackneyed adage about never having too much fuel unless you're on fire definitely applies to economy considerations. One reason is the aforementioned extended endurance, which allows skipping a fuel stop. The second is buying cheaper fuel where you find it -- or where AirNav finds it for you -- and carrying it around with you.

While the airlines have learned that tankering fuel is an economy no-no, that proviso doesn't apply to small, piston aircraft. Yes, you burn a little more gas to haul your stash of fuel, but not enough to offset even a 25-cent-per-gallon price delta, and we've seen price breaks between the highest and lowest of over $2. Extended capacity tanks are available for a range of models, mostly mid- to high-performance singles. Adding even 15 gallons can make a difference if you fly trips to near the limits of the airplane's fuel endurance.

Prices on these systems vary between $4000 and $8000 and some include STCs for gross-weight increases. See Aviation Consumer March 2004 for a complete analysis. Extended-range tanks are a moderately expensive upgrade but can pay big dividends.

Idea 5: Check the Rigging

It's not unusual to see cruise-speed differences between two airplanes of the identical type and model year. Tracking down the reason for cruise shortfalls is black art but rigging is often implicated; ailerons are out of trim, the rudder doesn't center-up, flaps aren't completely retracting; gear doors don't close.

Recovering five knots through rigging tune-up is hardly unusual and, although the fuel-efficiency gain is a small one, it's nonetheless measurable and not expensive. Some caution is advised, however. If a shop isn't thoroughly familiar with your airplane or otherwise a whiz at rigging, you might make things worse. Rigging checks aren't expensive.

Idea 6: General Maintenance

The big items here are spark plugs, harnesses and magnetos and induction leaks, probably in that order. The onset of roughness during leaning is often caused by a fouled or defective plug, old harnesses or a magneto past its prime. If you can't lean effectively -- you'll probably be unable to run lean of peak -- you're wasting gas. Another trouble-causer is leaking induction pipes; these too will cause roughness and an inability to run lean of peak, not to mention EGT and CHT spikes above normal. Last, check air and fuel filters. These are normally tended to at annual but may have been missed last time around. This is routine, inexpensive maintenance.

Idea 7: Optimize Altitude

This is a cheap fix if ever there was one. When you last looked at a winds-aloft forecast, did you really look? If you didn't, you may have given up speed into a headwind or failed to take advantage of a blistering tailwind because you weren't willing to climb a couple of thousand feet higher. That's the same as wasting gas.

As a survival skill, some airlines are masters at altitude optimization and most flight planning programs will crunch "what-if" numbers to find the most favorable winds based on the airplane's typical flight profile.

Again, airplanes with the most altitude capability -- read that as turbocharged -- will benefit the most from altitude optimization. GPS, airdata and real-time winds aloft help with optimization, as we discovered in reviewing the EFB software from TrueFlight. This program works in real time to optimize altitude choices.

Idea 8: Dump the Guzzler

If you can afford a twin with a pair of large-displacement, six-cylinder engines, you may not care about fuel economy. Then again, maybe you do, to the extent that you don't fly as much because filling it up costs nearly a grand. Timing the market to buy or sell right is fraught with peril but, in our estimation, prices on twins are likely to remain soft. It's difficult to foresee market forces that will reverse this trend.

On the other hand, if you're thinking about a more fuel-efficient airplane -- any of the Mooney models, Diamond's DA-40 or even a used Cirrus SR-20 -- it might be better, so shop sooner rather than later.

Idea 9; Turbocharging

Turbocharging or turbonormalizing isn't normally thought of as an economy measure but it can be, provided that the airplane is flown high enough to take advantage of the turbo's altitude capabilities, the pilot is reasonably canny about altitude optimization and lean-of-peak operation is considered.

A gas-swilling turbocharged twin will never be an economy leader no matter how it's flown. But a turbocharged Bonanza, Mooney or Cessna 210 can be. Switching from a normally aspirated airplane to a turbocharged airplane as an economy measure only makes sense if the owner flies long trips frequently and is otherwise thinking about an upgrade. Otherwise, turbocharging's higher maintenance costs will more than offset any dollars in fuel savings. Still, if you lean correctly, you'll use marginally less fuel on those trips where climbing ramps up the speed, especially in tailwinds. Buying a turbocharged airplane or adding it to one you already own is a dubious return on investment if you fly under 100 hours a year.

Idea 10: Buy a Diesel

The diesels are coming, alright. Although the numbers aren't right yet, they soon will be. It makes no sense to sell your $150,000 gasoline-powered twin and buy a $450,000 Diamond TwinStar just to save gas. On the other hand, if you're shopping for a new airplane, it makes just as little sense not to at least look closely at the DA42 TwinStar.

Idea 11: FADEC

Full authority digital engine controls (FADEC) have gotten a lot of press but sales haven't followed. We think the reason for this is that the only flying system -- Continental's Aerosance-developed PowerLink -- is complex and expensive and its benefits are currently elusive. Fuel savings of 10 percent are reported by owners, but currently, you can do better by leaning aggressively. FADEC's benefit will arrive when 100LL avgas disappears. That hasn't happened, so FADEC goes near the bottom for cost effectiveness.

Idea 12: Speed Mods

Pulling up the rear in cost effectiveness are speed mods. Speed mods -- at least those that deliver on their claims -- increase speed by reducing drag or, looked at another way, they allow the same speed on less fuel. The usual rule of thumb is that it costs $1000 per knot of increased airspeed, which might translate to a tenth of a gallon or two of fuel savings.

In reality, speed gains from mods are sometimes elusive and that's also true of fuel economy based on drag reduction. That's why we put speed mods at the end of the list. The return on investment may or may not be worth it, either in speed or economy. Don't expect miracles, although some airframes will benefit enough to make the investment worthwhile.

More articles to help you become a better pilot are available in AVweb's Airmanship section. And for monthly articles and reviews of aviation products and services, subscribe to AVweb's sister publication, Aviation Consumer.

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AVweb Media: Look, Listen, Learn, & Laugh back to top 

AVweb's Monday Podcast: Determining a Visual Glidepath with Pilot's Audio Update

File Size 8.2 MB / Running Time 8:55

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Early on in your pilot training, you may have been taught the spot-on-the-windshield method of determining a visual glidepath. In this sample from Belvoir's Pilot's Audio Update, Dick Taylor reviews the method and illuminates the finer points.

For more on subscribing to Pilot's Audio Update, click here.

Click here to listen. (8.2 MB, 8:55)

Video of the Week: Revisiting the Glenn Curtiss America Recreation Project

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

We've checked in on the Glenn Curtiss Museum's "Project America" before, but angelica4709 keeps posting updates on YouTube, and while we're still waiting (anxiously) to see the new America get into the air, she's out and about on the water now:

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Don't forget to send us links to any interesting videos you find out there. If you're impressed by it, there's a good chance other AVweb readers will be too. And if we use a video you recommend on AVweb, we'll send out an official AVweb baseball cap as a "thank you."

Exclusive Video: Behind the Scenes of That Amazing Thunderbird Ejection/Crash Photo

Original, Exclusive Videos from AVweb | Reader-Submitted & Viral Videos

When we first saw the photo of Capt. Chris Stricklin's ejection from a doomed U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds F-16 a few years ago, most of us here at AVweb thought it was a fake. But the more we looked at it, the more it seemed possible that someone had actually snapped Stricklin's moment of truth in what must be one of the greatest aviation photos ever shot. Well, it wasn't long before we learned that Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III had actually captured the drama at an air show at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho.

In this week's AVweb original video, Video Editor Glenn Pew looks at the circumstances surrounding the dramatic accident — combining still photos, in-cockpit and outside-of-cockpit video, and narration including the investigation's findings and changes in procedure for the T-birds.

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Related Content:
Thunderbirds Crash: Truth in Images

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Aviation Technology (KSDF, Louisville, KY)

Nominate an FBO | Rules | Tips | Questions | Winning FBOs

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Aviation Technology at KSDF in Louisville, Kentucky.

AVweb reader Don Gay tells us how the Tec team came through for him just last week:

My twin Cessna 310 had a bad case of plug fouling and clogged fuel injectors on Friday, January 4 at 4pm. Paul Atwell and his tech stayed overtime for two hours to clean and gap the plugs and clean fuel injectors to get me on my way to my destination that night. Outstanding.

Keep those nominations coming. For complete contest rules, click here.

AVweb is actively seeking out the best FBOs in the country and another one, submitted by you, will be spotlighted here next Monday!

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The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

Heard a few years ago whilst flying a 747 from LAX to LHR:

Salt Lake Center:
"Airline 123, you bound for Vegas?"

Airline 123:

Salt Lake Center:
"You a [DC-]10?"

Airline 123:

Salt Lake Center:
"Well, I guess your passengers need a 10 to take home their winnings?"

Airline 123:
"Nope! Our passengers can take home their winnings in a Cessna 152."

Alan Murgatroyd
via e-mail

More AVweb for Your Inbox back to top 

AVwebBiz: AVweb's Business Aviation Newsletter

HAVE YOU SIGNED UP yet for AVweb's NO-COST weekly business aviation newsletter, AVwebBiz? Reporting on breaking news, Business AVflash focuses on the companies, the products and the industry leaders that make headlines in the business aviation industry. Business AVflash is a must read. Sign up today at http://www.avweb.com/profile/.

Names Behind the News back to top 

Meet the AVwebFlash Team

AVwebFlash is a weekly summary of the latest news, articles, products, features, and events featured on AVweb, the internet's aviation magazine and news service.

The AVwebFlash team is:

Timothy Cole

Editorial Director, Aviation Publications
Paul Bertorelli

Russ Niles

Managing Editor
Meredith Saini

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Glenn Pew

Features Editor
Kevin Lane-Cummings

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