AVwebFlash - Volume 14, Number 19a

May 5, 2008

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Of Engines and Gas back to top 
Sponsor Announcement

Cessna Suspends Diesel 172 Sales, Diamond Steps Up Support

AOPA says Cessna has suspended its delivery schedule of 172 TD models in light of the crisis at Thielert Aircraft Engines, which supplies the engines. According to AOPA, Cessna intends to continue with certification of the diesel Skyhawk but none of the 100 on order will go to customers just yet. "At this point we have decided that we will not deliver 172TD aircraft during 2008, and we have informed our customers accordingly," AOPA quotes an unnamed Cessna spokesman as saying. Meanwhile, Diamond Aircraft appears to be moving aggressively to establish technical and parts support for its installed base of Thielert diesel engines, following Thielert's bankruptcy filing last week. In a series of letters to owners, Diamond says it plans to order a "significant spare parts inventory" and is asking dealers and owners for status reports on parts needs. It has also established a North American hotline for owners and shops that can be reached at 888-613-0096 or via e-mail at DA42-TAE-NorthAmericaSupport@diamondair.com. As we reported last week, Thielert declared bankruptcy due to a looming liquidity crisis and on news that German authorities were investigating the company for financial anomalies relating to its IPO filing in 2005.

The board last week dismissed company founder Frank Thielert and the chief financial officer, Roswitha Grosser and, this week, appointed a new CEO, lawyer Marcel Kleiss. Further, Bruno Kuebler, who Diamond calls "one of Germany's preeminent insolvency administrators," was appointed to oversee Thielert's insolvency proceedings. Diamond currently has more than 30 new DA42 Twin Stars awaiting engines and intends to continue production, but it warns customers that "given the current situation, there may be unusual delays in service and response to technical inquiries."

Ethanol Rampant, Mogas Users Warned

AOPA is warning aircraft owners who normally use automotive fuel purchased off the airport to test the gas for ethanol even if the pump doesn't say there's alcohol in the fuel. The federal government mandate to increase the use of renewable fuels in gasoline blends has prompted some companies to add ethanol without notification and that can be dangerous for aircraft engines. "While AOPA has successfully prevented ethanol from being blended with avgas, there are limits to what the general aviation industry can do to prevent auto gasoline from being blended," AOPA said on its Web site In Idaho, pure gasoline is apparently so rare that it's no longer available at some airports. "What I'm hearing from my members is that they cannot find ethanol-free auto gas on airports anywhere," Idaho Aviation Aviation Association Director Ken Jackson said in an email to AVweb. "Their choices now are to switch to 100LL, run contaminated fuel, or hang it up."

The FAA forbids the use of ethanol-blended fuel in regular aircraft. Ethanol-blended fuel can harm rubber fuel bladders, damage hoses, and attract water into the engine encouraging rust. FAA studies have also shown ethanol to cause inaccurate readings on fuel gauges and problems with electric fuel pumps. Premium auto gas in some states has been saved from an ethanol mix too, but that may change due to mandates put on the petroleum companies. Avgas is not suited to many older engines because of its high octane. The salvation for pilots who want or need to use mogas could come from the recreational motorsports sector, which may have the numerical clout to make regulators listen. Many engines used in boats, personal watercraft, ATVs and motorcycles are also harmed by ethanol.

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Jet Update back to top 

Toyota's Venture With Mitsubishi Jets

Toyota Motor Corp has decided to invest more than $96 million in Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp., taking a 10-percent ownership interest in the company that will oversee launch of Mitsubishi's new regional jet. Mitsubishi's Aircraft subsidiary was established by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. just last month and was prepared to begin operations April 1 to manufacture and market the new plane. The 70- to 90-seat regional airliner is expected to launch in 2013, may be Japan's first aircraft project of its kind, and will put Mitsubishi in direct competition with Bombardier and Embraer. Japan's ANA airline has shown its support for the native project by ordering 15 of the aircraft. Rather than marking an initiation of Toyota's involvement in aircraft production, Toyota officials say the relationship should allow the auto manufacturer to improve its development of automobiles through the application of aeronautical technologies.

The move is also intended to bolster Japanese industry and is expected to receive about one-third of its funding through the Japanese government.

D-JET Earns First European Fractional Program

Smart Air S.A. has announced the first fractional ownership program in Europe for Diamond's single-engine (and very roomy) four-plus-one place composite D-JET. The company has purchased eight D-JETs, which it expects sometime in 2010, and has options for more. Smart Air's business plan aims to offer a "hassle-free, flexible" and "even more economical way" for people to travel across Europe. Smart Air plans to operate the fleet from offices in Finland, UK, France, Benelux, Germany and Italy, offering its co-owners transport to 1,835 airports across the continent with "guaranteed availability." Diamond Aircraft president Peter Maurer said, "We have designed the D-JET to be an affordable personal light jet to make jet travel attainable to more people. Smart Air's fractional ownership solution is a good complement to our product."

Powered by the Williams FJ33-4, the D-JET offers an 8,000-foot cabin at FL250, a maximum range of 1350 nm, a long-range cruise of 240 KTAS (maximum cruise, 315 KTAS), a useful load of 2240 pounds, and is priced near $1.4 million.

Cirrus Encourages You to Compare & Fly All the Airplanes That May Fit Your Mission
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Business News back to top 

Narco Acquired By International Avionics

International Avionics Inc., a Delaware corporation, has acquired what it says is the oldest general aviation electronics manufacturer in the world, Narco Avionics Inc. All operations at Narco's Fort Washington, Pa., facilities "will continue as they are," according to a Narco release. Narco says that all its customer service, support and dealer network functions will continue to be fully supported and new product research and development will continue at "maximum effort." Alan Hanks, CEO of International Avionics Inc., was employed by Narco in 1967 as regional sales manager, served as president of Narco from 1994 to 1998, and has served more recently as a consultant. Hanks holds commercial and instrument ratings and has logged more than 18,000 hours. Narco was originally incorporated November 11, 1945, and will celebrate its 63rd birthday this year.

SATSair Air Taxi Posts Big Growth

SATSair Thursday announced that its on-demand "air cab services" (or air taxi) finished 2007 with strong financials and growth, and that the trend has continued into 2008. From 2006 to 2007, SATSair grew its number of flights by 60 percent, operating more than 16,000 flights in 2007. The company has flown more than six million passenger miles since November 2004 and reports a 314-percent increase in flights taking place in Florida for 2006. The company says 2007 marked a shift in the way its services were used -- away from a more traditional role as a replacement for driving trips of two to five hours and toward use as a point-to-point vehicle and substitute for airline travel. The company operates new Cirrus SR22 aircraft, claiming a rate of three flights per day from its South Carolina headquarters.

SATSair currently serves more than 600 airports throughout the Southeast with nearly 90 percent of the company's business originating in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

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News Briefs back to top 

First Fatal T-38 Crashes In Years Prompt Stand Down

Two fatal accidents in nine days snapped five years of fatality-free operations for the Air Force's T-38C trainer and have now grounded the aircraft. An April 23 crash and a May 1 crash together claimed four pilots. The Air Force has so far offered few details, offering Thursday that the accidents so far appear unrelated. "Until we have a more complete understanding of the causes," said General William Looney, commander of Air Education and Training Command (AETC), "it's prudent to stand down the T-38's." AETC will observe a "safety day" Monday, leaving all its aircraft on the ground. The April 23 crash occurred on takeoff at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, killing Maj. Blair Faulkner and 2nd Lt. Matthew Emmons. The May 1 crash killed two more pilots whose names had not yet been released when AVweb went to press. Those pilots -- a student and instructor -- were flying a training mission out of Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls.

The jet crashed short of the runway at Sheppard, according to local news, temporarily closing Wichita Falls Municipal airport (the airport shares a runway with the base). The T-38 has been used to train military pilots since 1961.

FAA Fights For Jets At Santa Monica Airport

Last month, the Santa Monica, Calif., City Council approved a law banning jets with approach speeds between 139 and 191 mph, but a Federal Judge has granted the FAA a temporary restraining order blocking the move. Santa Monica airport saw 18,575 jet operations in 2007. The FAA says that the law is not only unnecessary, but would also significantly harm jet operators and their supporting businesses. The City Council says it acted to protect local residents from jet overruns and acted in accordance with the FAA's own safety standards. In court, the judge asked the city attorney how many aircraft of the type that would be affected by the ban had been involved in overruns at the airport. The answer is none, but that smaller, slower aircraft have been involved in overruns and the city's attorney stated that the results of such an incident involving larger aircraft would be disastrous. The judge responded noting that the larger aircraft in question were flown by professional pilots and were considered safer than smaller private aircraft.

Regardless, the city maintains that the airport does not currently meet the FAA's own standards concerning safety areas at each end of the runway and the ordinance addressed those concerns. Now, a hearing scheduled for May 15 will allow both sides (the city and the FAA) to file additional arguments.

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News Briefs back to top 

Polite Pilot Released From Psych Ward

Welsh pilot Maurice Kirk gets full marks for politeness but his questionable judgment landed him in a Texas psychiatric hospital. Kirk, from the Vale of Glamorgan, was detained for psychiatric assessment after landing his Piper Cub in a field about six miles from President Bush's Texas ranch April 25. Known as the Flying Vet, Kirk wanted to personally thank Bush for help he got from the U.S. Coast Guard when he crashed off the coast of the Dominican Republic in February. According to the BBC, police who stopped Kirk in the Texas field originally thought he was drunk, but he was found to be sober. The McLennan County Chief Deputy Sheriff Randy Phlemons said he was not arrested but was ordered to undergo a psychiatric assessment. Kirk was released from the Austin State Hospital last Thursday.

Kirk is currently attempting to fly around the world solo in his Piper Cub. His wife, Kirstie, said that she was unsure if her husband would be able to fly his airplane immediately because it may have been damaged by the weather. He plans to take a break from the adventure and fly back to Wales (commercially) this week. When he resumes the flight, his wife suggests he'll be a little more careful. "I guess that [the Secret Service] will want to check his route before he leaves," she said.

Laser Prankster Nabbed By Victim, A Pilot

Hit twice on the same night by a laser beam, Mark Westwood, a helicopter pilot for the British police, found justice ... and the man responsible. Westwood was momentarily blinded by the beam, but kept control of his helicopter and turned his thermal imaging camera on the culprit. It turns out that 20-year-old Dean Bottomley had targeted the helicopter from his bedroom with a green laser pen and in moments, Westwood had his location locked. In minutes, police arrived and arrested Bottomley at his home. Stating that he was "just having a laugh," according to the Mirror UK, Bottomley now faces a potential jail term of five years for admitting to endangering an aircraft and will contemplate that fact until his June 6 sentencing date. "He knows he has been very stupid," offered his attorney. Bottomley, who reportedly bought the laser pen on eBay, added, "I didn't realize just how serious it was."

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Reader Voices back to top 

AVmail: May 5, 2008

Reader mail this week about fuel taxes, securing drunks to their seats, electric aircraft and more.

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

Got a Thielert Diesel? We Would Like To Hear From You

Our sister magazine, Aviation Consumer, is preparing a follow-up story on user experience with Thielert diesel engines. If you'd like to participate, drop an e-mail to avconsumer@comcast.net.

(The story will appear in a future issue of Aviation Consumer. For subscription information, click here.)

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

Our best stories start with you. If you've heard something 200,000 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 #82: The Sky (Probably) Isn't Really Falling

AVweb's CEO of the cockpit is flying SIC in a Skyhawk, but he's lost his skill at being a tactful and deferential co-pilot.

Click here for the full story.

A good copilot is a good copilot, no matter what the aircraft. I fancied myself a good copilot back when I was a first officer on various airliners. I considered myself better than the average bear when it came to flight engineering, as well. Being a good copilot is harder, in my estimation, than being a good captain. And if you could manage to be an outstanding flight engineer, then God bless you; you were tragically warped, but you were an asset to your airline.

I was in the right seat of a northbound Cessna Skyhawk and was trying to resurrect my skills at being a subordinate pilot instead of occupying the king's seat on the left side of the bird. We were departing the Lakeland, Fla., area of operations for our return trip up north to the land of permafrost and crowded toll roads with potholes -- Chicago.

My friend, Ozzie, was based in ORD with a little airline we'll simply refer to here as "United." A 737 driver, par excellence, Ozzie was a copilot on the FLUFF, or the "Football" as it is sometimes called. This led to what Bob Dylan would call a "simple twist of fate." Imagine me, an egotistical, slightly overweight and graying senior captain, metaphorically "pulling gear" for a snot-nosed, fortyish, FLUFF first officer.

In this case, Ozzie was in command by virtue of aircraft ownership and flying skill, not seniority.

This particular 172 was outfitted with the very latest of 1970s avionics and automation. We sported a Cessna Navpac II suite of radios, complete with the beige-colored, twin nav-coms, an encoded transponder and a digital ADF. That old ARC-manufactured ADF, by the way, in my never-to-be-humble opinion, is the best ADF I've ever come across or operated. It is very easy to tune and the sound quality, while not up to the Bose level, is damn close.

Today, I was making the best possible use of the ADF and had it tuned to 1230, WONN Lakeland. It softly played old big-band music in the background (and at roughly a 150 degree relative bearing) as we climbed at a blistering 700 feet per minute to our VFR cruising altitude.

The Oz Fest Begins

The pilot in command of our flight settled back into his seat as we leveled off. He pulled the power back to about 75 percent, leaned it out for cruise and tuned Cross City VOR onto Nav #1. We still had Nav #2 tuned to 116.0, the Lakeland VOR, although we had no intention of turning back to the bedlam that Sun 'n Fun can become when everybody wants to fly home at the same time.

On most flight decks, it is the captain who sets the tone and often introduces the subjects for discussion during a flight. This day was no exception and Ozzie, for some arcane reason, wanted to discuss the world of airline flying. I would have preferred talking about almost anything else, but being copilot instead of captain, I acquiesced.

"Skybus, ATA and Aloha," he said. "Who's next? I know that Alitalia is in trouble and a bunch of other airlines are about to go belly-up. With jet-fuel costs making up over half of their total expenses, how long will it be before all the airlines go out of business due to high fuel prices?"

I honestly don't know. I do know that airlines have cut their personnel costs about as far as they can get away with. Our airline lost quite a few copilots last year during the last big bankruptcy crunch when they figured out they could make more money quitting their airline job and returning to fly for the military. After crunching the career numbers, some pilots even chose to teach school for a living. With most public-school systems still offering good benefits and a fairly secure retirement, it looked like a better deal to them. Plus, if they taught school, they were guaranteed every holiday, including Christmas, off.

"The big airlines are all partnering-up to try and form the biggest galactic, omnivorous airlines in the world. I'm just a dumb FLUFF driver, so I don't know much about big business, but I don't see how combining two losing business propositions into one giant losing proposition makes sense."

I think the reason their lawyers are giving -- and remember that it is the lawyers who stand to make serious money out of any mergers -- is that, at stations where both airlines operated in the past, they can eliminate one whole ground operations and gate agent staff, not to mention combining reservations and hundreds of other functions that pilots like us never think about. Plus, they can combine passenger loads and operate with fuller airplanes.

"How much fuller than 100 percent can they get?" asked Oz. "When was the last time you got on a flight and had any empty seats? The real problem is that even with an all-full airplane, they are still losing money with oil at over $100 a barrel. I checked today and the airlines are paying $3.66 a gallon for Jet-A. How can they make money with fuel that high?"

Mother Nature Wastes More Fuel

I was about to try to lighten-up Ozzie's angst with a joke or one of my tried-and-true, old-time airline stories when I made the mistake of looking forward out of the windshield. A dark mass of storm-like clouds were about 10 miles ahead. We used to call Cross City VOR the "Cross City Connection" because it always seemed to have a thunderstorm over it. All you had to do to find Cross City at night was to look for the lightning flashes and steer in that direction. It looked like today would be no exception.

I pointed to the clouds, which my captain had already noticed and we began a 40-degree deviation to the east around the build-ups. A westerly deviation would have been shorter but it was over the Gulf of Mexico and no sane Skyhawk driver starts down that road, especially in Florida, for two reasons. First, you can start deviating over water and end up 50 or 60 miles out before it is all over. Just how far can you swim after the engine quits? Second, if we had to coast-in west of Tallahassee, we could run into all sorts of military airspace around Tyndal, Hurlburt and Eglin Air Force Bases.

It looked like our little deviation would add about 20 minutes to our leg and would burn at least a few more gallons of precious avgas.

Lions and Tigers and Bears! Oh My!

"I heard that the regional jets are on their way out because of the higher price of fuel," said the Oz man. "Can you imagine being one of those people who spent $50,000 or so on the hope of getting an RJ copilot job, only to find out that you missed the boat and the combined airlines got rid of them?"

Oz, I said, one of the things that advancing age gives this pilot -- besides more "No's" than "Yes's" from flight attendants when I invite them to dinner -- is perspective. When I was in college and beginning my CFI career, the whole aviation world was going to end because of the Middle East oil embargo. Then it was going to end because avgas was going up to a record 60 cents a gallon. Then, we were all going to lose our oil supplies and freeze to death because of the Iran hostage thing. Then, after I got my airline job, my career was going to be over because of the PATCO strike. It just goes on and on.

Now, everybody has their panties in a knot because oil is over a hundred bucks a barrel and the FAA is actually starting to enforce maintenance rules. In the words of my favorite Saturday Night Live philosopher, Roseanne Rosanadana, "It's always something."

Somehow, over all the years of embargos, gulf wars, price gouging, airline bankruptcies and product liability lawsuits, people like you and me have kept flying. For one thing, the airlines will probably get re-regulated soon, once the government comes to the realization that most of their military airlift capability is civilian based. For another thing, people will keep buying airline tickets, even if the prices go up. Why? Because the price of car gas is going up too, and it is still cheaper in terms of gas prices to fly to Florida than to fill the Toyota's tank six times to get there.

Ozzie Says "Baloney"

I think that my flying partner had heard enough doom-and-gloom airline talk for one day. Rather than saying so and changing the subject to more interesting things, like layover restaurants, happy hours in San Juan and which shows in Vegas still give a crew discount, he showed me the kind of captain he was destined to become by offering me a baloney sandwich from the little cooler we had between the front seats.

We enjoyed our in-flight lunch and swilled root beer as the fading signal from WONN played Sinatra. It was then that I remembered why I hold a slight preference for flying airliners over Skyhawks. We still had two hours to go to our first fuel stop, we had no lav facilities on board, and I had to "drain the main."

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

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Cockpit Smoke Hoods

Our trials revealed that all three perform well, although Parat-C is our first choice. But you'll need to train and practice to handle them well in a real emergency.

Click here for the full story.

It's never a good time for an inflight fire. Stoked by fuel or an electrical short, this nasty brand of emergency is near the top of most pilots' list of nightmares. But a cabin fire's consequences can be mitigated by using a smoke hood, which filters breathable air out of the poisonous plume of a fire, increasing the likelihood that the pilot can see and breathe long enough to put the airplane on the ground.

To be useful at all, a smoke hood must meet certain criteria: It needs to form an airtight seal around your head and neck, protecting your eyes, nose and mouth; it must be constructed of heat-resistant material such as Kapton; and it absolutely must feature a filter that brings in air from the outside into the mouth. The filter, usually made with activated charcoal, protects you against deadly carbon monoxide (CO) -- don't buy one that doesn't -- as well as particulate matter and other toxic gases. An effective smoke hood will catalyze CO to the more benign carbon dioxide (CO2). Standard gas masks don't do that, by the way.

Don't consider a hood that doesn't meet these basic safety criteria. High-quality smoke hoods will be certified by industry standards. While no UL testing has been performed on them, a multi-million dollar proposition in the U.S., European, Australian or Japanese standards are accepted in the industry for these products. Within the European CE testing protocol, an EN4 certification requires that the hood withstand 10,000 PPM of CO for at least 15 minutes. A CO concentration of 75 PPM can be disabling; 500 PPM is lethal.

Whether you're facing a CO leak or the full-blown cocktail of toxic gases, smoke and flames from an inflight fire, immediate and decisive action will save your life. Brent Blue, M.D., pilot and cofounder of Aeromedix (and the source for the Safe Escape smoke hood) says, "Smoke in a cockpit is so noxious, it's incapacitating. It's like being sprayed with pepper spray. It's incredibly irritating to your eyes, nose and lungs. Any smoke hood must cover your eyes so you can see."

Blue contradicts the old wives' tale that cabin smoke can be cleared by opening a window. "The increased air circulation may fan the fire and general aviation cabins aircraft are negatively pressurized so the air will come rushing in." An engine fire may enter the cabin through the firewall and from outside the fuselage if a window or canopy is open. The smoke hood is your safest option for getting on the ground in hostile cabin conditions.

The downside? Severe claustrophobia could exacerbate an already stressful experience and if you have significant lung disease, you may have difficulty drawing a deep breath while wearing a hood. However, that beats smoke inhalation, which causes half to 80 percent of fire-related deaths in the general population -- ahead of fire-related burns. Even sublethal levels of smoke and gases can seriously impair a pilot, enough to compromise flight safety. Hypoxia at higher altitudes can worsen the damage done by smoke.

A smoke hood completes the cabin environment trio; a high-quality CO detector (not a stick-on patch) and a Halon fire extinguisher should be available in your aircraft as well. (See the July 2003 Aviation Consumer for a review of Halon extinguishers and the November 2005 issue for the CO detector assessment.)

In our view, a detector that will sniff out CO ahead of the fact is preferable to donning a smoke hood and trying to filter the air after the fact. Similarly, a fire extinguisher may knock a fire down before it has time to make much smoke.

Girls in the Hood

We were particular about the units we sampled -- only certified hoods with CO and toxic gas filtering made the cut. The three hoods we tested were the COGO ($119 from Safer America), the Parat-C (manufactured by German giant Draeger and sold for $198 by Safer America) and the Safe Escape Smoke Hood ($69.95 from Aeromedix).

We built a 6-foot-high, 2-foot-square framework of 1/2-inch PVC pipe, covered by 4-mil plastic sheeting. Three signaling smoke flares by Orion Safety Products created prodigious amounts of thick orange smoke, which contained 22 percent potassium chlorate (an eye irritant); the burning flare also produced carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides.

We ignited one flare per hood and donned the hood as the flare was lit, simulating the suddenness with which an inflight fire can occur. There was no heat to the smoke, but it was plenty irritating. To measure the effectiveness of each mask's filtering capability, we took a baseline arterial blood oxygen saturation reading (SPO2) with a Nonin Onyx pulse oximeter. However, the pulse ox does not detect CO poisoning. CO binds to the hemoglobin in the blood, turning the cells as red as if they were oxygenated ... but they're not. Our baseline reading was 98 percent and the pulse ox determined whether the hoods delivered filtered oxygenated air as advertised. After stepping into the smoky booth, the plan was to stay there until the smoke dissipated, about two minutes. It mostly worked that way.

Tying long hair back will create a good seal with the hoods. We wore glasses during the test to determine whether they would be an obstacle to donning the mask quickly.


The Parat-C came tethered to the inside of a bright-yellow, plastic, zippered container, including directions that were large and easy to follow, but the detailed instruction sheet inside took some study. The hood worked like a champ. There was no sense of claustrophobia and the filtering kicked in immediately. The hood is made of a self-extinguishing PVC material, and the visor contains an anti-misting agent. Glasses and long hair fit comfortably in the hood and there was no impediment to donning it, which took only 10 seconds.

We were able to comfortably stand in the smoke chamber until the smoke dissipated and the pulse ox reading during this test was 97 percent. The Parat-C provides 15 minutes of protection from a variety of gases and smoke, including CO at 2500 PPM. It also filters toxins such as hydrogen cyanide, hydrogen chloride and acrolein, formed by the breakdown of some pollutants, such as gasoline.

Safe Escape

The Safe Escape hood came next. Made of a flame-resistant, aluminum-foil cloth, it's designed to withstand up to 1400 degrees F. It comes in a compact, orange, plastic, zippered pouch that features detailed instructions in tiny print on one side and a graphical guide on the other. It's worth it to familiarize yourself with the instructions before you need them -- every second counts in a smoky cockpit.

The beefy zipper was easy to grasp and open quickly, an important feature, in our view. It was extraordinarily easy to put on and only required the removal of two red plugs from the filters inside and outside the mask. The clear face mask was generously sized and the interior mouthpiece connected to the filter was easy to use. This mask took a little longer to put on -- about 15 seconds -- due to monkeying around with the straps. While the mask worked just fine in clear air, we found it was necessary to pull the orange neck straps very snugly to keep the noxious gases out. After less than a minute in the smoke chamber, the straps that we thought were tightly snugged let some smoke in and we got a lungful.

It was not pleasant, causing throat irritation for hours. The pulse oximeter showed 94-percent saturation while in the smoke chamber and 96 percent after getting into the fresh air. Without operator error, the mask worked well, but it's crucial to tighten the neck straps completely to supplement the elastic neck band.

The Safe Escape comes with a five-year warranty from the date of manufacture and the manufacturer will replace the mask free of charge if you use it in an actual fire during that time. We think that's a good policy; although this is the least expensive of the three masks, the free replacement following real-life use should discourage hesitation in using it out of a sense of false economy. The manufacturer guarantees that the mask will give you 30 minutes of breathable air in a smoky or fiery environment.


The Israeli-made COGO was a contradiction. The foil-wrapped package comes in a canvas carry bag, but was very difficult to open without scissors and some tugging. We would be hard pressed to get it open in an emergency and would bring it on board already cut open. The directions on the packet were very clear.

Made of a vanilla-scented latex compound, it was a challenge to fit over a ponytail and especially difficult to pull over glasses. There would have been room for them inside, but the narrowness of the neck opening was an obstacle and it took two tries to get it on.

But once it was on, it was outstanding. The soft mouthpiece allows for rapid exhalation and prevents vapor buildup inside the mask. The tight neck fit kept the smoke out completely and filtration was excellent. Our pulse ox reading during the test was 96 percent and we felt no ill effects from the smoke at all.

Practice, Practice

Bonanza pilot John Whitehead had an electrical fire a few years ago and was struck that the cabin was completely filled by smoke within 30 seconds. "I could just see out the side windows ... and that was it," he told us. "Beside the lack of visibility, the horrid smell of the burning plastic wire was choking and distracting. A hood would have to be donned quickly to be of value."

Smoke hoods are only useful if you include them in your mental emergency preparation and if you can get to them reliably and quickly. The directions may be complex and not too easy to read when you actually need the hood. Being familiar with the opening instructions, donning procedures and usage is essential before you need the hood, not during the emergency.

Donning a smoke hood takes two hands, so if you don't have an autopilot or a co-pilot, trim for level flight and do your best. Opening the package may take up to 30 seconds if you stay calm and you're familiar with the package; getting the hood on and adjusted may take another 15. Blue says, "It depends on how freaked out you are and how much smoke has accumulated. If you smell a little smoke, open it up and get ready to don it. If the smoke doesn't increase, that's OK."

Blue urges consistency in placement of the hood; he Velcros it to the carpet by his seat. "I keep it in the same place every time so I can grab it without thinking about it. Include it in your preflight checklist and touch it every time."

Jonathan Elkoubi, general manager of Safer America (source for two of our test hoods, the Parat C and the COGO), says a hood should be easily stowable and retrievable in the cockpit's limited space. He noted that their sample hoods were tested with children: The average time to don a Parat-C was eight seconds and the COGO took seven to 10 seconds. The now-recalled Evac-U-8 had a response time of four to eight seconds.

And speaking of children, does it make sense to have a hood for every occupant? Our view is no. Unless you brief the occupant on using the mask -- unlikely -- helping them with it inflight is a non-starter and will distract you from you primary duty to get the airplane on the ground.


Each of the hoods we tested worked well once on -- which one you choose depends on your facial features (beards, long hair and glasses are complicating factors) and how quickly you can don it. If glasses, a beard or long hair are a consideration, avoid the COGO and go with the Parat-C or the Safe Escape.

Otherwise, we think the Parat-C is the best choice, if cost isn't a factor for you. It's easy to put on and kept the smoke at bay. But at $69.95, the Safe Escape hood is less than half the price of the Parat-C and thus represents the best value of the three, even given its donning foibles. The work-around for that is to train a little on quick donning and learn to set the straps correctly.

More AVweb safety articles are available here. And for monthly articles and reviews of aviation products and services, subscribe to AVweb's sister publication, Aviation Consumer.

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Avidyne Extends Interface Capability for Tactical WX Detection System
Avidyne's TWX670 Tactical Weather Detection System has a Compatibility Mode providing a second output format for display of monochromatic lightning strike and storm cell information on a number of existing lightning detection-compatible displays. The TWX670's normal RS-232 output protocol supports the TWX670's TWxCell™ and Color Strike modes on compatible displays, including Avidyne's EX500, EX5000 and MHD300. With Compatibility Mode, the TWX670 provides an alternate protocol compatible with other manufacturers' displays. Click here for more information.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Air 51 (LEX, Lexington, KY)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to a relatively new FBO, Air 51 at LEX in Lexington, Kentucky.

AVweb reader Graham Richardson discovered Air 51 "quite by accident":

We were stopping for fuel at [another FBO] as is our habit when at LEX when we passed a spectacular P51 Mustang heading out for an evening flight. I questioned ground control and found out that the owner had just opened a new FBO called Air 51. We changed our destination and taxied down taxiway Delta to the nicest airport facility I have ever seen. Service was imediate, friendly and competent ... free soft drinks and popcorn [and] a brand-new Porsche Boxter convertible loaner car. ... This was the best FBO experience I've ever had in over 20 years of flying. I only hope these guys go national.

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!

Stuck on the Freeway? Put That "Down Time" to Good Use with Pilot's Audio Update
Subscribe to Pilot's Audio Update and receive monthly CDs with topics from "Expediting an IFR Approach" and "Airplane Trim Systems" to "Carburetor Ice" and "Low Workload Maneuvering." Subscribe now to receive the Acing the Flight Review CD as a gift with your order.
AVweb Media: Look, Listen, Laugh and Learn back to top 

Exclusive Video: Patty Wagstaff Interview and Flight

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

Ride along with Patty Wagstaff as she flies her airshow routine at Sun 'n Fun 2008, courtesy of AVweb's Glenn Pew. Or, if you're easily queasy, just close your eyes and listen to our post-flight interview with Patty about how it feels to fly the maneuvers and what it's like to perform. Special thanks to our friends at Bose Corporation and Aircraft Spruce & Supply Co., whose good people stepped up when we needed them and helped make this video happen. And very special thanks to Patty's main sponsor, Cirrus Design, maker of the airplanes that changed the industry.

If you're interested in access to higher-resolution versions, contact Glenn.

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Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

Flying to Alaska: Marveling at Natural Beauty with Gary Scott

File Size 10.0 MB / Running Time 10:54

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

Gary Scott has flown his Cherokee 180 from New Mexico to Fairbanks Alaska three times and has been amazed by the beauty of the landscape and the hospitality of the people along the way. But flying to Alaska does take some preparation, and those thinking about going might consider ordering the DVD and handbook Gary and his wife Sandy have put together. (Contact them for ordering information.)

Click here to listen. (10.0 MB, 10:54)

Video of the Week: "Living the Legend" with the Antique Airplane Association

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

AVweb reader Brent Taylor brought this little gem to our attention — a promotional video for the Antique Airplane Association's annual Labor Day Fly-In. (Yet another fly-in on our list of "gotta do that" destinations.) We've got aerobatics, crashes, and amazing builds on tap for the next couple of weeks, but for today, let's take a break from the excitement and marvel at some truly amazing aircraft in flight:

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Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

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."

The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

On a Qantas flight from Adelaide to Perth last week, our lovely senior air steward announced the following after the doors closed:

Over the Speaker:
"Ladies and gentleman, please turn off all electronic devices such as laptops, mobile phones, washing machines and hairdryers. However, if they have a flight mode, please switch now."

It made me smile; must be hard to repeat the same thing every flight.

D. Dann
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

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Glenn Pew

Features Editor
Kevin Lane-Cummings

Click here to send a letter to the editor. (Please let us know if your letter is not intended for publication.)

Comments or questions about the news should be sent here.

Have a product or service to advertise on AVweb? A question on marketing? Send it to AVweb's sales team.

If you're having trouble reading this newsletter in its HTML-rich format (or if you'd prefer a lighter, simpler format for your PDA or handheld device), there's also a text-only version of AVwebFlash. For complete instructions on making the switch, click here.

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