AVwebFlash - Volume 14, Number 21a

May 19, 2008

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
 
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Features unique to Cirrus include no-cost Cirrus Maintenance™ for two years; CAPS™ (Cirrus Airframe Parachute System); easy-to-use avionics; robust, fault-tolerant electrical systems; easy access; and a comfortable cabin. Cirrus innovations have made Cirrus aircraft the standard by which all others are judged. For complete information, go online.
 
EBACE 2008 Begins Today back to top 
 

AVweb's Daily Coverage of the European Business Aviation Conference and Expo (EBACE) 2008

EBACE 2008 begins Tuesday at PalExpo convention center in Geneva, and coverage in AVwebBiz will include original videos, podcasts and details on the latest announcements daily through Friday. AVweb's Russ Niles ran into our European correspondent, Liz Moscrop, who's reporting for the Flight Evening News daily show publication, and she set the scene for what has become one of Europe's premiere aviation events.

Look for daily coverage in our business aviation newsletter, AVwebBiz. If you don't already receive Biz (or you're uncertain whether you do or not), you can add it (or check) by logging into your AVweb profile here.


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Aviation Safety Report back to top 
 

Cherokee Lands On Stinson: All OK

A Piper Cherokee with instructor and student aboard, and a Stinson with one pilot aboard, met on the runway at non-towered Northwest Regional Airport near Roanoke, Texas, Thursday afternoon, coming to rest on the runway with the Cherokee perched atop the Stinson. All parties walked away from the crash. The Stinson was departing and the Piper was arriving at the airport, sometime near 2 p.m., but at precisely the same moment. Pilot Jim Austen was waiting in the Stinson (apparently on the runway) to take off when the Cherokee cleared trees on approach and may have spotted the Stinson on the runway, but too late to avoid impact.

(Click here for video coverage from Channel 8 WFAA.)

It all reminds us of a previous incident back in December of 1999 -- only that time, the contact took place above the runway. See Joe Godfrey's interview with Alan Vangee who was flying a 152 on approach when it was impacted by a Piper Cadet also on approach -- both with about 150 feet left until touchdown.

AAIB Special Bulletin: Boeing 777 Heathrow Crash Update

British investigators are now trying to come up with a combination of "normal" conditions that could have led to the abnormal absence of fuel available to the engines of a British Airways Boeing 777-236 ER on approach to London's Heathrow airport in January. "The evidence to date indicates that both engines had low fuel pressure at the inlet to the (high pressure) pump," according to a special bulletin released by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB). But why? The 777 fell short of Runway 27L at London's Heathrow airport, Jan. 17, collapsing the gear structure and damaging the aircraft beyond economical repair, but injuring only 13 of the 152 aboard. The report indicates causal suspects as yet unidentified "restrictions in the fuel system" somewhere between the aircraft's fuel tanks and its high-pressure fuel pumps.

There is no evidence of wake encounter, bird strike, core engine icing, or any anomalous behavior of any of the aircraft's systems suggesting electromagnetic interference. There is no evidence of fuel contamination or "excessive" water in the fuel. In fact, the AAIB's report states that "no individual parameter from the flight of G]YMMM has been identified to be outside previous operating experience." The aircraft was operated within its certified flight envelope throughout the entire flight and recorded data has revealed "no evidence of an aircraft or engine control system malfunction." Investigators are now working to identify abnormal combinations of the normal parameters recorded by the accident aircraft, and some attention has already been paid to the particularly cold weather the jet encountered that day,

Ambient air temperatures in the area were as low as minus 76 degrees centigrade on Jan. 17, but the lowest air temperature recorded during the flight was minus 45 degrees centigrade with a minimum recorded fuel temperature of minus 34 degrees centigrade. Testing of fuel samples collected from the airliner show it to best Jet A-1 specifications for freezing (not above minus 47); it froze at minus 57 degrees centigrade. Nonetheless, at an altitude of 720 feet on short final, after initially responding to an increase in thrust commanded by the autothrottles, both engines reduced thrust to about 1.03 EPR. Flight data recorder information and memory from the electronic engine controller indicate that the engine control system detected the reduced fuel flow and commanded the fuel metering valve to open fully, which it did. However, no appreciable change in the fuel flow was recorded and the aircraft, G-YMMM, fell to the ground short of the runway.

 
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The State of the Art back to top 
 

Composites Edged Aluminum In 2007

When composites first arrived on the light aircraft scene many pilots greeted them with skepticism -- but a recent review of General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) records by CompositesWorld.com shows that more than half of 2,675 piston-engine aircraft produced in 2007 (1,376) were built with composite airframes. "A decade ago, less than five percent were," Jens Hennig, vice president for GAMA, told the publication. New manufacturers (with their roots in the kit airplane market) have embraced the technology and employed it in innovative and very popular designs, notably Cirrus, Diamond, Columbia, and Liberty aircraft, which together account for most of that market saturation. Cirrus Design, alone, accounted for 26 percent (710 aircraft) of the total piston deliveries in 2007. Epic Aircraft may add to the tally in the future. The company produces numerous very high-performance composite kit aircraft (some of which are slated for certification), and in 2007 set a record during the Sun 'n Fun airshow by recording the most sales logged ($23 million) by any exhibitor. Said Dieter Koehler, vice president of engineering and certification for Epic, "Composite airplanes are stronger and safer than metal planes because of the worst-case hypothetical test conditions that are imposed by the certifying bodies."

Some new composite designs currently in (or slated for) the certification pipeline are Cirrus' the-Jet, Diamond's D-Jet, Honda's HondaJet, Spectrum's Freedom, Learjet's 85-series, and Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, which suggests the trend toward composite aircraft production may not be limited to smaller general aviation aircraft. As for general aviation -- in 2007, aeronautical structures consumed an estimated 1.94 million pounds (880 metric tonnes) of raw carbon fiber, according to CompositeWorld.com. In 2008, demand for carbon fiber is expected to climb to 2.4 million pounds. And by 2017, the company forecasts that "annual carbon fiber demand related to general aviation aircraft production should swell by 35 percent to 3.26 million lb."

Aerospace Graduates in High Demand

Good news for new aviation engineers and other aerospace graduates -- states are competing for your employment. A nationwide shortage has led to high demand for skilled aviation workers. This shortage of skilled workers is such a concern in Oklahoma that state legislators have drawn up Bill HB 3239 that would attract and retain skilled workers in target industries such as aerospace. One measure of the bill would grant a tax credit of up to $5,000 to out-of-state engineers who are hired by Oklahoma aerospace companies after Jan. 1, 2009.

The aerospace companies would also receive a tax credit of up to 10% for the compensation paid to a qualified graduate during their first five years of employment. Senate Bill 1171 also provides tax credits to new engineers who work for an Oklahoma aerospace company. Other states such as Georgia and Washington are also trying to find ways to attract and retain skilled aerospace workers.

 
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Quotes reprinted with permission: Professional Pilot, 2007 Headset Preference Survey, 12/07; Aviation Consumer, 8/07.
 
Tomorrow's Science ... Today! back to top 
 

Yves Rossy's Strap-On Flying Wing

Yves Rossy, 48, again made headlines last Wednesday, jumping from an aircraft over the Alps with yet another set of prototype jet-powered and unfolding wings (roughly seven and one half foot in span), but this time with four jet engines and enough skill to execute a full 360-degree roll. "That was to impress the girls" the now-single pioneer told Australia's Herald Sun. Rossy plans to cross the English Channel later this year, convinced that 10 minutes of fuel and a speed of 185 miles per hour will leave him room to spare. Rossy claims the experience is not physically stressful, but it is clearly challenging. The aircraft is controlled with body movement: "If I turn to the left, I fly left. If I nudge to the right, I go right," he said. And Rossy has lost several prototypes already, with one partially destroyed in 2004 following a near fatal spin at an airshow, a 2005 wreck following "uncontrollable oscillations," and an early 2007 mishap that forced another rebuild -- those, among other challenges along the way. His current carbon-fiber-constructed quadruple-engined aircraft should allow for almost 200 pounds of thrust and a climb rate of 1,000 feet per minute. Those interested in duplicating the adventure currently will need a jump plane, a parachute, a flameproof suit (to avoid leg burns from jet exhaust), the skills associated with flight using your body as flight controls (though there is a throttle) and landing under parachute with wing attached ... and perhaps under-developed adrenal glands.

Rossy has recently won sponsorship from Swiss watch manufacturer Hubolt and has added a landing chute to the wing that can deploy if prudence demands the wing be jettisoned, both of which should contribute positively to future development of Rossy's unique sport. Watch Rossy fly an earlier version of the wing on YouTube, here.

High Tech: Jet Engine Research In Outer Space

Materials like titanium aluminide could present enough of an improvement in performance and economy over conventional alloys currently used for turbine blades that the European Space Agency is going to space to learn how to perfect them. The program is called IMPRESS -- Intermetallic and Material Processing in Relation with Earth and Space Solidification -- and is expected to become part of international space station activities, soon. Intermetallics are similar to alloys but differ in that they are actual chemical compounds -- they are more than just a blend of metals. Titanium aluminide is one such intermetallic and it is substantially lighter than the alloys used to make modern turbine blades, which would translate to higher performance and economy. Unfortunately, when the material is produced while under the effects of gravity, its shortcomings are huge. The intermetallic is subject to oxidation and "embrittlement" at high temperatures, but that problem can be resolved simply by adding tantalum and niobium to the mix. The problem is that those are heavy atoms that, when added on earth, segregate and produce a heterogeneous material that does not adequately solve the problems of oxidation. But there may be a solution.

In outer space, or micro-gravity environments like parabolic flight or "drop towers," the creation of these metals can be significantly improved and perhaps perfected. The IMPRESS program will examine intermetallics made in space and attempt to discern specifications for the materials that could then lead scientists to determine how they might be reproduced in less expensive environments here on earth.

 
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News Briefs back to top 
 

US Aviation Promotes New LSA Experience, The Showroom

While not a complete representation of the vast array of available light sport aircraft, US Aviation of Denton, Texas, Thursday announced plans to present potential LSA owners with an automobile dealer-ish and showroom-type experience, complete with an "extensive" inventory of aircraft and maintenance programs. "Nothing makes an automobile consumer happier than to walk into a dealership, pick out a car and drive it home that day," said Justin Shelley, head of US Aviation Sales. The company functions as a dealer for REMOS, Breezer II, Explorer, Skylark, Tecnam's Sierra, Bravo and new Eaglet, and intends to offer a showroom with its selection of inventory and have multiple aircraft in stock, available to buyers immediately. "People have a right to expect that. They should not have to wait for months to take delivery," said Shelley.

US Aviation already offers a sport pilot training program and has sent staff for specific training for Rotax engine service -- the engine is used on each aircraft they sell.

Cerebral Palsy-Challenged Pilot Adele Schneidereit

Adele Schneidereit Wednesday carried her abilities over the hurdle of cerebral palsy (a birth defect that causes paralysis of one or more limbs) to earn her private pilot's certificate -- bringing her one step closer to a goal of piloting an aircraft around the world. And making a movie about it (watch the trailer, here). Aside from the physical challenges of flight, it took her 11 months to satisfy the FAA medical/SODA process. She also changed flight schools mid-stream, forcing her to re-fly her fundamentals with a new instructor who could then be confident signing her logbook endorsements. Schneidereit flies without the aid of cockpit modifications, but says she does "do certain things differently" and has become a master of trim -- using trim "as a tool and not merely a labor-saving device." Those skills should serve her well as she advances to her instrument rating and begins to train for her round-the-world jaunt with shorter trips to Mexico and Canada.

Schneidereit is co-founder and CEO of the Inspire the World Foundation, raising awareness and money for research to find a cure for cerebral palsy.

 
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Reader Feedback back to top 
 

AVmail: May 19, 2008

Reader mail this week about ethanol, user fees, Thielert 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 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 
 

The Pilot's Lounge #126: The Less-Than-Great Planes

Your favorite airplane may be my nemesis, and vice versa. But some planes have very few supporters, usually for good reasons.

Click here to read Rick Durden's column.

No matter where pilots gather, it's only a matter of time before someone starts a debate over which are the best and worst airplanes. It is no exception in the Pilot's Lounge at the virtual airport, and the battle was raging one afternoon when I happened to wander in. Old Hack was adamant that the Piper Super Cruiser, an example of which he had purchased almost-new back in the late 1940s, was the finest general aviation airplane ever manufactured. There were those who differed with him.

I've certainly thought about the issue, especially when doing aircraft checkouts, as the good and bad points of a model -- as well as what are best described as its quirks -- need to be known and explained. For example, I generally like the later model Globe/Tempco Swift, the GC-1B, with 125 hp. When I fly with someone in one, I make sure the new pilot is carefully introduced to its special corners. For example, the open wheel-wells mean that, during an attempt to three-point-land the airplane, the drag of the airplane dramatically changes late in the flare, causing such landing attempts to be wildly unpredictable. Most Swift pilots I know will only do wheel landings. Those who will attempt three-point landings tell me they do so only when the weather is perfect and they are feeling daring. Is the landing behavior a bad thing about that airplane? Well, yes, it is. It takes a corner out of the performance envelope and probably reduces the level of safety somewhat because it compromises one of the tools a pilot has to use when operating the airplane. Is that a fact or an opinion? Opinion, of course, but an educated, reasoned one, I hope. The factual part is that the Swift does not handle predictably when attempting a three-point landing.

As we pilots look at quirks, shortcomings and virtues of airplanes, we develop our own opinions as to their values. The original American Yankee had controls that were generally more responsive at all speeds than most production airplanes -- with the possible exception of the Cessna Cardinal -- which made for utterly delightful handling and, at the same time, an increased accident rate when flown by pilots who overcontrolled the airplane on landing.

I listened to some of the opinions being expressed in the Lounge and immediately thought that no one ever mastered the analysis of the spectrum of the good, bad and ugly in the realm of airplanes better than did the late James Gilbert. He wrote The Great Planes, about some of the finest airplanes in history, and The World's Worst Aircraft, which well described its contents. There have been attempts since his books, but few have come close in the rational selection process or the manner in which he analyzed each of those he chose. The great ones, the Spitfire, Mustang, Cessna 172, Douglas DC-3, Beech Staggerwing, are indeed precisely that, and the bad ones, such as the deadly Christmas Bullet, the murderous Gee Bees, and death-trap Brewster Buffalo, were unabashedly hideous.

What is striking is that, when we start looking at the truly bad airplanes, almost all were built before the end of World War II. When looking more closely, the change seems to come about 1935, which is about the time that the science of aeronautical engineering was maturing and the concepts of stability and control were becoming firmly understood. While there are those who say that no airplane that rises off the ground and flies can be bad, few of those commentators ever flew an airplane built prior to World War II. They've never had had the joy of experiencing neutral stability in pitch or yaw in normal operations, controls that were not even close to being harmonized, and engines that had, as their beholden duty, to regularly beguile the pilot with the sounds of silence.

Once science started elbowing out the "that looks pretty good" school of airplane design, and the certification regulations began to reflect a demand for certain levels of predictability in handling and performance, it's fair to say that very few truly awful airplanes made it into production. By the aviation boom of 1945, the industry and certification requirements had matured enough that there were no longer dogs such as the 1933 Luscombe Phantom, which had such miserable ground handling that more than one new owner refused delivery and demanded his money back after his first flight in the airplane. While the Phantom gave the subsequent Luscombe line an unfair reputation for being challenging when on the ground, the "8" series, which sold in huge numbers after the war, was merely demanding of a pilot's attention. They were not, by any stretch of even the most hopelessly inept pilot's imagination, bad airplanes.

There are those who say that once the CAA (and then the FAA) really started to put the screws to manufacturers in the certification process, the resultant issue of the post-war manufacturers had no soul at all. They allege that all such airplanes were merely "spam cans" and had become faceless machines that flew pretty much alike. Such assertions tend to be true only when considering jet airplanes, for they tend to be without feel or indeed, peculiarity. (OK, with the exception of the rocket-like Lear 23 and the crowd-killing DC-10). However, the claim is untrue when it comes to small, piston-powered, GA airplanes. Fortunately for we who enjoy the rainbow world of different and distinctive airplanes, even the piston pounder most ruthlessly and exhaustingly subjected to FAA screening and certification has its own quirks, personality and eccentricities.

Even though science and governmental regulation conspired to assure that the family lineages of post-World War II airplanes were largely free of stains on their DNA, and each offspring was the result of a carefully vetted coupling, there was, nevertheless, reason to believe that the true parents of some airplanes were not the ones who walked down the aisle in the arranged marriage. While the certification regulations did a good job of keeping the illegitimate offspring from getting out of the manufacturers' castle gates, there were still a few of questionable lineage that made it across the drawbridge and entered the wide, weird world of aviation retail sales. And those few were the ones that, once in full and free flight in the light of day and the glare of the opinion of pilots, elicited the nearly unanimous comment, "What in the world were they thinking?"

So, in the spirit of covering one's mouth in amusement while looking into modern aviation's slightly embarrassing corners, let's ignore the jets and the transports and take an irreverent look at a list of a few of the more inexplicable GA airplanes of the post-war age.

Champion Lancer

Champion Aircraft Corporation acquired the type certificate for the two-place, tandem-seat, high-wing, tailwheel, Aeronca 7EC Champion in the early '50s and went to work expanding the line. Eventually some 13 different models, including the excellent Citabria and Decathlon, would be produced before the company was acquired by Bellanca. As part of an apparent desire to be a full-service, two-place-or-fewer airplane manufacturer, Champion proved most innovative, creating a fascinating series of airplanes, including an aerial applicator. They were unhesitatingly willing to market airplanes that would never win, place or show in a beauty contest, such as a nosewheel version of the Champ (which by then was called the Traveler) and a twin -- the Model 402 Lancer.

From what can be ascertained from the ashes of time, the Lancer was designed to be a multi-engine trainer rather than a personal airplane. The general shape of the Champion fuselage was retained, although beefed up, with larger vertical and horizontal tail surfaces. Where the single engine had resided, a smoothly rounded nosecone appeared. The main wheels of the tricycle gear were directly under the wing-mounted engines, a pair of Continental O-200s developing 100 hp apiece and twirling fixed-pitch propellers.

While the idea of an inexpensive, multi-engine trainer has long been the goal of both manufacturers and pilots seeking a multi-engine rating, sometimes a quest gets carried too far. Performance was, shall we charitably say, quite modest for 200 hp (think for a moment of the 140 knot Piper Arrow), as drag was magnificently high. Cruising speed was on the order of 115 knots; all-engine best rate of climb was just over 600 fpm, so when one figures on the loss of at least 85 percent of the rate of climb when one engine tanks, the concept of doing single-engine work in a Lancer becomes something to be taken most seriously. Add to the equation the non-feathering props, and it is obvious that those who gave multi-engine dual in Lancers were made of stern stuff. After all, the single-engine ceiling was advertised as a mere 2000 feet on a standard day.

The Champion line of aircraft was never known for spectacular visibility, and adding a couple of nacelles on the wings turned it into what is best described as abysmal. As an added treat, the noise level from engines parked right by one's ears was paralyzing.

One can only imagine the multi-engine student responding to an engine cut by reaching up for the throttles (power controls were ceiling mounted), starting through the process of identifying which engine had shuffled off its mortal coil (dead foot = dead engine), and then pretty much running out of things to do to improve the lot of the airplane. It wasn't necessary to verify which engine wasn't running by closing the throttle, as there was to be no feathering of the propeller. All that was left to do was applying adequate rudder to keep the airplane straight and holding Vyse (single-engine, best-rate-of-climb speed), although in the Lancer it would be better translated into "single-engine, least-rate-of-coming-down-speed."

The market scratched its collective head and, while asking, "What were they thinking?" bought a grand total of 26 Lancers. A few are still extant, and are now objects of great curiosity and a source of pride for owners, who can look around and say, "You ain't got one of these."

Beech Starship

Beech stepped into the cutting-edge of corporate aircraft design in the early 1980s, opting to produce a pusher, canard, composite turboprop. The engineers even sought assistance from the Rutan brothers' outfit, Scaled Composites, a group with a heavyweight reputation for innovation. They built an 85-percent scale proof-of-concept airplane which, late in 1983, was regularly seen zooming around the skies of Wichita. While the Rutans were, and are, past masters are creating specific, on-purpose designs for such singular tasks as a nonstop, unrefueled circumnavigation of the globe or a quick scoot out of the atmosphere, they weren't quite as adept when it came to designing an airplane that required the painful, but inevitable compromises involved in meeting the demands of a day-to-day, general-purpose transport. Unfortunately, the proof of concept vehicle was simply so cool-looking that no one figured out it had flaws that would doom the full-scale airplane to mediocrity. The complicated, drag-generating, flap-actuation mechanism was in the breeze rather than in the wing due to a desire to maximize space for fuel. Too late, someone figured out that -- with the aft-located swept wing -- center of gravity considerations would preclude fuel in the back of the wing and the actuators could have been tucked inside, where they wouldn't have eaten into speed and efficiency.

No one had ever certificated a composite airframe, so being the first, Beech had to spend staggering sums of money educating a reluctant, hide-bound FAA bureaucracy about composites and their inherent strength. As each FAA employee was fearful of a career-ending mistake and few had the background to fully understand composites, the result was a series of decisions that unnecessarily added hundreds of pounds of weight to the airframe, further reducing performance. Beech eventually got a huge return in corporate knowledge about composite certification that would pay off when it started building jets; but in the short run, the costs involved with the Starship certification meant it would be priced more than a million dollars higher than its nearest competitor, one of the Piper Cheyenne series, which carried the same load, faster.

To add more worries, Beech had to contend with the challenge faced ever since the first Zeppelin flew: dealing with the noise of engine exhaust through a pusher propeller. With the Starship, it seemed somehow magnified with the airframe, engine and prop marriage, and Beech wrestled valiantly with meeting flyover noise requirements, initially only being able to meet them at 85-percent power.

Marketed in 1989, when the aviation economy wasn't particularly robust, and priced about the same as a Cessna Citation and Lear 31, both of which were far faster, sales were anemic. To make matter worse, it turned out that corporate executives, for all of their claims to love innovation, were conservative to the point of being reactionary and the Starship's futuristic appearance worked against it when it came time for a company to decide on a purchase.

Beech built but 53 Starships. To the surprise of the world, it eventually offered to buy them all back. All but a few very rugged individualists took them up on the offer.

For me, living in Wichita at the time and enthusiastically watching the high tech prototypes fly over my house, it was uncomfortable to see the story play itself out. I admit to a certain bias in favor of American airplanes (I did, after all, spend seven years working for an American airplane manufacturer), so it was especially painful to see a non-American company get the turboprop pusher formula right. The fast, attractive Piaggio Avanti is selling well throughout the world.

Beech didn't so much get it wrong with the Starship; they just didn't quite get it right, and the not-getting-it-right certainly wasn't all their fault. Forty years earlier, Beech was the one who got it right with the Bonanza, wiping out the market for the Navion, which had appeared a year earlier. That caused North American Aviation to leave the GA market. This time Beech was on the losing end of the equation, but resolutely took its lumps and used what it had learned to put together the very successful Premier line of jets.

From lemons are made lemonade.

Piper Pressurized Navajo

In the 1960s, Piper chose to meet the competition of Cessna's cabin class 400-series and Beech's majestic Model 18 by coming out with a cabin-class twin of its own. Its offering, the Navajo, proved to be a success in almost every target market, from owner-flown to charter to corporate transport. Over the years it was stretched, pressurized and eventually grew turboprop engines and morphed into the Cheyennes I and II.

However, there was one stumble along the way: The Navajo was the target/recipient/victim of Piper's first go at a pressurized airplane. It was not especially pretty.

To get the power to haul the load, Piper went with the 425-hp, geared, turbocharged, Lycoming TIGO-541 engine on each side of its beefed up, inflated airframe. The demand for power became the gust that may have tumbled the boulder of consequences over the side of the hill. Pulling that much power from an engine originally designed for something on the order of 250 horses meant pushing pressures, temperatures and metallurgy to the limit, with little margin for error or abuse in service. The heat generated in that process created ongoing in-service challenges and frustrations. To top it off, even with all that power, it was only just barely enough; single-engine best-rate-of-climb was but 260 fpm. To feed all that power, more fuel storage was essential, but finding space in the airframe proved to be a headache. Eventually a six-tank fuel system evolved. Its complexity proved fatal to some very experienced pilots as they sought, vainly, to position selectors to tanks that contained something other than air. For example, the outboard tanks could not be used for takeoff or landing; and if they had less than half fuel, they were limited to straight-and-level flight. As an added attraction, the pressurization system proved touchy and maintenance-intensive.

Exposed to the cold realities of the market, the P-Navajo could never quite compete with the pressurized Cessna 300- and 400-series twins.

Piper did improve the P-Navajo, and called it the Mojave, but the damage to its reputation had been done and sales never really took off. Today the price of a used P-Navajo is about half that of an unpressurized Navajo of the same vintage.

Cessna 335

By the early 1980s Cessna was sorting out and correcting a tail-skin cracking problem and riding on the crest of success with its pressurized model 340 and the slightly more powerful 340A. Faster than the larger, but nearly-identically powered, Model 414, the 340A was regarded in the industry as the perfect, personal hotrod when an owner pilot and one passenger wanted to go far and fast.

Cessna decided that it would be a good idea to introduce an unpressurized version of the 340A for those who liked its performance but didn't want to pay for pressurization and didn't mind sucking on a bag when high enough to take advantage of the turbochargers. It made perfect sense: getting rid of the pressurization equipment and maybe shedding some of the pressure-vessel structure would reduce empty weight and improve the useful load, which was always a sore point for the 340A. After all, the hugely successful model 401/402-series airplanes looked as if they were just unpressurized versions of the Model 414. (They weren't, quite, but the airframe shape and engines were somewhat close).

As with all airplanes that didn't quite get it right, there was somewhere a slip in the decision-making process with the 335. Instead of keeping the 310 hp per side of the 340A, someone decreed that the airplane would have different controllers for the turbos and the available power would be reduced a smidgeon (technical term) to 300 hp a side. However, the gross weight would remain the same as the higher-powered 340A, as there hadn't been that much improvement in empty weight.

The compromises hurt: The loss of merely 20 horsepower bit into performance noticeably, particularly in single-engine rate of climb, dropping it to an anemic 230 fpm. Even though the airplane was introduced for the 1980 model year, when sales were still going strong, fewer than 65 were sold before Cessna decided that it was time to pull the plug.

Beech Duke

Built to the quality standards of a King Air, the six-place Duke sported 380-hp, Lycoming TIO-541 engines -- rare beasts, those -- which means when both come due for overhaul, the choice is the overhaul or buying a small house in the Midwest. The assertive lines of the airframe made for a startlingly attractive airplane, but lead to high costs of manufacture and, surprising to the casual onlooker, horrendous drag. There are those who claim that the Duke was purposefully designed to be about 30 knots slower than it could easily have been on the available power simply because otherwise it would have been faster than the flagship of the Beech line, the King Air. The roughly 230-knot max. cruise speed is only marginally less than that of a King Air 90 and about the same as a Cessna 421, which carries more on slightly less horsepower.

While the Duke shares the delightful handling of the Beech line, should pilots have the joy of single-engine operation, they will be up against the highest rudder-force of any piston twin -- 150 pounds at Vmc -- which happens to be the maximum the FAA allows.

Owners report buying a Duke partially because of its looks, but selling it because of the cost of keeping it running. They describe King Air maintenance costs in a piston-twin airframe and recognize that the value of the airplane is entirely dependent on the engines. A gear-up landing means an engine teardown and propeller replacement, along with some sheet metal work. The cost is so high in relation to the value of the airframe that, in many cases, the insurance company will consider the airplane a total loss.

A Few Others

Returning to an airplane I mentioned earlier, one has to wonder what Globe Aircraft was thinking when they built an 85-hp, two-place, retractable-gear airplane with a shockingly high-drag airframe for an airplane without struts, and then had the chutzpah to call it the "Swift." Then again, no one has ever accused marketing folks or politicians of accurately naming products or legislation. Targeted at the expected huge demand by returning World War II vets for airplanes, and facing a lack of capital, one surmises that Globe did the best they could with what they could afford. The original Swift was a ground-loving, slow, fun-to-fly airplane. In an attack of corporate intelligence, Globe, within months, boosted the power to 125 hp, a tremendous improvement.

While an 85-hp Swift can barely get out of its own way and one cannot help but ask the "What were they thinking?" question about it, the subsequent version was quite satisfactory. The later modifications with 145- and 210-hp engines, along with suitable airframe clean ups, allow the airplane to truly live up to its name.

About the time sales on the Swift, Champ, Luscombe 8 series and other two-place airplanes were beginning to sag in 1946, Luscombe was desperately trying to get a four-place airplane certified and into production. The company rightly guessed that the market was evolving fast and a four-seater might have a better chance of selling, plus the profit per unit would be better than on the smaller airplane.

The Luscombe 11 Sedan looked promising, but testing disclosed a most distressing tendency to flat spin when loaded aft, resulting in one crumpled airplane and a test pilot joining the caterpillar club when saved by the silk parachute. The hurried solution was to restrict up-elevator travel. The good news was that it solved the spin problem; the bad news was that there was not enough up elevator to three-point-land the airplane, so marketing created ads touting the wonders of the wheel landing. Fewer than 100 were built. About 10 years ago an attempt was made to resurrect the type, but with a nosewheel and a bigger engine. The original airplane was not ugly; it just wasn't especially attractive when in a three-point attitude. With a nosewheel, it looked like the winner of an ugly baby contest. Potential buyers did not beat down the doors and the design seems to have again gone quietly into that great, good night.

In the early 1960s Piper was riding the wave of the good feeling one gets knowing that an airplane was the right size, had the right performance, at the right price and the right time and was, therefore, busily turning out various versions of the single-engine, retractable-gear Comanche as fast as they could be made. Brainchild of Pug Piper, one of the offspring of William Piper, Sr., the Comanche would more than double in horsepower during its production run and would spin off a twin-engine version notable for its efficiency.

But, for every lovingly iced cake, there is a fly. For the Comanche, it was Pug Piper's firm belief that turbocharging would never be feasible for GA airplanes and the only way to get performance at altitude would be by starting with the largest, normally aspirated engine possible. Accordingly, he caused the Comanche airframe to be appropriately strengthened and dropped a whacking great, eight-cylinder, 400-hp, Lycoming IO-720 engine up front.

While the good news was that cruise speeds of up to 185 knots resulted from the airframe and engine union, the bad news was that there simply wasn't adequate cooling in flight, the engine guzzled fuel, and it proved to be a nightmare to hot-start. The negative word of mouth in the field, combined with the success of turbocharging and its efficiencies, lead to production coming to an end with but 148 of the airplanes built. While the concept of starting out with a big engine on the ground so as to have power at altitude proved faulty until the advent of turbines in GA, the irony of it all is that Comanche 400 owners proved to be a most dedicated breed. They persevered through burned valves, fried cylinders, worn-out starter motors and dead batteries. With great determination they developed modifications that eventually cured the cooling ills and the hot-starting woes, although not the thirst for fuel. The few airplanes that have survived have acquired almost cult status and change hands infrequently. In fact, rumor has it at least one is now mechanically supercharged so as to haul its 400 horses into the flight levels. One has to wonder whether Pug Piper is applauding or whirling in his grave.

While there have been few truly "bad" production airplanes in the last 60 years and certainly none that fit the legal description of "defective," there are certainly some that warrant a raised eyebrow when encountered on a quiet ramp.

See you next month.



Want to read more from Rick Durden? Check out the rest of his columns.

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Skip Flight Planning

In a world of radar vectors and GPS boxes, your route is either simple or predestined. Why sweat it?

Click here for the full story.

In spite of the avalanche of stern e-mail that's sure to come, let me start with my core position: Flight planning is dead.

I can hear it already, "Boy, didn't they teach you that you should 'plan your flight, and fly your plan?' " They sure did. But there is flight planning and then there is flight planning -- minutia versus common sense.


Getting There

Once upon a time I finished a meeting in Orange County, Calif., (KSNA) mid-afternoon and needed to get to the East Coast. How much planning was necessary? Well, first, I can't make it non-stop -- 1,000 miles is my limit.

Leg one was to go to Tucson. I could make it there by evening and get dinner and a comfy bed from a cousin. Next stop would be Atlanta, Ga., (and the same deal with room and board), and finally to White Plains, N.Y.

So KSNA-KTUS it was. A check of the ADDS weather picture showed nothing major on the surface or 500-millibar chart. It didn't look convective anywhere and there were no hints of fog that evening. Winds were modestly on the tail. There was some moisture aloft, but not enough for icing. PIREPS said nothing about icing anyway, and nothing about turbulence. The METARs and TAFs looked OK. There was nothing scary in the NOTAMs.

What about the distance? It's about 2000 miles across the country, so a quarter of the way is 500 and KSNA-KTUS looks a little shorter. Say 400? I cruise at 200 knots anytime above 14,000, so I'd file for 15,000 and assume two hours plus a little for climb and then some for descent vectoring. My guess was 2:15 en route. With 106 gallons on board, fuel was not an issue.

Then there was the route. It looked like KSNA to the VICKO intersection, then direct, kept me clear of all the MOAs and restricted areas. I needed an outbound fix, so I chose the Paradise VOR (PDZ). I needed a fix somewhere near KTUS, too, so I used TORTS. The made my route KSNA, direct PDZ, direct VICKO, direct TORTS, direct KTUS.

"Hello, Flight Service? Mooney M20T/G, 200 knots, out of SNA 20 minutes from now, one five thousand feet. Any NOTAMs we missed? Recent PIREPs? Thanks very much."

The actual clearance was even better: The Anaheim departure, VICKO, and the Dingo Five arrival. It went into the Garmin 530 like goose droppings through a tin horn: Enter KSNA, enter KTUS, press Procedure, select the Anaheim departure, press Enter, press Procedure, select the Dingo Five arrival, press Enter, go back between the DP and the STAR, dial in VICKO and I was done.

Approach gave me four turns, and then direct PDZ. Direct VICKO came shortly thereafter. After VICKO, I got the direct WASON, which is the IAF for the ILS Rwy 11L. Easier than this, it doesn't get.

The winds were close to forecast and the time en route was 2:06. Much later, at home in Connecticut, the computer said the distance was only 377.3 miles, not the 400 miles that I assumed. That's maybe a six percent error? Give me a break.

The trip from Tucson to KPDK in Atlanta, Ga., went just the same, with a stop for fuel in Dallas, Texas. The clearance was just as nice: KTUS, the TUCSON SIX to COCHISE (CIE), direct ABILENE and the GLEN ROSE arrival to KDAL. Shortly after departure it was direct CIE. The STAR into Dallas was full of fixes, but then that's what the GNS 530 is for. Actual time was 14 minutes less than my mental estimate and there was still 30 gallons in the tanks on shutdown.

KDAL-KPDK was filed using the Quitman VOR (UIM) east of Dallas and the Rocket VOR (RQZ) near Atlanta. The clearance came back as the DALLAS EIGHT departure to Quitman, direct Rocket, the BUNNI arrival to KADEE, and then direct KPDK.

Do you see a pattern here?

So is flight planning dead? Yes and no. It's not dead for weather. This trip was easy but others weren't. I spend lots of time scoping out the weather. But assuming the weather is flyable, it comes down to distance, the winds, how much fuel is left at landing, and the route.

Three Kinds of Airspace

For purposes of route planning, there are three kinds of airspace in the country. In the first kind, there's no point planning the route because you're going to fly what they give you. You might as well file "Radar vector direct to destination." Want to fly from White Plains, N.Y., (KHPN) to Boston, Mass., (KBOS)? It'll be CMK V3 WOONS every time. Going to Montpelier, Vt., (KMPV) instead? Expect CMK SOARS JUDDS WHATE. This holds between Boston and Washington, from Atlanta down to Florida, and certainly between the Bay Area and the greater Los Angeles basin. It might be that way around other major hubs, too.

My flight from KTUS to KDAL to KPDK exemplifies the second kind of area. There's no point in route planning here, either, because all you need is a GPS and four fixes: a departure airport, outbound fix, inbound fix, and destination airport. You generally get what you filed, or something so close there's no point agonizing over the route. Keep it simple.

The third kind of area is where you get anything you want. Wish to fly from Sioux Falls, S.D., (KFSD) to Rapid City, S.D., (KRAP)? Would you like direct? Would you like radar vectors direct? How about lat/long waypoints or airport to airport? Be ATC's guest.

I say, file a departure airport, outbound fix, inbound fix, and destination airport. In the tough areas, you won't get that route anyway, but at least the planning was simple. In the second kind of area, you'll probably get it, so you're money ahead. In the third kind, you'll get it for sure, so why agonize?

Simple in execution usually requires real effort behind the scenes. Four-fix flight planning is no different.

Get razor sharp with weather. Watch the Weather Channel. Have a satellite link in your airplane if you can and get a cellphone that pulls down METARs and TAFs if you can't. Check and recheck the weather ahead, and not just NEXRAD. Use weather-briefing computers at FBOs and the ADDS Web site in detail. In addition to the surface chart, get experience with the 500-mb chart forecasts. Find out where the moisture is -- water is your enemy.

Don't trust winds aloft. If you have air data, record the actual winds and temps at 3000, 6000, 9000, and 12,000 feet. Compare them with the winds aloft forecast. If they don't match, the forecast ain't gonna be right, either.

While weather certainly influences my thinking, I still file the simple route and depart knowing that I'll to have to negotiate. Suppose you're heading north and there is a northeast-southwest squall line parked over your route? Once you're talking to Center, ask for a westbound deviation until you're behind the line and then turn northeast for the rest of the trip. You can use the same trick in the wintertime to avoid icing conditions east of an approaching cold front or warm front or to get on top. Tops are lower behind fronts.

In other words, divorce in your mind the route that you file and the track that your shadow will trace over the ground. Don't frustrate yourself using route planning for weather avoidance. Negotiate avoidance with the ATC based on what you saw on the ground and what you learn in the air.

Get a U.S. planning chart for the whole country to better eyeball things (e.g., Atlanta to Dallas is about 650 miles). If you're not good at math -- 600 miles at 200 knots is three hours, plus the climb, descent, and vectors makes it 3:20 -- then check if your cell phone has a calculator.

Picking outbound and inbound fixes for your departure and destination respectively takes a little practice, but it's not rocket science. On low-altitude charts, all fixes look alike, so look for STARs. Flying into Indianapolis, Ind., (KIND) from the south? The DECEE THREE arrival kicks in over the Louisville VOR (IIU). There's your fix.

With no STAR available, use the winds to guess at the approach in use. Pick a fix outside the IAF in the direction from which you'll arrive. Don't pick the IAF. Center computers usually don't have them. As a last resort, just pick a fix within 30 miles or so of the airport and be ready to renegotiate once airborne.

You can manage much of this route planning concept with a portable GPS, too. Fish out the desired fixes, preferably a VOR, ask for "heading 260 until receiving Rosewood," and you're on your way.

Altitude is a factor, and 13,000 feet or higher is required to make this concept work consistently. If those altitudes aren't an option, you can still file the direct routes and probably get them in many parts of the country. It often depends on airspace traffic. At midnight, you'll have an easy time, but at rush hour over Cincinnati, you can forget it.

This method of route planning requires tankering around extra fuel. That fuel makes detours feasible -- like getting behind a cold front or around convection. I routinely land with 30 gallons in the Mooney, which is three hours if I throttle back. Extra fuel is how you relax and accept some uncertainty.

A Tolerance for Uncertainty

You'll need that tolerance for uncertainty. The plan is: file, depart, and negotiate. Some day, pull out your chart, plot the great circle route between two airports and then plot a more circuitous route that's six percent longer. You'll be surprised how dramatically longer the 106-percent route appears -- even though it doesn't take much longer to fly.

Successful negotiation requires being knowledgeable and asking politely. No one likes amateurs and troublemakers. If one controller can't give you everything -- or is buried in traffic -- settle for half a glass and ask for more from the next one. Rare is the occasion when I'm refused.

Get your briefing, file your four fixes, see what ATC gives you, and negotiate the rest. That's the ticket for flying IFR in the U.S. today. Honestly, it's the most delightful -- and fastest -- way to do business.


More AVweb articles about flying in the IFR system are available here. And for monthly articles about IFR flying, subscribe to AVweb's sister publication, IFR magazine.

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AVweb Insider Blog: Our Honda Wish List (An Aerodiesel Engine!)

"What's needed here is for Honda to stop screwing around with four-cylinder gasoline engines and to get busy with aerodiesel" — so says AVweb Editorial Director Paul Bertorelli in the latest installment of commentary and criticism on our blog, the AVweb Insider.

Read more.

 
Avidyne Introduces FMS900w Flight Management System
Avidyne's new Entegra FMS900w WAAS-enabled GPS/NAV/COM Flight Management System (FMS) is designed to reduce single-pilot IFR workload. The FMS900w provides fully-redundant, state-of-the-VHF and TSO C146b Gamma 3-compliant turbine-class FMS capability for all general aviation aircraft. Utilizing a fully-modular architecture, the FMS900w is an enhancement to Avidyne's Entegra Integrated Flight Deck platform and designed specifically to take advantage of Entegra's large-format displays and Byteflight peer-to-peer databus architecture. Click here for more information.

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

The Incredible Second Life of Bradley Bormuth's Hurricane-Damaged Fairchild 24

File Size 7.2 MB / Running Time 7:50

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In September 2004, Hurricane Francis battered the Southeast, causing widespread flooding. In the path of the storm in Morganton, North Carolina, was a rare piece of history — a now-submerged Fairchild 24 owned by Bradley Bormuth's father. By all measure, N2864O should have been lost. But Bradley and some friends set out on a two-year journey to restore her to flying condition.

Click here to listen. (7.2 MB, 7:50)

Video of the Week: P-51 Mustang Emergency Landing

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

We watch a lot of flying videos in the course of a week, but left to our own devices, we would still miss some of the best. Thankfully, AVweb readers like Robert Reid are there to send us links when they find great videos around the web. Here's one Robert recommended to us that shows a top-notch team handling a P-51 emergency landing. The Mustang's landing gear won't drop, and the ground team has scrambled to make sure everything goes off as safely as possible:


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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: 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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Welcome to Jeppesen E-Charts
Jeppesen Electronic Charts — or e-charts — are here. They're compliant and replacing paper charts worldwide. E-charts will make your flying faster, safer, and better. Whether you display your electronic charts in the cockpit or print them out and use the paper, e-charts are easier to carry, easier to use, and easier to revise than traditional paper charts. You'll spend more time flying and less time preparing to fly. Learn more about the many benefits of switching to electronic charts by visiting Jeppesen online.
 
Your Favorite FBOs back to top 
 

FBO of the Week: Indy Aero (KMQJ, Mt. Comfort, IN)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Indy Aero at KMQJ in Mt. Comfort, Indiana.

AVweb reader Penny Litz, a volunteer for the American Military Heritage Foundation, told us how Indy Aero came to her rescue recently:

[T]he AMHF operates a rare Lockheed twin-engine PV2 Harpoon on the air show circuit. We do not have a hanger for our aircraft. Recently Indy Aero cleared out their whole maintenance hanger for a whole weekend so that we could work on replacing an engine in comfort — it is cold in Indiana — at no expense to us. They are very supportive to the community, general aviation and the weekend-warrior as well as the corporate jet set.

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!

 
Aviation Consumer — The Only Magazine with the Guts to Tell You the Truth about the gear you buy and the planes you fly. Aviation Consumer is packed with in-depth and uncompromising ratings of equipment, avionics, accessories, mods, services, aircraft, and much more. Order online and receive unlimited access to Aviation Consumer's ratings-packed web information database!
 
The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 
 

Short Final

Overheard in IFR Magazine's 'On the Air' Section
Overheard in IFR Magazine's "On the Air"

While flying practice approaches at Sioux City, Iowa I heard:

Tower:
"Skylane Eight Seven Charlie, cleared for the approach; caution, waterfall in the area."

[a short silence, presumably while the Skylane pilot questioned passengers on the transmission]

Skylane:
"Eight Seven Charlie, say again?"

Tower:
"Skylane Eight Seven Charlie, cleared for the approach; caution, waterfall in the area."

[again, a short silence]

Skylane:
"Ah, cleared for the approach — but what do you mean by the waterfall caution?"

Tower:
"Waterfall. You know, ducks and geese — water fowl."

Larry Gerek
Omaha, Nebraska

 
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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:

Publisher
Timothy Cole

Editorial Director, Aviation Publications
Paul Bertorelli

Editor-in-Chief
Russ Niles

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Glenn Pew

Features Editor
Kevin Lane-Cummings

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