AVwebFlash - Volume 18, Number 11a

March 12, 2012

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! California's Carbon Conflict back to top 

Avgas Coalition Says No Immediate Threat To Supply

Aviation groups say avgas will continue to be available despite an escalation of Friends of the Earth's efforts to force the EPA to deal with the last remaining leaded fuel. "Despite the lawsuit, the near-term availability of leaded aviation fuel is not threatened in any way," the GA Avgas Coalition said in a joint statement. "Members of industry, along with the FAA and EPA, will continue our diligent efforts toward a high-octane unleaded alternative to leaded avgas, with safety of flight as our foremost consideration." Friends of the Earth (FOE) filed a lawsuit against the EPA last week, alleging the agency hasn't moved quickly enough on a petition filed in 2006 to eliminate leaded fuel. The Avgas Coalition, which represents all the major GA associations, suggested FOE is taking a simplistic approach to a complex problem and also noted that while the suit names the EPA, it's the FAA that sets aviation fuel standards. "Although EPA is charged with establishing aircraft emissions standards, it must consult with the FAA and cannot establish standards that would adversely affect safety," the coalition said. "If the EPA does set new lead emissions standards for aircraft, the FAA would have responsibility for implementation and would have to explore the establishment of new fuel specifications."

The coalition also noted that much progress has already been made in reducing the environmental impact of lead in gasoline and that the EPA has made the standards for ambient air lead content 10 times more stringent in its new regulations. GA airports, along with other sources of environmental lead (like battery plants), are being monitored for lead content in the air and most airports meet the new standards, the coalition said. As the process moves along, the coalition pledged to continue work with federal agencies and the private sector to identify and support the future production of avgas alternatives.

Related Content:

Podcast: 100LL EPA Lawsuit

File Size 8.3 MB / Running Time 9:03

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

An environmental group, Friends of the Earth, is suing the EPA hoping to set regulations for lead emissions from aircraft engines. AVweb's Glenn Pew speaks with the group's lawyer, Marianne Engelman Lado.

Click here to listen. (8.3 MB, 9:03)

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Citation M2 in the Air back to top 

Cessna Flies New Citation M2

Less than six months since it was announced, a prototype of Cessna's new eight-place (including two crew) Citation M2 has successfully flown, Friday, March 9. The timeline was helped along by the jet's extensive mechanical similarities to the CJ1+, and pilots will need the same C525 type rating to fly it. There will, of course, be some differences in training. The roughly $4.2 million M2 has a maximum cruise of 400 KTAS and a range of 1,300 nautical miles, according to Cessna, and will reach 41,000 feet in under 25 minutes.

Cessna's engineering test pilot, Peter Fisher, flew the jet on its first flight. According to Fisher, "the aircraft performance, handling characteristics and Garmin G3000 avionics were exceptional." The company is hoping to achieve certification in the first half of 2013, with first deliveries reaching customers in the second half of that year. The earliest orders for the jet were placed sight unseen. The M2 is powered by two FADEC-controlled Williams International FJ44-IAP-21 turbofans. Cessna touts the jet's "all-new" cabin design that includes a 5-inch dropped aisle for a 57-inch cabin height, "large" windows and pedestal seats.

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Ready for the Future? The FAA's Getting There back to top 

Notice: FAA Medical Form To Move Online

The FAA Thursday issued notice that it intends to discontinue the paper application form used to apply for FAA medical certification. The agency will on Oct. 1, 2012, switch to its online FAA Form 8500-8 application, otherwise known as "FAA MedXpress." That virtual form was introduced in 2007 and "has evolved considerably, streamlining FAA medical certification into a much more efficient and seamless process," says the FAA. Within that framing, the paper form many pilots are used to has been deemed redundant and obsolete, and it will be going away this fall.

Right now, you don't need to make any changes. If you'd like to get a jump on things, the online from is fully operational and ready for use, now; the paper forms go away on Oct. 1. If you haven't already tried the online form, that's the marker after which you (and the more than 400,000 other airmen the FAA says fill out one of these forms each year) will have to start using it. The FAA says the change was prompted by the complex and burdensome costs, logistics, and resources needed to revise, reprint and redistribute the forms worldwide. The agency believes doing that online is simply more efficient. Click here for the official DOT release.

FAA Seeking Comment On UAS (Drone) Test Sites

The FAA plans to identify six test ranges "to integrate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in to the National Airspace System" and it is seeking pilot input. The FAA says it will also host webinars for further exchange of information between the agency and the public. The sites will be used to help develop certification standards and traffic requirements for unmanned flight operations applicable to both civil and public unmanned systems. Comments will be accepted for the next 60 days.

Drones currently need to acquire special permission from the FAA to fly in the U.S. and remotely piloted aircraft aren't yet allowed to fly in national airspace. By 2015, the FAA hopes to have drones fully integrated into the national airspace. Information learned from operating the vehicles in the test sites will help develop strategies to meet safety standards before the aircraft become more common. The move is motivated by language in the FAA reauthorization bill. Comments are meant to acquire information regarding a range of topics beyond geographic considerations. The FAA's request for comments, plus information on where to send them is available here (PDF).

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Aviation Safety back to top 

Pilot Actions, Multiple STCs Cited In Skymaster Crash

The NTSB says a high-speed pitch-up "consistent with an ostentatious display" snapped the wing of a Cessna 337 and resulted in the deaths of all five people onboard at Farmingdale, N.J., on Feb. 15, 2010. The board also said data recovered from the Skymaster's GPS showed the aircraft was going about 160 knots when witnesses reported it pitched up steeply. The aircraft was placarded with a maximum maneuvering speed of 135 knots. But while the pilot's "failure to adhere to the airplane's operating limitations" was the official cause of the crash, the NTSB also said a lack of oversight by the FAA on the interaction of multiple STCs on the crash plane may have played a role.

The aircraft had been heavily modified with 22 STCs ranging from tip tanks and winglets to a STOL kit. The board said "the adverse effects of multiple supplemental type certificates (STC) to the airframe wing structure that were not evaluated at the time the STCs were installed and the lack of guidance by the Federal Aviation Administration for multiple STC interaction evaluation" was uncovered in the investigation. The crash killed three adults and two children.

Wing Walker Missed Transfer Cue: NTSB

The NTSB says pilots involved in the fatal fall of a wing walker at an airshow in Michigan last August both told them he mistimed his transfer from a biplane to a helicopter. Todd Green died after falling about 150 feet during his routine at the Selfridge Air Force Base airshow on Aug. 21. He was trying to transfer from the wing of a Stearman to the skid of a Hughes 269C helicopter when he fell. According to the pilots' testimony to the NTSB, Green tried to make the transfer before the helicopter was in position and before being given the cue to make the move.

Both pilots said Green "lunged" for the helicopter skid, letting go of a handle on the Stearman in the attempt. He would normally not have let go of the airplane before gaining a secure hold on the helicopter, the pilots told the NTSB. When he was unable to grab the skid, he tried to return to the Stearman but missed the handle. The accident happened at show center. The rest of the show was cancelled.

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Plenty of Room in China for Airbus's Big Planes back to top 

China Soothes Airbus Fears

The Chinese government says the country's airlines are free to choose the airliners they need despite suggestions by Airbus that they might be discouraged from buying the European products. Last week Airbus said it was afraid the burgeoning Chinese market would shun its products to protest the European Union's new carbon tax on foreign carriers serving Europe. China is one of 27 countries, including the U.S. and Canada, who have loudly protested the tax. But China's government says there's no mix of politics and business in this case.

Bloomberg reported that Li Jiaxiang, China's director of the Civil Aviation Administration, says the government won't retaliate for the tax by forcing airlines to buy Boeing and other manufacturers. "The purchase of airplanes is a business activity by airlines, in which the government doesn't intervene," Li said. "The government respects the companies' choices, which are made based on their own needs."

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The Flight Attendant Announcement No One Ignored back to top 

Flight Attendant's Alleged Screaming Incident Caught on Tape

A flight attendant on American Airlines flight 2332, a loaded MD-80 out of Dallas for Chicago Friday morning, launched into an intense tirade that culminated in her being restrained and the aircraft returning to the gate. As the event unfolded, the flight attendant's agitation grew until she was being held down and screaming "Get outta the plane! Get outta the plane!"

One passenger said the flight attendant mentioned during the episode "that she was bipolar and that she had not taken her medication," the Chicago Tribune reported. The attendant first spoke more calmly over the aircraft's public address system saying, "We are not taking off. We're having technical difficulties. We're heading back to the gate." Another attendant countered that claim and the situation's decorum quickly dissolved until the first flight attendant was being held down and screaming "Get outta the plane! Get outta the plane!" At least two passengers moved forward from the rear of the cabin to the front where the altercation was taking place to assist. The aircraft returned to the gate, personnel was swapped for a fresh crew and the flight to Chicago was then carried out uneventfully. Two of the flight's original crew members were taken to the hospital with injuries.

Click here for the MP3 file.

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: Pipistrel's Hyper-Efficient Airplanes

Can you fly fast and not burn very much gas? Pipistrel founder Ivo Boscarol thinks so, and the company has proven it with its Virus SW LSA. On AVweb's tour of Slovenia, Paul Bertorelli flew the airplane and now offers his impressions on the AVweb Insider blog.

Read more and join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: Why Rotax Built an Eco-Engine

Stepping into the Rotax factory has a time warp quality to it with regard to thinking about fuel efficiency and carbon emission — which is to say the company is looking forward, not backward. On the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli explains why BRP/Rotax thinks it doesn't have the pleasure of denial when it comes to carbon emissions.

Read more and join the conversation.

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New on AVweb.com back to top 

Forty-Seven Years in Aviation: A Memoir; Chapter 11: Strategic Air Command, Part 3

The KC-97 Stratotanker was way too slow to easily refuel B-47s, but the bomber pilots learned how to fly in tight formation at near-stall speeds and do it with finesse. Dick Taylor spent many hours flying 100-mile refueling racetracks in the sky, usually over the southeastern U.S., but sometimes even over North Africa.

Click here to read the 11th chapter.

Flying a KC-97 during an aerial refueling embodies all the basics used by a good formation leader; for example, don't move the tanker any more than absolutely necessary, make all movements as smooth as possible, and -- unique to the KC-97/B-47 combination -- fly as fast as you can.

Most of our refuelings took place in straight-line flight; when turns or altitude changes were necessary, we did so very gently, keeping in mind there was a 200,000-pound airplane flying in close formation directly behind us. On the tanker flight deck, we could tell when a B-47 was in position and ready to receive fuel because the bow wave of the bomber caused a slight nose-down pitch change and a gentle push from behind. The boom was flown into position, and when the boomer had it lined up with the receptacle in the nose of the bomber, he would extend the nozzle the remaining foot or so to engage the locks and start the flow of fuel. There was always some movement taking place between the two airplanes and the boom, but there were also three-dimensional limits; if for any reason the boom was moved too far left or right, forward or back, or too high or low, the boom would automatically disconnect and retract.

B-47 pilots became very adept at controlling their airplanes while being refueled. I recall one instructor who would demonstrate the limits to a new bomber pilot by flying the airplane to the inner limit of the boom, fly completely around the edges of that imaginary surface, then back off and do the same for the outer limits without causing a disconnect ... that's flying with finesse.

The boom had another feature, intended for emergency use only. Especially when a KC-97 was loaded to 175,000 pounds, it would probably not be able to climb if an engine failed before the wing flaps were retracted from the takeoff setting. In this situation, the Aircraft Commander needed only to say, "Dump!" to the engineer, who would then activate a gang-bar that operated several switches at once to open the valves, start the pumps and ... voila! ... fuel poured from the boom at the rate of about 5,000 pounds per minute.

When the first KC-97s were delivered to the 306th Air Refueling Squadron at MacDill AFB in 1951, they represented a significant step forward in aerial-refueling technology, evidenced by their ability to carry much more off-loadable fuel than the KB-29s and KB-50s they replaced; nevertheless, the 97s were grossly inefficient from the outset.

All turbine-powered aircraft achieve their best speed and efficiency at high altitudes, a fact that leads to the jet-pilot's philosophy that you should "climb as high as you can as fast as you can, and stay there as long as you can." Considering that B-47s were operated routinely at over 30,000 feet at speeds of 400-500 knots and KC-97s were seldom flown higher than the teens and couldn't produce much more than 200 knots of airspeed, the disparity in performance became a major consideration. When a jet bomber descends 20,000 feet or more to take on fuel, it loses not only the time required to descend, refuel and climb back to its cruising altitude, it loses a significant amount of range because of the increased fuel burn at the refueling altitude. This situation was somewhat better than in pre-KC-97 days, but not much ... true aerial-refueling efficiency would have to wait for jet tankers to appear on the scene.

In addition to the range penalty, the B-47 became much more difficult to handle at the lower airspeed of the KC-97; by the time the bomber's tanks were filled it might be 20,000 or 30,000 pounds heavier, a weight that required a relatively high pitch attitude to stay in the air at the tanker's lower speed. The only workable solution was to increase the speed of the tankers by entering a descent when the bomber's weight required more airspeed to avoid stalling. (Tanker engines were limited to short periods of time at cruise power settings higher than normal.) This procedure eventually became official and was called "tobogganing" -- it provided some relief in the form of better aircraft control, but further descent didn't do much for overall bomber efficiency. (When the KC-135 tanker showed up in 1957, with four jet engines and cruise speeds that matched the receivers', it was a new ball game; bomber pilots now had to ask the tankers to slow down a bit so they could rendezvous for refueling.)

I completed the C-97 simulator course at West Palm Beach AFB and returned to MacDill and my regular crew assignment in August 1956. For the remainder of the summer, we flew two or three times a week on average, providing the tanker component for bomber refueling practice. Our "customers" were mostly B-47s from the SAC bases in Florida and the southeast U.S. We flew single-tanker missions as well as "cells" (formations of several tankers and bombers practicing enroute-to-the-target refueling procedures).

Without a doubt the least interesting of the single-tanker flights was the so-called "Taxi" mission, on which we departed MacDill and climbed eastbound to 15,000 feet, where we leveled off and continued to Melbourne, Fla. Then we did a 180 and returned to Tampa, turned east again, and flew this 105-mile racetrack pattern for four hours, sometimes longer, refueling any B-47s whose pilots needed the practice.

In mid-summer 1956 the 306th ARS was ordered to move its airplanes, personnel and support equipment to Ben Guerir Air Base in French Morocco for 90-days of temporary duty (TDY) commencing in October. Ben Guerir was one of five such bases built in North Africa during the Cold War to facilitate rapid deployment of armed B-47s able to reach their targets in the USSR without refueling. Tankers were included in the move to support second-wave bombers from the U.S. if that became necessary. Our deployment to Morocco was part of the "Reflex" program launched in the early '50s to reduce target potential by dispersing SAC aircraft, weapons, and personnel to other bases; these 90-day exercises became annual events for most SAC units.

The straight-line distance from Tampa to Ben Guerir is about 4,300 miles; a KC-97 with a full load of fuel might have been able to make it non-stop with good winds but the fuel reserve would have been little more than fumes. The alternative was a fuel stop at Lajes Air Base on Terciera Island in the Azores, a group of islands 1200 miles west-northwest of Ben Guerir. In 1956 the Lajes facility (owned by Portugal and operated in partnership with the USAF) was the crossroads of the Atlantic as far as propellor-driven military airplanes were concerned: A 10,000-foot runway, reasonably good weather and ample service facilities made it the logical refueling choice for Military Air Transport Service (MATS) and SAC aircraft transiting the Atlantic in both directions.

Following a lengthy maintenance delay, we departed MacDill at 10 p.m. on October 21, eastbound for the Azores (the late-night takeoff time guaranteed arrival in broad daylight) and we landed at Lajes 14 hours later, looking forward to showers, hot meals and a good night's sleep.

Post-flight chores completed, we were transported to our quarters in a GI 6X6 truck with a canvas top, bench seats and a sign on the front bumper announcing this was a "SAC CREW BUS" -- a bit of overstatement? The "bus" deposited us in a neighborhood of corrugated steel Quonset huts that were probably relics of World War II, offering bare concrete floors, double-deck steel bunks and pot-bellied oil-fired stoves capable of almost overcoming the island's post-sunset cold.

Another airplane maintenance problem delayed us further but we finally arrived at Ben Guerir on October 25 after a short flight of five hours. Viewed from the air, the single asphalt runway -- 13,700 feet long and 200 feet wide -- looked like a thin black scratch on the desert, generating an illusion of height that confused more than one pilot.

For the next three months, "home" would be another hut, this time "Dallas" instead of "Quonset," à la our most recent quarters at Lajes. The Dallas huts were square structures about 20 feet on each side, faced inside and out with plywood and featuring hinged panels that provided ventilation when they were propped open. These screened openings also provided entertainment for our more rowdy squadron mates late at night when they wandered through the compound knocking out the props, creating enough noise to wake up everyone in the area.

The parking lot deserves a bit of explanation. Tampa's year-round warm weather encouraged the use of scooters and motorcycles at MacDill (there were 700-odd two-wheeled vehicles registered on the base) and some of us loaded our bikes on the tankers when we deployed to "scooter friendly" locations. The squadron CO was well aware of this practice and looked the other way, but he had to impose a limit when things got out of hand; scooters were OK, he said, but no more full-sized motorcycles.

The flying schedule at Ben Guerir consisted of the usual four-hour refueling missions and occasional longer flights for navigator proficiency in an area practically devoid of electronic navaids. The real reason for our presence in Morocco became clear early in the deployment when a disturbance in the Middle East put all the SAC facilities on alert. We had hoped there would be enough off-duty time to visit the city of Marrakech, some 30 miles south, but that trip was scrubbed; the only time we were off the base was the time we were in the air.

With little to do in the way of entertainment we relied heavily on the base theater. Prior to our arrival a contest had been conducted to select a name for the building and the winner -- paying homage to the Ben Guerir landscape -- was "The Rockland Palace Theater" (the "D" in "Rockland" was probably blown away by one of the frequent desert windstorms).

At the end of our tour we departed Ben Guerir for home via Lajes and a second fuel stop in Bermuda ... not an unexpected routing in consideration of the strong westerly winds that prevailed in December.

The following year -- 1957 -- was rather unremarkable with regard to routine refueling missions (almost all of them were local flights, i.e., MacDill to MacDill with several hours of flying in-between). I logged an average of about two flights a week, including one that turned out to be the longest flight in my experience. The squadron had deployed again to Ben Guerir in the fall of '57 and on the return flight everything worked in our favor; the usual headwind failed to materialize, all four engines were running as advertised, and approaching Bermuda our fuel state looked good for continuing to MacDill, which we did ... total time enroute was 20 hours and five minutes.

In the spring of 1958 I was assigned to the Standardization and Evaluation Board ("Standboard" in Air Force talk) to assist in flight checks administered to line crews on a periodic basis. My new AC was Major Bill Apgar, one of the most competent and congenial officers in the squadron.

When Reflex assignments for 1958 came out, the 306th was ordered to Thule AFB on the northwest coast of Greenland. That was the bad news; winter in Thule is three or four months of total darkness, temperatures as low as 60 degrees below zero and surface winds that pushed wind-chill values off the charts. Now, the good news: We wouldn't be there in the winter; our 90-day tour would coincide with Greenland's summer season, when daily highs would be in the 40s and 50s, the wind would be light and the sun would never set.

Almost everything about Greenland is unique, from its size (largest island in the world) to its distance from the North Pole (only 840 miles at its closest point) to its trees (of which there are none).

Thule Air Force Base, conceived as a key part of the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System, was completed in 1953 after a two-year construction effort that has been compared to digging the Panama Canal. It is the northernmost installation of U.S. Armed Forces.

Discounting for the moment the horrible winter weather, Greenland's permanently frozen soil, known as "permafrost," was perhaps the biggest construction problem. There are no basements at Thule and most of the buildings were set on blocks to prevent them from melting into the permafrost.

Barracks walls were thick aluminum panels intended for use in commercial refrigeration installations to keep the cold in. At Thule, the walls kept the super-cold out.

The black rectangles in the walls are windows with sliding shades so the occupants can shut out the sunlight and get some sleep during the 24-hour daylight. It was somewhat disconcerting to go outside at noon and see the sun orbiting in a tight circle directly overhead.

The permafrost and the winter temperatures precluded any outdoor plumbing, so each building was completely independent regarding water supply and waste disposal. One set of tanks held fresh water for drinking, showering, etc., and another set was for waste water; a fleet of large, purpose-built trucks ("honey wagons") had the very unpleasant job of pumping the waste tanks dry.

Some of the water supply was used for more personal needs ... the handle on the right is not a gear-shift lever, and the pedal on the floor is not a clutch.

The personnel who worked on the honey wagons had a special going-away party whenever one of their group completed his tour and departed Thule. They gathered for the "uniform-burning" ceremony because no matter how vigorously and frequently their clothing was washed, the odor remained.

A military installation as unique as Thule is bound to generate stories that turn into legends ... and some of them may even be true. For example, Thule was an all-male base in the 1950s, but a local saying claimed there was a woman behind every tree -- obviously a stretch because Thule was located hundreds of miles north of the nearest tree line. According to the story, that didn't stop a B-36 crew with a great sense of humor who somehow fitted a pine tree into the bomb-bay of their airplane, flew to Thule and "planted" it in the middle of the company street.

Even though our Reflex deployment took place in the "soft" weather of a Greenland summer, all of us were anxious to get back to Tampa's palm trees and warm weather. We departed Thule at midnight on the first of September and as we took the runway, I snapped a picture just as the sun went below the western horizon before climbing back into the sky ... for "permanent party" and those who replaced us it would be all downhill sunshine-wise for the next three months.

When we got home the workload was unusually light, providing an opportunity for me to get acquainted with civilian, single-engine airplanes at the SAC Aero Club, based on a well-maintained grass strip at the very tip of the peninsula on which MacDill was located. Many Air Force bases supported aero clubs to provide recreational flying and flight instruction for base personnel at very reasonable rental rates. The MacDill club had a fleet of nine airplanes, including a T-34, a former Air Force primary flight training vehicle; it was actually a v-tail Bonanza with tandem seating, and a conventional empennage.

The T-34 was the fastest animal in the club's stable and I rented it for a trip to Chicago for a job interview. (I had decided to leave active duty in February 1959.) The T-34 was reasonably comfortable despite the cold weather on the other side of the Mason-Dixon Line, and I managed to communicate with Flight Service Stations along the way with only a four-channel VHF radio. The trip went without a hitch until the final landing on the MacDill Aero Club strip: When the main landing gear touched the ground, the right wing dropped; I couldn't prevent it and the airplane slewed to the right and came to a stop. The right main gear had collapsed due to a structural failure in the retraction system but there was no major damage thanks to the smooth runway. The mechanics raised the right wing and replaced the broken part ... as far as I know that airplane may still be flying. Thank you, grass.

My final flight in the KC-97 took place on Feb. 12, 1959; 10 days later I completed out-processing, packed up the family and headed north as a full-fledged civilian.

[Continued next month.]

To send a note to Richard and AVweb about this story, please click here.
More articles, stories and fiction about the joy of aviation are found in AVweb's Skywritings section.
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Video: Rotax's New 912iS

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

This week, Rotax rolled out its new 912iS light aircraft engine at its Gunskirchen, Austria factory. AVweb was there, and here's a full video report on the new engine, which features dual electronic fuel injection, dual ignition, and power options. The engine will be ready for volume shipments as early as May of 2012.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Cape Aviation (Cape Girardeau, Missouri)

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

AVweb reader Ed Abrams received outstanding service on his visit to our latest "FBO of the Week" — Cape Aviation at Cape Girardeau Regional Airport (CGI) in Cape Girardeau, Missouri:

We diverted to this airport because of the weather. Winds were 220 at 23 gusting to 36 on landing. Line crew came out and tied the plane down before we got out of the plane, then loaned us a courtesy car for the night to get to the hotel. When we arrived at the airport the following morning, they brought the plane into the hangar to deice. Line crew also cleaned the windows after fueling.

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

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

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The Top Reporter on Our Crack Staff ... Is You! back to top 

AVmail: March 12, 2012

Each week, we run a sampling of the letters received to our editorial inbox here in AVmail. One letter that's particularly relevant, informative, or otherwise compelling will headline this section as our "Letter of the Week," and we'll send the author an official AVweb baseball cap as a "thank you" for interacting with us (and the rest of our readership). Send us your comments and questions using this form. Please include your mailing address in your e-mail (just in case your letter is our "Letter of the Week"); by the same token, please let us know if your message is not intended for publication.

Letter of the Week: Of Glass and Steam

Regarding the safety analysis of glass vs. steam panels: As an examiner for general aviation pilot certification, I get to see a multitude of different setups in many cockpits, from all analog instruments with simple radios to Garmin 430/530 multifunctional displays and the full glass panels of G1000 and such. There is no question in my mind that situational awareness information at your fingertips plus weather pictures with continual updates are far superior to what we used to have — just our minds for the total picture and flight service for oral updates and the few airplanes with radar to show in a narrow band what is in front of us.

However, having said all this, I find that many private pilots (as well as some instrument rating applicants) have little knowledge and understanding of how to fly their aircraft on pitch attitudes, power settings, and trim. It's a constant chase of airspeed, power settings that never stay at one place, and trim wheels that keep being rotated.

Given that analog instruments give us a rate of change that is easier to interpret than the displays on glass panels — hence the vector noodles and rate of change arrows — I would lay the problem at our flight instructors' feet to teach our students how to fly our aircraft on pitch, power, and trim! It is so much easier and gets the pilots' heads outside the cockpit, where [they] need to be!

Bert(il) Aagesen

Having flown both, I much prefer glass displays for the artificial horizon, HSI, and most of the rest of the instruments — except the tapes for the airspeed and altimeter (and some VSIs). The analogue presentation is much easier to read quickly. With tapes, it is easy to be off by 100 feet or 10 knots and never even realize it.

Mike Ellis

The stats also seem to show that the high-end airplanes with high-tech instrumentation have a disproportionately high incidence of landing and take-off mishaps. Methinks the dirty little secret here is that low-time, inexperienced pilots in high-performance airplanes have these kinds of accidents, so it shouldn't be surprising they tear them up in IFR conditions, too. It has nothing to do with the instrumentation, except the expectation of the pilot that with all these bells and whistles the airplane must be better than one of those "old" ones.

Bart Robinett

Dumb question. Glass is going to rule. It is the nature of the displays that is problematic. They show too much data. Critical values like airspeed don't get sufficient prominence. Airspeed and angle of attack need more emphasis. Map mode and terrain features are excellent improvements.

Art Hicks

I'm suspicious that the new-panel aircraft are far more exposed to challenging weather and conditions than are old-panel aircraft, and the numbers used to determine "rate" are too imprecise to quantify the risk. There may be some lack of proficiency at work here, too, but it is hard to separate out what part that may play.

Scott Dyer

I owned a late-model Mooney with a Garmin 530/430 combo and King steam gauges. I also have a lot of time in a Cessna Garmin 1000-equipped Skyhawk.

The combination of the steam gauges with the Garmin 530/430 combo was far safer and easier to use. All systems have total backups and redundancy.

The Garmin G1000 is difficult to learn and stay current with, particularly if you want to fly serious IFR operations. The fact that the G1000 uses different software in different models with different buttonology is dangerous.

Having only one computer chip for attitude reference is, in my opinion, a major design flaw.

Quite frankly, the King steam gauge system with the HSI and 225 autopilot coupled to the two Garmin GPS units was a dream to fly.

I had a Garmin 530 power supply fail in IMC. It was no problem because the 430 below it is a fully self-contained unit with its own power supply.

Bob Anderson

Can We Be Friends?

Regarding the Friends of the Earth lawsuit: Are [they] primarily interested in the 25 percent that they get from fines? I grew up in the pattern of a small airport and under the approach for piston airliners. We had a major street to a freeway next to our house. I pumped gas and had lead on me for 10 hours a day. Am I supposed to be ill?

Tom Martin

Lead certainly doesn't belong in fuel, and dumping it into the air, even in small quantities, is not a good thing.

But it's unclear to me how FOE's lawsuit will either help or hinder the process of removing lead from avgas. They seem to assume that it's a lack of EPA rulemaking that's the problem. Really? We seem to assume that EPA rulemaking will matter for avgas. Will it?

Someone, somehow needs to light a fire under both the FAA and the manufacturers. Most existing engines run fine on 94UL blendstock, and there are probably other solutions for the few high-compression engines that really need 100LL.

What seems to be missing is a will to pursue all of the reasonable solutions in a timely way.

J. Carlson

FOE may or may not be acting wisely, but they are certainly not acting with the interests of GA in mind. Nevertheless, the transition to unleaded avgas must proceed, and it must yield a reasonably-priced viable alternative fuel. GA pilots should support the FAA, the alphabet organizations, and the others that are working to accomplish that transition.

Sterling Grogan

Where has it been documented that the quantity of lead being emitted by use of the current avgas is doing significant damage to the environment? Given that the current constraints on avgas production, transportation, and dispensing are in themselves diminishing the use of same, why cause a ruckus if the problem will go away on its own within a generation except for antiques which we preserve for posterity? The lawsuit is a tempest in a teapot by lawyers who have too much time on their hands and are looking for a misguided do-good organization to provide their meal ticket!

Michael Muma

It's a political thing. With fuel costs likely to be $12 a gallon next year, it's probably a moot point.

Mike Grimes

F-35 on the Line

Regarding your article on Top Gun 2: You stated that the F-35 had not started deliveries yet. You might have trouble explaining that to the airmen at Eglin AFB. Not only do they have F-35s on the ramp; they were just authorized to begin flying them as the primary F-35 training unit.

J. C. Hall

Repeat After Me

On December 20, 2011, a family of five aboard a TBM-700 turboprop was killed in a crash in New Jersey. ATC advised the pilot of moderate to severe rime icing conditions 14 minutes into flight. The TBM pilot told ATC the rime was no problem.

My suggestion is that when severe rime is reported that it be repeated three times. For example: "Rime is moderate to severe, severe, severe."

I have pondered on what could have helped this confident pilot to take note of conditions and at least think of options before it was too late. I put this before you hoping with your influence you can at least bring the matter for discussion. Thank you for your time.

Steve Walker

AVweb Replies:

Although icing was occurring at the time of the accident, the investigation is still going on, and icing has not been named the cause.

Russ Niles

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The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

A few years ago, during the Annual Air Spectacular at a usually very quiet Baldonnel Military Air Field:

ATC (to US military A10 Warthog on finals for a fly-by and demo) :
"Caution. Cyclist crossing the active runway."

A10 (hopefully jokingly) :
"Do you want me to take him out?"

Paddy Kilduff
via e-mail

Heard Anything Funny on the Radio?

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Names Behind the News back to top 

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