AVmail: Feb. 27, 2006
Reader mail this week about roadable airplanes, tomato bazookas, Class D.5 airspace and more.
Regarding the story about tomato threats (NewsWire, Feb. 20):
I thought I'd let you know about a similar thing, which happened at the end of the 1960's in Munich, Germany.
There was this guy who became annoyed with these airliners that flew in and out of the international airport in Munich. So he built himself a bazooka. And then he actually shot at airliners with "Bavarian dumplings," which he cooked himself. The neighbors saw that and called the police. The police tried to talk him out of it, but to no avail. His bazooka was not strong enough anyway to impose any threat at all, except to himself. After several attempts to make him stop, the police just seized his "weapon."
The solution came after the airport management offered to give him a ride on a Lufthansa flight to Hamburg - free of charge. He went and was so thrilled by it that he never did anything like it again. The authorities decided not to fine him in any way, because he was an elderly gentleman, 74 years old, who never flew before or ever since (at least as far as I know).
Best regards. Keep up the good work.
MD80 Microbial Growth In Fuel Tanks
The problem [of microbe growth in fuel tanks -- On the Fly, Feb. 20] is an age-old (36 years) with the DC9-MD80 wing design: It is difficult to sump water out of the fuel tanks. MDAC has tried various sump systems in an effort to eliminate the water. Conscientious sumping reduces the exposure. Scheduled tank cleaning is also a requirement. Operators have lived with it, and I find it interesting that it appears to be new problem. It is not limited to MD80 aircraft. Operators in the southern climates have to BIBOR-treat their fuel to kill the bacteria.
I guess we old-timers have to look at these type problems as generational and have to reinvent the wheel.
Larry Neal's autogyro seems not to have powered wheels (NewsWire, Feb. 20). No vehicle propelled by a propeller alone on the ground is going to be allowed on public roads. How would you like to be following such a thing, say on a freshly re-gravelled road?
There is a really nice, roadable autogyro in the Air and Space Museum. Stephen Pitcairn made it in 1937. It has a driven rear wheel. It landed on the White House lawn (can you imagine that today?) but Hitler invading Czechoslovakia elbowed the story off of front pages. If someone made that aircraft as a kit today, I'd buy it. It was practical, if complex. Nobody has come up with anything better, yet. Molt Taylor's Aerocar can almost climb 100 fpm in the air at sea level, and can't drive up the smallest hill, because the load of the trailered wings pulls the driven front wheels right off of the ground. Oops. Oh well.
The nice-sounding Terrafugio folks have a design that looks all too much like Molt's design in a lot of ways. They will have cooling problems, too, as well as losing a lot of power to the drivetrain and the pusher-prop. The folding wings could work well, though, given modern materials.
I always wanted a roadable aircraft because I walked a lot of miles between where I was going and the nearest airport over the years, and I'm getting tired and old, and would just as soon drive then fly then drive to where I was going, as just drive. Looks like I'll still have to make my own. I'd buy one if I could, and of course, if it worked.
Nobody else I ever talked to thought it was a good idea. That didn't keep me from thinking about it for decades.
We have been told that the vehicle Larry Neal will show at Sun 'n Fun will have power to the wheels and will not be driven by the prop, as shown in the video.
When I was I child I sucked up the stories in Popular Science about the great air cars and planes and far-out stuff that was just around the corner. I grew up to learn that those writers (reporters?) left out of their stories all the real reasons why those things could never happen. Those reporters didn't mention that you can't steer or stop an air cushion vehicle or make a gas turbine for the cost of a Subaru engine.
Why did you publish that story about air cars from MIT without asking any simple questions about the project (NewsWire, Feb. 20)? Take the engine: I conclude that a maker of a car would have to comply with all the safety and emission rules that Ford does, right? Is it possible to convert an airplane engine to meet the emissions requirements of states like Massachusetts? And if you did, would it still be legal to fly with that converted engine?
And what about air bag requirements for cars? How many air bags would be required? Side-curtain ones too? The safety requirements for cars today would make it very difficult to make a flying car today. Who makes aircraft instruments that would meet the safety requirements for car instrument panels?
Aren't journalists like you supposed to ask realistic questions of would-be inventors? If a plane weighs about 1200 pounds and you take out the seat for a passenger, you have about 180 pounds max. to use to make a plane into a car and still have the thing fly. I doubt if you can get the emission equipment and air bags into that weight window, let alone the transmission and steering and safety windshield.
Get real, folks.
I would like to correct a couple of inaccuracies in your story on Terrafugia. Our product, the Transition Personal Air Vehicle, is most certainly not a "flying SUV." It is a roadable aircraft that is the size of a large SUV with the wings folded up. In addition, we will not be exhibiting a functioning prototype at Oshkosh; our product will require many thousands more engineering man-hours before we will have a fully functioning prototype that we would be proud to exhibit at Oshkosh. We will, however, have a booth at Oshkosh this year to allow interested potential customers to place a refundable deposit down on the vehicle. Finally, I'm no genius; I'm just a frustrated private pilot trying to find a more practical way to fly.
We would appreciate it if you would make your readers aware of these inaccuracies in your story.
Mk IV Correction
Your answer to Scott Starr's question of "What is a Mark 4?" is correct, as far as it goes (AVmail, Feb. 20), but is not correct regarding the aircraft in the photo in question (POTW, Feb. 16). That photo was of a Harvard Mk IV, the last version of the North American Aviation T-6, license-built in Canada by Canadian Car & Foundry from 1952 to 1956. They were used as the RCAF's advanced trainer well into the 1970s, and the USAF took delivery of quite a few, under the designation of T-6J, all of which were transferred to foreign air arms, most going to West Germany.
In the photo, you can see the distinctive "Mae West" fairing on the leading edge for the right-main gear well, and the cover for the wing-to-center-section attach angles. There's a 600 HP P&W R-1340S2H1 radial and a nine-foot-diameter Hamilton Standard prop up front, far beyond anything that could be installed on a Christavia homebuilt airframe.
By the way, the Harvard Mk IVs were the most advanced of the T-6 series, featuring late-P-51-style throttle quadrants, steerable tailwheels and an automatic "full-time" hydraulic system for flaps and landing gear (earlier models required pushing a "hydraulic lever" each time before operating them, good for about 15-20 seconds of hydraulic power), as well as a number of other improvements, such as clear-view canopies, a long exhaust stack with a heater tube that actually provided heat to both cockpits, etc. I've owned three of them over the years, so I'm pretty familiar with them, but guessed that you'd get questions about "What is that?" from many readers when it was referred to as simply a Mark 4.
Class D.5 Airspace?
I sometimes have the great privilege of flying my wife's 1940 Piper Cub (with no electrical system). It is a fun and relaxing way to truly enjoy aviation after a week of "work flying." But I have recently encountered a new and growing problem for these antique aircraft; I call it "Class D and a half" airspace. It seems that in the mind of a number of controllers out there (not all), a transponder is now a required piece of equipment to receive the standard set of services at a tower-controlled airport.
Just yesterday on initial contact, at my home airport no less, I was told that I had two options: 1) Leave the area; or 2) Make a straight-in approach and full-stop landing, no pattern work without a transponder! After recovering from the initial shock of such a rude response to a request for a few touch and go's, I carefully listened for all the other traffic that just had to be out there making this controller's life difficult. Silence. Clearly the fellow was having a bad day.
My standard response to the "We're not picking up your transponder" comment has become, "Not equipped, but we're bright yellow!" It used to get chuckles; now it gets grumbles and sometimes a foreboding "Well, that's not good." There's no doubt that the addition of radar displays in tower cabs has improved safety, but it seems to have also imposed a restriction on the non-transponder-equipped community. Us low-and-slow types know that we can be hard to see, and at 70 mph hard to sequence, but that doesn't change the fact that under the FARs we are appropriately equipped for flight in Class D airspace.
And that brings me to the point of this whole "rant." Low and Slowers, let's try to straighten up and fly right and give ATC no cause for complaint. Controllers please try to work with us. We don't radiate RF, but most of us are painted to be picked up easily by the old Mark One Eyeball. I think that it would be a crying shame if we ended up in a formal battle to keep our Class D privileges intact.
When I came to work for the FAA as a controller in 1982, as a result of President Reagan's firing of the many thousands of striking PATCO controllers, I would often hear the newer controllers complain about how the pilots are earning $200,000 or more. Now, I hear how the pilots, especially of the commuter/regional type, are wondering why over a thousand controllers are earning over $200,000 a year with the 1998 NATCA contract, with many other thousands of controllers earning over $150,000, for a five-hour workday (plus breaks & lunch).
As the Flight Service specialists have found out, it is quite a possibility that the FAA will contract those jobs to save many hundreds of millions that they pay for those services. Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon all have the expertise and ability to bring the costs of the ATC system under control.
All of the other Feds who work under life-threatening conditions -- but work for half or less of the ATC Level 12 pay scale of $162,100 -- are watching.
A Contracted-Out Former FAA Employee -- Name Withheld By Request
According to my controller friends, it's simple numbers: It takes eight years to train up a controller for a place like Chicago or LAX (QOTW, Feb. 23). Look at the mandatory retirements coming, and you see that those replacements have to be, not just in the academy now, but in the pipeline for up to the last three years. They're not, and that's scary.