AVmail: January 18, 2010
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: Non-Military Navigation Alternative Needed
The battle for common sense to prevail regarding the retention of LORAN-C is apparently drawing to a close, and the result appears to be the near-sighted, uneducated and inexperienced people who are making these decisions are controlling aspects of what we, in the aviation and maritime communities, need as a viable non-military backup to a navigation system.
Our air traffic routes are now incorporating GPS-based airways that, if the GPS system is compromised by solar activitiy or degraded by its masters due to military action, will be unusable. This will put immeasurable burdens on the ATC structure that will have to rely upon the VOR airway system, which, though adequate in the past, cannot support the primary type of navagation upon which most of today's domestic navigation methods/modes have become dependent. The ease and simplicity that has characterized the use of GPS navigation can be duplicated with LORAN-C with the minimal funds needed to complete the upgrades already nearly completed.
Once the upgrades are done and the resource is in place, the electronics manufacturers will see this as a new source of income in the form of new dual-mode navigation devices as an alternative to GPS-only devices. The level of safety and reliability will increase; national security will not be compromised or degraded as the LORAN-C signals are primarily domestic. It will benefit all aspects of air, marine and ground transportation in the U.S. by providing a reliable alternative to GPS should this fragile and vulnerable system suffer a degrading or crippling event or its accuracy be deliberately reduced by its controllers.
Someone with knowledge, experience and authority, please reign in this unwise and ill-conceived plan. This time, they are putting the safety of the traveling U.S. public at risk.
End of LORAN-C
This past week, I read that LORAN-C service is to be discontinued. This is not good news.
Extraordinary accuracy is both the glory and the potential tragedy of GPS. Especially when its accuracy is augmented by WAAS or local area augmentation, GPS blows everything else away. Because of this, we have seen discontinuation of Omega, and now LORAN-C. Will VOR/DME and ILS facilities face the axe next?
If we are tempted by the accuracy of GPS to put all our eggs in this one basket, what will happen if the system is sabotaged, or if there are launch failures, or if the GPS system otherwise breaks down?
eAPIS Made Easy
I travel to Mexico about once a month, and, let me tell you, if you have several passengers, filling out eAPIS online can be very time-consuming. An alternate program is offered by FlashPass, a product of Lobo Labs, a group of clever young techie aviators in Monterrey, Mexico.
It is available for purchase through Aircraft Spruce for about $100, one-time! I use it all of the time, from several different computers, and, once set up, it only takes a few seconds online to upload it. The eAPIS people consult and communicate with these guys about their own program!
Aviation News Sullied
Please, oh please, no more Sully!! I can't take it anymore!
AVweb used to have such rich, informative content. Guys like Busch and The Pelican would talk about aviating. I used to look forward to seeing what each new week would bring.
Does anybody really care about corporate promotions or mainstream media type stories? General aviation magazines and web sites have all become generic and dull. C'mon, guys, we are all drowning in Sully, AirVenture, sweepstakes giveaways, etc. The world needs an aviation web site for the jaded who are wondering why we even care anymore.
Numbers in the Green
Reader J. M. Mount's reply entitled "Green BS" mixes up the cost of generating a kilowatt of electricity (power) with the cost of purchasing kilowatt hours of electricity from a utility. His company does not sell electricity for ten cents per Kw, they sell it for ten cents per Kw-hour. There are 8,760 hours per year. One would need to make an assumption about the average power consumption the airport requires, but you can see that the airport's claims are not that far-fetched.
J. M. Mount's letter about the proposed wind turbine at Burlington International Airport seems to question the projected savings of $14,600 per year. He says that his company sells power at 10¢/Kw. In fact, electricity is typically sold as units of energy, not power, so that should be 10¢/Kw-hour.
Decent wind turbines seem to produce about 30% of their peak capacity on average. That means a 100 Kw turbine would generate 262,800 Kw-hours per year (100 Kw X 30% X 24 hours X 365 days). At 10¢/Kw-hour, that's $26,280. I don't know what the expected operating costs of the turbine would be, but savings of $14,600 at least sounds like a reasonable possibility. There are reasonable and valid arguments on both sides of the wind turbine debate, but, if we're having that discussion, we should at least work with the facts.
Regarding J. M. Mount's flame of the Burlington wind power article, if Mount is a utility industry professional he should at least get the cost of electricity in Burlington, VT correct. According to published sources, the commercial rate was 13¢/Kw-hr in September '09, not 10¢. That's a bargain, too; the New England average is over 15¢.
I did the math using the numbers in the article and specs for the turbine and solar panels. $14,600 a year is in the ballpark using average wind and solar data for Burlington.
J. M. Mount complained that the AVweb article about the wind turbine at the Burlington airport failed to tell the whole story about the true cost of energy production.
What he failed to include is that whether his company produces power from coal, oil or nuclear power, the taxpayers and citizens of the world are subsidizing its production by footing the costs (health and economic) associated with burning fossil fuels or storing nuclear waste. I too would like to see a true comparison.