AVmail: January 25, 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: Security and Planespotting
As a freelance writer and photographer, I am increasingly dismayed over FBOs who forbid me to take pictures that reveal N-numbers of aircraft on their ramps. They tell me there are concerns with security. On most occasions when the aircraft pilot is within earshot, verbal permission from that person is enough to bypass the FBO's rule not to show N-numbers, but often the pilots and aircraft managers forbid it as well.
I find this recent restriction alarmingly intrusive in not allowing me to position myself to reveal the beauty of the bird in view. Since anyone with a camera and good memory or note paper and pen can learn details of most any registered aircraft in the U.S. with a few clicks on the Internet, I wonder why such restrictions are imposed, and I wonder how I can convince pilots, owners, and managers to permit photographers, especially those experienced and known to key local administrators, to take pictures of aircraft from any angle at all. Reader feedback is welcome.
Fixing the Skycatcher
In my judgment, Cessna Aircraft made a wise decision to revisit the design of the Skycatcher. During initial certification tests, two aircraft were unable to recover from a spin. Modifications were subsequently made that were supposed to correct this design flaw.
For an airplane to spin, it must be in a stalled configuration. When in a stalled configuration, attempting to stop the onset of a spin with an input from the yoke (ailerons), with nary an input of the rudder, only exacerbates the entry.
As a designated pilot examiner for 50 years, I can assure you that most contemporary pilots will react in this manner, particularly those that learned to fly in a tricycle-gear airplane. These pilots suffer from what I call "Lazy Rudder Syndrome."
Since this airplane has demonstrated a propensity for spinning, in my view, spinning accidents were just a matter of time with this airplane. Putting an airplane in the hands of the public-pilot will surface design flaws that were not recognized during certification.
One last comment: Couldn't Cessna have come up with a better name for this airplane than SkyCatcher?
M. W. Collier
How about calling it the 162? It's important to note that the spin tests that revealed the problem were aggressive maneuvers designed to push the aircraft to its limits and beyond. I'm sure the pilots both tried the rudder and weren't lazy about it either. That's why test pilots wear parachutes.
Ceding the Low End of the Market
I have just a few thoughts on GA and LSAs.
Back in the day, a Cessna 150 or similar aircraft cost about the same as a Corvette. The price of the Piper LSA will buy three. Until costs and liabilities are controlled, the number of new aircraft in the market will continue to dwindle.
It's also interesting to note we have ceded the lower end of the market to foreign countries. In the 1960s, people laughed at Toyota. Now Lexus is a benchmark. Bye-bye, Piper. Bye-bye, Cessna. You failed to innovate and control costs, but it's not entirely your fault.
Too bad the FAA co-conspired to make certification so onerous and obscenely expensive. Kind of kills the entrepreneurial spirit, doesn't it?
Whoever wrote that the FAA found the MU-2 has a comparable safety record to other turboprops apparently didn't read the FAA's report. In fact, the FAA found that, compared to similar twin turboprops of the same era:
- The MU-2's accident rate is about twice as high, with the fatal rate about 2.5 times higher.
- The fatal accident rate in icing conditions is four times higher.
- The fatal accident rate involving loss of control on initial climb is 3.5 times higher.
- The fatal accident rate involving loss of control while in flight is 3.5 times higher.
- The fatal accident rate involving loss of control during emergencies is seven times higher.
When something goes wrong in an MU-2, sadly, it is a lot more likely to wind up with people dying.
Was It a "Crash Landing"?
Don't you think it a bit sensationalist to headline the landfill landing as a crash? It was a successful emergency landing on a road, with no causalities or property damage. Even the revered captain of USAir FL1549 lost the airplane. And he is properly regarded as a hero. Give the pilot of the little plane some credit, will ya?
Actually, no — we didn't think it was sensational, and here's why.