AVmail: February 8, 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: Female Flight Challenge
On March 8, 1910, Raymonde de Laroche, an experienced French balloonist, was the first woman ever to earn a pilot's license worldwide. She was first but certainly not last. One century later, the woman pilot population has grown tremendously, and women pilots are making breakthroughs each and every day.
However, women pilots still represent less than 7 percent of the pilot population in most countries. One of the challenges of the next century is to encourage more women to become pilots.
To celebrate the Centennial of Licensed Women Pilots and Women's Day, women pilots from around the world will attempt to set a worldwide flying record: the most women pilots introducing a woman to flying in one single day, March 8, as well as within one single week, from March 6 to March 12.
To participate, women pilots must hold a pilot's license, be current, fly an aircraft certified for the carriage of passengers, and register free of charge at CentennialOfWomenPilots.com to be counted.
Women pilots from four continents and over 10 countries have already registered to take on the challenge. EAA and the Young Eagles program, the Museum of Air and Space at Le Bourget Airport in Paris, the British Women Pilots Association, the Coordination of European Women Airline Pilots, Girls with Wings, and WASSP in Ghana have chosen to support this record-setting attempt.
For more information about the event, please visit CentennialOfWomenPilots.com.
Regarding the priorities set by aviation groups, the greatest threat to General Aviation as we know it in the U.S. is the TSA. If the TSA continues to treat Cessna Skylanes and Caravans as if they were weapons waiting to happen, the freedom of flight in this country will go extinct, and it won't matter if there are user fees or a modern infrastructure. The average Joe or Jane won't be able to fly, period.
Correcting the public opinion about the value (and non-threat nature) of GA would help in this regard, but it is very specifically TSA programs like the Large Aircraft Security Program and the badging of pilots based at Walla Walla and Yakima [among many others] that must be stopped now.
Seriously, does this mean AVweb should influence how an FBO treats its customers' aircraft or how the FBO runs its business? Why is this a "Letter of the Week "? Surely there were better choices!
We take a lot of pictures of airplanes, so it interested us and apparently lots of other folks. Read on.
The idea of someone photographing my N-number gives me the shivers. I am taking security into my own hands. After reading that people are allowed cameras on the ramp, I went out and put a tarp over the empennage to cover up that pesky gaping security hole. Used my black visqueen and Tom Ridge-autographed duct tape. Somebody could get me from outside the fence with a telephoto lens, ya know. (That picture might be shown on the internet on one of those sketchy XXX airplane sites, then what would my mom say?)
But seriously, N-numbers are public. That's why they are on the outside and big. You are supposed to see them. We all speak them repeatedly over open radio frequencies. Flight tracks, arrivals, and departures are available on free public web sites.
Restricting photographers to not show the numbers is someone's weird officious head trip, not an enhancement of security.
I don't assume that a pilot wants pictures of his plane taken, so if I see one I really want to add to my portfolio, I will try to find him or her and ask. Most of the time they are flattered and a little confused. They want to know why, and I tell them it is my passion. If I can't fly them, I want to take pictures of them. That comment puts them at ease for the most part. If I don't get permission, I move to a part of the airport that is on public land and hope to get a picture of airplanes taking off or landing. Even the police can't do much if you are not trespassing.
While I wish the issue was a new one, it is not. A lot of airports, especially those on the East Coast, call security if they think you're spotting, let alone taking pictures. I can think of occasions in the mid-'80s when I was told by FBO employees at both TEB and TPA not to take pictures. It's only gotten worse since 9/11.
Where is the gentleman trying to photograph aircraft with N-numbers located? I have been photographing aircaraft for 40 years and have never been restricted by pilots, FBOs, or commercial airports (TPA) as to the angle of the shot. Never heard of such a thing.
I, too, share an enthusiasm for aviation photography, but I disagree that FBO restrictions are intrusive pertaining to photography on their ramps. I believe the companies are respecting the privacy of their clients by avoiding a "paparazzi" climate.
Having read your news of someone's difficulty taking photos of airplanes on the flight line due to "security concerns": So long as they are shooting from public property, they can legally do so, and anyone trying to prevent them from that is breaking the law.
Railfans (train buffs) have been fighting this idiocy for some time now. A lawyer specializing in photographers' rights issues has put together guidelines [PDF] which might be of some help.
Hope this helps.
Something Smells in Santa Monica
Regarding the story about celebrity jets in Santa Monica: Is the candidate for public office also asking the governor to move the freeways further from the airport because of pollution, or is it only the airport? Moving the freeways would do more good if she is really concerned about pollution. This is just a ploy to get elected.
Competition Is Good
I think we are all concerned about the lack of competition in the aviation marketplace. Let's face it: We're a small group. With that being said, I find it extremely frustrating that we only have one source of updates for our IFR-certified GPS units. I was more than a little shocked at the $465 price tag for a year of NavData updates from Jeppesen, but the real rub is the fact that they do not offer any way of updating the GPS from a Macintosh computer.
Garmin says that their 400/500 series navigators are installed in about 50 percent of the GA fleet. I think there is a market here! For most other applications, I'd simply buy from someone else, but here there's not much I can do other than keep a Windows machine running solely for the purpose of these updates and pay the steep price for my subscription. I would love to see another company develop an IFR-legal update service and give Jepp a little bit of competition!
When I saw the first report about this thing in Scientific American, I put it down to a non-flying editor finding some sensational content for the web site. From you folks, I would expect better.
First, review the history of tail-setter VTOL aircraft. Pretty dismal.
Second, the 300-pound weight of the airframe is without batteries as reported in SA, not what the narrator claims in the animation. So now you're up to 400 lb., and it's still empty. Add one FAA person, and you're pushing 600 lbs. That seems to be asking an awful lot of thrust from a pair of eight-foot diameter props with only 60 horsepower to drive each of them.
Third, consider the landing profile. The pilot will be required to zoom it from horizontal to vertical then back it down to landing. The video doesn't show the craft having any visibility to do this. Think about what happens to control surfaces and linkages when they go backward. They become divergent without a lot of heavy damping, tending to snap over to full deflection. Not to mention that all the while the pilot is landing he becomes a slow-moving target for anyone with a rifle and a scope.
Makes me wonder if they picked the name for the bird, or what they were doing when they dreamed up this fantasy.
Elevation and Altitude
Regarding your article on the new world's highest airport in Tibet. Airports do not have "altitude." In fact, no ground or things attached to the ground have altitude. Such things have elevation. Even those signs welcoming folks to small towns give the local elevation.
The only argument I've heard to the contrary refers to "altitude sickness" experienced by mountain climbers. But even this comes from the fact that man went high first by airplanes, not by climbing. The effect became properly known as altitude sickness, and the title was co-opted by climbers who later experienced the same phenomena.
How High Is Highest?
According to today's AVweb report, the current highest airport is Barnda, Tibet, at 14,219. According to my Jeppesen NavData database, San Rafael, Peru (SPRF) is at 14,422, with a runway length of 9,383.
Regarding Sebring, S-LSA, and the current "still-glutted" S-LSA market, I noticed no one is talking about the consequences of the eventual shake-out. Some questions that come to mind:
- When an S-LSA OEM quits producing aircraft and/or goes out of business, where/how is the owner going to get support, parts, manual updates, mods, etc.? (The OEM is the sole source for all of this information.)
- Will owners be able to convert their S-LSA to an E-LSA?
- Will insurance be available at a reasonable price for these E-LSAs?