AVmail: December 23, 2010
Letter of the Week: ADS-B a Bargain
I am tiring of reading about all of the complaints regarding the implementation of ADS-B, funding, and who gets what. The latest blurb in your newsletter about business aviation and [the] airline industry requesting funding from the government to equip their fleet of aircraft is just plain ludicrous. Who better has the funding to equip their fleets than these people? What about the general aviation fleet of all other types of aircraft? I don't hear any loud voices suggesting that the government pay for their equipment also.
It's true that until lower prices for this equipment come along it could cost upwards of $18,000 or so to equip an aircraft with the system for ADS-B In and Out if there is no MFD in the airplane. However, many GA aircraft already have units such as the MX-20 or MX-200 in their aircraft and would not have to spend the additional $8,000 or so for the unit. Other equipment will also soon be able to display the information, and I am sure that other equipment besides the GDL-90 will become available as well, which will further lower the costs.
Are we to believe the poor airline industry cannot afford to equip at these costs? Rubbish. In the 1970s, when transponders became mandatory for certain airspace at a cost of about $2,000, anyone who wanted to fly IFR (or in this airspace) had to equip and did so. Today's present cost (which will probably be lower) almost 35 years later certainly is not too out-of-line with all other cost increases since then. Why do we complain so much about something that will increase safety and ease of flight so much?
I have been flying up and down the East Coast with ADS-B for more than six years in my aircraft, and I can tell you that it is the best thing that has come along in a long time, and the weather service and text messages are free also. When has anything like this ever been free for aviation? Perhaps all of the other traffic and weather equipment suppliers do not like this, but too bad. The service and equipment they provide don't hold a candle to ADS-B.
It's nice to see the FAA getting behind something for a change and sticking with it. AOPA needs to stop their bad mouthing of certain aspects of the system also. Get with the program and help speed it along.
Joseph C. Blakaitis
What an opportunity to straighten out the data on experimental amateur-built airplanes. The FAA could finally standardize the model information so that analysis and searches would be meaningful. Perhaps the EAA could help.
Flight Planning Patent
Regarding the recent coverage of FlightPrep's online flight planning patent: I'd like to know how they can claim this patent! I was using a flight planning program from a company called EMI back in the mid-1980s. It would plot your airways course between A and B and give you a detailed log and weather for the flight. It also calculated GS based on winds aloft and was very accurate.
So there is precedence.
I have Destination Direct. I like it for its simplicity of use, but I used to use it as verification for my own flight planning.
I currently work as a flight instructor and insist that my students do their own planning so they will learn what is involved and what is on those charts and will be able to make informed decisions about the flight and about available alternatives if that initial plan needs to be changed. People use these tools but then don't bother to truly get familiar with the routes, airspace, etc.
I respect and see the true value of the patent process, but there are certain things that one must question about this particular situation.
I think this is a process that should logically be exempt from a patent, simply because it is such a basic use of the Internet and data provided by the FAA. I don't think I can patent the idea of calling in a flight plan or using DUATS, so why can I not design a means of integrating these sorts of assets to do so over the Internet?
I think the Patent Office was right the first time on this and is now grossly over-reaching into what should be a free domain.
Based on time to flight, I use (in this order): Wunderground/NOAA weather, ADDS (within 72 hours), and often I now use Foreflight to augment ADDS and to file and update my info in the plane on the ground.
I am very concerned about our fragile aviation industry starting to eat its own young. This is the last thing we need right now. I'm in software and have filed patents in the past. They are mostly nonsense. You patent a unique method and apparatus, not something as generic as using the Web to plan a flight. I think FlightPrep is making a terrible mistake.
I was just planning some of my first solos and cross-countries when another great resource disappeared. Man, this has to stop. NavMonster is no more. Possibly someone should tell them how to host their sites off-shore. As a Brit, there may be a job for me in there someplace.
Picture of the Week a Winner
I have to tell you, this week's "Picture of the Week" is absolutely one of the best ever. The combination of the nostalgia factor with the DC-3 over a tropical paradise —
No digital manipulation and just a plain ol' pretty photo did it for me.
As an air traffic controller, I must contest your recent article.
For years, while the rest of the government work force was getting salary increases, [controllers] were not. This was under the imposed work rules. An arbitration committee determined that, for controllers to catch up, they should get the pay raises. To negate them now would be a double slap in the face. What could we believe in all further negotiations? Nothing.
Also, Businessweek's numbers are inflated as usual.
Businessweek later updated its story to explain the figures supplied by the FAA. They apply only to fully certified controllers — there are tens of thousands of trainees — and include overtime and other extra income.