AVmail: February 27, 2012
Letter of the Week: Gas Pains
Regarding the most recent "Question of the Week": I live in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso (West Africa). Avgas per gallon here varies from $13 (tax-free for international flights) to $17 when flying within national borders. This is triple the price for cars in Burkina. My hope for the future is locally produced bio-avgas like Swift is developing.
Jan Van Der Horst
It's probably not the best solution, but I own two aircraft — a Bellanca Viking, which my wife and I use for travel, and an experimental Sonerai II. With gas prices approaching $6 a gallon, it's hard to justify the cost of a long trip in the Viking. Flying commercially or driving are just so much cheaper.
At 4 gph, the Sonerai is hard to beat for shorter local flights. So it's likely the rising cost of fuel will one day make trips in the Viking cost-prohibitive and give me no choice but to sell it and limit my flying to local burger runs and joy rides in my experimental.
If avgas prices go up, presumably travel by car or airline becomes more expensive too. I may travel less in general if costs are higher, but general aviation may not be more expensive than it is now relative to other modes of transportation. Pleasure flying will continue to decrease, but those of us in rural America do need to get places sometimes.
At some point, it will make sense fiscally to switch over to electric. We are converging on that point, but are not quite there yet. It remains to be seen if we will get there due to batteries getting better or fuel prices getting worse.
I will probably keep flying no matter how expensive the fuel gets, but I will fly fewer hours — and I may look for an aircraft that burns less fuel or can burn a less expensive fuel.
Frankly, I think increased requirements for in-cockpit instruments (ADS-B/In and /Out will have an equal or larger affect on the numbers of flying aircraft in the U.S.. Assuming the required equipment will cost about $20,000, the airplane savings account must be fed about $52.00 to cover that required equipment by the /2020 deadline established by Congress. That's a big hit for an airframe only worth $20K to 20-$30,000.
Regarding a recent "Letter of the Week": Please tell Glenn Juber there is a "trophy" for some of the "average aviators," specifically those who fly humanitarian missions — they are the Public Benefit Flying Awards given annually by NAA and ACA and handed out on Capitol Hill. He can read more about them on NAA's web site at this link.
Some Words Cannot Express ...
To all of those who have seen that wingsuit near-fatal crash: What is your feeling about it? "Cool"? "Fantastic"? "Lucky man"?
As a pilot with 45 years of flight experience in all kinds of specialities, I immediately wrote to the editor. The result? A nice and very friendly answer saying that we cannot swear in any language, this to explain that I made use of a French adjective impossible to use in those lines.
This said, I cannot approve [of] such a video [being] published. It will only push some others to prove they can do it better. You want to die? Do it alone, deep in the Argentinian jungle, and do it silently without video shots. Your name should be written on a black list and suspended of any new return in any media around the world.
Regarding the Feb. 15 "Question of the Week": I first soloed in 1968, and in all of the intervening 43+ years I've managed to find someone willing to pay me to fly their airplane. I've never reached that halcyon state where I thought I could handle any possible situation that could occur in flight. The best you can do is to prepare for today's flight to the best of your ability and then use your training and judgment to avoid or exit conditions that might exceed your present abilities.
I was licensed in 1967, but after owning three different airplanes, acquiring a commercial certificate and instrument rating, and logging over 800 hours, I left flying in 1978 when family and career took precedence.
I returned to flying in 2005 and bought another airplane, now equipped with two-axis autopilot and IFR WAAS GPS (neither of which I'd ever used before). Now, having logged over 1,500 hours with 17 years of active flying experience, I do feel I'm at my peak of competence as a pilot, though I still improve with each flight.
Competence changes with application. Aerobatics was my passion in the good-old-days, when I had a young body, a good Pitts, and lots of money. It took several years to feel competent at that. Now it's soaring and teaching. I've seen enough to teach students something about what anticipation is good for. Now I would like to become an excellent soaring pilot. That will probably take more years than I have. When I run out of time, I'll probably be pretty good and have had a blast getting that way!
In answer to your question, I felt as if I was master of all things right when I got my ticket and spent the next several years learning otherwise. Now, at about 15 years after my PPL checkride, I'm pretty comfortable with just about everything, having seen most of it firsthand.
Seeking peak competency is a journey, not a destination. I'd distrust any who said they were or had been there.
I don't think confidence depends on years of pilot experience. I felt most confident when I was flying every day in the same airplane. My skills were sharper than ever, and my awareness of the weather and the mechanical condition of the airplane was more keen than ever. I have more years of experience now, but I don't fly as much, so I don't feel as sharp.