AVmail: January 7, 2013
Letter of the Week: The Angle on Safety
I very much enjoyed your article on angle of attack indicators. It has always been amazing to me that GA continues to fly using airspeed as the primary reference.
In military aviation, one of the basic tenets was that aircraft wings perform aerodynamically based on angle of attack. Airspeed was calculated as a crosscheck to ensure that no system had an error. On each aircraft I flew (F-4, F-111, F-101, and EA-6B), we had AOA targets for critical phases of flight, landing, max efficiency cruise, dogfighting, etc.
In some aircraft, such as the Phantom, our control inputs had to change as we reached higher AOA levels. That was why most fighter-type aircraft had aural tones as well as indicators.
I was very pleased to learn that newer technologies had produced reliable systems at very affordable costs. Widespread adoption could significantly affect landing accident statistics and make a really positive contribution to GA safety!
J. C. "Squid" Hall
CDR (USN R9, Ret.)
Excellent article on AOA indicators. However, you left out the most important safety feature of the Alpha AOA, the Sweet Sarah audio warning. It's like having a co-pilot in an airliner calling out "airspeed" when a distracted captain allows his IAS to fall below "bug." It's the real life-saving feature of that system.
Regarding your "Question of the Week": Saving aviation is FAA Administrator Michael Huerta's most pressing issue, not fine-tuning the nuts and bolts of a healthy aviation industry.
NextGen, alternative fuels, the looming commercial pilot shortage, airline and GA safety, and every other aviation subject area are moot if we don't save GA first. From GA flows the infrastructure to support aviation, provide the new, young commercial pilots and [service] every other part of aviation and its needs.
My recommendation to Huerta is that he immediately pass the AOPA/EAA recreational pilot medical exemption petition for recreational flying in order to save what there is left of the existing pilot population. Save what you have and then grow more later, if you will.
Then, he should revamp both the existing recreational pilot certificate and institute a change in the (mostly unused) primary aircraft category, much the same as light sport aircraft are to sport pilot, such that a light sport pilot could move up to recreational pilot and A&Ps could re-license both of those airplane categories.
Those who want to go further in aviation can become private pilots with the attendant medical requirements.
The FAA should focus attention on reducing the cost of aircraft certification. With a new Cessna 172 costing more than $200,000, it has seriously hurt the growth of GA and the opportunities for future pilots. Certifying a new plane now costs too much.
It is time for the FAA to make a decision on the third-class proposal from EAA and AOPA. This decision was delayed by the surprise decision just before AirVenture to avoid it until after the election, just like almost everything else in the federal government.
I hope the decision is to follow the lead from Australia that limits aircraft usable without a medical certificate only by weight. However, any decision will allow the rest of us to move on with the new (or unchanged) rules.
The FAA increasingly focuses on technical violations and not on the real issues that affect safety. Huerta should remind his people the FAA's goal is not to rack up as many violations as possible.
First priority should be reducing the cost of ADS-B equipment to prevent NextGen from being an obstacle to aviation rather than a benefit.
Dropping in on Poland
A couple of points about the clip of the pilot dropping from 12,000 feet to land.
Firstly, the aircraft was a Dornier 28, not a King Air as one correspondent wrote, and secondly, it was filmed in Poland where wearing a parachute for aerobatics is not required. I think the pilot himself is Hungarian, so it's not a job for the FAA.
Is this guy nuts? This sort of behavior should be thoroughly investigated by the authorities.
Incidentally, whilst still learning, on a short solo cross-country, I decided that the weather wasn't good and called ATC and told them I was reversing course. I received nothing but support both from ATC, who volunteered radar vectors, and from the flight school. This guy is clearly a cowboy who shouldn't be flying.
I consider myself lucky to have learned to fly in the mid-'60s when many of the instructors were ex-Second-World-War pilots. They taught me to fly the plane and, no matter the attitude, stay within its limits.
I have passed that on over the years to younger pilots for their benefit. If the airplane is safe, so are you and your passengers! As far as I know, all are still flying.
Bart A. Frantz
AVweb's Paul Bertorelli weighs in on the issue in this blog.
Age of Reason
I'm sure it's not lost on anybody that there is a large pool of highly trained pilots out there who are not flying because of the age limits placed on them by the FAA and other regulatory agencies.
There was no "magic pill" that came along and made guys and girls born after 1947 smarter or more healthy when the age limit was raised to 65. Australia already allows a pilot to fly until he or she can't pass a more stringent physical, and rumor has it that Canada is thinking the same.
There are aircraft parked all over the world waiting on qualified pilots to fly them. Putting union control aside, it's time to rethink the medical disqualification of pilots based on age.
When I didn't make the cut here in the U.S., foreign companies were more than happy to put me to work flying the same equipment in much (!) worse conditions ever encountered here stateside.
At 66, I can still pass any FAA 1st class physical, even if I had to take one every month. There is no pilot "shortage" -- just a shortage of common sense.
Capt. Jack Vansworth
Babes in Arms
Regarding last week's "Question of the Week": I would at least like to see infants held by a person seated facing aft. There would be less opportunity for the infant to become a projectile.
A survivable 20G crash makes an infant in arms a 300-pound, impossible-to-hold problem.
Cal Twitty Sr.
Pilot in command and parents should determine if child restraints are necessary or desirable in any specific situation. Comfort, safety, and quality of life might all be determinants in the decision.
All unrestrained objects are a hazard to all occupants in a crash. Infants should be properly restrained, just like baggage.
Make the infant seats compulsory in GA airplanes, but not on commercial flights.
Why? The accident rate in GA vs. commercial flights is much higher.
J. P. Hinge
If parents are required to purchase a seat for their infant, they'll be more likely to drive instead, which would have a higher risk than flying to their destination.
I'd like to see some price relief for families with small children. This would help discourage the car trip and encourage using a car seat in a separate seat. So yes, they "should" be in a car seat (via the price inducement), but I don't agree with a nanny state requirement.
A reasonable compromise would be to permit infants to be carried in a front-worn baby carrier during take-off and landing, with the parent's seatbelt/shoulder harness being worn underneath the carrier (i.e., against the parent's body and not around the child's body). This would prevent infants from becoming projectiles during a crash.
Relief Not Needed
Your recent item on the new Cleveland, Tennessee airport states, "The $40 million airport is intended to be a reliever for nearby Chattanooga ... ."
Whatever use the new airport might get, the idea that CHA needs a reliever airport is ludicrous. It is practically a ghost town, even with the commuters that still operate there. It is rare to taxi out at CHA and even see another aircraft moving on the surface.
Social (Media) Time
Regarding your story on SocialFlight: It's about time someone developed a fun-to-fly publication. Keep up the good work.
Just want to say "thank you" for a great year! I'm not a pilot. I'm an enthusiast and artist and love to fly and ride with friends.
Your site is very educational for a passenger, and even your reader photos keep the blood circulating. I enjoy it!
I believe that it is appropriate to tell the AVweb staff how much I appreciate the fine job you all have done this past year bringing us, the GA public, this almost-daily publication.
I greatly appreciate this publication. Thank you so very much.
I wish everyone at the Aviation Publishing Group a happy new year of flying.
Just sayin' you guys do a super job bringing interesting, timely, and important aviation news and information to the pilot population. Keep up the great work.