AVmail: Apr. 30, 2007
Question of the Week: A Toyota Airplane?
AVweb wrote (QOTW, Apr. 18):
Now that Honda is firmly committed to the general aviation market, it stands to reason that arch-rival Toyota will follow. Which GA market segment would you like to see Toyota enter?
One potential answer should be: "None." Why? If you examine the Japanese business model you will see that they are in it for the long term. Their typical strategy is to sell products for less at no or low margin and slowly strangle the existing market.
Often this is done at the expense of the Japanese domestic market. For example, they sell medical diagnostic equipment on the their own market at a premium, but sell it at low margin internationally. General Electric had an interesting strategy to counter this. They set up a plant in Japan and sold medical diagnostic equipment at no margin, thus forcing the competition (Toshiba) to match the price. This then had the effect of forcing Toshiba to raise its international prices.
I fear that the Honda entry may mean that in 20 years time the U.S. manufacturers will be facing the same issues as the U.S. car market.
FAA Myth Busting
The FAA’s assertion that GA currently drives about 16 percent of the expense of the air traffic system but pays only 3 percent of the cost is a misrepresentation of Machiavellian proportions (AVwebFlash, Apr. 21). The current spoke-and-hub system was built to suit the airlines, not GA. Asking GA to pay an equal share of a system whose main cost drivers do it more harm than good is like asking the missionary to pay for the kettle, fuel and oil that the cannibal wants to cook him in.
A. Ray Peach
The airlines are complaining about GA not paying its fair share of the cost involving the ATC system.
How many GA pilots have been asked to slow down, make a 360 [degree turn] and re-enter behind the airliner on 10-mile final, follow the airliner on 15-mile final when you are ready to turn tight base, go around because of an airliner on final behind you, go around because of an airliner still on the runway, pull out of the way so the airliner can get around you, get an IFR clearance with multiple fixes to clear the way for airliners using the airspace, or held for departure so the airliner can get out? I have been in the left seat of a transport aircraft and the same in my Bonanza. The system is clearly geared for the airlines and they benefit from it to a great extent -- exponentially more than GA.
FAA Medical Duration
I disagree with the writer who declares, "... too many pilots fly while intoxicated or on medicine or drugs," (AVmail, Apr. 23). What is this guy's agenda? Sounds like just another politician looking for votes by scaring a non-informed public. How about this? Medicals yearly for all auto drivers, bus drivers, heavy equipment operators, and any one else that ever makes a decision that could affect public safety. Why pick on aviation? Thousands more are killed or maimed by other than pilots. Lay off aviation for a change.
Blimp Tether Accident
Your article on the Cessna 182 that hit the blimp tether seems to indicate an unsafe situation (AVwebFlash, Apr. 22). I live on Cudjoe Key in the shadow of the blimp. The restricted area is clearly marked on the sectional, the minimum altitude in the quadrant is 15,000 ft. At that time of night, I don't know if Key West Approach is working. If the pilot had been in contact with any flight following unit, he would have been warned. The blimp is clearly marked with flashing red lights and strobes. I don't know what other steps can be taken. I am a commercial-rated pilot active in GA.
Gerald L. Metcalf
Sun 'n Fun Cost
I just (barely) got back from Sun 'n Fun. It was all I could do to pay for the last drop of gas. I went out on the Great Deals in Aviation Fuel Web site and learned that Hazelhurst, Ga., was $2.99. Going down, I stopped and filled my tanks, but that was the end of the good deals. Landing at LAL, I was hit with a $25 camping fee, a $25 parking fee, and two days at $25.00 each for an even hundred dollars. Then, I thought in the morning that a $3 cup of coffee would be good, but it was terrible. The $4 hotdogs were OK, but the $2 cost of the coke ruined the day. Then, in spite of golf carts, trams, cars and planes running up and down the parking areas, bicycles can't be used, and my folding bike was useless. A three-wheel cart, (not the handicapped type) with a top speed of about 20 mph was apparently OK.
Camped near the Flight Academy, my partner borrowed my bike at about 5 a.m. to use the showers almost 3/4-mile down the taxiway. He barely was permitted to take it back to the flight line by one of the bored gate guards, who let him out but wouldn't let him back in.
It has gotten too expensive, and there are way too many rules with this show. It used to be much more manageable. And to add insult to injury, we landed at Hazelhurst on the way back for some of the $2.99 gas and found it to have magically gone up to $3.65.
If you can't afford something, you shouldn't have it. I'm feeling priced out of the market any more. Maybe I need to sell the plane, and the folding bike.
Consolidated FSS QOTW
Note to Readers:
The Question of the Week for Apr. 26 was experiencing technical difficulties. Many readers chose to send us messages regarding the subject, "Is AFSS Consolidation Affecting the Quality of Your Weather Briefings?" Here are a few responses.
I have had several issues with FSS. In October last year I was in ACY trying to get a brief from Leesberg, Va.. I was on hold for over five minutes when I hung up. Finally I got someone on the third call back. I've also had problems where the briefer is obviously just reading, versus understanding what he's actually telling me. Standard briefings are also out of order and incomplete. It's awful. Also, wait times can exceed two minutes. It's not bad all the time, but enough to really notice.
I was shocked at how poor the service has become. My flights last week were all out of small airports on low-weather days requiring flight-plan clearances to be picked up before departure. In all cases where I had to contact FSS, I had at least a 20-minute delay on the phone waiting for the briefer to figure out which sector I was in. In one case, it took me 45-minutes to get off the ground, while my passengers waited in the back of the plane. And when I finally did get a clearance, the void times were much shorter (almost too short) and the clearances were to nearby fixes instead of the usual route clearances I get.
It seems as though ATC does not trust the briefers, either. To their credit, one briefer I talked to was noticeably distressed with the system and referred to it as "all screwed up." But these guys are far removed from the airports they serve and cover such a large area. I doubt they will be able to give the level of service the smaller stations gave.
AFSS service has plummeted downhill since Lockheed-Martin took over. Wait times are extreme, and when you do get a briefer, it's like some robot reading all the lawyer fine-print (GPS NOTAMs, tower lights, PIREPs, etc.). We don't need that every briefing. The reason I used to call Flight Service was to get the opinion of a professional; now all I get is a weather reader. I'm not blind, I can do that myself.
The briefers do not seem to know IFR terms that may be put in the Remarks section of the flight plan. In one case the briefer talked the pilot out of placing "Will depart 2Q3 via Rwy 34 ODP" in the remarks, and in another case the briefer told the pilot he meant NDB -- not ODP -- for those remarks.
The new AFSS is well intended, but has clearly been set up by folks who don't understand GA.
I'm in Baltimore on Monday. At 13:50 Zulu I call for a briefing to get out of the joke that is better known as the Air Defense Intercept Zone (ADIZ) around BWI, DCA and IAD.
After a reasonable wait -- 90 seconds or so -- I get a briefer in ... Arizona. He doesn't know what an ADIZ is, much less how to file an ADIZ flight plan. I guess he doesn't read AVwebFlash!
The good news is that he has enough sense to give me the back-door number to the Leesburg, Va., AFSS. After a second wait, I got filed, but it shouldn't be this hard.
Of course, if the folks at the FAA and Homeland Security would get a grip and admit that the ADIZ is nothing more than an illusion of "security," we could save the taxpayers a lot of money by reducing the calls to FSS and controller workloads in the Potomac TRACON.
Auto Fuel STCs
While your statements relative to auto fuel STCs increasing the value of an aircraft may be true (AVwebFlash, Apr. 25), users of auto fuel STCs should be aware that use of any auto fuel containing alcohol invalidates the STC and is not permitted. Use of such a fuel containing alcohol may also invalidate your insurance. Since many auto fuels now have alcohol, and will become more widespread in the near future, users should be aware of potential consequences for using an incorrect and unapproved fuel in their aircraft.