AVmail: June 23, 2008
Aircraft Registration ChangesHere is my idea of the registration fix (AVwebFlash, June 6). It would be similar to the way boat registration is done in Georgia. Every three years you have to pay for continuing your registration. You get a small, color-coded sticker that has the registration numbers and the date when it expires printed on it that you could put on your plane in a designated area specified by the FAA so it can be checked quickly and easily to see if the registration is up to date. The only difference is that if you forget to pay the three-year registration, your N-number does not change. They would stay the same so no one has to repaint new numbers on the planes, which would be very costly. Simply pay a fee and get a new sticker to put on the plane to make it legal again. If the plane has a current registration but no sticker, then a pilot would take a chance of being ramp-checked and having to pay a huge fee or ticket if you will. Now what about pilots renting planes they don't own? The same applies just like having to have a current annual and aircraft manual on the plane to be legal to fly that plane. I am sure some of you will have some grumbles about this idea but it works well for boats in the South. I don't see why it would not work the same for planes. A simple sticker could fix all these problems. Terry Wood Jr.
B-2 CrashThe way I understood the accident report (AVwebFlash, June 5), it was the maintenance person who performed the calibration who didn't get the communication about turning the pitot heat on ... not the pilot as you reported. Did I misunderstand? Larry Koch
You're correct that the maintenance crew performed the calibration.
With the recent crash of the the B-2, it's time to congratulate the government for illustrating with crystal clarity what happens when you abandon proven principles of aircraft design and construction in favor of all the latest high-tech rubbish. The defense of our nation now rests on a fantastically complex and expensive aircraft with everything the designers could think of, and it has just one failing: It must not get wet. We wonder how many passengers have to die before it becomes clear that this computer-controlled, fly-by-haywire, no-direct-mechanical-backup b.s. is fundamentally wrong. Surely Bill Gates has taught us that, sooner or later, the Blue Screen of Death will appear, and hopefully we're smart enough to know that we don't want innocent people to be up in the sky when that happens. Dave Bogart
Auto-Gas for LycomingInteresting article (AVwebFlash, June 4). Do you people realize that the federal government is heavily subsidizing the injection of ethanol into the auto-gas supply? Currently there is a 4.5-cent per gallon incentive (a rebate on their federal fuel tax) for the oil companies to sell blended gasoline with at least a 9-percent ethanol content. Here in our market (Spokane, Wash./ Coeur d'Alene, Idaho), there is virtually no non-blended gasoline available. The oil industry is being pushed to sell nine billion gallons of E-10 blended gas in 2008. That number will rise to 22 billion gallons by 2015. So, while it is a nice gesture that Lycoming (or Peterson or EAA through STCs) allow for the use of unleaded 87 or 93 octane fuel in their engines, soon there won't be anywhere to buy it. You folks need to research ethanol in great detail. It would make for some good articles. Al Gilson
Replacement Aviation FuelI was recently very encouraged by a story in AVweb about SwiftFuel and the possible replacement of 100LL by their product (AVwebFlash, May 7). I did communicate with John Rusek (Swift Enterprises) a couple of times but I don't see the excitement and the interest in the aviation groups like I thought I would. I have been spreading the word to everyone I know but I am wondering what is going on now to support this company and its valiant efforts to improve general aviation. Who knows how far this synthetic fuel can go to make a positive impact on our lives? I would think pilots would be jumping on the bandwagon to help get out the word to assist Swift in getting FAA approval. Douglas P. Ackeberg
Price of 100LLAs long as people continue to buy 100LL, the price will continue to rise! Lee Schaumberg
100LL OptionsThere is much trepidation about the future of 100LL fuel. Any option seems costly and impractical. However, we will have to deal with this issue soon as economics and environmental concerns will force it upon the aviation community. The market, being very efficient, will flesh out the details, but here is my vision for the future. 100LL is costly to manufacture and move. As it must be moved by truck and rail, it adds the 20-percent premium we see over automotive fuel. The market has taken this into account and hundreds of aircraft have conversions for mogas, the close cousin to automotive regular grade fuel. Recent press releases stating additional conversions by Lycoming have shown this trend will continue. The use of lead in avgas should not be taken lightly. Use of lead in the fuel is environmentally hazardous to humans and to animals. This known hazard puts the GA aviation community on the defensive. With the fights over user fees, NextGen and airport construction trust funds, we do not need additional political enemies. What is the most-likely and least-painful path? Well, many propose a complete transition to diesel piston engines. While I applaud their tenacity in promoting the one-fuel concept, there are too many other, lower-cost options to force this solution. The North-American fleet of gasoline-powered aircraft is enormous, and automotive gasoline is readily available throughout the region. There is no economic justification to require a complete engine technology change for most of the GA fleet. A majority of the current engines can, with small modifications, be operated on automotive fuel and this is the lowest cost, and therefore most-likely solution. 100LL will not be phased out gradually, but will be mandated at a specific date. This will eliminate the two-fuel issue at airports. On Jan. 1 of some future year, all fuel deliveries will be standard, unleaded mogas. Depending on many factors, this may be the current, unleaded mogas, low-octane automotive standard-grade with 5 to 10-percent alcohol or alcohol-exempted automotive high-octane premium. The result will depend on politics of ethanol and the ability to cheaply convert existing aircraft to handle alcohol-blended fuels. Most small, piston aircraft will be converted to use this fuel. Many older aircraft will be removed from service as the economics cannot justify the conversion. However, with a mandate, the market will begin to supply lower-cost options for conversions, so the current assessments of the number of aircraft to be idled are much higher then the actual number after the mandate. Larger, high-performance aircraft will be converted to diesel piston and turbines. There are engineering limitations that will prevent the use of mogas in large twins and high-performance singles. As the largest growth in sales of large piston GA aircraft is overseas, the use of diesel or jet fuel in large GA aircraft is economically compelling. To serve this growing market, many manufactures have already been moving this direction. This will accelerate as the diesel technologies improve and turbines get smaller. So what will the future look like? Most recreational pilots will fly using automotive fuels in new or older, converted aircraft. They will save about 20 percent over the current cost of avgas. They will pump this fuel from the existing fuel system that previously dispensed 100LL. Some airports will begin to carry Jet-A to serve the larger-body, diesel-powered aircraft. Diesel being much less flammable, it will be pumped from above-ground tanks or service trucks, eliminating large investments by small airports. Overall, not much will change to the casual flyer. But change is inevitable and I believe soon we will find some forward-thinking airport operators install charging stations for those new flying machines, the electrically powered LSA. As Alan Kay, the computer scientist, said, "The best way to predict the future is to invent it." Bruce Billedeaux
Gas Vs. FeesI, too, was wondering last week when I read the question as to why the question (QOTW, June 4)? Once we have user fees, we are stuck with the increasing cost that will hurt us all. What if we are able to fly electric planes in the next few years? Little or no fuel cost, but user fees are forever! Come on! Let's get our thinking in the right direction. Brad Heck
F-18 One Wing, No PilotRegarding your article and video of "One Wing, No Pilot" (AVwebFlash, June 11): This was an actual event that happened to an Israeli pilot in an F-18 several months ago. A wmv video of the mid-air shows one wing cut off and the pilot making a successful landing. Put credit where it belongs. Frank Hiser
Actually, we're not sure any credit is due, although we could have mentioned the previous incident you refer to. It involved an Israeli pilot and navigator in an F-15, which the pilot landed after a midair collision in 1983. Our story reported on a research project conducted by Rockwell Collins on the F-18.