AVmail: January 27, 2014
Letter of the Week:
Overregulation to Blame
Regarding the "Question of the Week": GA was in decline long before the recession and will not recover to its glory days until the cost of aircraft ownership comes down. A new single-engine piston basic trainer currently costs the same as a Ferrari. This is due to a long-standing, government-sponsored monopoly which has caused the costs of certifying a new aircraft to rise to unsustainable levels for a company wishing to produce GA aircraft.
Overregulation, along with frivolous lawsuits, has pushed out all but a couple of manufacturers for nearly every critical component of the aircraft. This is especially true with respect to engines. There are only a few major players, which is why it costs $25,000 to overhaul a very basic engine based on a 75-year-old design.
Cut the regulatory burden and the associated costs without sacrificing safety, and you will see a resurgence in general aviation.
Until the certification process is made effective and transparent, GA recovery will slow to a trickle.
Buying a GA plane is discretionary and expensive. Other industries selling expensive items -- be they John Deer harvesters, Bertrand speedboats, Rolls Royce cars or Caterpillar wheel dozers -- have all radically redesigned (often from scratch) their hallmark products to increase longevity, reduce operating and maintenance costs, and incorporate modern convenience. Harvesters and dozers have air-conditioned cabs; cars have satellite navigation integrated with engine management and reporting; etc.
GA planes have improved sat nav, driven by outside suppliers. That's it. The manufacturers are under-capitalized and too often rely on nostalgia to sell. Cirrus has been the exception here, but even they have stagnated since 2005.
Without innovation, manufacturers and whole industries die, and GA will surely go the same way if it keeps trying to sell a 1955 De Soto at 2014 Ferrari prices.
Regarding the "Question of the Week": I can't upgrade to ADS-B until Garmin, Diamond, and the FAA get their act together to approve the certified solution to upgrade our plane's G1000 system. In particular, we can't replace our Garmin GTX33 transponder with a GTX33ES transponder (adds ADS-B-out with extended squitter) because the newer "ES" version hasn't been FAA-certified for Diamond DA40 or DA42 G1000 aircraft.
And we're still waiting for Avidyne to get its upgraded TAS600-series of active traffic units approved by the FAA to add Avidyne's announced ADS-B-in capability to our plane's TAS605 unit.
In both cases, the product upgrades are available, but we're a victim of FAA avionics certification restrictions and delays.
I am a commercial pilot with multi-engine, instrument, and lighter-than-air ratings. I am a member of EAA, AOPA, IAC, and WoA. I was awarded the FAA Master Pilot Award in 2011.
I currently fly a 1947 Aeronca L-16A that never had an electrical system. The only thing that ADS-B will do for me is restrict even further the number of places I can fly.
When they tell me I can't fly to Oshkosh (still can't call it AirVenture), I'll sell it and buy a boat.
The article about a sensor that assists pilots of float and amphibious airplanes to avoid hard landings in glassy water conditions prompted me to write about a an Australian aviation pioneer and author, Sir Percival Gordon Taylor, who in one of his books described a similar but mechanical device he used for the same purpose.
In the late 1920s, P. G. Taylor, as he was then known, operated a small, float-equipped de Havilland Gypsy Moth from the small lakes and inlets along the southeast coast of Australia. To overcome the problem of glassy water landings, he devised and fitted a retractable wire, like a trailing antenna, so that when it contacted the water, it would transmit a vibration back along its length to the cockpit where it could be felt and alert him to his proximity to the water. It was used to signal the moment he should close the throttle and flare the aircraft for touchdown.
I cannot recall whether the wire was connected directly to the throttle. Of course, the device, to be effective, required the pilot to establish a steady, shallow descent above an area of open water.
Thank you for re-publishing "Real-World Nordo" from a previous issue of Aviation Safety magazine. It's one of the best articles I've read on radio failure procedures because it presents the reader with a couple of scenarios that happened in the real world and explains the actions of the pilots involved and whether they followed FAA guidelines.
The reader can compare his own ideas to those explained in the article and really learn a lot from that. The example of a possible approach into O'Hare was an excellent way to demonstrate that common sense is still critical. Some things may be legal but not advisable if there are good options.
Warren Webb Jr.
Helping the Transition
I am an airline pilot who recently got back into GA.
Your web site has been fantastic in getting me up to speed on the latest and greatest.
I just wanted to thank you for the excellent job you do for us all.