Top Letters And Comments, August 3, 2018
I accidentally came across the Aerovonics booth in the EAA Innovation Center and was blown away by their AV-20-S AoA multi-function instrument which will imminently be STC-AML'ed for certified aircraft. Most notable is that it uses ONLY existing pitot and static pressures to determine AoA via a Sperry algorithm developed in the 60's. I think I'll have one. Jeff Bethel was a great guy to talk to.
One of my main impressions of the show was that I saw an impressive number of young girls in the crowd, mostly in the 11-14 age group. To a casual observer, most appeared to be genuinely interested in the show and were not immersed in their cell phones as their parents dragged them from booth to booth. I don't know if this is a good sign or not, but we can always hope. I think we all agree that the female gender is severely underrepresented in the aviation world.
Not counting Rockford starting in 1967, I have attended Oshkosh 30+ times...this year as an exhibitor...a first. Business was brisk. I was amazed at the number of pilots who own multiple airplanes. The company I represent is painting One Week Wonder. This allowed me to be on the inside of this beehive of activity. The technical knowledge, organization of tools and parts, and the execution of assembly from 3,000 people is nothing short of extraordinary. What really impressed me was the courtesy, professionalism, camaraderie, and devotion the core group of EAA volunteers and Van's employees displayed. They were friendly, entertaining, providing all with a very educational program resulting in a water cooled, glass panel with auto-pilot equipped airplane in a week. A genuine nice bunch of folks. Very encouraging and inspiring. From an exhibitors vantage point, I would suggest that the EAA separate the non-aviation businesses from the aviation related companies. In the hangar/pavilion that contained only aviation related companies, their floor traffic was considerably more that in other hangar/pavilions that had a mixture. I wish the EAA would display non-aviation businesses selling metal roofs, essential oils, retirement plans/investment portfolios, and a plethora of mechanical massage machines, massage, furniture, etc in a separate building. Then, if I wanted a massage, i would know where to go. Another observation as both an RC pilot and Bonanza owner/pilot is the full size airplanes are trying to replicate the RC models. At one time, the RC airplanes were trying to mimic full size airplanes. Full size airplanes are trying to imitate RC 3D routines with aerobatics showcasing violent tumbling, gyroscopic twisting, high alpha low speed passes, and hovering with their 400HP engines bolted to 1100lb air-frames. In both cases, its a routine of violent maneuvers looking like aerial mayhem. These acts began to all look alike with a hyped up announcer trying to convince us their respective pilot's maneuver was unique. It is truly phenomenal that an RC pilot outside the airplane or the pilot inside these aerial carbon fiber bullets can keep orientation within this 420 degree per second maneuvering mayhem. However, bring back Delmar Benjamin in his GeeBee demonstrating smooth precision flying. I am glad Matt Younkin cannot lomchevok his Beech 18. I am happy the Aeroshell T-6's did not do a high alpha, low speed formation pass or hover their airplanes in dipping their tails in a pool of water. But as said before, there is something for everyone at Oshkosh. As usual, well done EAA!
(Almost) nobody that's paying for their airplane out of their own pocket, rather than using it for business, is going to fork over the five-digit price premium for a diesel engine conversion. Even in the homebuilt market it's an uneconomic proposition. Last I checked that DeltaHawk would run me about $70k for my RV-7... I could build the entire airplane for that, and have money left over. I'd love to have a diesel. But I'm not paying 2-3 times as much, or more, for the privilege of having one.
Perhaps the focus for the US at least should be on improving our spark ignition gasoline engines and getting the lead out of the fuel. A quick look at the automotive industry shows that modern electronics and technology can garner gobs of horse power out of small engines that do not have much sensitivity to the quality of fuel being burnt. Granted air cooled engines will never reach the efficiency levels of water cooled designs, but any improvement in fuel flexibility and power output will be a big plus. Removing the lead will increase engine life. I am old enough to remember the maintenance problems of automotive engines and exhaust systems during the days of leaded automotive fuel. During the move away from leaded fuel, there were all sorts of predictions of doom and gloom about burnt valves, lost power, poor performance, starting troubles etc. etc. The reality is that today automotive engines are extremely reliable, tolerant of varying fuel quality and very efficient. Diesel engines are more fuel efficient but due to the higher stresses, tend to be heavy. A 3000 + pound, 9 liter, 425 HP engine in a Keworth is not an issue, however, for an airplane every ounce counts. The diesel engines that we are seeing in aviation are either clean sheet designs or reworked automotive engines. From a developmental stand point, I believe that improved spark ignition engines are much further along the development curve than are compression ignition engines. Granted aircraft engines live in a different environment than automotive engines, but many of the design features can be incorporated. I have flown behind the IOF-240 FADEC engine and was very impressed with its performance and economy. Unfortunately, Continental has chosen not to promote or improve upon this certified engine ignition/ fuel system improvement. Will we see more diesel engines swinging props? I don't think that there will be a diesel on every airport in the foreseeable future. Would be nice to say "top it off with Jet-A with Prist" when giving a fuel order but I am not holding my breath.
New Report on MH370 Inconclusive
This report ignores what seems to me to be the most obvious possible scenario to explain the behavior of MH 370; an onboard fire involving the 200Kg pallet of L-ion batteries being shipped as airfreight in the forward baggage compartment. The existence of this shipment has been acknowledged by airline and Transport authorities. Such shipments on passenger flights have long been banned by the FAA and were banned by ICAO after this event. If these batteries had cooked off, the crew would first have perceived an electrical-like burning smell and perhaps interpreted it as an electrical fire. The procedure for responding to an electrical fire involves first donning the 02 masks and then turning toward an alternate airport. Then, they would have begun following the Quick Reference Handbook procedure for electrical fires (which assumes that the fire involves the aircraft's electrical system). MH 370 did, in fact, turn toward and fly by their ETOPS alternate, Langkawi Intnl. (WEMKL). They likely would have been planning a right hand downwind leg to approach runway 03 at WMKL (to avoid an emergency descent over the rising terrain under the approach to R21) and this would have taken them out over the Andaman Sea. Then, they would have tripped the main AC bus tie breakers which would have made the airplane dark and quiet. The QRH procedure would then have had them pull circuit breakers and then reset the main bus tie breakers and then reset the individual CBs for essential systems one by one, retripping any which caused a resumption of the fire indications. Meanwhile, the passengers and cabin crew would have been overcome by the toxic fumes and have eventually died therefrom. The pilot crew might also have received a forward cargo fire warning alarm before tripping the main BTBs and tried to extinguish this with the cargo compartment fire extinguishers. These would have been inadequate to the task of extinguishing 200 Kg of L-ion batteries. These are lengthy procedures and the captain would likely have delegated pilot-flying duties to the FO and performed the QRH procedures himself. At some point, he would have had to remove his mask to reach the upper CBs on the overhead panel and may have fallen victim to the toxic fumes produced by L-ion battery fires. The FO may have, at some point noticed, that the Captain was incapacitated and removed HIS mask to communicate with or attempt to help him and thus become a victim of the fumes himself. The autopilot would have defaulted to heading hold and altitude hold and flown the B777 out across the Indian Ocean until the 6 (or so) hours of remaining fuel was exhausted and then glided down into the water. My only question is why they did not make a mayday call on VHF/HF/SATCOM before tripping the main bus tie breakers. I find this scenario to be far less unlikely than positing a suicidal act by one of the crew as has been suggested in some articles about this event.