Top Letters And Comments, October 26, 2018
Flying Into OSH
I lived in Oshkosh for 14 years up until 2003. My hangar was adjacent to the self-serve. Our pre-Air Venture entertainment was to sit by the hangar and watch the incoming. Saw some accidents, some close calls, but mostly good. Watched the incoming and this past event, 2018, looked to have some of the poorer arrival flying I have seen in the many years. The one comment that comes close to probably covering it all was a pilot some years back who caused some real havoc when asked why he did not adhere to the NOTAM, said, "what NOTAM?" Fly the NOTAM.
Pilots do not read the NOTAM or do not adhere to the NOTAM or get spaced out in the zone and lose all situational awareness and so on.
Usually I love to read Paul Bertorelli's articles and find them insightful. However the one about flying into Oshkosh was preposterous. This year’s Airventure was most unusual because of the weather and the shear mass of aircraft trying to arrive in such a short window of time. The controllers who "work" Oshkosh are the best of the best and are specifically chosen because of their ability to work under pressure at the "Busiest airport in the World", EAA has already realized that something different has to be done to try to alleviate the congestion during the busiest arrival days. Trying to conduct the Mass Arrivals while all the other aircraft are trying to get into Oshkosh just exacerbated the issue this year. There have been some very good suggestions made by people who actually work as volunteers at Airventure to improve the efficiency of arriving aircraft. However the largest issue by far is that everyone tries to arrive at the same time. If you want a no hassle arrival at Oshkosh just plan to arrive a day or two sooner and you will have the whole airport to yourself.
I did fly in this year, and because of how things happened to work out timing wise from my end, we ended up flying the VFR arrival right in the thick of things just before they closed the airspace for the day. We were one of the last ones to land, in fact. ATC did "yell" at a bunch of pilots. Pilots who clearly didn't read the NOTAM about proper in-trail spacing. Pilots who were blatantly skipping whole sections of the arrival, and couldn't hold altitude or airspeed. A few times, I had to get off altitude just to provide enough spacing between me and another pilot or three who either didn't see me, or didn't care. And of course there were a few pilots with a fuel emergency...or at least claimed to have a fuel emergency (it wouldn't surprise me that some pilots faked an emergency just to get in). I don't know how many pilots go charging in to OSH without a Plan B, or even, it seems, a Plan A. But I deliberately landed short of OSH to get fuel so I wouldn't have to worry about fuel, and Plan B was to go to Appleton and Plan C to Fon du lak if I couldn't get into OSH. It's really not that hard to plan for the arrival. The fact that more accidents don't happen even with so many pilots being clearly unprepared could also be a bit of "herd immunity"--enough other pilots are competent and prepared enough, and willing to ignore their ego, to give way to the other pilots who really shouldn't be flying the arrival. Having done the arrival twice now (once as a pilot-not-flying copilot, and once flying myself), I probably won't do it again. But the experience is worth doing at least once, if only to see what true madness in the air is like. It sure makes flying into Block Island during the summer seem a lot more tame to me now.
As one of the hapless ones trying to get in on Saturday, and then Sunday, I'll inject my own comments. On Saturday evening I arrived at RIPON at about 6:30 pm, only to be told all arrivals for the rest of the evening were shut off for a mass Bonanza arrival, and to divert to an alternate. The controller kept insisted to all inquiries that no one else was going to get in from RIPON that night. I stuck around for fifteen minutes or so to make sure things would not change, and then diverted to Appleton. I found out later that arrivals resumed shortly afterwards and continued until the shut off time for the evening at 8:00 pm. The weather on Sunday started clearing at about 11:30 am or so and I got off Appleton thinking I would beat the rush. Just when I got to RIPON they shut the arrivals down again for another mass arrival, so I entered holding. The ensuing number of aircraft kept building at RIPON as they then started arrivals again. However, the most frustrating thing for me is that when it got too chaotic with arrivals between RIPON and FISKE, the controllers just broke everybody out to return to FISKE. So, during those periods nobody was getting through the mess at RIPON as guys tried to re-enter and join those already in a ten mile line. It just got worse and worse. I've flown in to Oshkosh several times but on that Sunday I saw more than my share of stupid pilot tricks. The difference for me is that the controllers were not controlling. Shutting off all arrivals and turning everybody out because of spacing at FISKE just compounded the chaos. Selectively letting every other aircraft through at FISKE would have at least gotten some airplanes on the runway and reduced the mess southwest of the airport. It did not get better for the rest of Sunday. I held for five hours and saw and heard some stuff I had never seen before from pilots. I did get in near the end of the day. If I had any sense I would have just diverted early and called it a day, and would have if I did not have a sorta-commitment to have my RV-8 at Oshkosh. I won't do it again; not worth it. (On the plus side, departure on the following Saturday morning was a breeze.)
Driving into Oshkosh is like taking a shower with your socks on. I have done it (twice, on motorcycles), but it isn't very satisfying, You feel like parts of the wingless riff-raff. I have flown in in my C-210s 10 or 12 times now, and it has always been the highlight of my week. The last few visits I have stayed elsewhere and flown in every day I was there. It's fun because you need to bring your A game and be prepared to deal with surprises, like on my first time there when the Mooney stopped on the dot they told me to land on because he didn't want to taxi into the grass. They yelled at him. I went by and landed beyond and got an attaboy. Be flexible. Know when the busy times are. Avoid the mass arrivals (or join them, if that's your thing). Watch the weather. Make your IFR reservations in advance. Oh, and Plan B shouldn't be Fond du Lac or Appleton. It should be somewhere father out, preferably with hotels nearby, like Madison, Milwaukee or Rockford...unless you LIKE sleeping in your airplane.
The answer to your question, "Do you believe Uber's [and Lyft's, and maybe Amazon's] air-taxi fares will eventually be as cheap as cars are now?" is "absolutely, yes."
It's coming, and the aeronautical technology is already here. The pieces (design of vehicles and control systems, contracting, and assembly) only need to be put together.
For one thing, the cost per trip will be significantly reduced because the crow-flies routes will be much shorter and efficient, and there won't be any pilots to pay... or air-traffic controllers. You don't really think the mass of traffic coming with that on-call, air-travel world will be handled by anything resembling today's system?
But before we see a quasi "Jetson's" world, with those ground-taxi comparable or better rates, we'll need to fill in the most critical piece that's still missing--but on the horizon: quantum computing (QC). In fact, controlling the mass of personalized air taxis will be QC's first major commercial application, because only the capability of QC to quickly manage the vast quantities of data air-taxi command and control will require, to recognize, in real time, numerous, fantastically complex and constantly changing patterns, and to instantaneously solve hundreds of problems based upon the data and patterns, with the solutions compiled into directions fed to just as many multiples of simultaneous outputs (automated cockpits and verification terminals), will make the system viable and safe.
So, get yourself a few nice scarfs as a tip of the hat to the days, long past, where tomorrow's air-taxi complex all began, and those few, extinct, bold pilots, still to be missing when it all comes to pass.
ADS-B for Experimental Aircraft
I own a vintage aircraft, and am facing the requirement for ADS-B out installation. It has been noted that there are avionics which are approved for experimental aircraft and they are less expensive than ones for a certified aircraft. What I find confusing is why a piece of equipment which is acceptable to be put in a high performance aircraft such as a Lanceair 4P and flown in the aerospace system under IFR rules, cannot be installed in a C172 and flown VFR. The ATC system does not "care" or know the certification status of an aircraft only where it is in relation to the rest of the other aircraft in the area. From an operational status, this makes absolutely no sense.
I can (sort of) understand a different standard for aircraft operating in the higher levels of operation, Parts 135 and 121, but for Part 91 operations a plane should be a plane.
Aircraft Mechanic Facing Theft Charges
Years ago I heard about a mechanic who quit after his boss had told him to take a low time turbo off a twin and swap it onto his boss's twin. That hasn't happened to me. But my own "trusted" mechanic charged me for cylinder rework and then collected warranty money from Superior for the work - including R&R of the jugs, even tho I was the one who R&R'd the jugs! So I learned early on to be suspicious. While perhaps not practical on big jets, I inconspicuously engrave my initials on parts that I have to leave with a shop so I can ensure that it's my parts coming back to me. Trust - but verify.