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Airshow spectators in southern England likely saved the life of a performer whose open-cockpit aircraft crashed into the ocean at the Herne Bay Air Show Sunday. According to the Telegraph, the Turbulent D31, a tiny single-seat homebuilt, may have had mechanical issues before the unidentified pilot may have ditched it in shallow water of the beach that was the venue for the show. The fixed-gear airplane flipped on impact and the pilot was trapped submerged in the cockpit. Spectators sprang to action and righted the aircraft, which weighs only about 350 pounds, and pulled the pilot out. He was assessed by paramedics on the scene and his condition wasn’t immediately released.

The aircraft was one of five members of Team Turbulent, a group of British pilots who fly formation and light aerobatics routines in the tiny craft, which were designed in the 1950s. The airplanes sport a 1600-cc engine that gives it a fairly generous power-to-weight ratio and makes it nimble and responsive. The team boasts that its show takes place entirely in front of the audience and the maximum altitude of their maneuvers is 700 feet. Below is video of the ditching. It's poor quality but shows the ditching and rescue. There's a better one here but we don't have direct access to it.

Our initial story said the crash occurred adjacent to an airfield. In fact, it was staged over water at a popular beach and aircraft staged out of an airfield two miles from the seashore. We apologize for the error.

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A total of 12 people died in two separate crashes of light twins over last few days. A Beech Baron crashed at Shannon Airport in Fredericksburg, Virginia, at midday on Friday and a Piper Navajo went down in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on Sunday morning. In both cases, all six aboard each of the aircraft died. Local authorities in Virginia are discussing possible causes of the crash while a technical problem appears to be a factor in the Alabama tragedy.

Although the official cause won’t be released for a year or more, local authorities in Virginia were quoted by the Washington Post as saying the Shannon crash occurred during a go-around attempt. The aircraft flew from Louisville to Shelbyville, Indiana, before heading to Shannon as the final destination. Late Sunday morning, the Navajo crashed just short of the runway in Tuscaloosa. The pilot issued a distress call reporting engine problems just before the crash. The aircraft departed Kissimmee Airport in Florida for a flight to Oxford, Mississippi.

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For the second time in a week, Canadian authorities are investigating a crash involving an apparently stolen aircraft, this time with tragic consequences. The Piper Tomahawk crashed on a main street in Peterborough, Ontario, about 1:30 a.m. local time Friday. The pilot and lone occupant was killed in the crash. The plane hit an illuminated sign and street lights before hitting Lansdowne Street. The aircraft belonged to a man in Markham, Ontario, about 60 miles from Peterborough and was being flown without his knowledge, according to authorities.

The pilot was reportedly in his 20s and it’s not clear whether he had any formal flight training. Last week, a Newfoundland man allegedly took a relative’s Cessna 180 on floats for a joyride and crashed it on shore but he wasn’t seriously injured. In Peterborough, witnesses said it appeared the pilot was trying to land on the street, which didn’t have much traffic at that hour. The aircraft had fuel but it’s not yet known if there were technical issues. The pilot’s identity hasn’t been released.

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Violent turbulence injured two dozen people and damaged parts of the cabin on a JetBlue flight that was forced to divert Thursday night and land in South Dakota. The Airbus A320, en route from Boston to Sacramento, apparently encountered multiple thunderstorms about 6:30 p.m. The crew attempted to steer clear of the worst weather but penetrated the surrounding turbulence, CNN reported today. Twenty-two passengers and two crew members were treated and released from local hospitals after the flight landed in Rapid City.

After the jet went through a violent descent that sent people and objects tumbling, the crew sought aid from those on board. A doctor told the Boston Globe he helped look people over as the flight approached the Rapid City airport and found “moderate lacerations and contusions.” Three flight attendants who had been standing at the time hit the ceiling, breaking a hole in the tile. Overhead bins were cracked and a toilet “came completely undone,” he said. Other passengers tweeted photos of medics helping everyone off the jet; one posted a photo of the toilet with its casing ripped off.

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The Air Force’s pilot shortage continues to grow as its aviators move to airline flying jobs, military officials said this week. The USAF estimates it will be short 700 fighter pilots by year’s end, up from the 500-plus gap officials told Congress about earlier this year. The shortage could increase to 1,000 in the coming years unless the branch beefs up recruiting and retaining efforts – not only for fighter-jet pilots, but drone pilots as the military’s use of unmanned aircraft expands, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told Washington reporters this week. "The airlines are forecasted to be hiring a lot more. They already are," she said.

Among the top proposals are to increase pilots’ retention pay above the current $25,000 per year, and James specified increasing drone pilots’ retention bonuses to $35,000 per year, The Associated Press reported.  "We've got to make sure that we remain competitive," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in the CNN report. He added that the Air Force also wants to expand its F-16 training programs and keep pilots flying between missions. "The reality is, pilots who don't fly, maintainers who don't maintain, controllers who don't control are not going to stay with the company because we're not allowing them to be the very best they can be," he said. The Air Force later this year will start training enlisted airmen to be drone pilots for the first time in efforts to fill jobs for its RQ-4 Global Hawk drone program.

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Whoever said success is its own reward probably wasn’t talking about the aviation business and the folks who run Surf Air know that all too well. The company has made a go out of a potentially risky membership business model offering patrons an “all-you-can-fly” package for $1,950 a month in Pilatus PC-12s. They picked the toney San Francisco suburb of San Carlos as a base and were soon filling the turboprops with prosperous Silicon Valley customers heading for destinations like Las Vegas, L.A. and Napa. But as Surf Air grew, so did complaints from local residents angered at the noise being generated at their formerly sleepy airport. A public meeting has been called for Aug. 16 in which San Mateo County officials will explain why it's not their fault.

Surf Air started with a handful of customers and a few airplanes and was operating about three flights a day to begin with. However, the business caught on and now they’re averaging more than 20 flights a day and a lot more than that during peak times. The company recently started a European operation. “When Surf Air came in, we were surprised that you could have a commercial operation at the airport,” San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsely told the San Jose Mercury News. "We talked with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) about, how did this happen?" Horsley said. "This is a general aviation airport. How was a scheduled airline able to operate at a general aviation airport? What the FAA said was, they were only concerned about safety in the air. They have no rules about noise.” So, the stewards of San Mateo have scheduled Wednesday’s meeting with apparently one goal in mind. "I think they [local residents] think we have a lot more power than we do. We do own the land, but not the air space,” Horsley said.

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While number four for takeoff on a 95-degree day, windows and doors open to catch any puff of moving air, every pilot ever minted has wished for air conditioning. With installed units starting at over $4500 and eating up at least 50 pounds of useful load, most owners are willing to sweat a bit and then climb to cooler air.

There is a much lower price alternative—portable aircraft coolers made from modern ice chests/coolers that use a fan to blow air across a heat exchanger full of cold water from ice (never, ever dry ice) to circulate cool air through the cabin.

At prices from $299 to $650, and weights of 30 to 63 pounds when loaded with ice, we wondered whether portable aircraft coolers are a viable option to installed air conditioning.

After using three of the most popular on hot days, we think that if an owner has reasonable expectations all of the units do a good job of cooling—after all, one pound of ice provides only 144 BTUs of cooling versus the 5000 to 10,000 BTUs from installed air conditioners.

The Review

The coolers were placed in the baggage compartment (except for the Arctic Air—the power cord was too short) of our test airplane, a Cessna T210, and flown out of Denver’s Centennial Airport. In each test the airplane was parked in the sun until the cabin exceeded 95 degrees F. Each unit was not turned on until the aircraft engine was started—the units plug into the cigarette lighter.

Our conclusion is that realistic use of a portable cooler is for taxi, takeoff and climbout to more moderate temperatures at altitude. It is then shut off. On descent, the cooler is turned back on and will keep the interior cool through landing and taxi in. Realistic cooling time is on the order of two to three hours—plenty for most flights. All of the units require some water to be added with the ice when the cooler is filled. Each uses a marine bilge pump—which must be mostly submerged—to pump the cold water through a heat exchanger and back into the cooler. A fan pulls in cabin air, blows it across the heat exchanger and the ice and exhausts it through louvers or a duct, into the cabin.

Keeping the bilge pump submerged is essential—meaning adding the right quantity of water and making sure the bilge pump is at the low spot for the deck attitude of the airplane during taxi and climb.

We tested the B-Kool, the Crosswind Cooler and Arctic Air Pack 52. We felt that all were satisfactory at providing an acceptable stream of cold air (temperature at the outlet was in the 45-50 degree F range).

We felt that the B-Kool was the best of the group due to its size—easy to get in and out of the airplane—the high velocity of the cold air from the duct and that it was the most user-friendly (everything was there and ready to go).

Arctic Air came a close second; while it was user friendly and held the most ice for slightly longer cooling, the power cord was too short to reach to the baggage compartment—which mystified us—and getting it into the rear seats of a Cessna 210 was an ordeal.

The Crosswind cooler worked well, but it was not user friendly—it requires a separate trip to a hardware store to buy ducting and paying $49.95 plus shipping for a 24- to 12-volt converter (it only comes as a 12-volt model). Also, it was hard to load with ice and keep the bilge pump submerged, and the extendable handle of the cooler kept opening and snagging when trying to put it in the baggage compartment.


The $299-$429 B-Kool Portable cooler series holds 25 pounds of ice and promises over two hours of cool air. At 11x18x16 inches high, it is the smallest of the units reviewed. The unit arrived ready to go—it was simply a matter of unpacking it, putting in ice (we used a 20-pound bag) setting it in the baggage compartment, adjusting the included flexible air duct to point forward over the back of the third row of seats, adjusting the baggage net and plugging the power cord into the cigarette lighter. It was the easiest-to-use unit of the three we tested.

As with the other units, the B-Kool struck us as being well constructed. The flexible ducting that came with the unit proved simple to use—it fit firmly, while being easy to remove, something that was necessary for getting the unit in and out of the baggage compartment of the test airplane.

The bilge pump fits into a receptacle in a bottom corner of the cooler—the best of the cooler designs. The ability to latch the bilge pump to the bottom of the cooler helped assure that it remained submerged. A longer hose returns water from the exchanger to the body of the cooler. It also functions as a drain hose to pump the water out of the cooler at the end of a flight—just hold it outside of the airplane and run the cooler for about two minutes. The unit can be turned on and off with an optional remote control—handy when pumping it out, but it adds $100 to the price.

The empty weight of the B-Kool is just under 10 pounds. With 20 pounds of ice in the unit, we found it was no problem getting it into the baggage compartment. The size should allow it to fit through most baggage doors.

B-Kool recommends completely draining the unit after each use. We agree—unless it’s clean and dry, interesting things grow where they are likely to cause problems.

The unit requires at least a cup of water to be in it on startup to work properly—the least of the three units.

The instructions are concise and clear. The warranty is one year on parts and a full refund if the unit is returned in original condition within 30 days.

Crosswind Cooler

The $499 Crosswind Cooler comes only in a 12-volt model (the website directs a customer that has a 24-volt system to a $49.95 converter from Sporty’s) and is built into a rolling Igloo cooler that has a handle that folds out of one end. The 16-pound unit is 13x23x20 inches tall and draws 6.5 amps. It does not come with ducting; instead the website and instructions direct the customer to purchase ducting and gives photos of various kinds, with costs ranging from $10 to $16. As the two other coolers included the ductwork and came in 12- and 24-volt models, we graded the Crosswind Cooler down from a user-friendly and cost standpoint. For our review, we omitted the trip to the hardware store and used the duct from the B-Kool cooler.

In use, following the instructions provided with the cooler for 10 pounds of block ice, 20 pounds of cubed ice and a half-gallon of water, the unit weighs 50 pounds.

The lid of the Crosswind hinges along the narrow side and the bilge pump and hose are connected rigidly to the heat exchanger on the underside. Once the lid is raised, the bilge pump swings up from the floor of the cooler. That made it difficult to add ice and then get the bilge pump back to the bottom of the cooler.

The inability to get the bilge pump to the bottom of the cooler may explain why so much water is required initially. It took us a few tries before we could get the bilge pump submerged enough for water to go through the heat exchanger and cold air to come out. Once it did, the outflow air was 48 degrees F; the velocity was satisfactory to reach the occupants of the front seats of a Cessna 210 from the baggage compartment.

There is no pump-out arrangement for the Crosswind cooler. After our test, the process of turning the Crosswind cooler on its side and getting it out through the baggage door meant a lot of spilled water and a soaked baggage compartment carpet.

The instructions included with the Crosswind cooler are terse, but adequate. The cooler is turned off and on by inserting and removing the power plug in the aircraft lighter. The cord is in two pieces—a short piece attached to the cooler itself and a long piece to the power receptacle—that are joined by a simple connector that was easy to use. In use, we did have the cord disconnect when an occupant inadvertently pulled on the cord while moving around.

There is a 120-day warranty on parts of the Crosswind Cooler—purchase price, minus $50 restocking fee, will be refunded if it is returned within 30 days.

Arctic Air

The big dog of the portable cooler pack is Arctic Air, which makes a line of 12- and 24- volt portable coolers ranging in price from $495 to $650 depending on size (30 or 52 quarts) number of fans and whether they have ducts or louvers. The maker promises from one to four hours of cooling time, depending on size.

We reviewed the 24-volt Air Pack 52 with one fan and ducting. Everything was included in the package, including a second duct, power cord and drain line so the unit can be pumped out while in the airplane. The instructions were clear and concise.

As with the other portable coolers, the Arctic Air Pack 52 is based on a cooler, although it has an additional protective, insulating cloth jacket. There is a flap over the intake air vent on the top—it must be secured in the open position prior to operation. Comparatively, the Arctic Air Pack 52 is big: 14.5x24x17 inches high. Empty it weighed 23 pounds—we were able to put 40 pounds of ice in it, bringing in-use weight to 63 pounds. On its side, it fit through the baggage door of a Cessna 210. As the sides were smooth, maneuvering into position was easier than the smaller Crosswind Cooler.

However, once in position, and after attaching the power cord (it clips on and should not come off with an inadvertent pull), we were stunned to discover that the power cord was too short to reach from the baggage compartment to the instrument panel. That meant we had to maneuver the unit into the rear seats of the airplane—a major, unpleasant exercise.

There are two power switches on the power cord for the Air Pack 52, one for the fan and one for the pump. The instructions say that running the fan is the “low cool” position. It pulls air over the ice in the cooler and circulates it through the cabin. With the pump on, cold water is circulated through the heat exchanger, and is the effective cooling position, referred to in the instructions as “high cool.”

The Arctic Air cooler’s bilge pump is on a flexible hose—we had no trouble keeping it on the floor of the cooler as we added ice.

In use, the Air Pack 52 moved cool air through the cabin effectively—output air temperature averaged 48 degrees.

Due to the size, weight and need to position the unit in the back seat, the pump out feature proved valuable, although trying to hang on to the drain tube and then reach for the pump switch made us appreciate the B-Kool remote control.


At $299-$429 including everything, two hours of cooling and user friendly, the B-Kool series gets our vote for best of the coolers we reviewed. However, all of them were effective in use, providing a cooling flow of air through the cabin.

Going in with an appropriate level of expectations—ice does not replace installed air conditioning—we think these portable aircraft coolers are all a good way to make warm weather flying more comfortable.

Rick Durden is senior editor of Aviation Consumer and the author of The Thinking Pilot’s Flight Manual or, How to Survive Flying Little Airplanes and Have a Ball Doing It, Vols. 1 & 2.

This article originially appeared in the August 2014 issue of Aviation Consumer magazine. 

For more great content like this, subscribe to Aviation Consumer!


Walla Walla Regional Airport (KALW) tower provided instructions to an incoming flight.

"Cessna XXXXXX, incoming Alaska Q400 number two behind you.  Make your best speed."

 Response:  "Walla Walla Tower, Cessna XXXXXX is a 152 and I'm pedaling as fast as I can!"

Mark Carlile



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At least once a year, I try to take the temperature of the emerging aircraft diesel engine market. What’s selling? Who’s buying it? How are they doing with it? A recent sweep through this topic revealed that in new airplanes, not much is selling at all, diesel or otherwise. (See the most recent GAMA production and shipment figures.)

With that established, shouldn’t the diesel conversions be doing a brisk business, especially since Continental recently raised the TBR on its CD line of engines to 2100 hours? Yes, but that’s not what’s happening. Conversions remain a lukewarm, low-volume market, despite demonstrated data that they deliver about 15 percent lower operating costs against avgas engines.

When I asked people involved with the conversions why this is so, the answer I heard consistently was that avgas is cheap. It is? At the moment, the average national price of avgas in the U.S. is $4.68, more than twice the average cost of autogas. Have you noticed? Do you care?

Irrespective of why diesels aren’t gaining more ground, I’m not so sure owners and pilots care that much about gas prices, with the exception of flight schools that use a lot of it. You can answer that for yourself in this week’s poll, but the overarching question is, do you consider avgas cheap? My answer is hell no, I don’t consider it cheap. But I do consider autogas to be cheap and, in fact, it is. In inflation-adjusted current dollars, the price of regular autogas costs about what it did in 1972 and is cheaper than at any time during the 1950s or earlier. The lowest adjusted rate occurred in 1998, at $1.48.

With gas so cheap, are you driving more? Personally, I’m not, because I’m not sensitive to autogas prices. Nationally, we are driving more, by about 2 percent, according to the Federal Highway Administration, confirming what you’d expect from standard supply and demand theory.

What about flying? With avgas so “cheap,” are you flying more? Do you care? I can find good data for avgas prices going back to the early 1980s, when it cost about $1.20. Adjusted for 2016 dollars, that’s about $2.60. The current U.S. national average is $4.68, according to So as with everything else in aviation, avgas prices have far outstripped inflation. Sometimes it makes me feel so special I could just weep.

But then I realized something. For much of the last decade, avgas has been in the high $5 range and $6 wasn’t unusual. Now it’s below that and has been for a while. Perhaps a certain psychological sense of “cheap” took time to seep in. If that’s so, wouldn’t we see increasing flight activity? Yes, maybe. But such that data is available to tell this story, it’s mixed. At AirVenture in July, the number of fly-in show planes, homebuilts, vintage and warbird airplanes all increased substantially over the previous year, despite worse weather. Whether a fluke or not, the numbers were as much as 11 percent higher. Fuel prices may or may not have been a factor. That these numbers didn’t decline serves as a victory of sorts, whatever the reason.

I’d like to correlate this with increasing fuel sales, but the data is murky at best. According to the Energy Information Administration, avgas sales plummeted sharply (after an equally sharp rise) in 2013, leveled off in 2014 and showed only slight decline in 2015. But a decline doesn’t support higher activity, unless piston airplanes have suddenly become more efficient, which we know they haven’t, Cirrus lean-of-peak notwithstanding. It’s possible that fuel sales have ticked up for 2016, but I’m not holding my breath that the data will confirm this. The data itself is iffy. There appears to be consolidation or retraction going on in the avgas refining business and for reasons related to proprietary considerations, avgas data is being withheld.

One anecdotal story: When I was interviewing sources for this, one owner told me he had flown his Cessna to AirVenture and back with a side trip out west. When I observed that the gas bill must have been substantial, he said something interesting. “You know, I really don’t want to know what the gas cost. I’m at a point in my life where I just wanted to make the trip, so I did.”

Because I’m an inveterate, dues-paying POW of the general aviation industry, I’m just self-delusional enough to weave that observation into a trend: pent-up demand! But seriously, if one guy feels that, others might too and it could account for increased flight activity. If the EIA gets it data collection together, we’ll know more.

Ample crude oil and refined product in the autogas markets appear to be tamping down prices and that’s likely to remain the trend for a while. Avgas has its own pricing psychology, but it’s sometimes linked—with an add-on margin—to the price of premium autogas. Its price is not strongly linked to the cost of production and thus crude oil prices.

Unknown is how the downward tend in fuel prices, however modest it has proven to be, will sustain itself when the replacement for 100LL surfaces two years from now. I was once confident that a market-competitive replacement would just naturally emerge because there’s money to be made in selling 250 million gallons of fuel a year. But with possible erosion underway in the avgas refinery business, I’m less confident of that now. It doesn’t help that the FAA’s cumbersome PAFI process is utterly opaque to progress. That may be the break diesel needs to become more attractive because one thing is certain: The world is swimming in Jet A.

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