AVmail: Jan. 2, 2006

Reader mail this week about hunters shooting airplanes, prop noise, burning brakes and more.


Hunters Threatening Parachute Pilots

I just read about hunters threatening parachute/ultralight pilots with a gun at Smartt Field in St Louis, Mo. (NewsWire, Dec. 26). If this were an airline passenger plane, the [person] with the gun would probably be spending the rest of his life behind bars, or possibly shot himself by the Sky Marshals. I’m tired of general aviation having to put up with all the crap that has been thrust upon us — just bend over and take more. Why in the world has that “hunter” not been hunted down by the FBI or Homeland Security and placed in jail where he belongs — and made an example of — as a “real” threat to aviation. Instead they hassle 75-year-old grandmothers in wheelchairs who have to take their “deadly” shoes off at Lambert Terminal, a few miles away, who are scared to death of their first flight on an Airplane!Airport personnel from Smartt Field shouldn’t deal with these threats and try to talk the “idiots” about this. This is truly a job for the feds. Now, why don’t they get off their behinds and do something about this real, guns and bullets threat!I would like to see a follow-up on this story and “real justice,” not whitewash b.s.Gary Ward

Airplane Noise

For years, helicopters and airplanes have gotten little sympathy from most people, including myself, due to the high noise level generated by the rotors and propellers during high-power operations.As a person who has flown and worked around helicopters for almost 50 years, I put up with their high noise levels by saying it was inherent in the rotor designs. Just like the airplane manufacturers give short shrift to their high noise levels, which creates a major problem of public acceptance.Almost 40 years ago while I still worked for Hughes Helicopters in Engineering Flight Test, a couple of new tail-rotor designs were tested that made the tail-rotor noise virtually unnoticeable above 300 feet. While those rotors were, at that time, developed under a military “black program,” since then other helicopter manufacturers — especially Aerospatiale/Eurocopter — have made great strides in reducing tail-rotor noise levels. Some of the newer helicopters have now reduced their noise levels to the point where most towns/municipalities do not legislate these “quiet helicopters” out of operating within their airspace.The point behind this letter is to point out that helicopter manufacturers have had the engineering expertise to design and certify lower noise-level rotor systems. Airplane manufacturers do not have engineering staff for propeller design. They rely on propeller manufacturers to come up with a design that produces adequate thrust for their airplane. If the propeller meets the noise levels required by the FARs, then propeller manufacturers push airplane makers to convince them they have a winning certification combination. Most airplane companies cannot try another propeller design to lower noise, as there are only two major companies making props. It’s time for airplane companies to get away from depending on another company to design and certify the highest noise-generating part of their airplanes.If each airplane manufacturer were to make a major effort to reduce noise levels, small aircraft would get significantly better acceptance by the general public. Airplane companies should hire propeller engineers and take the design responsibility away from the propeller producers so airplanes can start to benefit from significantly lower propeller noise levels. I have always wondered why the one area that contributes to such a negative perception of airplanes is out of control of the airplane designers.The first thing the naysayer’s are going to say is, “We can’t afford the power loss inherent in making any propeller changes.” That’s the exact same thing helicopter manufacturers said years ago, until the marketplace restricted the places helicopters could fly. When rotor designs were finally tested that yielded adequate, in some cases improved thrust, coupled with lower noise levels, the market for helicopters went up significantly.The same major effort is needed on the part of airplane manufacturers to force a lowering of propeller noise levels.Propeller manufacturers do not have an inherent interest in noise-level reduction, which is needed to make enough difference for the airplane to become a friendly neighbor in the same way helicopters have.Also, propeller manufacturers do not have low noise levels as a major engineering focus. Propeller manufacturers primarily want to use the same propeller design on as many different airplanes as possible.Jim Alexander

Cirrus Brakes

I thought it interesting that Cirrus is blaming “operator error” as the cause of a rash of brake fires (NewsWire, Dec. 26). I own a fleet of Diamond DA20 aircraft (also with free-castering nosewheels) that are used for primary flight training. You want to talk about brakes being abused … and never one fire.It sounds like Cirrus might be trying to pass the buck on this one.Chris Strahan

It did not take me long to determine I feel [Cirrus is] quite wrong in their assumption that this is a pilot-induced problem. Myself having been maintaining small aircraft for over 40 years and owning a busy maintenance shop for over 25 years, I feel quite qualified to discuss brake issues. I think I have seen most situations of overheated, abused brakes and have never seen them catch on fire (except for transport aircraft). I have seen the brakes in my own aircraft glowing red at times and yet never seen them leak and catch fire. Beech Baron brakes are notorious for leaking at the seals and yet they do not catch fire.For many years we sold Grumman aircraft and there were hundreds of people transition with us that had never used a swivel nosewheel; yet brake problems were at a minimum, other than replacing linings often. I think Cirrus is misguided in their assumptions that pilots are overusing the brakes. In aircraft with no direct nosewheel steering, there is little alternative. I am even more troubled by their fix of using a high-temperature warning system. Do they really think that if this light illuminates while rolling out that we will stop using the brakes — the only means to keep directional control? Sometimes I believe design folks sometimes need to consult more with those of us that live airplanes every day before they design their “on-paper fixes.”Pete Conner

Jeppesen Skybound/Garmin AT Datacard Update Snafu

I wanted to make AVweb aware of a situation that I discovered this morning when trying to update my Garmin AT GX50 GPS datacard via their Skybound service (updates via the Internet).The error, “Requested service is larger than card capacity (2097152, 2104320 required). Cannot program desired service,” was received when I tried to program the card.Upon calling Garmin customer service, their phone message states that they are aware of the problem, that it is due to the use of a 2-Megabyte data card and that upgrade to a 4-MB datacard is required. They give a number to “Returns” at Jeppesen to call to have the datacard returned and receive a 4-MB card.Sounds good? Well upon calling “Returns” they took my information, said they’d ship it overnight but the kicker is that they don’t have any; they’re waiting for them and have no idea when they’ll come. This is exacerbated by low staffing at Jeppesen for the holidays (so I was told).I called back tech support and was told that “hundreds” of people are affected and there is no alternate solution since the larger datacards must be purchased from Garmin AT. I have not been able to call Garmin AT to inquire from them yet.What’s most frustrating is that the card update was dated December 22, but was released 10 days earlier, so Jeppesen has theoretically known about this problem since December 12 but made no attempt to contact the service subscribers and inform us about the need to upgrade cards. Of course because of holiday and family duties, I was not able to get to the card update until today, December 27, and I got the impression from the Jep Tech rep that they were fielding many similar calls. It seems like they should be required to inform their customers similar to the way other manufacturers issue Service Bulletins, but I don’t know the FAA requirements.The problem is that I use my GPS for IFR flying and cannot legally fly with the GPS under IFR unless the database is up to date. I cannot update the database because my card won’t program. I was never informed that I would be required to upgrade my card, nor was that a condition I was aware was part of the service. Apparently, Jeppesen believed that very few Garmin AT users had 2-MB datacards, but that assumption appears to have been grossly incorrect (according to the tech rep I talked to).So I’m stuck and have no solution. I’m hoping you can make the readership aware and perhaps look into the problem?Stephen Thomas

AVweb Replies:

We called Jeppessen on this and they said this did happen but they now have the backordered 4 Mb cards and all orders should be filled by the time you read this.

Mary Grady

GPS Tricks A 14,000-Hour Pilot

I thought this safety brief from Transport Canada was really interesting. What happens when you’re flying along the Mercator line and you punch West instead of East into your GPS waypoint by accident and keep flying along?Eric Ulmer

A Stupid Decision

Your decision to publish the article about the Oregon police and their use of fueling records to catch criminals (NewsWire, Dec. 29) is one of the stupidest things that you have done. You have published data that should be considered classified. Therefore, you are aiding and abetting the enemy!Lowell Brigham

AVweb Replies:

Unfortunately, we don’t have access to any “classified” law-enforcement information. The Associated Press had already reported this story, based on information provided by the county sheriff, so there were plenty of places on the Internet besides AVweb to hear about this.

We suspect the drug smugglers have a pretty good network on finding these things out anyway (without AVweb’s help). And perhaps they’ll think twice next time, knowing their chances of getting caught have gone up.

Kevin Lane-Cummings
Features Editor

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