AVmail: January 17, 2010


Each week, we run a sampling of the letters received to our editorial inbox here in AVmail. One letter that’s particularly relevant, informative, or otherwise compelling will headline this section as our "Letter of the Week," and we’ll send the author an official AVweb baseball cap as a "thank you" for interacting with us (and the rest of our readership). Send us your comments and questions using this form. Please include your mailing address in your e-mail (just in case your letter is our "Letter of the Week"); by the same token, please let us know if your message is not intended for publication.

Letter of the Week: Mandatory Shoulder Restraints

Regarding mandatory shoulder harnesses: I crashed and would not have gotten a scratch if shoulder harnesses had been installed in the plane. My injuries were minor, but I decided that I would install shoulder harnesses in all my planes.

The first attempt was in an Ercoupe; the second was in a Taylorcraft. The FAA’s G-load requirement for shoulder harness installation made it impossible. At the time when I was wrestling with this, the FAA came out with a "re-interpretation" of the rule – citing the lives saved by the guys in Alaska who had installed shoulder harnesses in older planes – that, while they didn’t meet the current requirements, provided a large measure of safety with little cost, no degradation to the plane, and, most importantly, that stated that "something is better than nothing."

I installed harnesses in both planes, made a logbook entry, and called it a minor change.

I think that shoulder harnesses would be a major improvement in any airplane, but retrofitting the old planes could be prohibitively costly if the requirement for them included a requirement to meet installation requirements used for planes that are coming off the assembly line today.

Louis Champeau

Almost 20 years ago, a friend of mine borrowed shoulder restraints, installed them in his T-Craft, belted a video camera in the right seat with the camera part in the overhead, and made a home video. He did loops and stalls and spins, and on the seventh rotation of a spin he pulled up, and you could only see trees. The next image was a broken windscreen bobbling in front of the camera. He walked away. Shoulder restraints really work, and only education will put them into use, not a law requiting them.

Brian Nolan

As a pilot, retired Naval Aircrew, and mechanic, I approve of having shoulder harness installed in aircraft. But, as in all things, there is a problem: getting the FAA approval for installation in aircraft that never had shoulder harnesses installed. On some of the older aircraft, this will be quite a problem.

A more realistic approach would be having aircraft built with shoulder harnesses (Cessna 100 series comes to mind), have the OEM shoulder harness and seatbelt assembly replaced with something that can be used without coming apart in flight.

Jeff Pelton

Yes to shoulder harnesses, but we should push for more [a] streamlined STC/field approval process to get them. There would already be a lot more, especially in non-Cessna, Non-Piper (i.e., odd, or orphaned) aircraft if it weren’t so difficult to get permission.

Bill Archibald

Meters, Not Feet

Regarding the 727 crash in Iran: The visibility as reported was 800 meters, not 800 feet.

800 meters is roughly a half mile of visibility, suitable for a Cat 1 approach.

ORM was reporting a 6,000-foot overcast at the time with snow, but there was no mention of heavy snow.

Whatever the contributing factors of the crash, it doesn’t appear at first glance that weather was a major factor.

Weather reported about the time of the accident (16:15 UTC/19:45 local) was:

OITR 091600Z 26004KT 0800 SN SCT015 SCT020 OVC060 00/00 Q1016=[16:00 UTC: Wind 260 degrees at 4 knots;Visibility 800 m in snow;scattered clouds 1,500 ft; scattered clouds 2,000 ft.;overcast 6,000 ft.;Temperature 0C;Dew point 0C;1016 hPa]

Mike Ward

Having Your Plane and Flying It Too

As a former pilot for a state government, I can imagine some of the "hidden" features of an offer by the governor of Florida, based upon what occurred when our former governor of pulled the same stunt.

First, it made good political spin because the citizens imagined taxpayers would no longer have to support such a "luxury" [as] providing jet airplanes for politicians.

But the reality is the state took a huge loss on the sale at a time of economic downtime. But here’s the rest of the story: The pilots formerly on the governor’s personal payroll came onto the state payroll – with benefits, of course. And the maintenance of the governor’s personal airplane became the responsibility of the state.

What appears to be a common sense approach and gift of personal assets by the governor is actually a method of handing taxpayer money to brokerage friends and billing the taxpayers for personal airplane expenses, foisting personal employee salary/benefits onto the public, and then getting the public to refurbish a personal airplane the politician then takes back!

What a deal!

George Horn

E6B’s Future

I enjoyed reading "Ditch the E6B." Ditch the E6B and I would like to add that doing away with all the codes used in weather reports would increase the number of pilots wanting to learn to fly. Those codes were designed when teletype use was billed by the character. With the internet [and] using plain language upper- and lowercase print, clarity will increase, and it will be easier to interpret the weather that might be encountered during a flight.

There is no real reason to continue to use all those codes today. It’s a throwback for all the old-timers who don’t want to give up their traditions and old habits.

Charlie White

Fortunately for the pilot community and perhaps the flying public, Robert Detloff has quit flight training due to his uneasiness with using a standard E6B flight computer. He seems unwilling to learn how to fly without the basics – you know, a GPS, glass panel, and maybe a BRS ‘chute. With a Masters in Education, you’d think he’d have an easier time than most in learning to use the device.

I don’t know about you, but I find my E6B to be a quick, easy, one-handed way to perform flight-specific calculations. Just yesterday, as I turned the wheel on my trusty E6B while flying down Chicago’s lakefront, I found myself marveling at what a clever device it is and how it’s stood the test of time.

I don’t know. Maybe, at 51, I’m an old-timer.

Mike Fisher

Good, Fun Videos

Just watched the canopy covers video. Not only was it informative, but [it] was created with light humor in mind. Nicely done.

The final touch, the stall warning at the end of the video, drew a chuckle from me.

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