AVmail: October 24, 2011


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Letter of the Week: Single-Engine Jets Viable

Regarding the blog about the future of Piper’s jet: Single-engine jets? Heaven forbid! Why, for that much money, you can have a –

Pilatus seems to be having no trouble making money selling lots of single-engine turboprops (the heart of a jet, with the liability of a propeller) with cabins bigger than King Airs.

In my worthless opinion, it’s all about cabin comfort and access to the technology at a price that the potential buyer can afford. In an age in which people (albeit fewer than in the industry’s heyday) are willing to pony up three quarters of a million dollars for an unpressurized high performance single, there’s a real market out there for a low-seven-figure “personal” aircraft that is pressurized, can fly above much of the worst weather, has enough speed and range to cover half of the country in one hop and is comfortable.

I’ve sat in the left seat (and the other seats) of just about every VLJ that’s made it to (or past) the stage of a mock-up. This includes the Mustang and the Eclipse. Based on what I’ve seen in person, the only company out there that “gets it” is Cirrus, with their Vision jet. For about three times the price of a very nice SR-22, they are intent on providing access to a level of capability that otherwise requires you to have the wherewithal to enter the Five Million Dollar Club. (Apologies to the folks at Eclipse, whose fine little ship is suitable principally for pygmies.)

Multi-engine safety is a 1950s concept that was borne of frequent engine failures. This single-versus-twin-jet argument is a redux of the ETOPS battle that ensued when Boeing had the temerity to propose ocean-hopping twins in the mid-1970s. As Shakespeare said, “much ado about nothing.” The same risk-management strategy that allows any of us to take to the air in a single-engine anything, does not lose its rationality when the power plant is a turbine. If anything, the strategy is more defensible with a jet power plant, with its demonstrated record of reliability.

As for single-engine jets wandering around in the flight levels, the safety record of the F-16 vs. that of the F-15 makes it hard to justify the FAA’s skepticism. The FAA has come light years since the 1970s but is the home of some people who told me with a straight face that an HSI with hundreds of moving parts just had to be more reliable than a TV monitor. We all know how that worked out.

I’ve been a design engineer since the mid-1970s. When your product is dependent upon some unreliable component, you can:

  1. Accept downtime (“failures”).
  2. Sometimes provide redundancy (with its attendant costs and complexities).
  3. Improve the reliability of your critical component(s) to the point that they no longer are a source of worry.

Arguably, jet engines are the most reliable component of a jet aircraft (the avionics companies would do most of the arguing). They’re also unarguably the most expensive component. Single-engine jets are defensible, rational, and cost-efficient. (Ask the USAF.) This is a market niche that is just begging to be filled if the product is compelling. So far, Cirrus is the only product that looks like a winner.

Tom Yarsley

Light Attack Aircraft Too Light

Regarding the story about Congress blocking deployment of light attack aircraft in Afghanistan: Even a Congressman can see that these aircraft are 10 pounds stuffed into a five-pound bag. To do this job, a 7,500 horsepower aircraft is required, not a 1,500 horsepower aircraft. There’s no point wasting money and lives on these two featherweights that have no hope of success.

H. Stiles

Where Are the Skid Marks?

If the brakes were on in the Yak 42 crash in Russia, then there should have been tire(s) blown out somewhere down on the roll or marks on the runway indicating such.

So far, there has been cover up only.

It is possible that the weight and balance was incorrect or the CG was set incorrectly, resulting in the abnormal rise of the nose near rotation speed, leading to the stall.

Mohammad Syed Husain

Pay Up, LightSquared

Why is LightSquared paying federal agencies $50 million to replace affected government GPS units and not doing the same for civilian GPS units?

The hypocrisy of the LightSquared issue is reaching new heights. The FCC issues a license without regard for the frequency spectrum it is stated to protect. Then, when the economics of the issue become such that the FCC cannot withdraw its approval after finding out after the fact it made a mistake, it tries to kick the can down the road until a compromise can be reached.

Now I read all government agencies are getting $50 Million to replace effected units.

Where is the compensation or replacement of civilian units to correct the problem?

Looks like the American people are getting shafted by the FCC, LightSquared, and the politicians again.

Benjamin S. Armen

If and when that $6 filter becomes available, be prepared for a half-zillion dollar cost to have it installed. And that will be three or so years after it has been submitted to FAA/FTC for approval. Your GPS may have to go back to the factory for installation, it may require an STC, [and] it will certainly require an extensive/expensive utilization of an A&P/IA.

Don’t hold your breath, and cut back on $100 hamburgers to build up the kitty for this wonderful new invention. You may have it paid for by the time you have to upgrade to ADB-S.

Dick Carden

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