Top Letters And Comments, July 14, 2023


Pattern Wars: Part Deux

Great article, Paul. You’ve hit the nail on the head with NORDOs and common-sense safety. If someone can splurge on an iPad for navigation, it’s safe to assume they can also afford a transceiver for communication.

Now, on straight-ins—they’re not going away anytime soon. It’s important then, for everyone, especially at non-towered airports with IAPs to anticipate straight-in approaches as inbound IFR, or practice IFR traffic, slow or fast movers, usually with a higher workload, might not be able to transition in time with the VFR traffic the pattern. Protect yourself at all times!

Thanks for shedding light on these important points, Paul!

Raf S.

Though I generally agree with Paul’s take on this, there is no longer any valid case to be made for NORDO, even in the case of a panel radio failure. With portable aviation radios costing less than the price of a single tank of fuel, if you can afford to fly, you can afford to have — and use — a radio to fly more safely.

I fly a HondaJet now but when I was doing my instrument training 25 years ago in a 172, my instructor switched off the radio, turned to me and asked: “Now what?” I replied that it would never happen again because I was going to call Sporty’s Pilot shop as soon as I got home and order a portable Nav/Com. Then, during my check ride, the examiner asked about Lost Com procedures. I reached into my flight bag and pulled out my radio. He then asked what I’d do if the batteries were dead and I reached into my bag for the back-up battery pack. He wasn’t amused and still wanted me to recite the appropriate FAR language but having a radio is still far safer than not.

I had 3 close calls around non-towered airports early in my flying and every one of them was both NORDO and failing to use proper pattern procedures. It’s unsafe and inexcusable.

Philip R.

Second closest call for a midair was an aircraft doing a straight in talking on the old frequency, the one that had changed 3 years ago. I was a new Private Pilot and was on base looking at the runway trying to time the turn to final with the strong cross wind when a Piper Arrow flew right in front of me less than 100 feet away. After that, I always do a check for unannounced straight in traffic on base and beat that habit into my students.

One thing that Paul alluded to but did not mention was courtesy on the ground. Sadly, I see too many instances of airplanes blocking taxiways for long runups and actioning their 89-item pre takeoff checklist, oblivious to the aircraft around them or otherwise unnecessarily inconveniencing others.

Finally, if I am joining the pattern on the downwind, I always look at the runway holding point. If it is busy and there is a long line of airplanes waiting to go, I will make the call that I am extending my downwind to allow for aircraft to depart.

A little bit of courtesy and consideration goes a long way to make uncontrolled aerodrome operations work smoothly.

David G.

As far as NORDO planes are concerned, some older aircraft do not have shielded ignitions. This makes handheld use problematic, as the ignition noise is like strapping two popcorn poppers to one’s ears. So it’s not just a matter of a $200 handheld; there’s $4000-$5000 worth of new magnetos and harnesses, too.

Chump change in the Bonanza world, but far more critical for airplanes worth $10,000 (like mine is). Guess mine is probably worth more now, since I was forced to install a transponder and ADS-B Out in order to keep the plane based under the Sea-Tac Class B veil. Fortunately, my mags are already shielded.

Ron W.

Short Final: Mistaken Identity

Back in the early 70s, I was flying a U-10 (Helio Courier STOL) for the Utah Army National Guard. One night I was approaching SLC on about a 15-mile final and decided to play around a little bit with a big head wind. I slowed the plane down and then “hung it on the prop” which resulted in a ground track where it looked like I had reversed course to approach control. The controller asked me my heading and I advised him it remained the same 160. He then asked me what kind of aircraft I was flying. I replied it is a Helio Courier. He said never heard of that kind of helicopter to which I said it’s an airplane. I told him to trade with a local controller and go to the tower. I over flew the runway at about 200 feet until I was adjacent to the tower and the zeroed my forward motion and slowly made a vertical descent to the runway. Sometimes big winds can be fun!

Rick S.

I fly a BL-26 aka a Bellanca Viking. I was approaching PHL (Philly International) for landing from the northwest when I was cleared to land on Taxiway Alpha. When I queried, “Confirm that you want me to land on taxiway Alpha?” (could have easily done it), I was cleared to land on Rwy 26 with an apology, “sorry we thought you were a helicopter.”

C. Michael H.

Poll: Does General Aviation Have A Role In Addressing Climate Change?

  • We’re not the long pole in the tent (we’ll get the best bang for the buck reducing emissions from shipping, power generation and (yes) air carrier operations. But there are enough small niche users (like GA), that we’ll have to deal with it eventually.
  • All persons, corporations and governments have a role.
  • The climate is always changing, one of many powerful forces affecting the planet. Human activity is less than a blink of an eye on the timeline of earth history. Breaking news: the earth will end one day and there’s nothing we silly humans can do about it. That said, the environment is important. Carbon based life forms all need clean air and water. I believe biggest current concern is plastic pollution.
  • Yes, we need to play our part, but… we are such a small part of the problem that we won’t be able to solve it by ourselves, nor should we be asked to. Incremental improvements, without destroying our GA industry and culture ought, to be appropriate.
  • Although climate change is a reality we have to cope with, general aviation emissions are too small.
  • Given the lack of a green/renewable alternative to aviation gasoline and the expense and performance limitations of electric airplanes, I’m afraid that our only role will be to scrap the majority of our fleet and stay on the ground.
  • No, just no. You don’t need to add any political rhetoric to the answer. We’re too small.
  • Climate change is not a hoax, but not a crisis either. Technology evolution at the markets pace will alleviate trends over time.
  • Yes, indeed GA does have a role. First of all, 100UL… then other SAF fuel-compatible engines.
  • Efficient engines, YES. Biofuel, YES. Hybrids, maybe. Battery powered: look into it, but that’s a decades long path.
  • As much as shipping worthless products worldwide or your school child not riding the bus to and from school…
  • Important to distinguish between piston GA and jet GA. Most GA contribution comes from Jets. Batteries will never get that done. We need sustainable avfuels.
  • Yes, indeed GA does have a role. First of all, 100UL… then other SAF fuel-compatible engines.
  • Climate change has always existed. It’s man arrogance and grasp for power that has used as a tool to manipulate people and create fear.
  • Everyone has a potential role in addressing climate change.
  • In order for GA to address climate change, there first needs to be an understanding of how the FAA and many other government agencies have been knowingly or unknowingly destroying GA’s ability to innovate and grow.
  • We all have a responsibility to do our part, but I question how much of a difference it would make if we all just stopped flying our light planes completely. China, India and the under-developed world now account for 2/3 of all carbon emissions and rising. Maybe we should direct our efforts to where they will have the greatest impact.
  • Yes! The industry (all players, private pilots included) should be moving faster to unleaded 100 fuel, contribute to carbon offset programs, etc.
  • Just no. Too many unknowns.
  • Absolutely. We all do.
  • Lycoming and Continental need to get into the latest century and design a fuel efficient engine.
  • It’s not even close. Energy production is the biggest polluter globally. Let’s fix that before we tackle the putt putts.
  • GA impact is negligible, but will need to be perceived as participating.
  • Bizjets sure. Piston singles: nah.
  • Climate will continue to change regardless of what humans do with carbon emissions.
  • Yes. A good start would be to recognize it is real.
  • The earth is warming up but not necessarily caused by man it has been doing so for eons.
  • Everyone has, or should have, a role.
  • We can move entirely to electric aircraft over the next 20 years – and we have to if we value the lives of our children.
  • Just get lead out of piston fuel.
  • Climate change has been going on for 4.5 billion years, long before man and aircraft.
  • Yes. Accelerate progress toward sustainable fuels, both jet and avgas. Emphasize efficient fossil-fuel energy management by GA pilots.
  • Every industry, individual, activity must do the upmost to contribute to lowering their CO2 emissions.
  • Anthropogenic climate change is insignificant compared to geologic climate change. It is, however a great way to transfer wealth from developed nations to un-developed places all the while controlling the populace to accept a control and socialist agenda.
  • The answer is yes. The development of new propulsions systems always starts off small and the application of it occurs in smaller aircraft first. That is where GA will fit into the picture.
  • Yes. We need to get off fossil fuel, both avgas and jet. Deisel cycle engines, like the RED A5, can serve for light planes while burning sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) which also works in turbines. This will be a lengthy transition which we must start NOW. The unleaded avgas initiative is also an immediate necessity but it will only supply fuel for an interim period as we dump fossil a gas.
  • Carbon, lead, what our airliners are doing to the stratosphere, not to mention the impending supersonic proposals that will really do harm to the ionosphere.
  • Just like airlines there are options in the pipeline like hybrid engines that are lighter and much more efficient than current engines that should be given priority (tax priority at least). These engines weigh much less and burn much less than current engines. AC Aero is an example… but let’s get the ball rolling.
  • Mass distribution of 100UL.
  • Yes, but the industry’s importance and its comparatively minimal impact call for a measured, cautious approach toward lowering CO2 emissions. The 2050 timeframe seems realistic and should not be “rushed” in ways that would be detrimental to safety and ease of use.
  • Solar fluctuation causes climate change. Humans cannot stop it. We can only adapt to it.
  • All pilots should be aware of the problem and act accordingly.
  • We need to place our investment and research in things that actually work (SAF now, Hydrogen soon), not electric pipe dreams.
  • Net zero fuels now.
  • Plant more trees and quit clear cutting to build solar panels. That was the Earth Day solution 50 years ago!
  • Climate change is happening but it is mostly due to natural events over which humans have negligible control.
  • Yes. Yes. Unequivocal YES.
  • The climate has been changing for roughly 4.4 billion years. Isn’t if a bit arrogant to think that it’s the fault of man? It was pretty warm during the age of the dinosaurs and I don’t recall seeing any light aircraft or SUV fossils in the geologic record. Sheesh – get a grip.
  • Zero point energy is what the world needs. we need to stop depending on coal and the big gas companies. And move toward zero point energy. Skunk works has the stuff to do it.
  • Climate change might not be real but greater efficiency is always good.
  • Reducing/eliminating leaded fuels.
  • Absolutely, YES!
  • Of course we have a “role” and we know what that it: Reduce global warming gases as much as practical.
  • No. Energy density in liquid hydrocarbon fuel means it is here to stay. No 100LL or similar, means, no effective flying.
  • The decrease in carbon emissions must be the concern of us all, but we must not forget that GA has in the totally emissions of that kind has a very, very small contribution.
  • A movement towards alternative fuels, electric/hybrid hydrogen systems and overhaul of the air transport industry are all needed into the future.
  • Climate is always changing, GA has nothing to do with it.
  • YES. Aviation is destroying the planet.
  • You forgot to include the “earth is flat” option just below “hoax.”

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  1. I can’t imagine flying without a radio. IMO anyone who does so in a busy area like Winterhaven has little consideration for their own life much less anyone else. I fly a small single seat open gyro with just enough panel space for my instruments, yet I still have a radio. I found a spot to mount a handheld with an external antenna and headset adapter that also gives me remote PTT on my stick. The whole setup was around $350 and I communicate just as well as the big guys. Small price to pay for the safety factor.

  2. Yes, climate has been changing for billions of years and it has been hotter in the past. Sometimes too hot for humans. The big difference is that it changed slowly over millennia or millions of years. We have been arrogant enough to make changes like that in decades instead. Slower changes allow organisms time to adapt if they can. (Some can’t). The worrying possibility is that we are close to a tipping point where it is a self perpetuating process. (Runaway warming). It will eventually correct itself, but could take millions of years. Can your grandchildren wait that long? While we need to do what we can putting bandaids on the problem in the short term, nobody seems to have a solution to the underlying problem, over population. Except the Chinese with the one child policy, which was very unpopular and couldn’t be done in a democracy. Of course, with a new regime and economic considerations, they have reversed this.

  3. Until someone, anyone can tell me what the optimal climate for the planet is, we cannot know what to do about it. We won’t know, factually, whether we’re making it better or worse…or if anything we do will ultimately matter at all..