AVmail: February 10, 2003

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Reader mail this week about the Shuttle Columbia and oil temperature issues.

Shuttle Columbia And Crew Lost

Perhaps the loss of Columbia is most startling because of the years of uneventful Shuttle flights since Challenger; over 80 of them, resulting in a "ho-hum" public attitude toward the program. The stark reality is that nothing is without risk, and all of the fine people on board and on the ground knew that. But they also knew that even if their lives were shortened, they would have lived more satisfying and meaningful lives than ten of most people.

The media reaction has been not only to reflect the tragedy of the loss, but to exploit it to sell, for a short time, a news product different from looming war. In doing so, they have raised issues in the form of indicting questions and commentary, much of which is weak in substance.

"Should manned space flight continue?" Absolutely! "Exploration" by machines excludes man's intuition and adaptability, no matter how sophisticated the machine.

"NASA warned of risk of losing tiles!" A trite reiteration of the obvious that is more inflammatory than revelatory. It ranks with "Captain Smith warned that hole in hull could sink Titanic" for silliness.

Perhaps the best item in today's AVweb is the article by Astronaut Jay Apt, which realistically addresses Columbia's history and the background of the thermal tiles on that unique spacecraft. While its technical content is within the ability of many news anchors to cmprehend, I doubt that it's within their ability to justify as "newsworthy." It's not dramatic enough for their field of entertainment.

Dave Shaw

Oil Temperature Control Systems

Your oil maintenance article was very thorough and informative, but it missed one small point.

The Lycoming engine on our Warrior has a plate that covers the back of the oil cooler. For external temperatures below 50 F, the plate should be in place to block the cooling air flow. When the temperatures get above 50 F, the plate should be removed. If not, the oil temperatures can go up to red line.

Renters or folks not familiar with having to change the plate may not be aware that it is there. By the same token, if the plate is not installed in colder weather, the oil temperature will not get hot enough to evaporate the moisture inside the engine.

Jerry Malin

AVweb responds ...

We always appreciate when AVweb readers send more information that helps other readers. Thanks for adding to the discussion!

Kevin Lane-Cummings
Features Editor