AVmail: Apr. 18, 2005

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Reader mail this week about ''new'' parachutes for airplanes, medical certification, ab-initio training in a high-tech plane and much more.

Nothing New Under the Parachute

I must smile as I hear folks call these Ballistic Recovery Systems "something new" and "in genius." Back in the 50s there was a TV show titled "You Asked For it" sponsored by Skippy Peanut Butter. The premise was that viewers would send in requests to see, on the show, some of the odd things that people could do or something that was truly unique. There was one show where a Cessna -- the model escapes me -- that had explosive bolts holding the wings/struts in place. At altitude the pilot detonated the bolts and popped a 'chute. The aircraft settled safely on the ground. All viewed on my little black & white screen. So, what is new?

Bill Besarick

Medical Certificate vs. Driver's License

The current medical certification process presents little problem to the young, the fortunate, and those who "don't tell the FAA anything they don't need to know."

Mr. Jones (AVmail, Apr. 11) apparently did not read the AOPA petition that showed glider and balloon pilots -- who do not require FAA medical certification -- do not have a higher rate of medical problems causing accidents than private pilots.

For small-plane pilots there is an alternative to the current hopelessly overloaded and dysfunctional system. That alternative is the DOT "medical card" required for truck drivers. The DOT standards for drivers hauling explosives, fuel trucks, and other hazardous vehicles are quite sufficient for small airplane pilots. The DOT system is administered by local physicians. The requirement to keep the nation's goods moving keeps it operating properly.

If a more rational system is not adopted, it may be the result of an agenda to keep pilots from clogging the air except for those in the airline food chain.

Chuck Forsberg

AFSS Privatization

This uproar over the A-76 proposal leading to the imminent privatization of the AFSS seems a bit humorous (AVmail, Apr. 11). The FSS specialists are getting quite a nice bonus package compared to what they and others will get from Lockheed-Martin when L-M decides to default or lay off excess personnel. In spite of all the government rhetoric of their system being a performance-based organization, this may become the first PBO in ATC. More likely, a good-old-boy group will continue to flounder and the previous AFSS supervisors and union reps will become contract monitors and add their levels of bureaucracy.

There will never be "equal or better" service. The automation of FSS took the then 315+ FSSs and put most of them in concrete blockhouses with no windows and had specialists (with no experience of the prevailing wx conditions 200 miles distant) give pilots government standard reports and predictions of conditions that do not exist. Just this past weekend I monitored the AWOS giving clear and 10 miles while the sky had at lease 50% cloud cover. That reminded me of the highway condition signs that indicate "changeable weather ahead, carry chains" in July with no clouds for the past month.

Oh well ... expect only less service with accompanying greater costs to the individual pilots and the taxpayer. Previous FAA and other gov't privatizations have been a boon for the vendors. They will not have to pay off big insurance claims and lawsuits, as the FAA (taxpayers) will pay the bills. L-M will likely get extensions and cost overrides to increase the costs beyond the present debacle. When have you ever seen such a major contract that didn't do that in spite of all the claims by both sides and the contract itself? Sell your airplanes and get a job as a contract administrator, or buy stock in L-M. Written as a 35-year government retiree with over 20 years in the FAA.

Fred Twigge

U.S.A. = S-92?

Ryan Lunde thinks the S-92 is all-American (AVmail, Apr. 11)? Sikorsky promised the President's birds would be built in U.S.A., but ... check this out (from the Global Security Web site):

"... the S-92 represents an attempt by Sikorsky to provide an evolution to the S-70 series that more effectively competes with European EH-101 and NH-90 advanced technology transport helicopters. To assist its marketing, Sikorsky has enlisted five development partners including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (7.5%), Gamesa (7%), Taiwan Aerospace (6.5%), Embraer (4%) and China’s Jingdezhen Helicopter Group (2%). Including Jingdezhen is clearly an attempt to break into the China market. The latter will build the tail pylon and tailplane."

Michael Muetzel

High Tech Trainers & Glass Cockpits

In his own words, Cirrus CEO Alan Klapmeier says that a new student learning to fly in a Cirrus will probably need 50 hours to solo (NewsWire, Apr. 13). Fifty. I doubt any student will want to pay for 50 hours of dual in what's bound to be a very expensive airplane to rent, before he can take it around the patch by himself. Sure, the student could fill the dual requirements for the private pilot license in that time. Considering that the average student nowadays is soloing at around 20 hours, I'd say it'd be cheaper to learn with traditional aircraft, then transition.

If a new owner of a Cirrus pays $10,000 for insurance, assuming an experienced pilot, can you imagine what a student pilot would have to pay, either as an owner or for renter's insurance, provided he could get it?

John Thompson

The piece about training in the aircraft you will fly is interesting.

My son (18 yrs old) has his private and approx. 80 hours. I have a Comanche and would like him to learn to fly it. The insurance company insists on 100 hrs prior to any instruction in the aircraft. I spoke with them about how it makes more sense for him to get the 20 hours in the Comanche dual-only with a qualified instructor so by the time he reaches the 100 mark and is permitted to solo, he would have enough training for the complex and high performance endorsement.

The enlightened insurance company was insistent that no training take place in the Comanche until he logs the 100 hours. It's better to get 20 hours in a small trainer and transition to the Comanche than get the 20 hours dual, then solo.

So much for the article. I think the author is correct with his assumptions, but the insurance people (non pilots) live in their own world. I would appreciate his thoughts on how to change the unenlightened.

Steve Kravitz

One thing that is never discussed with regard to glass panels is obsolescence. With all things that are computerized, change is inevitable. It is easy to see the glass panels of today looking like antiques in 10 years. This could render the glass aircraft being sold today as white elephants needing very expensive upgrades, in a very short time.

Richard Jones

I voted for "glass is just better" because the concept and presentation is superior to analog panels (Question of the Week, Apr. 13). A glass display has fewer moving parts and assembles all of the information in front of the pilot in one primary display, while an analog panel requires a minimum of six (not including radios) objects to monitor.

My problem with the question is that there is a large gap between the ideals of the concept and the reality. To my knowledge, none of the new glass displays aimed at the GA market have a very good reliability record. I know people who have had multiple PFD failures in the past few years. I fly an older SR22 with a six-pack, and consider my panel to be more reliable and therefore superior for the type of hard IFR flying for which I use it. Maybe I'm just lucky, but it has been 800 hours since I last lost a gyro.

Two brief points: First, pilots are being trained to fly IFR on a glass display, but are required to revert to a partial panel analog display when the primary glass display fails. This is asking for trouble. A smaller glass display with it's own gyros or ADHARS should be the backup, and the display should be in the same format as the larger primary display in order to prevent confusion. Second, these new glass displays need to become fully integrated, like the G1000 but make the autopilot as part of the system (I know, Garmin is in the process of doing so) and full integration of the aircraft systems.

I love new stuff, and I'm fairly computer literate (I'm finishing my senior year in college). I ogle the new glass panels when I see one in a newer Cirrus on the ramp, but when someone asks me "I bet you want one of these in your plane" I politely point out that there is zero additional functionality (not a G1000, but they don't have those in my plane and who wants to go 40 knots slower?), in fact my Sandel can do more than their PFD, and I have not had a single issue with the aircraft's panel that has prevented me from launching into low IFR in about 3 years of ownership.

Thanks, ya'll are a great source of news and discussion.

Name withheld by request

ATC Retirement

I would like to comment on the FAA's mandatory retirement of age 56 for air traffic controllers. Since June 1973, I have worked as an air traffic controller at Denver Center, Chicago Center, Denver Tower, and Denver TRACON. In addition I am a current Comm., Inst., CFII and A&P/I.A. mechanic. I can bring a wealth of experience to this job, but am being forced to retire July 31 as I turn 56 on July 27.

Steve Harless


At last a politician with guts? Could be if this John Mica of Florida has his way (NewsWire, Apr. 15) ... whittle the TSA to a bunch of bag checkers! Great news ... hate to see their faces if they try to inspect my general aviation aircraft before flight! Best thing to happen is to see them seal the revolving door and go on unemployment ... here's my $50 for a cup of Joe!

Robert Cravey

Thank You

As an A&P school instructor, I know the importance of keeping up with the latest news. I use your Web site all the time for relevant information that relates to maintenance. As a pilot and aircraft owner who very much appreciates those lessons learned, I look forward to your issues every week. You guys are the greatest! Keep up the good work.

Mark Loud

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