AVmail: September 13, 2010
Letter of the Week: What Happened to the LSA Dream?
I was recently reminded of how fortunate I am to be flying. The other day, while I was working on my plane, a fellow pilot taxied up in his partner-owned Piper Arrow. After parking and securing the plane, with great care he washed and detailed the aircraft. When finished he walked over to me, handed me his David Clarks, leather flight bag complete with charts, E6B, and portable radio and walked away.
His only (very emotional) statement was: "I can't afford to fly anymore. I'm done. Please put these things to good use." I understand his pain and frustration. Several months ago I purchased an inexpensive experimental, a SoneraiII. I had previously owned a Cessna, but rising fuel, insurance, and maintenence fees drove me to sell — at a loss. It was that or give up flying altogether or until flying becomes more affordable.
Years ago, we were promised inexpensive sport airplanes that the "average" person could afford. What happened? As I search available new aircraft it seems that most are in the $80K-$100K+ price range. Where are the real airplanes we were hoping to see in the $30K range?
What I see available in that price range are not much more than glorified ultralights, hardly what I believe we were hoping for. Remember the statements "about the price of a new car"? It is my wish that someone would step up to the plate and develop a truly affordable aircraft. I earn an average income, and $100,000 is hardly affordable. If this does not happen, as hoped for, I believe the scene I saw played out will happen more and more.
I just cannot see why electric planes and cars are promoted as "green" when every electrical power unit added simply extends the life of a coal-fired power station. Only when power generation goes green-only will electric aircraft be able to claim a green label.
Spending and Debt
AOPA may believe throwing another $50,000,000,000 down a rat hole is a good thing, but I do not. AOPA may want to help spend the borrowed money effectively on worthwhile projects, but I do not. We are broke, $13 trillion plus dollars broke, and if AOPA does not understand that concept, they must not be paying attention. At the current rate of spending, our interest costs alone will completely fund the expenses of the Chinese military within a few short years. I wonder if those MiGs will have NextGen capabilities.
Why can't intersections be identified by numbers instead of crazy five-letter combinations? An ATC instruction that clears you to 56338 is more easily understood than, "Cleared to PATYY intersection" (a real intersection on V109 SE of ECA).
Safety is involved here. Attempting to pronounce a non-word or copy one in IMC is downright dangerous! I suggested this to NACO sometime ago but got no response.
Shooting Ourselves in the Foot?
Sadly, as your survey results show, our aviation community fails to take responsibility for our image.
There's a current example from the Pacific Northwest: A Presidential TFR was established over Seattle, well advertised in advance. One of our brethren chose to fly his C180 on floats from Lake Chelan to Lake Washington without bothering to check for NOTAMS or use the flight following services of Seattle Center or Seattle Approach. His penetration of the protected airspace resulted in interception by two F-15s, creating sonic booms over Seattle in their haste to respond. It was so simple to avoid, so devastating to our image.
Satellite vs. ELT
I'd like to see the regs changed to allow a satellite-based continuous-update-of-position device made acceptable as an alternate means of compliance. Then pilots could decide which technology was best suited to their typical mission and area of operations.
Frank Van Haste
While ELTs do not work all the time, the same is true with satellite tracking. The expense of satellite tracking, both in installation and monthly/annual service fees, have to be considered against its false positive and missed reporting characteristics.
Including such an option [satellite tracking] on ELTs would certainly narrow the search area if something goes wrong.
Given that both the 121.5 and 406 ELTs use exactly the same abysmally undependable techniques for getting a signal out, why are we even wasting the money?
A satellite "breadcrumb" tracker with, say, only a minute or so interval between hits would be helpful once someone realized the aircraft was missing. But I question if the systems used by current trackers could cope with such a flood of transmissions and, if not, what would the overall cost rise to?
I am a little concerned about satellite tracking as it smacks of "big brother" getting waaaay too close. While I am not a drug runner or involved in any other negative activity, I do not want the government to be looking at me all the time, including when I am flying. This "service" would eventually evolve into a required-fees service and we would pay for the government's privelege to monitor us even closer.
Flying Car Dreams
Is the management at Terrafugia sipping the Kool-Aid? Your article about the company gearing up for "low volume production" had a little detail [that] really leapt out at me! Apparently, now the anticipated cost is "in the low to mid $200,000 range." If I remember correctly, the first quoted price estimate was $148,000, then $194,000, and now we're well into the $200,000-plus range!
Looks to me like the Terrafugia will soon join the ranks of the other roadable airplanes in history and that's not a history of success. Realistically, this plane will probably roll out the door costing even more that any of the estimates, be a toy for a few, very rich people, and quietly fade away.
It would be much more cost-effective to buy a good used four-place plane, keep a $100,000 of the savings over the Terrafugia in cash, and just buy an airport "junker" car anytime you get stuck at an airport and just give it away when you can fly again! Don't get me wrong, I don't think here is a thing that could be done to bring this in at a realistically marketable price. There just isn't any way to produce an "affordable" roadable airplane, just as there are no "cheap airplanes" or "economical jets."
Now I Know
As someone with a ton of P210 time, I much enjoyed the Paul Bertorelli video on the turbine version.
Many years ago, a guy showed up at my home base of Nut Tree, CA with a rather rough-looking PT6 conversion of the airframe, and I got to fly it. It climbed like a rocket, but my recollection is that we were always bumping up against redline in cruise. It wasn't a very balanced package. I've always wondered what the O&N version was like, and now I know!
You have a nice publication, which I read daily. Thanks and best wishes.
If Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback thinks that Brazilian government help is the main reason for Embraer outselling competitors, he ought to try flying one. They make the nicest cockpits I have ever seen and [the aircraft] fly beautifully.
Engines and Motors
The Cri-Cri airplane, having electric motors for propulsion, is not a "four-engine" aircraft. It is a four-motor aircraft. There's no internal combustion involved. It's an interesting design, anyhow.
Rarely, if ever, does a letter to the AVweb editor outclass the perceptions and perspicuous reporting of the fine professionals there at AVweb. However, David MacRae's letter regarding what makes aviation newsworthy is an outstanding example of exactly that. He has succinctly conveyed the way things are, how they got that way, and why they will probably stay that way. Kudos to David MacRae.