AVmail: February 4, 2013 »

Letter of the Week: Who Should Pay? Regarding the story about iPad apps for aviation : Compare the cost of an iPad app to that of FAA paper publications needed. Why shouldn't the FAA be compensated for gathering the data that goes to the app-makers? Why, and how, do people think they are entitled to something for nothing? Or, in Mr. Goldstein's case, pay nothing at wholesale so they can add some value and sell at retail. Come on. John Sullivan Click here to read the rest of this week's letters. More

AVmail: January 28, 2013 »

Letter of the Week: Mogas Options I note the article in the Jan. 24 issue of AVweb , " Fuel Projects Move Forward, But Slowly, " and I appreciate the reference to mogas in the article; however, I would like to clarify and expand a couple of points. [continued after the jump ...] Todd L. Petersen Click here to read the rest of our "Letter of the Week" and other letters from our readers. More

AVmail: January 21, 2013 »

Letter of the Week: Safety in Plain Language I am writing with some thoughts about the Agusta 109 helicopter crash in London last week. One has to fly this particular heliroute (H4) below 1,000 feet due to Heathrow approach traffic and "above the high/low waterline." I've flown it several times, though not for a few years. The actual location of this crane (nearly 800 feet high) is right on the edge of the river and presents little margin for safety for a pilot constrained to fly below 1,000 feet and over the same edge of the river. The location is featured in a NOTAM, though it is possible that the pilot never read it, as this was an in-flight diversion, not a planned excursion into the London Heliroutes. The weather was foggy that day with low cloud and seems unlikely to have complied with the mandatory SVFR conditions for the routes. Looking at the NOTAM got me thinking: It specifies the obstacle using the usual Lat/Long: HIGH RISE JIB CRANE (LIT AT NIGHT) OPR WI 1NM 5129N 00007W, HGT 770FT AMSL I don't know any human who can interpret such a location unaided. As this obstacle is bang in the line of a published route, with little vertical margin of safety, wouldn't such a notice be much more effective if instead it read something like: On the south bank of the River Thames at Vauxhall Bridge on Heliroute H4 Then pilots could immediately visualise the threat. One has to wonder why it isn't marked on a map it is nearly 800 feet high! and pilots told to fly to the north of the river to avoid it? Bob Gilchrist Click here to read the rest of this week's letters. More

AVmail: January 14, 2013 »

Letter of the Week: A Different Angle Regarding the item on angle of attack indicators : I'm all for improving flight safety, but in my opinion the AOA indicators that measure air pressure differential at locations other than on the upper wing camber are, while cleverly conceived, not much more than glorified stall-warning horns. They are not accurate enough to dependably help prevent stall/spin accidents. This is because, aerodynamically, such an AOA is a very imprecise substitute for one that can sense or measure the solely important factor of boundary layer flowing over the wing, which is the only long-ago-proven, dependable way to detect a stalling wing. (If you have any doubts about this, watch any of the 1930s-era wind-tunnel research videos illustrating this fact.) Further, I believe that relying on the average aircraft owner to self-calibrate one of these "differential" AOA units by a trial-and-error sequence of stalling the aircraft is too demanding and the best results too imprecise to depend on. I see a false sense of security, and I would neither install one nor rely on one. Instead, let's get back to the drawing board using the best of today's technology in materials and electronics to develop a robust and marketable solution to this problem once and for all. Dave Abate Click here to read the rest of this week's letters. More

AVmail: January 7, 2013 »

Letter of the Week: The Angle on Safety I very much enjoyed your article on angle of attack indicators. It has always been amazing to me that GA continues to fly using airspeed as the primary reference. In military aviation, one of the basic tenets was that aircraft wings perform aerodynamically based on angle of attack. Airspeed was calculated as a crosscheck to ensure that no system had an error. On each aircraft I flew (F-4, F-111, F-101, and EA-6B), we had AOA targets for critical phases of flight, landing, max efficiency cruise, dogfighting, etc. In some aircraft, such as the Phantom, our control inputs had to change as we reached higher AOA levels. That was why most fighter-type aircraft had aural tones as well as indicators. I was very pleased to learn that newer technologies had produced reliable systems at very affordable costs. Widespread adoption could significantly affect landing accident statistics and make a really positive contribution to GA safety! J. C. "Squid" Hall CDR (USN R9, Ret.) Click here to read the rest of this week's letters. More

AVmail: December 24, 2012 »

Letter of the Week: Not for Pantywaists In regards to your drop zone pilot's nail-biting video , I think this pilot's operations are completely unwarranted, unnecessary, and unsafe. You've heard the one about old, bold pilots and really, to save a few minutes? Having said that, it is a cool video, and I admire his skill. When I was in flight training at a university, my instructors seemed to think I was overly cautious, with one even calling me a pantywaist when I turned back from a cross-country with a huge storm approaching. Really? I'm flying one of your brand-new $130,000 aircraft, and I'm being overly cautious? Anyway, I enjoyed the video, and I always enjoy your newsletters. Keep up the good work. Bob Price Click here to read the rest of this week's letters. More

AVmail: December 17, 2012 »

Letter of the Week: Plenty of Pilots, Not Enough Money I almost laughed at the article to get the GAO involved in the alleged pilot shortage. This would be nothing but another attempt by the airlines to ensure they can get new pilots and pay them the slave wages they do now. If salaries were liveable and not below poverty level, the airlines would have no problem getting the pilots they need. In the U.S., there never has been, is not now, and never will be a shortage of pilots only pilots willing to work for nothing. It is time to let the free market dictate whether there is a pilot shortage or not. If the airlines cannot afford to pay pilots a reasonable wage, then let them go out of business so that someone who actually knows how to run a profitable airline can do so. This would also mean the days of $99 fares from New York to Florida will be over, since that is not a money-making fare. What should be changed are the bankruptcy laws so there would be a limit to how many times Chapter 11 can be used to stay in business. It should be only once, since if you need to go bankrupt again you should be liquidated. And yes, I am a professional pilot who has been through a pay cut and a lay-off. Matthew Wagner Click here to read the rest of this week's letters. More

AVmail: December 10, 2012 »

Letter of the Week: Fly-By-Wire Concerns Regarding the story about the fly-by-wire Diamond DA42 : Although the developers of fly-by-wire systems have admirable goals, I am very concerned about the unintended consequences of such control systems. As a pilot, I would never relinquish control to a computer programmer. (I worked as computer programmer for seven years!) It is simply not possible to think of every situation in order to program a computer control system to act appropriately all the time. Just think of the subtle nuances of glide control when aiming for a specific spot on a field when doing a forced landing. Then there are the effects of sensor failures as we have seen on some recent crashes. With twin-engine aircraft, there is a place for some intelligence in the control system, such as control limitation to avoid loss of control when one engine is out, for example. However, within the allowed range of control movement, the pilot's inputs should be directly relayed to the control surfaces and not interpreted by a computer! In any event, controlling the aircraft is one of the least demanding aspects of flying. It is getting increasingly challenging to maintain traffic separation in busy, uncontrolled air space. Taken to its ultimate maturity, the goals of these fly-by-wire and auto take-off and land systems are basically the same as that of unpiloted vehicle developers: Build aircraft that can carry passengers with no pilot! I cringe at the thought of flying in a sky full of aircraft being controlled by computers and pilots with limited ability at the controls! If a person cannot be trained to fly the aircraft, they would also not have the ability to maintain situational awareness and navigate properly, or for that matter program a flight plan correctly. The biggest challenge the developers of these systems need to solve first is how to do collision avoidance in a completely robust and safe way between UAVs and GA while not everybody in the sky has the same technology on board. Once they [have] solved that problem, I may be able to relax a little more about their efforts to automate the control of their aircraft. Best Regards, Dan Retief Click here to read the rest of this week's letters. More

AVmail: November 19, 2012 »

Letter of the Week: Pilot Shortage Is Real Regardless of Sully's opinion , I have felt for over a year that the approaching age 65 deadline and the 1,500-hour requirement were going to create the perfect storm for pilot recruitment. The cost to get to 1,500 hours for a new hire is far beyond the reach of the average wannabe. It would seem that now that the FAA has seen five years of data on those older than 60 flying that the fastest cure would be to lift the age restriction entirely and let physical condition serve as the limiting factor. Another cure is to evaluate new hires by the type of flying that they can prove, not by a number based on towing banners up and down the beach in day VFR in SEL equipment. The Eagle guy is correct. If the regulations are not modified, there will undoubtedly be loss of service to marginal markets. Fred Yarbrough Click here to read the rest of this week's letters. More

AVmail: November 5, 2012 »

Letter of the Week: Plenty of Advice For Pelton Regarding your " Question of the Week ": I am a longtime, active EAA member, a technical counselor, a flight advisor, and a member of Chapter 691 (The Green Chile Chapter) here in New Mexico. I have flown my homebuilt to Oshkosh several times. I have been hearing a fair amount of negative feedback from EAA members about EAA losing its way. I also sensed a mood change this year at AirVenture that wasn't good. Many feel that EAA has forgotten its roots. I also sensed a mood at the show this year that's hard to express, but it seemed as though folks who flew their own homebuilt aircraft to the show were sort of taken for granted. There seemed to be a reduced level of enthusiasm from homebuilders. Some got the message that EAA did not really care about "little guys." I have to admit, though, that the mood in the ultralight area was much more positive. I see that EAA recently took the step of reinvigorating the Homebuilders Aircraft Council; maybe this is a step in the right direction. The resigning of Hightower could also be a step in the right direction if a suitable person replaces him. Moving Jeff Skiles to a VP position seems positive to me. I also think the Hints for Homebuilders is an excellent educational program. I have a few suggestions: [Click through to read the read of Will Fox's ideas for reinvigorating EAA.] Will Fox Click here to read the rest of this week's letters. More