AVmail: January 17, 2010 »

Letter of the Week: Mandatory Shoulder Restraints Regarding mandatory shoulder harnesses : I crashed and would not have gotten a scratch if shoulder harnesses had been installed in the plane. My injuries were minor, but I decided that I would install shoulder harnesses in all my planes. The first attempt was in an Ercoupe; the second was in a Taylorcraft. The FAA's G-load requirement for shoulder harness installation made it impossible. At the time when I was wrestling with this, the FAA came out with a "re-interpretation" of the rule citing the lives saved by the guys in Alaska who had installed shoulder harnesses in older planes that, while they didn't meet the current requirements, provided a large measure of safety with little cost, no degradation to the plane, and, most importantly, that stated that "something is better than nothing." I installed harnesses in both planes, made a logbook entry, and called it a minor change. I think that shoulder harnesses would be a major improvement in any airplane, but retrofitting the old planes could be prohibitively costly if the requirement for them included a requirement to meet installation requirements used for planes that are coming off the assembly line today. Louis Champeau Click through to read the rest of this week's letters. More

AVmail: January 10, 2011 »

Letter of the Week: A Brief History of Flight Planning I've read with considerable interest on this and other sites about the FlightPrep patent enforcement efforts and some concerns that have been expressed by the flying community. I'm not quite sure I understand what all the fuss is about ... . ... FlightPrep has said that it is enforcing a legitimate patent to protect its software innovation. I happen to agree. Some in the flying community have argued that FlightPrep's efforts are akin to trying patent air and are harming the flying community. I respectfully disagree on both counts. First, the notion that Roger Stenbock and Kyle Everson don't have the best interest of the flying community at heart is simply misinformed, in my opinion. Why do I think that? Because of my familiarity with both of these pilots/software developers for more than 23 years. ... Bottom line: Roger Stenbock and Kyle Everson are both long-time pilots and software developers. They have pioneered huge innovations in the field of computer-based flight planning, and those innovations deserve protection, as all innovations do. Just because some of those innovations seem ubiquitous today doesn't mean they still don't deserve protection. If you invent something new, you have the right to protect that invention under our current patent and copyright system. Just because the Wright Brothers patented the airplane doesn't mean we all can't fly one. Just because Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone doesn't mean we can't use one. Just because Stenbock and Everson developed the first online flight planner doesn't mean we can't use that either. ... Bill Seith Click through to read the rest of this letter and others from AVweb readers. More

AVmail: December 23, 2010 »

Letter of the Week: ADS-B a Bargain I am tiring of reading about all of the complaints regarding the implementation of ADS-B, funding, and who gets what. The latest blurb in your newsletter about business aviation and [the] airline industry requesting funding from the government to equip their fleet of aircraft is just plain ludicrous. Who better has the funding to equip their fleets than these people? What about the general aviation fleet of all other types of aircraft? I don't hear any loud voices suggesting that the government pay for their equipment also. ... I have been flying up and down the East Coast with ADS-B for more than six years in my aircraft, and I can tell you that it is the best thing that has come along in a long time, and the weather service and text messages are free also. When has anything like this ever been free for aviation? Perhaps all of the other traffic and weather equipment suppliers do not like this, but too bad. The service and equipment they provide don't hold a candle to ADS-B. ... Joseph C. Blakaitis Click through to read the full letter and others. More

AVmail: November 29, 2010 »

Letter of the Week: Helping GA by Doing Regarding giving back in support of GA: I sit on the local airport board, not as a member (yet), but as AOPA's Airport Support Representative. In addition to the work on the board, I also participate in Angel Flights and a couple weeks ago participated in the "Wings of Appreciation" flight where 23 planes gathered to fly wounded vets from Walter Reed to Tangier Island for an appreciation lunch. I think that these sorts of activities help promote the usefulness of GA and highlight the advantages we can offer. Mark Shilling Click through to read the rest of this week's letters. More

AVmail: November 8, 2010 »

Letter of the Week: Where Is the Outrage? My question regarding Sen. Inhofe's closed-runway landing is: Where are the angst and diatribe normally associated with an apparently errant airman? We are exhorted and cajoled by all manner of alphabet groups and agencies to put forth our best, most compliant behavior at all times. We are encouraged to be aviation ambassadors and show that we are not Wild West cowboys and, more importantly, not a threat to national security. The senator's actions and subsequent public statements are eroding the public trust we have built up. I remember a fable about an emperor and his clothes, or lack thereof. Maybe it is time to call a spade a spade. If the senator is truly in error, I would think it best for the aviation press to call him on it rather than waiting for the Nervous Nelly public to do it for us. Louis C. Ridley Jr. Click through to read the rest of this week's letters. More

AVmail: October 25, 2010 »

Letter of the Week: The Illusion of Safety It is interesting to note that whereas there is a very definite outcry against the FAA's safety bill passed earlier this year, there has been little, if any, comment on how this bill will have a very negative and deleterious effect upon the overall safety of flight. Aside from the valid argument that there is a very big difference between quantity vs. quality of training and the fact that it might be possible that some academic training could be more valuable than mere time spent in the cockpit, virtually everyone has missed one of the most negative impacts of this bill. For a very large majority of those persons who want to fly for the airlines, the only way they can realistically gain the required hours in an affordable manner would be to serve their time in the right seat acting as instructors. Unfortunately, only a very small handful of these people will be properly trained and prepared to take their responsibilities as flight instructors seriously and endeavor to provide quality training to their clients. I sadly fear that most of those people spending time in the right seat as flight instructors for the sole purpose of filling the requirement to have 1,500 hours before they can apply for a job as a first officer, will not only resent what they are being forced to do but, further, will not be prepared to provide the quality of training that is so integral to the safety of flight. Even Randy Babbitt, the FAA administrator, has expressed skepticism about the 1,500-hour requirement, saying it is more important to improve the quality of the pilot training than to increase the amount of experience in the cockpit. Unfortunately, this bill will have the opposite effect. I think we can rest assured that all those people who have no other choice than to serve as "flight instructors in purgatory" as a result of this bill will not be providing the requisite quality training that every pilot, regardless of their ultimate goal in aviation, deserves. This can only have a negative impact on the overall safety of all those pilots who might be trained by these "reluctant" flight instructors. Doug Stewart Chairman, Society of Aviation and Flight Educators Click through to read the rest of this week's letters. More

AVmail: October 11, 2010 »

Letter of the Week: Where the Manfacturers Stumble? Regarding the story about Piper laying off workers : I have been in the aircraft sales industry since 1975. Not just Piper but all aircraft manufacturers have lost sight of what they are supposed to be marketing. The manufacturers are no longer in the airframe business but have moved to the avionics business. They no longer offer affordable aircraft for those who want a single-engine, four-place, entry-level machine. For example, when I started selling the Piper Archer, a single-engine, four-place aircraft, fully equipped in 1978, they where $38,000. Today, if you look at a new Archer, it is equipped with an avionics package that is way overkill for the aircraft's capability and starts around $300,000. It is not just Piper; it is all airframe manufacturers. The focus is on turbo-prop and single-engine jets. Sure, you can make as much money selling one jet as you can ten single-engine aircraft. However, there are few people who can afford or fly the jet. You have to start with basic aircraft and move people up. If the manufacturers don't wake up, they might as well close the doors and look for another career right now. I know the cost of construction is up for an airframe, but why not leave some of the overkill avionics as an option and start selling aircraft again? I moved away from the new market and went to the clean, low-time, moderately equipped used small aircraft, and there is still a market, even with the current economy. I have been a regional sales manager for an airframe manufacturer and operated my own aircraft sales company. So I have had a look at aviation from several viewpoints. If anyone can ever get the attention of the manufacturers, the buyers are out there. Don MacGregor Click through to read the rest of this week's letters. More

AVmail: October 4, 2010 »

Why Through-The-Fence Agreements Work The argument that federal funds should not subsidize airport use by residential through-the-fence users can be negated by ensuring those users pay their fair share for access to the airport. Fair share could be construed as equivalent to a based aircraft tiedown fee. This is not altogether different from charging a commercial through-the-fence user the same access fee. Also, through-the-fence users should not be allowed to store their own fuel but rather purchase from the FBO at the airport. On another issue, it is hard to imagine that residential through-the-fence users would complain about aircraft noise impacts. People in glass houses don't throw stones. Security issues at general aviation airports have been an issue that is still unresolved. Somehow, as an industry, we need to know that those obtaining access to the airside are trusted to be there. Through the fence users can be cleared by law enforcement. Their passengers cannot be treated that way, so the aircraft operator must assume that responsibility. Isn't that what is done at general aviation airports now? It should apply to through-the-fence users as well. There is a simple way to allow any type of through-the-fence users at federally obligated airports, if those responsible for policy will just think it through. Where there is a will, there is a way. Ronald Price Why They Might Not I do hope you'll give equal time to the other respondents at the hearing, Russ. This is a complicated issue and all sides deserve to be heard in order that a reasonable solution can be reached. If you know airports, then you know that [Acting Associate Administrator for Airports] Catherine Lang has been a tireless proponent for airport development and a voice of reason in the FAA. I've read her testimony and that of the others and I think Dr. Blue has portrayed a sensationalist view of what was said and unfairly characterized it in order to further his own position. There are good points on both sides of this issue. Let's try and listen to them all so we can find the best solution for all. Greg Phillips Click through to read the rest of this week's letters. More

AVmail: September 30, 2010 »

UAVs (Pro) ... You know, I don't see where the problem is. It isn't like a UAV is not in control by someone. Just make it mandatory that they fly on an IFR flight plan and let them go. As long as the operator is in contact with ATC (just like an onboard pilot is), it should be fine. I'm O.K. with sharing airspace with them when I'm VFR. Most of the time I'm getting advisories anyway, and how many times, even when getting advisories, do you not even see the other aircraft before it's not a conflict? The UAVs ought to be restricted from busy air space, but, other than that, let them fly. I'm more concerned with what they are doing while flying in domestic airspace and object to their operations based on civil liberties [rather] than whether they will be a flight hazard. But for training missions, I say let them fly. Gary Caron ... And UAVs (Con) The Air Force has plenty of training areas and doesn't need more in North Dakota. Predators should be deployed in active war zones, and training can be accomplished near those areas. There's nothing more realistic than learning to fly UAVs in the mountains of Afghanistan, rather than the fields of North Dakota. Besides, Customs and Border Protection is responsible for border protection, not the Air Force, so let's not use that ploy. Using all these high-tech toys in the U.S. has done nothing other than to bankrupt the taxpayers. We already know how to secure the borders, but it's dirty and dangerous and not nearly as glamorous as cool UAVs prowling the skies. Glenn Juber Click through to read the rest of this week's letters. More

AVmail: September 27, 2010 »

Letter of the Week: Flying's Never Been Cheap Flying has never been cheap and never will be, our great technological capabilities notwithstanding. David Thurston in his classic books Design for Flying and Design for Safety showed clearly why the LSA category could never have met its lofty goals of affordable flying: small market, high development costs (even with LSAs' relaxed regulatory regimen), and the amount of infrastructure necessary for a sustainable business. We always get caught in the trap of expecting the advances we enjoy in our cars and electronic equipment to be directly applicable to light aircraft without considering the vast differences in market size that make such advances possible. The proponents of the LSA category misapprehended the sources of new aircraft cost as onerous regulation of airframes and aviators. The real drivers of the high cost of light aircraft flight are basic physics, basic business, and its economically non-essential nature. Shaun Simpkins Click through to read the rest of this week's letters. More