Top Letters And Comments, August 17, 2018


Unleaded Avgas

“Regardless of which fuel is selected, on that first takeoff, what will YOU be thinking?” I’ll be thinking “I’m glad I’m not flying behind a high-HP engine that needs 100-octane fuel” 😉 Joking aside, I’ve been saying that I’ll be glad to do away with TEL because I won’t have to worry about lead fouling as much. But I hadn’t considered until this article mentioned MMT that plug fouling or corrosion or whatever could potentially still be an issue. It makes me wonder if the aviation community might be better served by having a 94-octane fuel (or whatever octane the aviation base fuel is) and a separate high-octane fuel for those planes that require it.

Gary Baluha

Once again the FAA is here to help us. Government getting involved always stretches the time line and causes the costs to increase exponentially. For some reason, I have a deep feeling that the PAFI will go the way of all other 100LL replacement programs. It will just fade into the sunset of other abandoned programs. The best hope is the private industry will develop an acceptable replacement. Of course, private industry will be fighting the full weight, strength and financing of the FAA. An unleaded fuel will be a great boon to increased engine life for our old LyCosauraus engines.

Leo LeBoeuf

My personal fondness for GAMI certainly wants me to see them succeed. It’s admirable how many times they’ve been willing to butt heads with the FAA for the good of general aviation, despite how many times their efforts have been stymied. Imagine where we’d be in a world without lean-of-peak flying. How much more lead would we be burning then? That aside, I’m still yet to see a good answer on why ETBE isn’t a suitable octane enhancer for Avgas. MMT has too many component lifetime problems, I agree there, and MTBE’s toxicity and ability to render aquifers undrinkable is unacceptable. But ETBE seems like it would fit the bill. More expensive than lead, sure, but so’s mesitylene, and I’d give someone a friendly even-money wager that that’s what’s in GAMI’s fuel. What gives?

Joshua Levinson

EFI and FADEC never sold on the certified market because the costs were insane. It’s nothing inherent to the technology–automotive-derived EFI is available for Lycomings on the experimental market for about $6k, which isn’t bad at all when you sell off those mags and your existing carb/ijection system–but merely the fact that the FAA would require any such system to meet requirements that magnetos and carb/mechanical injection could never hope to meet. And then all of that has to be produced under rigid FAA control of everything down to farts on the production line. Put EFI on your formerly-carbed engine and you’d probably make back the remainder in fuel savings over a year or three. The only “derating” you’ll get from adding electronic engine controls is what you’d have to add if you want to run lower octane fuel in a high compression engine. Otherwise, more even fuel distribution and variable timing give you lower fuel burn under most conditions, a smoother engine (especially at idle), and operational simplicity, for no loss of power at all. This is all just another reason I’m glad I’m on the homebuilt side. Come on in, the water’s fine… and we have cookies!

Robert Gatlin-Martin

Q400 Suicide Crash

I have listened to many uninformed media reports regarding the stolen Q400 and subsequent crash. The reports all ask the same dramatic question, how can something like this happen in a post 9/11 environment. They go on to say the something must be done to prevent it from ever happening again. One major network referred to it as a “Major, major security breach”. Another local news reporter referred to it as a “hijacked plane.” Neither is correct but it accomplishes the media’s agenda which is to create drama and viewership.

AVweb added their own uninformed statement by writing “Exactly how he took off without authorization from Sea Tac is unclear….” As you well know, no one needs authorization to take off from an airport. There are no barriers blocking the runway that a controller must remove to allow a plane to take off. All the controller can provide is verbal instructions commanding the plane to stop. Sure, maybe the controller could have sent a bunch of cars/trucks out on to the runway to block the aircraft but that may have caused greater loss of life and there likely was not enough time to coordinate such an effort. I hope the reaction to this tragedy is not to establish some kind of rapid response team at each major airport to standby in case someone tries a similar action in the future.

Jeff Rowe

Armchair shrink here. Age 82. Deeply immersed in pop-psychology books in the seventies. est, Insight, etc. You name it; I did it and/or became an instructor in it.

1. Russell was full of jock-talk talk like loud a-holes in Denny’s adjoining booth. Desperate for attention showoff; hey, look at me; I’m so cool. Had no boundaries for seeking attention. e.g. Used and destroyed a $30M(?) aircraft for suicide. The ultimate example of selfish.

2. Russell made FAA 1,500-hour rule for airline hiring look foolish. My TWA B-727 co-pilot class circa1965 of 25 included 15 Cessna C-150 pilots with 250 hours (which probably included 50-75 hours of P-51 time). The Sim was far less effective trainer than today’s wonders. NO ONE FAILED. The 1,500-hour rule should be cut by 66.67%. Lufthansa ab initio is the perfect example of the importance of SELECTION OF CANDIDATES and intense formal training. A 750-hour B-52 co-pilot is less qualified than a 250 hour Lufthansa graduate (based on studying Lufthansa’s pilot course).

Gary Barnhill

I’m not a former journalist like one of your letter writers, but nonsensical reporting annoys me, too. I watch CNN sometimes, and, while I don’t think they are “the enemy of the people”, they sometimes betray their lack of knowledge of the subject. Like several other sources (they obviously copy each other), the anchor told of the pilot doing “flips.” I’ve never heard of a plane doing a flip in the air. Certainly planes have been flipped on the ground, either from high winds or an over-enthusiastic application of tailwheel brakes, but not in the air. She also said he did a “so called barrel roll.” Funny, I thought that’s what it was actually called.

John Worsley

The camera caught Rich doing a barrel roll not a loop, as earlier reports and the internet buzz is saying. The plane is in straight and level flight and then rolls and dishes out of the maneuver after going inverted which put him in a dive and recovery worthy of Bob Hoover at 100 feet off the Sound. I live in Kirkland, so the local new has been playing the tapes non-stop. You might want to correct the article to drop the loop and add barrel roll.

Mark Peterson

You can’t regulate knowledge! Governments more restrictive than ours have tried with little success. As far as increased “security” screening is concerned, how do you balance “security” with being able to do your job? You would think TSA would have figured that out when airline pilots started refusing to go through the walkthrough “stick em up” machines when TSA first started using them. If people really want absolute “security”, start walking.

Matthew Wagner

Autonomous Skyhawks

Without disagreeing with any of Paul’s points, I’ll offer two of my own: 1. A properly-designed autonomous control system would be installable in anything from a DJI to an A-380. In fact, you could remove “the box” from a DJI; install it in an A-380; and go fly. 2. When I first read the piece about the autonomous Skyhawk, I (mistakenly?) presumed that the strategy was to refit existing light-GA birds with “a box.” Not to build new Skyhawks.

Tom Yarsley

Notwithstanding the numerous “I’d never fly in”s” still being expressed, it is becoming clear a variety of autonomous transportation will eventually arrive. Eventually. So we’re really just discussing viability of application, and I too am not immediately sold on the notion of automating a fixed-wing, airport-requiring vehicle that would, presumably, be used for interurban transport. More stimulating is mentally walking further down the Vashon pathway toward the goal of fully automated production, something approaching that sci-fi staple, the box which ingests raw material and spits out….whatever. Obviously, it would be silly to attempt full automation of the process of building a riveted aluminum Skyhawk with all it’s elaborate assemblage of bits & pieces. On the other hand, it’s no longer a total trip into fantasy-land to envision a general-purpose production line that employed some sort of large, advanced versions of the 3-D printer and could produce a limited run of Skyhawk-like analogues, then virtually overnight be re-tasked to make something totally different. Even immense initial capital expense becomes practical when amortized against enough salable product. You kids get busy on that, OK? And hurry, I want to see it.

John Wilson

Since I’m in the 172 charter business, here’s my two cents: The days of certified fixed wing production under 12,500 is over. The future of small fixed wing aircraft is homebuilt and a hand full of LSA models. The future that is already happening is the Bell 206 / Hughes 500 / Robinson R-66 type aircraft going full autonomous. The aircraft are already certified have lots of power and don’t need expensive airport property to operate off of. Look at the GAMA manufacturers reports each year. Helicopters are picking up in production and General Aviation fixed wing has been less than flat for decades. Vans Aircraft and Cub Crafters are on the move because they have the best options at the best prices. Helicopter charter companies are growing and expanding. Helicopters are moving commuters 200 miles at a price the customer is willing to pay. Autonomous 172…? it would be much cheaper but, not very practical. The runways are not close enough to destinations. Ground transportation defeats the purpose for flying to your desired destination. “Time Is Money!”

Klaus Marx

Having taken delivery of a Tesla Model 3 recently I can say with confidence I am not ready to let this or any autonomous vehicle deliver me to my next destination. I watch as the Tesla gets completely confused on non-standard intersections or suddenly says “Huh” when rains obscures its optic sensors. Sorry, we just aren’t there yet so adding a third dimension to the decision-making process doesn’t seem like a smart bet to me. Maybe someday…

Steven Morton

What a great article and so well said. Your conclusions are correct. And such descriptive language to boot! What a hoot! I am a gearhead besides a pilot. I think hi-performance cars are pretty cool and satisfying to drive. So, some of my driving is for the sheer pleasure of accelerating thru the gears, enjoying the scenery with 2 windows down. Listening to V8 with a lumpy cam idling at a traffic light sends me the same sensation as a T-28 taxis by at Oshkosh or a solid lifter Panhead at a breakfast run. However, for most people, a car is for pure transportation from point A to point B. There is no emotional attachment to the transportation experience. It’s just a way to get there. The journey actually gets in the way of the destination. Now we have the technology to “drive” a pilot-less 172, a tilt-rotor, or some sort of V-TOL which implies that no matter the swirling vortex’s of winds around tall buildings, trees, power-lines, light poles, signage, tornados/hail/hurricane/rain/snow/shine…we can vertically lift and horizontally transport the masses who have no attachment to the experience of flight other than it better be reliable, comfortable, affordable, and shelter me as much as possible from the experience. Technology cannot bridge the gap between flying practicality and the reality of the atmosphere. Airliners are as close as we’ve gotten to that end. Most of us know they are not really comfortable nor without risk, nor without major inconvenience, nor autonomous. At this point we not even close to all weather capability that has been predicted for the last 50 years. And just when we think we have an accident jerks us back into reality. And 100,000 production numbers? We would have to have another World War rivaling the production of the “greatest generation” to see those numbers again. So, we in GA, are at war with ourselves when we try to portray the possibility of an airplane in every garage, aerial conveyances as a mass form of urban public transportation, anyone can do it, and everyone can participate in it. Yes, anyone with drive, fortitude, dedication to training, who enjoys the challenge of learning a new skill set, who thinks the journey is as important as the destination, and is willing to invest in these skills over and over again to maintain a safe level of proficiency…can do it. Indeed, some people who lack all that climb into an aluminum tube with hundreds of others behind those with the drive to become pilots. But not the masses. So the question is regarding aerial urban mass transit, is that the mindset and goals of the masses? No. If that was true far more folks would be driving to their hangar in preparation for that flight to personal destinations on Saturday morning, in their Cub, 172, or T-28 to be around family or like-minded people, or simply to be up there.

Jim Holdeman