Archive for April, 2008

Treasure in the basement

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

My husband came upstairs from the basement last night, where he’d been digging through a box of forgotten stuff, and handed me a small, black, mildewed book. I’m sure I made a face before I saw the words “Pilot Flight Record,” and below that in just-barely-legible gold letters, “Maryland Airlines Co. Inc.”

“My dad’s logbook,” he said. I took the book and flipped through the pages. Don Tallman’s temporary certificate, dated October 31, 1973, fell out.

Here’s what I knew about Don’s pilot background. He learned to fly at Easton/Newnam Field (KESN) in Easton, Maryland. He flew a few years, long enough to take his teenaged son Doug on a couple of trips. He wanted to get a commercial certificate so that he could fly charters for Maryland Airlines, which at the time was owned by his friend and designated pilot examiner, William Newnam. But a heart attack grounded him in 1974. In the 1980s, he talked briefly about jumping through the hoops to get his medical back, but his health had been deteriorating, and it didn’t happen. When I joined the family in 1983, aviation was a closed chapter in his life. He died in 1994.

Here’s what I learned about Don Tallman, private pilot, from his logbook…

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Web posts make us invulnerable! (We hope . . .)

Monday, April 28th, 2008

An ongoing thread on the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) Web site points out a remarkable correlation between aviation accidents and Web posting. Evidently, no one who has ever posted a comment on the COPA site has been involved in a Cirrus accident. COPA members have never been reluctant to share their thoughts, and there’s a vigorous difference of opinion about whether pilots who post on the Web are better informed, or just lucky blowhards.

The AOPA Air Safety Foundation (ASF) has an ongoing, internal discussion about how best to get ASF online courses onto the computer screens of the pilots who need them. There’s no empirical evidence to back this up, but I’ve got to think the pilots who take the ASF interactive Runway Safety course, for example, are probably less likely to mistakenly cross the yellow lines than those who don’t. And that’s true even before they heighten their awareness by taking the online course.

Anyway, I’m not a Cirrus owner, and I’m not superstitious. But I’ll try to post something on the COPA site just to hedge my bets . . .

Behind closed doors

Monday, April 28th, 2008

Who decides where avionics trends are going? The manufacturers do, to a great extent. But don’t rule out a relatively obscure agency deep within the Washington, D.C., beltway known as RTCA. Its scientists and working groups often have a lot of influence over what happens to which systems and platforms, and when.

Some very interesting things are cooking over at RTCA right now. Working group SC-213 is considering just how the new generation of synthetic vision systems from Garmin, Honeywell, and others, will achieve that Holy Grail of avionics achievement: operational credit. In other words, they’re going to decide when and how pilots can use these systems to descend below decision height on ILS approaches, and below minimum descent altitude on non-precision approaches.

“Until they do that, these things are just expensive toys that don’t take you anywhere you can’t already go,” a knowledgeable source big in EVS/SVS development confided in me at the recent AEA show in Washington.

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Airlines or GA?

Monday, April 28th, 2008

I’m going through a dilemma right now that I’m sure many of us have faced. I have a business trip scheduled for late May in central Florida that is scheduled to happen on the front end of a family reunion in south Florida. So, do I take the Bonanza or the airlines?

There are so many variables. First, the wife and son. She gets airsick. He’s seven months old and has never been in anything smaller than a 757. We’re worried about his hearing and the cabin noise level. It’s the beginning of thunderstorm season and I’m not sure I can keep the ride smooth. Will he be OK for four hours in the back?

Conventional wisdom says I should take the airlines. A flying tube is slightly quieter, we can get above the weather, and according to my wife, it’s safer. We’re still debating that point. And we used to think they were more reliable when factoring in weather only. But after a trip where we were delayed 24 hours with the son, I think she’s beginning to see my viewpoint.

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How much does a G1000 add to the cost of a 172?

Monday, April 28th, 2008

Ask Cessna or Garmin and they will tell you it is impossible to calculate, given the fact that the G1000 is installed by the manufacturer and Cessna doesn’t pay retail. But a look at Cessna Web pages from 2005 and 2006 shows the difference between an IFR-equipped Cessna 172 and a comparably-equipped G1000 Cessna 172 was $27,000 in 2005, and $29,000 in 2006. Now only the G1000 is offered. But next time someone asks what a glass cockpit can add to a conventional airplane, $30,000 is a good guess.

Nederland

Friday, April 25th, 2008

That’s the answer to the question “Where in the World is Machteld from?”

Some of you guessed Austria, Yugoslavia, Pennsylvania Dutch (drop the Pennsylvania portion), and Holland. But Holland is technically not correct, it is actually the name given to two provinces in The Netherlands (Zuid Holland and Noord Holland). And then there is also Holland, Michigan, which happens to be home to many immigrants from the Netherlands. It also has a nice airport (KBIV).

I have been an American citizen for quite some time (I’ve lived in the United States since 1975), but the Dutch language will stay with me forever. So will tulips, Rembrandt, and Van Gogh.

Now, guess what my maiden name is? Half of the telephone book in Holland, Michigan, has people listed by that name…

Impressive Gadgets at AEA

Friday, April 25th, 2008

In case anyone hasn’t got the memo yet, the era of steam gauges is over.

During a visit to the Aircraft Electronics Association’s annual convention in Washington yesterday, there was a lot of buzz about Aspen’s “Evolution” PFD and Garmin’s “Synthetic Vision Technology.” AOPA Pilot, and this blog, have had a lot to say about both products recently, and their popularity at Sun’n Fun has been well documented.

But the final nail in the coffin of steam gauges appears to be coming from the steam gauge manufacturers themselves. RC Allen Instruments, for example, was showing off a digital artificial horizon meant to replace traditional vacuum attitude indicators. RC Allen’s “RCA 2600″ doesn’t require a separate air data computer or additional instrumentation. It just drops into the 3 1/8″ hole left by the departing attitude indicator and plugs into the electrical system. It’s got a battery backup, and at around $2,000, will cost the same or less than the instrument it replaces. A test model also contained heading information, so it could replace the directional gyro, too. The company is also building a 2″ model, and it expects to begin selling experimental versions this summer while it pursues certification . . .

Also overheard at the show:

* Bendix/King is planning a hand-held GPS “Aviator” to challenge Garmin’s dominance in the portable GPS market. Expect to see an announcement this summer.

* Synthetic vision won’t be limited to G1000s. The technology will migrate to hand-held GPSs — but it will take a couple of years to make the jump. Garmin’s high-end 496 doesn’t have enough processing power to handle the demand of so much graphics. But Garmin, and others, are working on it.

 

Low oil pressure

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

I’ve been leveraging my airframe and powerplant education lately on a 1960 Piper Comanche 180. One of the benefit packages that come with an A&P certificate is the delusion that I will come out ahead by buying an old airframe and sinking time and money into it. My rationalization works like this: There are only 230,000 light aircraft in the United States, which has a population of nearly 300 million souls. Someday people are going to realize that light aircraft are rare and scarce and that’s when I’m going to be in position to cash in. At the present time, I’m still in the cash-out phase of this equation.

Yesterday I drove out to my favorite engine shop to get a new oil pressure check ball. When I took mine out to inspect it I found a little  corrosion and a wear spot. I pulled it to look it over, but mainly to put a couple of washers under the relief valve spring to up the oil pressure. Lycoming says my O-360 should have an oil pressure of 75 to 85 psi at cruise; mine is 62. The PA-24 owner’s manual says the green arc is from 65 to 85 psi. I put in a new spring and one washer. I’ll fly it today and report back on the progress.

What’s in your flight planner?

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

Housecleaning my computer recently, I decided to clear out a few routes in my AOPA’s Real-Time Flight Planner profile to make room for some summertime trips. So, goodbye for now to KFDK-KOXB, KFDK-KFFA, and KFDK-W29. Then my eye fell on KFDK-KSKY. I couldn’t remember the identifier; why was it on the list? I clicked on it. Oh, yes–Griffing-Sandusky!

In June 2006, I got a high-performance/complex signoff in a Socata Trinidad. My son and daughter wanted to go somewhere new and interesting, but they wanted to go faster than 115 knots. (They really are good kids, though.) We never met a roller coaster we didn’t like, so I chose Griffing-Sandusky, and a short drive from Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio. I used the AOPA RTFP to plan a not-exactly-direct route from Frederick that skirted the Pittsburgh and Cleveland Class B airspace. The trip took two and one-half hours. We spent a perfect summer day racing around Cedar Point, which calls itself the Roller Coaster Capital of the World, and with good reason.

I think I’ll hang on to KFDK-KSKY awhile longer.

So, what’s in your flight planner? Are you planning some new trips or hanging on to some old favorites? Tell us in the Comments section below.

Wing-tipping the runway?

Monday, April 21st, 2008

Folks, if you ever wondered how an airliner battles a landing in heavy crosswinds, take a look at this video. A classic “Never Again” story. What were the pilots thinking? Share your comments on this video and on AOPA Pilot editors’ crosswind stories posted here.