Archive for October, 2008

Your private airliner

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Boeing said this week it has 190 airliners out there, or on order, that are privately owned and equipped like castles in the sky. Boeing officials went to the Middle East to talk to customers who are buying private Boeing 747s. One wanted 12-foot ceilings in rooms throughout the jumbo jet. The most expensive private 747 flying so far cost $475 million.

On the convention floor at NBAA in Orlando Lufthansa said they can convert a private Boeing 787 Dreamliner to your needs, and offered one design. You can see my walk down the model here. It gives new meaning to the name Dreamliner.

Steve Fossett, ELTs, and your money

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

How risk averse are you? What’s your financial threshold for investing in a 406 MHz emergency locator transmitter (ELT) that will increase the likelihood that you’ll be found in the unlikely situation that you crash some place that is not obvious? Would we have found Steve Fossett hours after his accident instead of a year later if he had invested in a modern ELT? Those are questions I’m wrestling with as I look at the ELT situation.

As it turns out, you have about four choices. The cheapest: Do nothing. Your old-fashioned 121.5 MHz ELT will be perfectly legal to fly with, at least in the United States, even after February 2009 when satellites stop monitoring that signal; going to Mexico or Canada–different story. Search and rescue crews will continue to monitor the frequency.

Next you could buy a 406 MHz ELT, which is monitored by the satellites and will likely do a better job of locating you and calling in the cavalry. But the G switch on the new models is the same as the old one so the likelihood of the ELT going off is the same as before–and they don’t have a terrific record. You’ll pay about $1,000 for a basic 406 MHz ELT, including installation. But, the next option, adding a GPS interface probably doubles that cost, but greatly improves the accuracy of the search because the system bursts coordinates to the satellite for easy tracking should you “land somewhere other than an airport,” as I like to say rather than using the “c” word with passengers.

Finally, you could get similar benefits by keeping your old ELT and investing in a personal locator beacon (PLB). It too can provide good accuracy in finding you, but it has no G switch, so it’s up to you to set it off if you end up in a bad situation. PLBs can be had for a few hundred dollars.

For more, see Ian Twombly’s sweepstakes project update this week and his feature article on the subject in the October issue of AOPA Pilot.

As for me, I’m uncertain. It would be nice to know the cavalry is coming, but do I want to spend $2,000 for the unlikely chance I’ll end up someplace as remote as Steve Fossett (his 121.5 MHz ELT apparently didn’t activate). Those PLBs might make a nice Christmas present for those who never know what to get me…. (Note to self: Send link to wife.) How about you?

Roll the equipment . . .

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

Firefighters at Atlanta Hartsfield Airport provided a new meaning to the term “roll the equipment” when one of their $1 million fire trucks rolled over while speeding around the airport on a training drill. Two firefighters were injured, according to the WSBV-TV Web site.



The City of Atlanta owns 10 of the apparently top-heavy trucks, purchased for about $12 million over the last three years.


So in addition to whether a firetruck ought to roll over, one has to wonder why they cost $1+ million a piece. But apparently they do–another example of how airline-related operations drive the expense of the aviation system in this country. A plain-old $100,000 fire truck would probably serve the needs of GA just fine. Compare that to other costs incurred because of the airlines–runways with pavement five-feet thick to accommodate the “heavies.” Cat III landing systems. Inefficient in-trial separations because of wake turbulence. Meanwhile, the airlines whine that we should all pay user fees because, they like to believe, a “blip is a blip.” Well, what GA blip needs a $1 million fire truck?

Photo courtesy