Posts Tagged ‘Ian Twombly’

GA serves America in unique ways

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Chances are you’ve noticed our GA Serves America campaign. At least, we hope you have. Clearly pilots know the value of aviation to communities around the country from an access standpoint, but how many of us trumpet the j word? You know, jobs.

General aviation contributes 1.3 million jobs in this country, which is astounding when you consider the relatively few number of pilots and aircraft. But I wonder how much that number extends out to secondary and tiertary levels.

As a product tester I get lost of unique and funky products in the office on a regular basis. A recent one called Glovelite got my attention for being particularly creative. And it’s creator and leader is a creative guy. Besides the value of the product itself, founder Paul Smith is also very aware of how his product is helping to give work to small businesses around his region.

Directly as a result of creating this one unique product, Smith has engaged publishers, a Web manager, a computer equipment company, an advertising/marketing consultant, a patent attorney, a lawyer, an accountant, the local printing shop, a label maker, a Neoprene supply company, a lining material supply company, a sewing resource, and the local UPS office. And this was all before the product even got much visibility. He also exhibited at AOPA Aviation Summit, helping to employ union workers in Tampa, people who service his airplane, the hotel, AOPA, etc.

It’s astounding when you think about it. Smith is just one example of thousands of aviation products and services out there creating jobs in a tough economy. So remember that GA serves America even when we’re parked on the ramp.

Colgan accident may mean big changes

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

February’s accident in which a Colgan Airlines Bombardier Q-400 crashed on approach to Buffalo International will result in changes to at least a few airline industry practices. It may sound obvious given the training, experience, pay, and fatigue issues that were raised in the days following the crash. But this week the FAA held the first of what it says will be many industry meetings aimed at figuring out solutions to some of these issues. And they’re apparently committed to making some changes.

Among some of the proposals are longer rest periods, higher pay, voluntary industry reporting of safety practices, and interestingly, more release of pilot records.

Some of the issues and their respective solutions makes sense, especially increased rest periods. But the release of a pilot’s record is something new entirely, and it’s more than a little troubling. For one thing, it’s a solution looking for a problem. The flight’s captain has been reported to have failed a few of his checkrides during his early training days, along with about 20 percent of his student pilot comrades nationwide.

The airlines have a very lengthy training regime. This we know, and while initially it was discussed in reference to the accident, now most seem to agree that Colgan’s training wasn’t an issue. So my question is if Colgan trained the captain well, how is his performance on the private pilot checkride at all relevant? If he failed checkrides in training that’s one thing. But dropping 100 feet on a steep turn on a private pilot checkride is quite another. Would the airline have hired him had they known about the failures? Maybe. Will they hire applicants in the future who have failed? No way. And the last time I checked, “checkride failure” wasn’t a common contributing factor in NTSB final reports.

So now we’re left with two major problems: Students fast tracking to the airlines will have immense pressure to perform on every checkride, and the FAA wants to make it easier to access a pilot’s personal file. The first point is less important for most of us, but I feel like it may lead to insider deals with examiners who never fail applicants at the big flight schools. Or worse, students who quit desk jobs in search of a dream airline career, only to fail their private pilot checkride.

The bigger issue for most pilots is what will happen in the future with pilot records. Now that record is only available if you release it. But how long will it remain that way? Will the FAA just release all of our records? How will it affect insurance? What about privacy concerns? There are too many questions right now without answers. I can only hope the fever dies down before we get to the gruesome details. And I’m not just saying that because I used the plotter wrong on my private pilot checkride.

How are things?

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Without a doubt, the economy is the top story of Sun ‘n Fun this year. How’s it going? Are people making it? How’s attendance? Which projects are on the chopping block? The conversations are consistent and predictable, only the players change.

But the answers are surprising. A few airplane manufacturers that we talked to said the show is fantastic. Some equipment and avionics sellers say they’re happy, or pleasantly surprised as they sometimes say. Cirrus yesterday even said domestic orders are up 2 percent from the same time last year. A popular financing broker said there’s capital, and the standards are pretty much the same as they always have been. Insurance prices are down, and even LSA seems to be taking hold.

So while most are still taking cover while the eyewall passes over, others seems to be approaching the outer rain bands. Is the progress for real and is it sustainable? Most say yes, even going so far to say that it was never that bad to begin with.

The skeptics say it was simply low expectations. Don’t expect any orders when you get here, and each one is special, they say. But others give clear examples of success that is undeniable. Maybe’s it’s the incredible weather, but people feel good.

Are student pilots declining?

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Student pilot numbers are down, and will continue to be if the FAA is correct. The agency released its annual aviation forecast recently, where it said that student pilot numbers peaked this century at 94,420 in 2001. As you might expect, they’ve been in decline ever since, with an estimated 80,989 this year.

That in and of itself is news, but the forecast was created to, well…forecast. The good folks at the FAA expect student pilot numbers to hit a low of 72,050 in 2010 before rebounding to a high of 86,600 in 2025. That’s some sobering, bad news. But there’s a silver lining, actually two silver linings. The first is that the forecast is notoriously wrong so we shouldn’t believe it. Although, now that I say that I remember that it’s usually overly optomistic. Ugh. The second silver lining is that sport pilots are expected to multiply like wildfire, from only 2,623 last year to more than 20,000 by 2025. Will it happen? Refer to the statement above.

So what does the future hold for GA? Will those of us who are left be flying more, thereby negating the negative economic and political impacts? Or will all the baby boomers give up their medicals and fly an LSA at four gallons an hour on the weekend?

Personally, I’m taking the head-in-the-sand approach and will continue on as if GA is doing great. Kids will always love airplanes, adults will always need a safe, expeditious way to get from point A to point B, and weekend warriors will always need a break from life for a few hours. But that’s not to say we shouldn’t be proactive. I cringe when I think of all the students who have fallen off the FAA roll, driven away by a lousy flight school or selfish CFI. Hopefully they (we) will wake up one day and realize we can’t take this great thing we have for granted.

Congratulations Karoline!

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

Congratulations to Karoline Amodeo, the winner of the 2008 Get Your Glass Sweepstakes Piper Archer. While I didn’t get to see Karoline’s reaction to the award live, I did get the opportunity to welcome her back to New York and take her flying in her new airplane.

Although most people would probably be timid about flying a new airplane for the first time, Karoline was not in the slightest. She jumped in, threw on her new headset, and went for it. Being an ATC student, she obviously had no trouble with the radios. We took off in strong winds and she did great, despite a lack of currency. We flew north over Hyde Park, New York, home to the Culinary Institute of America and a Vanderbilt house. She pointed them out as we flew along. Then she turned south, admiring the view and commenting on what a great day it was to fly. When we arrived back at the airport, Karoline told me she wanted to do three touch and gos to get current, which she did with ease. When we pulled in to the ramp at Richmor Aviation, she kept talking about how easy the airplane was to fly.

After our focus on the glass panel and our work on the engine, paint, and interior, she seemed to hardly notice any of it. It was hard for me not to get busy teaching her all about the advanced avionics. But I wanted her to enjoy the moment, which clearly she did. I’m sure as the days go by and she comes down from cloud nine it will start to sink in that she has a special airplane.

Shutting down I knew it was all over. The 18 months of work for hundreds of people at AOPA, the shops, and the contributors had come to a close. It was a moment of transition. Karoline became a proud airplane owner, having woken up that day thinking she’d simply be taking the airlines home from Atlanta after the Women in Aviation Conference. And the rest of us made our way back to Frederick, happy for Karoline and her wonderful family. I’ll miss the airplane. It may not have been fast or flashy, but Karoline is thrilled to have it, and that makes all the work worth it. Congratulations Karoline.

Fly with the brothers

Friday, February 20th, 2009

The footage below is certainly something I’ve never seen, and I would venture to say 99 percent of other pilots haven’t either. It dates back to 1909 when the Wright brothers did a demonstration in Italy. And while the Wrights had done this type of thing before in front of video cameras, the hosting Web site claims it’s the first ever on-board aerial footage, and it’s cool!

More than anything, I was struck at the pitch instability the aircraft possessed. Something tells me I would have been a goner had I flown that thing.

Watch the movie

Is aviation splitting in two?

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

Some events have transpired lately that have led me to believe aviation may be splitting into two distinct camps–the no foolin’ around go-somewhere types, and the very light airplane fly around the pattern type. The first type uses the airplane as a tool, whether for business or pleasure.  The second group uses it purely for fun, and wants flying to become more and more fun as time goes on.

In other words, we have one group that wants airplanes to be faster, carry more, and have a high dispatch rate, and another group that wants the airplane to be cheap, slow, and carry one or two people. An extreme view might be that when the dust settles, no airplanes exist between a Cirrus and a Sport Cub. Well, nothing except for 172s used for training.

The driving force is obviously cold hard cash. As things get more expensive, credit becomes tighter, and a family’s income increasingly is dedicated to survival–do the haves and have nots move into TBMs and LSAs, respectively? Or, has it always been this way? Those who believe the middle class in this country is going away probably also think our industry is changing to reflect the split scenario.

You think you can fly?

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

Who said flying had to involve wings?

Refunds do exist in aviation

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

There is justice in this world. Just ask the students at ATP, the nationwide flight school dedicated to training career pilots. This week ATP announced the career pilot program students who enrolled at mid-2008 prices will be given a rebate check of up to $2,500 because the cost of avgas has dropped more than $1.50.

Can you imagine what these students must be thinking? You want to give me money back? In this economy?

When you work the math, even a student eligible for the full refund will only get around 4 percent of the course fee back. That’s not much when you’re talking almost $60,000. But, the money isn’t really the point. It’s the principle. How many of us still pay fuel surcharges at our flight schools, or on the airlines for that matter? Yet, as we’ve closely watched the price at the fuel pump decrease rapidly, the surcharges remain. Why? Maybe supply of students has dropped off, or maybe insurance rates have gone up. Then why not raise the rental rates or instructor rates? Surcharges always have been a thinly veiled way of telling customers the business needs more money but doesn’t think they’re smart enough to compare pricing with a competitor.

So as the holiday season comes to a close, I say thanks ATP for doing what’s right and continuing the merriment just a little bit longer.

Top of the line

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

What goes 200 knots, has two engines, features a Garmin G1000 cockpit, is certified for flight into known ice, and comfortably seats six in luxury? If you said a Beechcraft G58 Baron, you’re right!

If you haven’t had a chance to fly a Baron yet, you need to do it. Sure, it’s not a fancy jet or a turboprop. But the Baron represents the top echelon of piston ownership for many pilots, and there are countless reasons why. You could start that list with all-weather capability, a large cabin, good useful load, and of course, the excellent flying characteristics of a Beechcraft.

There’s just something about the Baron. It’s hard to describe exactly what it is. On our test flight yesterday, I got a good glimpse, though. There’s the power. Apply brakes and full throttle on takeoff and be ready to go when you release the brakes. This beast moves. Then there’s the controllability. It’s not that the control is particularly responsive or quick. It’s just…right.

Pilots must agree because the Baron is sold out through June. In an economy where people are concerned about their portfolios, jobs, and financial security, that’s staggering.

Stay tuned to the magazine for an upcoming feature on the icon and learn what has made it so successful over the years.