February 1, 1999

Y2K fixes not simple

As a pilot and a space scientist, I was very interested to read the article by David Rozansky on the year 2000 (Y2K) bug (" Y2K2U," December 1998 Pilot). The coverage of the various systems was excellent, and information about the status and cost of the various fixes was great.

I must point out that the statement, "The solution to the problem is relatively simple. Find the code and change it from a two-digit year code to a four-digit year code…" is both wrong and oversimplified.

The problem is much deeper than that. In particular, as you point out concerning stored flight plans, computers will have to continue to recognize dates from the previous century well into the next. If you simply change the programs to use and/or recognize four-digit year codes, they will no longer be able to use the already-stored two-digit codes in databases which might have been created weeks, months, or even years before the turn of the century. You can't just fix the computer programs; you have to find all the two-digit date codes in all the databases to which the programs may refer and fix them (or somehow flag them so that the programs will know which date code format to use with which files — but that is a more complicated solution), in addition to making the program changes.

This often requires more work than fixing the problems, because databases are not usually as well documented as programs. The problem is not simple at all.

Lyman Hazelton AOPA 1032219
Chandler, Arizona

Insights instrumental

Regarding " Instrument Insights": What a great series! I am using it to help in my certificated flight instructor-instrument practical test preparations. Many thanks.

Jerry Sokolosky AOPA 288112
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

I noticed that " Instrument Insights: Secrets for Staying Alive"(December 1998 Pilot) was the last installment of this excellent series.

Has any thought been given to reprinting the entire series together? I bet many instrument pilots would find this valuable. I know that I would.

John Wallbillich AOPA 1227246
Huntington Woods, Michigan

The entire series is available on AOPA's Web site ( www.aopa.org/pilot/features/iimain.html). — Ed.

Ocean crossings

I just finished reading Thomas A. Horne's article on the transatlantic voyage in a brand-new Pilatus PC-12 (" Westbound, Hammer Down," December 1998 Pilot). I am 17 and had never read an article in Pilot. My father is a pilot and has been a member of AOPA for a number of years. I love airplanes and have always loved the photographs in the magazine, but this was the first time I'd actually stopped to read an article.

I was very impressed and pleasantly surprised to find an article that I could understand without digging through my memory bank of all the pilot terms. I am looking forward to the Socata TBM 700 Atlantic crossing (see " Atlantic Adventure," p. 61).

Adam Lynch
Altamonte Springs, Florida

I enjoyed the article on the North Atlantic crossing in a single, and I may be able to shed some light — not much, but a little — on the origin of the term poopie suit.

In 1949 and 1950 I was a newly designated Navy pilot assigned to an antisubmarine patrol squadron flying P2V Neptunes out of our home base at Quonset Point, Rhode Island. We made frequent trips to Goose Bay and Narsarsuaq. The latter airfield was Bluie West One, built during World War II for refueling eastbound ferry flights (fly up the 50-mile-long fjord, turn left at the end, drop the gear and flaps, and land). Our flight crews wore an earlier version of the survival suits Horne mentioned in his article, which even then we called "poopie suits."

The poopie suit was a rubberized affair — cumbersome, restrictive, and sweaty. It made you look like a balloon or a blimp. In those days Navy lighter-than-air squadrons were still around. Their blimps were called poopie bags, a derisive-sounding term dreamed up, I suppose, by some fighter pilot trying to put blimp pilots in their place. I suspect that poopie suit is derived from poopie bag. For the origin of the term poopie I have theories, but more research is needed.

Earl Rogers AOPA 1182609
Sacramento, California

Horsing around

I grinned while reading Mark R. Twombly's " Pilotage: Horseplay" (December 1998 Pilot) because, despite what we might say, we all want to go fast.

For many years I flew a Bellanca Viking, which some believe to be a quick ship. Sometimes I passed Bonanzas; sometimes they passed me. Ditto for Mooneys, Cessna 210s, and even most light twins. But my crowning glory came on a seven-mile final on an ILS approach into Austin, Texas, when air traffic control called and instructed me to "reduce airspeed 30 — no, make that 40 knots. You're overtaking a Southwest jet." Such are the memories that will last forever.

James Parrish AOPA 936782
Terrell, Texas

Headset roundup

I read " Headset Roundup: Earily Quiet" (December 1998 Pilot) with great interest. I started using a headset in my airplane 23 years ago and consider them to be mandatory tools of flying.

In my opinion you omitted an important test of the suitability and usability of headsets: you didn't evaluate their microphones for their ability to reject unwanted cockpit noise. I have struggled with so-called intercom and communications problems in all of the aircraft that I have owned until I discovered that the problems were caused by microphone noise pickup. I discovered this accidentally when, on a whim, I purchased a headset from Softcomm. Whenever I used the Softcomm headset, my intercom and communication problems disappeared.

Since then I have experimented with various headsets and their microphones and have discovered huge differences in their ability to reject cockpit noise. In fact, the microphones that everybody "knows" are better — such as the military dynamic mics — are not the best I have discovered for rejecting noise. I have two aircraft with very high cockpit noise levels (a Nanchang CJ-6A and a Van's RV-4) so I can say with some authority that my real-world tests are significant. In the future, please test headset mics for their ability to reject cockpit noise.

Brian Lloyd AOPA 535941
Cameron Park, California

Where credit is due

I presume that I am not the first to tell Barry Schiff that the author of the "For want of a nail" item is hardly an "unknown writer" (" Proficient Pilot: Let There be Light," December 1998 Pilot).

The author is Benjamin Franklin. The saying first appeared in Franklin's Maxims, prefixed to Poor Richard's Almanac in 1758. The full quote is "A little neglect may breed mischief…for want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost; for want of a horse the rider was lost; for want of the message the battle was lost; for want of the battle the kingdom was lost; all for the want of a horseshoe nail."

Jerome F. Downs AOPA 406325
San Francisco, California

Lost is found

The dual-suction-cup remote-mount antenna bracket mentioned by Marc E. Cook and inquired about in " Letters" (December 1998 Pilot) is an active Radio Shack item and is available.

The stock number is 20-022, it sells for a mere $11.99, and it is quite suitable for extending the antenna on a handheld com radio and some handheld GPSs. Also available is stock number 20-023, which is designed for clipping to the top edge of an automobile's roll-up window.

Jim Hartzog AOPA 1280168
Flagstaff, Arizona

Bad attitude

I am a student pilot, working at a large FBO in California, and my dream has always been to fly helicopters. As everyone knows, this is an extremely expensive pastime. I am very used to the sneers and derogatory "rotor head" comments from the general aviation fixed-wing set, but it is usually in a joking manner.

I must tell you of my most recent experience. A fixed-wing pilot who also flies helicopters for the Los Angeles Police Department found out about my interest in helicopters and proceeded to tell me, in very negative terms, that I was wasting my time and money pursuing a so-called career that "would only end up in a dead-end job" and that I would always be hungry while flying helicopters.

Although I am not going to let this type of attitude deter me from my goals, it really saddens me that this type of pilot — and his comments — exist. Everyone has been a student. It is hard enough to follow your dreams, but with "help" like this, it is no surprise that so many student pilots quit without ever getting to the checkride. So if you don't like my dream, please don't tell me.

Jon Clifford AOPA 1376965
Carmel Valley, California

Diesel power

A letter from Herb Anderson (" Letters," December 1998 Pilot) gives the impression that the fuel is injected into a diesel engine for a long period during the power stroke.

I am sure that he is mistaken. The fuel in a diesel is injected for something like five degrees of crankshaft travel, while the power stroke is more like 90 degrees of crankshaft travel. The atomized fuel particles ignite immediately upon entering the compressed and very hot air in the combustion chamber and heats the air further; the expanding hot air causes the power pressure against the piston during the power stroke. From a time standpoint it is essentially an explosion, hence the noise from a diesel. This is unlike the slower burning in a gasoline engine, which goes on during a much larger number of degrees of crankshaft travel.

In order for the air in the diesel to be hot enough to cause ignition, the compression ratio must be very high, something over 20:1 — unlike the compression in a gasoline engine, which is more like 8:1. Because of the higher pressures, a diesel engine has to be stronger and therefore heavier than a gasoline engine. The higher pressure and combustion temperature make the diesel more efficient than a gasoline engine, despite its heavier weight.

Stephen duPont AOPA 185990
Osprey, Florida

DuPont is a former chief engineer for the Indian Motorcycle Company — Ed.


The URL for PS Engineering's Web site was incorrect in " Pilot Products" (January Pilot). The correct URL is www.ps-engineering.com.

The telephone number for Garmin Communication and Navigation was incorrect in "Fly by Wire" (January Pilot). The correct telephone number is 913/397-8200.

We welcome your comments. Address your letters to: Editor, AOPA Pilot, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland 21701. Send e-mail to pilot@aopa.org. Include your full name, address, and AOPA member number on all correspondence, including e-mail. Letters will be edited for style and length.