Letters

June 1, 2004

Memories of an adventure

I just finished reading " Memories of an Adventure" (April Pilot) for the second time and I think you missed the mark with this article. I say this based on my impressions and discussions with two non-taildragger pilots who read the article. Both of these Cessna drivers said that the article had considerably reduced their desire to fly anything with a wheel on the tail. What a shame.

I owned a Decathlon, a close relative of the Citabria, for three years. I consider the time I spent in that little plane to be the most fun I've ever had flying. As my wife said, "You really feel like you're flying!"

Learning aerobatics is yet another potential "adventure" you could have touched on. Aside from the potential safety aspects of learning aerobatics, it's a lot of fun.

Even the dreaded wheel landing is an adventure that can be anticipated with enthusiasm. A tailwheel plane like this can be flown and even taxied artistically. Hardly a "dragon," the Citabria is the tamest of taildraggers and rarely bites.

But the thing that surprised me the most about the Decathlon was the joy I was able to pass on to nonpilots. Everyone wanted to fly in that plane. From my mother-in-law to my kid's buddies, they all took one look and wanted to go for a ride. And upon extricating themselves from the compact interior you could see by the look on their faces that they had changed. It was as if they had truly tasted flight, the ultimate adventure. I rarely see anything like that when passengers crawl out of my Cessna or Beechcraft.

Rather than enticing readers with appealing "adventures," I'm afraid you left them with a feeling of anxious dread of flying this captivating and fun airplane, and taildraggers in general. How ironic, given that you just gave away the ultimate taildragger.

Todd Roberts AOPA 1227324
Friday Harbor, Washington

How many potential tailwheel converts have you scared off? Remember that aviation used to be made up of student pilots who soloed in four to six hours in Cubs and Aeroncas.

It is time for everyone who flies at AOPA to get back to grass-roots aviating. Get your taildragger sign-offs if you don't already have them, knock the rust off, and go out and fly conventional-gear aircraft on a regular basis. Even though it requires more action than flying trigear planes, it is not difficult and will make anyone understand the physics of flying without earning a doctorate degree.

Skip Degan AOPA 4681305
Ruckersville, Virginia

Stop the noise

Going over the " President's Position: Stop the Noise" article (April Pilot) on the noise-nuisance lawsuit, I could not help but wonder what's next for any group of people that wants to abuse the court system: Freeways are noisy, then close them down? Trucks are noisy, then ban trucking?

Anybody can feel harassed by the environment, but I consider that judges should determine early in the process when a lawsuit is groundless and dismiss it before the defendants spend huge amounts of money defending themselves for doing something perfectly legal.

Maybe AOPA should make the name of this judge and others on similar issues public, so that the pilot population knows who is who.

Marcelo J. Sagel AOPA 1200119
Lancaster, California

Sticker shock

I am writing in reference to an article in the April issue of AOPA Pilot titled " Answers for Pilots: Sticker Shock." It appears many AOPA members have questions and concerns about the cost of data updates for their GPS units. I believe many pilots do not realize all that goes into producing Jeppesen NavData and/or are not aware of the service options we provide. Please allow me to offer a high-level perspective on our processes and ways pilots can control the cost of GPS updates.

Jeppesen puts a tremendous amount of resources into turning raw government data into file formats that work in all of the GPS boxes we support. The process begins with the receipt of Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP) paper documents from countries all over the world. Contrary to what many people think, Jeppesen does not receive electronic files — we have to analyze and manually capture everything that goes into our Jeppesen Aviation Database (JAD). There can easily be thousands of changes to the JAD each 28-day cycle. Each and every change must go through a rigorous quality-control process.

There is no standard data format across the various avionics boxes. That means we have to tailor the data output from JAD to support Garmin, Free Flight, Northstar, and others. We also continue supporting discontinued GPS units to the best of our ability.

The costs associated with the original Classic Card service (trading cards via the mail) are significant for us. Each 4-MB GPS card costs us a little over $100 and we need two to three cards for every service. Add in mailing fees and our cost structure escalates quickly. Realizing the need for a better alternative, Jeppesen created the Skybound Internet update service and we have been improving it ever since its launch in 2000. Skybound, in essence, offers pilots a way to control the media and distribution costs associated with GPS NavData updates.

Jeppesen is committed to serving our customers with accurate and cost-effective solutions for database updates. The price of updating has come down dramatically over the past few years with the advent of Skybound. Jeppesen realized substantial cost savings with Skybound and has passed these savings along to the customer. In fact, subscription prices for the Skybound service are up to 51 percent less than the Classic Card service. Today it costs a Garmin GNS 430/530 user about $28 per Skybound update compared to about $57 per update for the Classic Card service (Americas coverage), and we have kept our Skybound rates static for the past three years. Skybound also offers convenience, easy access to data, and cost-effective regional coverages. In short, it is a giant leap forward in terms of updating NavData and we keep refining the system. Jeppesen recently launched a USB version of the unit, which also includes improved software.

Jeppesen has a cost-effective update solution for Garmin handheld units too. We, along with Garmin, significantly reduced the cost of handheld GPS updates by utilizing the Internet. It now costs $35 per Internet update for a Garmin handheld unit. In the past, an update disk cost as much as $130.

Hopefully, this will provide your membership with a better idea of what is involved behind the scenes to generate GPS databases and the various updating options available from Jeppesen.

Eric Anderson
Jeppesen Public Relations Specialist

Nothing but bad news

I have been involved in aviation for the better part of half a century, and never have I been more disappointed in the news AOPA has to report. I started out in military aviation, and then went on to represent and serve as a demonstration pilot for a manufacturer. Next came corporate and Part 135 commercial operations, followed by employment with the FAA as an operations inspector. Now in retirement, I still serve as a part-time crewmember on a couple of smaller business jets.

The April edition of AOPA Pilot is typical. It featured articles by John Yodice on the General Aviation Revitalization Act and another that covered the Frasca family business. A recent edition discussed the Gov. Carnahan accident and AOPA Online added to this story with news that the widow is coming forward to seek punitive damages. More good news told of three Massachusetts-based pilots who are being sued for doing nothing wrong.

Our nation's population is approaching 300 million folks, yet there are far fewer than 1 million certificated pilots, and only a relative handful are earning a living at it. Perhaps we have been preaching only to the choir. Add to such news that the government wants to privatize the air traffic control system, that airports such as Meigs Field can be shut down, and that the Transportation Security Administration has no clue as to how to deal with general aviation issues. It makes one wonder if we'll all be better off flying desktop simulators. Were it not for herculean efforts by AOPA, we'd soon see this thing we love dwindle to what passes for aviation in Europe.

As much as I have enjoyed my career, I would be hard-pressed today to convince my youngster to seek employment in general aviation. Do what it takes to try for the job of your dreams, and if it doesn't work, leave quickly and put your money and effort into graduate school. Fly for fun when you can afford it. Heck, enroll in law school. Seems there's always room for more lawyers.

William G. Friedrich AOPA 1010620
Nashua, New Hampshire

Errata

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association "Consolidated Statements of Financial Position" reported on page 65 of the May issue contained two typographical errors in the total current liabilities and total liabilities for 2002. Total current liabilities should have been stated as $18,018,000 and total liabilities should have been stated as $22,597,000. These corrections have been made online and the corrected "Consolidated Statements of Financial Position" are on the Web site ( www.aopa.org/members/files/pilot/2004/aopa0405.html#statement).

In the sidebar, " Going Public," to the article "Saying Goodbye" in the May issue, it was incorrectly stated that the sale of Wurtsboro-Sullivan County Airport was under way. Pilot regrets the error.


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 number on all correspondence, including e-mail. Letters will be edited for length and style.