August 1, 2005
The article in the June issue regarding the status and various offerings in the new category of very light jets (VLJs) was very informative and enlightening (" The State of GA: Dawn of an Era," June Pilot). As I live just five miles from Centennial Airport in Colorado, I have followed the progress of the Adam A500 and A700 and have seen both aircraft at corporate displays and at 2004's Sun 'n Fun EAA Fly-In.
Writer Jack Olcott, however, did not seem to be aware of another VLJ on a construction fast track just 60 miles south at Colorado Springs. Bob Bornhofen's latest stunning design [called the Sport-Jet] will use a single Williams International FJ33 jet engine to achieve a cruise speed of more than 350 knots at 25,000 feet, carrying four persons in a cabin 59 inches wide, 47 inches high, and 95 inches long, and more than ample space between front and rear seating. The range will be more than 1,000 nautical miles.
As a friend of the designer, I have witnessed progress on the Sport-Jet during three visits since December 2004. First flight is expected to occur within a few months. Visit the Web site ( http://sport-jet.com) to confirm that this is indeed one more promising Colorado VLJ entry.
Having received the June issue of AOPA Pilot magazine, I detect a trend — you seem to be aiming all articles to high-tech (big bucks) aircraft and are leaving the grass-roots members (pilots) with less and less interest in the content of the magazine. I canceled a subscription to Flying magazine because it went that direction. I have been flying since the 1950s, have been an active pilot since, and have been happy at that level. If this trend continues I will be forced to resign as a member and shift to a sport pilot level. Currently I am part owner of a Cessna and have just about completed a kitplane that will take flight this summer.
AOPA Pilot covers the breadth of general aviation. The June special report on the state of general aviation included feature articles on tube and fabric tailwheel aircraft, kitbuilts, and light sport aircraft. — Editors
I just finished reading the June issue and I wanted to tell you it was a very thoughtful, objective, and well-written overview of the state of general aviation. Well done!
Your article " The State of GA: Improving Engine Technologies" in the June issue was conspicuously short and didn't mention the real reason for glacial progress in this field: a perpetually soft but highly regulated market. Low production volumes and costly FAA regs, which discourage change, allow engine manufacturers to simply fill a pipeline. Quality and product improvement aren't part of the vocabulary.
The hidden story is that better engines don't necessarily require new technology. All that's needed are quality materials, tight tolerances, and better (fundamental) engineering. My definition of an advanced engine is simply one that runs strong and reliably to overhaul; no worn crank-shafts, burned valves, or cracked cases. Premature failure of many airframe and engine parts can be directly attributed to vibration, and better cooling would extend the life of engines, helping them run to time between overhauls. Moving away from 100LL to take advantage of the economies of scale of Jet-A and/or auto fuel could also help. Porsche's ill-fated PFM engine of the late 1980s shows that revolutionary change isn't needed. What is needed is a smoother, quieter, better-engineered engine that runs reliably on quality parts and affordable gas — to bring inspiration back to personal aviation.
I read Alton K. Marsh's June 2005 article about engine developments and was surprised when the DeltaHawk diesel engine was not mentioned. To date it has not reported any problems in testing, including high-altitude shutdowns and restarts. And one more thing, why are aircraft engines costing $20,000 to $25,000? I guess I have to live with this fact of life to continue in GA. It's one of the main reasons I'm going to build an experimental rather than buy a factory airplane so I can at least afford the airframe. Anyway, what his article seems to be saying is that nothing's changed in 40 years except the cost.
I was shocked to read in your June "Proficient Pilot" column, " Obligated to Land," that an airline pilot, with three or more engines, has the option to complete an 11-hour flight after an engine failure at takeoff. For a pilot as senior as he must be for captaining a Boeing 747-400, it had to have been the costs to the airline an immediate landing would have caused, with potential personal repercussions, that overrode professional judgment and common sense. I don't care how many engines he had; an immediate change in the regulations should take away the choice. That they had to change the arrival airport and finally declare an emergency with fuel-pump issues only hints at what may have happened. A stronger hint is certainly given by your Air Alaska flight example, when a pilot continued the flight for several hours after a loud noise in the control column, and my example, the Swissair flight in which the captain made the decision, after smoke was detected in the cockpit, to spend just 10 minutes off the direct line to the runway, dumping fuel, before the "fly-by-wire system" burned through. We will never know for sure if the Alaska captain would have saved the day with an immediate landing after the "clunk" in the control column or if the Swissair pilot would have landed safely 10 minutes sooner with the extra fuel on board, and sadly, neither will the loved ones of the two airplane loads of people.
You would think that any pilot would have the common sense to land as soon as possible when there is "some tightness and binding" in his aileron control (" Pilot Counsel: In-Flight Mechanical Problems," June Pilot). You also would think that the FAA would have the common sense to ground an airliner with an obvious design defect until it has been corrected. I wonder if the airworthiness directive said, "Attention all DC-9 pilots with clogged drain valves, if you feel restricted controllability of the aileron cables this AD has probably not been accomplished and don't forget FAR 91.7(b)."
I don't know who Alan Cockrell is, author of June's " Just the Way He Dreamed It," but he encountered a remarkably good story and wrote about it remarkably well. Most of your writers could take a lesson on both counts instead of so frequently sermonizing about how to fly, neither an efficient nor fun way to learn.
As a longtime aerobatic pilot and supporter of flying in general, and aerobatics in particular, I'm always excited when I see an article that may help increase awareness and interest in our poorly understood sport. So when I saw Alan Cockrell's article, I looked forward to a success story about a pilot giving a ride to an interested person from outside the acro/flying community. Instead I was deeply disappointed and ashamed by what I read!
I suppose that I should have been tipped off when I read the subhead, "Offering the flight of a lifetime." Sounds a bit presumptuous from the start. Well, it only went downhill from there! The denigrating way the author describes this man and his family was insulting.
Once asked for a ride, he is shamed ("trapped," as he puts it) by his fellow airport buddies into giving this guy "the ride." His repeated references to the "liability thing" seem to be an effort to let us know just what a sacrifice he made by giving this "seedy" fellow a ride.
This story is over the top. What are we supposed to get out of it? That, in spite of himself, he learned that it makes you feel good inside to give rides to appreciative people?
My only consolation is that this article was published in AOPA Pilot, and not a mass-market magazine where it could do real damage by giving the impression that pilots are just a group of self-absorbed egotists, who don't like to give people rides, and who view outsiders as something to be tolerated, mostly just yokels who can't hope to understand what's going on.
"Just the Way He Dreamed It" by Alan Cockrell is one of the finest pieces of writing I have encountered in any magazine. He has that keen observer's eye and the ability to bring the reader into the story. I will confess to a tear in my eye at the end. Google tells me that he has a book out, Tail of the Storm. I have put it on my reading list.
In " Exclusive First Look: Eclipse 500 Debuts," July Pilot, we reported that the Eclipse 500 per-seat-mile cost will be 89 cents. In fact, it is the direct operating cost per statute mile that will be an estimated 89 cents. Pilot regrets the error.
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