Letters: A Tipping Point for 406 MHz

Dave Hirschman’s update on the installation of ELTs struck home for many readers at an interesting time in aviation history.

April 4, 2014

Thank you for promoting the 406 upgrade to our pilot community. As stated in the article, the new 406 ELTs can greatly reduce the time it takes to be found. As a Civil Air Patrol member and Maryland Wing’s chief of emergency services I can relate from personal experience that, even in a fairly populous state like Maryland, it can be difficult to find an aircraft that lands or crashes in the woods or mountainous terrain if there are not witnesses. If you are injured, being found quickly can mean the difference between life and death.

In many of the searches I have worked, the ELT or its antenna was damaged in the crash and were not a help in finding the aircraft. Because Maryland has fairly extensive cellphone coverage, a cellphone (charged and left on) has often made the difference. CAP has experts that can work with the phone companies to triangulate position fixes from the cell tower data. Another simple step that assures that a search begins in a timely fashion and within a defined area is to file a flight plan whenever possible. If you are flying a short hop or local sightseeing and aren’t going to file, then make sure friends or family know your plans and know when to expect you to return. No one thinks that their next flight will end in an accident, but taking a few extra steps each time we fly can greatly increase the chance for a good outcome.

Maj. Rick Stuart
AOPA 3476354
Westminster, Maryland

Don’t get me wrong, I do feel that the 406 ELT is a good investment for safety, especially if you are flying in mountains or remote terrain. But I have problems with articles that sell this equipment without telling the readers what they may be up against to install it in their airplanes. If you have a post-1990-production Cessna or Piper you may very well just have a simple one-hour plug-and-play installation.

But for most of your readership who fly older legacy airplanes these upgrades are more expensive and time consuming to install. And, when I am looking at mandated avionics upgrades for ADS-B compliance (although who knows if that 2020 deadline will hold up), my money would be more wisely spent on something that is required than optimal—especially when flying in the Mid-Atlantic. If I was forced down, the chance of landing in a remote area is highly unlikely and, given the proximity to all the new airspace restrictions, I will be talking to ATC anyway.

Christopher Polek
AOPA 4681307
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

THEN: 1998
The lowdown on ELTs

I don’t wish to deprive the commercial or deep-pocket flyers of every high-tech advantage that can be fitted into an airplane but am I the only pilot who thinks that it is absurd to mandate an ELT in a small private aircraft? I can file a flight plan or tell my friends where I am going and feel satisfied that a reasonable search will be initiated in case of an emergency.

Leonard Uecker
AOPA 156532Quitman, Arkansas

No runway, no problem

I enjoyed the recent article on Just Aircraft. My family and I live about a mile from Gary Schmitt, and have enjoyed following his progress since he bought into the company a while back. Gary often flies over our house on final approach to his mountaintop grass airstrip at his home. He has the enviable situation of being able to fly to work most days. Gary has shared his love of flying with so many people in this area.

The SuperSTOL is quite an airplane. My 19-year-old son, Nicholas (at six feet, nine inches tall) has flown in it with Gary, and we have both visited Gary at the last two EAA AirVenture shows. From reading the article, it sounds like Dave Hirschman didn’t attempt that strip himself. I don’t blame him!

Alan Mayer
AOPA 6772912
Highlands, North Carolina

Today, I had the time to read the article on the intriguing SuperSTOL. Indeed, it is quite an impressive short/off-field performer. Nicely written, too. What did catch me by surprise, however, is the glorification of the airplane, which I read between the lines. Also, the references Dave chose surprised me. Neither the Pilatus Porter nor the Helio Courier was first in its field. Neither of the airplanes had been manufactured in huge numbers. Both were commercial, several-seat airplanes with full-blown certification and well beyond the reach of the average guy. One could have found historical STOL performance a long time ago with the Fieseler Storch.

In today’s kit-built world, the proven design of the Zenith CH701 has been available for interested builders for decades now. Its STOL performance is equal to or better than that ofthe SuperSTOL. There may bemore out there which I do not recall right away.

It would be nice (and I would consider it fair) if you would extend the scope of your article in a follow-up that shows what STOL really can mean today. Just look at those airplanes that have a price tag (no concepts, or one-of-a-kind).

Eckard Glaser
AOPA 1034208
Gerbrunn, Germany

THEN: 1960
Low-cost lightplanes

A situation could develop, very similar to the one which the motor car makers found themselves in and are now trying desperately to rectify. To keep a crop of flyers coming off the grass roots every year, those lightplanes better be kept available. The people turn to something else when they are priced out of what they are doing.

Morgan R. Gilbert
AOPA 165068
Yakima, Washington

‘Benign neglect’

The article about Venice Airport really brought back memories of when I was hired as the full-time airport manager at Frederick Municipal Airport in Frederick, Maryland. Prior to my becoming manager, the airport was managed by the FBO and very little attention was paid by the local community.

When word went out that the city had hired a full-time manager, my phone rang nonstop. Citizens called complaining about noise. I knew it was important to get to the problem without delay. I held meetings with the various neighborhood groups and made a list of complaints. I listened and they appreciated it. I held meetings with citizens and pilots together—which was a brave move because I wasn’t sure I would live through them. But persistence paid off and with time they began to understand and respect one another. The end result was the development of the Frederick Municipal Airport Noise Abatement Program. The program was very successful.

Charlie Abell
AOPA 1170795
Frederick, Maryland

THEN: 1989
Saving airports

It is better to be in a “circle of friends” than to face the extinction at the center of a hostile circle of neighbors.

Raymond Sessions
AOPA 404374
Lake City, Florida

Thanks so much for spotlighting the new lease on life that Venice Aviation Society Inc. (VASI) supporters garnered for the airport at Venice, Florida. We fly our Mooney 2000 Ovation to Venice and take advantage of Venice’s two 5,000-foot runways, GPS approach, sufficient tiedowns—even during the busy winter season—a maintenance facility, an avionics shop, and new precision approach path indicators.

Runway 5 is our usual landing runway because of the prevailing winds. The FBO is most accommodating and the on-site restaurant is a delight. Taxi service even at irregular hours is available.

AOPA honored Venice’s VASI by recognizing them for what they accomplished and VASI is a national model for saving GA airports and overcoming community criticism. This historic Army Air Corps training base and growing active GA airport needs to remain in perpetuity and it will, thanks to VASI.

Les and Kathy Megyeri
AOPA 486399
Washington, D.C.

Ian’s helicopter adventures

Like Ian Twombly, I, too, was a reasonably experienced fixed-wing pilot who took the plunge and got my helicopter rating two years ago. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to fly a number of small helicopters, and with that experience I have to take umbrage with Ian’s statement, “The R22 is to helicopters what the Cessna 172 is to airplanes.” While both aircraft share similar levels of market penetration, that’s about where the similarities end.

The 172 is a robust machine that is easy to fly and considered by many to be the ideal trainer. The R22 is not. In fact, it is among the most difficult helicopters to fly—so much so that the FAA had to issue a SFAR establishing minimum training and experience levels. No other helicopter requires this. I don’t think Cessna would say the same about the 172.

I would encourage Ian to log a couple hours in an Enstrom, Schweizer, or Bell. I think it will give him a drastically different opinion of the R22.

Dennis Martin
AOPA 5859651
Oconto, Wisconsin

We welcome your comments. Editor, AOPA Pilot, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland 21701 or email. Letters may be edited for length and style before publication.