Unicom

September 2001 Issue




Future Foible

‘Future Flight’ model errs by not considering spatial disorientation

I thought “Future Flight” [Reality Check, July] contained great visions, however, I didn’t read anything in the article about spatial disorientation. All the fancy new tools for navigation, weather and etc. still leave the vertigo problem unsolved.

A new advanced instrument panel should have some means of addressing the problem. Maybe an attitude display that has real depth to it, instead of perceived depth.

-Lester Zinser
Via e-mail


The advanced displays typically include large display screens with an artificial ground profile derived from the GPS database. Research shows the design works much better than traditional attitude indicators at enabling the pilot to “see” which way is up, thereby preventing spatial disorientation.

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Frequent Crashes
In “Future Flight,” [Reality Check, July], you state on page three, “... Windows crashes with a frequency alarming to pilots.” Windows may be OK for kids games, but not for running elevators, managing battlefield tasks, or e-commerce. And certainly not for flying airplanes!

There are lots of other operating systems available that don’t crash – and some of them are even free. Some operating systems used by the government are designed to be reliable, secure – and cheap. Much more so than Windows.

Your people are looking in the wrong direction.

-Reilly Burke
Via e-mail


“Our people” are merely reporting on what others are doing, and so far they’re using Windows-based systems to drive the new software. We suspect it’s as much because they already have it as anything else.

We figure research will show the tradeoff between reliability and cost, and indeed whether this level of automation will even make sense at all in a general aviation cockpit.

As we said, there are many bumps in the road between where we are and where this research wants to put us. Computer operating systems are just one of them.

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Lessons from U.K. GA
I would like to make a few observations concerning what appears to be behavior by U.S. private pilots in the realm of Idiot’s Delight or Alice in Wonderland.

Having spent 68 years in the air, flying light aircraft in the British Army, and as a Forward Air Controller for 30 years, I am constantly amazed at the lack of discipline exhibited by a small but consistent number of GA pilots in the U.S.

Your article “This Ain’t Horseshoes” [Editor’s Log, July] concerning a twin that suddenly appeared on final in front of a fast-approaching Learjet without any announcement of his presence is typical. The idiot flying the twin decided that safety and common courtesy didn’t apply to him. Fortunately he did not cause an accident. Had this happened in the U.K., he would almost certainly have had his registration reported to the authorities and a substantial fine would have been imposed.

In “Stomach for Upset” [Airmanship, July] concerning unusual attitudes, Ms. Garvey mentions that a half-dozen spins are “roughly three times as many as most CFIs have under their belt.” Surely stall and spin recovery are among the basics a new pilot should know above all else if he is to enjoy a long and healthy life while flying. It is inconceivable that spin and stall training are not part of the training program for pilots looking to obtain their private license. Say it isn’t so!

One final point worth mention is the consistent number of people featured in Preliminary Reports who run out of fuel, an inexcusable deficiency. My mother started taking me up in 1934, when I was 12, in her Tiger Moth. She had an instructor who had a unique way of making you remember to refuel. He had a large sticky label, which he’d stick to your forehead, that read DTTS – Dip the Tanks, Stupid. It worked like a charm.

Why is it that so many pilots find it hard to automatically dip the tanks and check the fuel level as part of every preflight check?

The CAB in the U.K. used to have a standard fine – and a stiff one at that – that was imposed on any airman who ran out of fuel and was forced to land on some farmer’s field. I don’t know if the fine still exists in the U.K., but it was a sure-fire way of making sure you did a thorough preflight, including fuel.

Your publication does very valuable work in ensuring flight safety. Now, if only we could get the 5 percent of idiots with licenses to read it.

-John Saxon
Palm Springs, Fla.


We think you’ve hit the nail on the head that there is an amazing lack of discipline among a small number of pilots. But they sure do seem to get around.

To respond to one of your points, the FAA has dropped mandatory spin training in favor of “stall awareness.” Trainees nibble at the edges of stalls, but are expected to recover at the break. Seldom are stalls allowed to progress past the incipient phase. We think spin training is a must for any serious pilot, regardless of what you fly, regulations or not. We also think manufacturers should supply a properly calibrated dip stick, since calibrating a “universal” aftermarket dip stick is a true pain.

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Who’s Flying These Things, Anyway?
“There is nothing wrong with the new Cessna engines.” You’ll hear this from owners, the factory, just about everyone. That’s my line too.

What am I supposed to say – that I bought a new airplane and the engine routinely shuts down at irregular intervals? That nothing’s really wrong and I just have to get used to it?

People say it’s not the TIO-540 engine that’s the problem, and they may be right. But I think it’s the installation.

At CIA Aviation in Camarillo an instructor and his student had a scare. In slow flight and stalls on a hot summer day, the engine just plumb quit. It would not restart promptly. It took him a long time to get the engine started, and I’m convinced it’s because he followed the book.

He established best glide speed. But best glide speed is a bad thing for this problem because it recreates the very situation that caused the stoppage in the first place: slow flight, nose up some, no air coming in over the stainless lines under the cowl. This is bad medicine for the new Cessnas.

I was one of the first people to get a new T206 when Cessna restarted production. I now have more than 200 hours in it, but it’s still nasty in this regard.

The mechanics never find a thing wrong. That’s natural, because they never duplicate the conditions that create the problem. They run the engine on the ground in the run-up area. It’s a fool’s errand.

Instead, I want to get one of them up there with me some day. I’ll get up high and slow-fly for 10 minutes, do a couple of approach to landing stalls with the power way back.

Then, I’ll transition to what I call “simulated taxi” mode. It’s sort of a mush, but not a stall. With the power way back, there will be almost no air flow over the cylinders or the fuel lines. In less than a minute, the engine will quit. I guarantee it.

To recover, I won’t keep the nose up and set best glide speed. I’ve found it’s better to dive. Crank that prop and she’ll fire shortly. The flaps need to be way open. The mechanic will undergo a conversion right there. The guys who should be doing this every day are the test pilots in Kansas who are paid to do it.

The airplane has another problem. On a hot day in Winnamucca, Nev., I taxied to the fuel island. Some guy told me I was trailing some serious black smoke. I knew it, but I wasn’t about to hand-push this heavily loaded hog from the hold short line a half mile away when it was 102 degrees.

In hot weather, make a good hour or two’s flight, do a normal landing, but let it really roll out, power off. Then try to taxi back to parking from the far end of the runway. My money says you probably won’t make it without the tug – unless you use my “trail black smoke technique.”

This has happened to me any number of times. Santa Fe, N.M., Winnamucca, Mammouth Lakes, Calif., Glacier International, Mont. The list goes on. Dead engine upon roll out or stopping after clearing the runway to clean up the plane. Finally it doesn’t happen anymore, because I now know what the boost pump is for.

-Jim Platler
Los Angeles, Calif.

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Upset Price Hike
I enjoyed your article especially since I attended the Texas Air Aces AMP (Advanced Maneuvering Program) in early June near Houston. It is a great program and would recommend it to others. I flew a Beech T-34 on two flights for a total of 2.6 hours with extensive briefings and debriefings during a day and a half. However, their cost is not $1675 as you reported. It is $2495.

I believe that they are catering more to the corporate general aviation market, which is probably less price sensitive. I hope that they don’t price themselves out of the general aviation market.

-Luca Bencini-Tibo
Via e-mail

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Addendum
The article “Stomach for Upset” [Airmanship, July] inadvertently omitted contact information for Rich Stowell. He can be reached at 800-869-6627 (rich@richstowell.com) or in care of CP Aviation, 805-525-2138. For more info see www.richstowell.com.