As I write this, the annual Sun n Fun Fly-In is ongoing at the Lakeland (Fla.) Linder Regional Airport, less than two hours away from me by car. I spent opening day there and will be returning as soon as I put the finishing touches on this issue. Even sun, fun and airplanes must wait when deadlines approach.

My full day on the show grounds was spent mostly shopping. Events like this are great opportunities to stock up on airplane consumables-I bought some spark plugs, hydraulic fluid and other odds and ends at great prices-as well as drool over the latest and greatest offerings from a wide range of vendors. Owning and operating an airplane is never for the faint of heart, and finding good deals on parts and supplies leaves more scarce cash laying around for important stuff like $5.50/gallon fuel and unscheduled maintenance.

Oxygen Bottles


But Im always struck by the false economy some owners and pilots display when choosing how to equip their cockpits. For example, I recently completed a market survey of portable oxygen systems for sister publication Aviation Consumer. The effort involved detailed research into the products offered by five GA-specific vendors, including their systems features, standard and optional equipment, and prices. I wont tell you how it came out-you can buy the magazine for that-but I will say I was impressed to the point of shock at how economical a high-quality portable oxygen system is these days.

As you may recall, numerous readers commented favorably in recent months about an article on hypoxia appearing in our December 2007 issue. Several wrote in support of the articles main theme that without supplemental oxygen, we often dont know were hypoxic until we do something stupid or descend back to lower altitudes. Others shared their own experience, confirming hypoxias onset is both insidious and dangerous.

I already have some portable oxygen gear. If I didnt you can bet Id be taking one home from Sun n Fun, in addition to the aforementioned consumables. Especially since a complete two-person system now costs less than topping off my planes fuel tanks.

And therein is at least part of my point: I hear many pilots and owners complain they cant afford things like an oxygen system because the price of fuel is too high. But I see some of these same people dropping their coin on the latest and greatest kneeboard, sunglasses, trick flashlight or other gadget designed to lighten their cockpit workload (but which often dont).

Its important to ensure everything we need for a flight is readily accessible in the cockpit. But its even more important we first meet the basic challenges of the environment in which we fly. Like current charts, full tanks, required inspections and, yes, oxygen. The bling can wait.

-Jeb Burnside


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here