Friday, May 31, 2013
THE PROVERBIAL CRAP HIT THE FAN TODAY
Deer Valley Airport (DVT) is the busiest GA airport in the world. It is not due to the 1200 based aircraft but to the biggest flight school in the US that teaches the Chinese how to fly. TransPac Aviation Academy has had numerous problems over the years. They have changed names and corporate ownership of the airplanes.
There is a practice area NW of DVT over Lake Pleasant that is home to TransPac training. I have always felt that there are too many planes in a very concentrated area. Today the crap hit the fan. There was a midair including at least one TransPac Piper Cherokee. At the time of writing this, the other plane was heavily burned. It might be another TransPac plane but that is to be determined. 4 people lost their lives today. I assume it was a flight instructor and student pilot in each plane.
TransPac’s students are from China. We have always questioned their ability to speak English and more important to think in English. After several problems a few years ago TransPac said they would not accept students who were not English proficient. Then these students were supposed to be immersed in English training while learning to fly. If anything, I feel that the problem has retrogressed to where there is an inherent danger to all pilots that fly out of DVT. Unfortunately today is a very sad day to those who lost their lives and their families as well of those associated with TransPac and GA.
Two things have to change and change now. First, fewer planes flying in the practice area as it is too crowded. Second, quit taking students that are not conversant in English and that having trouble thinking in English. This is the only way that we can prevent another tragedy occurring again and again with TansPac students and flight instructors.
Thursday, May 30, 2013
LIGHT SPORT AIRCRAFT (LSA’s)
A PLETHORA OF PROBLEMS
LSA’s were supposed to be a savior to general aviation. LSA’s were to be a well equipped airplane at a very modest price. We all know that didn’t happen. As of today it looks like only 2 LSA manufactures have a chance of survival. Cub Crafters who really sell more models with bigger engines that don’t qualify as an LSA and ICON who is yet to produce and ship their model, are the only 2 companies I see with a chance of survival.
ICON is currently 250 pounds over the approved limit for a amphibian LSA. They have requested a waiver from the FAA and time will tell. It is the only true fun LSA being able to land in water or on a runway. The ICON has a fun factor with a good build and is being built in the US along with Cirrus’s help in constructing the composites. At $139,000 it is not IFR but has a fun factor.
Let’s list the pros and cons of a LSA.
LSA’s do not require a medical to fly daytime only and no IFR.
You get a new airplane.
LSA’s reasonably equipped cost too much, in the neighborhood of $150,000.
LSA’s don’t fly fast averaging 90 knots cruise.
Besides ICON and Cub Crafters, LSA manufactures don’t respond promptly or not at all.
You don’t know if the company for the plane you bought will still be in business from one day to the next.
You can’t fly an LSA at night or IFR without a medical, and the costs rise to equip a plane that is IFR capable.
With an LSA if you don’t take a new medical you can self qualify that you are okay to fly. If you failed a medical you cannot fly an LSA legally. Flying to the west coast in a LSA is almost useless unless it is IFR to fly through the marine layer.
On short trips of 3 hours or less a LSA will get you there albeit very slowly.
LSA’s were supposed to be an “economical” plane to purchase at around $80,000. That never happened.
Sales departments are extremely limited and slow to answer questions. It’s a real crap shoot as they might not be around to honor your warranty. Even Cessna has discontinued production at this time of their Sky Catcher LSA listed at $150,000. By producing these planes in China Cessna was going to keep their costs down. That didn’t happen.
If you have your medical you can buy a Cessna 172 for around $40,000 and cruise at 120 knots and fly IFR. $150,000 can buy you a SR22 G1 and you can fly at around 155 knots. Another alternative is to buy a Vans RV product that is home built. Before purchasing a used Vans product I suggest you find someone you know that has built one to inspect the quality of build before doing a pre buy annual. You would have a fast 2 passenger airplane that should be under $100,000.
It comes down to a couple of issues. If you think you can’t pass your next medical, and wish to continue flying, an LSA might be for you. Of course $150,000 is a lot of money to invest to have a new airplane that can only cruise at 90 some knots and is limited on how you can fly it. There are used airplanes such as the Eurocoupe (some models), Cessna 120’s and 140’s and a few others on the market that qualify under the LSA rules for weight and speed for a lot less money than a new plane.
I don’t feel the LSA market will succeed as is today.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
The FAA is part of the Department of Transportation and throughout this column I will refer to the DOT.
AOPA and the EAA have been working together to eliminate 3rd class medicals for pilots that fly an airplane with 180 horsepower, fixed gear, no IFR, no flights for hire and no night flying. When Randy Babbitt was FAA administrator it looked like this program would succeed. Now with the change in administrators and the current Administration disdain of general aviation, it seems this request is doomed to failure.
To bring all up to date there is no 3rd class medical required for glider and light sport aircraft. These pilots self certify that they are able to pilot these aircraft. Why then is there a requirement for those pilots who fly non commercial GA airplanes to have a 3rd class medical. In addition why is a biannual flight review required for non commercial pilots. I FEEL THIS IS DISCRIMINATION BY THE DOT.
In Arizona one is issued a non commercial drivers license that is valid from age 21 to 65. At age 65 you can renew your license for an additional 5 years with just passing a vision test. You do not need a biannual review to ever drive a car in AZ. One can drive a school bus loaded with children without taking a medical. The DOT is starting a medical procedure for Interstate commercial drivers and those driving a load of over 11,000 pounds. None of this makes sense to me, and I feel this is discrimination against private non commercial pilots.
You can sue anybody for anything in this Country. That doesn’t mean the suit will be heard or that you will win. I think it is in the best interest of general aviation for AOPA and the EAA to file suit in Federal court against the DOT. If the court deems it will hear the case there are grounds for the lawsuit, and you have overcome a major obstacle. By having medical regulations and BFR’s for pilots you are driving many out of flying that can still drive a car and even a school bus. I do understand that in some cases people should not be piloting airplanes. This is why there is self certification for glider and LSA pilots.
In closing it is time for AOPA and EAA to take action as the DOT does not like being sued.
Friday, May 3, 2013
SANTA MONICA AIRPORT
Santa Monica is located approximately 10 miles south of downtown Los Angeles. Santa Monica is one of the most beautiful cities in the US with pristine beaches, great shopping and is dependent on tourism. Just south of Santa Monica is Venice Beach. Venice Beach is a quirky town but has some of the nicest homes I have seen on their canal banks.
SMO is the oldest operating airport in the LA basin that started circa 1917. When the airport was build there were no surrounding homes. SMO was home to Douglas aircraft maker of the DC-3. City Councils over the years allowed residential development right up to the airports edge. Residential development near an airport is the number one killer of airports, and SMO is a perfect example.
I have sat on two airport commissions being the Chairman of both. The purpose of the Commission is to advise the City Council on how to run the airport. The Councils I have been involved with usually appoint people to the Airport Commission who are knowledgeable about airport operations and have the best interest of the airport in mind. This is not the case at SMO. To be appointed to the SMO Commission one has to be anti airport. This falls in line with the City Council who wants to close SMO.
When an airport takes a grant from the FAA the airport has to remain an operating airport for 20 years after the grant is taken. SMO has not taken a grant in 17 years and current plans are to close the airport in 3 years.
Santa Monica tried to block usage of all large business jets a few years ago. The FAA sued Santa Monica and won in court including millions in attorneys fees and costs.
The reason I’m writing about SMO now is that SMO just changed their landing fee policy. SMO is the only airport I have ever flown into that charges a non jet piston small airplane a landing fee. The charge is done by weight. My fee for my last 2 trips was $6.71 each time, no matter that it cost the City more than the user fee to process it. You can get up to 3 notices to pay your bill. I figure if I waited to pay my bill it would cost the City over $60 to bill me for a $6,71 landing fee.
On Wednesday evening Santa Monica’s City Council voted to change landing fees by charging 250% more. Every airport that I know of does not charge based aircraft for landing fees. Santa Monica decided to charge every aircraft, based and non-based, landing fees. That means a flight school plane that does touch and go’s will be charged a landing fee for each touch and go.
The reasoning the Council gave for these changes in landing fees is that the airport was no longer self sufficient. AOPA claims that the airport was not including all revenue of which I am not privy at this time.
In my opinion I feel that there are grounds for a lawsuit against the City if AOPA’s claims can be substantiated. Additionally SMO decided not to take any grants from the FAA for the past 17 years which could have provided up to 95% of the costs for airport improvements, then SMO would be operating in the black. I don’t know if this falls under any agreement between the FAA and SMO, but if it does I’m sure that the FAA could also file suit. It will take deep pockets to sue the City. There are some very famous and wealthy people that base their planes at SMO.
Again another saga for SMO...it never ends!
Thursday, May 2, 2013
Before we get started just a note to let you know that in addition to posting these columns on my Blog, Facebook and Twitter; I email these columns out to 2,000+ of my friends and about 300 enemies.
What the heck is a podcast? It is basically a radio show that is broadcast over the internet. Just about every topic that can be imagined has a podcast. For the purpose of this column I am going to stick with Aviation. Most of these podcast can be downloaded on ITunes or various websites.
Perhaps the best known with the widest distribution, including International, The Geeks have an outstanding show broadcasting once a week for about 90 minutes. Each weeks show usually has a famous guest in the aviation field along with 3 co-hosts. In addition there are reports from Australia and England. The Geeks usually introduce themselves and their guest for the week, proceed to the news of the week, conversation with their guest, aircraft history with David Vanderhoof and listeners email.
This podcast is outstanding and very educational. The Hosts name is Max Flight (true name) along with co-hosts Rob Mark and David Vanderhoof.
3 co-host conduct interviews of aviation personalities. Av Web always podcast from major events and other venues and is available twice weekly. Each podcast last around 10 minutes or less.
First a disclaimer that this podcast has been discontinued. However it would behoove you to download all previous episodes. This is the best podcast by far if you want to become or are a pilot. It is hosted by Steve Sadar (sp?) and Gabrielle Palmas.
Steve is a 757/767 captain along with being a CFII. He is probably the best podcaster telling stories about being an Airline and GA pilot.
Gabrielle is a Stew for a major airline and private pilot. You can follow her stories from becoming a private pilot to trying to reach ATP level and fly for the airlines.
Needless to say the 2 years of episodes are very entertaining.
Aviation Career Podcast:
This it what it states in it’s title. Not only does it discuss flying careers, but it also covers all careers available in aviation.
Stuck Mike Podcast:
All topics on Aviation
There are also 2 Flight Attendant Podcasts I would also like to tell you about.
Betty in the Sky With a Suitcase:
These are stories told by Pilots and FA’s in the airline industry along with Betty’s travels. Usually around 40 minutes a month with stories told though humor.
The Crew Lounge:
Unfortunately this is also a discontinued podcast but it’s worth downloading the series. My friend, Sara Keagle, has had 2 different co-host. Whenever I need a good laugh I tune in to an old episode and have 36 left to listen to.
By the way both of these flight attendants listed above have written books. Whoever says Stews are good for nothing but waitresses are dead wrong.
These are the podcasts I listen to while doing my 5 miles each morning. There are more for aviation that you can check out. Enjoy!