Saturday, March 28, 2015


I have a decision to make or maybe I do not. That is the conundrum. This is all brought about by the FAA requirement that every plane be equipped with ADS-B OUT by January 1, 2020. My airplane does not have a mode S transponder nor a WASS GPS.

In order for my 1954 Bonanza to have ADS B OUT, I would have to spend $5,500 to be so equipped; $2000 for the unit and at least $3,500 for installation from the quotes I have been given. I am still going to wait as I hope less expensive alternatives will come along before then.

I have flown my 1954 Bonanza for 20 years. It has given me great service over that time. The paint is still great and the interior is good, just dated. I achieve 150 knots using 11 gallons of fuel per hour. The plane is IFR but with the minimum of equipment to fly IFR. It has a 6 pack scattered over the dash with one com radio, one OBS and DME. I have owned three airplanes and a glider over my flying career. None of them have had auto pilot, not because I do not want auto pilot, but it is too expensive to justify adding to any of my airplanes...or is it.

So this got me thinking. What if I added ADS B OUT now to my airplane and made some other modifications. I could add wingtip tanks for an extra 40 gallons and an autopilot. I have always said that an autopilot is one of the safest pieces of equipment that can be on an airplane. I am still upset with the FAA that they will not allow non STC'd equipment on legacy aircraft. These autopilots have been proven to work over many years in experimental aircraft. To add an auto pilot to my Bonanza would cost around $20,000 installed and wing tip tanks $14,000. Now while I am at it I would like to update my interior another $6000 to $8000.

I went into sticker shock when I figured it out.

1954 Bonanza $30,000
Auto Pilot        $20,000
Tip Tanks        $14,000
Interior            $6,000
ADS B OUT   $5,500

That is adding $45,500 worth of equipment to a $30,000 airplane. If I was younger, and knew I would fly another 20 years, it might be worth considering. I would have $75,000 invested for a darn good airplane that I know its service history. If I had to sell the airplane soon, due to health reasons, I would loose a lot of money.

The next alternative is to buy another airplane with everything on it. When you do that, plan to spend money on repairing the airplane even after doing a pre-buy annual. There are a lot of newer (than mine) V Tail Bonanzas out there for sale that are well equipped. The question is do I want to buy an unknown aircraft or make the investment into mine.

The other option I looked at was Cirrus SR 20. These are newer airframes and well equipped. I had two negatives, one being the price of $115,000 and the other the parachute repack which is due every 10 years from the date of rocket being manufactured, and not the date the installation was performed. That is more than I want to spend now.

Maybe if I were younger I would go ahead and add the above to my Bonanza or even buy a newer Bonanza. With no guarantees that I will still be flying in 2020, I decided to stand pat with what I have. I am going to have to install ADS B OUT in the future, but I am waiting for hopefully a better alternative than putting something in my airplane with no or little benefit to me which would cost 20% of the value of my airplane.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


I really have great respect for someone who can turn a wrench and keep my airplane flying safely. There are basically two choices when performing an annual or airplane repairs, one to use a shop or two use an independent mechanic.

For years I have chosen the second route on all but one annual. I was between mechanics and had to use the shop of a large FBO for my annual. I appreciate the fact that FBO's have brick and mortar buildings to pay for, which leads to greater overhead. Also most FBO's are required to obtain a larger liability insurance policy than the local mechanic.

My experience turned out to not be the best. At FBO's non rated mechanics can work on an airplane under the final inspection of on IA. You might have one mechanic working on your plane in the morning and another in the afternoon. If you go back next year for an annual, chances are these mechanics will be long gone. It is extremely difficult to develop a relationship with a mechanic at a FBO who knows your airplane inside and out.
When I went to pick up my airplane it had a broken window, grease on the carpets and they shorted out my intercom. The final price was exorbitant for a plane of my size. Needless to say I never used this national FBO shop again. What they do not understand is that aviation is a small community and word gets around quickly.
I have talked to others that have used national FBO's and the story is the same. Charged triple for what the services should have been.  On the positive side I have found many satisfied customers of small FBO's at smaller airports. Labor seems to be more constant at these shops.

Independent mechanics do not have the overhead that FBO's have. Their insurance requirements are less, and they usually work out of a trailer behind their pickup truck. I have found these people to be more reasonable in their rates, but also to be Prima Dona's. The mechanical ability is great, but they make lousy businessmen. I am not real happy when someone raises their rates 33% and does not tell me until they present the bill. My attitude is if you did not have the courtesy to inform me before the work was done, I am not paying your new rate.

Aviation being a small community, word gets around the field real quick about these scrupulous practices. Then the mechanic can not figure out why no one is using him, and he usually disappears.

After evaluating my choices I have decided to use a small shop this year. They have been on the field for a long time and have a good reputation. There are 2 others like this I could use but would involve dropping my plane off and having a friend fly me back. I like being able to check into the work, especially if there are problems.

No way will I ever use a major FBO again, and I have lost faith in the independent mechanics I know of. This is not to say that all independents are bad, but they leave a bad taste in people's mouths for starting the regime all over again. They are rocket scientists with a wrench...just no brains for business. Do not try to charge me more for your services than a FBO does. Not going to happen.

Friday, March 20, 2015


I am sure that you have observed that I have not posted a lot recently. That is because my wife, Pam, has become very ill. In December, while in NYC, she had a severe eye bleed and has not been able to see out of her right eye since then. She has had one surgery a month ago and will need another in 10 days, and hopefully will be able to see again.

Pam had a kidney pancreas transplant 19.5 years ago, and in testing why her eye went bad, we found out that her kidney and pancreas are in failure. Having been through every test know to man at Mayo Scottsdale, we will receive the results March 30 to determine if she is able to have another transplant.

To those of you who have known about this, we appreciate your kind words and prayers. To those that did not....I will be writing again in the near future, and we thank you for your support.

Friday, March 6, 2015


Super Bowl 49 has come and gone from Phoenix. It culminated in 7 years of work from our last Super Bowl. We all learned a lot from our mistakes which made for a much more successful event in 2015 for Aviation.

In our previous Super Bowl ATC was a disaster. It took 6 to 8 hours for planes to depart Scottsdale (SDL) Monday after the Super Bowl. This year almost everything went perfect. My accolades go out to the FAA and SDL Aviation Director Gary Mascaro.

Last Super Bowl Phoenix Deer Valley (DVT) and SDL used the same departure. This meant only one plane could depart from either DVT or SDL at a time. With great cooperation from the FAA new departure procedures were put into effect so that planes could depart from DVT and SDL at the same time and would not be in conflict with Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX). There were no ground delays at either DVT or SDL this year.

The week leading to the Super Bowl saw the worst weather I have seen here in 36 years. We had thunderstorms with zero visibility Friday before the Super Bowl. Planes had to divert to other cities or just did not depart for SDL. Sunday morning we were fogged in. You could not see 50 feet in front of your eyes, and all airports in Phoenix were closed. Around 11 AM the fog lifted and we had arrivals until the 2 PM cutoff due to the TFR.

The only negative was some clueless person in the Air Force decided this would be a good week to degrade GPS signals that covered New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and parts of California. With the support of AOPA Headquarters we were able to get this lifted the day before, day of and day after the Super Bowl. Whoever decided to do this, did not have much in the way of common sense or intelligence.

Below are some pictures of SDL during Super Bowl weekend. Phoenix is not allowed to bid on another Super Bowl for 5 years, and I am looking forward to another great event.

 Computer at SDL showing arrivals for game day

Flight School airplanes relocated

Terminal building rented out by Landmark FBO for corporate pilots on game day