Top Letters And Comments, November 2, 2018
The Trouble With Trainers
Interesting, Paul's correlation of lack of trainer sales to the alleged "pilot shortage". The lack of interest by producers (or former) of trainers just another indication to me how overblown the "pilot shortage" is. As far as Cessna building piston powered planes, I agree that I think they want to eventually discontinue production of those. Cessna has made little effort to come up with new piston products other than covering their behinds on product liability issues. Look at where Cessna has put their money in product development. When you go to most FBO chains look at where most piston planes get parked. I don't like it any more than AOPA does but piston aircraft are not as profitable as turbine aircraft and a lot of aviation businesses are going where the money is to survive. Whether this will really generate a "pilot shortage" is yet to be seen, something that I will not see in my lifetime.
"Certified fixed-wing era is over". When reporting 150 units produced per year, it's time to face the simple facts, "it's over". People of all ages want to takeoff and return to their driveway. More and more the rich are buying helicopters to fly them to the airport to catch their chartered jet. Track the cost of helicopter charter prices over the decades. You'll see the price/demand charts at work. All the big money is going into removing the "skill" from flying. Removing the need to judge altitude and distance to flare for landing. P.S. You forgot one of the other next Cessna 172/177 killer the Tecnam P2010.
Historically the biggest market for trainer aircraft has been the USED aircraft market. It's almost impossible for a flight school (or leaseback owner) to make any money with a new aircraft; they can't charge a high enough hourly rate to cover the payments on a new $300-400K aircraft. Due to availability, the most popular and readily available used aircraft for training is therefore the 172. However an emerging market for trainers is airlines that are establishing their own flight training academies. A good example is Lift Academy (of Republic Air) that recently purchased 50 new Diamonds (42 DA40 NG singles and 8 DA42-VI twins, all diesels burning JetA) with options for more. 4-seater DA40s have effectively replaced 2-seat DA20s in many flight schools, since the DA20 isn't IFR-capable. But about 10 years ago when I took a "discovery flight" thinking I might learn to fly, I forced the reluctant CFI to split the flight so that I could ride in both a 172 and a Diamond DA20. It was no contest; I went on to solo and got my PPL in the DA20. Since then I bought a used DA40, traded up to a new DA2 twin, and now own a DA62 twin. So maybe there's something to the idea that manufacturers still need a trainer in their product line to entice pilots to eventually purchase their more advanced aircraft.
This idea of "trainer" is from the 1930's (it's outdated and frankly it's ludicrous). An RV-6A is affordable, fun, modern, reliable, economical, low maintenance, strong, AND affordable. It's time we dropped this notion that we "need $300,000 trainers" because that's living in the past.
Good article. To your point about tying down an aircraft during short-term rest stops, I have another reason. A couple years ago, while flying home from Sun 'n Fun, a friend and I landed at a small airport to refuel and grab something to eat. We parked the planes and went inside for lunch. We had inserted the gust locks, but only set the parking brakes - no reason to tie down for a short lunch stop. What we didn't know was that the airport was a frequent lunch stop for helicopter crews from a nearby military air field. While we were eating, a Cobra helicopter came in to land. As it "taxied" by our plaes, hoveirng a few feet off the ramp, the downwash from the blades kicked up a lot of wind. Fortunately they were in front of our planes so the wind did not side load our control surfaces and they kept enough distance to prevent excessive turbulence. But, it served as a quick lesson in what can happen, even on a short stop-over.
In the very early 1980's I landed/taxiied-in and tied-down my dad's Thorp T-18 at a GA airport in San Diego CA. I was proud, nervous and keyed-up on my first solo X-C in his pride-n-joy.
As I was walking down the long tie-down row, to the FBO office I heard 'CLEAR PROP' and instinctively looked toward 'the call'. It took me ~1-second to throw-up my hands in a 'X' over-my head looking directly at the pilot of a V-tail bonanza about 40-feet to my right. The pilot did as I hoped and put-both his hands in-sight on the glare-shield, with a puzzled look... as I kept my hands in an over-head 'X' and approached the prop of his acft.
I then picked-up a 'molded black plastic milk-bottle crate' sitting right in-front of his prop he had obviously used as a make-shift step-up and as storage for his rags and oil. I tied-the crate up in the right tie-down chain and secured it tightly with the snap-hook. I looked all-around-for any other obvious problems... then stepped-back into full view with a circling thumbs-up. He gave me a look that was disbelief-fear-relief-thanks. After that I just walked-on to the FBO office, to make this a 'sorta-no-big-deal' since his wide-eyed-PAX were watching intently. He took a few seconds to breathe...before I heard 'CLEAR PROP' once again... and then the smooth sound of this 6-cylinders starting and running smoothly behind me.
Can NASA Build a Quiet Supersonic Transport?
After retiring from the USAF, I went to work for Northrop cum Northrop Grumman. My last 7 years were at their St Augustine, FL facility supporting Navy flight test. The last flight test program I worked on as an instrumentation engineer was the NASA/Navy/DARPA SSBD -- Shaped Sonic Boom Demonstrator -- aircraft ... a highly modified (shaped) F-5E fighter circa 2003. By careful modification to shape the airplane, it was found that the shock waves could be reduced somewhat but not eliminated. In tests at NASA Dryden at Edwards AFB, this airplane was flown across a test area alongside an unmodified F-5E flying the exact same path. Using microphones in the air and on the ground, comparative measurements were taken.
At Airventure 2018, I attended the NASA forum on the (now) X-59 low boom flight demonstration aircraft. I challenged the project pilot as to why they were (apparently?) re-testing the concept. The pilot was surprised that someone knew about the SSBD work 15 years earlier. He stammered but then said that they were trying to see if they could further minimize the shock waves. I ain't buying it BUT ... OK ... I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. I'm looking at the NASA litho of the proposed airplane. In the data, they're saying they won't be flight testing until 2022. The design is borderline ridiculous ... it sure as heck isn't going to work to carry bizjet passengers anyways. The nose is SO long that video cameras have to be mounted to help the pilot see forward. NUTTY.
My bottom line is that Aerion is claiming they'll be building an airplane and it'll fly in 2023. No way. And, I believe that Lockheed Martin is just capitalizing on Government test $$ and not much more.
ATC Wasn’t All Fun, Just Mostly
Funny how when you look back on those early jobs (on the way to bigger things) how they were actually some of the best times. I was an avionics tech at a mid-sized FBO in the '70s and best part about it was the wide variety of people and aircraft you got to meet...and sometimes a few celebs as well. Every day was different, and you worked both inside and outside. I still remember the new-car smell of fresh new C-210s delivered to our ramp from Wichita...those were the days!
While Paul was having fun, in the early 70's a Navy tower controller at Moffet Field cleared our NASA Convair 990 to land on top of a Navy P3, killed my office mate, test pilot Pat Riley and about 12 more.
Then in early 80's a girl tower controller cleared my friendly USAir Captain to land on top of a turbo prop at LAX, copilot lived to tell us all about it, they could hardly find the Metroliner nor the 21 bodies.
Just another day at the office guys. Hey! They're only human, what do you expect, dammit!
Good story; funny comments and all. I have toured the Houston Center a couple times and your comments on its appearance are spot on. That includes the furniture which still has the tasteful orange and peach colors from the disco era. I think some of the more senior guys are still wearing leisure suits.
Laughed all the way through his story. Please please write more. We all need more laughs in this day and age. (PS: to all the Flight Following controllers out there: love you guys and gals. Keep up the great work and thanks for your patience for students like me!)