Top Letters And Comments, November 9, 2018
As an owner, it's hard to justify spending $2-6K on something we DON't NEED to fly. It's no benefit since we already have an IFR system that functions without it and a VFR system with the lowest accident rate in history. This is a made up, government mandate where some office bureaucrat made an arbitrary decision. Those of us who have to deal daily with reality of flight and the practicality in ownership are being forced to do so only because "they say so". Of course when things are of demonstrably dubious advantage and high cost AND mandated, normal people don't like it.
As someone who equipped last year -- because I needed a transponder -- and also did the installation myself, there's something I'd like for your readers to heavily consider as they ponder what equipment to buy. Just the other day, the CFI I do my flight reviews with flew his C172 in for an annual directly from the avionics shop after an upgrade. He did exactly what you described ... had a used 430W installed along with a new 'out' box WITHOUT internal GPS. Right away, he's having issues with the used 430W so the transponder doesn't know where it is. He's squawking Mode S with the transponder but NOT squitting ADS-B under that scenario. He's a frugal fellow and instead of buying a box WITH internal GPS installed, he saved $500 (less, if you consider the same box WITH GPS comes with a GPS antenna which he had to buy). So he switched to his backup radio for comm but now doesn't have ADS-B out working without the 430W working properly. This could happen to anyone who chooses to use position info from another onboard radio. So here's MY two cents worth. If you're going to pop for ADS-B out, DON'T cut corners. Buy a box WITH an internal GPS. That way, you're not dependent upon another radio for position info. IF it goes bad, you're still 'up' to fly in rule airspace as long as the transponder is working and you have a second radio for comm. Folks who fly heavier iron which have two transponders should likely do the same. That way, both boxes have internal position sources totally separate from any other radios in the airplane. The same advice goes for anyone installing a UAT v. transponder. There's another advantage that I discovered during installation which is NOT advertised in any brochures I saw. With the correct software load, the transponder I bought can share its position information with one of those G5 instruments ... thereby saving having to mount another external antenna on the airplane for a certificated installation. Finally, I told the CFI that I'd be able to send him his flight info even though he didn't have ADS-B working because Flight Aware uses multilateration (basically, triangulation via timing) to plot his course over the ground even if ADS-B out isn't working. If you're squawking Mode S (only), your tail number is still visible to ATC and Flight Aware uses this info to construct your flight. His eyes glazed over as I tried to explain it all for him. It was too late to make this recommendation to him but not to make this recommendation to anyone here considering what to do.
I fly in and around the busy Houston class B airspace, so the decision on whether or not to install was pretty simple. Being electronically challenged, I opted to have an avionics shop do the work as part of a panel upgrade, so at least I knew everything talked to the appropriate box when completed. I can't say it made the cost of the ADS-B portion any less painful, but compared to the overall price, it was at least tolerable. We can debate ad nauseam the need for the system, or how the FAA went about it, but personally, I like the position and weather information the system provides. As with ELTs and other mandated equipment, the government rarely makes anyone happy with their method of implementation. I found your comments on shop availability to be pretty correct. I recently went back to the shop that did my install to discuss adding a new autopilot to my plane. They said their work backlog is about 3 months since most customers are adding ADS-B as part of an overall upgrade that takes weeks instead of days to complete. For those of you still waffling about what to do, you had better at least get your name on the reservation list. Tempus fugit.
"But what no one counted on or at least fully understood is that customers coming into the shops aren't just having a quick ADS-B installation. Many are opting for full panel upgrades that take three weeks, not three days." Paul, this is exactly what I have been seeing at my shop and it has been repeating itself continuously over the years. No surprise here. Most privately owned smaller GA aircraft have been in dire need of an avionics upgrade over the years and the owners know that. An ADS-B install is just the push needed to follow through on a full panel upgrade. Cry, scream, jump up and down, bemoan all you want, ADS-B ain't goin away. Get with it or get out of the way.
Since I do still fly outside the USA occasionally and did not have a WAAS source, my only option was to spring for a full-featured 1090 MHz Mode S ES box, totaling a cool $6K out of pocket. Even though I am gradually warming to the plus factor of having traffic displayed on my iPad, it's still most definitely a negative cost/benefit ratio. As I see from the previous comments, most of us are still trying to sort out (grok?) the whole thing, like what is lost or gained with UAT vs. 1090 out and who will see what when in or out of ground station coverage. Still to come will be the day when radar sites start to be decommissioned (the much hyped cost savings) and non-participating aircraft simply disappear completely, taking us back to pre-radar days when the Mark-I eyeball was all we had. A brave new world indeed.
I fly a PA30 Twin Comanche. It's a 3,600 lb gross weight aircraft. My aircraft is denied the FAA ADS-B $500 rebate because it is a twin. Yet I also fly a Piper Saratoga - a 3,600 lb gross weight single. The Saratoga gets the $500 rebate because it is a single. This makes no sense. I wrote to the FAA (yes, I hear you laughing .......) and was told, in reply, that my comments had been passed on to "The group". It would be helpful to extend the rebate to light twins as well as light singles - perhaps aircraft under 6,000 lbs? But there needs to be some muscle behind such a recommendation. Would AvWeb like to support a rebate extension?
I work for a FAA Repair Station. We are a dealer for most of the brands producing an ADS-B solution.I also give ADS-B presentations to various type clubs and interested aviation groups. I do these presentations to sincerely try to put something back into aviation that will be, hopefully, a benefit to those listening. I am also an owner/pilot with a current A&P ticket. So, while I give the presentations, I am painfully aware of those costs to myself, as well as, others. Owner/pilots must invest some time and energy in researching their options. Of the 46 or so offering ADS-B options, the vast majority are offering ADS-B IN units. So, for ADS-B compliance, the herd thins out quickly to those offering ADS-B OUT solutions. This means, the field narrows considerably when one is looking for FAA compliance which is having on-board an ADS-B OUT transceiver. In turn, if the aircraft owner concentrates on those solutions, the amount of time and effort needed to get up to an acceptable ADS-B knowledge to make an intelligent decision is considerably less. If there is anything in aviation that we must NOT rely on our buddies for information is ADS-B compliance and what that requires. The problem is, there is such a wide range of opinions, ranging from security, hacking, personal privacy issues, 978 vs 1090, and Big Brother/1984 scenarios, many are overwhelmed with all this confusion. Therefore, many are not necessarily opting out, but waiting for the dust to settle, to actually see if all this prophetic pontificating will actually come to pass.
Is the GAO Right to Investigate FBO Charges?
Normally, I'd say the Government should keep its nose out of private enterprise. Since most airports receive AIP funds which automatically requires meeting certain sponsor guarantees, I think it IS correct for the GAO to investigate egregious pricing ... which is an indirect way of having a monopoly. It's not like a pilot can always avoid using an airport near his intended ground destination.
Years ago I bought a Luscombe from a dealer in Batavia, NY. When we had signed all the papers he said he would mail the form to the FAA that afternoon. I made some remark about that being nice of him, he told me it was not being nice, he was making damn sure the plane was out of his name and that if I ever sold an airplane, I should insist on sending in the paperwork myself. I always followed his advice. I've had one guy that said no, he might want to put it in a company name. That ended that sale. In the years since I bought the Luscombe, I've know several people who have sold planes which never got re-registered and it came back to haunt them.
This tale certainly resonates with me, as I am sure it does with all too many other aviation folk. My very first airplane purchase all those decades ago was an unpleasant lesson and a reminder that crooks lurk within every group and every social strata. Foolishly thinking purchasing an airplane was just like buying a car, I bought a doggy Tri-Pacer from a good old boy FBO/dealer for cash, receiving in return a automotive-type bill of sale-contract all nicely signed, but unfortunately not by the aircraft's true owner. After an abortive attempt to get the bird registered using the proper forms, I discovered the hard way how things worked. A lawyer plus legal bills that just about doubled the cost of the plane did leave me with a clean-titled bird but also left the poor prior owner with zip. The good old boy absconded to Texas with my money plus a much larger amount from several other suckers, where he became a deacon in some church and, I suspect, continued the same behavior.
Transport Canada has a nice way of dealing with this. Your certificate of registration is three parts. The first part is the traditional CoR, the second part is the application form for the buyer to register, and the third part is a report of sale form that the seller fills out and sends in. The result of this is that the seller has reported the sale, the buyer has all the paperwork to register and the old CoR counts as a three month temporary certificate.
Trainers and Cessna Cardinals
I absolutely agree with your assessment of the problems with the training market. We old folks remember the roll out of the new age trainers in the 70's, the Beech Skipper, and Piper Tomahawk. They were going to dominate the training marketplace, displacing the Cessna 150. How did that work out? Remember Aviation Consumers Tomahawk AD OF THE MONTH, which they talked about revising to the AD of the week?
There is no viable reason a basic, proven, no frills airframe like the PA 28 or 172 should cost a third of a million dollars.
On the Cardinal. Once the problem of the all flying tail was solved with the slot, and the power upgraded to 180, the 177 was a terrific plane. The 177RG offered so much compared to its direct competitors it should have been a success. It wasn't and Cessna pulled support for it. In no way is the 172 RG anything close to what the Cardinal was.
Cessna has a fairly long history of abandoning really good airplanes in search of, who knows what. The last C421's are the pinnacle of piston engine GA aircraft, and the 441 is, or would be a very viable aircraft if in the market place today. Cessna abandoned them in pursuit of the bottom end Jet platform for reasons which were questionable at best. I was told by a knowledgeable person that Cessna would NEVER allow the Conquest II back into production, as its speed, vs load, vs cost of operation would kill the 500.
Quiet Supersonic Technology
This is just like any other advanced technology. It will take many iterative steps that may take several years or perhaps several decades. (most likely the latter). The cell phone is a good example. In the last 20 years the basic clunker cell phone has gradually advanced to the sophisticated smartphone we use today. A device that changed from barely being able to make a simple phone call into a device capable of doing a plethora of things most people never use it for. Until prototypes begin flying and data is collected and analyzed we won't be able to make good predictions on how fast advancement will occur. Most likely advancement will come in ways that nobody today has even thought of. (Supersonic flow is exceedingly complex.)