Hard science needed in avgas issue, not politics and fads

LETTER TO THE EDITOR from TOM MULLER, Poland Spring, Maine

I was impressed with Michael Kraft’s thoughtful article on the replacement for 100LL (Guest Editorial: Beware the “sound bite solution: There are no easy answers to the complex avgas issue). Several aviation writers seem to be assuming that because 94UL is already on the market in Europe, that it is the de facto winner of the search for a 100LL replacement. Europe is not the USA and the last thing we should do in aviation is to adopt a standard just because Europe uses it. We have more airplanes, particularly low-cost older airplanes, a wider variety of types and, in all likelihood, more hours flown per aircraft than in Europe. I suspect that 94UL will cost more and deliver less performance.

We need to look at all the alternatives, particularly the homegrown Swift fuel, which promises better performance, lower cost per gallon and no aircraft modifications.

The final decision should be based on hard science and hard economics (the life cycle costing kind), not on fads or politics. I am pleased to see that Lycoming supports an objective evaluation and hope the oil companies will do the same.

The reason we fly is what is important

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

I am responding to Charles Spence’s request for comments about a name for GA that describes how we use our airplanes without separating the reasons for flight (Is there a better name than general aviation?). At first glance this request sounds like an oxymoron — a self-contradictory idea. On closer examination, it seems you are asking what we do without addressing why we do it.

The reason of why we fly is more important than the details of what kind of flights we take.

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More on the Land of Perfect

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

As an “old guy,” who has been an active pilot for 56 years, I applaud Deb McFarland’s March 20 column, “The Land of Perfect.”

Having been fortunate to learn to fly in J-3s/Cessna 120s/140s, I judge your article to be a breath of fresh air. My instructor insisted we always fly a traffic pattern that would allow reaching the runway should the engine fail. He would have graded a strung-out pattern dangerous and unacceptable. NORDO: In those days everyone was NORDO! We had no comm or nav equipment and were better trained in the basics because of it. Spins were required before being allowed to solo. Forward slips: Yes, a wonderful and useful maneuver.

Strung-out traffic patterns are many times a disgrace and dangerous. Some planes are so far from the runway you question if they are in the pattern or just passing through on a cross-country. Radio discipline at uncontrolled airports is many times unacceptable. Chatter and comments unrelated to the pattern often cover transmissions and become a distraction.

Thank you for your “The Land of Perfect” column. It should be required reading.

ROBERT JONES, Federal Way, Wash.

A proper burn out procedure

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

I would like to comment on the spark plug “burn out” procedure discussed in Paul McBride’s Sept. 4 column, “Tips to reduce spark plug fouling.”

Operating lean really troubles me. My mechanic son observed a Mooney do several aggressive burn outs and taxi back a couple of times. The last time they commented they had REALLY done a burn out. Shortly after departure they lost the engine and barely made it straight into an adjacent airport.

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A license to forget

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

As a mere private pilot, I was horrified to learn the bill recently passed by Congress requires airline pilots to receive training in actual stall recovery. Every pilot knows this is one of the most basic skills which must be demonstrated before first solo and at nearly every encounter between a pilot and instructor.

I have heard many safety experts, as well as normal instructors, say that a pilot’s license is merely a license to learn. Apparently, for a few airline pilots like the ones of the unfortunate Colgan flight that led to the legislation, the Air Transport Pilot rating is just a license to forget.

PAUL MULWITZ, Camas, Wash.

Defending the slip on approach

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Thank you so much for defending the slip on approach (Short Final: The Land of Perfect).

My husband and I fly a Kitfox we built in 1994 (ours), a 1968 Cardinal (mine), and a 1972 Skylane (his). The Kitfox has flaperons, but they act more to increase lift than to increase drag, so slipping to land is very common, even with full flaperons. We also must have the nose aligned with the runway upon landing to keep from exciting roll-outs, which means no crab on short approach, just radical slip then transition to wing low touchdown on one main.

I got my first 100 hours in the Kitfox and the experience was invaluable in teaching control. I was able to get two hours of sailplane instruction last summer while on vacation and the instructor commented not too many pilots know how to use the rudder or how to slip for altitude adjustment like he had me do in the sailplane. Both of those were learned in the Kitfox.

By the way, I got my private pilot license at the age of 50.

We enjoy your writing!

DEE ANN EDIGER, via email

Who should pay?

LETTER TO THE EDITOR:

I recently completed my Experimental amateur homebuilt aircraft and was ready to have the Certification Inspection completed. I contacted my local Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) and requested to have one of the maintenance inspectors perform the inspection. The manager denied the request.

I requested a written explanation for the denial, which reflected on staffing and workload issues, and noted that all aircraft certification services were being directed to persons outside the FAA. In other words, I had to hire a Designated Airworthiness Representative (DAR) to perform the certification inspection.

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Going after Joe Six-Pack

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Re: Ben Sclair’s Touch & Go column, “Let’s attract the money,” in the April 3 issue: Though I find much of what you say accurate, I don’t think it entirely covers or tenders a plan to fix the problems.

As a longtime stakeholder, airport and flight school owner/operator, providing a number of related pilot, mentor, political alligator wrestler, commentator services, etc., I feel as though I’m reasonably qualified to weigh in on these ongoing blame games.

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Oil analysis saved the day

LETTER TO THE EDITOR:

Re: Paul McBride’s column, “TBO: 2,000 hour or 12 years,” in the June 23 issue: This is absolutely the best article I have ever seen on the subject.

I started oil analysis every 25 hours the day I bought my used C-180. The original engine (which had a “log cabin overhaul” by a very reputable mechanic) went to TBO with no problems.

My “factory reman” replacement from Continental was making a bit more metal from day one, but the reports were quite stable. My mechanic son insisted on cutting each filter open and examining it with a magnifying glass and magnet, in addition to the oil analysis. I always kept the last five used filters for comparison.

At 500 hours, with the plane fueled and loaded for a flight in the morning, I got a call from my analytical service stating the Nitraloy had spiked and to do a compression check. The engine had been running fine with absolutely no indication of a problem. Mag checks were perfect. It was smooth and the power was normal.

We found one drastically low cylinder and pulled it. The exhaust valve stem was found to be shaved down to one half normal diameter by the Nitraloy guide, obviously primed for a catastrophic failure. Oil analysis saved the day, in my opinion.

Now the good part: There was no accident and Continental only charged me for the time flown, although the engine was out of “calendar” time, so I got another “reman” for $10,000 rather than the going $15,000.

DOUG MILLARD, Wasilla, Alaska