Take Aviation Consumer's Headset Survey, Win Valuable Prizes


Do you like the headset you own? KITPLANES sister publication, Aviation Consumer, would like to know. It is conducting an extensive customer survey on headset quality, performance and comfort. They would love to hear from readers everywhere about their headset experiences. The survey takes just a few minutes. Click here to take part.

The prize? Feedback to the manufacturers might just get you the headset of your dreams.

Aussie Outback SLSA to Debut at AirVenture

There’s now another Special Light Sport Aircraft (SLSA) distributor and training provider in the West. Airgyro Aviation, located in Spanish Fork, Utah, is the exclusive sales outlet for Higher Class Aviation’s Sport Hornet and the new Outback SP 2000 from Australia’s Light Wing. Airgyro also distributes the Sportcopter 2 gyroplane, certified last year.

The new Outback SP 2000 will make its first appearance at AirVenture, and all three designs will be on display at Booths 37 and 38. Says Airgyro President Nate Oldham, “Our primary focus at Airgyro Aviation is to bring the fun and affordability of sport aviation to a generation who may have thought recreational flying was simply out of reach. Our aircraft are chosen for their ease of flying and their safety features. Our flight training is personalized to meet the customer’s schedule or accelerated to help folks become certified [Sport] pilots in as little as 15 days.”

Described as an “LSA trainer and starter plane,” the two-place Outback is “one of the safest planes to train in,” Airgyro says, using “modern composites, like many other new aircraft, to create the aerodynamic shape.” But under the composite is a steel airframe complete with a roll cage. The Outback also features a lightweight rotary engine, which offers less vibration and easier maintenance, the company says.

For more information, visit Airgyro Aviation.

Amy's RV-10: ADs Already

The dreaded letter. Every airplane owner (practically) has gotten one at some point. A problem has been detected with a particular part or piece of your aircraft, and the manufacturer is notifying you via a service bulletin, or the FAA is notifying you via an airworthiness directive, of both the problem and the solution.

The difference between the manufacturer's notice and the FAA's notice is that one is optional (don't do it at your own risk), and the other, bearing the FAA's seal, is mandatory (don't do it in the time allotted, and your airplane is legally grounded).

Kitbuilt and plansbuilt Experimental aircraft do not come under the FAA's Airworthiness Directives. However, the prudent manufacturers do issue the occasional service bulletin when a structural problem with the parts they manufacture or the aircraft they designed comes to light.

Van's Aircraft is particularly good about issuing service bulletins, which is good. And they just issued a major one for the RV-10, which is bad. To date Van's has issued few service bulletins on this generally well-designed machine. The nosewheel construction change (see earlier blog) is an excellent example of an optional fix, which left "unfixed" will eventually bite the flier. That change came about because of builder feedback to the manufacturer. This new service bulletin addresses damage in a tail F-1010 bulkhead, which is integral in the attachment of the forward spar of the horizontal and vertical stabilizers. Cracks have been found in the 500-hour-old factory demonstrator.

The fix? Two doublers for the suspect bulkhead must be installed within five hours of discovering any cracks. The choice? Owners can ignore the issue (not smart), or if upon inspecting their tail bulkheads they see no cracks, they can opt to re-inspect the area every 25 hours until the next scheduled condition inspection (typically done yearly and known as the Experimental's annual), at which time the factory recommends that the doublers be installed.

Doesn't sound too bad until you look at the diagrams in the how-to section. Inspecting the area requires disassembling the tail, removal of the tailcone and its electrical contents including any actuators for the elevator trim, and then drilling out key rivets--about nine steps in the bulletin. To perform the insertion of the doublers one must carefully disassemble the area obscuring the suspect bulkhead--18 steps in all. How long will it take? That's up to the builder, but an educated guess is a couple of days' work at a normal pace.

Our airplane is being shot with primer, prepping for its first coat of paint as I type. Oh well. Timing is everything. And, no, I don't wish we were just now building the tail section (the introductory kit in this airplane). I'll take a couple days of disassembly and repair time over three and a half years of building any day.

WAAS Up?

Your hand-held GPS works great and gets you where you want to go. Why would you want to take up precious panel space with a version that costs three to five times as much? Those panel-mount versions are just bigger, heavier computers, so shouldn’t they be cheaper?

Understanding starts when you turn on your GPS and get a cute little map of GPS satellite positions; Is that important? Does it matter where the satellite is positioned? You need only three, right?

The answers are yes, yes, and sort of. For now…

We sat in on a “Wings” seminar recently where the subject was WAAS; what is it, why is it, why you should know, what does the future hold, and why should you, the day VFR, don’t-go-more-than-an-hour-or-two-from-home pilot care.

The speaker, Larry Oliver from FAA Flight Standards was very clear on a couple of things: one, VOR stations are expensive to build and maintain hence they’re not being repaired as they fail; two, GPS is here to stay but portable units will never be certified for IFR use.

It’s that last one that caused some mutterings of “Well, why aren’t they?” from the audience.

The answer lies in three factors: antenna position, satellite position, and clock accuracy.

First there’s the unpredictability of antenna position; On your lap, tied to the yoke, or mounted to the side of the window frame all look nice and work fine for day-VFR, but the antenna is the key; without it having a clear shot at the sky there’s no way to ensure that it’s receiving as many sat signals as possible.

When your vanilla GPS sees three satellites it can give you a position fix within about 100 meters. And that’s good enough to get you to that two-hundred dollar hamburger (that’s the price of AvGas for you). But to get the accuracy needed for night flight to a cloudy airport you need better than that.

Second, if the satellites are grouped together it’s not going to be a high resolution picture. And if they’re low on the horizon the signal degrades in the slant-distance through the atmosphere.

And third there’s the clock factor; Contrary to popular opinion, the clocks on the satellites are not those hyper-accurate atomic models that keep time to one second in a gazillion years. Your portable GPS takes the signal from several satellites and averages the answers to give you a position. But because it’s an answer with a relatively fuzzy key factor in the calculation, you get a relatively fuzzy position of somewhere in a 100 meter circle.

The WAAS system, however, uses those satellite signals and compares it to ground based super-clocks. Mind, this is so precise that even at the speed of light, the distance to the satellite is a factor. Indeed, without Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity factored in, the system wouldn’t work.

The WAAS system takes those satellite signals in on a net of ground stations, corrects them, and broadcasts to a pair of geo-synchronous satellites over North America, which then sends them to the WAAS-enabled receiver on the panel of your airplane.

The result is that where your vanilla GPS is accurate to 100 meters, a WAAS-capable GPS refines your position to within 7 meters.

Additionally, the more expensive WAAS certified GPS on your panel is heavier because it has the circuitry to receive that signal and check it for errors. If something is amiss it will then inform you within six seconds that all is not right and you can pull up for a go-around or whatever you need to do, but you know better than to continue thinking that you’ve got good information.

This will allow airliners to use parallel runways in poor weather; shorter transcontinental routes with closer spacing; and shorter approaches to landing. And all of this is done without airport-based hardware thereby enlarging the number of IFR-capable airports. With this in mind it makes sense to spend money on new WAAS stations instead of maintenance on VOR and Loran stations.

So, keep those VORs for a few more years, but it won’t be long until they’re sitting on the shelf with the sextant. But should you buy that big-bucks panel-mount GPS for your baby? Only if IFR is in your future.

If you’d like to know more, visit the FAA web site.

Friday at the Golden West Fly In

Friday's attendance at Golden West was small, only about 30% of last year's Saturday attendance. But then I didn't see last year's Friday, so here's hoping that it's up today.

Two Harriers and two F/A-18s gave a good show, as always, and you had to keep one eye on the sky for the frequent fly-by of something out of the ordinary including a U-2 and a C-130.

The real interest on the ground, though, was the number of LSAs being shown. There were quite a few new and interesting aircraft even though the on-the-wheels versions were all in the $120,000 range. That's still too pricey for my pocket and, probably, a lot of others' given the news from Wall Street et al.

If civil aviation is to avoid becoming un-civil, the path will be led by the homebuilders.

The expansion of computers and glass got a boost with the display by Vertical Power. Where the market is nearing glut-stage vis-à-vis flight instruments, Vertical Power is looking inward to examine the health of the aircraft. The display goes beyond listing the voltage in each circuit; it starts by displaying a check list tailored to each portion of the flight and, similarly, displays the appropriate system. For instance, when starting the engine, oil pressure and rpm take the fore. Taxi mode puts those away and displays cylinder head temperature. Takeoff mode brings up manifold pressure.

Similarly, all the electrical parameters are displayed with diagnostics and alarms that certified aircraft can only dream of.

What the customer receives is a package consisting of a display and a black box (it's actually red) weighing only about 5 pounds. While not entirely plug and play, it does make the installation substantially easier in that the circuit protection is entirely within the system and is all solid state.

If you're at that stage of building where the fear of wires is looming large, surf on over to Vertical Power to take a close look.

Also of interest, even if you're not scratchbuilding, is the display by Stewart Systems. They're showing a method for both covering a fabric aircraft and then painting it. No stitching for the former and no smell for the latter make this an especially easy procedure.

We'll be testing this paint in an upcoming issue of KITPLANES.

Amy's RV-10: Cutting Costs Without Cutting Corners

If there is anything I've learned this year, it is this: The aviation stuff we do can be a little pricey. We've been breaking in an engine on a new airplane this past spring, and the fuel bill just arrived the other day. I sat down to read it. Good thing, because the number inside had me swoon. During an engine break-in period it is important that you run the engine hard and fast, and to counter the effect of all that combustion you have to leave the fuel full on, pushing lots and lots of avgas through the engine to burn and carry away the heat.

The good news is that this tried and true technique quickly seats the rings in the pistons and reduces oil consumption, and before you know it you have a fine, strong engine to fly behind for years to come. Well, if you can afford it.

Affordability is the very reason that my husband, with a little help from me, built this new airplane. We even built up the engine with low-compression cylinders that will allow us to switch to car gas if avgas becomes scarce, or far too expensive to burn. So far, though, car gas is keeping pretty good pace with avgas in its unprecedented inflation.

The RV-10, painstakingly riveted and sanded and carefully assembled with as much new, clean technology as we could afford over nearly four years, will help us continue to afford to fly for the next 20 years, we hope. It doesn't have an electric engine, and it's not a glider, but it is a fast, fairly heavy-lifting long-hauler for our family. And it will cost less to fly, eventually.

So what's my advice for cutting your costs in aviation without cutting corners? Upgrade to leaner and greener flying machines, of course. If you fly a weight-shift Light Sport Aircraft, consider the possibility of using an electric engine. Randall Fishman won Grand Champion at AirVenture 2007 with his flying design, and he promises to be back with an electrically driven motorglider this year. Sonex has also promised a true electric engine in a motorglider. And IndUS Aviation recently unveiled its Thorpedo, flying with a WAM turbocharged diesel engine, which puts out 120 hp on a measly 3 gph of jet A fuel.

Consider this, too. Collaborate and use your networking skills as a catalyst for developing new ideas about how to green up your aviation habit. Meet at events such as AirVenture or AOPA's Expo and, of course, at your local airport events. Talk about how your business is recycling, ride-sharing, and/or tuning its equipment for maximum efficiency. Are you using new technologies? Is there someone who can teach you how to do so? Group events are great opportunities for creative learning that can be individually applied. Besides, fly-in get-togethers are always great fun, too.

Catch up with me at EAA AirVenture, and we'll brainstorm about what we've learned there. I'll see you 'round the patch soon!