From the October 2015 Issue

PT-6 Overhauls: Complex and Expensive

As a variation on the tired trope about not being able to afford something if you have to ask its price, we offer this: If you want a detailed understanding of all there is to know about the myriad models of Pratt & Whitney’s workhorse PT-6 turbine, you’d need a career change just to frame the question. If variety is the spice of life, the PT-6 is off-scale high on the Scoville index. Daunting or not, PT-6s eventually have to be overhauled and the market for such services is competitive and well-served, albeit structured a bit differently than the piston-engine overhaul world. Given the complexity, newbie PT-6 owners—and there appear to be more every year—may be unavoidably dependent on advice from shops which either specialize in aircraft powered by the PT-6 or, better yet, independent consultants who understand these unique engines.

Current Issue

High-End ANR Headsets: No Wrong Choice

For buyers willing to drop as much as $1100 for an aviation headset, the current market has no shortage of choices. Moreover, models in this high end of the market sport more advanced features than ever, while promising the best sound quality, comfort and build quality money can buy. To subjectively determine which model takes the top spot (not an easy task, considering the personal nature of selecting a headset), we spent the better part of a year flying with four models we think represent the best of the best. While our evaluation turned up an overall favorite, each model has its strengths and weaknesses and our takeaway is it’s hard to make a wrong choice.

Tailwheel Training: Bring Your A Game

You’ve been thinking about getting a tailwheel checkout and endorsement and, to be truly honest with yourself, about buying a tailwheel airplane. You can’t help it, the advertisements with the tailwheel airplane sitting on some lovely backcountry airstrip have gotten to you—or you want to switch over to a legacy light sport bird. Plus, you’re a little tired of hearing “real pilots fly tailwheels” when you don’t—yet.

Borescope Imaging: Getting the Inside View

Ever since the Wrights, one of the vexing problems of aircraft maintenance has been access to the nooks and crannies of the machine. Maintenance technicians have spent major portions of their lives with flashlights and mirrors peering through inspection ports trying to assure that all is well within; at significant expense, major assemblies have been unbolted and removed to allow visual inspection of their insides because of a symptom of illness—often to find that they are healthy—while the act of removal and replacement itself caused damage.

Safe Flight SCc: Speed Control, Plus AoA

Long FAA certification delays enabled Safe Flight Instrument Corporation to improve its first-generation leading-edge speed control/AoA system. For one, it ditched the remote computer in favor of a simpler and lighter two-piece system (sensor and display), while redesigning the cockpit display for better readability and easier operation. The result is the third-generation model SCc leading edge sensor system, which is currently certified under the FAA’s ASTM policy standards for AoA systems. We recently flew with the $1895 SCc system in Safe Flight’s Cessna 172 for a closer look and liked what we saw.

ForeFlight Mobile 7.3: Two-Way Garmin Play

For some, the ADS-B buying decision rides on the system being compatible with a favorite tablet app. While shops we’ve spoken with report that Garmin’s GDL84 and GDL88 transceivers have been dominant sellers, some buyers are reluctant to make the investment because the system was only compatible with Garmin’s Pilot app, and not the popular ForeFlight Mobile program for iPad. Not any more. ForeFlight recently announced two-way compatibility with Garmin panel avionics, including the ability to interface Garmin’s GDL-series ADS-B transceiver on its Mobile iPad app. But there has been some misinformation and confusion about what this interface will and will not do. Here’s a clarification.

Beech Baron 55:

Fly most any Beechcraft model and you will likely come away impressed with its sturdy feel, excellent build quality and, especially, its handling qualities. All the way down to the lowly Musketeer, Beech just took pains to get the airplane’s flying manners a cut above everything else, and that applies in spades to the Baron series. Even so, every aircraft company has to make compromises. In the 55 Baron, for instance, what many find to be pleasant handling characteristics can prove to be a handful in poor weather, or when the air turns green with turbulence. And nothing comes for free, particularly in a higher-end Beech.

Letters: October 2015

Thanks for the helpful article on the cost of navigation data subscriptions in the September 2015 issue of Aviation Consumer. One point you did not mention was the cost of data for a portable GPS. For example, Garmin’s pricing for the Americas’ database bundle is $499.99 per year for its aera 796. This is almost as much as data for a panel-mounted unit, and much more than $149.99 for the same data for the Garmin Pilot tablet app.

It's Worth What Someone Will Pay

Walking the annual classic car show at the New England Air Museum, I came upon a Ford Model A pickup, which appeared to be in mostly original condition. I made a classless blunder asking its owner what the truck was worth. He let me have it, offering an emotional explanation of why it’s priceless and the same is true for his restored biplane. “The prices you see in Hemmings Motor News are only good for bankers, estate planners and divorce lawyers,” he said. That got me thinking about the Aircraft Bluebook and Vref Aircraft Value Reference publications and the savvy eye required to determine realistic values.

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