February 2016

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Accident History: No Smoking Guns

Subscribers Only - When we looked at the 100 most recent accidents for the Archer/Cherokee 180 series—50 for each model—we saw some crunch causes we expected and a few we didn’t. First, in an airplane often used as a trainer, we expected to see a significant number of landing-related accidents. We did. Thirty percent of the airplanes came to grief due to either runway loss of control (RLOC), hard landing, runway overshoot or a botched go around. We didn’t…

Backcountry Airplanes: Attributes

Subscribers Only - There are a lot of airplanes that are alleged to be good for backcountry operations by pilots who want to seriously recreate. In doing research for this article, we spent an extended period speaking with the proprietors of Backcountry Aviation in Nampa, Idaho, Kasey Lindsay and Bob Hannah and with Jeff Welch, who gives type-specific utility/STOL training, primarily in the Husky, in Alpena, Michigan. All are highly experienced backcountry pilots. …

200-Foot Takeoff Roll? Nonsense

Subscribers Only - A number of readers contacted us, attaching copies of the ad depicted below showing a Tundra tire-equipped Husky perched in the high country. The readers either asked if the numbers were true or claimed they were what comes out of the south end of a northbound bovine. We found that unless the airplane is stripped to minimum weight and flown by an expert, the 200-foot takeoff distance number is a figment of someone’s imagination, especially when…

A Regulatory Step Forward, and Then Back

Subscribers Only - The FAA turned a lot of heads with its official policy statement, PS-ACE-23-08, authorizing the installation of electronic attitude instruments for one-and-only primary use. Using rare language that’s sympathetic to owners burdened by the high cost of iron gyro upkeep, the agency offers leniency for shops to sign off the installation as a minor alteration, which also includes yanking out the vacuum system even if it’s required per the aircraft type certificate. According to the policy, no field approvals, no additional STCs, no backup gyro or time-consuming paperwork is required. Progress at last, or so it seemed.

The Lightspeed Tango and Aircraft Appraisals

It takes two to Tango (two batteries, that is). After reading your January 2106 report on the Lightspeed Tango wireless headset, it seems Lightspeed desperately needs a new charging system. I would like to add a footnote to the worthy Aircraft Appraisal article in the January 2016 issue of Aviation Consumer. One should be very careful of the aircraft appraiser when having a unique aircraft appraised such as warbird, antique and homebuilt aircraft. I agree with the gist of your recent aircraft appraisal article, but take issue with the conclusion that labor has no market value. As a decades-long Aviation Consumer subscriber, I hesitate to argue with the editor’s experience, but feel I must stand up for the enduring value of quality installations.

406 MHz ELT Retrofits: GPS Ups Effort, Cost

Subscribers Only - The 406 MHz ELT market never quite achieved liftoff, probably because the FAA hasn’t mandated these beacons, even though it still requires an installed ELT of some kind. A lively market of capable, inexpensive personal locaters (PLBs) further muddies the buying decision. But there are good arguments for an installed 406 MHz beacon, not the least of which is that after a crash, you might not be in any condition to activate a PLB. In this report, we’ll examine GPS-enabled third-gen 406 MHz ELTs that substantially improve your odds of being located after a crash. Shops tell us installed costs may hover around $3000, but you can knock the sting off that number by having the work done when the airplane’s pulled apart at annual.

Oil Analysis Providers: It’s About Service

Subscribers Only - We consider engine oil analysis to be a valuable early warning system for certain types of engine problems. It allows an aircraft owner and maintenance technician to catch those problems before they become safety of flight items. Because we feel it’s valuable, we wanted to know more about the labs that perform it. Do they give results consistent with each other? What is the turnaround time for a sample? Can they explain the results of a sample in a way that makes sense to an aircraft owner? Is there information on their website about the process and results clearly?

Aftermarket Visors: Rosen is Still Tops

The lowly aircraft sun visor isn’t really a safety accessory until you have to land on runway 27 an hour before sunset on a summer evening. The accident record is peppered with pilots who lost control because they lost sight of the runway at a critical moment due to sun glare. Into this narrow breach of need several companies have stepped up, offering improved visors and shades.

Buying Utility STOL: Ignore the Ad Hype

Subscribers Only - Whether for work or a heck of a lot of fun, if you’re in the market for a STOL/utility airplane—one that will let you commune with nature in the most rugged of backcountry airstrips as well as cruise at a reasonable speed and carry a little something—what’s out there and how do you choose among them?

Stratux ADS-B: DIY and Save Big

Subscribers Only - Portable ADS-B In isn’t that complicated. It requires a 978 MHz receiver for weather and some traffic, a simple computer that converts those signals to a common protocol and transmits the results via Wi-Fi. You can pump up system performance with a second 1090 MHz traffic receiver, GPS position and AHRS. So if you had the right shopping list, the software to put on the computer and a little technical savvy, you should be able make your own. And that’s exactly what the Stratux is. We built one and discovered: Yes, you can build a working portable ADS-B receiver with parts ordered off Amazon. No, it’s not “just as good as an Appareo Stratus 2S.” And, yes, it will work with ForeFlight—at least for now.

AltAlert Cabin Sensor: Portable, Simple

Early detection is the key to cabin pressurization failures and that’s precisely the purpose of the $399 Aviation Technology AltAlert personal cabin pressure sensor. The six-ounce AltAlert measures 3.0 by 1.75 by 0.75 inches and can be mounted on a flat surface, clipped to a sun visor or worn on clothing. Powered by a 3-volt lithium CR2032 coin battery, the device utilizes an internal algorithmic software program to sense cabin pressure and rate of climb by way of a temperature corrected pressure sensor.

Piper Archer/ Cherokee 180

Subscribers Only - In the heady days of the 1960s and 1970s, personal airplane manufacturers were heavily invested in marketing their products the same way Detroit had been selling cars: Get new owners hooked on an entry-level model, offer several step-up models and make annual but incremental improvements. Just as Detroit’s Big Three had dealer networks, Beech, Cessna and Piper had them also, offering everything from primary flight training to maintenance, rental and charter.