Letters: 01/03

Tablet Computers
Its a shame that you did not review the Northstar CT-1000. It is a unit that is specially designedfor use in an aircraft and the CT-1000G has been certified and an STC obtained for dual installation in Gulfstreams.

My experience with EFBs go backto the Navision 1000 produced by ARNAV in about 1989. After using it for about 10 years and with the advances in PCs (the NV1000 was not based on a PC), I was looking for a new EFB that would add the Jeppesen charts to the checklists and maps that the NV1000 provided.

I believe that the CT-1000 started life as prototype built by Regan Designs called the Junior. Northstar acquired a license to manufacture and sell the CT-1000 in general aviation in 1999. I obtained one of the first units from Northstar and have been using it since then (three-plus years).

When it first appeared on the market, it did not have software suited for aviation except for Jeppesens FliteDeck. I liked the CT-1000 hardware design because it was portrait oriented and had buttons located around the screen.

The idea of buttons around the screen was present in the NV1000 and made it very easy to use. Based on this, I created the software that is currently being shipped with the CT-1000, which includes a main menu, weight and balance calculator, checklists,a moving map, andFliteDeck.

All of the interface has been designed not to require use of the pen on the touch screen, the mouse pad, or an additional keyboard.

I have found these to be difficult to use in the cockpit. The CT-1000 is the least urgent piece of equipment in the airplane and should not be a distraction. After all, it is only replacing paper.

I slightly modified the standard CT-1000 mounting system based on my experience with the NV1000. I have mounted the unit on the support used bythe Tripboard from Flight Products International. I replaced the clipboard with a quick release video camera mountwhich mateswith the CT-1000.

This allows easy installation and removal. It plugs into the aircraft for power and data using a five-pin microphone connectorthat is designed for easy and repeated connections and disconnections.

I added a selector switch so that data can be obtained from all the devices in the aircraft that produce serial output (a Garmin GNS430, an ARNAV FMS-5000, an altitude encoder converter and a Sandel SN3308 EHSI).

Besides getting the GPS data, it can also be used to upload the database updates to the Sandel EHSI and get diagnostic information from the other units.

My typical flight consists of takingmy dual headset bag (one side hasmy headset and the other has the CT-1000), plugging in the CT-1000 and my headset and I am ready to go. I start with my checklists and then switch to the moving map and FliteDeck for charts. I still have a little clipboard to write down clearances when I go IFR. Since paper is still required as a back-up, I also have that in a different flight bag with the paper versionsstored behind me.

The FAA has produced an Advisory Circular AC120-76, Guidelines For The Certification, Airworthiness, And Operational Approval Of Electronic Flight Bag Computing Devices and based on this, I would say that the CT-1000 would qualify as a Class 2 EFB and the CT-1000G as a Class 3 EFB. MostEFBsbased on commodity PC designs would be considered a Class 1 EFB.

My major complaint is that the unit is 1999 technology and could use a faster processor, more memory and a larger disk. I also regret that Northstar is not aggressively marketing to the low end of general aviation.

-Tom Hirsch
Via e-mail

Well take a look at the new tablet computers as soon as some aviation applications are available.


Accident Rate Hooey
I have had enough! Your response to a Mooney owners concern about the possibility of fuel tank sealant being the culprit in your own Mooneys death (Engine Crumps, September 2002) was honest and reasonable.

However, your disinclination to publish an engine failure-per-hour analysis on various aircraft engines, while perfectly defensible, points out the dirty little secret of all attempts to understand why our airplanes dont always return safely to earth. You correctly state that obtaining reliable hours-flown estimates remains problematical. What an understatement.

Dick Collins, of Flying magazine, whose regular, cogent observations concerning the relative safety of aviation are known to most pilots, recently observed in print that the spindoctors at the FAA and NTSB are so removed from the absolute as to permit what he referred to as innovative diddling, which can mislead the less informed consumers of safety statistics.

By adjusting the estimated hours flown by the GA fleet each year, the accident rate can be manipulated to prove any thesis of safety one wishes to promote and, as he correctly observes, fewer accidents do not make a better record.

Pilots are not stupid. We understand numbers and fly by them. We seek as much accuracy in weather forecasting as we can get because our lives depend upon it. Why dont we demand as much factual data as we can get when it comes to understanding our own safety record?

An accident rate is a fraction, whose numerator is the number of accidents (a known fact…just count the wrecks and the dead or injured) and whose denominator is…who knows? The official numbers are estimates of hours flown based on fuel sales and some other witches brew of educated guesswork…voodoo economics applied to aviation.

How about really finding out how many hours any given aircraft, and, therefore, the whole fleet flies each year?Does that sound like a good thing to know? I think so. Why dont we just report the hours on the tach, hobbs or other similar meter in most aircraft at annual inspection, which is already a required event.

A report of that number, together with the aircraft make and model,provides pretty hard information about how much that airplane flew since its last report, presumably, a year before and….presto, an accurate report of how many hours my Archer, your Mooney, his Aerostar and their Baron really flew in 12 months.

FAA computers, even those old 386s, can crunch the numbers. The data could be collected by A&Ps, who must perform the annuals anyway, on-line, or via post card, with bulk mail rates paid by our friends in Washington.

I have been pitching this idea around for a while, meeting no enthusiasm for the concept from pilot groups but total support from actual pilots. My favorite alphabet group, whichI thought would support the proposal, does not.

It believes it would create too much of a regulatory burden on pilots (even though the mechanics would do the reporting) and might somehow lead us down the road to ourcommon nightmare:ATC user fees. Maybe, just maybe, wedont want to know the truth. What do you think?

-Howard Kave
Cornwall, New York

Frankly, we like the idea but we think its a non-starter. We doubt if mechanics would embrace the additional workload-especially if it were required by regulation. Were skeptical that accurate hours-flown estimates would materially change how we approach the task of making flying safer. Critical patterns already emerge in careful reviews of accident reports. A more accurate rate wont improve that in a way commensurate with the effort required to collect the data.


P68 Lives!
In your November 2002 issue, you say that the only light twin currently available in the market is the Piper Seneca V. I would like to let you know that this is not true. There is another light twin currently available: The Vulcanair P68 Series. Vulcanair S.p.A. of Naples Italy purchased Partenavia in 1999 and is now producing in excess of 20 aircraft per year.

The aircraft, which is formerly known as Partenavia, was originally certified in 1971 and more than 400 were manufactured. The current version of the P68 Series, manufactured by Vulcanair is an updated version of the successful original design. In total, there are four models, two turbocharged and two normally aspirated.

Please do not hesitate to visit our U.S. web site at: www.vulcanair-usa.com to see them and get some basic information about our company.

-Remo De Feo
Vulcanair, Inc.