Letters: 02/07

Cirrus Crashes

Good column on the recent Cirrus publicity (see December 2006 First Word) and I agree with you, especially the point that the accident record has to do with the pilots, not the airplane. The inevitable result of Cirrus successful strategy to market the airplane to new pilots is the fact that there are now lots of low-time pilots flying complicated aircraft, many on long cross-country missions. Most pilots dont buy these airplanes to fly around the patch on sunny afternoons. Some are flying with newly minted IFR tickets in hard IMC.

These are all high risk factors and historical statistics alone would suggest that this combination will result in a higher-than-average accident rate. This would be true whether these pilots were flying Cirri or Mooneys or Pipers or any other similar aircraft. An additional Cirrus-specific component of the problem could be that at least some of these new owner/pilots have bought into the notion that flying is easy and safe, they have purchased an all-weather go-anytime traveling machine and that the parachute will solve any problems that arise. Thats not a good mind-set to be flying with.

This would be further exacerbated if, as you suggest, some owners (new or trade-up) are aggressive risk-takers who see the parachute as a means to push the envelope even further. What can Cirrus do if this is indeed the case?

More and better training would help, particularly if it emphasizes risk recognition and management. Training is not a total substitute for experience and it will do nothing at all for those who simply wont listen. But it may help those new pilots who truly take flying seriously and want to become safe and competent.

But in the end, I wonder if a somewhat higher accident rate among new pilots may be the inevitable tradeoff for bringing large numbers of new pilots into GA.

As for the parachute, I agree with you that it is a great safety advance. But it may turn out to be like ABS on autos, another safety advance that apparently hasnt decreased accidents all that much, in part because some drivers dont know how to use it and others simply adjust their driving to use up the additional safety margin.

Or, as is said about all-wheel drive on an icy road, it allows you to go that much faster before finally leaving the road and thus ending up deeper into the snow bank. The parachute no doubt will save lives, but whether it will actually lower the overall fatality rate is not yet known.

Pete Warner

Taos, New Mexico

Diesel Numbers

I am a fan of FADEC-controlled diesel engines and hope they make substantial inroads into the American aviation market.

However, with regard to your Thielert diesel article in the December 2006 issue, Im curious as to where Fetter got his $24,000 for a replacement engine at TBO all Ive read is that they expect you to pay full price for another new engine: $50,000.

Gary Bishop

Tuscaloosa, Alabama

The TBR replacement cost comes directly from Thielert and is based on an exchange price. Obviously, buying a new engine at TBR with no credit would be a non-starter.

Sportys Fan

I read your report on life vests in the October issue with interest. We have a cabin on San Juan Island, Washington and must fly over water for about 30 minutes to the Roche Harbor Airport. I ordered an Eastern AeroMarine vest through Sportys, which has a 30-day trial return policy.

We received our package and opened it. Inside was the pouch filled with the vest, with no written info whatsoever included in the box. I strapped the pouch around my waist and proceeded to pull the tab to check it out. When I attempted to refold it into the pouch, I discovered that it was just about impossible to do so, an obvious conscious design decision.

I called Eastern Aero Marine and was informed that the unit was what they label as single use, meaning that once opened, it could not used again until sent to a certified inspection station to be rewrapped for a fee.

I told them that was unsatisfactory for our use and that we wanted to return it and that they should certainly inform potential buyers of this situation. They said sorry, talk to Sportys.

Sportys told me to send it back but when I wrapped up the package, I was informed by UPS that because of the CO2 cartridges, it was hazmat. I called Sportys and suggested I just remove the CO2 and render the package non hazmat. Sportys and this is the important part of this whole letter said no, just keep the vest and we will cancel your invoice case dismissed.

Sportys is number 1 in my book as soon as they too indicate the whole story about this particular vest in their catalog.

James H. Maul

Morro Bay, California