Letters 02/98

Crystal Ball

I have a suggestion for a future topic and a question. Actually, several questions. How about some more coverage on diesel engines and how all this relates to the continuing availability of 100LL.

My question relates to that topic: Should we, as aircraft owners, be planning for the eventual transition to diesel engines? For an aircraft owner facing engine replacement one, three and five years from now, what is your best informed guess on what we should plan for?

Should an owner stretch out his remaining engine time to position himself for one of the new engine designs? If so, which ones? Or should he simply go for the conventional engine replacement, even though hell be stuck with it for 10 years?

Will the mini-turboprops require major structural modifications to the airframes? Might totally new general aviation designs result in making turboprop upgrades to our current Cessnas impractical?

By now, you have probably guessed that Im one of those owners facing TBO within the next three to four years. I don’t want to spend $25,000 to $30,000 for an obsolete engine requiring equally obsolete fuel. There must be many other pilots out there like me. This rapidly developing knowledge is beyond most of us.

-Allan Fishbein
Santa Rosa, California

Frankly, its beyond us, too. But we’ll offer our own views.

We think the time line on diesels is a little too fuzzy to predict, but we would venture to say Rennaults version may make it through certification within two years, with Teledyne Continentals version coming in behind it.But certification is one thing, a production engine is something else, if indeed, these engines ever do make it into production. With that in mind, worrying about stretching your overhaul to replace it with a diesel is premature. In two years, it might not be. Our guess is that the first retrofit diesels wont be available for three to five years.

As for mini-turboprops,” we assume youre referring to the lightweight fan jet being developed by Williams International under a NASA grant. Although Williams says this engine will debut at Oshkosh in 2000, it will certainly be sometime before a production engine appears. In any case, those engines arent intended for retrofit but for new, clean-sheet aircraft.

As for cheap turboprops, if theyre out there, we havent heard about them. Conventional turboprop conversions have been and will remain expensive, low-volume options. We don’t see any major price breakthroughs on the horizon, other than the stated claims for the Williams jet.

We think its a good bet that overhauls for conventional gasoline aircraft engines will be a practical reality for the foreseeable future.

Skylane Feedback
I enjoyed your flight report on the Cessna 182. But Ill still keep my 1967 model and the remaining $155,000, thanks. (Aviation Consumer, December 1997)

Every article Ive read on the new engine in this airplane has neglected to mention why it takes 540 cubic inches in 1997 to do what 470 cubic inches did in 1986. The answer is that the Lycoming IO-540 also has much lower compression than the O-470-U had.

So Cessna is planning for the eventual death of 100LL fuel by using an engine that will probably run on 90-octane car gas without any trouble.

The reduction in RPM is just part of the story. The biggest thing, in my opinion, is the understanding that the EPA is going to do away with 100LL and a lot of pilots will be screwed. (But not me.)

-Bob Thomas
Saginaw, Michigan

With regard to Stephan Wilkinsons report on the Cessna 182, I must take exception to the statement no other new four place can do that in reference to the load carrying capabilties of the Cessna 182.

The Comanche is not a new four place by any stretch of the imagination but the fact is, of the 12 models built, 10 will exceed the reported figure.

The other two models are 10 pounds short. Included in the 10 that exceed the 182 is the Comanche 180, with a max useful load of 735 pounds, with full fuel.

Just to keep you honest and accurate.

-William T. Creech
El Paso, Texas

And to keep you accurate, if Piper starts building the Comanche again, it will be a new airplane. We did say new airplane.

Student Starts
Reading your article on the Great GA Sell Job in the November issue, I can offer my own view on why student starts are down.

I help manage a four-airplane flying co-op (often called a club) at Moline. We offer co-op ownership to licensed pilots and those wanting to learn to fly. As such, we have about five to 10 new pilots a year originate from us, selling our co-op and flying.

I do most of the indoctrination of new members, since Im corporate secretary in addition to being a board member. I also write our newsletter. I mention these things because thats how Im able to keep up with events.

Moline is great airport but has only one FBO, Elliott Aviation. As an FBO, Elliott is a good one and we do appreciate them. However, they have an agreement with the Metropolitan Airport Authority that keeps anyone else on the field from advertising flight training.

Our method is to encourage any novice to join our coop, then as an owner, we help guide them with information on how to use the co-op to learn to fly.

We have an active list of freelance CFIs on the field, including three current members. The freelance CFIs are older, experienced instructors for the most part, who are not trying to move up. Their primary interest is as primary instructors.

We could be much more successful growing our organization if we could advertise. There would be far more student starts in our area if we could advertise.

I don’t think wed be taking training business away from Elliott. We can attract people because as a co-op owner, rental costs are much less.

Elliott Aviation recently dropped the flight training and aircraft rental business. The MAA had a problem with an FBO without full services, so Jet-Aire. Inc from Galesburg, Illinois has an agreement with Elliot to provide flight training at Moline.

If you really want to get to the root of why student starts have dropped look no more: I have the answer. The FAA is loving us to death! Over regulation of how we fly, what we fly and who we fly is responsible for the demise of general aviation. Our costs cannot go down until the FAA allows manufacturers to reduce manufacturing costs without recertification.

Of course, liability expense is still a factor. All the interesting action in GA is still in experimental aircraft. The reason? Very little regulation.

The airlines offer lower cost transportation than GA simply because theyve been deregulated. How could someone justify learning to fly when they can get an airline ticket for less. As long as the government is allowed to dictate to GA, it wont change.

-Dennis J. English
via e-mail

Pico What?
Im always fascinated, educated and entertained by Gary Picou, your avionics editor.

Is that his real name or something derived from picofarads? In that case, is he infinitely small? Or just a regular guy with a great sense of humor and excellent writing style. Keep him at it!

-Allan L. Young
Clovis, New Mexico

Yup, hes a regular, full-size guy but with good eyes and tiny fingers to probe the innards of avionics.

Picou recently joined PS Engineering, the intercom manufacturer, but will continue to contribute to Aviation Consumer. (On topics other than intercoms, of course.)