Letters – 06/01

Ice Detector Woes
I enjoyed your article on carb ice detectors. Id like to relate to you an incident that happened to my aircraft partner and I, where the carb temp indication system delayed our decision to use heat.

During an approach into Las Vegas in IMC with snow, we were slowly losing engine RPM and then altitude. The carb temp indicator was well above the yellow caution range. Im an A&P and I had recently checked and confirmed the carb temp indicator for proper accuracy. Because we were convinced that we couldnt have carb ice due to the indicated temperature, we spent precious time looking for other reasons for the loss of power.

At 800 feet below our assigned altitude, we applied carb heat and the engine on our Grumman Traveler sprang back to life. Snow was clogging the air filter, choking the engine. Its important to remember that in addition to supplying heated air, the carb heat is an alternate air source that provides a means to bypass the air filter.

I am certain that if we did not have the indicator, we would have just assumed we had carb ice due to RPM loss, applied the heat expeditiously, and avoided such a memorable experience.

-Jim Ransom
Via e-mail

What About PDAs?
I cant agree with your comments about the Garmin 295 in your recent review of portable GPSs. Plus, I think youre missing a useful competitor to these dedicated GPS portables.

I got a Garmin 295 a year ago, partly because I had the bucks and partly because Garmin suggested it was a whiz at land navigation. I was willing to pay more to get both land and air. I had used a dedicated automobile GPS nav unit (the Hertz NeverLost system) and wanted something like that. If youve ever used the Hertz system, you know how great it is.

They generate an optimal route and then give turn-by-turn directions. The Hertz system even speaks, so you dont have to take your eyes of the road.

I knew the 295 wouldnt talk to me, but I did expect route generation and turn-by-turn directions. I was disappointed when I realized it didnt have that.Having a compass point which way my destination is across 30 miles of strange city doesnt cut it. Nor does the land-based moving map. Its not useful to arrive at an intersection and have to study the map to figure out which way to turn.

I complained to Garmin and got a defensive reply about how chip speed wasnt sufficient to provide route generation and directions. But now I see Garmin is offering just what I wanted in their Street Pilot III (http://www.garmin.com/products/spIII/index.html).

What Id really like to see is Garmin dumping the less-than-useful street navigation, which in the end simply locates all the Taco Bells and Motel 8s nearby, and replace it with two things: An obstruction database and a taxiway diagram for each airport. That would be a killer air nav unit.I just downloaded Garmins latest firmware update for the 295 and it can now use the WAAS signal. Not a big deal, but, it could help with the taxiway navigation.

Now, my next point: The alternative to the dedicated portable units. Why not connect a GPS receiver to a personal data assistant (PDA)? That way you enjoy the other benefits of a PDA, and its price is driven down by high-volume manufacturing.

Take a look at http://www.anywheremap.com/pdf/GPS295_Compare.PDF. Doesnt this seem like a viable alternative? Id love to see Aviation Consumer compare the dedicated units with GPS and PDA combos like this.

-Ralph Finch
Via e-mail

We reviewed both the Anywhere PDA-based GPS navigator and Garmins ground navigation option for the 295 in the June 2000 issue. We concluded that PDA-based GPS has potential but isnt the equal of a dedicated portable just yet. Like you, we find the 295 ground navigation option to be awkward and not as effective as dedicated ground navigators with the voice option.

Corporate Ownership
You did a fine job explaining the principal advantage of corporate ownership of GA aircraft in your partnership article in the April issue. As an attorney, I had no hesitation on insisting to my four (now three) co-owners that we incorporate when we purchased our Archer II in 1996.

Sure, its a hassle to pay the accountant for the tax return, pay the (Delaware) franchise tax, the registered agent fee and keep the financial records required.

But I wouldnt think of exposing myself to another pilots mistake. When one of us wanted out, the corporate purchase of the stock was a snap. One disadvantage has come to my attention.

We file, as most would, as a Sub-Chapter S corporation, so that the corporation pays no tax separate from the three shareholders. For the first four years, the corporation showed a net loss, which we werehappy to deduct on our personal 1040 returns.

This year, a special assessment of a few grand each to pay for the engine overhaul went into the account as income, but was depreciated by the accountant on the return resulting in net income to the corporation and, to each of us….ouch!

Worse yet, the IRS requires that aircraft, which last for 40 or 50 years or more to be depreciated by each owner over a seven year useful life. After that time has run, income to the corporation for fixed costs, repair and overhaul reserve becomes a tax liability, as theres no offsetting deduction for depreciation.

The same is true of any bank loan as it matures; more and more of each monthly payment is principal reduction, not deductible interest. As a result, the accountant is advising us to unload our beloved little aircraft before its tax consequences become too great in the eighth year.

He suggests a trade in for another airplane, to avoid capital gains tax and to keep sales (use, actually) tax to a minimum.

I never anticipated this when I formed the corporation, but would not hesitate to do it again to avoid a financial disaster as a result of the aerial type.

So the only real problem with corporate ownership is that every few years, you need to get a new airplane. I think we can live with that. Just dont get emotionally attached to your wings.

-Howard Kave
Cornwall, New York

King Complaint
In reference to your article on the King and Jeppsen Instrument Courses in the February 2001 issue, I purchased the King CD-Rom Instrument Course last June. The course is good, but the quality of the CD-ROM is poor at best.

The pictures of Martha talking are fuzzy and its not possible to read the word King on her shirt. Its impossible to read the chart that she refers to on behind her. She refers to a page number in the book which shows the same material as the chart, but by the time you can find it and catch up, she has gone on to another point.

I called King to ask if there was something wrong with my computer. Their manager walked me through several steps, which helped, but this was still unable to clear up the picture. I asked why the quality was so poor, and he explained that they had just copied the videotape onto CD-ROM discs.

I asked if they were planning to improve the quality of the CD-ROM and was told it would be at least six months. I called King again right after your article was published and was advised that they had an update available, but that it would cost about $125 to get the updated CD-ROMs.

I have to assume that they have corrected the poor quality originally sent out with the course. Charging $125 more to get an up-to-date and legible quality CD-ROM rubs me the wrong way. Maybe they should take a look at how David Clark stands behind their product with free updates and repairs.

I would not recommend the King Instrument CD-ROM course to anybody because of the poor quality of the CD-ROMs and their failure to provide a timely and free correction of the problems.

-Dave Long
via e-mail

John King replies: Although our customers report to us that they are thrilled with our full-screen video, there may be cases in which students will not be able to read everything in the background. This is because of tradeoffs involved in creating a computer-based instructional course.

The video is digitized and you have to strike a balance between providing the quality of video necessary to do a first-class job of teaching and bogging down the users computer or requiring an impractical number of CD-ROM discs to hold the course. Wed love to have perfect video resolution, but the result would be a course that most computers couldnt handle.

We chose full-screen, full-motion video and its our belief that this better displays the teaching information without being distracting to the student. Regarding our guarantee, our customers have 30 days in which to evaluate our courses-they can actually complete the courses in far less time-and if during that 30 days, they arent satisfied, they just return the course and we refund the purchase price.

Theres a second guarantee. If you fail your FAA test within a year of purchasing a course, you get your money back and keep the course.

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