Letters: 09/02

Cellular Comments
We greatly appreciated your excellent article on satellite and cellular communications for pilots in the June issue of Aviation Consumer.

As we prepared for the flight of the New Spirit of St. Louis, we initially planned to use Iridium equipment primarily as a substitute for heavier and less reliable HF communications over the ocean. However, during our domestic test flights and transcontinental flights, we quickly became convinced of the tremendous utility satellite communication offers all pilots.

We were so impressed with the Iridium unit and services that we acquired through Blue Sky Network, of LaJolla, California, (www.blueskynetwork.com) that two other members of our team purchased this equipment, even before the transatlantic flight.

We also were very pleased with satellite data communications via the Orbcomm constellation using an Echo Flight system for automatic position reporting, NEXRAD radar information-while over the U.S.-and e-mail in flight. (See www.echoflight.com.) This capability allowed the world to follow this flight via the internet at www.xprize.org.

Our experiences over the past year have convinced us that satellite communications offer extraordinary value for pilots and aircraft operators.

Thanks to Aviation Consumer for spreading the word on the benefits of these powerful new tools.

-Erik Lindbergh, pilot
Gregg Maryniak, flight director
New Spirit of St. Louis Program


I read the article concerning use of a cellphone in an airplane and have found a much cheaper approach.

The local ATT Wireless store sells an accessory called an EarGels Headset made by Jabra for $25. They are also available at Radio Shack for about $10 more. The unit has a colored earpiece that actually fits into the ear-three sizes included-and on the earpiece itself is the microphone.

Put the earpiece on, then your headset and you can use the phone as if you were driving your car. Use the headset in the normal way, the cellphone is clear and readable since the microphone picks up the sidetone in the headset while the earpiece provides clear telephone sounds for the user.

All in all, an inexpensive way to use your cellphone while the engine is running or even while flying in an emergency.

-Ernie Ganas
Novato, California


Flight Planners
Do you use a computer-based flight planner? I had Destination Direct until I upgraded to a new computer. It didnt transfer to the new computer and the diskettes it came on had errors (actually, I think Windows XP was unhappy about the installation procedure).

I looked into an update but got confused by the new owners descriptions. It seems like more power than I want or need.

Ive never actually used DD to file a flight plan. In my opinion, DUATS does that better and gives routing closer to what I actually get.

But I liked the mapping feature of DD, which let me look at the map at any size and to size up my options. That, more than anything else, was what I used DD for.

I looked through Aviation Consumer but the last report on flight planners was in November, 1999. Any chance of a new review in the near future?

-Barry Wallis
via e-mail

Although we don’t have it on our editorial calendar at the moment, we do have in the works another review of flight planning programs. Look for it later this year or early next.


Floats or Boats
As a Lake owner (1963 LA4), I don’t take issue with anything Steve Smith said in his letter in the July, 2002 issue. I would, however, like to share an owners perspective on some of the good aspects of owning a Lake.

First, there are three outstanding Lake maintenance and rebuilding shops, two in the U.S. and one in Canada. Each of these shops probably has more Lake knowledge and experience than the Lake factory. They each serve their customers in an outstanding manner and cooperate to take care of the Lake fleet.

Second, there are about 40 highly qualified Lake instructors scattered around the country and Canada. Many with 5000 or 10,000 or even some with upwards of 15,000 hours in Lakes.

These instructors work with the aircraft owners and the insurance company to provide not only initial training, but also recurrent training.

Third, the Lake Amphibian Flyers Club promotes safety, knowledge, proficiency and fun through newsletters, a Web forum and an annual meeting attended by about 200 owners, pilots, maintenance shops and an insurance company. Usually, there are about 50 Lake aircraft flown in, many from distant points.

Fourth, the Lake pilots are a friendly and helpful group willing to share their time and knowledge to the newer pilots as we’ll as those with questions or a problem.

Id like to encourage anyone considering an amphibian to try out both floats and boats. They are different and each has some advantages and disadvantages.

Even though I own a boat, a few months ago, I got some time in a J-3 on straight floats. If you fly floats, try out a boat and if you fly boats, try out the floats. They are all a lot of fun. Go get wet.

-Jay A. Lautzenheiser
Kansas City, Missouri


Engine Crumps
Your article on Mooney engine failures leaves me wanting to know more. Youve identified a mystery but I want the solution. I fly a 1965 E-model and you have me very concerned.

Is it the engine or the system?Could the primary culprit be the sealant blocking the fuel injectors?What was the history/status of your tanks prior to losing your Mooney?

-Gary Anderson
via e-mail


I think Coy Jacob may be on to something when he suggests that Mooney pilots proficiency may be a factor in determining the models accident picture.

I have another observation that, in my view, adds fuel to Coys argument. For your accident rates comparison, you selected the Piper Arrow as the Mooneys counterpart. A very valid selection technically. Operationally, however, Im not so sure. As Coy noted, most Mooneys are in private hands. Thus, their pilots are familiar with the airplanes, have (on average) plenty of time in type and so forth. The Arrow, on the other hand, is the advanced trainer.

Its a wild guess, of course, but I would venture to say that more Arrows serve as complex trainers than any other model. Naturally, this would lead to lower pilot familiarity and thus a higher percentage of pilot-error accidents and incidents, especially runway loss-of-control, gear-up landings and so forth.

This would further skew the accident picture between Mooneys and the Arrow. I wonder what a comparison with the Cardinal RG minus mechanical gear failures would reveal. In conclusion, thanks for a great magazine.

-Alexei Tsekoun
Princeton, New Jersey

Our J-Model Mooney had a tank leak repaired about six months before the crash. However, there was no evidence of tank sealant contamination in any of the fuel screens or injectors.

Several readers have asked us to do a failure-per-hour analysis on various aircraft engines but obtaining reliable hours-flown estimates remains problematical.