Letters: March 2001

Lightweight Starters
Id like to comment on two articles in the January issue of The Aviation Consumer. First, the article on lightweight starters. I installed a pair of Sky-Tec starters in my Duke about four years ago. They work as advertised. Theyre light and spin the prop so fast I think I could taxi with them.

One of the starters, however, died after two years and had to be replaced. Regardless, I am still happy with them and would recommend them to anyone.

Second, your article on LASIK surgery. I had mine done 3 years ago and couldnt be happier. I had 20/20 vision when I started college but needed glasses by the time I graduated because I became nearsighted.

I switched to contacts about 20 years ago, at which point my eyes were about 20/200. When a friend suggested LASIK, I had both eyes done and they both went to 20/20 again. Since I didnt want to wear reading glasses, I had one of my eyes detuned a month later to 20/40, to give me what is called monovision.

I had a third-class physical about nine months later and for the first time had no restrictions placed on my medical. I have had absolutely no problems with glare or anything else described in your article. I have to close one eye to remember which is my near and far eye. Oh yes, I am 66 years old.

-Frank Singer
via e-mail

Before deciding on the monovision option described by reader Singer, we recommend checking with your AME. In some instances, the FAA has raised objections about monovision.

As a Lifetime subscriber, pilot and A&P, I usually find Aviation Consumer right on the mark.However, in your article on lightweight starters, you missed one of the best, if not the best manufacturers of lightweight starters, namely B&C Specialty Products, Inc. of Newton, Kansas.

Bill Bainbridge has for years made excellent items for the homebuilt market and also STCd items for certified aircraft. I am the maintenance manager of a flying club and we have B&C starters on our C-150L, a C-172L and a C-172N Air Plaines 180.

We are happy with these starters, which have gotten us out of the Bendix sticking problem and, in the case of the 150, endless problems with Continentals poor starter design in the O-200.

You and John Sharwarko, Jr. must know about Bill Bainbridge. He got lots of press during his fight with the FAA when he was wrongly accused of selling non-STCd starters in Alaska. He finally got a richly deserved apology from none other than Jane Garvey.

-DeWitt Whittington
Richmond, Virginia

While these new starters work great, particularly for hot starts, there is one problem that I had that John Sharwarko alludes to in the article when he notes, …you’ll need a healthy battery ….

In both my 180 Arrow and Twin Comanche, the Sky-Tec starter would sometimes be very reluctant to engage. It turned out that a new battery solved the problem. Message: If you tend to leave your aircraft for long periods, and hope that it will start on a run-down battery, the Sky-Tec is not for you. The old Prestolite may not work quickly, but it will strain through one more compression stroke after the Sky-Tec has long since quit.

I had a Sky-Tec on the left engine in the Twin Comanche for hot starts and a Prestolite on the right for cold day, low-voltage struggles. I didnt have a choice for the right engine, since Sky-Tec didnt make a starter for a counter rotating engine at the time.

-John Fuller
Minden, Nevada

More on LASIK
I just read the piece on LASIK in the January, 2001 issue and thought Id pass on my personal experience.

Im 41 years old and have been wearing corrective lenses since I was about 10 years old. Ive been wearing hard contact lenses for 25 years.

While they worked fine for correcting my 20/200 vision to 20/20, they werent always comfortable and were sometimes quite a hassle, especially in dusty conditions or after a long day. I had looked into RK for several years and decided against that procedure. When LASIK started becoming popular, I renewed my interest in a surgical correction. I discussed it with my regular eye doctor and my AME.

Both doctors were comfortable with the procedure and had seen a lot of people go through it. The AME in particular had seen a lot of pilots have it done. I finally decided to do it myself. I was advised repeatedly to go to a known, highly experienced surgeon with the latest laser equipment. My employers insurance guaranteed a price to me of $3600, which included both eyes and all pre-op and post-op care. The results have been great. I was in and out of the OR in 10 minutes and could see the results immediately. I had three hours of discomfort, after which there have been no problems.

I had to retake my first-class FAA medical exam, which I passed with 20/20 about 10 days after the procedure. I have a slight halo effect at night, but no worse than I had with my contact lenses.

I would say that my vision is about 99 percent perfect, which is better than I ever had with contact lenses. Its more consistent and much more comfortable than ever before.

As with others, I have been advised that I will need reading glasses in the next few years. I would have needed them anyway. But for now, I don’t need any kind of glasses, and thats a real treat after a lifetime of wearing them.

In summary, it was we’ll worth it. Go with a doctor you trust to take all the measurements, then go with a surgeon whose done thousands and has the latest gear. And make sure your AME is signed up.

-Pierre Wildman
via e-mail

TKS Query
I was wondering if The Aviation Consumer could do an article on TKS de-ice systems. I recently found out that their system is being produced for a wide variety of airplanes.

While last years weather in Minnesota was good for winter flying, this year has been the pits. It seems that the past two months have been filled with thin layers of clouds from about 1000 AGL to 3000 to 5000 MSL. Usually, the pireps indicated negative or light rime ice. However, without ice protection, CFIs tell me flight should not be attempted even with pireps like these. There probably would have been few days where I couldnt have flown if the airplanes I fly had TKS. The questions I would love to see Aviation Consumer answer are: Would you recommend this system to be retrofitted to existing general aviation planes for all weather capability?

Is the approximate $25,000 cost a good value even for a $100,000 to $200,000 used aircraft (Cessna 182, 182RG, 210, Bonanza, Mooney) if it would allow higher aircraft utilization rates?

How much does it cost to get known ice certification and what is the process? If, for example, enough Cessna 182 owners purchase the TKS system, will TKS at some point try to get an STC for the Cessna 182 for known icing as well?

Apparently, the TKS system is available with and without known ice certification. Can you explain the differences between the system? Also, if the system is not known ice certified, what kind of weather can a person safely tackle?

For newly minted IFR pilots, is flying a plane through winter clouds with negative icing pireps a game of Russian roulette? Is the best rule to simply not go in the clouds during Minnesotas winter months? I hope you will consider the topic for an article in the near future. I havent been able to find a lot of information on this topic and thought that your magazine would do a great job researching this issue for its readers.

-Rich Fink
via e-mail

We addressed these questions in detail in the January 1998 issue of The Aviation Consumer, which answers most of the queries questions you have posed.

In our view-not necessarily espoused by the company which markets TKS-the system will handle about any level of icing youre likely to encounter. Whether the system is certified for known icing or not is a distinction without a difference for practical flying considerations. Certified or not, TKS offers the most reliable protection against icing for a small aircraft.

We don’t agree that flying in clouds during the winter without ice protection is Russian Roulette, although it does entail a degree of risk. Some pilots accept the risk, some don’t.

As for the value of TKS, nothing else does what it does. If you must fly in winter weather and cant afford to cancel important trips, we think the system is worth the high cost and slight payload penalty. If winter trips are optional, TKS probably wont be worth the expensive tradeoff.