First Word: 03/05

Engine Shops: Which is Your Favorite?
I sometimes think aircraft ownership is like a pleasant walk in the woods on a summer evening. One moment, life is good, youre taking in the honeysuckle and lilac and the next moment, youre flat on your back with a fallen oak across your chest. The airplane owner equivalent of the windowmaker is a call from your shop with the bad news that the compression in number 4 is down to 39 pounds and the other jugs arent looking too good, either.

We got that call last month and we’ll be doing what so many owners have to do from time to time: shopping for a new engine. Will it be a field overhaul? A reman? Which shop will we use? Quite coincidentally, our editorial plans this month called for another of our periodic engine shop surveys.

If weve learned anything over the years, its that Aviation Consumer subscribers represent a rich repository of aviation experience, buyer feedback and wise advice based on firsthand experience. So once again, were asking…what are your recommendations and experiences with engine shops? Which ones are top notch and which should be avoided?

This time around, our survey is more exhaustive than ever and that means the best way to participate is online. So log onto the survey site using this have a go at it. Note that there’s a link for both single and twin-engine aircraft. we’ll publish the results in a future issue. Meanwhile, Ive got a few calls of my own to make to my list of top engine shops.


PDAs in the Cockpit
Here we are we’ll into 2005 and I think its safe to say that personal digital assistants (PDAs) have become socially acceptable. No one will snicker at you at a restaurant dinner table if you whip one out to look up a phone number or calculate the tip. But looking up numbers is one thing, flying with one quite another. Do PDAs have a place in the cockpit?

No way, writes John Pliesse of Darnestown, Maryland, reacting to our report on PDA software in the February issue. I am running an iPAQ to display WSI AV200 weather in a Mooney 201, he wrote. The PDA is unviewable in direct or indirect sunlight and glare, you cant wear sunglasses and see it and it often freezes up, requiring re-boot. Never mind joggling a pointer or trying to read small print in any kind of turbulence. Please be careful how you present PDAs to your readership. Pliesse says if he had it all to do over again, he would have bought a Garmin display, rather than pressing a PDA into service.

Fair enough. Consider yourself warned. Some pilots believe PDAs have no place in the cockpit and although I don’t use one myself, I don’t agree with that view. While they might not be the ideal displays, they have other attributes that some owners like, such as address books, useful software and flexibility that aviation-only displays don’t have. They also have more flexible power options. On the other hand, they arent nearly as mechanically or electrically robust as are dedicated aviation portables.

So if youre considering a PDA for the cockpit, be aware of the compromises reader Pliesse notes. Other owners have encountered these problems, too, so we know hes not alone. PDAs may be a solution but they arent necessarily the perfect solution. If you cant tolerate these shortcomings, a PDA will be nothing but an expensive irritant.

-Paul Bertorelli