Safety Refurbs

As an emergency physician with a background in epidemiology and public health, I would like to thank Rick Durden and Aviation Consumer for the article on Safety Refurbs in the March 2014 issue. Although it was very well done and quite helpful, I’d like to add two caveats.

It is difficult to calculate overall effectiveness of safety equipment because flying is actually pretty safe and there are always unintended consequences of adding equipment. Like anti-lock brakes in cars, I’m sure that parachutes save some individuals. But some pilots would have been better off spending the money on training, better instruments or replacing the parachute with fuel. Anti-lock brakes might induce complacency and increase risk-taking by drivers, which makes up for their overall benefit. I suspect that parachutes are a good idea, and I’d never do acro without one, but suspicion is not proof.

Either airbags or belts are essential equipment. Both are about equally good at keeping you and the panel from merging. Each has some minor theoretical advantages, but at least in ground vehicles, the benefits are not additive. If you were to use the three-point harness in your car, the airbags probably add nothing. The NTSB seems to like the integrated systems (on the basis of very weak evidence) and maybe they are worth the cost, but I’d be happy with a good set of four—or five-point belts.

Mark Hauswald
via email

You overlooked one simple, inexpensive method of improving restraints in aircraft without shoulder harnesses. The Quickie from Hooker Harnesses anchors to the seat belts in the seat behind the occupant. The rear seats in my 1967 T210 lacked harnesses for the main (middle row) passenger seats. I added on by using two Hooker Quickies. These belts (available in a choice of two colors) consist of a two-inch V-type harness that has large loops on either end. It uses the rear seat belts of a four-place aircraft to anchor the shoulder harness for the front seat occupants. The front seat belts are then threaded through the loops on the opposite end. The length adjustments are made with conventional adjusters. Basic positioning is done by adjusting the rear seatbelts.

I anchored them to the belts for the third row kids’ seats. They aren’t as effective as real harnesses with proper geometry (as Hooker mentions in its own discussion), but they certainly would reduce the flail. All of this without complicated paperwork, additional approvals or tools.

Art Friedman
Santa Paula, California

aspen’s vfr pfd
I read the article in your April issue on Aspen’s new Evolution VFR PFD. I’m struggling to understand what’s VFR-only about it.

If an airplane has navcomm radios with dedicated CDIs, the PFD is an ideal unit to replace the vacuum-driven AI and DG. There’s nothing VFR about it. My Garmin GNS530 fulfills all the IFR navigation I’ll need, plus my backup King KX170 works fine. Is this just a marketing angle that Aspen is using to convince VFR pilots to upgrade?

Mike Meadows
via email

We think there’s steam behind that marketing angle and the model’s entry-level price. The Evolution VFR won’t display localizer and glideslope guidance from the GNS530 or any nav/GPS system. This lack of approach guidance limits the instrument to VFR approaches, something Aspen says fits a VFR-only mission.

renter’s insurance
Jon Doolittle’s March 2014 article, “Renter’s Insurance: Know the Exclusions,” was very timely for me. I was planning to check out in the Cirrus SR20 at SRQ Aviation in Sarasota, Florida, but they wanted me to sign a form agreeing to be “liable for any expenses incurred for damages inflicted upon the aircraft while rented to me.”

I checked with three insurance brokers (Avemco, AOPA Insurance Services and Reba Aviation Insurance). All of them told me it would only pay if I was at fault. If I had signed the SRQ Aviation form, I could (and would) have been forced to pay out of my own pocket for damage that was not my fault. There’s no way would I sign their form.
The sad postscript is that SRQ Aviation refused to modify its form, so I’m not flying its Cirrus. I wonder if other renters at SRQ know what they signed. Perhaps they are young with few financial assets or old with very well-hidden assets.

David Ansley
via email

airguide flight guide
I’ve been a happy customer of AirGuide, the publisher of Flight Guide, for 30 years. It looks to me like AirGuide is in the midst of failing and