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Comment: Re:False parallel (Score 1) 473

by w3woody (#46222469) Attached to: Ugly Trends Threaten Aviation Industry
You're arguing a hypothetical situation which makes little (if any) sense. Sure it could happen that you're going along and suddenly start feeling woozy and mindfully decide to pull over knowing that you're about five minutes from passing out.

Statistically, though, that's not what happens. What happens is the driver fails to take corrective action until they pass out and plough into something else (usually a tree, once in a while a crowd of people at a farmer's market). And statistically speaking the scenario of a pilot passing out and crashing is very rare--though it is entirely possible some CFIT (controlled flight into terrain) was actually a pilot passing out.

If we take your argument at face value--that drivers, as self-aware as they are, are able to avert a potentially life threatening disaster as they are on the ground--then it implies there are no drunk drivers. After all, if you're self-aware enough to recognize you're having some sort of medical emergency that requires action within five minutes, you're self aware enough not to get behind the wheel of a car in the first place.

Sure, a potential failure of the pilot or aircraft could result in a disaster to that aircraft and to that pilot, a potential failure of a driver in a car could result in collateral damage to other drivers and other passengers in other cars. That's because unlike pilots flying an airplane, cars tend to be in close proximity and when one car goes out of control, it tends to be within feet (rather than miles, in the case if airplanes) of other innocent cars.

Comment: Re:False parallel (Score 1) 473

by w3woody (#46222037) Attached to: Ugly Trends Threaten Aviation Industry
In aviation, 5 minutes is "immediate action."

For example, if your engine should die while flying at 8,000 feet AGL, you have about 12 minutes of glide time before you land. That would be considered an "emergency" and requiring "immediate action."

Or are you arguing that because you've got 12 minutes of gliding time, an engine out situation is not an emergency?

Comment: Re:So..... (Score 1) 445

by w3woody (#46221921) Attached to: FBI: $10,000 Reward For Info On Anyone Who Points a Laser At an Aircraft

Shouldn't they be looking at a different solution here?

Well, they could equip aircraft with air-to-surface missiles designed to track laser pointers, and allow pilots to legally fire back. But I think a legal solution involving a few public arrests and some public education may be preferable.

Comment: Re:False parallel (Score 1) 473

by w3woody (#46221603) Attached to: Ugly Trends Threaten Aviation Industry

The landing on highways takes time to set up as traffic needs to be stopped.

Obviously you've never flown with any of my CFIs. (Do you have any experience in the left seat?)

You don't stop traffic. You don't call up and ask the highway patrol to kindly put up a road block, coordinate with local officials, clear traffic from the traffic lanes, then coordinate with the pilot to see if it's safe to land.

It's an emergency. You basically land and hope for the best.

Comment: Re:I abandoned thoughts of getting a pilot's licen (Score 1) 473

by w3woody (#46220251) Attached to: Ugly Trends Threaten Aviation Industry

From what I hear at airports in suburban areas the minimum hobbs is more like 5hr/day, though it probably depends greatly whether you're talking about a weekday or weekend.

5?!? That's crazy! The highest I've ever seen was 2hrs minimum for a weekday and 3hrs for a weekend--and that from a flight school which had their planes constantly rented out. The club where I was renting was 2 min for a weekend and 1 for a weekday.

Comment: Re:Rules rules rules (Score 1) 473

by w3woody (#46220193) Attached to: Ugly Trends Threaten Aviation Industry

Just as your getting an IFR rating was the obvious and common sense solution to a near disaster.

To be clear it wasn't a near disaster (*rolls eyes*), and I had several outs. I wasn't even in violation of the regs; I was more than 500 AGL and was more than the minimum required distance from people or a populated area (I was out over the ocean). Now had I not had the training I had with an instructor who believed in pushing the envelope--well, someone who has been trained to live in fear of the rules could have been led to believe they had no outs when in fact there were several staring them in the face. Like landing rather than crashing in a box canyon.

Comment: Re:False parallel (Score 1) 473

by w3woody (#46220095) Attached to: Ugly Trends Threaten Aviation Industry
The point being the whole "if a private pilot gets ill he dies and takes out everyone with him" but "a driver who gets ill can safely pull over" is a false dichotomy--given the serious number of accidents and fatalities that have arisen when a driver got ill or got confused.

Yes, the challenges of getting ill while flying are different than the challenges of getting ill while driving. However, it doesn't mitigate the potential for death or damage just because you're on a freeway or highway or even on surface streets.

It is worth noting that the AOPA and other organizations track the number of fatalities due to different circumstances while flying--and suddenly getting ill and crashing and dying is not very high up on the list. Instead, things like spinning or stalling an airplane while landing or a VFR pilot flying into a cloud then losing control, or a night time pilot flying into terrain are far more likely to create problems than getting ill and not being able to put the plane down.

Besides, most places where people fly, there is usually an airport maybe 15 or 20 minutes out--and in an emergency situation you are permitted by the regs to land anywhere , including a highway or a strip of grass somewhere. (FAR 91.3, my favorite FAR.)

Comment: Re:False parallel (Score 1) 473

by w3woody (#46218065) Attached to: Ugly Trends Threaten Aviation Industry

In the case of a car or boat when the operator becomes ill he can pull over and stop. An aircraft is a different matter in that it could kill many more people including the operator if it crashes.

Unless the driver is on a busy freeway, at which point expect a multiple-car accident with a handful of deaths. Or unless the driver is driving through a busy pedestrian mall. Or the driver has a senior moment and makes a wrong turn.

Comment: Re:Rules rules rules (Score 1) 473

by w3woody (#46217909) Attached to: Ugly Trends Threaten Aviation Industry

But by the time I was flying the cowboys were mostly gone and the rule books were out and self righteous people ran around thumping the rule books like they were bibles.

I think it's a matter of finding the right instructor.

My instructor for my private was an old curmudgeonly fellow who had been flying since the 60's, who was an electrical engineer prior to retiring, hanging out at the airport and training pilots. Fantastic fellow.

His attitude towards the rule book was "learn it, follow it, and let's go flying when you shouldn't so you can learn what can go wrong." (Example: one day I got to the field to find a layer of crud hanging low over the hills. His attitude? "Let's go skud running so you can learn what it's like, in case you find yourself in that situation some day." So we're out there, 500' over the freeway, flying through the canyon that separates Whiteman Airport from the Santa Clarita area, buzzing the 14 freeway through the Newhall Pass, and he's telling me the things to watch out for, like tall towers and telephone wires. (Hint: if you have to skud run, follow the freeways; generally the air above freeways are clear of invisible obstructions, though in a canyon pass all bets are off.) His approach to spin awareness training was to take the controls, put the plane into a nascent spin, and handing me back the controls to pull it out. And we did some canyon running, as well as some night flying in 'black hole' areas, learning telltale signs to see if you're safe against invisible "rocks".)

I think it's made me a better pilot, quite frankly--not because I go around flying recklessly all the time. I'm actually quite conservative. That said, if I find myself in the thick of things--like I did once flying into Montgomery Airport and buzzing the ocean at 600' to keep under the marine layer that unexpectedly rolled in--I know what to do and how to do it in a safe manner.

(Oh, and the Montgomery Airport story: that only happened to me once, and the day after that happened I signed up for my instrument rating so it would never happen again.)

Comment: Re:I abandoned thoughts of getting a pilot's licen (Score 1) 473

by w3woody (#46217775) Attached to: Ugly Trends Threaten Aviation Industry

Just because it isn't new and shiny does not mean it's broken. Yes, METAR/TAF looked good on TTY canary. Is it really that hard to figure them out? Really?

Besides, just click "Plain Language" when you get an on-line briefing on, and it will translate the METARs and TAFs and PIREPs into plane language. How hard is that?

Comment: Re:I abandoned thoughts of getting a pilot's licen (Score 1) 473

by w3woody (#46217751) Attached to: Ugly Trends Threaten Aviation Industry

2. The costs just really add up even when when flying bare bones. I could take a Sat afternoon to go have lunch at an airport 60 miles away, for $450. I could probably drive there in the same amount of time. For a longer distance trip the plane might be faster but unless I just fly there and back the owner is going to want to be compensated for the time it is sitting on the ground while his fixed costs accrue.

Generally renting an airplane is done by "Hobbes Time"--basically the amount of time the airplane is running, not when it's just sitting on the ground. That means that 4 hour lunch to an airport 60 miles away in an airplane that rents for $110/hour does not cost $440. It costs more like $150, assuming about 0.7 hours each way. (Some rental companies charge a minimum Hobbes time for overnight stays; one club I belonged to charged a minimum 2 hour/day charge for overnight stays; if you fly less than 2 hours that day they rounded up to 2 hours.)

3. The regulatory atmosphere makes just about any kind of modern technology incredibly expensive. We're talking $1k for a radio, or $10k for a GPS that might have looked modern in the mid-90s (oh, and $3k/yr database updates). You can get modern glass cockpits but that costs more than the 40 year old plane that you want to install it into. Some of these devices can be bought at 1/10th the cost minus their certification, so that they can only be legally used in an experimental plane (despite being identical hardware).

It's extremely common to see pilots use the old ILS/VOR receivers in their airplane coupled with software like ForeFlight for the iPad. The ForeFlight subscription is cheap--perhaps $150/year for geo-referenced IFR charts and geo-referenced taxi-way charts as well as updated VFR maps. That's how I got my instrument ticket, by the way: steam gauges and ForeFlight on my iPad. (ForeFlight for situational awareness, and the steam gauges to make it all legal.)

5. Honestly, the flying community really comes across to me as curmudgeony. Everybody wants to do everything the way it was done 50 years ago. Things like fuel injection, engine computers, automatic fuel mixture, and automatic transmissions are considered scary new experimental technologies. We fly around in planes with float carburetors which can ice up on humid days. Costs certainly interfere with modernization, but so does the culture.

It comes across as curmudgeony because there are a lot of curmudgeons who are attracted to the field, and who are spending every spare dime they can find on their love of flying. And once you get your ticket who can resist the challenge of going up in an old biplane, just for the heck of it?

That said, I agree that part of the problem is regulations: taking a car engine (which can easily operate at 10,000') and putting it into an airplane is damned near impossible without years of regulatory work--and why do that when a Lycoming based on 1930's technology is already certified by the FAA? And don't get me started on glass panels costing $20,000 when a handheld (with similar features) cost under $1000 but can't be legally used to shoot an IFR approach.

Then for me personally I really struggled to deal with moving air. I really had no trouble with the concepts, but it felt like I was swimming in a rip tide half the time I was in the air, constantly being bumped about by erratic currents and having to adjust. Sure, I could land the thing, but I was never really quite sure when taking off if my next flight would be my last. My instructor would tell me that I was doing everything just fine, but it felt like skillfully driving down the middle of a freeway coated in ice; perhaps some would fine this exhilarating, but for me it was bordering on terrifying.

See, for me, I found that a lot of fun, once I got over my air sickness. Unlike some pilots I love doing pattern work, because I love the challenge of landing the airplane, and trying to finesse each landing to make it into 'greaser' (where you only hear the wheels touch down, you don't feel it). I could go out right now and do pattern work all day and be extremely happy.

But that's a personal thing--and if this ain't your thing, it ain't your thing. Like people who don't like building computers from scratch (like me)--if you don't like doing it, then don't.

Comment: Re:TSA (Score 2) 473

by w3woody (#46217561) Attached to: Ugly Trends Threaten Aviation Industry
When I started working towards private pilots license (just got my instrument rating), I calculated on a map of California the circles where it made more sense to fly a rented plane (assuming 100 knots ground speed) than to drive or fly commercially.

My starting assumption was that from door to wheels up at the local airport was about 1 hour; it took 45 minutes to drive to the airport, prep the airplane, and get it off the ground to my destination. Add 15 minutes at the other end parking at an FBO and paying for parking and getting a rental car from the FBO. (Many FBOs will meet you on the ramp in your rental, so the time to rent a car at an FBO is very *VERY* short.)

My starting assumption for commercial was that door to rental car at the destination was about 4 hours; that's the time it takes to drive to the airport (1 to 2 hours in my case, depending on traffic), get checked out by TSA, board the aircraft--then the aircraft would proceed to its destination at approximately 550 knots ground speed. Add an hour at the other end to get your luggage and get a rental car.

For driving I assumed 60mph on the freeways on average. (That was actually somewhat optimistic, I know.)

It turns out that from where I lived (before we moved) traveling from Glendale, CA (just north of downtown Los Angeles) to Santa Barbara was just about break-even between driving and flying, assuming no traffic. (Hah!) And flying to Oregon was just about break-even between renting a plane, and flying commercially--assuming you were flying to a larger airport and not to one of the dozens of smaller strips at interesting locations around the area. (Many cities in northern California are serviced by a GA airport, but flying there commercially and you need to add in another hour or two of driving time since the nearest commercial airport may be a hundred miles away.)

That's a whole lot of real estate that--time wise--renting a Cessna 172 makes far more sense than flying commercially.

And from a money perspective, some airports have absurdly high ticket prices to fly there commercially. (Napa Valley, I'm looking at you.) Meaning it would actually be cheaper to pay $110/hour for a rental and fly there from Los Angeles with my wife, than buy two commercial airline tickets.

Comment: Re:COST (Score 1) 473

by w3woody (#46217383) Attached to: Ugly Trends Threaten Aviation Industry
While getting my private pilots license I started thinking perhaps drivers should be required to get a biennial drivers test, complete with written and with a DMV ride-along.

That, after almost getting side-swipped as I was pulling out of the airport parking lot after a day doing some solo work in the pattern on a particularly windy day.

The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell. -- Confucius