Finally a good argument for buying a Cirrus?

“The Looming Mechanic Shortage: What If Your Airplane Breaks And There’s No One To Fix It?” (AOPA) is by Mike Busch, who helps a lot of owners of piston-driver airplanes manage maintenance.

Good old days:

When my Skylane needed maintenance, I took it to the Cessna dealership on the field, which employed a half-dozen factory-trained airframe and powerplant mechanics who worked on nothing but single-engine Cessnas all day long. The Cessna dealership also had a parts room to die for, so when my airplane needed some component to be replaced it was likely to be in stock. Owners of Pipers and Beechcraft on the field enjoyed the same happy circumstance at their factory dealerships.

Today:

Sadly, those days are gone. The Cessna and Beechcraft dealerships at John Wayne Airport are long gone, and the old Piper dealership now exists primarily as a shop catering to bizjets and turboprops. If you base a Cessna single at John Wayne and need maintenance done, the Cessna authorized service center on the field is Jay’s Aircraft Maintenance Inc. It’s a good shop, but the fact that it’s an authorized service center doesn’t mean that it only works on Cessnas the way it used to. According to Jay’s website, “We are equipped to perform maintenance on any aircraft under 12,000 lbs., including but not limited to those manufactured by Cessna, Piper, Beechcraft, Cirrus, and Socata.”

So, the A&P/IA who starts the annual inspection of your Skylane might well have just finished working on a Comanche or a Baron or a Cub. He’s most likely a generalist, not a specialist. Instead of knowing a lot about a few aircraft models, he knows a little about a lot of aircraft models—occasionally just enough to be dangerous. That’s not good.

Tomorrow:

The COVID-19 lockdowns have been a disaster for A&P schools. According to the Aviation Technician Education Council, one in five A&P schools has suspended operations, with many other schools voicing concern over their long-term viability. Forty percent of the schools expect a decline in 2020 graduates averaging 28 percent. Half expect that enrollment will decline in 2020 and 2021 by 31 percent.

Perhaps electric airplanes, with their minimal powerplant maintenance needs, will save recreational pilots. Or maybe the collapse of the airlines will deliver mechanics back to the small shops.

But I wonder if this is an argument for getting a Cirrus, the most popular of today’s little airplanes. With about 8,000 of these in the field and the fleet getting regular use by owners, perhaps that creates enough of a critical mass for a real support network. Of course, there are a larger number of Cessna, Piper, and Beechcraft planes out there, but the ones that get high utilization tend to be in flight schools that do their own maintenance.

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Department of Bad Business Timing: Microsoft Flight Simulator released today

For the first time in 14 years, as of today it is possible to buy a new version of Microsoft Flight Simulator. How’s that for bad timing? If this thing had been released in mid-March, after 13.5 years instead of 14, when governors had locked Americans down into their electronic home bubbles, how much more money would it have made?

The Icon A5 is included! Also the Airbus A320. You need to spring for the Premium edition to get the Cirrus SR22.

Who has tried out this new game? How great is it?

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Twin Commander pilot completes pole-to-pole around-the-world trip

From November: “Twin Commander pilot departs on a pole-to-pole flight”

Today: He’s back!

Robert DeLaurentis did this trip in a 1983 Twin Commander, N29GA (made by Gulfstream at the time! Compare to the latest G700 if you want to see how inequality has grown and how much richer the richest rich bastards are today!), pulled by two Garrett/Honeywell TPE331 engines (jet engines that spin propellers, i.e., turboprops).

Navigating the coronapanic restrictions turned out to be more challenging than navigating the globe/poles.

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Security Theater intersection with Coronapanic Theater: illegal to fly over an empty stadium

The Boston Red Sox are playing in Fenway Park again, but fans aren’t allowed into the stadium. After the jihad of 9/11, the major league sports teams were able to realize their dream of blocking banner-towing airplanes from flying over stadiums. The banner-towers were competing with the teams for in-stadium advertising dollars. The dream of eliminating this competition had been out of reach for decades due to a legal/FAA doctrine that airspace belongs to the public and therefore the teams couldn’t own the airspace above their stadiums.

After 9/11, the teams got Congress to lean on the FAA to put in a “temporary flight restriction” (the temporary restriction will soon turn 20 years of age!) forbidding all aircraft from overflying within 3 nautical miles and 3,000′ (of course, a helicopter 3 miles away and at a normal helicopter cruising altitude would not really be an “overflight” since it wouldn’t be visible from the stadium). This is in the name of “security”, though it is unclear what the practical effect could be on security since the typical terrorist is already violating a variety of regulations and laws by carrying out a terrorist act.

Given that the stadiums are 99 percent empty, has the rule been relaxed? No! So we’re not allowed to do our helicopter tours over Boston (we don’t need to fly over Fenway Park, but it is quite close to the center of the city, so a Fenway TFR makes the tour essentially impossible). Families heading to Cape Cod in little planes won’t be able to take the conventional shortcut through Boston and over Logan Airport.

This was sold as a way to keep a determined jihadi from wiping out 30,000+ people with a Cessna 172 or similar (though, as noted above, it was unclear how it ever could have worked to achieve that end). But now it is being applied to ensuring security for a handful of baseball players who are all alone in the stadium.

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  • “Baseball Is Playing for Its Life, and Ours” (NYT, August 2): protected from attack by family Cessnas and four-seat Robinsons, the young healthy baseball players are nonetheless besieged by a virus whose victims average 82 years of age with underlying health conditions. “Baseball was entering the war against the pandemic, and the world was positioned to benefit from the information that would be gathered. The league, armed to the teeth with power and privilege, access to testing, cash flow, precision data collection, and high-powered, lower-risk athletes playing outdoors, was supposed to prevail. … baseball and other sports will help get us there by aggressively gathering information about the risks we are all facing. In the end, this will be prove to be more valuable than anything normalcy can provide. We are playing to survive.” (i.e., we will learn more from Major League Baseball than from all of the MD/PhDs working for the Swedish government!)
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Oshkosh (EAA AirVenture) would have started today

Pilots of homebuilt, antique, and retired military aircraft would have been gathering in Oshkosh leading up to today’s official opening of EAA AirVenture.

The event, of course, would have been shut down by the governor even if the organization had tried to proceed. So we’re left with memories from last year. Here’s Bo Feldman, age 18, who made it to Oshkosh, Wisconsin by powered parachute…. from Florida!

Who wants to bet on whether coronapanic shuts down Oshkosh 2021? (WHO: “I would say in a four to five-year timeframe, we could be looking at controlling this.”)

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American Airlines: the magic of air travel in the Age of Corona

A friend recently flew Dallas to Boston on American Airlines (AA2579). He was accompanied by his 15-year-old son.

Has American adopted my dream scheme and blocked off the middle seats except for families traveling together? Not exactly! In fact, my friend and his son were both parked in middle seats, but not in the same row. Each was seated next to two strangers. Everyone was supposed to be wearing a mask on the flight, but a guy sitting next to my friend was not wearing a mask and was, in fact, coughing. The family now has direct seat-adjacency exposure to four unrelated people (would have been 0 under my plan!).

The Boeing 737-800 was almost 100-percent full. There were no special boarding or unboarding procedures for plague-minimization. It was the usual Fall of Saigon attempt to get everyone into seats and bags into overheads. I asked if people had to raise hands to get sequenced for using the bathroom and the answer was “no”.

What about the luxurious cuisine and wine list for which American Airlines is justly renowned? “They handed everyone a bag with a bottle of water and a snack at boarding.” The flight attendants came through the aisles only towards the end to pick up trash.

The wife is a medical doctor. She decided to place both father and son into home quarantine on their return!

Readers: How much would you have been happy to pay for this experience?

Vaguely related, my most recent flight on American Airlines, Miami to DCA back in February:

Disclosure: As a former Delta Airlines (proud union) employee, American is the frenemy!

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Karen’s Mask Law Compliance Update (Boston to Minneapolis and back)

Here is one Karen’s report on the extent to which Americans are complying with the new mask laws. This is based on a May 30-June 3 trip from Boston to Minneapolis via Cirrus SR20 (“only a little slower, door-to-door, than a Honda Accord”). Stops included the following:

  • Massachusetts
  • Upstate New York (Syracuse, Niagara Falls)
  • Michigan
  • Wisconsin
  • Minnesota
  • Indiana
  • Ohio
  • Upstate New York (Elmira)
  • Massachusetts

The first thing to note is that travel in the U.S. today is a lot like travel within Europe in the Middle Ages. Every state has its own rules and every city within a state may have additional rules. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, people are supposed to wear masks when walking on a deserted sidewalk or in an empty park. In other parts of Massachusetts, the rule is to wear a mask when in a store or in a crowded outdoor space. In Niagara Falls, the law requires a mask indoors, but not outdoors. In Minnesota, the state recommends that people wear masks in stores, but it is not required. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, on the other hand, masks are required indoors (except for Black Lives Matter protesters entering stores?).

Our hotel in Niagara Falls, New York was typical. There was a sign on the door saying that everyone had to wear a mask in the lobby. Half the employees were wearing masks. Among the guests, compliance was 100 percent for Asians, 30 percent for whites, 10 percent for Hispanics, and 0 percent for African-Americans. In the adjacent state park, some of the employees had masks on, but almost none of the people walking around did (except at a few key viewpoints and when passing on bridges, people were at least 6′ apart most of the time).

FBOs had signs on the door saying that masks were required. Employees were hanging out inside unmasked, however. The arrival of a NetJets Phenom 300 was always a great occasion for mask display among both crew and passengers. The FBO in Michigan told us that the governor, Gretchen Whitmer, had recently come through. She’s a passionate advocate for lockdown and masks, but came off her private aircraft unmasked and, without any TV cameras around, came through the narrow FBO building unmasked.

Wisconsin? The state offers the same guidance as the W.H.O. (formerly “experts” but no longer worthy of the title due to their anti-mask heresy): don’t wear a mask unless you know what you’re doing and are washing your hands all the time (“Do not touch your mask while wearing it; if you do, clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub. Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp.”) No sign at the door of the FBO. Nobody wearing a mask inside or outside.

Eden Prairie, Minnesota: some signs recommending masks, but mostly official state advice signs to stay away if you have flu-like symptoms. Inside the Target, the employees were masked, but only about 40 percent of the customers. Mask use was low for the older shoppers. Ethnicity was a good predictor, as in New York: Asians were 100 percent masked. Muslim women who were otherwise covered from head to toe? 0 percent masked. Restaurants are open for outdoor dining; we enjoyed a meal under a tent and our young waitress had a mask… just underneath her nose.

Indiana: No masks at the FBO.

Ohio: Retail and restaurant workers were masked. Restaurants are open for dine-in, so we took advantage and had lunch at Tony Packo’s of M*A*S*H fame.

Upstate New York: No masks at any of the three FBO stops.

Return to Massachusetts: No masks at the FBO that had been an exemplary masked environment not even a week earlier. “Did you give up on masks?” I asked the guy behind the front desk. “There is a crowd of 20,000 protesting in downtown Boston right now. What’s the point?”

On walks around our neighborhood, which adopted a “You must have a mask around your neck at the ready whenever you’re out in public” rule, compliance with the law had fallen from 80 percent (a month ago, when the rule was new) to 20 percent.

Conclusion: Americans are capable of following an inconvenient rule for about a month.

Gratuitous Photos from Karen’s iPhone…

Niagara:

The right way to run shops in a plague environment:

Someone went a little nuts with the nose art for a Diamond Star DA-40:

One hand on the yoke and one hand on the life raft while crossing the 50-degree waters of Huron and Michigan:

“Nice Beaver” (Flying Cloud, KFCM, Minnesota):

I had planned to stay in downtown Minneapolis and walk around, but the civil unrest made it seem wiser to hole up in Eden Prairie. After two nights locked into the Hampton Inn, with only the occasional trip to a nearby strip mall for exercise and necessities, I had no difficulty understanding how people who’d been locked down for three months might riot. Midwestern cuisine:

Good news: outdoor dining is open. Bad news: Applebee’s is open.

Even at an FBO owned and run by African-Americans, Fox News prevails. Also, a shocking site for someone from Boston: an open gym!

Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby across the street from each other in suburban Toledo, Ohio. (The driver in front of us paid for our breakfast.)

Down by the river:

Preflight on the new propeller for the Cirrus:

At he National Museum of the Great Lakes, opening June 10:

Trip highlight: Hungarian(?) food amidst signed plastic foam hot dog buns. Where else can Alice Cooper and Neil Sedaka be next to each other? Or Nancy Reagan and Jimmy Carter? For the younger readers: Sam Kinison on British TV. (here’s where he asked an inconvenient question about an earlier plague)

Approaching beautiful Cleveland with the super-wide lens:

Full moon at 7,500′:

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Helicopter pilot and cosmetics entrepreneur

Nicole Vandelaar Battjes is the founder, CEO, and Chief Pilot of Novictor Helicopters, a Robinson R44 tour operator in Hawaii. Now she has launched a cosmetics company too! Nicol Cosmetics (pilot/founder is in the middle):

It is rare for me to get excited about cosmetics, but I am hoping this company is a big success.

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Masks for airline passengers: now the Danish are telling us how stupid we are

From Denmark:

Professor in microbiology, Hans Jørn Jepsen Kolmos, thinks that facial masks will be a solution to protect ourselves from the coronavirus on multiple segments of the journey. Just not on board the aircraft.

It is important to underline, that only surgical masks and certified respirators are effective. Fabric masks are more permeable for drops and particles, and one should therefore ensure that only masks of documented quality is used.

Infections do not care about rituals, and masks are only helpful in situations with a high likelihood of being exposed to infections. Those could, for instance, be during boarding, while visiting the lavatory, or when leaving the aircraft. During the flight, the mask, however, can cause more damage than it helps.

Masks do not only lose their protective properties by getting wet. Another way to bring down the protectiveness is when you touch the mask or your face. Doing that, bacterias can in even more ways find their way into your body:

When touching the mask – for instance when drinking coffee, repositioning it, etcetera – you can pollute your fingers with virus particals from the mask itself. That way, you neutralise the effect of the mask, in the best case scenario. Therefore masks cant be the only protective equipment used and should be limited to rationally selected tasks and timeframes.

In other words, according now to both the Swedes and the Danes, we are responding to coronavirus in the dumbest ways imaginable!

From Facebook today:

Righteous Person #1: I’m getting used to wearing a mask when I go out. They are not fashionable – but they perform a vital Function to keep other people from catching what I might have.

Righteous Friend #1: more and more, here in Montana where we are down to our last 20 active cases, the mask has become a public symbol of solidarity and neighborliness — and a reminder that lack of vigilance in large public gatherings still holds the threat of a second wave of infection.

Righteous Friend #2: It’s the opposite of a MAGA cap.

Expert advice from WHO that should be rejected (while “listening to the experts”):

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Order that Oshkosh 2020 T-shirt now

EAA Airventure (“Oshkosh”) is canceled (press release).

Is it time to buy the Oshkosh 2020 T-shirts? Unlike with Tokyo 2020, they won’t rename next year’s event, I don’t think.

Ordinarily I don’t like T-shirts that feature airplanes I am not qualified to fly, but if the event is fictional maybe it is not so bad to implicitly claim fictional flying skills, e.g., with this P-40 Oshkosh 2020 shirt:

Or use a magic marker to update “Cleared Direct” to “Cleared to Cower in Place”?

Admittedly, Covid-19 is targeting the general aviation demographic. Of the 316 people killed by the evil virus in Wisconsin, the largest cluster is among those 90+:

Ninety is unfortunately close to the median age of single-engine piston aircraft pilots and perhaps younger than the expected age at completion of a homebuilt project…

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