North-South 6-month alternating aircraft partnership idea

Google Calendar informs me, via its “Holidays in United States” calendar, that today is both Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day. So… to all readers who celebrate incompetence and the rejection of #Science (regarding the size of the earth that we’ve used science and science-inspired engineering to nearly destroy), Happy Columbus Day! (And for the rest of us, Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day (enjoy our stolen land for 364/365 days per year; reflect on our theft 1 day per year while… taking the day off (government workers) and enjoying our stolen land that we refuse to return).)

Today would be the perfect exchange date for an aircraft in a 50/50 partnership between a Florida resident and someone in the Northeast or Chicago.

One thing that I’ve figured out after a couple of months living in Florida is that a simple aircraft is kind of useless here in the summer in the same way that a four-seater is useless in the Northeast in the winter. Based in Boston, a four-seater can’t get through icing conditions in the winter. On the days where icing isn’t a concern, the plane doesn’t have enough range to get anywhere that you’d probably enjoy going. Do you want to be at the beach in Provincetown or Martha’s Vineyard in February? Maybe you’d want to go to NYC for a business meeting, but the U.S. seems slated for permanent coronapanic (i.e., the meeting will be on Zoom) and, in any case, it can be complicated getting a piston aircraft properly preheated as a transient (the engine will be damaged if started when temps are below freezing). (Avid skier? Mountainous terrain is suboptimal for building airports. It will probably be just as fast to drive to the ski resort as it would be to drive, preflight, fly, stow plane, and transfer into a rental car (if the U.S. ever has rental cars again).)

None of the above factors apply to Florida, right? Well… there seem to be afternoon thunderstorms here all summer and they can last until 10 pm or even later. Unless the family is extremely flexible and doesn’t mind spending a lot of time waiting out weather in FBOs, it is probably not possible to plan an out-and-back day trip in a simple airplane. So the T-storms are kind of the Florida equivalent of icing in Maskachusetts. What if it isn’t raining, but there’s a layer of cumulus clouds under which the air is bumpy and unpleasantly warm? In the Northeast, you’d be above the clouds and bumps at the simple airplane’s optimum cruising altitudes of 6,500 and 7,500′. In Florida, you might need to go well over 10,000′, where both airplane and humans will be gasping for breath, to get into reasonably smooth air.

Suppose that there is a rare dry day. Now you’re free to go anywhere that is within comfortable reach of a C172, Piper Warrior, or SR20 (i.e., 150-300 miles). Why would you want to? If you want to bake in 90-degree heat and 90-percent humidity you can do that at home. It is the same issue as the rare beautiful February day in New England. The airplane will take you from bitter cold to ever bitterer cold or, sometimes, to slightly less bitter cold.

As folks in the Northeast have to find excuses to fly in the winter and keep the airplane’s engine from corroding, folks in Florida will have to do summer breakfast flights and get back to the hangar by 11.

What about a partnership where the aircraft lives in Chicago, Boston, Maine, New Hampshire (the “semi free state”), Vermont, or wherever starting around April 10, i.e., just after Sun n Fun. Then, in celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the plane is ferried to Florida through the beautiful lands that were some of the first parcels that white people stole from the Native Americans. (We could also call this “Benefits of Immigration from the Perspective of Natives Day”)

The arrangement could be tweaked with a feature whereby a partner can come visit the plane a few times during his/her/zir/their “off season” and fly it a bit, e.g., a Bahamas trip from Florida in the winter (just need to arrange 8 COVID-19 tests for a family of 4) or a summer trip around Maine and Canada.

This will have all of the financial benefits of aircraft partnership. Most fixed costs (capital, depreciation, insurance) will be cut in half. Hangar has become super expensive almost everywhere in the inflation-free United States, but perhaps the vacant months wouldn’t be too punishing due to the potential for subletting. (Or, for an older plane, just do tie-down at both ends.) It has the added benefit that the plane gets repositioned to a great place for the partner to fly in his/her/zir/their off season..

(Note that the above arrangement does not make sense for pressurized turboprop or turbine-powered aircraft, which can airlift a family in mask-free comfort from Hartford, CT to the golf course in Pinehurst, NC (KSOP). This proposal is about airplanes that cost $1.2 million (Cirrus!) new and that depreciate down to $40,000 used (older Cessna 172 or Piper Warrior prior to the recent price doubling that cannot be described as “inflation”). And it’s not a proposal for those rich/flexible enough to spend 6 months in the north and 6 months (plus 1 day for all of my friends who are Democrats and say that they support higher taxes and bigger government) in Florida. The 183-dayers can take their airplanes back and forth themselves. The above proposal is more for families that have kids in school and/or adults at work and are mostly stuck in their respective home locations.)

The plane can visit Disney World and Key West in the winter:

And Bar Harbor, Maine and Quebec City in the summer:

Readers: Modified Passover question… Why is this idea stupid like all of my other ideas?


  • (currently designed to help people based at the same airport all year share)
Full post, including comments

Best paint treatments for cars and airplanes?

I am concerned that there hasn’t been enough disagreement here on this blog on religious topics, e.g., whether mask use by the general population reduces or delays coronavirus infection (masking K-12 students doesn’t help, according to the CDC, but let’s order it anyway!). So it is time to introduce the topic of wax, polish, and other paint treatments.

An aircraft mechanic here in the Florida Free State swears by Nu Finish for boats and planes and says that it actually does last for nearly a year. This product is top-rated by Consumer Reports as well, being super durable and almost as easy to apply as the other top-rated product, Meguiar’s NXT Generation Tech Wax 2.0.

Here are the patients:

  • 2005 Cirrus SR20 with original white paint plus some decals. It looks reasonably good after a wash, but could be glossier. The plane has lived in a hangar for its whole life, but is exposed to the sun for days at a time when on trips.
  • a 2022 Chevrolet that will be arriving soon. It will be garaged, but exposed to the sun when driving and this might be a car worth handing down to the kids so they can remember when internal combustion was like before President Harris banned it

(Our beloved 2021 Honda Odyssey won’t get any treatment because it is leased and will go back to Honda in January 2024. When turned in, the 2018 Odyssey still had new-looking paint despite never having been treated in any way.)

Both Nu Finish and Meguiar’s claim to offer UV protection. Does anyone have experience with these? Each bottle is supposed to be enough for one regular-sized car? So you’d need two bottles for a pavement-melting SUV and three bottles for a four-seat airplane? What kind of rags do you use for application?

Also, what about ceramic coatings for paint? I haven’t seen an objective comparison of this expensive process (many $thousands for an airplane) versus spending $7.59 every year on Nu Finish. The people who make money applying ceramic coatings swear by them, but consider that the people who made money putting COVID-19 patients on ventilators back in the spring of 2020 also said that was the best possible medical idea. If ceramic coating is such a great idea, why don’t Ferrari and Rolls-Royce do it at the factory?

A friend owns a car wash/detail operation. Here’s what he had to say:

We do lots of detailing on exotic cars etc. c8 [Corvette] more impressive in person than just about anything. Gm also finally figured out how to make a good looking interior. The detail shop team prefers c8 over Mclaren’s!

Be sure to get a ppf film on hood and ceramic coat as soon as u get. Worth money. GM paint is quite soft. As a result they pick up swirl marks easily.

[follow-up after I queried “Ceramic coating is not a snake oil scam? What about for airplanes ? We had some exotic formula tested on a square in our PC-12 near exhaust stack. Made no difference in glossiness or ease of cleaning.”]

Not snake oil at all.

Works 100x better than wax. The key though is the paint correction step. You have to buff paint to a very smooth finish then seal it.

The airplane stuff is a joke bc airplane paint is garbage in most instances. On cars you are actually sealing the clear coat.

The cost for ceramic on a car isn’t the coating, it’s the labor on the buffing step.

It really helps with acid rain degradation dulling of clear coat on east coast.

He’s smart and I respect his opinion, but I can’t get over my Efficient Market Hypothesis question: If ceramic coating makes sense, why isn’t it the final step at the car factory? The paint shouldn’t ever be smoother than when the car is brand new, right? Why not apply the magic elixir when the paint is new and doesn’t need the expensive “correction” step?

The PPF film that he mentioned is made by 3M, so that suggests it isn’t a total scam. On the third hand, despite the heavy truck traffic on the roads here in Florida, there doesn’t seem to be enough gravel to create a significant paint chip risk. God ran out of rocks somewhere in Georgia? And, again, if this is such a great idea why don’t they put it on at the factory, at least as an option?

Full post, including comments

Intersection of aviation and coronapanic: the flying COVID-19 testing lab

From a flight planning service (for Gulfstreams and similar jets):

As mentioned last week and in yesterday’s webinar, we now have a program to help you eliminate the wasted time and risks associated with securing pre-arrival COVID tests on international missions – by getting your N-registered aircraft certified as a mobile testing center.

You administer the tests yourself, safely and discretely onboard your own aircraft. Our lab partner … remotely analyzes the results and issues you a digital COVID test report – accepted in over 150 countries.

This is a new service we’ve been slowly scaling up over the past several months, and it’s proved to be a VERY EFFECTIVE alternate to trying to coordinate COVID testing abroad.

A reminder that the elites who order the various restrictions on crossing borders don’t necessarily have to scramble to meet those restrictions when they themselves feel like traveling…

Related: Let’s look at the other end of the spectrum of general aviation. Here are photos from a stop for Southern Soul Barbecue, walking distance from KSSI, during our Cirrus SR20‘s escape to the Florida Free State:

This Quik GT-450 is perfect for reassuring passengers that a Cirrus, Piper, or Cessna is comparatively safe!

Full post, including comments

130-hour pilot takes off for a round-the-world flight in a light airplane

“Pilot Attempting Around-the-World Flight Crosses Atlantic” (Flying):

Zara Rutherford wants to be the youngest woman to fly around the world solo, as FlyZolo. She has completed the Atlantic crossing, the first major hurdle along the way.

The 19-year-old Belgian pilot is flying a Shark Ultralight single-engine airplane approved in the rough European equivalent of the light sport category, with a maximum takeoff weight of 600 kg, retractable gear and a variable-pitch propeller.

Rutherford comes from a family of pilots, and she had more than 130 solo hours logged prior to departing on the flight.

On her FlyZolo site, she says “I want to reduce the gender gap in aviation as well as in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).” Yet a career in STEM is the opposite of flying around the world. Lots of sitting at a desk! (And, at least in a lot of U.S. states, a woman who wants to have the spending power of a man working in STEM can simply have sex with one or two men working in STEM. So there is no economic motivation for a woman to stick her nose into a stack of textbooks for 10-20 years.)

As a child of the Equality Feminism movement of the 1960s and 1970s, I’m not surprised that someone who identifies as “female” can fly. But I am surprised and impressed that someone would do this trip without an instrument rating (impossible to obtain at 130 hours, I think)!

Let’s check back in a month or two and see how this effort has unfolded?


Full post, including comments

Electric Aircraft at Oshkosh

Given the $billions pouring into electric aircraft via SPACs, etc., I expected to see huge progress compared to 2019. Instead, the airshow featured a functional Volocopter quietly doing maneuvers that fellow German Hanna Reitsch did indoors in the 1930s and a California Opener Blackfly (never let an engineer name the product!) that failed after 1 out of 3 planned flights (ignominiously towed away).

The kids’ favorite vertical lift innovation? A DART bike rack for the AStar (note how the black helicopter fooled the normally brilliant iPhone camera software):

If certified electric aircraft are going to be available Real Soon Now, it is tough to understand why there aren’t a lot of practical experimental electric aircraft.


Full post, including comments

Some hope for the old Avidyne Cirruses

After nearly 15 years of ignoring 4000 Cirrus customers with the Avidyne Entegra glass panel (primary flight display (PFD)/multi-function display (MFD)), Avidyne announced a retrofit at Oshkosh this year. For consumers with 8K TVs from Costco (7,680 x 4,320 pixels), what does two decades of progress and $25,000 (plus installation) buy? The screens go from 10-inch 800×600 (best tech of 2003ish?) to 12-inch 1024×768 (compare to Garmin G500 TXi, a 10-inch 1280×768). This is, unfortunately, not enough resolution for clearly displaying an approach plate. The new screens have a touch panel so the number of hardware soft keys around the bezel has been reduced, as has the size of the bezel.

The menu structure of the Avidynes is not nearly as deep as what Garmin inflicts on pilots and therefore the system should be more efficient to use in flight.

Unfortunately, the $25,000 price is closer to $60,000 if you have a stock -G2 Cirrus. The Garmin 430s must be replaced with Avidyne plug-compatible IFD nav/coms. The rate-based STEC autopilot must be replaced with an Avidyne autopilot (a much better unit and, with these new retrofit screens, it will have redundant AHRS feeding it, unlike when hooked up to the legacy Avidyne Entegra). Add installation and this could easily be a $75,000 project on airframes that, pre-Biden, were worth $100-150,000. An owner who can afford to throw $75,000 at a beloved older airframe can perhaps scratch up $90,000 to implement a full Garmin solution, including the Garmin GFC 500 autopilot, which offers envelope protection even when nominally turned off (the autopilot servos will fight against a pilot who is trying to stall the airplane, overspeed it, or overbank it). Garmin is clunkier, but the investment in learning the Garmin interface can be transferred to the vast number of Garmin-equipped general aviation aircraft flying.

Here’s how the new Avidyne system looked in Hangar C:

The hoped-for certification and on-sale date is “first half 2022”.

Is there any possibility of a cheaper solution? The Dynon displays, originally developed for the experimental market, are the same resolution, work with the legacy Garmin 430W nav/coms, and cost less than $5,000 each. They’re not currently certified for composite aircraft, however. Here’s one at Oshkosh:

Note that it has been configured to display a round airspeed dial, which gives the pilot a lot more information/context than the speed tape uncritically lifted from airliners.

Finally, remember that the military has abandoned the idea that the task of piloting is fundamentally a head-down stare-at-tv-screens activity. A poster inside a Luftwaffe Airbus military cargo plane:

Note that the “Primary Flight Displays” are the heads-up displays and everything else is deprecated as a “head-down display.” (See also The latest glass cockpits are obsolete? regarding what’s in a T-6 Texan II trainer.)

Full post, including comments

Best vehicle at Oshkosh: DC-3 turned motorhome

Last day of Oshkosh (EAA AirVenture)…

Even more amazing than all of the U.S. military technology, a two-year father-son project to take a DC-3 fuselage from a field in Missouri into a highway-legal motorhome (not a trailer, but a Class A motorhome with a engine!). From Round Engine Aero:

The TWA Hotel did a great job turning a Lockheed Constellation into a bar, but it isn’t legal to drive down the road.

Two aerial vehicles that are slower than a homemade motorhome…

I asked the owner of this vehicle to kneel with me for the National Anthem, but he/she/ze/they (don’t want to assume gender ID) refused.

Full post, including comments

Grumman Goose converted to turboprop

My favorite airplane at Oshkosh so far… a Grumman Goose converted to PT6 power. The owner was gracious and let our 7-year-old get into the cockpit and cabin, but I didn’t dare ask him how much it had cost to re-engineer the beast.

In one small area of the event we saw four different sizes of Grumman seaplanes: Widgeon, Mallard, Goose, and Albatross!

And if you thought landing a seaplane was challenging…

Full post, including comments

Oshkosh: the diabetes organization sells soda

#OnlyInAmerica: the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation sells Pepsi, Mountain Dew, and other delicious drinks in 20 oz. bottles.

What you’ll look like after a week of event food…

The EAA bookstore has a section for the mentally deficient:

Always a good question to ask…

A T-shirt that probably won’t sell out…

Airbus A400 from Germany:

So far a great EAA AirVenture! Yesterday the stream of text messages probably did not bring too much cheer to those in tents:

The radar at 10:35 pm:

(KOSH is in the bottom right, surrounded by a dashed red line for the airshow temporary flight restriction.)

Full post, including comments

Garmin autopilot protects Bell 505 helicopter pilots and passengers

Readers of this blog will have noticed that I’ve always got my panties in a twist regarding how dumb human-scale helicopters are compared to $500 DJI drones. A bit of untwisting from Garmin:

Garmin today announced that the GFC™ 600H flight control system has received Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) approval for installation on the Bell 505 helicopter, … The GFC 600H provides a number of helicopter-tailored safety features, including attitude hold with speed stability, the innovative hover assist mode, Garmin Helicopter Electronic Stability and Protection (H-ESP™), dedicated return-to-level (LVL) mode, as well as overspeed and low-speed protection, and more.

… automatic altitude leveling airspeed and low G protection.

Thanks to the innovative hover assist mode, the system can also automatically detect a hover condition and allows for flight control inputs to help maintain position over the ground. In addition, when equipped with the optional yaw axis control, the GFC 600H can hold heading in hover.

In other words, with this system installed an airplane pilot can hover a helicopter without any training!


Full post, including comments