Tech Takeover? (Best Letter)
Maybe its the general fascination with electronics these days, or maybe its just supporting good advertising revenues, but it seems even the homebuilt airplane magazines cant pass up any technology in the cockpit. KITPLANES magazine just did a huge article on ADS-B equipment and urges homebuilders to consider spending $6000-$10,000 needed to gain this new capability, even though the system to make it work is not yet in place. Well, why not, if you’ve already spent $40,000 on an IFR, autopilot equipped glass cockpit?
It may sound like Im against technology, but Im not. In the airlines,
flying the Airbus A-320 with the latest glass technology made my job easier and safer. Even my RV-7 has glass flight instruments. What worries me is that folks building their airplanes these days can get so wrapped up in fancy equipment, they often end up working for the avionics instead of the avionics working for them. ADS-B (the latest ATC separation technology) may have merit but before committing to it or to any expensive avionics, ask yourself these questions: Do I have an unlimited flying budget? How much fuel could I buy with the $10,000-$20,000 of unneeded equipment? Will the time I spend learning to operate and stay proficient in this equipment detract from proficiency time in basic flying skills? Will this equipment really make flying safer for me?
Look, if Im flying for a living in all kinds of weather conditions, I want all the high-tech stuff I can get, and I want the frequent recurrent training required to stay proficient using it. I want two jet engines, at least three hydraulic systems, three electrical power sources, full de-ice systems and plenty of gas to get where Im going plus more reserves than the FAA requires. I also want a copilot to share the workload. Is that asking too much? I don’t think so. If all that technology has overwhelming appeal to you, I have the perfect and affordable solution. Buy an all-out computer flight simulation system like I saw at Oshkosh last year. It featured several big screen displays and a cockpit close enough to real to be the envy of most homebuilt airplanes. On the other hand, if actually flying a real airplane appeals to you, heres a different plan. Build or buy a good, basic kit airplane with a dependable engine and reliable VFR instrumentation. Flight instruments can be handy for cross-country flying, so throw in a basic Dynon EFIS for $1500 if you wish. Thats as cheap as a gyro system and much more reliable. A good, portable GPS and sectionals for navigation, and you have an airplane you can afford to develop and maintain your flying skills in. The most important component in your airplane is you. Lets get back to being aviators first.
RANS and Highlander
It is interesting that you included both the S-7 and the Highlander in your February issue-both excellent articles. Arguably those are among the top folding-wing LSA kits available today. However as a potential buyer, I am frustrated by the facts that the tandem S-7 has weak STOL numbers (relatively speaking), while the Highlander has good STOL characteristics but only offers side-by-side seating. While its true that some attempts have been made by lesser known vendors, it seems that the top quality kit manufacturers with a proven track record like RANS or Just Aircraft are overlooking the huge market potential that could be claimed by a folding-wing LSA aircraft similar to the Super Cub. Has KITPLANES ever considered conducting a user survey to determine what features potential kit buyers would like to see?
I and my fellow RANS S-7 pilots really enjoyed the [February] article, but…I have an issue with the stated stall speeds. In the Highlander article [in the same issue], it was said several times that the stall speed is in the mid 20s. I have flown with expert Highlander pilots, and I can fly much slower than they can. I believe these numbers, obtained by me just a few hours ago are more representative: Stall with no flaps, 36 mph; with half flaps, 32 mph; with full flaps, 27 mph. These numbers were taken with the power at idle, a cool day at 7000 feet MSL, with just myself and 5 gallons of fuel. Carrying some power, these numbers only get lower, I routinely land in the low 20s. Randy Schlitter of RANS is very conservative, good for him, but he really needs to brag it up a little more.
Obtaining accurate stall-speed data is tricky. The number quoted for the S-7, 50 mph clean stall speed, came from RANS and its possible that Schlitters numbers are conservative. In a perfect world, wed be provided stall speeds obtained using calibrated airspeed and at maximum-gross weight. Pitot-static errors are generally greatest at high angles of attack.