Saturday, 19 June 2010

Avgas war brewing?

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) will sooner or later kill off leaded avgas. Engine manufacturers and others are running around talking about replacements, alternative fuels and all sorts. Continental has come out in favour of 94UL, while Lycoming has said that the adoption of 94UL as a replacement for 100LL would spell disaster for much of the GA fleet.

Continental itself has admitted that higher compression engines would need changes in order to run 94UL. The vast majority of the new Continental engines over the last few years have been high compression, high horsepower IO-550s of one kind or another, so why are they coming over all evangelical for a fuel that will make many of their engines struggle?

Cynics have suggested that Continental has developed an aftermarket FADEC system that would resolve the issues caused by the lower octane rating for these higher compression engines. Continental has also hinted that their turbocharged engines cope well with 94UL, which is interesting as they showed a FADEC 310hp turbocharged engine fitted to a Cirrus at Oshkosh last year.

There's going to be a lot of shouting and screaming as owners, airframe manufacturers and representative groups get to grips with the prospect of a world without lead.

Cirrus Aircraft has now announced the SR22T, an SR22 fitted with a TCM TIO-550-K turbocharged 315hp engine that is said to be able to run on 94UL. From TCM's point of view, this is a double win - they sell more engines, and their competitors, Tornado Alley will sell fewer. The two aircraft will be sold side-by-side for the same price, it will be interesting to see how the numbers pan out.

Friday, 18 June 2010

The dog fixed my DME, perhaps

The dog was at the strip when I landed recently. As usual, she was happy to see me, and as usual she was playing with a ball and anything else that she could find. The aeroplane was parked up when she decided to dart underneath it, colliding with a blade aerial as she did. It snapped and is now in two pieces.

There are two blade aerials underneath the aeroplane, one for the transponder and one for the DME. I'm not sure which is which. One of them is a fairly new CI-105 and the other an older CI-105-6 (shown above). Needless to say the CL-105-6 is the more expensive to replace, and is the one that is now in two pieces.

Of late the DME has been playing up. It managed to pick up a signal at Goodwood recently, but only when I was on the ground and 0.1nm away from the transmitter. That suggests some kind of aerial or connection fault (the DME itself works fine with test equipment) so it could be that when the shiny, new, expensive aerial is fitted that all will be well, or it could be that the fragile worn and now broken aerial was actually the transponder aerial, and that the DME remains broken (it is a Narco, so that wouldn't come as any great surprise).

Thursday, 17 June 2010


Looking for something other than the usual French destinations for a quick day trip or weekend? After a recent trip I'm happy to suggest Rouen.

Sitting a few miles inland from the Normandy coast, Rouen is about as close as Le Touquet for many of us. The airport is typical of many in France, which is to say that it has a Tower and an instrument approach for what seems like one commercial flight a week. The 'bureau de piste' was empty for a recent visit, so I have no idea what the landing fee will be, but I'm not expecting anything significant.

The airport sits a little way away from the town centre, so you may need to find the number for a taxi company, but once in the centre of town you'll find plenty of old buildings, shops, museums and of course the famous cathedral to keep you busy. If you're an art lover there's an Impressionist exhibition running throughout the summer with eight of Monet's cathedral paintings on show.

Amiens on the other hand is well worth avoiding…

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Positive signs or wishful thinking?

Things in the world of General Aviation are improving it would seem. Cirrus Aircraft say they'll sell 20% more aircraft this year than they did last, while Piper is predicting 75% year on year growth (last year wasn't a good year).

According to AOPA US some fuel companies are reporting an uplift in deliveries and the commercial training segment will be heartened by the Airbus announcements (billions of dollars worth of orders), and the fact that Boeing has announced two production rate increases for the 737 line in the last few weeks, the latter bringing the number up to a mind-boggling 35 a month.

It'll be a while before we see GAMA's Q2 numbers, but in the meantime we'll have AeroExpo, Goodwood and Oshkosh to provide us with a little litmus test.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

An interesting landing

I had lunch with an interesting French guy a couple of days ago. Although Pierre Lainey no longer does any flying he's done more than most and paid for all of his 6,000 hours. He's taken part in the Paris-Peking Rally, crossed the Atlantic and flown the length of Africa. By the time we'd got to the main course a couple of fellow diners had persuaded him to talk about his most 'interesting' aviation exploit which happened when on the way back to France from Montreal in a four-seat homebuilt.

At FL150 and while over Greenland the engine stopped. There was no warning, no sign of impending failure just silence and a windmilling propeller. Pierre flew the aeroplane while his co-pilot, the aircraft's builder tried whatever he could think of to get it going again. Inevitably as they lost altitude they went into the undercast. Pierre explained that when it became clear they might not break cloud before getting to the ground he trimmed for minimum control speed and concentrated on keeping the wings level. The first sign of them being close to the ground was when the prop stopped windmilling and broke thanks to ground contact. Apparently the contact with the snow was quite gentle and soon there was only silence and stillness. With zero visibilty there was no way of knowing if they were on flat ground or perched on a precipice and when they fist moved outside the first steps were tentative.

Pierre had put out a mayday call on the way down. This had been acknowledged, but on the ground he no longer had two-way contact with Sondrestrom. An overflying airliner relayed their exact position and Pierre's wife (who was also at the meal) was telephoned by search and rescue in Greenland and asked what the crew had in the way of survival equipment. Later that day a tent and supplies were dropped (it happened in June, so there was pretty much permanent daylight). and the pair spent the night under cover before being picked up the next day by a Twin Otter on skis.

The aeroplane was recovered, repaired and is now in different hands and flying from Rouen.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Coasting in

I'm not the sort of pilot who believes that the engine goes to 'auto rough' over water, and I try to look at these things as logically as a I can. Statistically aviation engines are pretty damn reliable, particularly if they are kept fed with fuel, and most ditchings have a happy ending, even with fixed gear high-wing aircraft.

That doesn't stop a slight sense of satisfaction (relief?) when coasting in, and I have no idea why. When I'm over water I keep an eye on the Ts and Ps, I notice boats below and I have 121.5 on comm 2 - all of which I consider sensible rather than paranoid precautions - but I'm not at all worried, so why should the fact that there's land below make any difference? Think about it, more people come to grief if they have an engine failure over land than they do over water. There's stall/spin accidents, running into trees and other hard object accidents and of course the running into unseen wire accident, not to mention the greater danger of fire following a bodged forced landing.

The feeling isn't logical, but it's there and it's a bit frustrating because of that.