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Maintenance: Legal vs. Safe

My motivation to write this right now is that my Cessna 340 is at the shop getting its annual. This year I chose what is arguably the best Twin Cessna maintenance facility in the world, TAS Aviation in Defiance, Ohio. Yes, Defiance is a long way from my Santa Fe, New Mexico home base-about 1100 NM and two legs, in each direction-but, I chose this shop for good reasons having far more to do with safe than just legal.

It Did Happen To Me

I installed a G500 on the left-side flight panel. Wanting some real redundancy-not just backup-the limited space on the right panel was perfect for Aspens PFD. This way, if my G500 ever croaked, Id just hop over to the right seat and fly using the Aspen. That also had the advantage of giving any planned right-seater good PFD information should that ever be necessary. I was set.

Pilot Shortage?

The normal path for a fledgling airline pilot is to build his/her hours-traditionally as a CFI for pitifully low pay-and get a job with a regional carrier. That new first officer had an average starting pay in the mid-$20/hour range just a few years ago, before the hype of the pilot shortage. Second-year pay jumped nicely, sometimes as much as 50%, but then it stagnated at a few percent a year. A fifth-year first officer might have been making into $40-some/hour.

Electric Airplanes

I first bought a hybrid electric car in 2006 that Ive just replaced with a plug-in hybrid electric car. The technology is amazing and gas usage is dramatically shifted to cheaper electricity. Every time I slow down, Im putting energy back into the battery to reuse. Thus, even when the car says I can drive 15 miles on the battery, if Im in stop-and-go traffic, I can usually count on a lot more.

Personal Minimums

Perhaps its my airline background, or perhaps Im just arrogant. But I would never think of planning an IFR flight unless I felt proficient enough to fly any reasonable approach all the way to published minimums. Sure, something might happen on the day of the flight or even on the way that might cause me to increase the margins a bit-and recognizing and reacting to that is a good thing-but planning to fly and simply excusing a lack of proficiency by increasing minimums seems to miss the point.

I Always File IFR

Have you recently looked closely at the airspace system we have to navigate today? Spurious TFRs pop up randomly, and its only getting worse. I dont have to worry about any of that. I file what I want and if ATC doesnt want me there, they, uh, tell me where to go.

Siriusly Messed Up

Getting weather info in flight has gotten cheaper due to FIS-B (ADS-B In). However, years before the FAAs eventual roll out of FIS-B and its array of free weather-information products, the dominant player in that industry was Baron Services though XM Radio. Sirius radio offered a competitive product from WSI. Eventually, Sirius and XM merged. The leading hardware was probably Garmins GDL 69 and 69A receivers getting XMs Baron offering.

Single-Pilot Airliners

Remember when complex transport-category aircraft had a flight engineer (FE) to manage systems? I imagine there was quite an uproar when automation progressed to the point where the FE became unnecessary and airliners were certified for two-person crews.

A Bad Idea that Just Wont Die

With each new budget impasse, it seems theres a concerted effort to pass a law divesting ATC from the FAA to turn it over to a private Congressionally-chartered nonprofit corporation. Congressman Bill Shuster (D-PA), the powerful chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee offered two bills, HR 4441 in 2016 and HR 2997 in 2017. Fortunately, neither bill came to a vote because there was insufficient support.

Do That on the Airlines

General aviation pilots take grief for their spoiled-rich-kid activities. In some cases thats appropriate, but in others it isnt. Last month I briefly mentioned an extended trip my wife and I took in our gratuitously excessive Cessna 340. (Read last months Remarks for context.) I didnt mention that the series of legs we undertook probably couldnt have been accomplished as readily via the airlines.

Gratuitous Indeed

Recently I had lunch with my friend and colleague Jeff Van West, Jenny Van West, a talented musician and Jeffs delightful wife, and 14-year-old Baxter, their youngest son. Baxter is an uncommonly bright and interesting young man with the not-uncommon black-and-white simplistic view of the world that is the purview of youth.

Yes, It Can Happen To You

Always pay attention. Good advice, that, applying equally to all human endeavors. But it especially applies to those of us who pilot aircraft. Ive often stressed the traps and dangers of becoming too reliant on automation. Dont let it become a crutch, Ive preached. Consequently, youd think, as I did, that Id be particularly wary of that malady. Yes, youd think…