Lower cost, greater safety

Pilot - - PREFLIGHT - Philip White­man, Ed­i­tor

As much as any­thing, the Light Air­craft As­so­ci­a­tion’s sev­en­ti­eth an­niver­sary, marked at the LAA Rally at Sy­well and the sub­ject of Steve Slater’s ‘Open Cock­pit’ col­umn in this is­sue, is a cel­e­bra­tion of seven decades of af­ford­able fly­ing. Op­er­at­ing on Per­mits to Fly, home­builts and most of the UK’S ‘nonEASA’ air­craft come un­der the LAA’S um­brella, al­low­ing their own­ers to do all the main­te­nance and make ap­proved mod­i­fi­ca­tions them­selves.

In re­cent years, two of Pi­lot’s con­trib­u­tors, Nick Bloom and Colin Good­win have built their own air­craft — the fa­mous Cur­rie Su­per Wot and RV-7, Dumbo. While Bob Grim­stead has not built an air­craft, he has done some­thing close to it in the epic task of re­assem­bling and cov­er­ing his Fournier RF4D and — in re­cent months — the job of get­ting his LAA Per­mit Aeronca Champ back in the air. (Bob, of course, in­sists that the lat­ter is a bet­ter air­craft than my own L-4H Cub, which is also op­er­ated on a Per­mit to Fly.)

‘Old Timers’ ed­i­tor Peter March and As­sis­tant Ed­i­tor Ju­dith Austin both fly clas­sic Cess­nas — a 172 and a 150 re­spec­tively — but these are EASA air­craft, which means op­er­a­tion on a Cer­tifi­cate of Air­wor­thi­ness, with all the as­so­ci­ated cost of pro­fes­sional main­te­nance and the bur­den of EASA reg­u­la­tion.

Sit­ting a few feet from each other in Pi­lot’s Wok­ing­ham of­fice, Ju­dith and I do the same kind of fly­ing. How­ever, due to EASA reg­u­la­tion that came into ef­fect on 25 Au­gust (see last is­sue’s ‘ Pi­lot Notes’), she now has to carry a per­sonal lo­ca­tor bea­con in her air­craft. Thanks to the gen­eros­ity of an­other syn­di­cate mem­ber, at least Ju­dith’s fly­ing costs have not been raised by hav­ing to buy that PLB or the emer­gency lo­ca­tor trans­mit­ter oth­er­wise re­quired, but many other C of A air­craft own­ers are hav­ing to cough up to pay for this equip­ment which, it has to be said, is gen­er­ally of no great use, if any use at all, in typ­i­cal GA op­er­a­tions over our densely pop­u­lated is­land.

EASA should have done a cost-ben­e­fit anal­y­sis of the PLB/ELT man­date be­fore it was en­shrined in law. Cer­tainly, hav­ing ei­ther of these de­vices on board might save the day if one went down in, say the Welsh moun­tains or some re­mote part of the High­lands of Scot­land — and sen­si­ble folk al­ways car­ried a PLB (and not an ELT, which goes down with the ship) when cross­ing long stretches of wa­ter. How­ever, for typ­i­cal Bri­tish cir­cuit fly­ing and cross-coun­try trips, the things have no value to the pi­lot and rep­re­sent an un­nec­es­sary ad­di­tional cost — as the CAA sensibly recog­nised in the na­tional ex­emp­tion that ex­pired on 25 Au­gust.

If sail­ing can be likened to stand­ing in a shower tear­ing up ban­knotes, fly­ing is a bit like go­ing up and down in a lift, tear­ing up ban­knotes. The trou­ble is that the greater the cost — the rate at which those notes are shred­ded — the fewer the days at sea or hours logged in the air.

I had per­sonal rea­son a cou­ple of months ago to be grate­ful for the way LAA Per­mit fly­ing min­imises the costs and max­imises the fly­ing hours, when the Cub lost all power and I had to force-land the thing at a grass strip that hap­pened to be nearby. This was not due to a me­chan­i­cal fail­i­ure — I will ex­plain, when I tell the story in a fu­ture edition — but the point is that cur­rency and years of ex­pe­ri­ence in farm strip op­er­a­tions paid off in me be­ing able to glide in dead-stick and put the aero­plane down with­out a scratch.

Above all, fly­ing safely is about be­ing able to put in as many hours as pos­si­ble. The LAA has done a won­der­ful job in driv­ing down costs, al­low­ing ‘Per­mit pi­lots’ to max­imise their time in the air. The story is not quite the same for club pi­lots and many C of A air­craft own­ers, who are find­ing their fly­ing in­creas­ingly ex­pen­sive and are do­ing less of it. It re­ally is time for the reg­u­la­tors — and EASA in par­tic­u­lar — to put the brake on es­ca­lat­ing re­quire­ments and fees, and pay at­ten­tion to re­solv­ing true safety is­sues, not the least of these be­ing lack of cur­rency.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.