An Effective Solution Needed

                                                                       

As always, you wax eloquently and compellingly, even if it is a tale of winter woe (“Rode Warrior,” Viewpoint, December 2016, page 7).

Harvard Business School Prof. Theodore Levitt claimed there were only four ways to revitalize an economic downturn: Acquire new users and uses, create new attributes or boost turnover frequency.

General aviation has implemented none of these. While the world has changed since the winter came to general aviation a decade ago, the industry has contracted like a turtle into its shell.

I don’t need to tell you that FAR Part 135 fleet utilization has shrunk from an average, annual 600 hr. per aircraft, to a paltry 250 hr. Not surprisingly, the manufacturers and servicers of these fine jets have sidelined many of their skilled workers.

However, the raison d’être for general aviation remains. NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen’s theorem is still absolutely true: “It takes three days to attend one meeting via commercial airline. Yet, via general aviation, anybody can attend three meetings in one day!”

Sadly, as you noted, “rode” trips don’t offer the swift solution. Do you realize how many of your fellow Americans experience the agony you wrote about, every day? Your terrestrial-bound-trip column was on point and accurate. Most of us are stuck between the rock of the road and the hard place of the airlines.

The airlines are not a real option for travel less than 400 mi. as they require an entire day of transit for the 1 hr. of flight. This is a perverse waste of time and technology. When it comes to the airlines, including commuters and regionals, there is no such thing as an expedient, quick, easy, short commute.

Yes, the regular folk are fed up with the sorry offerings of the airlines, the hassles and time waste imposed by the TSA and the congestion surrounding the airports.

I believe general aviation is the answer, though it is surely a hibernating giant.

Part 135 charter, almost by definition, is by small aircraft that have a passenger count limited to about half-a-dozen. The requested routings are point-to-point. Total transit time is usually flight time plus 10 min. on either end. The value proposition is matchless: Save time!

Let me postulate a caveat, and say that if charter were priced at airline prices — not private-jet prices — demand for general aviation’s built-in solutions would surge. At present prices, charter is way beyond the reach of most regular folk. The real obstacle to mass adoption and renaissance of demand is price.

To reduce the price of charter, the first necessity is to eliminate all financial risk for the Part 135 charter operator.

This can be achieved by using the internet to enable groups to form for the single purpose of chartering a Part 135 aircraft from their local charter operator. When five or six or seven travelers equally share the total, all-inclusive cost of an appropriate charter aircraft their individual ticket price will approximate the airline price.

A corollary of this process is that it eliminates the problem of the unsold, non-revenue, empty seat. Being a demand-centric sequence, this process is more efficient than the legacy process that sells charter by the seat, which then requires yield management to factor in the consequences of empty seats. Hence, high prices.

As charter becomes more ubiquitous, the charter operators’ fixed costs will be amortized across a broader income stream. This, in turn, will influence charter prices down. Levitt’s criteria will have been met.

There is a pent-up demand, eager for an effective solution. The aircraft are available now. Some 5,000 alternative and under-utilized airports are open for business now. Most are serviced by Part 135 operators seeking new business. I submit that just by solving the price puzzle, the demand for charter will surge.

General aviation will prosper and demand for new aircraft will surely follow. And, dare I say, summer’s good times will be here again.

Ian Becker
San Diego, California

Probably a Visual

It’s been quite a while since I’ve flown into LaGuardia Airport, so correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t recall an ILS to Runway 31; there’s not enough room between LGA and JFK. On an ILS to Runway 4 circle to land 31; if you strayed too close to JFK, you would be chastised by approach control.

By the way, I sure do miss Torch Lewis telling it like it is. My dad said always to read his Greenhouse Patter first before you read anything else.

John Forrester
Alexandria City, Alabama

Editor’s note: You are quite right and, upon reflection, the passenger/pilot/author thinks it was probably a visual. The view from and approach information in the cabin was minimal, as stated. And we, too, miss Torch every day. RIP, J. Sheldon.

Too Much Control

I read “Good Luck” (Viewpoint, January 2017, page 7) and it is easy to see ye are of little faith! The direction of our federal government over the past eight years has not been good for Kerrville, Texas, which now has a lot of empty stores. Mooney Aircraft had to close down and put 600 folks out of work. Nobody’s doing well enough to afford to buy a Mooney airplane.

The Chinese took over the company and now are trying to make two airplanes a month. Trouble is, the FAA still has not certified the New Mooney after more than a year! There’s too much regulation to deal with. That holds down business.

I flew for Petroleum Helicopters, but most of the offshore work was shut down by the government. I returned here to fly as a production test pilot for Mooney for three years, but with the continued downturn, I took a job flying a Cessna 337 for a Miller Beer distributor.

I believe President Donald Trump will make a big improvement over the way things have been. More flying folks here are adding ADS-B Out on small planes and we see more general aviation flying. And private companies just might do better than our government in fixing our infrastructure. I sure hope so.

Too much government control of the people and business has not been good for the U.S.

Robert William Grebe II
ATP, CFI Fixed and Rotary Wing
Kerrville, Texas

Clarifications

Editor’s note: ViaSat was inadvertently omitted from our IFEC Special Report in the December 2016 issue. For that we apologize. A summary of its products and services follow.

Carlsbad, California-based ViaSat’s Ka-band latest satcom shipset, the Global Aero Terminal 5510, which includes ViaSat’s airborne antenna, an integrated modem and an advanced power supply, will be available in mid-2017, along with service pricing options. The terminal will enable business aviation users to obtain the highest speed internet access across the U.S., transatlantic and European air routes by connecting to ViaSat’s
global Ka-band network and satellite platforms.

ViaSat reports its business aviation system is capable of delivering more than five times faster service than any other competing business aviation inflight Wi-Fi system. The new antenna requires only one slot in an aircraft’s radome, which enables operators to add or maintain redundant Ku-band connectivity.

According to ViaSat, the new shipset is “future-proofed,” with forward and backward compatibility across the ViaSat network, from connecting to today’s ViaSat-1 class satellites to ViaSat’s imminent ViaSat-2 and upcoming ViaSat-3 platforms.

The company’s Ka-band service plans enable users to experience peak data rates up to 16 Mbps on all plans for office-in-the-sky applications, including high-definition videoconferencing, streaming movies, music or other entertainment. Operators can obtain up to 100 GB per month — among the highest committed information rates in the industry. ViaSat’s four new service plans offer 30-, 40-, 60- and 100-GB throughput, ranging in cost from $6,995 per month to $24,995 per month for new service users.

The new shipset is available to early access customers beginning in Q2 2017, with full production available in the second half of the year. All service plans will be available through ViaSat’s Ka-band Value Added Resellers. Plans coincide with the mid-2017 shipset availability, with best available introductory pricing available through 2018.

ViaSat is partnered with Boeing to build the company’s first ViaSat-2 geostationary satellite, slated for a Q1 2017 launch.

Meanwhile, the two companies completed a Preliminary Design Review for the first two ViaSat-3 class satellites on Nov. 16, 2016.

Fool Me Once . . . .

I read your article on “Normalization of Deviance” (January 2017) and found a few interesting items that I would like to comment on.  

The article states that the crew “. . . had even passed their Stage Two International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO) safety management system (SMS) certification.  So, they were able to fool their instructors and auditors, and that served to reinforce the behavior as normal.”  

So tell me, what good are the IS-BAO audits and certifications?  It seems like a large waste of time and money if the auditors can be “fooled” and you can operate any way that you want.  I know of a flight department that has had four incidents/accidents in a one and a half year period but is Stage II certified.  I asked our auditor, “If there are two flight departments, one has never had an accident or incident but doesn’t have the best IS-BAO paperwork and the other has had all these incidents but does their paperwork perfectly, which one is the better department?” He stated that the one with the perfect paperwork.  

Our company is Stage II certified, but the whole SMS system concerns me.  Is it making us safer? Can it be simplified to make the paperwork burden easier? If the auditors can be “fooled” what is the point of the audit?  I know of many flight departments that are having some heartburn over the SMS program and your article points out very well the pitfalls of the whole SMS system.

Capt. Mark Zakula
Director of Training and Global Compliance
The Duchossois Group
Elmhurst, Illinois