Thought For The Day: Mechanical Instruments

Mechanical instruments are Bad-Ass. On my workshop shelf I have a manifold pressure gauge that reads to seventy five inches of manifold pressure. (22 pounds of boost) It is from a Lockheed P2V-7 Neptune which had 3,700 hp turbo compound radials. It glows in the dark because the numbers are painted on with radioactive paint. There is a pretty good chance that this gauge flew in the cuban missile crisis or attacked the Ho Chi Minh trail. If it could talk, it would tell you that the cold war wasn’t always cold, and it would remind you to think about the people who fought it, but it can’t say anything. It just sits out there, night after night, its faint green glow quietly remembering thousands of hours aloft, in the company of men, men now mostly gone…. In another 15 years, many  of the glass cockpits of today, almost all the MGL stuff from South Africa, all the I-Pads built by virtual slave labor in China, all the garbage like Blue Mountain and Archangel will all be lining the bottoms of landfills accompanying used diapers and copies of People magazine featuring the Kardashians. 15 years from today, my MAP gauge will still be quietly glowing, trying to remind people that there was a time when being an aviator was about skill, reliability under pressure and courage.”-ww-2012

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Stories like the previous one of Ken Pavlou’s flight to CC#31 highlight the capability of really well thought out glass cockpits in planes, matched with advanced pilot training and skills. His flight would have been much a more difficult pilot workload with traditional instrumentation.

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Instrumentation is a personal choice and is situational. I wrote the stories: Inexpensive Panel……..part one. and Inexpensive panel…….part two. because I am partial to very simple instrumentation. I like to fly away from congested areas, not towards them. We live in a rural setting that requires no instrumentation to arrive nor depart from. Other people with the same plane may have different plans and needs. They should be carefully evaluated. Give some thought to my comments here: Thought for the Day: Obsession with electronics when coming to your own conclusion.

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I have seen two KR2’s set up with 50-60 pound panels for hard IFR by pilots who have never even flown in IMC  in a light plane and have no idea of how demanding a skill set is required to do this safely, nor any understanding of what makes an airframe a good instrument platform. I have also seen many planes with very complex panels, who’s builders lacked the kind of basic flying skills described in the  Greatest Book on Flying Ever Written, (Is your life worth $16?) Many people are good at buying things but poor at learning new skills. In aviation this has proven the undoing of many flyers who mistook having the instrumentation for having an instrument rating. This is not just confined to experimentals, Bonanza’s, Malibu’s and Mooney’s have all had plenty of fatal accidents caused by VFR pilots with the hubris to think an auto pilot was just as good as an instrument rating.

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If  a builder wants a glass panel, then I highly suggest building a clone of an existing trouble free panel. This means Dynon or Grand Rapids. Dynon’s have been behind Corvairs since Dr Ray flew one in his 601XL eight years ago, and many pilots have used them all the way through Ken Pavlou.  Today Grand Rapids newest panels are also popular because  Dan Weseman has one in the Panther, and he is a dealer for them and can advise Corvair builders how to set them up down to the last sending unit.  Read more about them at this link: https://flywithspa.com/product-category/accessories/avionics/. You can also buy very compact panel mount flight line radios directly from them. I just bought one from them for our Wagabond. I am a hardliner about simplicity, but not a zealot.

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While there are a number of Corvair powered planes flying with MGL avionics or I-pads, I would like to strongly discourage anyone one new from considering this. Please read: MGL vs Corvair ignition issue. Also note than we have had a person crash a plane because his I-pad misread his fuel sending units and he ran out of gas. There have been more than a dozen sending unit failures on Corvairs where the builders were fed false information. Note that Dan Weseman started out with a MGL panel in the Panther, but removed it after having issues with it. It should go without saying that instrumentation from start ups and things from defunct outfits like Blue Mountain should not even be considered, even if they were free.

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Above, a 1963 photo of three famous maritime patrol planes. A P2V-7 with two 3,700 HP radials and two J-34 turbojets is in the foreground. Behind it is a Martin Marlin and in the back is a Short Sunderland. They are flying over Corregidor Island at the mouth of Manila bay in the Philippines. This was the location of the last stand of US forces in the western Pacific in 1942. Spend a few minutes reading about it at this link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corregidor_Island