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Monday, December 19, 2011

Aviation: Jessica Rabbit Flying

From the movie 'Who Framed roger Rabbit'

You ever find yourself looking at one of those new composite aircraft?  You know the ones with more curves than Jessica Rabbit.  They have performance numbers that rival commercial airliners.  They have glass cockpits that allow you to fly blind.  You daydream about flying one and then one day you look up what it cost to actually purchase one.  The numbers are suitably in the stratosphere.  Who can afford such a plane?  A better question is why?  Why would you buy such a plane?  What can that plane do that a cheaper one couldn't? 

What if you’re the kind of pilot who just likes to go up on weekends maybe fly to another local airport and get a hamburger.  Just about any aircraft can do this and furthermore just about any other aircraft can do it cheaper.  At what point does the expense of the aircraft cut into the fun value of owning it? 

What if  you're the kind of pilot who does a lot of cross country work?  Well I admit the composite Jessica Rabbit plane with the glass cockpit that is more advanced than the space shuttle would probably be a good choice.  But to me the cost still seems dear.  I mean just how far are you flying that you need this navigational capability?  Are you flying from New York to Paris?  I know a plane that was steel tube and fabric fuselage and humble wood and cloth for wings that flew it once.  It had little more than a compass, altimeter, and airspeed indicator.  In fact as I recall she didn't even have a windshield.

Nowadays you can purchase GPS for less than $100.  It might even have a little tiny piece of glass on it so you can brag about your 'glass' cockpit.  This little cheap GPS has more navigational capability than all the instruments that pilots had in WWII combined.

Is it fair for me to pick on you weekend pilot with Jessica Rabbit plane?  No it's not fair.  In fact the people I want to aim this at are not the consumers of airplanes but the manufacturers of airplanes.  You folks should be trying to make flying affordable but every year I see showcased another curvy plane that nobody can afford.  I don't know about you reader, but I don't want to fly an airliner around on weekends.  I don't want to have to contend with countless computerized gizmo's just to hop from A to B.

Recently I read an article where the venerable WACO has a glass cockpit now, "making it enjoyable for cross country flying."  It seemed so out of place seeing the computer displays in that beautiful grand old bird.

Computers have made a lot of things better.  As an IT person by trade I must admit this, but who wants to fly one?  I would bet most of us fly to get away from them!  So Mr. or Ms. Aircraft manufacturer if you want to really impress me build a plane that cost less than a KIA and is so fun I never want to land.  No computer needed.  I can put in a magnetic compass, cheap altimeter, cheap airspeed indicator, cheap GPS, and my wristwatch will do for time.  Given fuel reserves I could fly around the world in such an aircraft and I wouldn't think about computing or Jessica Rabbit once.