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IMC Monthly

Monthly Magazine of IMC Club International. Inc. ISSUE 01 September 2010

this issue From the Editor P.1 DUATS’s 20th P.2 Modern Airplanes, Basic Skills P.2

DUAT’S 20th By Thomas Horne Reprinted and condensed from AOPA Pilot, September 2009

IMC Monthly Inaugural Issue Peter Conant, Editor

As a pilot who is interested in every aspect of flying, I am very pleased to welcome you to this first issue of The IMC Monthly. We at the IMC Clubs hope to bring you interesting articles which are aimed at helping all pilots better understand the world of IFR, the airplanes we fly, the available technologies we use and the regulatory environment we inhabit. When I started flying over thirty years ago, I read everything about flying I could get my hands on and now have quite a library of books on everything from Aerobatics to Zulu time. And I’ve always envied the editors of Flying magazine and AOPA Pilot, who have the best jobs in the world, in my opinion. But now with Internet access to literally thousands of Web sites it is a treat for me to be able to browse the world of aviation literature and select articles, podcasts and videos which hopefully benefit both novice pilots and old–timers like me. For retrieval and dissemination of up to date information, the good old days weren’t all that good. continued on page 2

In what may one of the best examples of the federal government’s making wise use of taxpayer dollars, DUATS has evolved over the years into one of the best free services available (Continued on page 2)

I was just thinking…

By Peter Conant MODERN AIRPLANES, BASIC SKILLS Every time I visit Norwood Memorial Airport I spend some time walking around the transient ramp, looking to see what sorts of airplanes have turned up since my last visit. These (Continued on page 3)

IMC Monthly Inaugural Issue Peter Conant, Editor continued from page. 1

“At this point in our fledgling publication, all news is good news and all information is good information.”

DUAT’S 20th (Continued from page 1)

Your input/comment/criticism will be a valuable resource for us. How are we doing? What could we be doing better? What types of articles would you like to see? What type do you not want to see? What aviation sources or Web sites do you recommend? The aviation literature is vast, the opinions about flying are many, and the experiences one has at the controls always make for good stories. So if you have a story which might belong in Flying’s “I Learned About Flying From That” or AOPA Pilot’s “Never Again”, we would encourage you to share it with us. Someone once said to me that “there is no aviation accident worth having unless you learn something from it.” We at IMC Clubs are definitely on the side of accident prevention, and specifically

would like to hear and learn from pilots who catch themselves before making a mistake. Awareness and management of risk, the joy of being in control, the mastery of complex equipment, the freedom to slip the bonds of earth; aren’t these the reasons we all strap ourselves into a flying machine? I hope we at IMC Clubs can add to your enjoyment of this amazing activity we all share. So contact me, Peter Conant, at We’ll have a “Letters to the Editor” section where you can comment, complain, elaborate, clarify and share your thoughts. At this point in our fledgling publication, all news is good news and all information is good information. I look forward to hearing and corresponding with each of you. END

to pilots. From today’s perspective, DUATS’ roots were humble. In September 1989, personal computers were few and far between. Back then, the Internet had yet to appear in any meaningful way. And connections? Dial-up was the rage- and we liked it! Ever so slowly (compared to modern DSL and T1 speeds), your computer shook hands with data providers’ servers that understood MS-DOS only. The result was a dot-matrix printout that came from a noisy printer spooling out a continuous stream of paper. And the weather graphics we’ve all come to take for granted? They existed at FSSs only, when the vast majority of pilots dialed 1-800-WX-BRIEF for information, and oral briefingsand mental pictures- had to suffice for preflight planning. “Oh yes, the access was pretty clunky back when we started up,” said Bill Young, program manager for Data Transformation Corporation (DTC), one of today’s two DUATS providers. “But the FAA was smart. They paid us by market share, so there was an incentive to always improve our products. In the beginning, thee were three (Continued on page 3)

DUAT’S 20th (Continued from page 2)

Modern Airplanes, Basic Skills (Continued from page 1)

days, with fewer general aviation operations at OWD, most of the visiting planes are corporate jets or chartered turboprops. The other day I was treated to two Piaggio Avantis outside the FBO looking very sleek and futuristic with their canards and five-blade pusher props. An Embraer Phenom 100 graced the ramp last month, straight from the factory in Brazil I was told. And a Partenavia high-wing piston twin was up from Florida a little while back, an Italian design which reminds me of a small Twin Otter. I’ve only seen one at Sun N Fun a few years ago and still wonder why such a sensible airplane design isn’t used more in this part of the world for island-hopping and sightseeing. Those Italian designers always have a certain flair and drama with their creations. A few weeks ago I got my first ride in a Siai Marchetti SF260, a nifty two-seat aerobatic job designed by the Italian legend Stelio Frati who once said “it does not cost any more to make things beautiful”. The Marchetti is a Ferrari in looks and performance and resembles a miniature P51 Mustang. Now, I’d flown in a Pitts Special twenty years ago to gain some aerobatic experience and

thought I knew about control response, but the Marchetti was nothing short of unbelievable. The slightest pressure on the stick resulted in the plane bouncing and twitching, as if to say “you want us to do a roll? No? So why am I in a seventy-five degree bank?” The instructor/owner calmly pulled us around a three-G level turn with the wings almost vertical (or so it seemed to me). Imagine using the elevator as the primary heading control! This airplane lets you know immediately that flying is a threedimensional activity. A cute little Italian Air Force two-seat trainer, it was built in 1969 and is still going strong, with a Lycoming 540 fuel-injected engine. And it’s equipped with a Garmin 430 and an autopilot. All this got me to thinking about the differences between a forty year old airplane with updated systems and avionics, and the newer models by Cessna and Cirrus equipped with glass cockpit, TCAS, NexRad XM weather, TKS weeping wing anti-ice, carbon fiber structure, and all sporting a price tag probably four times the cost of that little Marchetti. The planes I see refurbished on the

DUATS contractors: DTC, Contel- which later got bought by DynCorp, then CSC (Computer Sciences Corporation)- and Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin dropped out after a short time,” Young added. Lockheed Martin returned to the government-subsidized briefing market big time when it was awarded the contract to privatize and centralize the FAA’s flight service stations in 2006. Now, DTC and CSC share the DUATS market. Estimates are that CSC has a 55-percent share, and that DTC has 45 percent. “We probably handle 8,000 to 10,000 flight plans per day, on average,” said Leon Thomas, CSC’s program manager or DUATS. “And over the years, I think the biggest change for DUATS was the switch from strictly dial-up access to an Internet-based front-end system with forms that store your per(Continued on page 4)

ramp at Norwood run the gamut for updates, from recent Malibu and Bonanza turboprop conversions and updated panels to the ancient Cessna 152’s and Piper Warriors with vacuum instruments but fitted with engine analyzers, IFR certified GPS moving maps. portable paperless approach plate devices, and redundant electrically power attitude indicators. It seems like there is nothing you can’t add to an old (Continued on page 4)

DUAT’S 20th (Continued from page 3)

sonal profiles. That eliminated the need to answer question after question and follow prompts each time you logged on for a briefing or flightplan filing.” CSC’s Web site first went live in 1994, although the company still offers oldfashioned dial-up access. Today’s DUATS providers offer features that have made them primary go-to sources for various flight planning tools. Why phone an 800 number when you can go online and see a wide range of weather charts and other graphics in living color? The visit still counts as an official FAA weather briefing, and DUATS flight planners can b e used to optimize your route. Besides, the 800-number telephone briefings are still offered by Lockheed Martin, and dial-up DUATS access- still required per the FAA contract- remains available to those without Internet access. Apart from going directly to DUATS Web sites, their services also are provided via thirdparty vendors. DTC and CSC have agreements with other portals offering flight planning services, and customers are routed from them to DUATS. DTC serves weather and flight planning Web sites such as those belonging to Seattle Avionics, RMS Technologies, Jeppesen, and AOPA’s Internet Flight Planner. CSC’s Thomas says his company serves “all third parties. I don’t know how many…and we give many of them the technology to set up links, free of charge.” DTC recently began its DUAT mobile service, which lets pilots use PDA’s and smart phones for access to briefing information and flight planning services. Similarly, CSC is also accessible through iPhones, BlackBerrys, and other such portable devices. “The trend is definitely toward cell phones and other portable Web browsers,” said Thomas. CSC also supports Stenbock and Everson’s new Golden Eagle FlightPrep software, which provides automatic routing, weather overlays, VFR and IFR charts, rubber-banding of routes, and much more- including flight plan filing. DTC provides charts, including airport diagrams, instrument approach plates, and sectional charts. END

Modern Airplanes….

From page 3.

airframe to provide you with better navigation and engine data. But as much as I’ve seen some amazing cockpit developments and avionics upgrades in my thirty-plus years of flying, in a sense nothing has changed. Situational awareness is still practiced by pilots who have had equipment failures and who know better than to blindly follow a GPS course line. The behavior and feel of the airplane in slow flight, steep turns, accelerated stalls and the landing flare is still taught by careful flight instructors who let their students experience the ragged edge of diminishing control authority. I realize now that the Marchetti experience was a wakeup call, emphasizing for me the importance of basic aerodynamics and taking control of all flight attitudes. Compared to slogging along in a Beechcraft or Cessna, it felt like I’d graduated from a pony ride to a high-strung thoroughbred race horse. I’m now inspired to go back and re-read William Langewiesche’s classic, Stick and Rudder. New avionics, cockpit weather and traffic awareness displays have greatly increased the safety of flight and made us all better navigators. But it is good old-fashioned piloting skills and judgments that contribute most to the safe outcome of a flight. As the economic picture improves and more GA operations are heard in the land (aircraft engines efficiently converting fuel into noise) we can all work to improve our basic airmanship, in whatever steed we’re riding. My suggestion is to get into an aerobatic plane with an experienced instructor and see what you’ve been missing. You may find yourself appreciating just how wonderfully a fine aerobatic design responds to your coordinated control inputs, and how quickly it yells at you when you are the least bit sloppy. END

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IMC Mothly September 2010  
IMC Mothly September 2010  

IMC Monthly Magazine