Off to Oshkosh!
By Peter Conant
- Yes, it's two days of driving from Boston, 18 hours each way, but still cheaper than flying and then having to rent a car. The weather looks fantastic and I will enjoy the trip with my bride. This year, I want to find out all I can about the growing number of aviation apps available (love that alliteration) for my new Android tablet by Nexus, along with the latest developments in Jet-A burning piston diesel technology for general aviation.
If a drop-in replacement for 100LL were available in the near future I'd certainly consider buying another piston airplane. On the other hand, I'm told that drop-in replacement engines for Jet-A diesels from SMA are about double the cost of a factory re-manufactured unit from Continental or Lycoming. I talked with someone whose club in New Jersey tried this and the original quote from Continental for one of their SMA's ended up growing to around $80,000 (!), so I'd certainly wait a while before considering this. Cessna says their JT-A Skylane costs about $60,000 more than the standard 230 HP Avgas burner. But Continental recently bought the assets of Thielert Engines in Germany, so they would seem to have a leg up on the competition and a fast track toward certification (to mix a few metaphors there).
Since a gallon of Jet-A has so much more energy available than a gallon of 100LL, and since the price of jet fuel is roughly equivalent (and often much less) than the ever-rising price of Avgas, it does seem to me that in the long term a diesel piston would make the most sense. Autogas replacements for Avgas top out at 93 octane, so although the price would be more reasonable the power loss has to be a factor too. Diesels have a longer TBO. Just as I was wise (in hindsight, at least) to wait for reasonably priced portable glass cockpit technology, I think I'll follow my own advice and wait a while to see how costly and how difficult the transition to diesels will be.
And in looking over the aviation applications for a tablet, my cursory examination shows that there is almost nothing that is NOT available. Flying magazine rated their choice of the top 10 apps which for me is extremely helpful, and there are many apps out there which are either free or ridiculously inexpensive (in the $1 to $5 range). Again, I'm planning to go slow, get Garmin Pilot for my primary app, and then slowly wade into the unknown waters of weather, flight planning, graphic displays and such. I see where a member of our Norwood, MA IMC Club has even brought his flight tracking software, Cloud Ahoy, to market. This allows a pilot to graphically track and observe his recently completed flight in three dimensions. How cool is that?
One reason I will never have cable TV in my home is that I know I would waste incalculable amounts of time watching it. So I'm preparing to guard myself against every "gee-whiz" product available now for a tablet device. That said, I'm planning to enjoy this research project immensely. Stay tuned!