Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Way forward in India

Dear members of the IndusAv Group:

I sympathize with the aviation enthusiasts in India. And I understand why many would be frustrated with the state of development of General Aviation in India.

However the solution to the problem is in positive action.

If it is true that the DGCA folks in India have little or no understanding of the gamut of GA, from hang gliders on up, then it is no wonder that they are reluctant to take any action. It is therefore incumbent upon the GA group, which is supposedly knowledgeable, to show the way forward.

In a recent post by Sham Kumar a long list of specialized GA activities is mentioned. What a wonderful opportunity for AOPA India, or some other group with depth, to write a series of proposed regulations governing these activities. Coming up with a reasoned and sensible set of operating procedures and standards for each of these groups would go a long way to help the bureaucrats take some initiative. Perhaps if there are enough members, perhaps groups of 2 can tackle one of the activities and develop definitions, training, licensing, operating and maintenance recommendations to propose to the DGCA. Doing so would surely gain respect and likely move the powers that be to take some action.

I speak from experience. About 1995 the Canadian Recreational Aviation Group met with government official. At that meeting we (GA) were accused of not knowing what we wanted. I accepted the challenge and over a 2 month period wrote a paper, entitled “Freedom To Fly”, which outlined the changes required to have Rec Av thrive in Canada. The paper multiplied like rabbits in government circles, and 10 years later Canadians had all the privileges asked for in that paper. The only exception so far is the use of a driver’s licence as the acceptable medical standard.

If you are interested in the details of that paper it is posted on my website

I welcome your comments on this subject on my blog at

Frank Hofmann

Sunday, August 12, 2007

User Fees for General Aviation

General Aviation User Fees

Are they equitable? Are they wise? Are they necessary?

Those organizations involved with General Aviation matters generally consider user fees to be inappropriate.

Governments and service providers world-wide are advocating and implementing user fees for access to the world’s airspace and airports. Should all users pay? On what basis should their charges be assessed? Should there be exceptions to these fees? What guidance exists related to economic oversight and regulation?

User groups in the USA – AOPA and EAA among them – have had a modicum of success at, as a minimum, delaying the application of fees to General Aviation aircraft. In Canada, COPA has had only limited success by achieving agreement that such fees should not be “unreasonable” and in negotiating a relatively nominal amount for private aircraft owners’ fees.

On a world-wide basis the airlines, through the International Airline Transport Association, IATA, is attempting to have a flat charge apply to airways users, regardless of aircraft weight and size. They claim it is unfair that airlines alone should carry the financial burden of maintaining the air navigation systems alone. Airlines infer that particularly the business jets, and likely more recently the specter of Very Light Jets, VLJs, while taking up ‘their’ airspace, do not pay equally for the same airspace an airliner occupies. This, they claim, is not equitable. Their argument implies that the airline corporations actually pay for the services, and that GA operations do not.

On the surface the public can accept IATA’s logic. However, although the airlines claim that user charges cost them money (implying they should therefore enjoy preferential treatment), we must all remember that, unlike private aircraft owners, the airlines don’t actually pay the charges. Their user charges are passed on to the passengers when they buy tickets. It may even be argued that the user charges passed on to the passengers don’t all find their way back into paying the user charge, but rather end up as a dividend for the airline’s shareholders.

Private operators pay charges with after-tax dollars. By contrast, airlines sell tickets (including the user fees surcharge) way before they deliver the pre-paid service to the passenger – sometimes up to 6 months ahead of the flight. Then the airplane flies and incurs the charges. Then an invoice is sent to the airline some 30 days later. Then the invoice is finally paid, perhaps 2 months later. In other words, the airlines are in a business where they can collect user charges (and the interest they earn) up to 9 months before the charges -- already paid for by the passengers -- are actually paid out in the form of their own ‘user fee’. It seems unreasonable that the airlines would claim they single-handedly pay for the air navigation system when in fact it is their passengers who are paying the user charges, often through a specific surcharge for the flight. Given that the airlines collect user charges so much in advance, it can be argued that user charges are in fact a money maker for the airlines.

General aviation uses the air navigation system – simply because it exists. However, the air navigation system does not exist because of a need generated by GA. It exists for the benefit of the airlines. Should pedestrians have to pay for traffic lights in a city through the taxes citizens pay? Or should the cost of that kind of traffic control system be borne totally by the vehicle owners? Should every such vehicle – large, small, commercial, public service – pay the same amount toward the installation and maintenance of a city’s traffic light system? As far as the pedestrian (taxpayer) is concerned, each type of vehicle poses the same risk and congests equally. As a user of the traffic light system should the pedestrian be required to pay a portion of the cost decided by the commercial users’ requirements for the road? GA finds itself in an analogous situation with regards to user charges.

Ham radio operators do not pay a user fee for using the airwaves because we have long recognized their contributions to public need and safety. Although in some parts of the world they provide a daily service, their services in developed countries are required only in times of emergency. Yet they use up available spectrum, a range of frequencies coveted by potential commercial users. Similarly GA provides such services in times of need, be it crop spraying in times of insect infestations, search and rescue operations, medevac flights, aerial survey, supply and communications to remote areas.

We need to value our transportation infrastructure more. It is not until a bridge collapses somewhere, or an ice storm, flood or forest fire closes access to communities that suddenly we learn to understand the potential value and benefit of having an alternate way of travel. Since the road infrastructure has become so complete (and incredibly we have dismantled the railway system) we have adopted the motor vehicle as our only means of transport.

User fees are yet another imposed financial burden to the significant regulatory financial burden faced by aircraft owners and operators. By themselves GA’s contributions to user fees offer little if any cost benefit to the maintenance of the air navigation system. Adding further cost to GA aircraft operations will serve to limit the growth of the GA sector and possibly threaten its continued existence. We need only look at Europe to see the degrading effect high user fees have had on pilot currency/safety and access to this mode of transport by other than the wealthy. Is confining ourselves to an eventual single mode of transport a wise move, given that we will face periodic disasters?

If any of us feel that we should retain not only our freedom to choose personal flying as a means of transport but also be capable of affording it, we must speak out. Given the number and diversity of our GA sector, it should not and cannot pay for what airlines consider GA’s fair share of the costs. The air navigation system costs are neither controlled by the GA sector nor are they incurred because of the GA sector. Rather, let us apply the appropriate foresight and work together (governments, industry and GA) to assure the continued availability of alternate means of travel. GA pays indirectly for airport and air navigation services through fuels taxes, aircraft sales taxes, parts and services purchases. Airlines pay user fees. Governments have devolved their responsibilities toward the air transportation infrastructure and need to step in again as a partner. It is not right that a government by the people for the people will not help assure the continued existence of the total air transportation infrastructure which is to the benefit of its citizens.

Let us continue to monitor arguments for and applications of user fees. Let us ensure that users who can acquire the funds from outside their shareholders’ bank accounts do not succeed in their attempt to convince regulators that they are paying fees in the same way private operators do. Nor should those ‘paying’ user fees end up ‘buying’ access to airspace at the expense of the ordinary citizen.

Frank Hofmann

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Aviation in India

Aviation in India

AOPA India was formally launched recently in Delhi at a ceremony attended by the Indian Minister of Transport, the Honourable Pratap Rudy. In his capacity as a representative of 59 States that now make up the International Council of Aircraft Owners and Pilots Associations, IAOPA, Frank Hofmann was honoured to be invited to attend and to give the inaugural address.

India, despite a population of slightly more than 1 Billion, has only about 350 flying GA aircraft – 6 balloons and 40 Ultralights included – of the 1100 aircraft on its Civil Aviation register. Moreover, India records only about 2000 registered GA pilots.

In essence, Frank’s comments raised the issue of why a nation which has harnessed nuclear power, developed communication satellite technology and supercomputers has an airplane population only 1/1000th that of Canada’s and has no airplane manufacturers.

In his opening address Frank Hofmann noted that, "With a population of more than one billion people and only 400 operational General Aviation aircraft the possibilities for India are enormous. These possibilities can be released by creating a regulatory structure that favours general aviation. This structure should be based on evidence and not on conjecture. India has everything required to have an active general aviation sector except the regulations permitting it." Mr. Hofmann pledged the support of IAOPA in achieving these goals.

The Minister, speaking after Frank, used Frank’s remarks as the opportunity to openly chastise his bureaucrats, challenging them to develop regulations which would foster flying in India, and thus reap the economic benefits of a healthy General Aviation industry.

While in India Frank also had the pleasure to be introduced to the students, staff and facilities of the Ahmedabad Aviation Academy, an aviation college whose organization is exemplary, even by North American standards. Its founder, Dr. Rakesh Bhandari of London, Ontario is a GA enthusiast whose fondest dream is to have India opened up to GA. Upon arriving at the school Frank and his wife were greeted by a parade of 25 uniformed, bright and clearly eager young student pilots. Just like their counterparts in North America, they were filled with hopes for bright futures in the skies. He was pleased to address the group, to answer questions, and to wish them good luck.

Although their directorship is in a fledgling state, AOPA India has significant industrial support and has managed to establish credible offices and a secretariat. One of their first orders of business was to take Frank to a 900 foot strip, far into the country, where one of the AOPA directors had carved out an UL strip, erected a hangar, put an Indian-made UL into it, and posted a 24-7 guard to watch it all. Frank was privileged to be given a flight – one of few people in India to have flown an UL over India. Operations of this aircraft are restricted to a 3 mile radius and under 700 feet. However minimal the liberty, this in fact represents a significant victory for GA in a country operating on rules, as the Transport Minister pointed out, essentially unchanged since 1937. Illustrating the true spirit of what people really want, though, was the group of about 25 people, mostly youngsters, that materialized suddenly at the end of his flight. They had run from hither and yon at the first sights and sounds of the aircraft. Now they sat mesmerized, in awe of this machine which moments earlier flew over them.

There is scope for tremendous growth in aviation in India. There is the same sense of awe at the notion of flight that gripped our nation in the past century. And it appears there is now the will – both political and social (the will of the people) – to develop the dream. As he looked at the eager group that had gathered to see the bright yellow Ultralight as it flew above them, Frank thought that he was looking at the future direction of aviation in India at that moment.

AOPA India is now one of the 59 affiliates in the IAOPA and it has already begun to work on behalf of its members to promote General Aviation. This task is particularly formidable in a number of countries, India included.

The total Inaugural Address can be viewed on under ‘ICAO’.

Frank Hofmann is a COPA Director for Quebec, COPA Secretary and IAOPA Representative to ICAO

Monday, August 6, 2007

What is a Lycoming 0-320 Really?

Will The Real 0-320 Please Stand Up!
Frank Hofmann - EAA Technical Counselor # 3013

Your Homebuilt is now far enough along that you are contemplating the other 50% of your airplane's cost - an engine purchase.
Statistically, for homebuilders a Lycoming 0-320 is the most popular choice. After all, the 150-160 HP they produce is good power to fly one or two people around the sky. Decision: let's find us an 0-320.
You see an ad in your favourite publication: " 0-320 for sale - $3000". That is your engine! You call the vendor and are told it is an -H1AD model. That doesn't mean anything to you, and you are satisfied that as long as it is an 0-320 at a good price you will worry about the details later. But hold on: what are you buying? Better still, what did you want to buy?
What do the dash numbers mean anyway?
First, the '0' in the 0-320 means horizontally opposed, and not an injected engine or else it would have been labelled IO-320. An AIO-320 is an aerobatic injected version. An LIO is a left hand rotation injected engine. The '320' is the displacement in cubic inches. Then things get complicated, and there is no easy pattern to follow for all the dash numbers.
The first letter after the '320' gives the Power Rating. The '-A' is 150 HP, the '-B' is 160 HP, the '-C' is 150 HP, the '-D' is 160 HP, the '-E' is 150 HP, and the '-H' is 160 HP.
The 0-320-A1A is a 150 Hp engine, using controllable prop and designed for 80/87 gas, has 7.00:1 compression and Bendix mags with the spark advance set at 25 degrees.
The 0-320-B1A is a 160 HP engine, otherwise the same as the A1A but using 100 octane gas and has a compression ratio of 8.5:1.
The 0-320 C1A is the same as the B1A except that it is a 150 HP field conversion to low compression and 80/87 gas.
The 0-320 D1A is the same as the B1A (160 HP), except that it has 7/16" propeller bolts, a straight riser in the oil sump, a -32 carb, and Type 1 Dynafocal mounts. Whew!
The 0-320 E1A is the same as the A1A (150 HP) except that it has 7/16"" propeller bolts, a straight riser in the oil sump, a -32 carb, and Type 1 Dynafocal mounts.
There were no -F's made, so don't buy one. The only -F was an IO-320 F1A, in other words a fuel injected engine, a development from the -C1A engine.
Nor buy a 'G' for the same reason.
The 0-320 H1AD was a 160 HP engine, designed for 100 octane, had 9.00 : 1 compression, an integral accessory case, front mounted fuel pump, external mounted oil pump and an impulse coupled dual magneto.
When you inspect a list of these engines it appears that the numbers in the group after the first letter following the dash, e.g. A2A, refer to the propeller data, or the nose section. A '1' indicates constant speed propeller capability, a '2' indicates fixed pitch, and a '3' 7/16" prop bolts.
The last letter in the group of three gives details about the accessory section and riser tubes in the sumps; an `A' indicates a 'Z' shaped riser tube, a 'B' a straight riser as well as a -32 carb, and a 'C' Retard Breaker points. A 'D' can indicate conical mounts, different sumps and intake pipes, horizontal carburation, `Slick' mags and an assortment of other features. An 'F' indicates that the prop governor drive is on the left front crankcase, a 'G' has 0-320-A intake pipes, the 'H' is the same as the -E2D but has 'Bendix' mags, and finally the 'J' is the same as the E1F but with 'Slick' 4000 series mags. Are you with me.
Numbers after the last letter in the group of three give details about the Counterweights, and a letter after that number details about the magnetos. An "A" on the end of the engine serial number designates a "wide deck" engine, so check the serial number on the engine in addition to the model number.
Do you still want to just buy that engine over the phone without asking further questions about the model engine? Probably not.
Nor should you as a homebuilder say that the variations are unimportant because the engine is going on a homebuilt. You should not interchange parts, even though they may fit. Piper had problems with very early magneto failures on some installations. The cure ultimately was to go to a solid crankshaft, i.e. from an -A3A to an -A4A engine. Vibration, fatigue, thermal stresses etc. cause havoc. Engines are shaky things! (Excuse the pun.)
Also, remember that not all models manufactured by Lycoming were successful - i.e. maintenance free - some require the timing to be checked every 25 hours. The 0-320-H2AD engine was known for cam follower failures. Talk to a mechanic to get a feel for which models to avoid.
If you are hunting for an engine, best get the Lycoming guide to establish the details of a particular model,(Certificated Aircraft Engines, SSP-289, July 1989) and also find out for which airplane installation that dash number was originally meant. It may give you a clue what the engineers were addressing in choosing that particular dash number. Remember: it is not a question of will it run, but rather for how long will it run!