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Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Some aviation goals are unrealistic

What’s Up
By LeRoy Cook


The Fliars Club flyout went off under low clouds last Saturday morning, but at least it wasn’t raining. We did our share of scud-running during the week’s flight activity, when visibility was good but ceilings were reported below 2000 feet. As we pass into June, hopefully the severe weather season is behind us.

As far as the week’s traffic count goes, we had a Piper Archer and a Cessna 172 come by, and a Cessna Citation II business jet made a pass down the VOR-A instrument approach. A pair of Cessna Skylanes visited, including Dave Bradley’s 182 from Boonville. Locally, two hummin’ Grumman’s were up, Jeremie Platt’s Tiger and Roy Conley’s Tr2. CFI Eric Eastland and I both had hops in the Cessna Skyhawk and Jeffery Adams went out in a Cessna 150. The old 1960 Skylane in the north hangars did a photo mission with the SkyDive KC King Air E90.

Had a discussion the other day about the composition of jet fuel, burned by airliners, crop dusters, bombers and sky-dive haulers. As anyone knows who’s been around turbine-engine fuel, it smells like diesel fuel or kerosene, which is essentially what it is, a petroleum distillate much the same as fuel oil. Unlike aviation gasoline, it has a high flashpoint and doesn’t readily evaporate. Spill it and it leaves a greasy puddle. Jet-A grade fuel is specifically refined for airplanes, with the ability to stay flowable in extreme low temperatures upstairs and not take on water. And the “sustainable” fuels being promoted can be made from restaurant waste, algae or other witches brews besides hydrocarbons, so turbine engines aren’t too finicky about what they eat.

Public television aired a Nova report last week about the development of electrically-driven airplanes, and some flying things that aren’t airplanes at all. As with most of these over-hyped sensationally-written stories, they made it sound as if the skies were about to fill with purring delivery vehicles and taxicabs. Sorry, it ain’t happenin’, at least not right away. A lot of people are going to lose a lot of money investing in eVTOL and urban mobility.

At the other end of the noise and expense spectrum, equally unmarketable, was Areion’s supersonic business jet, which announced its shutdown last week after 20 years of continuous “development.” The project was to fly across oceans at 1.5 times the speed of sound, carrying 10 or 12 captains of industry. The last price target was $110 million, and even that wasn’t viable. Like electric flight, some ideas just won’t translate to reality.

Our week’s question was about Cessna Aircraft Company’s Fluid Power division and what it made. Reader Darrell Vogt of Belton knew, because he worked in Cessna’s Hutchinson, KS plant from 1959 to 1968. They made a lot of hydraulic components for agricultural machinery, for Massey Ferguson and John Deere. Now, for next time, which Cessna airplane used hydraulics for ag purposes? You can send your answer to kochhaus1@gmail.com.