AVmail: December 23, 2002

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Pilots Say The FAA Is Getting Better

Does anyone really expect anything to improve at FAA? Has anything improved over the past 4-1/2 decades within this increasingly bloated tax-gobbling group? Nay, only the bureaucracy has increased with each new Administrator. New Administrator Blakey is just another example of increase-the-bureaucracy only for the sake of preserving the bureaucracy. She appointed nobody from the real world to a position of authority (real world: previous non-government bureaucrat).

Thank goodness for AOPA and Phil Boyer. His single mindedness and competent staff have thwarted many FAA boondoggles over the past decades. But even the Lone Ranger could not overcome all the incompetent, stupid, and idiotic psychobabble emanating from FAA, and now the TSA. Will we ever be rid of this creeping socialism (in the name of security of course)?

Where does all this government incompetence and interference end? It ends with all of us giving up flying for fun. It ends when the little businessman cannot carry out his aviation business without kneeling and kissing the Administrator's ring (banner towing is a current example). It ends when all airports become armed camps with security personnel in charge. And as small aviation disappears, do you think that facet of the FAA will disappear or be reduced in size? Not in my lifetime; they'll simply double their focus (and personnel) on biz aviation and the airlines. Folks, that is where we are headed with the myriad of nonsensical "regulations" being fomented, even as you read my note.

Am I disgusted? Read my lips.

Steve McDonald
Retired airline Capt. and GA pilot


United Airlines Bankruptcy

Regarding Letter from "Name Withheld" (AVmail 17Dec02):

I wasn't "rich-bashing" or "management-bashing." Note that I praised Lee Iacocca, who was both rich and a CEO. I just think that Chrysler got its money worth and UAL has not.

Investors are owners of a company? In a legal sense, perhaps, but in practicality certainly not. A company is not a democracy in function, and investors cannot have a direct influence on daily operations. Most investors could no more run the companies they invest in than I could play pro football. They elect a Board of Directors who, we hope, will chose the management team that can run the show.

The investment community (a.k.a. Wall Street) has notoriously bad judgement when it comes to businesses and managers/CEOs. While Wall Street was going crazy over "dot coms" people in the know were asking "where's the beef?" And a certain CEO was a darling of Wall Street because he was great at turning companies around until they found out that his method (laying everybody off) provided short term profits and ultimately killed the patient. A company, whose goal is satisfied stockholders instead of satisfied customers is doomed. ("What do you mean invest in R&D? I want higher dividends!")

When a CEO signs on he puts his job and reputation on the line. If he fails, it's golden parachute time. The current boss at UAL is in a fine position -- if the company goes under, well, it was too far gone to save. If he pulls it out of Chapter 11, he's a hero. A lot of hard work ahead, but where's the risk?

Every problem you listed is faced by every business in some manner or another. Every customer demands exceptional quality, on time, at the lowest price -- try supplying to automotive OEMs some time. Every business is challenged, from the local barber to Chrysler Group (who, by the way, is in its second year of a remarkable turnaround engineered by Dierter Zetsche, another CEO who is worth his salary and bonus). Get over it! I'm not bashing management in general, but you'll have to admit that some are effective and some are not. Remember, if the captain runs the ship aground, the guys in the engine room drown first.

In the 1970s Detroit was complaining that they couldn't compete with the cost and quality of Japanese imports because of the $ vs. yen, lower paid Japanese workers etc. So Honda opened an automobile plant in Marysville, Ohio, and built higher quality cars for the same cost as in Japan with American workers. Was the problem the American worker or Detroit management?

Finally, I refer to "the shop floor" because that's what I manage. Apparently I hold my skilled employees in higher esteem than you do yours. Larry Bossidy, former CEO of Allied Signal wrote a pretty good book on management (Execution), you should read it.

I remain, opinionated but never anonymous,

Your Humble Servant
Jim Villano


UK Targets Airplane Emissions

It is interesting that the UK has found another way to increase the cost of flying. Those of us who attempt to build or own an airplane would certainly agree that airplane "stuff" doesn't cost enough and that we want to pay our fair share. This article suggested that,

"air travel causes more pollution than trains and sparked calls for more study and new taxes."

That's because there aren't many trains. Airplanes cause more pollution than model A Fords also, but so what? Oh, I forget, more taxes ... a good government official is always looking for more opportunities to tax. I guess this official would propose dedicating this new tax to only research to reduce the amount of pollution an airplane makes and not for roads and sewers and infrastructure stuff.

Liberal Democrat spokesman Norman Baker would think that we need to link taxation with environmental damage in public transport. That is the typical liberal reaction to anything. More taxes means a more "helpful" government impact in our lives. The idea that taxation of airplanes would make trains more competitive is pretty funny. Would probably work if you tax planes, cars, trucks and buses out of existence. How do these "spokesman" get tabbed to be spokesman anyhow?

Dale Carlson

AVweb responds ...

We did leave unsaid that the study compared the two modes of travel by calculating the amount of pollution per passenger/kilometer. So while there may be more airplanes than trains, that doesn't affect the data. For more info, the full report is available online.

Mary Grady
Senior News Editor


Boeing: Not Just Commercial Airframes!

Regarding Jim Villano's letter dated 13 December 2002:

"By the way, how well is Boeing doing since the move from Seattle to Chicago? Let's see, their reasoning was they needed to get closer to the financial markets. Hey, are they bankers or aircraft builders?"

Boeing is way, way more than an aircraft builder. They're second only to Lockheed-Martin in ranking the largest aerospace defense contractors; they're heavily involved in both the commercial and military satellite business; they're one of the partners in SeaLaunch, a commercial space payload delivery system; they're into a variety of combat, attack and defense systems, including space-based lasers, theater high altitude area defense (THAAD), ICBMs, and so forth. And as an aircraft builder, they're doing a heck of a lot more than commercial airframes. They're a leader in the defense airframe business, both fixed-wing and rotorcraft, both fighter/attack and transport/support. And they're one of the major contractors involved in the civil space program.

At least part of the decision to move the Boeing headquarters out of Seattle had to do with changing the perception of the public and the business community that Boeing is primarily a commercial airframe manufacturer. They aren't bankers, and they sure aren't just aircraft builders. They're a defense powerhouse that does a lot more than build airliners!

(My husband works for the Hughes Electronics Satellite products division that Boeing acquired; I work for Raytheon, which has teamed with Boeing on a number of defense programs, and competed against them on many more.)

Karin Cozzolino


Cockpit Weapons

You keep reporting that the Homeland Security bill ...

"... allows airline pilots to carry weapons aloft."

A point of clarification. Thanks to the lobbying effort by our illustrious CEO Fred Smith [FedEx], he managed to insert in the bill the word "passenger." So it allows only passenger airline pilots to carry guns.

Cargo airlines are excluded -- a point contested strongly by ALPA. There is virtually no security at cargo ramps, no background checks of all the ramp employees, and now no protection in the cockpit from a potential hijacker.

Monty Lee

AVweb responds ...

Although the AVflash email version didn't have room for it, please note that our NewsWire online version of the story does report exactly that:

"The Air Line Pilots Association says it still is lobbying to change the new law's provision that excludes cargo pilots from the voluntary program. "

Mary Grady
Senior News Editor


Cockpit Weapons

Regarding your article in this week's issue about arming airline pilots, I presume that the installation of bullet proof doors in airline cockpits is intended to protect innocent passengers from gun-toting airline pilots, as opposed to protecting the pilots from terrorists.

The hue and cry for permitting airline pilots to carry firearms is, in my opinion, not well conceived, and misguided. First, most airline cockpits are very confined in their proportions. Firearms, including handguns, have never been intended for use in "hand to hand" combat, but rather at some close, but reasonable range. This is not to suggest that a handgun is not lethal at very close range, but it's use and accuracy is very limited in close combat. One key element taught in most handgun defense courses is to never allow a person within arm's reach of your handgun. If they can reach it, they can deflect it, or worse yet, they can take it away from you, and use it against you.

The training which is required should be both comprehensive and intensive. The last thing I want is the captain of an airliner I am riding in to be playing gunslinger, while the airplane flies itself. In addition to the initial training (and a week is VERY short, when it comes to handgun training, let alone defensive tactics training), there also needs to be recurrent training, and there also needs to be a qualification standard. Weapons retention is a key factor which also needs to be addressed in training. The last thing we need is a pilot providing hijackers with precisely the tools they need to terrorize an airliner full of passengers.

An additional issue which I have not heard discussed yet is what are the airline pilots going to do with their handguns during layovers? As a law enforcement officer who is often required to travel armed, I can assure the pilots that this is a significant issue. I doubt that most pilots have thought about having to carry their handgun into restaurants, bars (consumption of alcholic beverages while in possession of a firearm is a very big no-no in most states, by the way), or the gym during their workouts while on layover status. The alternative is to leave the gun in your hotel room. What are the airlines going to do in foreign countries where US airline crews arrive? The liabilities associated with carrying a firearm will probably ultimately result in very few pilots actually carrying firearms in a year or so.

The logical answer to this, of course, would be for each airline to offer its pilots a gun safe in the crew area of each terminal, but this also would require severe security measures. A system will have to be established whereby each pilot is able to set his own security code, or issuance of a key card for access will have to be developed. Someone in the terminal will also have to have access to the gun safe, in case a pilot loses his key, etc. Whoever has the "master" will of necessity be required to undergo strict security clearance, background checks, etc, all of which costs money, and takes time.

What happens when an armed captain needs to depart the cockpit for a visit to the "throne"? Does he take his handgun with him into the cabin area, making the gun potentially available to a highjacker, or does he leave the gun in the cockpit with his first officer, who isn't authorized to carry a handgun aboard? Are the airlines now going to have to go to even further scheduling restrictions by only scheduling armed first officers with armed captains?

The first time a handgun belonging to an airline crew member shows up in a violent crime, whether it's a hijacking or a robbery at a convenience store, security measures will be tightened even more. More cost, and more inconvenience will likely convince most airline pilots that carrying a handgun isn't such a great idea after all.

There are a lot of questions associated with this issue, many of which have been downplayed or ignored in the discussions to date.

The bottom line, in my opinion: guns in the cockpit will be a significant pain in the neck to crews and management. Further, a handgun in the cockpit during a combat situation is more likely to be a liability than an asset. But that's just my opinion

Michael Vivion


Cockpit Weapons

I've been watching the progression to guns in the cockpit and other security measures on the plane. Playing Devil's Advocate: If guns really do make it in the cockpit, I'd say the next best method for evil-doers is to use human engineering to get one of their operatives swapped into a flight crew. There, they have the gun to kill the other cockpit crew and barricaded doors to keep them cosy while they do whatever they want. Or how about another FedEx 705 pilot? I'd like to see the SOPs that could subvert those very real possibilities. At least without guns in the cockpit, we have a good probability that there is a sane pilot in front that has a chance to overpower the nut-case, or at least advise ATC that there is trouble.

It would be a damn shame to have another tragedy after all of the billions spent. It would also be devastating to aviation, insurance ... and pretty much everyone.

Jason Fournier