AVmail: January 13, 2003

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Reader mail this week about CNN Coverage of Air Midwest 5481, Don Brown's Column, yakking about the Yak story, and much more.


Blue Ribbon Report on Airtanker Safety

The videotaped catastrophic failure of two airtankers last summer dramatically highlighted an industry long in need of reform. The recent Blue Ribbon Panel Report on Airtanker Safety did an excellent job of listening to and reporting on the concerns of many within the industry. The resultant USFS permanent grounding of all C-130A and PB4Y Airtankers was long overdue.

Now where do we go from here? The money required to properly fix this failed low bid contract system will explode an already burgeoning USFS Fire and Aviation budget. Is USFS leadership willing and able to properly fix this system?

The safest solution that quickly resolves the most issues would be to turn the entire Federal fixed wing airtanker program over to the US Air Force Reserves and Air National Guard. Why should the taxpayer pay twice for what the government can do once? The Guard and Reserves have been supplementing the USFS contract airtanker fleet for years using MAFFS (Modular Airborn Fire Fighting System) equipped C-130s. Their safety record is outstanding. Recent developments in delivery systems makes the Modular System very effective. Pentagon planners have many more C-130s in their inventory than desired. Even with today's full plate of international affairs, many Guard and Reserve units are scrambling for missions to fulfill. Forty aircraft would cover the entire Continental U.S. and Alaska fire fighting mission.

By using the Reserves and Air National Guard to fly this critical homeland defense mission you would get the airframes, equipment, training, maintenance, resources and leadership unparalleled to anything the USFS could ever afford, and get the job done right!

Most importantly this would end the failed, low bid, blood money USFS contract system that has over the last 40 years cost 156 aircrew lives (200% of the fleet) and give the U.S. taxpayer the best, safest return on investment.

Juan Browne


Independent Instruction Shunned by Insurance Companies

Just wondering if other independent CFI's and small flight school operators are finding that the few remaining aviation insurance companies are not honoring their instructional services? It seems they are putting more limits on their clients aircraft checkouts than the FAA authorities and requiring checkouts only by Flight Safety, Simcom and only other major training establishments. This seems a conflict of interest when the insurance companies are now owned by Warren Buffet who also owns Flight Safety. Can the insurance companies now dictate more power than the FAA????

Tom Gilmore

AVweb responds ...

Like any business, an insurance company has to make enough money to cover its expenses. If they think an instructor is less of a risk after taking a certain quality and quantity of training, then they have a right to underwrite that instructor and not others.

But it certainly is a sad day when the cost of being a flight instructor is too high to allow us to do that which we love.

Kevin Lane-Cummings
Features Editor


CNN Coverage of Air Midwest 5481

I'm sitting here watching CNN's coverage of the BE-1900D crash at CLT (Wolf Blitzer Reports). CNN's reporter Miles O'Brien offered one of the most knowledgeable and thoughtful just-post-crash TV reporting that I've seen in a long time. O'Brien's report was followed by a segment in which Wolf Blitzer interviewed Michael Goldfarb, a former FAA chief of staff, about the crash. That segment was also excellent.

We pilots are often quick to criticize TV news reporting of aviation stories, and rightly so -- much of it is simply infuriating. But when the TV news folks do a good job, we should give credit where credit is due. I am surprised at -- and pleased by -- the excellent job CNN is doing with this story.

If CNN can do this well reporting the crash of a 19-seat turboprop, maybe there's hope for competent and non-inflammatory reporting of General Aviation accidents. Maybe. Fingers crossed.

Mike Busch


Don Brown's "Say Again" Column

I have no idea why Don would not be "allowed" to do a 400 level of ATC columns. He, and John Deakin, are probably the most useful of AVweb’s writers. It is always nice to read the 101 stuff. But you can get that in "Flying."

One of the problems between pilots and ATC concerns a lack of understanding. Many of my really good “stick and rudder” friends, who sometimes fly IFR, are amazed when I don’t have the “ATC problems” they do.

One of the reasons ATC is seldom a “problem” for me are people like Don who have helped us understand the system. I don’t fight the system. I use it because I have a pretty good idea, for a pilot, how to get what I need and not to put myself in a position where the controller has to say “no.” By understanding the system I put myself and my requests in a position where he can say yes. By doing that, my friends who sometimes have trouble with the system, when they fly with me, say, “how did you get ATC to do that?” Just lucky I guess. No, I have learned the system and Don is a big help.

Anyway, if you, as the new editors, are looking to find out who is important, John and Don are at the top of the list. It isn’t a watered-down column. You can get that anywhere. So let’s keep the IQ up like we have in the print version of “IFR.”

Thanks for asking.

Bill Napier

AVweb responds ...

Like you, I love to read Don's columns and I always learn something new and useful. As a student of ATC, though, I thought perhaps I was more unusual in enjoying the level of complexity he includes; thus, I asked the question of the readers. I'm happy to report that yours was one of many AVmails we received in support of more "advanced courses" in ATC. Thank you!

Kevin Lane-Cummings
Features Editor


Eclipse Update

I'm sure your viewership would welcome an objective update on the status of the Eclipse situation.

If I were making bets, here are some possible outcomes:

1. The company gets involved in numerous lawsuits (or one class action suit) by depositors based on their belief that Eclipse knowingly flew the prototype with an unsuitable Williams engine so that deposit held in escrow could be moved into the company's general fund and become nonrefundable.

2. Major changes in Eclipse's top management and board of directors.

3. Cross complaints (legal) between Eclipse and Williams. A major finger-pointing contest, to say the least.

4. A white knight, in the form of some here-to-for unknown engine supplier, that can provide the necessary engine at the necessary cost without having to do a complete redesign of the aircraft.

5. Everything is up for grabs and speculation!!!!

Dr. George Lazik


Modernization of Flight Service

I am the Facility Representative for the NAATS ( National Association of Air Traffic Specialists) at San Diego AFSS. Recently I received an email from the Union liasion for OASIS that the OMB had proposed a 1.89 million dollar cut in funding for OASIS this upcoming year and also proposed stopping all further installations until the completion of the A76 study to contract out Flight Service. The FAA has claimed that they don't share this view, but given their track record, I find it hard to believe. If the controllers had OASIS, the technology would aid them in in providing even more accurate briefings. As the FAA continues down the road to contract us out, what it doesn't want to admit is the system is safer when pilots have all the information, and talk to flight service. I'm sure you all have heard horror stories from other countries about privatization. I urge everyone to write your congressmen and have them stop the funding of the A76 study. Thank you all for your continued use of Flight Service, we look forward to serving you in the future.

Michael Puffer


Air Traffic Control

Regarding the AVmail about a TBM700 pilot not getting his flight-planned route:

I'd like Mr. Croatti to look into attending an "Operation Raincheck" at either Miami Center or Washington Center, so he can get a first-hand view of why an altitude stratum may not be available. ZDC handles between 7000 and 8000 aircraft a day, in airspace that is considerably smaller than a lot of other centers.

For Washington Center, he can call 703-771-3400 to obtain information on the next Raincheck.

There REALLY are a lot of airplanes flying between FL240 and FL310 East of the Mississippi. It's not always possible to accommodate an aircraft going 200-300 kts over the ground at FL290 when the other 20 aircraft are doing 460-600 kts.

Mark Trent


Manchester Airport Says No To Curfews

I thought you might like to know that your article needs to refer to Manchester, New Hampshire, USA, not England.

Dale Crumb

AVweb responds ...

Although Manchester, England, may also have to deal with noise abatement issues, in this case, you are correct. Thanks for keeping an ear tuned for us.

Kevin Lane-Cummings
Features Editor


Y is for Yak

Sherry: YOU are a steely eyed aviation writer! Where were you 20 years ago? I could have used your love of aircraft then. I encourage you to continue to write and submit your articles. Every reader of aviation magazines printed in this country deserves to hear from and be inspired by your words.

Russ L