AVmail: August 25, 2003

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Reader mail this week about prop strikes, navel gazing at the FAA, contract towers and more.


Prop Strike

In his article (Prop Strike!) John Ruley wrote:

Up through the mid-1960s, it was common practice not to open the crankcase after a simple blade strike. Instead, a dial-indicator test was performed on the crankshaft end (basically, to see if the shaft was bent). This is now considered inadequate."

Not always. A 310 pilot knew in advance the nose gear would fold on rollout. Cut mixtures over fence, props were turning engine, not vice versa. Local FSDO agreed with us that dial gage and visual inpection was sufficient. IA signed off after new props installed. Trouble-free since.

Jeff Moskin

AVweb Responds:

That makes sense. As with my wife's goof in our Cherokee, the engine wouldn't have been developing significant power once the engines were cut. I'll cheerfully accept that as an exception to the rule.

John D. Ruley


Australian Aviation Forum

A group of Australian Pilots from private pilots to ultralights have started their own open forum. The forum is funded by its members through online donations. It is set up for every person to come and participate from the Australian aviation community. This site is just over six months old, with tremendous results and bringing together the aviation community.

Please feel free to come and check it out, as we would like to open the forum up to our American brethren.

Andrew Wetzel


FAA Looks Ahead ... Some Navel Gazing

I have listened with an open mind to the talk from Administrator Blakey. In fact I have had the opportunity to listen firsthand when she politely offered to speak to NATCA (National Air Traffic Controllers Association) members assembled on two separate occasions.

Let me start off by first saying air traffic controllers have no problem whatsoever with the idea of a performance-based organization (Newswire: August 18). In fact we embrace the idea, but the problem occurs when you discuss implementing a performance-based compensation system based on individual performance.

Air traffic controllers do not make widgets; therefore, one cannot make the argument that controller A makes 5 widgets an hour, controller B makes 7 widgets an hour, and controller C makes 9 widgets and hour, and so they should be paid based upon that performance.

The main problem with placing performance-based compensation plans on air traffic control employees is that every part of what they do is an integral part of their team-based effort.

While an individual air traffic controller cannot make the system work alone, each air traffic controller is totally reliant upon his brother and sister controllers, whether they are sitting next to him or her at the next scope, upstairs in the tower, or hundreds of miles away in an en route center.

So when one weighs this necessary team-based structure, it is impossible to fairly offer compensation and salary increases to a member on an individual basis, but rather -- as NATCA has time and time again stressed -- it must be done on a team basis.

The most ironic part of this plan is that -- in everything the FAA does -- they stress team models for the workforce. You cannot on the one hand stress how important teamwork is and then, in the next breath, say we cannot compensate you on teamwork models.

In the past the FAA has used compensation where some employees were given higher increases than others, and I can tell you first hand from experience it does not work. All you succeed in is splintering the workforce. You effectively make teamwork so much harder to accomplish when you have a group of haves and have-nots, and anything that threatens the concept of teamwork in the air traffic control system threatens the overall safety and seamlessness of the system.

The FAA does have procedures to offer additional compensation when a controller does something above and beyond the daily operation, such as a gear-up save or helping a lost pilot land safely. They also have programs for superior contributions, in the area of money-saving ideas and for controllers involved in special projects.

Why would the people who make such extensive use of the NAS (National Airspace System) ever even consider placing impediments into what is arguably the most complex and bustling air traffic control system in the world, which might diminish its safety and reliability?

I am all for a performance-based organization, but the basis for performance determination must be a team model, since the job is purely a team effort.

Mike Patterson
Air Traffic Control Specialist
Evansville (Ind.) Air Traffic Control Tower


Question of the Week -- Contract Towers

On June 28, 2003, over 100 canard aircraft flew into Mojave Airport for Burt's Birthday Bash before 10:00 a.m. The contract tower refused to work Saturday, so Mojave was an uncontrolled airport. There were no conflicts causing damage, death, or injury.

This raises other questions, but does cause us to realize the risk factor of depending on an undependable system.

Al Hodges


Your survey (Question of the Week: Contract ATC Towers) soliciting input on whether or not to contract out control towers was extremely misleading. It presents an "all or nothing" approach. What about a choice to do some but not all? By excluding this option, you lead the participants to a yes or no answer, which biased the results. Contract all? I think not. Contract some lower activity facilities? Yes, why not? Then see how it works and how much further the program could be expanded. But to do wholesale contracting out would be a mistake. Your survey only roused a bunch of NATCA folks -- in defense of their jobs -- to vote against it. So what did you expect, unbiased responses? I think not! You got the results you were looking for.

Tom Klocek

AVweb Responds:

We've received a few comments regarding our current Question of The Week topic. While it may not have been worded in the clearest fashion, it surely isn't meant to be biased. Enjoy the next one!

Arturo Weiss
Newswriter and QOTW Editor


Commercialism at Oshkosh

The gentleman commenting on commercialism at Oshkosh (AVmail: August 18) lauds the comraderie and the ability to talk to many aircraft-related people. However, he does not address the question about the outright commercial effort to milk every one who attends -- members and vendors alike. Try eating lunch on the grounds without a pocketful of cash, and ask the vendors what they feel is happening to them. No wonder the prices are so high. The vendors have to make a living also.

Tony Love


Airbus A380 "Too Big"

In my opinion, Continental's Gordon Bethune is wrong (Newswire: August 18) -- the 747 carries 400+ passengers, so another 100 won't matter. But the airlines still won't use the A380.

There was a show about the A380 on the Wings channel the other night where they showed a mockup of a possible interior. They showed the restaurant, lounge and a gift shop. That all sounds nice, but on every flight I've been on for the past several years it seems that the fasten seat belt sign goes on at the first bump; and even when it's off, the crew puts a lot of emphasis on remaining in your seat. A couple weeks ago a couple of flight attendants were injured in a clear-air turbulence incident as well. Somehow I can't see U.S. airlines encouraging (or even allowing) people to browse a gift shop while the plane is in motion.

Rick Beebe

AVweb Responds:

What struck me is that airlines buy bigger airplanes for better efficiency (more people per flight), and I have a hard time believing they would sacrifice more seats for lounges. Did you notice that the Boeing 747-400 completely dispensed with the first-class lounge found on the upper deck of the early 747s?

Kevin Lane-Cummings
Features and AVmail Editor


Vin Fiz Flies Again

AVweb wrote (Newswire: August 21):

The original 1911 cross-country flight -- with numerous stops along the way -- was largely a publicity stunt by the makers of the grape-flavored drink after which the plane was named.

Let me take mild issue with this statement in your otherwise excellent report on the Wright Model EX flight. Not only Cal Rodgers but also several other airmen sought to win the $50,000 prize (a lot of money in 1911) that William Randolph Hearst offered to the first pilot to fly across the country. It was a little more than merely a publicity stunt for Armour, who bankrolled Rodgers' flight. And did you know that Rodgers was deaf? A bit more to the story than you implied, perhaps.

Henry Kisor