AVmail: November 24, 2003
Reader mail this week about the air tour NPRM, the Washington FRZ/ADIZ, new noise regulations and more.
We have the computer databases and knowledge to have all of the current GA aircraft repairs entered (Newswire, Nov. 17).
Evey year we are spending thousands for the annual and having a mechanic go through the logs looking to make sure all the AD's are up to date etc, etc.
Every N-number should be entered and the complete history of the airplane would always be available at a click of the mouse.
Any AD's appropriate to the type, class or year would automatically be entered against the aircraft and the AI would respond appropriately at the next annual. Might be interesting to see how many planes haven't had annuals in the past 10 years.
Air Tour NPRM
We operators and pilots in Hawaii have been fighting this (both politically and legally) for years (Newswire, Nov. 17). The FAA cannot manage or enforce the existing SFAR 71 and its deviation provisions, let alone having it done nationally. With the lack of Federal funding (a cost not mentioned in the NPRM) and human resources, it would be a rare event if anyone got the approval for deviation authority to the lower altitudes. This, in return, will compress most of the air traffic (both fixed-wing and helicopters) at the same altitude and will increase the possibility of midair collisions.
We have a documented event on video of a near miss (less than 150 feet at high speed) of a fixed-wing and helicopter. It was submitted to the FAA for consideration and it was whitewashed as a non-event. It was only after it was submitted directly to Mr. Jim Hall, then chairman of NTSB, that operators obtained deviation authority to lower altitudes.
In addition, we challenged the SFAR in court. It was challenged because the FAA extended the SFAR after it had expired without going through the normal legal processes; plus, "noise, environmental and cultural" considerations were added to the SFAR. Initially, the Emergency Rule Making was challenged because the industry believed it was a noise issue and not a "critical safety issue" as is required under the law. The FAA vehemently denied that the Emergency Rule Making was based upon noise. The first extension proved our case, after the fact. Upon the second extension, the FAA correctly made the deadline and had properly deleted "noise, environmental and cultural" considerations. The 9th Court of Appeals ruled that the FAA corrected their mistake on the second extension and therefore our case was "moot." We contended that if the first extension was in error then the second extension should have been "moot." We also believed that we were not afforded "due process" and appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where our case was denied a hearing.
A simple solution for noise and safety is a minimum of 1,000-feet AGL (for helicopters) over populated areas and 500 feet (for helicopters) over non-populated areas, and incorporate existing Federal Aviation Regulations. This is economical and enforceable with minimum manpower considerations.
President, Safari Aviation, Inc.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics did find "Commercial Pilot" to be a fairly risky occupation (AVmail, Nov. 17). But the report repeatedly noted that the statistics are highly skewed by a relatively small number of pilots. For example, the fatality rate for commercial pilots in Alaska was dramatically higher than the rest of the U.S. Similarly, commercial pilots involved in agricultural operations are at much higher risk than the majority of commercial pilots.
More importantly, the report noted that there appeared to virtually no correlation between risk and compensation. Airline pilots for major carriers are at the lowest risk for the highest pay. I have heard numerous airline pilots explain that their extensive experience is a big part of the reason that the risk is so low, but there is surprisingly little statistical evidence to back up this assertion. Despite predictions of doom and gloom from the Air Line Pilots Association, the proliferation of regional carriers -- along with their lower-paid, less-experienced flight crews -- has not, to date, had a significant impact on commercial, scheduled, air-travel safety.
Conversely, an examination of business-jet accidents, which occur at a statistically higher rate than scheduled airline travel, does not seem to indicate that experience (or lack thereof) is a major factor in the increased risk. The pilots dying in small business jets are often more experienced than many of their airline brethren.
Viewed this way, perhaps the "compensation experts" considered the wage disparity between the major-carrier flight crew -- "safely" tucked away in their well-equipped, turbine-powered craft -- and the solo pipeline-monitoring pilot scud-running close to the ground in an underpowered, decrepit, piston trainer miles below them. Or, perhaps they considered the corporate jet pilot, who has to make his or her own weather decisions, negotiate routes directly with ATC, and justify every no-go decision directly to the non-aviation-savvy corporate CEO fuming about the delay in the back of the plane.
Personally, I think that the issue is not whether airline pilots are overpaid, but whether the current FAA ratings and certification process distorts a relatively high-supply, low-demand market into a safety-compromised Ponzi scheme. I do not know if the current system puts the safest, most capable, pilots in airline cockpits. But I do know that, as a non-professional pilot, I would be better served if CFIs who love and excel at teaching could routinely make a living-wage doing it, and if those who despise it or lack aptitude could have more alternatives for building time.
The article (Newswire, Nov. 17), while factually accurate, may tend to place blame where it doesn't rightfully belong.
Since the inception of the Washington FRZ/ADIZ, FAA/ATC has performed a daunting and complex task of trying to make TSA-induced procedures work. My hat is off to them.
Responsibility for all the baffoonery that exists must rest with all of the non-aviation security agencies that work hard to put their fingerprints on "protecting us." Each agency stives to add its contribution to the system. But in the end, the sum of the parts is no one's bailiwick, and it defaults to the TSA, recognized by most as the Clown Prince of this whole, sordid affair. A Transportation Security Adminstration not in charge of administering transportation security -- only in Washington, D.C., does this concept make sense.
Help is available as soon as Congress receives a spinal implant regarding this issue.
Airport Manager, College Park Airport (CGS)
While I'd prefer to be discussing changes in airspace designation using terms that I must have missed in the pilot-controller glossary such as "domestic ADIZs" and "FRZs," I am shocked by the reports from the airport managers.
I would strongly encourage the managers to immediately contact the facility that either handled the flight or provided the pre-flight briefing. While my crew is subjected to regular quality checks, it is entirely possible for something to get missed. I need to know if one of my people have missed something, for they are accountable for the service they provide, and I know they desire to do it right. Our customers need to bring these service issues to the facility involved ASAP. Ask for a supervisor, or ask for the manager, but you have to help us and "call it in."
We have already required the controllers at my facility to read the AVweb articles. I'll bet other facilities have done the same.
Stop the Noise at Hanscom
Where are AOPA and EAA (Newswire, Nov. 20)? Why aren't they working at the local level, too, to help with this type of issue, as the NRA does for issues with gun rights? It may not matter that the law is clearly on our side on this. Laws can be changed. It won't matter to those for whom the current law has sided if they are forced to abandon their aviation pursuits in order to remain solvent. When the choice is to fight for what's right and go broke trying, or give up, most people give up. These well-heeled NIMBY's do not care about our safety, proficiency, or sport. They only want to use whatever means are necessary to ensure that they can have their version of "quiet enjoyment," no matter the impact to others.
Narrower flight lanes, with no overflights outside of the lane, will crowd planes into areas that will become less safe as a result. Lack of practice area will kill flight training. Lack of room to do ongoing training (instrument, aerobatic, multi-engine, whatever) will severely impact the future of GA, and likely the future of aviation in general.
I guess it won't matter that pilots will become less proficient in the long run. There will always be lawyers nearby to collect a percentage of the resultant settlement checks when people start dying.