AVmail: January 5, 2004
Reader mail this week about aviation security, colorblind pilots, and more.
Security or Insecurity?
Anyone besides me notice that when the federal government declares threat condition orange (NewsWire, Jan. 1)the only security steps taken are to protect the federal government, and they let the general public fend for themselves? Federal employees get more protection (or paid days off). Federal controlled airports "increase" screening measures (how come that is not routine anytime?) Any government building now requires a citizen to pass through a security checkpoint to gain entry (except the privileged government employee). Anybody care that the Constitution is violated with all these non-voluntary security checks? True, I don't have to go to an airport and be subjected to the security nonsense, but entering a county courthouse is a different matter. Add two dozen more "security measures" (liberty restrictions is a better description) to placate the general public and show that the TSA is indeed making everything safer.
Am I wrong? As a test, I suggest any that detractor to my complaint try to find the FAA FSDO in Orlando without being helped by someone who knows where it is located and how to gain entry. Telephone this FSDO to get directions as to how to find them and then enter their presence. You'll experience first-hand the attitude these Federal employees exhibit towards the unwashed general public. Their paranoia is evident even without threat level orange being instigated.
As for the nerd that damaged the Enola Gay, his punishment should be to make the repair, then repolish the repair. He should sit in jail and only be released to work on the repair. Once completed, he may be released. If he doesn't know how to do it, he can become a student and learn how, while he sits in jail.
Over and over again, security officials say that GA represents no known security threat; yet GA bears the brunt of restrictions, seemingly for the purpose of "doing something." As Ben Franklin said, "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
I have enjoyed AVflash for a little over a year now, but I have noticed something that I think needs to be discussed in more detail. My background is over 10 years in the Navy and 26 years with TWA, having retired in 1993.
The topic at hand is our irritation with the lack of freedoms that we had before 9/11. Fellow pilots, times have changed and it will never be the same. We have no border that is secure and probably never will be. The next event in this beautiful country will probably surpass 9/11. In some areas we allow too many freedoms and in others not enough. I do know for sure that the next event will not be caused by a 65-year-old German/ Englishman married to a wonderful Polish lady, but I am probably checked at the airport more than anyone else.
Do we pull back all of troops and place them on our borders either electronically or physically and tell the rest of the world, "You either behave properly in our eyes or your soul belongs to God (or whomever), but your ____ is going to belong to us.
We have become too politically or socially correct and we have to live with what we have until the rules are changed. Let's have a forum of the aviation community to establish how we think our problems can be resolved and then maybe others will do the same. Believe it or not, most of the areas that are handled by the big boys are done for money or votes or both, and occasionally something is done because it is right or wrong and can we afford to do it.
May we have a safe and uneventful New Year.
Speak With One Voice
I wish that aviation had one muscular organization like the NRA. Say what you will about the NRA and the tactics it uses, it gets things done. One reason is that the NRA does not care who belongs. It welcomes people from any walk of life or region, and it basically gets them to speak with one voice.
And then, there are the aviation organizations. Take one simple issue, like the privitization of FSS services. The folks who provide this have a strong union. AOPA supports this union and their goals. If you read what EAA writes, they tend to be a bit less enthusiastic. I guess AOPA feels it is playing the Washington game (and winning?) One could argue that the way to success in Washington is with numbers, and the place to add to the flying public is from the bottom.
Hopefully, Sport Pilot is a bridge, and not a barricade. The ultralight flyer was cut off from the main body of aviation. His hours didn't count toward anything. A young flyer in Sport Pilot might have something of value, at least when the ab-initio culture of Big Aviation is pushed aside. If Sport Pilot becomes a great place to start, everyone wins. If the remains of the ultralight community attack it from below, and GA only uses it for the no-Doc medical, that's that.
The question is how to get everybody in aviation basically on the same page. In aviation, it seems, few people like change. Some people say there are too many guns in this country. No one will ever say that about airplanes.
Okay, I'll admit up front that I'm a colorblind pilot with an FAA waiver. With that out of the way, let's review the facts as you reported them (NewsWire, Jan. 1). The captain (presumably not color blind), "... told the Times the approach-path lights indicated they were making a safe descent. 'Everything visual that we saw told us we were on glide path'". Further, your article states, "The pilots have said the lights never gave a red warning."
Three things come to mind. First, my understanding is that a PAPI is passive It is a self-contained lighting system that does not interact with your aircraft on approach. The combination of lights is revealed to the pilot merely based on the angle at which it is viewed. If, for example, the red lights were not functioning, then the white lights should have merely dissapeared -- hardly a "normal indication."
Secondly it does not matter that the lights were red, blue, mauve or teal. They would have been visibly different even in a black and white photograph, the only thing required for proper interpretation.
Third, I don't fly a 727. The GA planes I do fly have what amounts to immediate response to power and pitch But, uh, "one half mile short of the runway"? Did they get in that situation based merely on indication of the PAPI? I'll repeat my quote from above: "Everything visual that we saw told us we were on glide path." What other elements of the view out the windshield were not functioning?
Even the Wright Brothers Would Have Improved It First
Those involved with the Dec. 17 re-enactment at Kill Devil Hill undoubtedly knew that the original Wright Flyer was barely capable of flight in the best of circumstances (NewsWire, Dec. 18). Still, in the interest of scientific and historic purity, they made no effort to moderately improve the design, even in some undistinguishable way (e.g., more horsepower), in order to provide some margin for success. Consequently, the re-enactment was a pre-ordained flop, and their two earlier "flights" with the replica were no more than skipping bounces. It made a pretty sorry show.
It remains to be seen whether the Wright airplane truly flew 100 years ago or was, instead, buoyed by a large and exceedingly favorable gust on an exceedingly windy day. Not to take anything away from the Wright brothers' great accomplishments, but I doubt that Wilbur and Orville would have risked trying to re-enact their initial flight with a true replica of such a marginal machine. No matter -- the point is that the purists probably need to provide that exceedingly favorable gust along with their 100% accurate airplane replica.
Give Something Back to Aviation
It was rewarding to be part of the pilot community during the years prior to Dec. 17, 2003, when we had the opportunity to fly many "Young Eagles" for the EAA. When that program ended after the millionth young person was flown and the celebration of 100 years of powered flight was observed, I found a new program to allow me to continue to "give back" to our great activiy: To participate in the Boy Scouts of America merit badge program for aviation. I did my first program for BSA troop 243, Elkhorn, Wis., and had the pleasure of issuing a merit badge for Conrad Weiser.
I conducted a one-hour session on the ground discussing the main factors in flying such as aircraft identification, airfoils and control surfaces, and types of pilot certificates. I then had Conrad assist in the pre-flight of my Cessna 172. We then took a flight of about 45 minutes from Burlington, Wis., and Conrad had a chance to make turns, climbs and descents.
It was a great experience and is a way to continue to have an impact on young people and generate interest in aviation. I expect to continue this program with other young boy scouts in troop 243. Consider this to be a way to "give back" to the greatest endeavor -- flying.