AVmail: February 2, 2004
Reader mail this week about getting your license in 40 hours, changes in the D.C. ADIZ, airport closures and more.
Private in 40 Hours
Excellent article (Training, Jan. 21). I have never read such a down-to-earth (no pun intended) article about learning to fly. Learning to fly is on my "to do" list; now I have a set of benchmarks and a host of practical suggestions to make it happen.
I received my private license less than three years ago. When I departed my home base (TRL) en route to Sherman, Texas, to take my check ride, I still was short of my 40 hours -- I took off with 39.7, and finished the last bit of my solo time en route to take my checkride. I passed the checkride on the first try, thereby avoiding having to ask an instructor at Sherman to approve me for a return flight to Terrel as a student pilot.
I'll never forget that return flight. The sky was never as blue as then, the engine never sounded so good, and the aircraft never flew as beautifully as that trip home. I've done a lot of flying since then, but that 30-minute flight back as a genuine pilot still stands out.
ADIZ Procedure Change
Please, in all of the jumping with joy over the easier ADIZ procedures for some airports (NewsWire, Jan. 26), don't forget those of us (Tipton and Lee airports, among others) who are within 30 nm of D.C. and are still having to go through all of the same nonsense whenever we want to fly. And the same for those of us who might want to be able to fly into one of the DC3 airports (College Park, Potomac and Hyde), which are still off limits to aircraft not based there.
All these modified procedures do is ease the burden on airports that are far enough away from D.C. that they were probably only under the ADIZ because it is so convenient to use the footprint of the Baltimore-Washington Class B airspace as part of the definition.
The ADIZ, even with this relaxation, is still a freedom-of-flight-free zone and will still function as a trap for pilots from throughout the country who come into the Baltimore-Washington area with no idea of what is going on here.
Incidentally, don't forget to check NOTAMS for every flight. With the politicians being given enormous areas of protected airspace every time they make a campaign stop, it could happen to you!
The FAA's claim that each FSS "communication" costs the taxpayer $27 each is patently false (NewsWire, Jan. 22).
The FAA's PWS development team, comprised of representatives from management and the FSS bargaining unit, travelled extensively throughout the past year collecting from each AFSS a complete accounting of the unique functions and tasks performed at each facility.
This accounting showed well over 2,000 safety and national security related activities that are regularly conducted in the AFSS system. Of these 2,000 items, less than 15% are tracked or counted by any method whatsoever. What the FAA appears to have done is to divide the operating budget by the number of telephone calls, radio calls, and flight plans filed. The resultant number, $20-$27, gives an invalid representation of costs. It in no way takes into account the other 85% of the activities regularly conducted "behind the scenes" that permit this nations airspace system to function safely.
Speaking of the operating budget, keep in mind that the $500,000 attributed to FSS includes millions upon millions of dollars that are currently charged to the AFSS budget as their share of other FAA projects. Projects like millions for DUATS, costs to conduct flight inspection activities on NAVAIDs, regional office and HQ overhead. These costs are not going away with the dismissal of Flight Service, but would have to be posted to somebody else's ledger.
The point here is this: Today's AFSS does a whole lot more than meets the eye. Continuing to believe the incorrect paradigm -- that all that FSS does is to provide weather briefings and file flight plans -- does a grave disservice to the aviation community.
I was in Austin a few months ago. I hadn't been there for a several years, since they closed Mueller airport. The sight of that empty, derelict airport in a lower middle-class part of Austin, with all the empty hangars and closed airport businesses, was one of the most pathetic things I've ever seen. Not living there, I don't know why they won't reopen the place as a GA reliever airport, when that would surely be the cheapest thing to do. The city of Austin is obviously the loser as far as tax revenues go; the GA business can't all go to Bergstrom.
Jean-Francois P. Reat
Iím aghast at the initial poll results showing 60% of us feel we should leave airport protection up to the FAA (QOTW, Jan. 29). Recall that it was the FAA who fought so vigorously (all the way to the supreme court) to close Richards-Gebaur (GVW). The survey highlights the biggest reason we (general aviation) are in such big trouble today. If so many of us remain utterly complacent (i.e., fat, dumb, and happy), it is only a matter of time before we quite literally have no place to go. This will happen sooner than most people realize. Only about 5,008 (2001 data) of those 19,572 U.S. landing facilities are actually airports available for public use. So unless you are content with staying in the pattern for your own private airport or you have your personal helicopter, you had better update your situational awareness!
It is not enough to just pay our AOPA and EAA dues. It is not even enough to contribute generously to the Friends of Meigs. We have to get off our collective bloomin arses and get our hands dirty. Write some letters, and make some phone calls, and keep on doing it, as though the future of GA depends on it. It does!
DUAT Weather Data vs. Information
I think DUAT weather briefs are dangerous. Why? Because they are a data dump rather than useful information. Who, that is employed anyway, has time to read 12-15 pages of Far East Afghanistan NOTAMs when you are filing a local flightplan in C-172?
Why can't DUATs be programmed to give only pertinent information? The only reason I use flight service at all is to have the briefer cull all the b.s. out of the DUAT dump.
DUAT should be reprogrammed or unplugged.