AVmail: March 22, 2004
Reader mail this week includes a rebuttal from Atlantic Aviation about the de-ice debacle, airline subsidies for GA, traffic jams at Nantucket and more.
I have managed the Atlantic Aviation facility at Midway since 1992. In that time, this operation has gained an industry-recognized reputation of providing exceptional customer service on a consistent basis. We haven't accomplished this by being so narrow-minded and short-sighted as this one-sided article tends to indicate. Many of my good friends are corporate pilots who also have their own planes. I am the first to understand that the guy who taxis his Cessna 172 into our facility may also own, or operate, a Gulfstream V. I have personally witnessed this too many times. I know many prominent CEOs of major corporations who also happen to be private pilots with various ratings. I would never imagine treating them any differently because of the equipment they choose to fly.
Let me ask a question that I would kindly ask all who read this article to consider: What if the article that bothered you and I wasn't entirely true, as written? I can assure you it wasn't. As a matter of fact, Mr. Lavenue himself complimented the way our employees conducted themselves during his visit and expressed appreciation of their efforts in the telephone conversation I had with him; yet he inferred that he was treated in an inferior manner.
He never inquired about the price of product, the amount that was distributed onto his aircraft or his invoice total before he departed. As a matter of fact, he was out by the aircraft as it was being de-iced and gave our line technicians direction to apply additional glycol to satisfy his own safety concerns. After he departed, we left a message on his cell phone voice-mail concerning the amount of de-icing fluid the aircraft required and to inform him that we were going to extend him a discount -- not to inform him that we misquoted our per-gallon rate as he stated in his article. For the record, the agreement he signed is a de-icing service order with detailed information specific to his request and has a disclaimer of liability that reads, "I, as the pilot of the above aircraft, have full and final responsibility to check the wings, control surfaces and fuselage of the aircraft to determine whether all snow, slush and ice have been removed. I acknowledge that deicing has been done to my satisfaction." As you can see it isn't as he wrote, "An agreement to pay whatever it costs."
As he stated, his airplane was an icicle. He had more than two inches of ice and frozen snow on his plane. Furthermore, we offered him a discount off our regular per-gallon glycol rate before he even asked for one. Would we do this if we had no concern for what he refers to as the "little guy"? We did this out of good will, due to the fact that we couldn't get the aircraft into one of our hangars. Not because we didn't want to, but because we are currently way over an optimum occupancy rate with existing based customers. And when it snows, demand far outweighs capacity, as you can imagine. To help solve this problem, we are currently investing more than $5.5 million to expand our operation to better accommodate all our valued customers.
None of us are perfect and I surely don't claim to be. There are some truths to what he states and there are, what I feel to be, exaggerations and embellishments that swayed public opinion of our operation. This piece generated such a response on the message forum that it had to be shut down. We were unfairly judged in the court of public opinion without a proper forum to defend our operation. I felt the need to have a record of our response to this article.
Our promise and commitment to our customers are that we will always strive to maintain our focus in regards to customer service ... and we will continually work hard to exceed customer expectations in the areas we can control. The weather and winter in Chicago are some of the things that fall beyond our control.
Jay R. Hamby
General Manager, Atlantic Midway
It should be noted that Lionel Lavenue and Jay Hamby dispute by degree certain points contained in each other's description of the events that took place that day in Chicago. At this point, we'll let it go at that. Our intent was merely to provide a forum for the debate.
Airlines Subsidize GA? Not!
I propose we "private pilots" eliminate NWA from our choice of airlines (NewsWire, March 15). NWA has twisted "facts" and presents an impression the airlines are supporting general aviation. This is not true! The facilities NWA uses were established for NWA and other airlines, and paid for by U.S. taxpayers and NWA passengers. We must negate this image against private aviation.
I would like to comment on NWA CEO Richard Anderson's article on the World Travelers Web Page.
Mr. Anderson states he believes the full burden of maintaining the national airway system is subsidized by the airlines only. I am not an expert on taxes and government money distribution systems, but I find this very hard to believe. What he does not see is the fact that companies use a loophole in the system to operate under FAR Part 91, even though they are very close to 135 operations.
After working as an instructor and Part 135 charter copilot for more than three years, I am currently employed at an air carrier as a First Officer on DC-10 aircraft. My experience as a CFI gave me very good insights on how General Aviation is subsidized, and I do not believe that a private person who flies for pleasure or vacation should have to pay more than he does already.
Air carriers receive priorities over GA aircraft already, especially when it comes to IFR flight operations (itís an open secret!) On several occasions I was put into a hold in the Daytona Beach, Orlando, Tampa, West Palm Beach, Miami and Fort Myers areas to await the arrivals of airline operators, specifically Part 121 operators. Yes, they have bigger, faster airplanes, carry more passengers and are more costly to operate, but the FAA has always adhered on the first-come, first-serve basis. So if Part 121 operators are given priority already over GA aircraft, why pay for being segregated?
Letís take the normal GA private pilot. He usually leaves from Class G airports (uncontrolled) and arrives at the same. (Most privates just donít like busy airports!) The probability of them using a controlled airport is very small, but with the majority limited to Class D. The bigger the airport, the less you will find "real" GA aircraft. (I am not talking about those Flex Jet and other Part 91 business jet operators.) Now lets take a look at airports like Flagler County, Deland Municipal, Cross City, and Immokalee. Who is paying for their operation? The cities and counties are, not Part 121 operators. That is where the majority of GA operations participate, Mr. Anderson. Not your airports like O'Hare, Dulles or MCO!
And yes, the average private pilot in GA is using v-airways, and sometimes -- if his airplanes and ratings permit -- he gets access to jet airways, too. But once again, if a route is saturated, Part 121 operators will get priority and Part 91 operations receive the good-old comment from Clearance Delivery: "This will be a full-route clearance, advise when ready to copy." In my three years as a CFI, I received so many full-route clearances I stopped counting them. Now I fly the big airplanes, and in 12 months of national and international line flying, not once did I get something else than "cleared as filed"!
I believe if Part 121 operators want that luxury of having it their way, let them pay. Also, close the loophole for Net Jets and Flex Jet-like operators flying under Part 91! Or make them pay for it, too. The average private pilot with an instrument ticket is already not flying very much, and most lack training and experience; donít punish him and make him fly less!
Drunk or Tempted?
The quotation in the Houston paper of, "If there had a been a fence there with barbed wire on top I would have just turned and walked away," is enough to make any one with a lick of sense mad (NewsWire, Mar. 11). Is this the thinking of Americans today? That someone else is responsible for preventing me doing something stupid?
Unfortunately, it is.
Our courts have condoned the thinking that there is always someone else that you can blame and the courts will help you make him/her/it pay you for your own stupidity. Where does responsibility for one's own actions begin?
Next time, possibly this year, someone will run out of people or companies to sue and will try to sue God.
Another thing. Why does the press even give such a statement space in their media? Hopefully it was for laughs. Are they guilty of promoting such irresponsible thinking?
I think yes.
OK, I've got that off my chest. Thanks for listening/reading. The aviation press seems to be the last remaining responsible forum and I'm happy there is AVflash and the others that remind their readers of the twisted thinking and reacting of some of the powers that be.
Traffic Jams Beyond Palm Beach
You should be advised that reservations to land or take-off during weekends were initiated this past summer at Nantucket Airport (ACK). As the second busiest airport in Massachusetts and the one with the greatest number of weekend visitors each summer, the same problems as noted with Palm Beach arose last year (NewsWire, Mar. 18). Sadly, this occurs on an island! Routine trips for those requiring medical care, supplies, etc., means that those of us that live and base on that island are especially inconvenienced. We also have a mixture of commercial aircraft, light GA planes and an enormous number of corporate jets during the summer months (when the fog rolls in almost daily).
An added inconvenience: One must make a long distance call to Boston in order to reserve time to enter or leave ACK -- the local contact of ACK tower or FSS fails to yield the reservation.
Shortly after lifting off to depart Destin, Fla., on Feb 13, ATC announced the airspace was "closed." Departures were allowed to continue, but arrivals were refused entry. All the surrounding airspace is military, with military ATC. I had never heard of such a thing, but it may be the wave of the future.
Airbags in Seatbelts
The idea of installing airbags in seatbelts to increase airline safety is a well-intentioned idea, but unnecessary and dangerous in a way (NewsWire, Mar. 18). Inadvertent airbag deployments have caused injuries and deaths in automobiles. Also, installing these devices in the hundreds of seats in current airliners would be a major expense. A better and safer method of obtaining this kind of crash safety is currently available, and surprisingly at little or no cost!
For many years now, the seats in all Navy transport airplanes have been installed facing aft instead of forward. In the event of a crash, the occupant is forced deeper into the seat. The restraining force is applied to the back of the body, which is far better able to handle these loads. (The spine takes the load directly, while the face, ribs and abdomen transfer loads through vital organs). All airline seats should be installed in this way.
The argument about people getting sick by riding backward is not valid. I am not aware of any complaints from riders in Navy transports. Many corporate aircraft have aft-facing seats, primarily for the "club" arrangement to allow conversation. There are no complaints from this class of airplanes, either.