AVmail: June 21, 2004
Reader mail this week about the panic in D.C., colorblind pilots, mass arrivals at Oshkosh and much more.
Panic in DC
I just loved the recent incident with the Governor of Kentucky and the DC ADIZ (NewsWire, June 14). We need a few more like this so senior government officials will see the folly of this ADIZ nonsense.
I understand that the pilots of that plane had notified ATC of the transponder malfunction, flew by the book, never deviated from their clearance even slightly, and were in constant contact with ATC. Yet we still had the wild overreaction on the ground. How is the communication to the 20-something kid manning the Patriot missile battery around P-40?
After reading your article about the Kentucky State Police King Air 200 and some of the problems caused by the faulty transponder, I couldn't help but ponder the differences in how a government agency operates vs. a corporation or individual. Most individuals or corporations wouldn't even think about spending the 3 or 4000 dollars for a new transponder (slightly more for the Mode S) when looking at the $1.5 to $4 million price of a "newer" King Air 200.
Since I now know the relative value of a 1973 King Air 200 in Kentucky (apparently, less than the price of a new transponder), I would like to offer my services to the great state of Kentucky by taking that old plane off their hands for "twice" the price of a new transponder -- say, $7500.
While GA ops for most of the upper crust continue to languish, John Kerry inaugurated his campaign 757-200 with a flight out of (plus a positioning flight to) DCA. I also saw a recent item that 10 or more waivers are issued for VIP ops at DCA each week.
NTSB and Colorblindness
Just out of curiosity, after reading the report that the NTSB wants the FAA to revamp their testing for colorblindness in pilots (NewsWire, June 14), I researched the types of colorblindness on this wonderful internet system. There is not one type of colorblindness mentioned that would preclude a pilot from distinguishing dark and light lights in a PAPI system.
Am I missing something? This NTSB report, along with a few others in the recent past, have cast doubts in my mind about the credibility of the NTSB. What expert's knowledge did the NTSB use, that it isn't general information available on the Web?
About eight percent of of the male population have some degree of color deficiency, the most common colors being red and green. The FAA will give waivers to pilots for color deficiency through a process called demonstrated ability; this allows the pilots to obtain the necessary physical needed for their type of license.
There are many pilots working in different capacities throughout the aviation industry who have a waiver for color deficiency, and there are some employers who will not consider hiring pilots with this type of waiver.
Considering the present use of colors in such critical areas of controlling aircraft during emergencies or takeoff and landings, and considering the process of issuing waivers for defective color vision by the FAA, it looks to me like a recipe for disaster as in the case of the 727 incident you wrote about.
Much has been said about the issue of defective color vision. I believe that a change in the system is needed rather than looking closer at evaluating defective color vision procedures. The process of visually recognizing flashing red, green, or white lights at a distance in an aircraft to determine whether to land or go around has been in effect since before WWII, when aircraft were generally slower and closer to the tower.
The minds and technology exist today that could create systems and procedures that would allow safe operation of aircraft without the need for perfect color vision. Maybe just going from red and green to blue and yellow.
Question is, why issue waivers for defective color vision if it's a problem? Why use red and green when they are the most problematic colors? Why use 1940s procedures in today's aviation arena?
Using Cellphone to Contact FSS
Regarding your article on using cellphones to contact FSS (NewsWire, June 14), I've been taking advantage of it by calling my "home" area FSS for years. When returning from the Lower 48 to Anchorage up the 1500-mile coastal route, most Lower 48 FSS'ers don't even know how to say the names of places like "Ketchikan" and "Yakutat," let alone know where they are, or understand weather patterns along that difficult route. I always use my Anchorage cellphone to call 1-800-WX-BRIEF so that I get an Alaska-knowledgeable briefer at the Kenai, Alaska, FSS.
The Millville, N.J., toll-free number should be 866-225-7920.
While I'm sure the list of FSS local phone numbers will prove helpful at times (I have previously received the list and now have it in my Palm Pilot), the fact is that generally at the time you need a weather briefing, a phone can be located on which to make a toll-free call.
A greater issue that I have run into is picking up an IFR clearance at an uncontrolled airport. Some of these have remote ground frequencies that work well, but often I have to use my cell phone. I was given the number 800-448-3724 and told that it works anywhere to get approach control. However, for the same reasons that apply in the FSS situation, I have never been able to contact anyone except SoCal from my cell phone. And unlike a small FBO, there is never a land line in my Bonanza!!
Oshkosh Type Arrivals Started Before Bonanzas
I noticed in the latest issue your reference to the "mass arrivals" at Oshkosh as having been started by a Bonanza group in 1990 (NewsWire, June 14). Although this is a popularly held assumption, it is incorrect. The first "mass arrival" at Oshkosh took place, as I recall, in 1987, by a mass formation flight of over 50 North American T-6 aircraft in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the type's origination. This flight was planned and executed by Stoney Stoner of the T-6 Association, now the North American Trainer Association. Assembly of the birds and practice sessions took place over several days at Racine, Wis., with the flight to Oshkosh following. Interestingly, despite the revived interest in "warbirds" which began in the early 1980s and continues to this day, that event was given little, if any, press or other notice, even in the aviation magazines. Actually, this large formation flight paved the way for the future mass arrivals (including the Bonanzas) with the FAA and the EAA. As much as I like Bonanzas, I believe it is appropriate to give credit where credit is due.
After reading your recent article on mass arrivals at Oshkosh, I can't help but wonder why you don't mention the mass fly-in of more than 160 Cessna 120/140s to the EAA Convention in 1988?
This fly-in was originally advertised as "88 in '88," but turnout in Monticello, Iowa, was in excess of 160. We spent three days in Monticello preparing/training for the event (at the insistence of the EAA). The in-trail trip took us over Madison, Wisc., where controllers -- while told of our flight -- were amazed at the sight of several miles of airplanes on their radar screens. The entire trip occurred without incident -- an amazing feat for a large group of low-and-slow pilots!
I guess that because it was only sanctioned by the EAA and not some international records body, this event has been forgotten by those writing the histories of flight. I'll never forget it!
As a point of information, the organizers of the mass Bonanza arrival require all participants to have completed the FAST-sponsored formation flight training program run by The Airmen at Greenwood, Miss. This program takes four days to complete and includes classroom academics, walk-throughs, basic two-ship formation, and works up into four-ship operations. Some other groups have chosen not to require formation training/certification, and their arrivals have, I understand, been less than impressive (well, the impressed some folks, but not in a good way). Anyone who wishes to involve him/herself in such a gaggle should consider "just saying no" if a similar rule requiring FAST or FFI certification for all pilots in the flight isn't in effect.
Wing Suit Jumpers
Just a little clarification. In your story about wing suits (NewsWire, June 10) you wrote:
"Wing suiters are able to do basic flight maneuvers and the 15-hour training course Mace runs also teaches barrel rolls, spins, dives and (we'd have to see this to believe it) loops, according to the magazine. Beginners need not apply, however. Minimum requirement is 500 regular parachute jumps."
The bit about 'loops' is just confusion over terminology, due to a non-aviation (or at least non-skydiving) writer at Popular Mechanics. The 'loops' referred to are somersaults done while still on the descending flight path of the wing suit. Some good wing-suit pilots have done dives followed by pullouts, that get them to close to zero descent rate for a few moments. There's never any real upward movement.
There's been lots of talk about someone, someday, trying to land a wing suit on a snow slope or similar, but that's still to be done or even attempted.
Wingsuits are fun to fly. For a skydiver used to descent rates of 110 mph minimum at terminal velocity, flying along at only 50 mph descent rate creates a strange feeling of time standing still.
PPL, aero. engineer, 1000 jumps, with some on a wing suit
Piper Steel Parts
I read with interest the article that Piper believes they have cleared their steel problems (NewsWire, June 14). We recently installed a new engine mount in a PA46-310 and were contacted by Piper a week ago Friday that this mount might be defective. They said we should know in a couple days but, as of end of business Monday, they have still not dealt with spare parts such as this one. Of course they feel the plane is "grounded" until they resolve it. Please don't give them too much credit.
UAL Saves Fuel
As a retired UAL captain (1989) we have always flown trips at reduced Mach to save fuel for the company ... so the current management has rediscovered this (NewsWire, June 14)? Perhaps. And perhaps just for PR. All flights are flown at max. altitude for fuel savings. Also a planned decent does even more. Don't start down too early -- it costs fuel. Early jet years on westbound flights we flew low (like 26 or 28,000 ft.) to be under the jetstream headwind, and have a quicker arrival time. No more. It was before fuel costs went up and before deregulation concerns. Also flights (were) planned with minimum fuel plus FAA reserve to fly as high possible as soon as possible. Coast-to-coast flights with bad terminal weather carried extra fuel for holding ... but if you added 5000 lb on a 4 engine jet, expect to arrive with only 4000 extra at destination: Weight of extra fuel carried caused extra burn of about 1000 lb. (These numbers can be different for specific aircraft.)
We would also taxi with one engine not running on smaller jets (being careful to keep hydraulic pressure available to brakes). DC-10s and 727s taxi well on two, but a 700,000-lb. 747 does not want to begin to move well on three. Also blows away a lot of ground equipment and an occasional Cessna, not to mention the loss of hydraulics to needed systems. Ground people also were quick to add/plug-in auxiliary electrical so we could shut down the APU to save fuel and wear & tear on it. Not true in the early jet years.
I do enjoy AVweb. Will be at Oshkosh as well.
The Question of the Week regarding aviation lawsuits is a very interesting one (QOTW, June 17). I have yet to meet or hear of anyone in the aviation industry who is seeking to put lives at risk. Personally, I do not see the point of it, apart from greed. Nobody wins when there is an accident/crash, regardless of its cause. Lawsuits do not bring back loved ones, nor can money replace them in any way, nor can it take away the suffering -- unless those concerned are planning to stay under some kind of "influence" for the rest of their days! I admit there is some truth in that deficiencies are brought to light in during an investigation, especially shoddy maintenance practices, but who, in the industry, is going to create some kind of situation that in the end, costs heartache, lives? Organizations go under due to litigation, jobs are lost, how far do such actions reach, local or even national economies? Who really wins then? The lawyers? Finally, some countries are rapidly becoming laughing stocks, because of their legal systems, where ridiculous cases are pursued through the courts - successfully! Like where a restaurant patron drops a glass, then steps on it, gets hurt, and sues the restaurant for damages.
Moral? People are becoming irresponsible, and greedy. They aren't willing to accept responsibility for their own actions, and seek to cash in to make a quick buck anyway they can. In the above case, first, they could've picked the thing up, and second, why weren't they looking where they were going?
AVweb Cold-Weather Whimps
In the recent Picture of the Week (POTW, June 17), AVweb wrote:
"Very, Very Cold Morning in Kabul" -- Henk Boneschans of Pretoria, South Africa, sends us this image of a Bell 212 helicopter 30 minutes before take-off in Kabul; the temperature was only 10ºC."
10ºC is 50ºF. 50ºF is "very, very cold"? Any temperature where you can use Aeroshell 100 isn't cold. 50ºF is positively balmy!
(You guys going soft on us? )
For this week's Bell 212 picture, we used the caption and weather information as submitted by the photographer. When I typed them in, I too thought that 10ºC was ... well, brisk at best. But then again, I'm sweltering in the 95ºF South Carolina humidity, so what do I know?
Then I noticed the picture was taken in the Afghani capital of Kabul, where 10ºC might well be considered chilly. And after a quick bit of internet fact-checking, I discovered the photographer's home city (Pretoria, South Africa) had a 2003 low temperature of -- want to take a guess? -- 11ºC.
So I left the caption intact and made a point of mentioning the temperature. I hoped it was a subtle joke on Mr. Boneschans's part -- but just to be safe, I cranked up the air conditioning anyway.
You're not the only one who's noticed the "chilly" 10ºC temperature. I've been getting mails from readers and AVweb insiders alike, wanting to know if Team POTW has lost its mind. I can assure you we're not going soft -- we just have a skewed sense of humor.
Thanks again for taking time to write -- and, it goes without saying, for taking time to read AVweb and AVflash!
p.s. On July 4, we heard from the photographer, Henk Boneschans. He said there was a minus sign that went missing -- it was -10ºC (14ºF) that morning in Kabul. And now it is 36ºC (97ºF) there.
Pilots on Prozac
"Pilots on Prozac" has got to be the dumbest idea in the history of the FAA (NewsWire, June 17). If psychotropic drugs (a.k.a. "anti-depressants") gave us Columbine and other well-documented tragedies, how is it going to effect the rational thought process of pilots, who need to be in control of their faculties far beyond the needs of the average citizen?
If I'm hanging around my local airpark when I see a pilot I know on short final who's on anti-depressants, I'm going to get ready to duck -- and prepare to help handle whatever catastrophe unfolds.
Pilots on Prozac is not going to help our reputation when a depressed pilot on medication does a header into the nearest building, flies under a bridge, or crashes into the beach on a hot summer weekend. Think about it -- and say something against it.