AVmail: Sep. 27, 2004
Reader mail this week about FAA budget cuts, Cirrus parachutes (and the pilots who use them), and more.
FAA Budget Cuts
The FAA should not be cut another 12.6% (NewsWire, Sep. 20). I have been in this business since 1964. It used to be that we always had a FAA inspector looking over our shoulder. We never knew when. Due to cuts, you can't even get them out of the office unless they can put a finger on something you did that was not approved by the FARs. They need more money, and more people in order to police the aviation community.
This week alone I have taken two airplanes out of service due to unapproved repairs. Both were Cessnas that had service bulletins on the tail dated 1996. The repairs would not be approved by Cessna. One of the aircraft had been pencil whipped for many years ... this is what needs to be addressed ... but who is going to do it?
The FAA is already cut to bone. We need more inspectors who can get out of the office. All of the unairworthy items found were not because of the owners. The mechanic is to blame. He let it go. I am an aviation tech. I do not approve of this action by mechanics or the government for cutting the budget to the FAA.
"FAA chief spokesman Greg Martin disputed that view, saying equipment is constantly being upgraded and there is nothing more than nine years old in the system ..."
This statement needs a bit of clarification. I'm not sure of the vintage radio equipment used at the AFSS (Automated Flight Service Station) I maintain, but it was the same equipment we had back in 1990. Many Flight Service Stations still use the old Model 1 Full Capacity, which is surely approaching the 25-year mark in technology.
The Second Generation VORTAC was developed well over 10 years ago, as was the Airport Surveillance RADAR model 9 (ASR-9).
These are only a few of the systems that are over nine years old. Wind measuring equipment, engine generators, and buildings that contain electronic equipment can be found throughout the FAA that are probably closer to 30 years old.
What FAA equipment is Mr. Martin referring to?
"... Under the proposed budget, the money spent by the FAA on equipment and facilities would drop from $2.62 billion to $2.5 billion (maybe the Bush administration just likes round numbers) ..."
Leave the political comments out until after the election. It is inappropriate for you to be making comments plus or minus concerning the elected administration. If you're going to editorialize, put the blame specifically where it is due, on the incompetent Mineta and Blakey and skip the political horse hockey.
You know, Steve, as a Canadian I'm in the fortunate position of being completely apolitical when it comes to writing about your government (and yes, your president) and their antics but this wasn't one of those cases. Just seemed odd (and worth mentioning) that the budget was trimmed not only in dollars but in decimal places. I doubt it swayed many voters but hey, we have lots of readers in Florida ...
Your article on the "fourth save" of a Cirrus Parachute (NewsWire, Sep. 23) should have been entitled, "Another unqualified pilot destroys a perfectly good plane by deploying parachute instead of recovering from a simple spin". If pilot training was more important than the balance in a pilots checkbook this article would never have been written. These unqualified pilots put total confidence in something as unnecessary as a parachute when a few hours spent in real training would make them far safer and reduce all our insurance costs.
As usual, we will wait for the final report before passing judgment on the pilot. But we should point out that insurance companies pay out a lot more for pain, suffering, and lawsuits (when people get hurt or killed) than they do to replace aircraft hulls.
Columns & Features Editor
Rebuttal to Rebuttal of John Carr/Jane Doe
This is in response to "In Command" who so graciously signs himself as "Name Withheld By Request" (AVmail, Sep. 20). First off, Mr. Name Withheld, what are you "In Command" of? A Cessna? An F-16? A B-777? What is it? Notice I didn't call you a "pilot"? Because for all I know, you might be nothing more than a "glorified systems monitor" or -- forgive me Greyhound drivers -- a "glorified bus driver."
Second, you say we're "specialists", not controllers. Well, gosh, thanks! I don't think being called a "specialist" is derogatory. I know that our family physician sent my grandmother to a "specialist" in an effort to beat cancer. You, yourself, probably know someone who has had to use a "specialist" for something. Oh, wait ... that would be you, Mr. "In Command." Flew IFR, used a specialist. Flew into Class B airspace, used a specialist. Landed at a controlled airport, used a specialist.
Third, if they ever throw six feet of dirt on your face for flying into a mountain ... yes, you were stupid. At the very least, you weren't in an aircraft with any type of terrain avoidance equipment. Kind of rules out you flying that B-777, now doesn't it? Controllers -- er, I mean "specialists" -- do make mistakes. So does your kind. And it's usually reflected in the NTSB report as "pilot error."
Fourth, I wasn't in Chicago in '81 ... I was an Air Force "specialist," so I can't truly speak to it. But, I certainly can assume it was tense. Nearly every day in an ATC facility is tense ... thanks to many things such as:
- Arrogant pilots demanding special service because they didn't read the NOTAM, or they want 20-mile vectors around weather, or they have "so and so" on board, or they're late, or they'd like an "off" runway, or they'd like to take a "spin" over downtown, or they'd like a "max climb" to impress Mom and Dad or whatever.
- Incompetent supervisors.
- Incompetent FAA managers, who, for the most part, do not have the best interest of the flying public or the "specialists" at heart, only their own career advancement.
- Equipment outages.
- Enough qualified technicians to fix the equipment outages.
- Staffing. Yes, the staffing crisis is real.
Fifth, you say that the ATC system is run for the convenience of the controllers. (Hey, you called us controllers, Mr. "In Command" ... just a typo or was your attention span beginning to drift?) You ask who is the system supposed to serve? Remember one thing, Mr. "In Command" ... you are in command of one, and only one, aircraft. A controller -- that's right, controller -- is in charge of a "safe, orderly and expeditious" flow of all aircraft within his or her airspace. That might only be two. It might also be 22. Or more. All in a confined and limited space of air. So, you do the math.
Finally, for what it's worth, I have nothing but respect for my brothers and sisters in aviation. And I treat them that way on frequency. Most "specialists" I know do as well. Many a pilot I know makes my arrogance look Little League; yet most pilots respect our position, as they, unlike you, understand the "big picture" by simply listening to the amount of transmissions we're making on frequency. So, the next time you're denied an opposite direction localizer back-course at the primary airport ... get over it!
Other Uses For Your Helicopter
Regarding a recent NewsWire story (Sep. 23):
When I worked for Tex-Air Helicopters (1996-1997) at Houston Hobby airport, we (4 or 5 ships) could plan on going to a vineyard (I don't recall it's name) near Ft. Stockton each March at least once to keep the grapes from freezing. I remember trying to drink coffee while flying an unheated JetRanger over the fields at 25 feet and 20 kt. all night.