AVmail: Jan. 17, 2005
Reader mail this week about escaping spins, pit(iful) landings and lots more about lasers in the cockpit.
A navy pilot (retired) with 6,000 hours in jets, props, multi engine, test pilot, combat, and trained pilots had a flat spin in a jet fighter. He came out of it by cutting the power, dropping the flaps and pushing the nose down. I've been told that you can't get out of a flat spin. I asked him if he had been trained in this and he said "no." His experience saved the day.
Landing Was The Pits
Your recent piece about the C-130 landing on a runway in Iraq that had a chunk missing (NewsWire, Jan. 10) sounds like Mayor Daley (of Chicago) has either been spending time with his terrorist friends in Iraq or is giving them advice.
POTW and Digital Edits
It's interesting to see the large "If it's been altered, dump it!" attitude of my co-readers (Question of the Week, Jan. 13). Interesting because most of the great art photography of the past century was made great by the darkroom skills of the photographer. These folks didn't just point and shoot! The darkroom skill was as great a part of the process as was the insight to "see" the result in the subject, frame it, and expose the film. This was simply the beginning of the process. Ansel Adams is but on example. Would you turn down a submission from Mr. Adams (were he alive) just because he used darkroom "magic" to create the stunning artwork submitted?
I submit that a "digitally altered image" can be as skillfully creative, in the most positive sense, as anything produced without such editing. Barring the "humor" pieces, it can take equal or greater skill to use the digital darkroom as it does to use the traditional one.
Just my 2 cents worth.
p.s. Technically, you don't get much quality out of a non-edited digital picture. Color balance, cropping, etc., all tend to be "off" straight from the camera. But I didn't remind you of that.
With the rash of laser incidents (NewsWire, Jan. 13)it might be time to mention that many years ago the military developed goggles that reacted fast enough to prevent blindness in the event of atomic blast. These should also react fast enough to prevent problems from lasers. Let's not wait until a commercial plane crashes to mandate the use of such goggles by at least one pilot during landings.
Philip H. Lacy
Searching the Internet reveals that now there are "modified" green pen lasers available with ranges to 25,000 feet for around $150 each. As a single unit these would seem to be little more than a nuisance to a flight crew. Now imagine bundling up 50, 100 or even more of these laser pens into a tight cluster and having them powered on and pointed at you while in flight. I suspect the results would be far more dangerous. It's time to get these "toys" under some sort of government control before a real tragedy unfolds. I've checked the TSA web site and green laser pens are not on the prohibited items list. As a pilot I certainly would not want these aboard my aircraft at all. Because of their metal components they're pretty easily detected at the metal scanners.
Fortunately, there are many manufacturers of laser safety glasses that will filter out the harmful effects of various laser beam types. The FAA should consider some sort of approval for their use in the cockpit during departures and approaches when crews would be most vulnerable. Don't forget to consider the safety of private and corporate pilots as well. These aircraft types would seem more susceptible to being lased.
A final note: Green lasers can be dangerous even during the day. They are not just a nighttime threat to your vision.
If you have not already, read this, and then consider how serious lasers in the sky really are, compared to all the other threats, like ineffective U.S. border security, dirty (nuclear) bombs, unprotected ports, and (still) unarmed flight deck officers.
I think most pilots are incapable of distinguishing between Class 1, II, III, and IV lasers. (Certainly I would be, having noticed all sorts of bright lights when flying at night.) I also think most pilots would be unable to be certain that a bright light without a visible beam was necessarily a laser versus any other bright light. I can't believe all the sudden recent rash of reports of lasers tracking eyeballs in cockpits. Even a rifle marksman with laser and night-vision scope couldn't train his laser at a cockpit and keep it there for any meaningful period of time, let alone in "the whites of their eyes" for more than a few nanoseconds. So, any flash of light is now suddenly a reason to get the government to crucify someone? Unless the light is from the TSA? Give me a break!
I think the U.S. government and the ignorant media have whipped up another state of frenzied fear, and are looking for another excuse to make ordinary, peaceful, and safe activities a felony rising to the level of "life in prison." What's next? TSA background investigations and waiting periods for anyone contemplating the purchase of laser pointers? A black market for such devices?
I'm not advocating anyone intentionally try to shine any laser at an aircraft cockpit, but I fail to see how accidentally traversing the path of an aircraft for a hundred milliseconds (or probably much less) with a Class I or II laser is something all of a sudden worthy of the death penalty, or perhaps even worthy of any investigation at all.
But, I could be wrong.
We don't know the real reason for the "sudden recent rash" in laser sightings -- if it is even a real rash. My pet theory is that a bunch of folks got the green lasers for Christmas ...
I have a personal laser rescue light (Laser Rescue Lights). With all of the latest laser sightings my light would not be noticed as a pilot in trouble. It would most likely be construed as someone just shining a laser at aircraft. I have a feeling that if I did go down and used my light to get attention, I would get much attention.
It would be interesting to see if a person was in distress and used a laser rescue light, if that person would be prosecuted.