AVmail: Jul. 4, 2005
Reader mail this week about runway incursions, anti-airport activism, airports for sale and more.
You recently asked, "Why fly?" and gave as one response, "The spirit of flight. It's an intellectual escape ..." (QOTW, Jun. 22). The spirit and the intellect are two very different things in a human being. The responses you offered are not encompassing enough. You should have separated the spiritual answer from the intellectual answer.
For me, I fly because flying feeds my spirit. There is no other reason. Flying is far more than an intellectual exercise. It satiates my soul. The money, view, precision, control and challenge are part of it, but it's my spirit that counts -- nothing else.
Regarding the serious controller failure at Boston Logan a short time ago (NewsWire, Jun. 27). "Exceptionally close," was subsequently reported as, "Radar images obtained by The Boston Globe show that the US Airways Jet was traveling at 167 miles per hour and came within 171 feet of the intersection where the Aer Lingus plane was taking off at 198 miles per hour."
Regarding the recent piece on anti-airport activism (ATIS, Jun. 19):
You are quite right about getting involved at the local level. I was content to stay out of local issues myself until one day somebody informed me that a certain state senator was introducing a bill to ban seaplanes from four major rivers in my home state of Alabama. The four rivers make up the second largest delta in the U.S. after the Mississippi Delta. Three hundred thousand square miles of water landing and takeoff areas would have been affected.
We requested a public hearing and with help from Mike Volk and The Seaplane Pilots Association, we were able to show that the proposed bill was arbitrary and capricious, and would most likely be struck down in court as it was preempted by FAA regulations. They tried to do an end run around the FAA regs by claiming that seaplanes on the water are a safety hazard that needed to be regulated by state marine police, same as boats. They were never able to provide any credible evidence for their position that FAA reg's were inadequate in providing for the safety of seaplanes vs. boats.
Moreover, during the public hearing it became clear that the real purpose behind the bill was less about safety and more about certain river residents wanting the ability to ban seaplane activities from "their" rivers. The senate committee was reminded by SPA that these were federal navigable waterways and as such were open to seaplanes. In the end, the bill died in committee. However, I believe if we hadn't stood up, the outcome could have been very different. Thanks for your piece in AvWeb. It highlights a critical need for pilots to get involved not just at the federal level but also at the local level as well.
Sale of Grand Lake Regional
Why can't the FAA just put a lien on the Grand Lake Regional Airport for the 1.3 million (NewsWire, Jun. 27)? That would discourage the bidding.
There has been much said about the John Walton accident on the Internet and other media (NewsWire, Jun. 30). I feel compelled to comment about my friend of far too short a time.
We all fly for different reasons. John was an adventurer in the true sense of the word. He was a snowboarder, mountain biker and sailor, as well as pilot. It wasn't unusual for him to have an accident and -- as his wife said at the memorial -- John had prepared them for this day many times.
Sure John could have afforded a bigger aircraft. He already had a Citation he flew regularly. Sure he could have bought a homebuilt kit and had a professional to build it for him. But then he would not have gotten the chance to pick it up in West Virginia and fly it home. During that flight, he called his brother and talked about what great, friendly people there are across this country. That's something that too many rich people never have the desire to do or get the chance to experience.
John was an amazing, understated, and regular guy. I once was at lunch at the ski area with a friend and John's name came up. I mentioned that if John walked in the restaurant, my friend wouldn't know him. Just as fate would plan such things, John walked in and I introduced him. "Warren, this is John. John, this is Warren." And the conversation was about skiing, snow, weather, and all the routine stuff. John left and I said to Warren "See, you didn't recognize him, did you?" to which Warren responded "Who?"
I have had the wonderful opportunity to meet many famous, wealthy, and not so famous or wealthy people over the years through the common bond of aviation. Some fly jets, ultralights, antiques, or just Spamcans. Some even jump out of airplanes with nothing more than a silly backpack. What ties us together and evens the playing field is the love of aviation and the freedom it gives us. The risk, the thrill, and the opportunity to experience what those tied to the ground cannot is what happens between take off and landing.
We all make mistakes, whether it is the judgment to fly into bad weather, make a miscalculation, or take off with an aircraft not ready to fly. Sometimes it bites us in the ass and sometimes we pay the ultimate price. Sometimes only chance is responsible and we ride with fate to where ever it takes us.
When I was flying home from the east to my home airport on the west slope of the Jackson Hole mountains on Tuesday evening, I flew over the nondescript patch of sagebrush where John died the previous day going into the Tetons, lighted by the setting sun and highlighted by clouds. Those same clouds prevented those on the ground from viewing the vivid colors, contrast, and awe of the jagged, 14,000-foot, snow-covered peak projecting through the isolated overcast. Between the hole in the ground and my heart and the vision of beauty in the windshield, I said to my copilot, "This is why we fly."