AVmail: Jul. 25, 2005

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Reader mail this week about Wings to Adventure and revoked medical certificates, and a lot about NATCA vs. FAA.


Wings to Adventure

I tried to tune in the program you advertised, "Wings to Adventure" on the Outdoor channel but it was only hunting, first for turkeys then for deer (News Features, May 29). Is this a paid-per-view program? I can't get it for some reason. I have the outdoor channel but no aircraft programs. Please inform me as to how I can get it.

James Musick

Wings to Adventure Replies:

I'm glad you want to see "Wings to Adventure." Let's troubleshoot so we can make sure you catch it this week.

First, make sure you are watching the Outdoor Channel. It's sometimes confused with OLN, which is another network.

Next item on the checklist is to verify the days and times that "WTA" airs. The current schedule is Mondays at 4:30 p.m., Thursdays at 1:30 a.m., and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. (All times are Eastern Daylight.)

The final item, if you can't be there during those times, is to set the VCR or TiVo, and get ready for some fun aviating on the tube.

Tom Gresham, Producer and Host
"Wings to Adventure"


FAA Vs. NATCA

I have been a controller at Atlanta Center for 22 years. We have been consistently one of the busiest Air Traffic Control facilities in the world. I am making more than 90% of the people in NATCA, and I do not make near the $165,000 that the FAA keeps throwing out as outrageous controller salaries (NewsWire, Jul. 14). I feel sure that only a couple of facilities in hard-to-staff places (New York being one, with high cost of living and complex traffic) make that much.

Then FAA management calls people in on overtime, instead of hiring new controllers who start out at lower pay scales in their early careers. I have always said that the FAA's problem has more to do with mismanagement (1981 strike, Sector Suite Fiasco, cult training in the FAA managers school in Palm Coast, STARS, URET, the list goes on) than with the front line controllers, technicians, FSS Specialists, and such. Who hires the managers? I know that the employees don't!

Perry Carswell


It seems that the members of NATCA are going to learn what the wrath of Marion Blakey can feel like. She and Russ Chew treated us Flight Service Specialists like absolute crap (I wanted to use stronger language, but children may be reading) with the whole privatization debacle. They promised to make federal jobs available to us displaced FSS specialists, but they are actively working against our getting ATC or other federal employment. They are doing this so we are forced to take a six-month temporary position with Lockheed. They awarded the privatization contract to a company with no workforce in place to take over. If the FAA lived up to its promises, there would be no one to work for the contractor.

Now NATCA will find out how low Blakey can sink to trash them in the media and spread lies about what is being offered them. She lied to the media and the American people on how Flight Service people were being treated during privatization. She said we'd be well taken care of and that everyone was offered employment by the contractor. Employment my butt, we get fired from the FAA and then six months later we get fired from Lockheed! Our so-called "soft landing" is us hitting the asphalt when we're thrown out on the street! If she talks about an outsourcing "study," look for other employment, because you'll be gone. If they can privatize flight service where we have various and sundry duties, it'd be really easy to privatize towers and centers.

Please excuse my rambling, but it really bothers me how the FAA treats its most loyal employees, the ones that keep the system safe! It's no wonder the FAA is in the mess it's in! It's an agency run by self-serving politicians who are only out for themselves.

Rick Kane


As an Air Traffic Controller, and wife of an AVweb member, I find it disturbing that one of the options in your Question of the Week, concerning the contract negotiations between NATCA and the FAA would be, "Fire 'em all and sort 'em out later" (QOTW, Jul. 21).

I have often looked to AVweb for the latest in aviation related news, and thought of AVweb as an organization that cared about this industry, and looked forward to reading your news bites. I don't feel that way anymore.

Air Traffic Controllers don't do this job for the glory; we do it because we care. I can't speak for everyone, as with all industries we have our lemons, but the majority of us are in this job because we love what we do, and what we do is keep the flying public safe. I grew up watching the controllers at Pontiac Tower work, and have loved this career since childhood. As a teenager I told my father (an FAA maintenance technician) I wanted to do this job, he told me I could do whatever I put my mind to, and at that moment my mind was made up. My dream came true in the Air Force, and continues in the FAA. I have been in awe of aviation as long as I can remember, and I don't think that will ever change. As a child I put pilots on a pedestal right next to the controllers, and I still think both careers, as well as maintenance personnel, are worthy of our respect and admiration.

The FAA is stripping the workforce of controllers, inspectors, and maintenance techs, making us wonder if the Administrator is trying to run this agency into the ground in preparation for privatization, falling in line with the Flight Service contracts. If that is the case, the next logical step is for the company who gets the contract to figure out how to make a profit. Since we don't produce a product, they can't skimp on raw materials, so the only way to save money is to cut labor, which means employees. Since employees provide a service, our services will then be cut. What does that mean to the pilots flying in this system? I think you can figure that out for yourself.

Despite the fact that our Administrator has shown us by her actions that she doesn't care about the FAA or its employees (not just the controllers), and AVweb puts a Question of the Week on its Web site with an offensive option such as "Fire 'em all and sort 'em out later," we will continue to do the best job possible for the users of our system. And we will do that job equally for everyone, no matter what the revenue is to the FAA, because as a government employee it is first-come, first-served for all. We won't even charge you extra if you have a problem and need emergency services.

Veronica Stein


Your choice of "Fire 'em all and sort 'em out later" represents nothing more than poor taste and irresponsible journalism. I expected more from AVweb.

John Haley, Vice President
NATCA Boston TRACON


This is in reference to the following statement (NewsWire, Jun. 14):

"Frankly, I'm surprised she stooped so low so soon," Carr said of Blakey's comparison between the wages and working conditions of controllers versus firefighters and police officers, who are generally paid less and who, Blakey noted, put their lives on the line"

My thoughts are that police and fire put their lives on the line, but NATCA puts my life on the line! As a pilot I say hire good people and pay them well.

Robert W. Key


Revoked Medical Certificates

The New York Times is reporting that 46 pilots lied about their medical fitness in order to obtain medical certificates (NewsWire, Jul. 18). They were simultaneously claiming benefit for debilitating conditions such as paranoid schizophrenia and heart disease whilst declaring full fitness to fly.

Is it just a British viewpoint or can anyone else see the irony in a schizophrenic claiming to be ill and fit at the same time?

Dave Vallance


AVweb wrote:

"The fraud and falsification allegedly committed by these individuals is extremely serious and adversely affects the public interest in air safety," [said] the FAA's Nicholas Sabatini ...

The only thing more serious than this is the fact that the FAA is obtaining this information. What databases have medical information? Insurance company records? Doctor's office records? How in the world is the FAA getting into these records, supposedly protected by privacy laws? What's worse: My fraud -- which it surely is -- for not reporting a visit to my dermatologist; or the fact that the federal government knows about it? Be careful; George Orwell knew what he was talking about.

Mike Hudgins


Regarding today's story, I have some questions:

  1. What about the new sports pilot certificate that allows a pilot to fly with only a driver's license and no medical?

  2. Are these pilots allowed to fly within 50 nautical miles of their departure airport?

  3. Do they have an altitude restriction?

I'm a commercially rated private pilot who works in the medical eye field. I see patients who are allowed a driver license even though he or she many have serious medical conditions. Some who pass DMV even use walkers to get around, and some have monocular vision.

While it's fair for a patient to obtain a driving certificate if he or she is deemed safe and can pass the appropriate tests, I certainly wouldn't want to be in the air with some of the drivers I see passed.

What's the real story?

Arlene D. Renema


Long-Lost Iron Maiden Twin?

AVweb wrote (NewsWire, Jul. 21):

"Iron Maiden lead singer and British charter pilot Brian Dickinson will do the color commentary on the TV broadcasts."

As any true metalhead knows, Iron Maiden is fronted by Bruce Dickinson, not Brian. Admit it, you just wanted to see how many people would catch it, as no one could possibly make that mistake unintentionally.

Glen Guenther


Red Bull Attacks Blue Angels?

I note from AVweb that the Red Bull Races are scheduling San Francisco on October 8 (NewsWire, Jul. 21) ... That's Fleet Week Weekend in San Francisco, with the Blue Angels scheduled to perform on 8-9 October. Can we expect competition? Combat??

Milton H. Bank


The Red Bull Air Races will be held in conjunction with Fleet Week in San Francisco. The Blue Angles will be flying along with other acts.

I am the Administrative Director for the S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien, a WWII Liberty Ship that is participating in Fleet Week, and we have been told that the races will be held over the Bay for good viewing by the general public

Chet Robbins


Chicago O'Hare & Lakefront Airports

So let me get this clear (NewsWire, Jul. 21):

"Chicago is looking for 20 percent of the discretionary portion of the Airport Improvement Program's funds for the next 10 years. That, they say, means 20 percent less for every other airport in the country"

So the Mayor of Chicago can destroy Lakefront airport, and now they want more money for their other airport? He is the Mayor of Chicago, not the King. Any citizen who destroys public property should have to answer to the law. He may hide behind "National Security," but that's no reason he can destroy public property. He should be charged, indicted, tried, and probably jailed. Didn't he also destroy some private property? I'm thinking of the FBO there that suddenly was out of business.

Bryce Campbell


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