AVmail: Aug. 15, 2005
Reader mail this week about security and ATC privatization around the world, the miracle in Toronto and much more.
Politicians Of The World United
After the suicide of a pilot with an ultralight plunging onto the green between the Kanzleramt (office of the German Chancellor -- like the White House) and the Reichstag (parlament of Germany), the government decided to close the airspace inside of the inner circle of the S-Bahn (railway for public transportation) to protect the sensitive area around the Reichstag.
Still, all SIDs and STARs to the inner-city airports of Tegel and Tempelhof are active and available. But now, to take any kind of (hysteric) action against the threat from a light airplane they closed an area that is so small any airplane can fly through it in under two minutes. No real protection can be implemented within a two-minute time scale to intercept a plane!
I think that this is a good example of how to "shoot with a cannon on a sparrow" (German idiom).
Privatization of ATC
For anyone to compare our aviation system to other countries is absurd (NewsWire, Aug. 8). There is no other system that has the volume and diversity of aircraft as the United States. Also, one should check with pilots in other countries. Many I have spoken with are unhappy with the private ATC concept. The extra bureaucracy and restrictions placed upon them is a deterrent to the aviation industry. Another complaint is the system places services on them that they do not want or need but still have to pay for. The optimum word in the acronym ATC is "control" and as one who has spent over 38 years in the ATC business I can assure you controllers want to control whether it is needed or not.
Another point to remember is during a crisis of war the air traffic system technically can become a part of this country's defense system. Example: 9/11. I would think we would want to keep this function within the government.
In conclusion, parts of air traffic control can be contracted to private companies but the overall "system" should be kept with the government.
So the passenger pays for the fuel; but the owner/pilot's share is considerably more because of maintenance, hangar rent, repairs and insurance. I think the FAA should have other things to be concerned about (NewsWire, Aug. 8).
S.M. "Holly" Hallenbeck
The Miracle on Runway 24L
Another plane crash (NewsWire, Aug. 4). Another deluge of phone calls from the media asking what caused the plane to crash. Speculation is immediately and unhesitatingly articulated by witnesses, passersby, and experts. "Lightning must have brought it down," says one. Another says he thought the airplane was "just traveling too fast to stop." Pretty presumptuous for an eyewitness; extremely presumptuous for a non-pilot. Yet the media, in their call to action, begin to use these very accounts as an explanation as to why the airplane crashed. Amidst rampant speculation, the media has their story, albeit lacking necessary credibility.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, approximately 80 percent of aircraft accidents are due to pilot error (Source: FAA Advisory Circular 120-51E). Because of this, the media -- in fact, people in general -- immediately and conveniently assign the blame to the pilots as the sole cause of the accident. While it might be true that pilots often have the "last say" before the crash, a crash is a complex series of events that can be initiated or traced back all the way through the organizational structure and in some cases all the way to the top. Therefore, while the pilots may not be absolved of contributing to this accident, we need to understand that it is unjust to immediately assume that the pilots were the sole contributors to the events that lead up to the crash. If in fact the pilots made a series of bad judgments or decisions, that will be thoroughly investigated and pointed out in the official accident investigation report.
When the media call me for my take on "Why did the airplane crash?" I am in no better position to tell you then anyone else, even with my extensive background in human factors and aviation psychology. I can guess but then I might be totally wrong. After all, I wasn't even there. I can rehash the facts of the moment, but then you might want me to use those facts (however few there might be) to explain what happened and why it happened and be as explicit as possible. It is indeed frustrating for all of us. Let the investigation process play its course. The agencies do a fine and thorough job. And in the end, the answer to the question, "Why did the plane crash?" will likely be answered, thanks to their pragmatic and meticulous fact-finding, data collection, and interview processes.
Not sure, but maybe we have answered a question before about if we ever had a near mid-air (Question of the Week, Aug. 11). However, I have had several too-close mid-air incidents. I list six of such in my experiences. My criteria is less than 200 feet (yes, that is correct!) The worst was flying into the Sun-n-Fun airshow where I was on altitude on direction and just crossing the Lake Parker power-plant stacks. Was not looking for anyone else in a strange position, just concentrating on doing the procedure, like everyone else should be. Another plane passed overhead from my two o'clock to eight o'clock position less than an estimated 50 feet from me. The sound of the engine from the other plane was terrific! For the record I have an instrument and commercial ticket and a little over 550 hours over the past 25 years.
Two Aircraft Hit By Gunfire
I hope the authorities in Utah and New Mexico find the culprits shooting at in-flight aircraft and prosecute them for attempted murder (NewsWire, Aug. 11). This has happened more than once; actually, it seems to happen on an annual basis to the ag-aviation industry, albeit less often in recent years. It is amazing that such an act is not considered attempted murder. What else would it be called if someone shot you on the street? Your chances of survival may even be better, being shot on the street, but being fired upon while flying does not seem to be all that important. Go figure!
Ban Trucks, Too
"A tractor-trailer carrying 35,500 pounds of explosives overturned and exploded Wednesday, injuring several people and leaving a huge crater on U.S. 6 in Spanish Fork Canyon ..."
See here for the entire story.
OK, so when did a Cessna ever do anything like this?
I think the country needs a no-drive zone around Washington, D.C. (The Forbidden City). Due to the possibility of a terrorist act, no vehicle, regardless of size, should be allowed to drive within a 2,000-square-mile area of the nation's Capital. The total destruction of local commerce and personal liberty must be balanced against the legitimate security needs of the nation. Even though this incident happened in the middle of a western desert, and there have been no reported threats, prudence demands that we be diligent. This is the only way that we can preserve our personal freedoms and way of life.
A. R. Peach
LSA Plane Crash
This is in response to the article about the first "LSA" crash" (NewsWire, Aug. 11). Your article noted the aircraft was an Allegro 2000, Light Sport Aircraft. You said,
"It is manufactured in the Czech Republic and was certified in the U.S. as an LSA in May."
Please note that the FAA does not "certify" LSA aircraft. The manufacturer does. Unlike all other types of commercially manufactured aircraft, LSAs do not meet FAA's 14 CFR Part 23 rules, and do not go into any FAA certification program. No FAA Certification Engineer has reviewed the design, and no FAA Aviation Safety Inspector determines that they meet any approved design.
LSA is all self-signed forms by the manufacturers.
PASS-MIDO National Rep.
(The Union representing FAA Aviation Safety Inspectors)
Digitally Modified POTW
Your current policy on Picture of the Week is right on the money. Digitally modified photos should not be eligible for awards but should be identified and shared as runners-up or bonuses.