AVmail: Sep. 19, 2005
Reader mail this week about fuel prices, user fees, huricane relief and much more.
But It Could Be Worse (Avgas Prices)
Are we living in a world of lunacy? I'm reading the article published in this week's AVflash regarding the high price of avgas with the writer telling us it is not such a bad thing that our price of aviation fuel is actually an 11% overall increase in operating costs (NewsWire, Sep. 12). It baffles me to try and understand some peoples logic, but giving ammunition to the greedy oil companies or implying to the readers that these enormous price increases are justified, is not in my reasoning skills. I'm a capitalist but there is a line between making a wonderful profit and destroying a world economy from pure unadulterated greed by raising prices on a necessity that people must have. Instead of justification, how about some good-old common sense and outrage?
I am a little tired to hear European pilots tell us how good we have it over here. We have fought to keep this country from becoming the high-tax socialist state preferred by most of Western Europeans. Of course you are taxed down to your underwear. You elect leaders that promise everything to all, and take from those who have to support everyone else. I hope we resist the urge to trade our liberties, including that of flight, in exchange for a promise of a coddled existence.
Comparing the price of fuel in the United States and in European countries like Germany is a false comparison. Most European countries impose a value added tax (VAT) on fuel that is not attached to American fuel bills. In most cases the VAT replaces what we call income tax.
So when Americans look at lower composite fuel prices, remember, we pay a lot more in sales, income, property, and other taxes instead.
I Just read about how good it is not to have to pay $9.00 per gallon for 100LL. Well I just paid $4.65 plus tax per gallon in Nashville, and $5.70 plus tax in Raleigh, N.C. A trip I make at least twice a year ... this one round trip cost over $900 ... and this from a country that produces oil.
It seems memory is a strange thing. Germany from the late '30s through the end of the Second World War had over 50 synthetic fuel plants that supplied fuel to the military and even supplied jet fuel for the first jet aircraft in combat. The papers relating to this system were confiscated after the war and shipped to the U.S. (Texas A&M) where they are stored ... never translated, just stored in a state where oil is the power behind all things political. In 1990, The Dallas Morning News published an article outlining this situation, but has not addressed it since, and has not acknowledged its existence. In the August/September issue of Air & Space published by the Smithsonian is an article on the new "cool fuel" indicating the University of Pittsburgh has a similar program, but again no acknowledgement of its existence in other than the Air& Space magazine.
It seems that perhaps the papers on the synthetic fuels should be returned to Germany -- they could reactivate the program and sell fuel to us. The last figures I read showed the cost to produce a gallon of fuel in this program was 1.6 cents a gallon. As an aside, don't mention this to your Senator, unless you are prepared to attach a check to your letter, otherwise it ends up in the trash.
AA Fuel Leak
I found the article on the American Airlines fuel leak very interesting (On the Fly, Sep. 12). Last April, I was on an AA MD-80 flying from SNA to DFW and noticed fuel leaking from an inboard fuel tank access panel on the right wing. I informed the flight attendant who informed the captain. He came back to look at the leak but seemed to dismiss it rather casually. I would be very curious to know if there was any maintenance follow-up in this case.
Pilots Able To Assist In Katrina Relief Efforts
Despite all the bureaucracy facing many pilots wishing to help out, an organization of Christian pilots in Austin, Texas, has been flying food and supplies into Louisiana and Mississippi to assist in relief efforts.
They were fortunate enough to have contacts in the Marines stationed and assisting in the area, and arranged for a local food bank to deliver food and supplies to their hangar at Lago Vista Rusty Allen airport. While supplies piled up, they attempted to handle the load with two 172s and a Bonanza and quickly became overwhelmed.
A call was put out to all pilots in Texas to assist in this relief effort, and the response was amazing.
Since they had "all their ducks in a row" and permission to fly into airports near the affected areas, they were among the first to be able to offer Texas pilots the opportunity to help out in the Katrina disaster.
Many thanks to Bob and D'Anne Goris for offering Texas pilots this opportunity. Some pilots from as far away as Prescott, Ariz., and Seattle, Wash., have inquired as to how to help.
Any pilots with at least a four-seat aircraft available to assist in this effort are encouraged to contact me at email@example.com or (817) 637-4794 to get on a list being sent there for interested pilots so they can keep their phone lines available for coordination. The airport has a 3800-foot runway.
Thanks to efforts by you and others, we had many stories to tell of GA efforts in Katrina relief in our News Feature today.
WSI Now Includes Flight-Plan Service
In the article "WSI Now Includes Flight-Plan Service" I noticed an error that I feel needs clarification (NewsWire, Sep. 12). The article said that the pilot could "... with one click, file their flight plan for approval with the FAA." Please remind pilots that a flight plan filed by WSI, DUATS, or even an AFSS is not reviewed for "approval" by the FAA. It is checked for format and in some cases a valid route of flight, then placed in the system.
The route could bust TFRs. It could be bogus if an invalid identifier is used, or could have many other errors and still be accepted by the system. Accepting the flight plan by the system does not constitute any FAA approval of the flight. Since I am not an official spokesman for the FAA, please confirm my information with your agency sources for the "official" statement. I fear that if no clarification is made, some pilot will violate some airspace thinking that it is all right because the flight plan was "approved."
David L. Bradley
Apologies to AFSS Users
I just want to apologize now on behalf of myself to the pilots that use Automated Flight Service Stations (AFSS). Although I can only speak from my experience, I'm confident that what's ahead for my AFSS will be a national trend as well. Whether or not Flight Service Stations are transferred over to Lockheed-Martin on schedule on October 4, my facility will have lost eight persons to other facilities or to forced retirements as a part of the FAA's AFSS modernization plan.
The FSS controllers at my facility take great pride in providing for the needs of the flying public, but we simply will not be able to keep up with demand while losing 40% of our workforce overnight. It is not for a lack of trying, but a lack of staffing. This is the FAA's idea of improving things.
I look forward to a long and bright future with Lockheed-Martin, but you pilots must understand that Lockheed-Martin is being handed a staffing situation by the FAA that is not Lockheed-Martin's fault.
Pilots, please forgive us Flight Service Controllers for the delays that are coming your way. Please forgive Lockheed-Martin, for they are being set up by the FAA.
Don't forgive the FAA, for it is they who have engineered this entire process, and you, the flying public will be paying ultimately for the degradation of services.
Name withheld by request
If user fees are implemented and we are charged by the amount of use or for each use (Question of the Week, Sep. 14), there will be a shift away from the discretionary use of ATC for such things as flight following and traffic avoidance. I presently always use ATC on XC flights, even when VFR. But I believe that if I were charged for each use I might opt to rely more on my own traffic avoidance. The net effect is a decrease in flight safety as those who don't have to use ATC stop using it!
Another problem with any user fee is that it gets a foot in the door. So, even something small, like $50 per year would only be a start.
It looks like D.C. is going to shove user fees down our throats one way or the other. I'm sure that means they'll do away with the fuel taxes. Right? Right??