AVmail: Sep. 26, 2005
Reader mail this week about fuel prices, pay for retired airline pilots, entering the DC ADIZ in Arizona and much more.
Retired Airline Pilot Pay
Curiously missing from your September 19 NewsWire regarding retired pilots' pay reduction was the retired pilots of US Airways. Those who retired prior to March 30, 2003, have had their pensions adjusted and re-adjusted; some over age 70 actually got raises. Those of us who took the Early Retirement Incentive Plan (ERIP) offered in 1997 and effective in 1998, who elected to take the 75% lump-sum/25% annuity (the 100% lump sum option was not available to pilots in the ERIP) rather than the 50-50 option, saw our annuity completely cut off as of March 31, 2003. That cost me $43,800 per year. Some were much greater; most were somewhat less. This happened to 200 of us out of 326 in the ERIP group.
In August 2004, I began receiving $183.55 per month, with no explanation. That's quite a reduction from the approximately $3,650 per month I had been receiving. Many hundreds of pilots, including some pilots from other airlines, have contributed hundreds, and in most cases thousands of dollars to the Soaring Eagles (US Airways Retired Pilots' group) Special Fund, which is paying for our legal battle against US Airways and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Those of us involved are eternally grateful to these kind-hearted, generous people. Widows of pilots have also contributed. Of course, there are a very few who say, "I got mine!" and didn't contribute a dime, but they are small in number. The court dates have now been established, and we are confident that most of our Qualified Funds, which made up about 50% of my income, will be restored.
Those who retired after March 2003, are in a different situation entirely, and I know that they took a huge reduction in the expected and earned retirement they had based their life-planning on, but I am not informed on the details regarding those unfortunate men and women.
Airport Trust Fund Going Broke
If it's true that the Airport Trust Fund is going broke, it should come as no surprise (NewsWire, Sep. 15). It seems that every week I read of a local government agency accepting money from the FAA that is earmarked for airport improvements and then diverting the funds to other uses and often to shut down the airport completely. The solution is more accountability, not user fees. Just my two cents.
Avgas Price SurveyThe problem with avgas is gouging (Question of the Week, Sep. 22). Supply and demand are steady and the last time (11/04) I ascertained wholesale prices (delivery) it was $1.86 per gallon but some retailers were already at $3.75. The small airports are almost always $1 a gallon less or even more than the big names at regional airports. The energy department hotline has not noted receipt of my letters. Certainly there is a point where it is too expensive to fly. The immediate issue is the declining skill by practice of most pilots. This is bound to be a major safety issue.
QOTW started poll with $5.00. I stopped buying avgas when I had to pay over $3.00. A lot of pilots on fixed incomes will have no choice. The public is getting gouged again just like during the "shortage" of 1973-4.
No one has to quit flying because of fuel prices. Just switch to soaring! The only gas used is on the tow.
Busting The DC ADIZ -- In Arizona
A bit of advice for Dale Mooneyham after his supersonic flight from Maryland to Arizona in a Mooney (NewsWire, Sep. 22): Dump the flight planning software! It proves you planned a flight from CHD to Maryland, which is all the evidence the brilliant minds at DHS will need to ruin your career -- and justify theirs.
I have a Garmin 196 GPS yoke mounted, and have only recently noticed the detailed record of past position tracks contained therein. That would make another nice piece of evidence for Mr. Mooneyham if he had such a thing.
Dick Van Pelt
Thanks for covering this story. I am afraid this kind of stuff is happening a lot. We all need to get behind people when they are treated badly by the government. I shudder to think what would have happened to this guy if he lived closer to the ADIZ and had no proof that he didn't bust it. What happened to innocent until proven guilty? Is that another casualty of 9/11?
This scenario is not uncommon in the DC ADIZ as it has happened to me, the Assistant Chief Instructor of a local flight school, a couple of our CFIs and several other pilots that I know.
If you are interested in my story, here is the statement that was sent to the FAA.
On 19 June 2005 at approximately 1130, my student and I departed ANP on Rwy 30 squawking 5543 in 106LE. At 1500', my student checked in with Potomac on 126.75. The controller acknowledged us and said stay clear of Bravo, proceed on course. On our way to ESN, we did slow flight over Kent Island at 2000 feet. A controller, I think a different one, broadcasted in the blind, aircraft SE of Lee who are you. I thought it was us so I replied 106LE. He said that we were a primary target. I said I was on a discreet code. He said to recycle. I did NOT recycle then he said I have you now. He said I was being tracked as a primary target. He gave me a number to call when I landed.
We continued out of the ADIZ and completed the airwork over the eastern shore then touch and goes at ESN.
We called Potomac on 126.75 to return. The same controller was on. He gave us the squawk and asked if we called yet. I said no, we have not landed yet. He told us to proceed on course to ANP. After we passed Kent Island, we said we had ANP in sight. We kept our code and changed frequencies.
We did an approach into ANP to a missed as we were high. On the second pass, we landed. We taxied to the fuel pumps. I called the number I was given. The gentleman took my info and said he would have to give it to the FSDO since NORAD tracked me as a primary target. Terry said that someone was squawking 1200 then switched to 5513?
I called the FAA supervisor to obtain NORAD's phone number. I was given a number for a gentleman who works for the FAA. He said it is not customary for NORAD to speak to anyone as they were busy watching the radar. I asked that I get a call when they had a break. He took my name and number. The gentleman said that it was not unusual not to be picked up on radar at a low altitude. I was at 2000 ft at the time of the event!
I later received a call from an FAA supervisor. He said all the information related to the event would be sent to the FSDO for review. The FSDO would determine the outcome. He also said it may be a case of mistaken identification. I was at the wrong place at the wrong time.
I never received a call from NORAD.
Statement from Jennifer Wong
20 June 2005
The case has since been closed. I have been absolved of any violations. It took a couple months of phone calls to the FAA to have a letter sent to me that it was a case of mistaken identity. Taxpayers' money and my time were wasted on a nonevent. Law abiding pilots are being violated. In addition, why is antiquated equipment being used to protect the ADIZ? Is the DC ADIZ a fašade to show the public that the government is doing something? I do not have objections to the DC ADIZ even though it has financially burdened the flight school, other pilots and airports. However, to operate it properly, equipment must be upgraded and ATC better staffed.
172RG Gear Failure
I saw the story about the RG gear failure and using a jeep to pull it down (NewsWire, Sep. 22). I had the same failure in an RG in 1992 and used a different method. With two people onboard, it is possible to open the door and reach out with your leg and simply hook the gear with your instep an pull it to the locked position. Set the airplane into a nose high slip to allow you to open the door and from the floor of the back seat you can use the rear seatbelts as a safety device and reach the gear.
I contemplated the car/jeep approach and had also read about it, but discarded it as too risky. Thought about this method and as there was another pilot on board gave it a shot. Landed afterwards with no problem. I don't know if this information is worth passing on, but as these failures of the Cessna single gear seem to be common, I thought it might benefit someone.
Good grief. I must have missed class the day these innovative responses to gear failures were taught.
While I'm thrilled that both the Jeep trick and your crawl-outside-the-airplane approach worked, both strike me as utterly ill-advised. The risk of landing a retractable with one or both gear legs unlocked -- including a Cessna -- is trivial. It happens all the time and in reviewing dozens of NTSB reports of such incidents, I have yet to see one where anyone got hurt.
No need to chase it with a Jeep, foam the runway or call out the National Guard. In the end, all you're doing is taking an enormous risk to save your insurance company a repair bill. Doesn't seem like a worthy tradeoff to me.
Belvoir Aviation Division
I was just watching the video of Jet Blue 292 landing at KLAX (On the Fly, Sep. 22). It struck me that the flames intensified as the wheel bogies tracked directly over the painted markings on the centerline of the runway. Maybe the paint should be formulated to be less flammable ... in an event such as this (if you examine the video) spilling fuel might be ignited just because of a situation such as this ... just a thought! Maybe the folks in charge of marking airports should be appraised of this situation?
Best wishes, glad of the happy outcome.