AVmail: Oct. 10, 2005

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Reader mail this week about Jet Blue, cockpit doors, a successful Wright Flyer and much more.


Sport Pilot Assessed

I remember the President of the U.S. Ultralight Association asking for AOPA members to call AOPA to find out where they stood on Sport Pilot. I did. They weren't very interested. They told me they wouldn't interfere with what "we" were doing. I found the general tone of the inquiry a bit odd. They later followed-up, and I said the answer I got didn't make any sense.

Now, apparently, AOPA owns Sport Pilot. Maybe they got a bad title, but it sure looks they "do" more with it than even EAA. The planes cost $70,000 and up. The pilots seem to be GA guys. EAA wants to push the experimentals into Sport Pilot in various ways. No one can gripe about the pilot cert., but ... There's no basic and low-cost airplane, factory produced using mass production. A full production line based on a reasonable output. Enough scale to lower the costs still further over time. EAA should hire a corporate economist.

I guess Sport Pilot was designed to solve the "fat" ultralight problem. That was it, really. The regs had not caught up with the market, and now the regs have gone off on their own.

The low end of aviation has always been used aircraft. This is not an entirely desirable place to be, especially if fuel economy is an issue. The simple aircraft, the "fat" ultralights, show no sign of migrating to the Sport Pilot aircraft designations. Does a $70k light sport aircraft really beat a beat-up Cessna 150 for a third the money? Complex equation.

We aren't getting the best and brightest of light aviation with Sport Pilot. If there are new ideas, they aren't appearing in AVweb. AOPA has its AOPUlent aviation, and that is all Sport Pilot done wrought.

It's all too bad. It's about Washington and Washington Princes, people who say whatever and do what is best for them. It's about money and power and how you can't live your life without money and power trying to control you.

I haven't owned or opped for 5 years. I look back with sadness. I look forward with resignation.

George Sears


Aussie Wright Flyer Flies

This is to let you know that on Saturday, Oct. 1, at the town of Narromine (400 miles northwest of Sydney, Australia) a full-size Wright Flyer replica flew for about 300 meters along the runway at a height of up to 10 feet. The aircraft landed safely.

Watching the event were Astronaut Dr Buzz Aldrin and his wife Lois, a crowd of over 12,000 people and the pilots and passengers in the 500 GA aircraft that flew in to Narromine from many parts of Australia to watch the flight.

The aircraft was piloted by 30,000-hour Ag Pilot Colin Pay. Further flights are planned as the pilot gains experience with the handling characteristics.

Narromine is a Mecca of aviation in Australia and hosts our annual sport-aviation fly-in as well as international gliding events.

Murray Feddersen
Chairman, Event Committee and Display Organiser


Cockpit Doors

Your article, "Helios Tragedy Compounded By Safety Measure" brings up an interesting dilemma (NewsWire, Oct. 6). On a recent flight back East I flew on JetBlue. Every now and then the Captain or FO would come out for a chat with the flight attendants or a bathroom break. Before takeoff the attendant mentioned that the new bulletproof door can only be operated from the inside. I couldn't help but wonder about those poor souls in Athens who might have lived had the door been opened sooner. Solving one problem often results in another. It's a strange thing to feel utterly helpless ...

Joel Boucree


Kingsbury Aerodrome POTW Photo

Doubtless you will or have received many emails on this subject, but the biplane behind the silver Stearman is a Naval Aircraft Factory N3N, often confused with a Stearman, but a totally different aircraft (Picture of the Week, Oct. 6). Sorry for the nit-picking.

Ryan Lunde

AVweb Replies:

No worries on the nit-pick, Ryan -- we appreciate the note.

I'm not sure if the error was photographer Richard Weber's or mine -- but if you're a betting man, I'd put money on me. (It still looks like a Stearman to my untrained eye, especially in the small photo.)

Thanks to you and others for keeping us honest!

Scott Simmons
POTW Editor
Belvoir Aviation Division


Airline Stories

I wonder if you are focusing on the obvious aspects of the legacy carriers vs. "LCC" (low cost carriers) story, while neglecting the underlying and more important issues (NewsWire, Oct. 6). The LCCs are enjoying the enormous benefit of hedged fuel right now. Imagine how much cheaper it would be to fly if you could buy fuel at a two-year-old price right now? Frankly, the profit/loss spread right now for my carrier (AA) is strongly related to that issue. We have greatly reduced our costs over the last 2 1/2 years, and are in a position to compete save the lack of hedged fuel prices. We were hedged, but our last fearless leader (Don Carty) "burned the furniture" to stave off events he didn't know how to react to, and he sold the hedges!

I am frankly sick and tired of all the slanted stories tilted to favor the LCCs. Let me give you a news flash: Be careful what you wish for. I suspect in a very short time the airline industry will no longer be the vibrant, interconnected, safe network we have come to expect. Government indifference may well lead to results parallel to that of the U.S. maritime and railway industries.

As for me, I am a 55-year-old 777 pilot. I have spent my life learning my craft, and I am a competent international captain. I was in Paris over the week following 9/11, and only avoided being in the wrong cockpit that day by the grace of God. I continued, as did all my pilot and FA fellows, in the ensuing weeks when the system was still highly vulnerable. If we did not, the U.S. economy would have come to a screeching halt. In gratitude, we have received a kick in the teeth from virtually every corner, especially the media. To get this from an aviation publication, as yours, is ironic indeed. There are some of us dinosaurs out here, you know.

I am retiring five years early, on Jan. 1, and I am walking away from a job I love, and have spent my life preparing for. I must do this to avoid losing megadollars in the the great pension lottery going on right now. I suppose someone thinks this is a good thing, but my fellows are leaving in such numbers now that one may start to question who will be in the cockpits very soon. The LCCs, especially JetBlue, have benefitted from a surplus of pilots on the market right now, and perhaps that equation will begin to change. What of the human cost to the pilots and their families at so many airlines?

And, as an aviation publication, consider the future. I have three children, all raised in airplanes. I am a serious airplane nut, and live on a residential airpark. Aviation has been a way of life to us, literally. My strong advice to my kids: Forget about being an airline pilot. That day is past. If you want to fly, get another occupation and enjoy sport aviation. That is, if the oil companies don't price you out of the sky.

I suppose there will always be those that want to fly for a living, but I wonder if the quality will be there. We had the most rigorous selection process you could imagine, but we knew the time and effort required to make the grade was worth it. Will it be into the future? I'll be unequivocal here: No.

Name withheld by request


Jet Blue Flight 292 Nose Gear

I remember a Captain Stuart talking about the nose gear on the Airbus 320, stating that the hydraulics on it are designed, in the event of retraction failure, to put the nose wheels at 90 degrees to the centerline of the aircraft. At first glance, one may wonder why, but after some consideration, it makes good sense: That way, directional control is left to main gear brake steering, and the nose wheels add to the braking effort to bring the aircraft to a halt. Even as an aviation enthusiast waiting to get his ticket, I found the sensationalist press almost nauseating. Once I got the straight story from the pros who sit in the cockpit, I knew what was going on, and what to expect. Just the same, I have a lot of respect for the PIC and First Officer particularly, as well as the rest of the flight crew, for a superb job!

Mike Vandenberg


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