AVmail: Aug. 21, 2006
Please don't insult the men and women of the FAA air traffic controller workforce by saying we have a new "contract." A contract is negotiated and agreed upon between parties. These are work rules that are being forced on us by the FAA. The FAA is wasting millions of dollars to send supervisors to St. Louis for a week's "training" to be "educated" about the new work rules. They are backing down from their promises of a good salary and working environment to hundreds of College Training Initiative (CTI) graduates and paying them poverty wages to go work at the busiest (and most expensive, cost-of-living-wise) air traffic facilities in the U.S. These fresh-off-the-street new hires have a snowballs chance to qualify at places like New York TRACON and L.A. Center, and no guarantee that they will be sent to any other facility when they wash out. Not to mention how long it will take the successful ones to check out if they can check out.
Our last CTIs took two years to qualify. People that want to progress in their ATC careers are afraid to move because: (1) They have no guarantee that they will not be on the new, much lower pay scale, i.e., working more airplanes for less money; and (2) If they wash out at a new facility, the FAA can either fire them or send them anywhere from Maine to Miami (in the Eastern Service Area, that is). The present administration of the FAA is driving it slowly, but surely, into the ground. And when they have totally destroyed it, Chicken Little will scream, "The sky is falling," and privatize the FAA, implement user fees and consolidate facilities left and right. No offense to ditch diggers of the world, but I'm not exactly digging ditches here. I love my job and I do it well. To have the higher-ups in the FAA refer to me as an "overpaid, high-school educated, baggage handler" is demeaning, demoralizing and insulting. And now, excuse me: I have to go clear a carry-on bag for takeoff.
I flew for the U.S. Navy for 13 years and TWA for 26 years, and still fly anything today if I can get my hands on it. The thing I learned is that if I am too tired to fly, I don't. The pilot is in charge and if he doesn't know it he should not be flying. Do not blame someone else, as the article on the Brits was showing (AVwebFlash, Aug. 14). I am not just picking on them, because I have seen this my full career. In the military and the airlines, the whole story was the bottom line.
Metal Fatigue Prediction
Surely you people know that at the end of WWII Australian researchers destruction-tested something like 87 P-51 Mustangs (lend-lease, pay return or destroy, so we got to "destroy") and had magnificent records of predictability of metal fatigue. A huge experiment /research ... seems someone is trying to re-invent the wheel (AVwebFlash, Aug. 14). No greater and more reliable test could be done than that work, so why not use those results to save a lot of research?
Maybe it's because Australia had the best fatigue knowledge in the world that we have had dozens of aircraft with life-limited airframes for decades, e.g., C400 series, Queen Airs, Beech 18, PA-31, etc., long before any other country understood or acknowledged the problems.
I cannot substantiate it but I did hear about 35 years ago that the original C180 was considered to have a safe life of around 80,000 hours. Not able to verify that, but its interesting that it came out only a few years after the Mustang research so the people involved would have been sharp, experienced, knowledgeable and capable . Interesting that we have had spars live on a/c such as B65 and C400 for well over 30 years as our people understood metal fatigue and were able to calculate safe lives ... clearly, in the case of the C400, Cessna has come to much the same conclusion a few decades later.
That data should still be used to benefit aviation now. The figures are all available; in fact, I have a copy of the report summary with me right now. The original photos were of the most outstanding quality as would be expected. My photostat copies are not so good, but the detail and description of the test procedures and summary of results is obviously clear.
A former Boeing design engineer told me in 1995 they had used that research in their work. He worked in design section from late on the 707 to 777.
The FAA concerned about aging aircraft? That's a joke. Try to bring one up-to-date with changes even a monkey could understand. For example, dry oil so you don't have a Prudhoe Bay in your oil sump; fugitive water plus sulfur from the fuel = corrosion. The fix is to maintain a temperature of as close to 220 degrees F within the engine. This puts 98 percent of the water in the vapor phase and out the breather tube. Last I heard, Lil' Red Arrow has been trying to get such a device through the channels for almost 10 years without success. There are many such simple modifications that an AI should be authorized to approve that get drowned in a whirlpool of indecision at some FAA engineering office.
Explosives And Threats
Can someone help me with this? I'm trying to figure out how the terrorists were going to bring down airliners with two or three "sports bottles" of chemicals to be mixed in flight (AVwebFlash, Aug. 14).
I know C-4 and other plastic explosives can do it with only a few ounces, but what chemicals would be overlooked by the preflight "sniffers" and still be strong enough to down an airliner?
I'm sure people could blow out a window, but except in action films, a rapid decompression doesn't bring down the plane. Did they all get seats right over the belly tanks, or by critical points in the flight control system?
This whole thing is puzzling me, and I'm not smart enough to figure it out. I know there's a threat, but is it that much of a threat?
By the way, I can picture commercial air travel in two years: Arrive at the airport, strip and wrap yourself in your airline-insignia sheet, then hope your clothing arrives on the same plane!
Question of the Week: 100LL
The answer options are very limiting (QOTW, Aug. 17). What do I think about 100LL?
- Fouled plugs!
- Mogas STC! It's available for more planes than just Cessna 150s.
- Every airport FBO should have car gas.
A very poorly conceived set of possible responses. Nothing about diesel! Do you people live under a rock?
You forgot this option: "A solution will be found to burn unleaded fuel in current engines without expensive modifications." It's worked so far in NASCAR with their Sunoco GTX fuel: No changes to the engines or tuneups, and now they burn unleaded instead of leaded.
All the hype about ethanol, so far, has ignored several facts. One (and you finally mentioned it -- AVwebFlash, Aug. 17) is that it's low on energy, requiring 20-30% more fuel to go the same distance. The problem is that, even having mentioned that little drawback, the quick answer your crusaders mentioned is that ethanol is cheaper, so it's a wash. (Not if you need a 30% bigger fuel tank, or have to make extra fuel stops en route, it isn't.)
The power deficit of ethanol is more troubling. We'll need longer runways for takeoff, our MTOWs will probably have to be reduced (and this, while carrying more fuel), and climb performance will suffer.
As your story also mentioned, the U.S. can't supply enough ethanol to meet all its fuel needs. Big deal; we don't produce enough oil to do that, either. What your story failed to mention is that ethanol's prices are kept high by the lobbying efforts of ADM and other agri-giants and their Congress. The U.S. has (up to) a 100% tariff on imported ethanol.
Further, the U.S. subsidizes domestic crop production for ethanol, crowding out natural (market-driven) crop production and raising prices of other crops, while using everybody's tax dollars, again, to help the agri-giants.
If ethanol's so good, let's have it find its own way; and if it's too expensive to become interesting on its own, let's cut the tariff.
Then the biggest problems we'll have to worry about are dramatically reduced range, lower payload, and crummy performance. And the inconvenient fact that most of our existing engines and fuel systems would be grounded.
If it were only about fuel costs ... hey, if we flew 20-30% less, we'd have fuel cost savings, too. Problem solved.
Just thought I'd remind you that Neiva -- the ag-aircraft division of Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer, based in Botucatu -- has built for the last couple of years the world's only type-certificated aircraft powered 100% by alcohol. The ag-aircraft Ipanema appropriately treats sugar cane, where alcohol for fuel is mostly derived from in Brazil, as well as other crops. AgAir Update published a cover story about this aircraft when it was certified.
Publisher, AgAir Update
In the mid-1930's when Germany was preparing to repudiate the treaty of Versailles, they had no domestic oil to fuel a modern military. They devised a method of producing diesel, gasoline, and lubricating oil from coal (coal gasification process). This took building over 30 refineries to supply diesel for trucks, submarines and tanks, and high-octane gasoline for the air force, and -- later in the war -- jet fuel for the Messerschmidt 262. The addition of natural oil from the Polesti oil fields in Romania were the total supply available.
The process is available now, and we would not be dependant on any imported oil at all. We have sufficient supplies domestically to last 250 years at current consumption rates. The supply of ethanol would be diminished by the recurring drought, such as the one we are experiencing now, making that supply of doubtful viability for the long term.
Anyone interested in delving into this can go online to the State Of Montana, and read the Governor's report on this.
What ever happened to skywriting? I would like to see that performed at an airshow. I think it would be fun to learn how to do this.
Picture Of The Week
I really liked your photo of the week of the Acro Sport II by Mike Pasture (POTW, Aug. 17). I built (and painted) that airplane from plans in 1994. You can read my name painted on the side of the pilot's cockpit. My good friend Steve Smith and John Wilkinson own it now. Looks like Steve in the front 'pit. They are taking really good care of it, as you can see in this fantastic photo. The airplane is 12 years old now.