AVmail: November 14, 2011
Letter of the Week: Laser Tag
I was on approach to Ontario, CA one night in a Pilatus PC-12 with all the lights on. For those of you that have never seen a PC-12 with all the various lights on, it is a wondrous sight. From the ground, I'm sure that a non-aviation person would mistake it for a much larger aircraft.
Shortly after turning final, I was hit by an intense light. I immediately reported it to the tower, and, as luck would have it, there was an Ontario PD helicopter flying close by in contact with the tower. The tower relayed the location of the light to them, and they raced off to look for the source. To me, this is a perfect example of how serious the authorities take this very real threat. I'm happy that the FAA takes this problem seriously and know that the more the public knows about the threat, the better off we will be.
As a professional astronomer, I use a 20-watt laser at Lick Observatory to measure atmospheric turbulence and correct for it. We have to coordinate with space command [and] the FAA (NOTAMs) [and] have our own on-telescope radar and outside airplane spotters all to keep pilots safe. Even with all that effort, we still have planes flying over our laser, forcing us to shutter it at the last minute.
We also use smaller lasers for teaching the nigh sky to students and the public. Each and every summer we see penalties increasing for beaming aircraft, and yet it seems to [be] becoming commonplace. What I think is needed is for the alphabets (AOPA, NBAA, etc.) to have a public education campaign so that safe use of lasers becomes the norm, because they are valuable tools for astronomers, both professional and amateur alike.
Regarding the "Question of the Week" on laser incidents: I am a police pilot in the Atlanta suburbs and have been hit multiple times. Our supervisor has forwarded a package to our district attorney asking for a state law to be passed so that we may prosecute locally. At least one of our hits was from a juvenile, and the feds won't touch juvies. They declined to prosecute.
Hard Feelings with Sun 'n Fun
I happen to be one of the 25 aircraft owners billed by SnF for the services rendered following the tornado. My combined bill came in at $2,568.33. I submitted the claim to my broker, and Chartis has agreed to pay the claim.
But, quite honestly, I'm very disappointed in the manner in which the officials at SnF have handled this issue. They asked us to submit the bill as a claim to our carriers. I was happy to do so, and, fortunately, I had coverage. I'm curious if that was the case for all the owners.
The decision by SnF to move the aircraft that night was solely a business decision based upon potential loss of revenue the following day. However, directly following the storm, I was ordered by officials to leave the area. I had no say in the disposition of my airplane and gave no one authority to touch my plane. In fact, my airplane was further damaged as a result of the relocation. I understand the environmental remediation and have no issues with that expense.
But I believe the folks at SnF have an obligation to those of us that flew our airplanes to their show. At a minimum, they should have asked us in the cover letter to submit the claim but told us that in the event our carriers would not cover the loss that they would not seek further restitution. Of course they chose not to do that.
The success of this show, just like AirVenture, is based upon the participation of many, many people. As [an] aircraft owner and, in my case, a homebuilder, I think I should expect a greater level of support from the organization. Without our participation, it wouldn't be much of a show. I think their approach was in bad taste.
They said they didn't budget for this eventuality. Well, the fact is, neither did I. Thank goodness I had coverage. But I do believe they need to accept some responsibility and show some support to the people that ensure the success of their event.
I've been going to Sun 'n Fun since 1988. I don't anticipate they'll see me in the future.
My condolences to friends and family of the Red Arrow pilot who died. I do not pretend to know the circumstances, but here are two incidents I am familiar with.
I personally know of two incidents where the ejection seat (or part of the system) fired inadvertently. One happened to me on the ground. The seat had been inspected, but a short lanyard was then installed on an initiator (the butt snapper) instead of a longer one. When I adjusted the seat, the initiator fired.
The second happened to our ops officer, on a downward-ejecting seat. The seat height adjustment was too close to the arming mechanism (both between the legs, under the seat). When he attempted to adjust seat height, the hatch blew. He flew over open sky, then landed in an armed seat. He didn't want to risk setting it off by getting out of the seat.
Again, condolences and prayers to all affected.
The Training Calendar
I started my flight training in 1954 in a Taylorcraft DC-65 that I purchased for $450. It took me seven hours to solo. I now hear of student pilots who take 20 hours to solo. Are the schools just dragging out training, or is a Cessa 150 that much more difficult to fly than a 65-horsepower taildragger?
Although this was a terrible accident, and I feel for the families that lost loved ones, we all need to remember why people go to watch the Reno Air Races.
If it were not for those who pushed the limits of physics on the plane, being risk takers, no one would go to watch.
A Real Champion
Nice piece on Champion Aircraft. I am chief pilot for a small airline in the Northwest. I use my 1973 7GCAA to commute around the San Juan Islands like you would a Volkswagen. I fly it daily in every kind of weather.
Having over 14,000 hours and having owned many aircraft over the years, I cannot say enough good things about my Citabria. My wife and I bought it in Savannah, Georgia in 2004 and flew it trouble-free from coast to coast. Anyone learning to fly a taildragger around here has probably learned in this plane. It has proven to be reasonably fast, rugged, and reliable. It has a full gyro panel. It shoots approaches into Boeing Field and Bellingham. And to cap off the day, it does a nice loop and a roll before tucking into the hangar. Do I love this airplane?