AVmail: January 30, 2012

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Each week, we run a sampling of the letters received to our editorial inbox here in AVmail. One letter that's particularly relevant, informative, or otherwise compelling will headline this section as our "Letter of the Week," and we'll send the author an official AVweb baseball cap as a "thank you" for interacting with us (and the rest of our readership). Send us your comments and questions using this form. Please include your mailing address in your e-mail (just in case your letter is our "Letter of the Week"); by the same token, please let us know if your message is not intended for publication.

Letter of the Week: The Case for Fuel Taxes

Regarding aviation user fees: I assert that the "user" of the ATC system is not the airline or airplane, but the person traveling. The person traveling needs ATC to get him or her safely to his or her destination. If you want to charge per flight, you should charge per passenger on that flight. In that case, an airliner carrying 200 passengers should pay more than a corporate jet carrying four passengers. In fact, it should pay about fifty times more.

In addition, you should charge more for longer flights than for shorter flights. A flight from New York to Los Angeles spends more time in ATC than a flight from New York to Chicago.

Now, in order to collect this fee, a whole new bureaucracy will have to be developed. Who is going to track the fifty million individual flights each year? How is the money paid? Who will audit all of this? How do the many corporate jets figure into all of this? And what about air freight?

Let's look for a cheaper way to fund ATC that is still equitable.

It turns out that, when measured by passenger-mile, most airplanes get about the same mileage, about 60 passenger-miles per gallon. Now, there is a range, but it's not six passenger-miles per gallon, and it's not six hundred passenger-miles per gallon, either and it tracks reasonably close for a 737 or a Citation.

Let's take a commercial flight of 1,000 miles with 200 passengers. That's about 200,000 passenger-miles. At sixty passenger miles per gallon, that's about 3,000 gallons of fuel. If you want to recover $100 from this flight, that's about three cents per gallon.

At three dollars per gallon fuel cost, that's about one percent. Sure, people will complain. But it will be a whole lot cheaper with much less hassle than collecting this fee separately.

Like everyone else, I don't like paying taxes, but I also believe that there are government services that need to be paid for, and they need to be paid for, directly or indirectly, by the people who benefit from the service. In this case, given a choice of fuel tax or [a] separately calculated and charged fee, I go with the tax.

Reid Sayre

I think the issue here is incentive and how it impacts behavior.

When creating incentives for desired outcomes, user fees can be good. The examples that come to mind are parks and wildlife refuges, where user fees lower the human impact on wildlife and reduce erosion. In that case, user fees, by pricing some out of the market or causing some to reduce usage, create a desirable impact.

When creating incentives for undesirable outcomes, user fees are bad, period. That is the case presented by aviation user fees. They incentivise non-usage of ATC and non-usage of IFR flight plans. That is not what anyone in the system wants. I guarantee that controllers much prefer knowing what a blip is and where it is going. You can almost sense a controller's frustration at having to give a traffic alert when he doesn't know the type of plane or its intended routing.

Aligning costs and revenues is not the point. Proper incentives are the point.

Josh Smith

Don't the owners of business jets pay a lot more income taxes than most people? Shouldn't the extra taxes they pay count towards paying their fair share for the ATC system?

James Badgett

Crab vs. Slip

The video of the big birds doing the "crab & kick" was quite entertaining but in no way supports the sweeping conclusion in the accompanying narrative: "[T]he crab-and-kick technique ... is now clearly the norm for commercial airliners."

Maybe it's the norm in Europe and the Middle East, which were the origins of all these planes, but not in the U.S. Before my retirement, I flew all the big Boeings up through the 767-400. The norm was the traditional slip method. Only in the 400, with its extended wings, did crabbing become an issue in high winds when the amount of wing down required by slipping might put a wing tip too close to the pavement.

Kim Welch

737s and CRJ-200s have to crab and kick, but it's not ideal. They lack either the engine nacelle or wingtip clearance to safely slip in. EMB-120s slip very well and have neither issue. An established slip is more stabilized and less conducive to side loads than kicking the rudder when the craft is ten feet off the ground. If you have a choice, side slip.

Todd Du Puy

It depends what I'm flying. There's no hard-and-fast rule that works equally well for a Spitfire and a 747 and a high-wing Cessna. You have to adapt to the characteristics of the aircraft.

John Stanning

In a light crosswind with a normal approach pattern, I will slip all the way. If the approach is longer or the crosswind is strong, I will crab until about a half-mile final and then slip. I was initially taught the crab methods but as my training and ratings increased I was taught the slip method. I feel it is safer, and you are able to judge earlier if you are able to hold the centerline of the runway.

Bonnie Roth

About 24,500 flying hours ago, total time about 500, at a flying school on an air strip in Southern Australia with continual crosswind at an air strip parallel with the coastline, the senior instructor and I had difficulty with getting across to the students the then-accepted technique of crab and kick. We changed the procedure to the crab until round-out (minimum crosswind then, plus some extra knots for Mum and the kids) then rudder to straighten and aileron to keep straight, use minimum hold off, one main, next main then nosewheel, aileron into wind generally the sequence as quick as slowly spoken. I still teach that technique today after some 14,000 instructing hours.

Would like to hear if there is an easier way.

Wayne Hinton

Crab down final, then kick in rudder to align with runway, transitioning into slip to control drift, ideally touching upwind main down first by holding aileron into crosswind and letting the other main settle. In my aircraft, a Bellanca Viking, the rudder must be centered before nose gear touches down because of nose-wheel steering.

Bill Emde

You limited the choices re: crosswind landings to the pilot, not the aircraft. In my Cherokee, I slip all the way. In my Aztec, I crab then kick it out to a slip. In some aircraft, the POH forbids long slips.

Candice H. Brown Elliott

I have never been able to make the crab technique work, though there are times when I've run out of aileron and had to go somewhere else. Perhaps crabbing would have solved that.

David Chuljian

Flying a Challenger Ultralite, I usually do not extend flaps. I crab to line up the centerline, slip with downwind wing low to lose altitude. Just before impact, I transition smoothly to slip upwind, wing low, aircraft aligned with centerline. If successful, I don't even have to shut my eyes at the last moment.

Don Abrahamson

Aircraft as Canvas


I can't be the only one who is actually uncomfortable with classic aircraft being defaced with "art." How about letting people buy these old airplanes in the desert for restoration instead of destruction? A good follow-up article could address the availability to the public of boneyard aircraft for useful purposes. This has all the appeal of kids breaking the windows of an abandoned classic car.

John Gray

Red Tails Perfect

I loved the movie, as is. I believe it was a great step forward in telling an important story to the general public. Thanks to George Lucas for his efforts.

Steve Oxman

Weight Increase for LSAs

To increase the LSA 1,320-pound weight limit to include existing other two-place aircraft like the C150/152 would only drive a nail into the coffin of the now-suffering LSA market and put whatever is left of the U.S. manufacturers out of business. Even outsourcing sub-assembling and assembling here in the U.S. can't compete with used C-150/152 aircraft, etc. Even Cessna's C-162 LSA price has increased to more than $150,000, and it is made in China.

By raising the weight to include the C-150/152, Cessna dealers can dump their worn out trainers on the LSA market and kill the competition and take over the LSA market when the economy turns around in five years or so.

Donald H. Smith

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