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AVmail: December 24, 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: Not for Pantywaists

In regards to your drop zone pilot's nail-biting video, I think this pilot's operations are completely unwarranted, unnecessary, and unsafe. You've heard the one about old, bold pilots and really, to save a few minutes? Having said that, it is a cool video, and I admire his skill.

When I was in flight training at a university, my instructors seemed to think I was overly cautious, with one even calling me a pantywaist when I turned back from a cross-country with a huge storm approaching.

Really? I'm flying one of your brand-new $130,000 aircraft, and I'm being overly cautious? Anyway, I enjoyed the video, and I always enjoy your newsletters. Keep up the good work.

Bob Price

I watched the video of the King Air pilot "dropping" into the airport. My first reaction was horror at the stupidity of the pilot. No King Air that I am aware of is approved for aerobatic flight.

My horror turned to anger as I realized that the idiot continuously placed the aircraft in aerobatic flight while violating the regs regarding the wearing of parachutes during the flight. He did not have one on. The feds need to find that fellow and ground him, perhaps permanently. There is no excuse for that.

Michael Crognale


I'll Take the Bus

Regarding the potential pilot shortage: About a decade ago, I researched earning a commercial pilot license, and then I looked at the bigger picture.

I was already working 60 hours a week as a parachute rigger, skydiving instructor, hangar sweeper, fuel truck driver, etc. Earning a commercial pilot license would require working for another two or three years at a jump school (to earn the minimum 1,000 hours to move up to fancier airplanes). Forget about duty time regulations for "seasonal" work flying skydivers!

I would then graduate to starvation wages flying freight in "beater" aircraft (partial panel, rough-running engines, into steep mountain valleys, known icing, etc. on split shifts or at o'dark thirty.)

A friend flew freight for a year in Alaska and concluded that it was pure luck that he did not slide a Cessna 207 off an icy runway and into a snow bank.

Then I researched driving a city bus. Yes, junior bus drivers still get stuck with split shifts and driving at o'dark thirty, but training is paid for by the bus company. Pay is decent (starting at $40,000 per year and quickly growing to $60,000) with reasonable benefits and a union to keep the company on the straight-and-narrow on duty times, sick leave, etc.

After that cost-benefit analysis, I chose a career driving a bus.

My heart may still be in the sky, but the money is in buses.

Rob Warner

The fears of an impending pilot shortage fail to consider how free market forces will correct any imbalances. Since all market supply-and-demand relationships seek a natural equilibrium, any pilot shortage will automatically attract new pilots into the system.

The impact of the 1,500-hour rule will follow a predictable path:

  1. Higher requirements will cause a disruption in the supply of pilots, eventually causing a short-term imbalance between pilots and pilot positions.
  2. Companies needing pilots will sense the shortage and begin competing for the limited resources by offering higher salaries for those positions.
  3. Seeing the higher compensation, new pilot resources will decide it advantageous to enter the market.
  4. So long as #1 remains true, then #2 and #3 are certain to follow until the imbalance is corrected.

The aviation market is unusual in that the non-monetary benefits of piloting are a much larger portion of the overall reason for labor resources to enter the market. Although this will result in a lower than average wage for their equivalent skillset, it does not suspend the natural laws of economics. Pilot salaries will eventually rise to attract new resources to meet the demand, and, at worst, there will be a short-term shortage.

Shannon Bonneau


Daydream Believing

Regarding the "Question of the Week": I'd use a $2,000 windfall mostly in fuel to share the experience of aviation with the young and the old. It is how our forebears experienced aviation in the 1920s and '30s, and it would be appropriate for me since my plane is an antique.

David Bullen

I would upgrade the interior of my Cessna 150, get a good exterior paint job, replace one nav/com radio and be ready to offer it for sale when it becomes necessary.

Rose Dickeson

After 13-plus years of flying, I would upgrade my equipment with a Zulu headset, ADS-B receiver, and flight cam. I have already have an iPad with ForeFlight.

Colin Maitland


Fantasy Cruz

Victor Cruz's catch was fantastic as in "fantasy football." If the plane was 1,000' up and the football took five seconds to reach Victor, the ball's average velocity was 136 mph. Top quarterbacks throw at 45 mph. A clever fake. Victor still gets my vote for initiative.

Steve Evans

I vote for Photoshopping. As hard as it is to accurately drop flour bombs from 50 feet AGL, I can't imagine dropping anything accurately enough to be caught as depicted from 1,000 feet AGL. From that height, it would be hard to get the football into the stadium, let alone close enough to the receiver that he would only have to move the two feet the video shows. As the MythBusters like to say, "Possible but improbable."

Cary Alburn

Looks fabricated, as there is no "trajectory" to the inbound path of the ball. If the plane is moving 70-75 knots, then so is the ball as it is on its way down. The ball seems to drop straight down to the "receiver" with a forward speed of zero.

Supposing the winds were exactly correct to alter the balls drop to the ground, it might be possible. But I don't think this is the case here.

Ron Harger

Come on, guys. Do some research (and apply basic physics) before reporting. This is clearly a fake.

The total time the ball is in flight is less than four seconds. If you apply the standard formula x = (1/2)*(a)*(t^2) (where a = 32 ft/sec2 and t = 4 seconds), the result yields a height of 256 feet for the alleged drop and that would be in a vaccum. It would be even lower if you account for air resistance.

Additionally, the height of the stadium wall is approximately 150 feet, and the aircraft is clearly more than 100 feet above that.

Dave Heyburn

AVweb Replies:

See our follow-up story for the latest on the Cruz catch.

AVweb staff

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