AVmail: February 25, 2013
Letter of the Week: The Moving Experience
Regarding your article on motion in simulators: Bravo to you folks for publicizing a dirty little secret. Your question "How important is motion?" is the right one to ask. As you pointed out, what we really care about is transfer of training.
The topic of motion in simulators has been debated since the 1950s, with the results consistently stacking up as you depict them in the article. The problem is that the facts contradict "common sense." The conventional wisdom is that the more the simulator is like the airplane the "better" it is. All airplanes have motion, so all simulators should have motion. That logic also leads us to believe the earth is flat.
I have been a human factors engineer in aviation for 40 years and seen many situations where multi-million dollar decisions regarding simulators were made on this topic. The decisions consistently disregard the studies because the study did not support the preconceived notion.
The current study is on a long list of similar studies (some done recently by the FAA) that come to roughly the same conclusions. We refuse to believe the results, make decisions based on beliefs rather than facts, and so fund more studies hoping the results will be different.
Thanks for bringing this topic to the daylight and treating it properly.
Regarding the effects of sequestration on aviation: So, controllers will be furloughed one day per pay period, resulting in air traffic delays.
That sounds familiar. During a period of short staffing at the Calgary tower and the Calgary terminal control unit, a decision to cut the overtime budget for summer leave was announced in spring. Controllers immediately stopped working overtime. If summer leave wasn't going to be available, they would at least enjoy their scheduled days of rest.
Serious delays resulted, and management met with users to explain their plans. A meeting with control staff was conducted after the user meeting, and some of the users attended.
A member of the control staff, a pilot who rented aircraft from a local user, explained to management and users alike that most controllers were working overtime only to keep the system functioning.
Then he said, "Imagine that, as of 16:00 today, every non-operational manager and supervisor from the deputy minister down to the lowliest non-operational supervisor, is laid off. Plenty of money will be available to ensure the summer leave program continues. Janitors, clerks, technicians, and air traffic controllers will be on the job, and not one aircraft will be delayed."
The meeting soon ended, and the summer leave program was reinstated the next day.
It is inappropriate to burden operational personnel and system users when mismanagement at the highest levels causes financial shortfalls.
I use the ATC system each day. Our graduates rely upon solid FAA operations, most predominantly ATC control. I have little sympathy, though, in hearing that the FAA could not adequately deal with a less-than-four-percent annual cut in their budget.
I cannot believe, as I fly many times through the D.C. area, that the controllers are at 96 percent capacity and that we will need to decrease traffic accordingly.
This is not to mention the many other approach and departure areas I fly where the radio is almost quiet. $600 million is a small price to pay, and if truth is seen in the output, consumers will barely notice this cut.
When Ronald Reagan fired the air traffic controllers, that was a federal matter worthy of coverage in your newsletter. When Barack Obama makes a political statement about an issue affecting aviation that is completely discretionary on his part, that's politics, not flying.
Why don't you guys stick to flying and avoid being part of the Obama agitprop machine. Frankly, it damages your credibility if you can't distinguish one from the other. The gun guys get it. So should the flyboys.
Regarding your "Question of the Week": We had a late night return in the Beech 18. The pax had arrived in good spirits. En route it got rowdy, and when I saw a cigarette ground out in the carpet, we requested 12,000 feet. We turned the cabin heat up a bit and it was soon peaceful in the back.
We did a slow descent to 8,000 feet and had to wake everyone after landing. I hope the statute of limitations applies. Those were the days!
Years ago, after acquiring my CFI, I decided to sell my J-3. A man expressed interest and wanted a demo, so we taxied out and took off.
At about 100 to 200 feet, the engine quit. I sucessfully recovered, and fortunately we had plenty of runway left.
This man, who might have been drinking, had shut the fuel off. He had no idea of my capability, and this could have been a tragedy. I didn't sell him the airplane ... .
I flew three eight-year-old boys on a Young Eagles flight. The two in the back had a fist fight with the one in the front adding to the screams.
Nothing I said convinced them to look out the window at the miracle of flight. I turned off the intercom and landed early. I had a pointed discussion with the parents afterward.
Mergers Can't Hurt, Probably Won't Help
Regarding the "Question of the Week": There are pluses and minuses to a merger. Pluses are larger route structure and new markets. Downside is merging of cultures, mixed fleet (affects training and Mx costs), and combining unions (can create employee issues).
It really comes down to the business model — how you run the airline. AA merged with TWA years ago, but they still had issues. The business model has to be adaptive to changes in the environment, or you are doomed to fail. A merger does not mean success.
Having been a bystander in at least three mergers in my airline lifetime and seeing the aftermath, I think I can say that mergers degrade service and pit employees against each other until they retire or leave.
As the story goes, "The only good merger/integration is when nobody is happy." That's closer to the truth than we would like to admit. Mergers and competition have taken what used to be the greatest job in the world and turned it into just a job.
Are the mergers necessary? Probably so, because of the impossible business climate that the airlines are forced to work in. Profit margins are less than a penny a seat mile, [and] regulations from the feds and the unions strangle them, so how can they do otherwise than to band together?
Is the service better on the new airline? Probably not. Are the employees happier? Not unless there was a threat of going out of business looming in the background. It will take a generation and a lot of retirements to get the "culture" of a new airline started and the service restored. Just ask the former employees of Hughes Airwest, National, TWA, Pan Am, America West, etc., etc.
Capt. Jack Vansworth
When I was working, I flew all the airlines. The company bought my tickets. American Airlines was the worst airline. US Airways was close to the bottom. It has to get better after the merger. Service could not get any worse. The employees did not care. Complaints were ignored.
I would never buy a ticket on either.
The United merger has ruined service. More to the point, solving problems with mergers is a short-term solution. The airlines need innovation. They need to realize they aren't in the airline business. They are in the people-moving business.
The American legacy carriers are generally worse than all but the deep discount airlines for in-flight service and cabin equipment (seatback screens, etc.). In spite of new livery and lots of hype, larger airlines and less competition will not improve the experience.
Contract Maintenance NPRM Affects Some Cargo Carriers
I think a small error crept into the Feb. 20 AVwebBiz article on the contract maintenance NPRM: The article stated "pure cargo aircraft are exempt" (from the NPRM's proposed requirements). Not quite. The dividing line is between Part 135 operators using "nine-or-less passenger seats" maintenance and inspection programs per 14CFR135.411(a)(1) and the group of operators including 135s on "ten-or-more" programs [135.411(a)(2)], Part 121 operators, and Part 145 repair stations.
The Part 135 "nine-or-less" operators aren't addressed in the NPRM, and many RACCA members are on nine-or-less programs. That's probably where the confusion arose. But RACCA also has "ten-or-more" and Part 121 member companies who should be concerned about the proposed rule.
John W. Hazlet, Jr.
Regional Air Cargo Carriers Association