AVmail: April 1, 2013
Letter of the Week: Jet Pilots Want To Live, Too
Regarding the tower closures: This is to the instructor who is worried about the effect of the tower closings and his students mixing with jet and turbine traffic.
I have flown jets into and out of non-towered airports for years. Except for a few that are single-pilot certified, jets are crewed by two very proficient pilots who go extra diligent when in the ATA. We make position reports to let everyone flying in the area know where we are. We do not go blasting into an airport, as you suggest.
As long as you teach your students to remain alert, make the necessary position reports, and not cut in front of speedier traffic, they will survive with or without towers, and so will we.
I remember when the FAA closed a number of towers some years ago. It was billed as the end of the world then, also. Slowly, over the years, all of the towers came back to life, and we grew to depend on them once again. The sprit that makes us leave the safety of the ground to soar among the clouds will not keep us from flying. The bureaucracy that is the FAA will once again have to catch up with us so they can tell us how much we need them.
Regarding Paul Bertorelli's article "Life in a World Without Towers": Mostly I agree with everything in the article, but I have one caution. When choosing to cancel IFR while still in the air as a perceived courtesy to other IFR traffic, make absolute certain that the approach and landing can be completed VFR.
Trying to re-establish an IFR clearance because of a need to do a missed raises the danger quotient exponentially. If the airport weather is the least bit marginal, it's better to stick with the IFR clearance until on the ground and then cancel, even if it does inconvenience others.
You advise pilots that it is acceptable to not state their tail number when making traffic calls at non-towered airports. As a CFI operating out of a soon-to-be-closed-tower airport, I strongly disagree. At airports that see little traffic, this is certainly not an issue. But at a busy Cirrus and Cessna hub like ours with multiple training operations, hearing tail numbers helps differentiate where airplanes are.
It is not uncommon to be number 4 or 5 in sequence, and if those three Cessnas and two Cirruses were only stating aircraft type, it makes it much easier to lose track of position and sequence of the other aircraft. It may be a small issue overall, but I do think an important one — especially at airports that see more GA traffic and training operations.
Regarding the "Question of the Week": ATC privatization is an idea that should be allowed to quietly go away. Safety-related functions (fire, police, inspection, control) are areas that should remain in hands where profit margins and who sits on the board of directors are not considerations. Like the United States Postal Service? Think Lockheed Martin Flight Service was a good idea? You will love private ATC. As a 25-year air traffic controller, there are lots of things to fix, but this is not how to do it.
Absolutely no way should ATC be privatized. Commercial pressure to increase profit will inexorably compromise safety like a metastasizing cancer. You need people overseeing ATC who can make decisions for safety and against profit when such decisions confront aviation.
My objection to privatization is that it becomes simply yet another tax increase disguised as a "fee." As with NavCanada and others, privatization would inevitably come with a menu of charges, both mandatory and optional, for the use of their services, and your current tax load ... would not decrease accordingly.
I say stick with the current system as long as possible; let the public share the costs with us. Selfish but practical!
I live in Langley, British Columbia and base my C-182 at Langley Regional (CYNJ). I just paid my $68 annual fee to NavCanada, the ATC provider in Canada. I have no problem doing this. NavCanada is responsive to their customers' (us, the Canadian pilots) requirements and have frequent open sessions across the country to ensure they are providing the type and level of service that is required. There is no direct government involvement. I suggest the U.S. get over their user-fee phobia and look at Canada for how an ATC system could be set up.
Look at Canada's experience. The sale to NavCanada left taxpayers paying the bill for controllers' severance benefits and pay-out of accumulated sick leave. Their seats in the towers never got cold. Again, the users pay the cost of the service.
This is partly why Toronto Pearson is the most expensive airport in the world, not to mention the reduction of service and access by general aviation and closures of many GA airports. An object lesson in the current closures of towers in the U.S. might be to discover how useful a lot of them really are.
I've lived, worked, and flown in Europe, Australia, and Canada, places with privatized air traffic systems. The U.S. system is much better. Briefings, flight plan filings, weather, etc. are all paid by the fuel surcharge.
When filing, there's no waiting for a minimum of one hour to get the plan in the system (or 24 hours crossing borders in Europe VFR). Controllers serve pilots. When using flight following, there's no waiting for the $10 bill that comes six weeks later. It's just an altogether better system.
Former CASA chairman Australian Dick Smith, who was responsible for introducing the privatized system in Australia, is on record for saying that the system is not as good as a result.
Just keep the fuel tax. Stop the user fees, and have a sensible approach to modernizing the system.
Not a Mechanic
Your article titled "Ex-Mechanic Faces Jail for Fraud" is irresponsible to our industry. As we face a shortage of individuals entering our industry, both pilots and mechanics, calling this individual a mechanic is wrong.
A mechanic is certificated, and the certification lasts a lifetime unless surrendered, suspended, or revoked. A repairman certificate is annually renewed by their repair station. This individual seems to have never been certificated as an A&P, which only validates moral and ethical values certificated mechanics have.
This man was not an aircraft mechanic!
Professional Aviation Maintenance Association