Watching the video of the new Airbus A380 landing in America (Video of the Week, Mar. 25) reminded me of the aircraft's visit to Sydney, Australia, a few months ago, on its Pole-to-Pole proving flight.
My wife and I were driving along Qantas Drive, which is a busy road that runs right past the northern end of the main north-south runway. Most of the road had become a parking lot and at first I thought there'd been a car accident, but then I noticed people lining the road as well, and everyone was looking down the runway. As the traffic crawled along we had plenty of time to see what they were gazing at: the departing A380. At that moment the pilots throttled-up and within a few seconds our part of Qantas Drive, the parked cars, spectators and the crawling traffic were engulfed in a cloud of red dust and sand that would have done justice to an Outback desert sandstorm. It lasted maybe five or 10 seconds and was despite jet-blast deflector shields that have no trouble in coping with a departing Boeing 747.
It was a salutary reminder to me that the new A380 isn't just a bit more powerful than a jumbo; it's massively more so. I just hope airports around the world take the time to consider all the implications before the arrival of this flying behemoth, otherwise near-airport traffic might consider it a blast for all the wrong reasons.
Simple fact of the matter is even with Next-Gen funded (AVwebFlash, Mar. 25), delays will continue. Can't anyone get it through their thick skulls that more concrete is the only way to really add capacity to the system? There are only so many aircraft that can land/take-off in a given period of time. Unless some FAA genius knows how to land/takeoff closer together than you can already ... it's just that simple.
AVweb wrote, "The long-standing program delivers a minimum of $150,000 per year to every general aviation airport," (AVwebFlash, Mar. 28). This is not true as stated. No federal money is given or even available to public-use airports that are privately owned. Only publicly owned airports have the opportunity to receive this money. There are a large number of privately owned but public-use airports with more than 100 based aircraft that receive no public funds, either local, state or federal.
It appears to me that user fees will be a coming thing (AVwebFlash, Mar. 25). The government is bigger than AOPA and anyone else trying to fight this. They will get what they want to foist onto the small aircraft owners. Our government is no longer "for the people or by the people."
There are several different business models planned for VLJ air taxi service (Question of the Week, Mar. 21). The secret to the "per seat, on-demand" service offered by DayJet is in the software: If the software is good enough to juggle the planes in accordance with passenger demands, it's possible that it will work.
Meanwhile, the SATSAir model is simply "whole plane, but one way." Not unlike existing charter operators, except you don't charge them for the return leg. Rather, the airplane sits at the destination until a new local customer is found, or it flies a short dead-head to pick up the new customer. This model works if they charge enough for the one-way trip ... i.e., if it costs $600 to operate, they will need to charge $900 to make it work.
"On Tuesday, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee released an oversight report that identifies 'widespread fraud among pilots who hide serious medical conditions from examining physicians to retain medical certification for their FAA pilot certificates,' " (AVwebFlash, Mar. 27).
They make this claim because 8% of the pilots investigated -- 3,200 out of 40,000 -- receive Social Security payments, some of which are for "medically disabling conditions." Right away I see two serious problems with this report.
Number one: If 8% of the total are receiving S.S. benefits (since when did Social Security benefits become a disqualifying condition?), but only "some" are for serious medical problems ... how many is "some"? Certainly less than 8% of the total. Which means the fraud might not be quite as "widespread" as first indicated.
Secondly: Even if the fraud is as prevalent as they say, the number of planes hitting the ground is not. So perhaps what this report truly indicates is that the FAA medical requirements are more stringent than they need to be.
So if this committee really wants to do something useful, maybe they could move to eliminate the third-class medical altogether. Apparently all it's really doing is adding cost. But then that would mean relinquishing some of the control they have over us. And they can't have that.
Over a period of 41 years of flying I have known of or suspected several individuals of "falsifying" medical history (Question of the Week, Mar. 28). While I believe the conditions were somewhat minor, I also believe the FAA's stance on many medical issues leads to the falsification. I don't believe the FAA has kept up with the advances in medicine that are available to ameliorate the adverse effect of certain conditions. The FAA is entrenched with individuals who have developed mental constipation regarding the advances in medicine. The age issue is reflective of such mental constipation. The fact that many other member states have adopted the age of 65 for commercial operations and the FAA continues "study" of the issue without adoption of the increased age reflects my charge of mental constipation. I commend the advances the FAA has made in certain areas, but they are not doing enough.
At the same time, however, I blame the aviation community in not bombarding the halls of Congress for faster change within the FAA.
I really enjoyed Liz's articles about flying in the U.K., particularly appropriate with the advent of user fees facing us in the U.S.
Please have her on again!
Liz will be writing a column for AVweb every four weeks, so we'll have regular reports from across the pond.
Columns and Features Editor
Heads up guys! (Not down.)
A moving map in my cockpit that allows me to see where I am on the field is one thing, but saying that from that I will avoid conflicts with other craft (both on taxi and flying in) is ludicrous (AVwebFlash, Mar. 28).
It is like giving my kid a GPS and sending him off into the streets assuming he'll not get mowed down by someone else with his head in the display.
Why don't we emphasize the awareness of surroundings mantras: Look both ways; get permission to cross; stop and ask when lost; learn to read the charts, and brief them?
Who is going to be looking at moving maps, once the crew has been to this airport 20 times (even in the fog)?
This sounds like a piece of technology whose only use is to cut down on training and familiarization.
Maybe somebody should inform the NTSB that for $2800 a GARMIN 496 has this feature plus XM weather and the complete AOPA airport directory. This could be accomplished in a couple weeks! What planet are these people living on?
John M. Ruppert
I'm just curious, but is the F-111 dumping fuel and then lighting it with the afterburners (Picture of the Week, Mar. 29)? I once saw something like that at night with one of the FB-111s that was off our wing awaiting to be cleared to the back for air refueling ... the pilot did what was called a "Zippo maneuver" that consisted of just what I described. I don't know enough about where the fuel exits the aircraft to know for sure.
Mary Kay Higgins
An old office mate of mine was an AF Bombadier/Navigator on the F-111 in England. He told me about the maneuver pictured in this shot. The 111 has its fuel dump port located directly between the exhaust nozzles of the engines. The pilots dump fuel, go into burner and light up the sky. He called it "The Torch" and said on night flights, they could light up the countryside (and the phone switchboards with irate citizens). Just thought you'd find this interesting!