AVmail: May 28, 2007
Argentina is not the only place where the radar is not working (AVwebFlash, May 20). I spent three months flying helicopters offshore in Trinidad in close proximity to Piarco, the international airport. Lots of helicopters and airliners with everyone making position reports in various forms of English with varying degrees of accuracy. A disaster just waiting to occur.
Helicopter Tree-Trimming Video
I just wanted to say that I agree with the editor's response to the letter about the tree-trimming helicopter video (AVmail, May 21). I was excited to see this video, because I saw this same helicopter (er, probably actually one just like it) staging at my home airport one day a few months ago. When the ground crew told me what they were doing (this was an hour or so before the helicopter actually arrived), my response was, "Kinda like in that James Bond movie?" A mechanic on the field that I relayed the information to didn't believe me until he saw the helicopter arrive! And did that pilot sure know what he was doing. I have a lot of respect for him!
As a Flight Service Station Specialist and former (RIFFED) FAA AFSS Controller, I discovered something very strange today. I really, really love my job!
In the FAA, we rarely heard a good word about us. Lazy, coffee-drinking, government employees, blah, blah blah. They must have confused us with management!
Since this privatization debacle, though, when a pilot finally does get through the communication maze, and I get into the weather or TFRs with him/her, and I'm pinging on all 8 cylinders ... it's great!
You know why? Because I feel maybe, just maybe, we are finally being appreciated for all the things we do for our pilot friends.
No, we really shouldn't read the weather to you (AVmail, May 21). Yes, we should explain the TFRs. No, we shouldn't say "VFR not recommended" when the fog burned off three hours ago.
Blame the FAA, who doesn't want to pay the contractor their bonus dollars, so they fail the briefers for the most idiotic of reasons. None of which have any bearing on the actual content of the brief. Just checking the boxes.
A bunch of years back, I convinced a pilot not to take his grandkids up to the White Mountains of New Hampshire on a beautiful, but extremely bumpy, day. He thanked me so much for that. If JFK Jr. would have talked to me at Flight Watch that fateful July afternoon, I sometimes think maybe he and his family would still be alive today ...
Name withheld by request
I work at a small hub airport in the Operations Department. We inspect the airport and issue NOTAMs that affect the facility. When consolidation closed our "local" FSS two weeks ago, we immediately noticed a decrease in service. First, the new, national, toll-free number for issuing and canceling NOTAMs is not directed to the closest AFSS hub. We issued one NOTAM through Lansing, Mich., and canceled it through Virginia. I then got a call from FTW (closest hub) to confirm we meant to cancel the NOTAM (that person at least gave me a direct number to FTW for issuing NOTAMs).
The next time we issued a NOTAM, we were told that the person who answered the phone at FTW had an "area of responsibility" that did not cover our airport, and I would have to call back as he could not transfer me to that FSS specialist.
There have been a couple of decent experiences, but overall, I have to say that Lockheed-Martin did not test their system to see if it would work before it was rolled out nationally.
Is it any wonder so many people are scared of the possibility of ATC privatization?
Name withheld by request
QOTW -- Lasers
Regarding: Question of the Week, May 24
A careful reading of this bill (On the Fly, May 23) shows that the FAA is allowed to use lasers for R&D or flight test. And that DHS and DOD are allowed to use lasers for R&D, test and ops.
But, the FAA's ADIZ warning laser (AVwebFlash, May 18, 2005) isn't test or R&D, so is not legal under this bill.
I believe it is not possible for any harm to come to me by someone pointing a red pen laser at me from 1000 feet away. Terrorists are using much more powerful lasers. I would hate to see anyone do any jail time for this. I would like to see the distinction between the different classes of laser be addressed in the answers I get to pick in the QOTW, such as: I agree we need jail time but only if the bad guy used a laser that is powerful enough to cause harm.
GA vs. Airlines
The single most important aspect of the "user fee" argument (AVwebFlash, May 23) never seems to get mentioned by its opponents, of which I am one. That is, every U.S. citizen (and the 12 million or so illegal "citizens" in the current media spotlight) benefit every day of their lives both directly and indirectly from our current air traffic control system. If everyone benefits, what could be more equitable than the current system? Even now it is tainted with discriminatory "user fees" in its funding with fuel and passenger taxes.
To charge by specific stated usage components, rather than general public welfare, suggests the benefit of our current system benefits to only a few; and thus overlooks the overwhelming argument that the current system benefits all. Thus it is fair and just ... all taxpayers pay for it and all citizens benefit from it.
An almost obscene derivative of the "user fees" argument is to suggest we charge the taxi driver waiting at the airport a "user fee" to support the current air traffic system ... after all, the taxi driver is directly benefited from the usage of the air traffic control system. Shouldn't the driver also pay a user fee? And so on. Where is the line between those who benefit from air traffic (and thus should directly pay for it) and those who receive no benefit at all? There isn't one.
Sort of like the military ... we all pay for it, and in return, we live in a free country.
Forget the "It doesn't work in other countries" argument because there can always be some justification for user fees, even if they are the wrong justifications. That's a negative argument. We should be stating the positive: Air traffic control benefits each and every person, every business, every organization in the U.S. and thus we all should share in the cost.