AVmail: Jun. 25, 2007
Regional Airline Hiring
A comment on regional hiring (Question of the Week, Jun. 13): You get what you pay for.
Over the past 20 years the system has been its own worst enemy. Why would a person invest $50,000 to $75,000 or more to get all the ratings and experience it takes, plus the cost of a college education, to start working as a regional co-pilot/first officer for $20,000 a year?
Then on top of that work odd hours, be away from home 20+ days a month and be at the mercy of a system and employer that treats them like bus drivers ... who, by the way, make way more than $20,000.
Until the industry gets a clue that pilots fly airplanes and not management and that you can only treat your flight crews like crap for so long, it will not get any better.
What is there to look forward too? Even after 20+ years at a regional and you have served your time in the right seat and you get the four stripes, you're lucky if you make $80,000 a year as a captain flying a 70-90 seat jet.
I have flown with low-time co-pilots and it is amazing what you get for the price. Comments such as, "So this is what it is like to be above 18,000 feet?!" And the best one: "Wow, so that is what it is like to break out on a real 200 feet and RVR 2400 ILS!"
I have to disagree with Mr. Wilkins' comments in last week's AVmail. He said,
"Any new pilots hired to become Part 121 (or Part 135) crew members should have training in pilot decisionmaking as well as handling rapidly changing weather conditions and increasingly dense traffic conditions. One method of getting this exposure and experience is a good simulator-based training course."
You can get training in good judgment skills in a simulator and you can get some wonderful scenario-based training in a simulator course, but one thing you cannot get is experience. There are some things that can only be learned by experiencing them in day-to-day operations. Weather is one of those things and dealing with dynamic traffic conditions is another.
Simulators are wonderful teaching tools, but they cannot accurately simulate dynamic, high-density traffic. There is no substitute for experience. Good training can make your internalization of that experience more valuable, but it can never take its place.
Linda D. Pendleton
As a corporate pilot, I don't have to use the FSSs very much (AVwebFlash, Jun. 13). As the owner of a light aircraft that I use for transportation, I do. The difference between the commercial weather-service providers and the government-sponsored FSSs is like night and day. Jeppesen, GDC, Universal ... they can't work hard enough to get you the information you need in a timely manner. They know they are competing for your dollars. The FSS is like a monopoly that can't be fired regardless of the poor service they provide. I don't know how long one has to hold. On a Saturday in RNO at 1100 PDT I listened to the phone ring for 15 minutes before I finally gave up. Never even got to the holding part. This isn't working and I'm really afraid of what will happen if we try to do the same thing with ATC.
There has been a lot of negative talk about FSS commercialization of late. Perhaps my experience has been atypical, but I've had few problems using the Lockheed-provided services this year for IFR briefings.
However, I find that the on-line weather maps and forecasts, DUAT and others, have become far more useful than a verbal briefing over the telephone. The visual images, satellite and radar maps, icing and lifted-index charts impart far more information on the screen (and printed to a page) than a briefer's vague description of radar echoes covering a four-state region.
Twenty years ago when I was an instrument student, it was a different situation, and the FSS stations filled a vital role. Today, I am not sure the FSS briefers are essential. As for picking up a clearance of a pre-filed IFR plan at airports with no tower or RCO, I get the phone number of the local radar center and call that number from my cell phone, not FSS. That has worked well for the past year, and generally I've been given a 10-minute window for departures.
So, from my point of view, the trend to less oral and more on-line briefings is clear Maybe we just need more training in how to use the tools that are already there. After all, it is better to teach a man to fish ...
I'm going to have to disagree with Martin Brown (AVmail, Jun. 11) and some other pilots and FSS people about the state of Flight Service. The FAA should have consolidated 10 years ago. But that would have required management to actually do something.
There are going to be "teething pains" with any effort of this magnitude. It happened with the introduction of DUATs and ASOS, with the introduction of the FSS Model 1 computer system and the FAA's original consolidation to the 61 AFSSs.
There are going to be delays. Does anyone remember the early 1970s? On the weekend it was not unusual to hold for 30 minutes to an hour. When I worked at Oakland FSS in the 1980s, peak-period weekend delays averaged 10 to 15 minutes. Then as now the answer is consolidation. And pilots can help by being prepared for the briefing and to file flight plans.
Since LM took over, as well as weekly local flights, I've flown from the San Francisco Bay area to St. Louis; St. Petersburg, Fla.; and Cedar City, Utah. I've experienced no significant problems.
CyberBug Can't See My Aircraft, Or Yours
The FAA should not let unmanned aircraft into airspace until they can see and avoid other aircraft (AVwebFlash, Jun. 20). As these UAVs proliferate, it is only a matter of time until some gumshoe trying to bust a doper flies his in front of an airliner. FAA is a pawn in the Homeland Security game, and so are we all.
Avanti Near Collision With Cirrus
This near catastrophe (because the tower controller made a mistake and cleared two aircraft for takeoff on intersecting runways) points out the need for us pilots to pay attention to communications (AVwebFlash, Jun. 20). That neither aircraft was apparently attentive to tower communications other than those directed specifically to them means that an important safety backup was missing. As PIC's responsible for the safety of our aircraft, we are remiss if we lack the situational awareness on the ground comparable to what we expect of ourselves in the air. Taking off blindly because of a clearance almost did the occupants of two aircraft in, and this is not uncommon. Perhaps the ongoing emphasis on measures to combat runway incursions should include this communications awareness concerning other aircraft as a vital element.
Reason Foundation's Case For User Fees
This was an interesting podcast (Jun. 18), although I completely disagree with the Reason Foundation on a number of factors in their report. Robert Poole and the report over-simplify a user-fee structure. Commercialization is not a guarantee for efficiencies; one only has to look at the number of companies that have closed down. Look at how many airlines we've lost or car manufactures. Having worked in Fortune 500 companies, I've seen inefficiencies just as rampant as in a government entity as well as the inverse.
Commercial benefits for users come from a competitive marketplace, not a singular entity. The idea of contracting out such as Lockheed and then pulling the contract if they don't perform to the contract is also ridiculous. That would mean we could see contract negotiations all the time for air traffic control services; this would degrade services to the general public.
The other point is the comment that Robert made about being able to manage user-fee charges simply as is done today with hundreds or thousand of overflights a month. This number would grow 10-fold per day based on the number of flights happening in the U.S. daily. Not all flights are on flight plans, and therefore an audit or billing of fees would mean a requirement of everyone filing flight plans.
Anyways, love your podcasts as they make my commutes more interesting and fun. Keep up the great work.
The Next FAA Administrator
Our latest Question of the Week (Jun. 21), asking you to choose the next FAA Administrator, has elicited some interesting results. There were folks who chose to write in with their own choice, as well. Here is a sampling.
The next administrator should be someone who is a pilot with general aviation and airline experience. -- Kevin Delaney
Whoever is selected must be a pilot, a general aviation pilot! Please, no airline connection. Phil Boyer would be wonderful; however, we need him to stay where he is and continue the good fight. There always will be the need for a fight. -- George Fonseca
My nomination for FAA Administrator is Herb Kelleher, former CEO of Southwest Airlines -- a no-nonsense, customer-friendly representative of the aviation industry. -- Jerry Unruh
We need a leader not a bureaucrat. Donald Rumsfeld would be a good choice or RADM John Poindexter. -- Will P. Gray
Lee Iacocca, because he is independent from the fray and smart enough to do the right thing. Not a government hack. -- Jake Boyd
I think Neil Planzer from Boeing is a stellar candidate. -- Frank Risbie
Jane Garvey, former FAA Administrator -- Craig Boehne
Tony Broderick should be next FAA administrator. Tony is a highly qualified candidate with previous, high-level FAA experience. He would not be intimidated by outside influence and is an intense aviation advocate. -- Brian Calendine
[Ed. Note: Brian is probably referring to the Associate Administrator for Regulation and Certification, 1985-96.]
It is my opinion you do not have anyone on the list who is qualified. My opinion comes from many years of working with the FAA, Congress, Senate and various government departments, not to mention numerous FAA certifications. There are a few people I can think of, but only one of those would be what I consider qualified and that would be Ed Stimpson [Ed.: Head of GAMA and the U.S. representative to ICAO]. Ed's qualifications not to mention experience would put him at the top of the list however if your only looking for someone without a spine then any on your current list would do. -- Leslie J. Weinstein
I nominate myself for the next FAA Administrator. I was the Flight Service specialist who tried to bid on the AFSS outsourcing and who was threatened with jail by the FAA for trying to bid on my own job. -- Jay Wade
If you have votes, tampering with the votes is very unprofessional. John Carr was running away with the vote. Why did you wipe out all his votes? -- Mark Wojtulski
I can assure you it was nothing intentional, but one of those notorious "technical difficulties" that crop up from time to time.
Sometime late Friday afternoon we lost a bunch of poll votes from the results page. At 4 p.m. UTC, we had upwards of 3,700 votes, then we were back down to a handful at 2 a.m. UTC. It wasn't just Carr's votes that were wiped -- everyone's vote before a certain point on Friday afternoon suddenly disappeared.
Our server team did some investigation and found no evidence of human error (or hanky panky). Instead, it looks like the sheer volume of simultaneous votes took a toll on our counting script.
We've managed to retrieve the original votes from the server log and will restore them (and our count) sometime on Monday. (First, we want to do some more testing on Monday, once everyone is back in the office.)
Thanks for taking a second to drop us a note. We hadn't considered that we might be giving the appearance of vote-tampering and will now tread extra carefully as we work to find the gremlin and restore the original vote counts.