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AVmail: Feb. 18, 2008

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Air Traffic Controller Staffing

As an air traffic control supervisor at one of the nation's busiest airports, I am angered and disappointed by the opinions expressed by Mr. Jim Trinka, FAA director of technical training and development (AVwebFlash, Feb. 10). Either Mr. Trinka is [unaware of] the plight of FAA ATC field facilities, or he is intentionally "spinning" the truth to deflect criticism of the FAA's failed plan to retain or replace the record number of retiring controllers. Mr. Trinka fails to acknowledge that record numbers of controllers, angry over the FAA's assault on pay, mandatory overtime, and other work-related issues, are retiring at their first opportunity, far sooner than anyone in the FAA projected. The FAA began many years too late to hire and actually train incoming replacement controllers and now finds itself in a position of deflecting well-founded criticism with half truths and lies, focusing only on the number of warm bodies hired rather than an honest, open discussion about how soon any of these new recruits will become trained, experienced, and ready to work busy traffic. The comment about "safety not being compromised" has become a joke of a cliché throughout the agency as we continually work more traffic with fewer and fewer experienced controllers. Incoming controller trainees are washing out in record numbers. In order to keep our "body count" up, we're no longer sending them to smaller facilities to learn and gain valuable experience. We're now keeping them on-board and trying to come up with a new plan. The ones who manage to certify on anything are being used on one or two positions to keep the facility operating as we lose more controllers to retirement. We have given up on trying to certify new controllers on all positions of operation, since we must use them for shift staffing. Comments by Mr. Trinka about it taking less time to train controllers are not true at my facility. We train controllers today using the same methods and using as much or more time as we did over 25 years ago. When it comes to FAA propagandists deflecting criticism over failing to retain, hire, and train air traffic controllers, I remember what my father once told me: "Don't believe anything you hear, and only half of what you see." Name withheld by request

Ethanol in Oregon

Oregon pilots may have a chance to get the ethanol mandate fixed during this year's one-month session of the Oregon legislature (AVwebFlash, Feb. 5). Amendments to SB1079 exempt aircraft from the ethanol requirement but the bill makes no provisions for making ethanol-free mogas available. FBOs are reluctant to install new tanks because of the substantial investment. Pilots need to contact their legislators to demand that all premium gas in the state be exempt from the ethanol requirement and that the mid-grade maximum be set at five percent. Mid-grade is made by mixing regular and premium at the pump, so a lower mid-grade specification is necessary. Premium and mid-grade combined only represent 17 percent of the total gasoline sold in the U.S. Pilots need to act quickly to insure the legislature responds during this year's short session. Richard Scott

User Fees vs. Fuel Costs

As happens all too often with the Question of the Week, the premise of this QOTW is all wrong (QOTW, Feb. 6). While user fees are probably somewhat more ominous than escalating fuel prices, either one all by itself has the potential to kill off private general aviation as we know it. George True

Adam Aircraft: If Only They'd Listened ...

Russ Niles: I'm with you. The VLJ landscape needs the A700 (AVweb Insider, Feb. 12). I have met many of the employees of the company, interviewed the founder and also the new CEO. This is one fine company, first-rate people and a stellar product. Our prayers are with them. Bill Strait

Established vs. Noisy

I am disappointed by AVweb's prejudiced characterization of those opposed to Bobby Sturgell's confirmation as "Noisy Advocacy Groups" while those who favor his confirmation are labeled "Established User Groups," (AVwebFlash, Feb. 5). NATCA is certainly a group with well-established arguments against Mr. Sturgell's confirmation, and AOPA, NBAA and EAA have been quite "noisy" regarding user fees. A little less bias would be appreciated. Jennifer Carr

Runway Safety

AVweb wrote (AVwebFlash, Feb. 13):
"Progress on reducing runway incursions is impeded by a lack of leadership in the FAA as well as technology challenges, a Congressional committee was told by Gerald Dillingham, of the Government Accountability Office ..."
A really simple solution would be to limit controllers to a certain number of hours of work (yearly), much as airline pilots are limited to 1,000 hours yearly. Forty hours a week times 50 weeks is 2,000 hours. Add in a max of 100 hours of overtime, and the max. allowable work year for controllers would be 2,100 hours. Reach that total and you cannot work any more hours that year (just like airline pilots). A really simple solution. Fred Wilson

The Guys Back in Columbus

This article made me smile, then chuckle out loud (Flying The System, Feb. 11). Great way to start the day. Thanks for this article. I fly a 421C, so it is not quite a FLIB, but enough so that I always appreciate the approach and tower controllers at "big" airports who are nice to me. Daryl Williams

Correction

I loved Kevin Garrison's "Outside" Loop article (CEO of the Cockpit, Feb. 11). The only nit is his reference to the "General Electric GP7200" engine on the A380. The engine is actually a product of the Engine Alliance, which is a collaboration between GE and Pratt & Whitney. That's why the designation is "GP." James Beaver
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