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AVmail: Apr. 7, 2008

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Fuel Economy and You

Sorry, but I was one of your "None of the above" respondents (Question of the Week, Mar. 27). Another option could have been to "Fly at reduced power settings." I now fly more hours but use less fuel. How come? Well, prior to the fuel-price hikes, I would cruise my 1986 Partenavia P68C-TC at 65-percent cruise power doing (in ISA conditions) 156 knots TAS at 8000 feet and burning 20.4 gallons (U.S.) per hour. Nowadays I cruise at 55-percent power doing 145 knots TAS at 8000 ft and burning 17 gallons an hour. A 400-nm flight at 8000 feet now takes 2 hours 45 minutes and burns 47 gallons whereas, in my old, 65-percent cruise days, I would have taken 2 hours 34 minutes and would have used 52 gallons. In other words, by reducing power back to 55 percent, I take 12 minutes longer but save 5 gallons. How about that? Adrian Gilbert
[I've] mostly given up on power flying, what with the fuel and regulatory overload. Getting back to the basics and really flying, while saving fuel. After 25,000 power hours, the only enjoyable flying is those times I'm in my glider. Most challenging, and most fun of any flying done. It's just between me and the weather. Plus minimal FAA fun-killing involvement! Was ready for more after completing a 350+ mile, five-hour flight! Linwood Stevenson

The Silly Season

Last week it was how to save fuel, and this week it is drawing airplanes over mid-America (AVwebFlash, Apr. 2). Why did they not do a happy face? Vern Childers

Aluminum Overcast "Medal"

You guys probably knew this already, but this picture of the week is the "Honorable Discharge Lapel Pin" awarded to veterans of WWII and known affectionately as the "Ruptured Duck." Jim Carroll

Refusing Position and Hold

In a letter to the editor, reader Fred Wilson wrote, "Whether I hear 'Line up and wait' or 'Position and hold,' my response is 'Unable,' " (AVmail, Mar. 27). Contrary to Fred's assumption, departing from a position off the runway does not, in the big picture, increase safety. While it may protect him from a rare anomaly (i.e., the LAX-type accident), the proper use of "position and hold" actually enhances safety, by increasing separation between arriving (or go-around) aircraft, and aircraft departing the same runway. It's also used in conjunction with intersecting runway operations, allowing more concise control of when a departing aircraft starts takeoff roll -- so that a controller can safely "shoot the gap" between aircraft using the intersecting runway. Fred reminds me of a pilot I ran across who flies a Cessna 210 and cites "safety" as the reason he flat refuses to make intersection takeoffs, ever. When he refused to accept an intersection takeoff at O'Hare -- with 8800 feet of runway available -- controllers took him to the full length of a different runway. He happily departed on a runway 3500 feet shorter, with a building at the end. Go figure. Denny Cunningham

Firearm Discharge

As cumbersome as the TSA rules are for cockpit crew members to carry a gun, the ultimate blame for the U.S. Air incident has to rest squarely on the pilot. Why in the world was he dorking with the gun during flight? If the weapon was a semi-automatic, that means he has a round chambered (as he should have) so the weapon would be at the ready. But once he decided to stow it, the first thing he should have done was eject the chambered round. I'm in favor of pilots carrying weapons in the cockpit, but when one makes a mistake in handling the weapon, let's admit it and not take the Union-vs.-the-world blame game. Richard Humphrey
A couple important questions need to asked:
  • Why was the pilot in question attempting to secure his weapon during a critical phase of flight, when securing it was not yet required?
  • Are pilots actually trained to install a trigger lock with a live round in the chamber?
This whole incident doesn't smell right. Rich Adler

F-16s in Gladden MOA

I had a similar experience in the Gladden MOA on Mar. 26, 2008, as Mr. McCall (AVwebFlash, Mar. 31. On flight following with ABQ Center at 10,500 feet northwest-bound, Center called out traffic approaching and descending very fast from the rear of my aircraft. The controller called out an F-16 within one mile at my altitude behind me. I never saw the F-16. This happened a number of times, maybe three times within a period of five minutes. The controller cautioned me about the airspace having military activity. I fly through Gladden MOA on occasion but it was this time that made me frightened. I did not have TCAS on the Cessna 210 I was flying. There were passengers using the headsets and intercom who heard the controller call out the traffic. Bryan Berkland
If you don't want to have close encounters with military aircraft, don't fly in hot MOAs. If you do, then hope for the best and enjoy the airshow. Richard Jones
It sounds more like a "look-see" to ascertain if the aircraft might be drug smugglers. As for "collision hazard," the F-16s know exactly where "you" are, and how to intercept you with zero risk to themselves. That's what they do for a living. I would far, far more trust an F-16 flying 10 feet off my wingtip than a Cherokee within a half mile. Those guys fly tight formation in all weather, and are trained to do it safely/accurately. And -- it is appropriate for drug smugglers to know -- F-16s might just find you. Remember these things:
  • If you choose to fly thru an MOA when it is hot, you are fair game for an intercept;
  • F-16s probably lock you up when you first enter and they know exactly where you are, how high, how fast, and what your shoe size is;
  • They are trained to fly wingtip formation, and the only collision hazard is that you might do something unexpected or stupid;
  • If you are over a border state such as Arizona or New Mexico and are intercepted, and are given signals to follow or land, it might be a very, very good idea to comply.
Post 9/11, our military is doing serious work along the border, and pilots transiting border states -- and particularly hot MOAs -- should expect to see military aircraft. This might be good information for a new generation of pilots to know. Geoffrey C. Gallup
The solution is to close all MOA airspace during military operations. High speed training aircraft do not mix well with VFR traffic. David Schaner
Something worried me about the F-16 close encounter. This happened in an open MOA. What might have happened if it was a legit intercept, like over Crawford, Texas, or the big ADIZ up northeast? Could the TCAS maneuvering be misinterpreted as "evasive" maneuvering and get someone shot down? Don Colbath
After reading the article and listening to the Podcast, it seems you have biased your report towards the operators of the Pilatus and the bizjet and have possibly failed to include pertinent facts. As a retired F-16 pilot, I have done and would have done what these F-16 pilots did. Although VFR operations are permitted in an MOA, is it prudent to do so? An issue that was not established was whether the civilian pilots knew the MOA was in operation. AOPA advises: Prudent pilots will contact any Flight Service station within 100 miles of an MOA to find out whether the airspace is active before they attempt to transit the area. It's also a good idea to contact the controlling agency (either an approach control or en route center) and request advisories before entering an MOA. Better yet, it's a good idea for VFR pilots to avoid active MOAs altogether when possible unless you can be certain that the area is inactive. Just because you can enter does not mean you should. Did ABQ Center provide the Pilatus pilot with traffic advisories? I have flown both the F-15 and F-16 in the Gladden MOA. We did not operate under any positive control and relied on our eyeballs and on-board radars to de-conflict from traffic. Occasionally, ABQ Center would give an advisory call on the area operating frequency as to the position of traffic that may be a conflict. It sounds to me the pilots of both aircraft operated in a "Who-cares-I'm-allowed-to-do-this" manner simply because the MOA was between points A and B. They contributed to a hazardous condition by operating in a MOA simply because they could. How many more active MOAs did they fly through? Did the F-16 pilots operate in a hazardous fashion? Absolutely not! Aggressively, maybe, which is not in the civilian pilot's lexicon). USAF regulations state that 500-feet clearance is well clear. Was closing to 10- to 20-feet dangerous? Not if done in a controlled manner and leaving yourself an "out" in case the civilian pilot did something unexpected when a fighter shows up on the wing. Flying time is a precious commodity for fighter pilots these days and for civilian pilots to operate with disregard to what may be going on in a MOA shows their lack appreciation for what the military pilots are trying to accomplish. They should have gone around the MOA (assuming they even established the MOA was hot). That would not have cost them that much time or fuel. Investigation? Senator McCain? Probably nothing will happen to the F-16 pilots other than to be told not to get so close next time. I certainly hope Mr. McCall will be able to get his seat cushion cleaned or replaced. Fred Clifton
The transponders on most military aircraft in MOAs are not displayed to ATC. As a controller, I am always careful to advise GA pilots that they are entering an active MOA. The exercises performed in MOAs make transitioning them especially hazardous to GA. That said, the actions of the F16 pilot were unnecessarily dangerous and disruptive. I fear that the military's solution to events such as these will be the exclusion of GA from MOAs. Jennifer Carr
This is in response to the Audio Web cast of "Flying into MOAs: The Military Perspective" (Podcast, Apr. 4). I truly appreciated the comments made by Lt. Col Fred Clifton concerning operations in and around MOAs. I personally am quite familiar with these areas as I fly mostly in the high deserts of California around Edwards AFB. If you are flying north from Lancaster to Inyokern or California City, you fly directly through an MOA. I have on numerous occasions encountered military aircraft in this area and have made this transition with little or no problem. There are times, such as in this area, that transition of an MOA is the only options for smaller general aviation aircraft due to the terrain in the area. The low point or safe area of flight is almost directly in the middle of this MOA. I have been flying in this area for well over 30 years. Over the years the U.S. government has expanded the MOAs in the area. All local pilots, for the most part, have just learned to live with them. I appreciate the concerns and the training that is required by the military pilots. However, if the Government continues to expand these areas along with the Restricted areas, then incursions are bound to be an issue, in which case all must be more careful and aware of their surroundings. Paul Bern
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