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AVmail: Apr. 28, 2008

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Synthetic Vision

In last week's AVmail, Phil Seizinger wrote,
"I'm concerned about SV creating a possible situation where VFR pilots will scud-run in marginal or IFR conditions simply because now they can see the terrain, which -- as you can imagine -- creates a hazard for IFR flights."
Excuse me ... Isn't synthetic vision a pretty good basis for exactly what Burt Rutan (back in 1991 at EAA Oshkosh) was suggesting someone develop, namely affordable avionics to allow flight in VMC or IMC with exactly the same pilot workload, and dramatically less training and less support from ATC? Yes of course, such participating pilots would have to have effective CAS to operate in IMC. Granted, there could be a need to create some intermediate regulatory class between VFR and IFR, just as LSA was created to bridge the gap between ultralights and the lightest certificated aircraft. Of course this whole concept is still only a concept, but I believe it is worth exploring. I don't think any rational person wants to create hazards for IFR flights. Done right, SV has the potential to offer much more utility to low-time GA pilots operating outside Class B/C airspace. I know change is hard, but refusal to even consider change leads to stagnation or worse. Bruce Liddel

Hollywood Discovers Aviation

Just read your blurb on the subject, including the program for the Reel Stuff Film Festival (AVwebFlash, Apr. 22). It appears they have overlooked a number of classic aviation films: Island in the Sky, The High and the Mighty, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, 12 O'clock High, The Dam Busters. I have a number of others, but you get the point. Jay D. Cornell

Earth Day Question of the Week

Re: QOTW, Apr. 23: For the truly (overly?) enviro-friendly pilot, there is always the option of flying sailplanes, which in the U.S. can perhaps be viewed as an efficient and economical way for 10 airplanes to share the engine of one Super Cub. It's also a fun challenge and a terrific addition to any power pilot's ratings collection. That said, even soaring has room for improvement! Are there any clubs out there launching with biofuel-powered winches? It wouldn't take much to make sailplanes as green as those cliff-jumping hang gliders ... Tom Stepleton

MOA Operations

Thank you for printing Gary Rolf's letter to the editor regarding MOA airspace, and the recent complaints of intercepts by military aircraft (ATIS, Apr. 17). I had the pleasure to work on the civil aviation side with Mr. Rolf when he represented the 11th Air Force on airspace issues, and I can verify that he knows of what he speaks. I have made the point many times that MOA airspace is joint use airspace, whether it's scheduled hot or cold. All aviators need to maintain see and avoid. As to the Air Force claiming that the F-16 flight leader was trying to "identify" the civilian aircraft: Why did this military aviator feel that ID was necessary? When will the military and military pilots finally recognize that MOA airspace is joint-use airspace. It is incumbent on all of us to try to avoid disrupting what the other folks are doing, but it is also each pilot's responsibility to fly safe and avoid other pilots. Mike Vivion
From your most recent article (AVwebFlash, Apr. 19)
"Major Miki Gilloon, Luke Air Force Base's public information officer [said] the F-16 did not counter the PC-12's TCAS evasive maneuvers but approached to visually identify it 'in order to contact the civilian pilot and educate him about the risks of transiting an active MOA.' "
This statement indicates that the real reason was not to see what aircraft was flying in a straight line at a constant speed (before the F-16 showed up) but to shake them up to "educate" them. Since the MOA also allows VFR aircraft, maybe the USAF should be educated that the MOA is not an exclusive use of the military. If the USAF wants exclusive use, then they want a restricted-use airspace instead of an MOA. Are any members of Congress investigating this lack of safe practices that seems ingrained in the military pilots? Name withheld by request
Even as a civilian PSEL, Sunday-VFR, Cessna driver, it's still my obligation to read up on and expect to be intercepted and looked over by the USAF pretty much anywhere these days -- and not just near an ADIZ, either! And I wouldn't dream of entering an MOA until I had read that day's NOTAMS. There are so many moving and new "restricted areas" these days that all pilots better know how to act when that fast-mover with the star and stripes forms up on your wing. I've still got my VFR obligation to "see and avoid" all traffic and comply with published FAA interception procedures and rules. I know this may not sit well with you commercial guys making your hard-grind flights thru MOAs every day. But hey, what's wrong with practicing your interception procedures for real? And why wasn't the Pilatus guy squawking something? And if that Eagle-driver waggles his wings, gives me hand- or light-signals or does anything I don't happen to immediately understand, I'm slowing down, dropping my gear, and following him down to land where he says! Unless and until he gives me a thumbs-up, breaks away hard and leaves me in the dust, he (and his wingman behind on my six who has me boresighted) owns me! There are no wimpy USAF pilots. And there should be no wimpy, beefing GA pilots! Our country is being alert and so should we! Jack Aubrey
As a 26-year Navy jet pilot and very active general aviation pilot for 40 years, I believe emotional reactions to close encounters between civil and military aircraft in MOAs are driven by ignorance on both sides. Military pilots, many with no general aviation experience, are patriotic Americans who are passionate about training to be the best they can be at defending our nation. All the current restricted areas and MOAs combined, though vast, are simply not large enough to train with modern weapons that engage at 50 miles or more, day and night, fair weather and foul, at supersonic speeds. Military pilots do the best they can within the constraints of restricted areas and MOAs, and limited funds for flying jets that cost $15,000 or more per flight hour. Military folks are understandably annoyed when their legitimate activities are interrupted by non-participating aircraft. No military pilot wants a mid-air with a light civil aircraft or an airliner. Many military pilots who lack general aviation backgrounds advocate turning MOAs into restricted areas, both for safety and to avoid the costs of aborted missions/exercises when civil aircraft "intrude." Sometimes, military aircraft are required by policy and regulation to intercept and identify interfering traffic to document such interference and garner data for MOA and/or restricted area adjustments. They usually are not intentionally harassing the civil traffic. Many civil pilots have very little understanding about military training requirements. Some are just anti-military and yell about any/all military activity. Others are genuinely concerned about safety, and are much relieved when informed of the extensive -- and expensive -- steps the military takes to de-conflict operations from civil aircraft. The fact is, almost all military air training is done in a radar environment today. Any intrusion by non-participating traffic results in termination of the military training until "no-conflict" is assured. One can easily calculate the costs of "re-cocking" a fighter exercise of four aircraft when a "puddle-jumper" -- with perfect legality -- enters an MOA under VMC. The civil pilot will likely be totally unaware. Yet his blissfully free MOA transit cost the taxpayers $20,000 or more. Consider the cost of re-cocking a 20-plane exercise in a restricted area when a civil blunders in, and the motivation to intercept and prosecute becomes clear. Many civil pilots have no training or experience in formation flying. An intercept by a fighter is a scary event for the civil pilot, but "ho-hum" for the military aviator who knows he is in no way jeopardizing the civil airplane he passes at 200 feet abeam. Surprise, ignorance and the resulting fear during an intercept generate an emotional "near-midair" report by the civil pilot, when the military pilot had him in sight all the time. As civil pilots, we Americans enjoy freedoms unheard of in most of the rest of the world. The ability to fly coast-to-coast with no radio and no transponder in a vintage biplane or a light-sport aircraft is a freedom to be cherished. Yelling at each other, and flying irresponsibly, will doubtless reduce our freedoms to fly in military and civil domains. MOAs exist to alert VFR pilots to, and separate IFR pilots from, military activities that may be hazardous. Civil pilots transiting MOAs in VMC must keep heads on a swivel, and navigate accurately to stay clear of often nearby restricted areas. The current balance of restricted and MOA airspace is a good system, in my view. The alternative is more restricted areas, especially as unmanned aircraft proliferate. More restricted airspace means less freedom for us all. Emotional finger-pointing among the pilot community is not helpful. There are plenty of non-aviation folks who will "do something" with little understanding of impact on us all. Best to understand the current rules and fly responsibly to preserve what we have. Stan Bloyer
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