AVmail: Aug. 1, 2005

Reader mail this week about the DCA 30-minute rule, the age-60 rule, user fees, and much more.


Thirty-Minute DCA Rule

Last week I flew into DCA on United 602 from ORD. We were told by the cabin crew that the 30-minute rule [all passengers in their seats] still applied in spite of media reports to the contrary. When questioned on it, they said the Captain told them it was so. On further questioning they were open to the suggestion that it might be company policy. My sense is that it is b.s. to make the cabin crew’s job easier in the last 30 minutes. When we flew United 603 from DCA to ORD a week earlier, no mention was made of the 30-minute rule. Application of this defunct rule appears to be optional with the crew.Spencer Annear

Age 60 Rule

The age 60 rule is based on misinformation (NewsWire, Jul. 25). Physical and cognitive decline starts (sadly) in the 20s. Unfortunately, there are no hard data as to a specific age when decline could be impairing for flight. Scientists are working on development of tests to identify those individuals with early cognitive impairment. Until then it seems a waste of experience and skills to limit commercial pilots under age 65. Several times I have been on commercial flights, particularly on regional carriers, when I wished there were “adults” flying the planes with some years of experience. A compromise would be to allow pilots age 60 to 65 to fly as long as the other seat was held by someone under age 50 with faster reaction time. This would combine experience with presumed physical responsivity.Edward J. Kelty, Ph.D.
(Psychologist and A.O.P.A. Member)

Honda Jet Not So Unique

First of all I have to thank you for providing your newsletter! I appreciate reading it and most of the time everything written in is good information — thanks for that.But this time I have to intervene. Your last newsletter gave an information (from a Honda chief engineer) that is totally wrong (NewsWire, July 29):

“Fujino said the unusual engine mount is really the most innovative part of the design, since it had never been done before …”

To be honest, the VFW 614 that I’m talking about wasn’t an economical success (it just flew for a Danish regional airline – Cimber-Air) but VFW-Fokker had build 10 (plus three prototypes) airplanes and sold them!By the way, NASA also made studies with “over the wing propulsion” — have a look at this picture (in German, from 1974 at NASA’s Langley Research Center).So please be so kind to give your readers an update on this topic. They have seen a new airplane but an old concept.Karl-Heinz Keller

User Fees

I read with great dismay the Orwellian doubletalk from Marion Blakey at EAA Airventure on the subject of user fees (NewsWire, Jul. 29). Need we remind Ms. Administrator that General Aviation already pays substantial user fees, in the form of:

  1. Federal Fuel Taxes
  2. State Fuel Taxes
  3. Local Fuel Taxes
  4. Aircraft Registration Fees (in many States)
  5. Takeoff/Landing Fees

Somehow these don’t count?The existing user-fee structure is a proven and efficient method to collect a huge amount of money from General Aviation users based on their use of aviation resources. Another tax is just a tax increase. Why build a whole new collection mechanism, other than to waste tax money on another bureaucracy?Richard Schmidt

It is really amazing how Marion Blakey can go on spouting like she has been. Aren’t good-faith contract negotiations suppose to be private? Why has she thrown out all these little tidbits about the contract negotiations? Could it be she never had the intention to have a fair negotiation and is instead setting up the public for what she and the FAA intend to do? This is a sad, sad case, especially when it is coming from a federal agency.Like she mentions, the FAA is in a service industry. The last time I checked, the largest expense of a service company is on its employees. The largest assets are also its own employees. It is not like the FAA is producing a product where they have raw materials to pay for. The only other expenses are with the modernization projects, and who knows how many billions of dollars has been wasted on failed projects.Also her talk about user fees really concerns me. “We need a stable funding system. And user pays also means user says.” So does that mean if Mr. Billionaire can pay a little extra into the system, he has a larger say? Will the wealthy now be able to pay their ways in the skies? Will preference be given to Bill Gates next time he flies into N.Y. as compared to your average flight? The agency is headed for a disaster with this lady in charge and all she can do is spout off how little money there is, instead of fixing the issues.What are your thoughts on this, or the AVweb audience?Rich Yao

Once again, it looks like the FAA and Department of Transportation are looking at user fees as means to cover their costs. Before any additional funding resources are considered, the FAA needs to have a bottoms-up assessment conducted by external aviation experts (customers) to determine what its mission should be and what essential services it should be providing to the aviation community. It is my guess that the FAA, if such an assessment is conducted, will need to be totally reorganized to provide efficient and cost-effective services. Only minimal and essential services/enforcement should be provided. The government and the aviation community cannot afford to support a top-heavy bureaucracy that appears to be more concerned with self-preservation than efficiency.Thus far, the FAA, as a typical government agency, has shown little ability to make improvements in an efficient and cost-effective manner, let alone to seriously reexamine its organizational structure. In my opinion, the first thing that probably needs to go is the need for medical examinations for private pilots. It is difficult to believe that the financial resources used to process Class III medicals, although a very small percentage of the overall FAA budget, couldn’t be used in other ways to provide a more tangible and meaningful improvement to flying safety. We need to look at all FAA functions to determine what its essential functions should be and then look at the optimum and cost-effective ways to perform those functions. All of the commercial aviation-related businesses have to do this in an on-going basis. The FAA should be no different.Bob Lee

200k For Controllers?

Oh, here we go again with the salary wars (NewsWire, Jul. 14). In 1981, when the true, average, gross, take-home pay of a controller was about $33k, I was reading that controllers made $75k. (I think there was one controller in Chicago who worked all night and Sunday shifts, and got overtime from working six days a week, who did make this amount of money; but it was hardly the average.) Please, please, please make sure that you’re reporting valid controller salary information and not falling for anyone’s manipulation of the facts. Although vacation, sick leave, pensions, medical insurance, unemployment insurance, workmen’s comp insurance, etc., may all be valid expenses for an employer, most of us look at compensation as gross pay and nothing else. If the FAA is including benefits in their $200k figure, then tell us. If you just print “$200k,” people will think that gross pay is $200k and benefits are on top of that. And if the gross, take-home pay is really going to be $200k, well, pass out the smelling salts, because I think there’ll be more than a few of us who will need them.Gary Kerr

AVweb Replies:

We’ve been very careful to explain that the numbers are a combination of wages, benefits and overtime. NATCA has not disputed any of the figures but has blamed the FAA for the overtime by saying that there are not enough controllers. Stay tuned. This one has a long way to go.

Russ Niles

Island in the Sky

“Island in the Sky” is back in circulation and playing on AMC. Produced in 1953 and held in limbo by the “Duke’s” estate since 1979, this is the most technically perfect aviation movie ever made. (OK, IMHO). A must-see once or again for any pilot!Jon Holiner

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