AVmail: Mar. 27, 2006

Reader mail this week about taxi into position and hold and aging aircraft, and lots of comments about aging pilots.


Taxi Into Position And Hold

Regarding the Question of the Week about Taxi Into Position and Hold (QOTW, Mar. 23):My passenger counted 13 airplanes waiting for takeoff during one busy afternoon at Addison airport in Texas (KADS — single, 7000-foot runway, under DFW Class B). Who knows how many it would have been without Taxi Into Position and Hold. Our controllers have the timing pretty well perfected; pilots learn to quickly respond to clearances, and it works well. Depending on how much gas you give the airplane taxiing into position, there’s typically a five- to 10-second delay between getting positioned and getting takeoff clearance. Regardless, I keep a very close eye on the approach path until I lose sight of it in the turn.Fred Wedemeier

Aging Aircraft

Current topics involving the aging aircraft fleet in this country seem to have missed a very important part to my way of thinking: Mainly, what do you do when a part is no longer available?Case in point, the PA31P-425 that uses the TIGO541 engine. Searching for some items, such as vacuum pumps, is like looking for hen’s teeth — they aren’t there! There are approximately 118 Piper Navajos registered in the U.S. Who knows what part of the fleet is airworthy? So how are airplanes like this figuring into the FAA’s thinking when deciding their fate along with other planes, for instance the Twin Commander? At what point does the availability of parts for a particular aircraft bring about action from the FAA? There are those in aviation who seem to believe it is their right to keep an aircraft flying no matter the costs. I have heard pilot/owners argue that you can make your own parts if none exist.I fail to see the logic in expecting an aircraft to remain airworthy for eternity. Any criteria put forth for an aircraft’s retirement will be opposed by those affected. The judgment of when that point comes, considering all factors, like parts availability, is in fact a judgment that will soon have to be faced by owners.Like it or not, the public’s interest in safety will eventually outweigh general aviation’s arguments. It will be interesting when more King Airs hit that magic number of 20,000 hours, the end of their service life, to see what lengths owners will go to keep their aircraft flying.James T. Foster

Older Pilots

As an “older pilot” being discussed in the article (NewsWire, Mar. 20), the article might have more validity if the statistics were based on the number of hours flown, rather than the number of flights. The pilots over 50 years of age might be flying more hours than their younger counterparts or they might not. The article just doesn’t tell me that. I would be more interested in that survey that did.The medical exam only examines your health at a single point is time. Age does not determine your ability to tell the truth. I do know if I had a condition that I felt was unsafe, I would not fly. I am not looking for a novel way to die and/or make it into the newspaper.Paul Tipton

I just read about the survey indicating that older pilots have more accidents (by a very slight margin).This is true — duh!All one has to do is look at the automobile insurance companies’ statistics to see that age does have an effect. This applies to all modes of transportation: boats, motorcycles, etc.Pointing out the obvious appears to be just another attempt to smear older people, flying in general, and sport aviation in particular.Jack Stanton

It’s unfortunate you have brought out this AP report on “accident rate increasing with pilot age” because it creates a false impression. These statistics may bear out for GA, where pilots are lucky to fly 100 hours a year and not subject to intense scrutiny of their skills in the simulator or semi-annual FAA Class I physicals. In the airline industry, the opposite is true. We can show that our age and experience makes us safer pilots. In fact, ICAO has adopted an age 65 retirement and we are working hard with Congress to get them to revise the FAA’s antiquated age 60 mandatory retirement rule for airline pilots. Without explaining the AP’s target survey group, you have done a gross disservice to your readers and helped prolong the forces of age discrimination against our most highly qualified, proficient, and safe pilots — the professional pilots in our nation’s airlines.Ellis Sharadin

Mercy! Talk about a slanted, narrow article. Had Mr. Pearson [of the Associated Press] done his homework he would have discovered facts that certainly would have altered the conclusion to his article.As with other disputed FAA statistics, the biggest flaw is that at precisely age 60 they remove the safest pilots from the surveys. Therefore, the airline pilots hold the accident rate down, until they retire; then the accident rate, without airline pilots, rises considerably.Considering airline pilots only, the worst accident rate is with 25 to 39 year olds, dropping steadily until age 60. Of course the onerous FAA age 60 rule, the FAA and ALPA/APA defend with b.s. and innuendo is the real problem. It is a totally unsubstantiated 40+ year-old rule with no foundation other than that of being a favor to the then CEO of American, C.R. Smith, by his WWII buddy, Elwood R. Quesada, then the head of the FAA. It was simply a stroke of Quesada’s pen!The FAA is considering gathering data on retired airline pilots working for NetJets, according to the new Federal Air Surgeon. I, along with others, believe this to be another FAA delaying tactic, seen before.I am 64 years old and will turn 65 in September. I have approximately 40,000 accident-free hours with no violations on my record. My passengers can rely on me to get them where they hope to go — safely!Any changes to the present FAA “rule” will come too late for me. However, I still fly the same aircraft as a test pilot. Further, I am legally able to fly that same airplane to the same destinations, with the same crew and passengers if none of the passengers pay for their passage!I am being discriminated against by my own government and it is baseless. That probably makes sense to someone — certainly not to me…Billy Walker

It is misleading to blame pilot age for higher crash rates. The actual causal variable may be the number of years since the last rating was obtained, not the age of the pilot. Before buying into a news report that implies causality when only correlation exists, AOPA should insist on a study that considers years since each major rating was earned, as well the age of the pilot, before accepting that age alone is to blame for higher accident rates among older pilots.Leigh Kelly

Where’s My Short Final?

As a dedicated reader of AVweb, I have my favorites I look for in each edition. On Mondays it’s “Short Final” and on Thursdays it’s “POTW.” Please tell me it was an oversight last Monday with me not being able to find “Short Final” in the postings. I now have to go to my office (the tower cab) with a mild case of the “D.T.s” and no flying for me until I get my fix.Buddy Wyatt

AVweb Replies:

Yup, it was an honest mistake on a busy evening of AVweb production. Our apologies to all those who didn’t get their fix last week — and based on the number of emails we got on that subject, there were a lot of folks with the Short Final DTs.

Glenn Pew

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