Top Letters And Comments, February 11, 2022


Accident Probe: Course Reversal In IMC

Turning around is ok if you have trained for it. I got vertigo in the left seat of a B-52 doing a descending right turn between layers of sloping clouds. I had been trained to believe the instruments and I locked onto the HSI and told my copilot to take the airplane through the turn and level at 10,000 feet. There was no reply so for a second I unlocked my twitching eyes to glance at the co-pilot who was barfing in his helmet bag. I managed to level off and shoot an ILS to landing. It was 40 years ago and I remember it like yesterday. Know your target power settings, know your min maneuver speeds, trust your instruments, fly the airplane.

Seagull Flyer

First student solo flight off the airport I euphorically followed the Cumberland River until Nashville ATC informed I would need to change frequencies or turn around. And so I did. 15 miles out from the airport a cloud bank had mechanically marched behind me at pattern alt almost to the turn point it seemed. First thrill with clouds, scud and terror followed. Went home, got the King School course and passed the instrument written before private check ride. Then went directly to instrument training and got the ticket. Never looked back. We do look out for traffic, but I’m always on the needles. Once was enough.

Marc Gagliardi

ATC Pet Peeves

A number of my own past screw-ups have involved confirmation bias. The most recent example was at an airport I had been frequenting which has two parallel east-west taxiways. One is “always” assigned to westbound taxiing traffic, the other used for eastbound…except on the day it wasn’t, for me. Exiting the runway, I cheerfully and correctly read back Ground’s taxi instructions and then proceeded to do exactly the opposite, putting me head-on with another aircraft on a narrow taxiway. I’ll transmit this expression of thanks ‘in the blind’ to the annoyed controller who gave me a break on that one.

John W.

I’ve been lined up on the wrong airport twice in unfamiliar areas to me. ATC was trying to help, but I was disoriented enough both times that what they were saying made no sense. One guy gave me a good vector which solved the problem, but the other guy for some reason could or would not. I swear he got me off my proper vector, and then back on it or there was a third airport that looked JUST like the one I was aiming for all along. I’ve found that humility and civility make up for a lot of stupidity. At least I didn’t catch any anger coming through.

I would think glass panels would help reduce this a lot.

Eric W.

Poll: Is The FAA Right to Crack Down On Illegal Expense Sharing?

  • As with everything else, the FAA is trying to make everything fit in a one-size-fits-all box. Rules appropriate for someone like NetJets are overkill for an operation with a pair of single engine piston airplanes. And trying to crack down on someone flying their buddies somewhere is a waste of resources. Nobody bats an eye if my friends pile into my minivan and I drop them off somewhere and nobody tries to pull my driver’s license for running an “illegal taxi operation.” The FAA has bigger and more important things to worry about.
  • FAA is trying to protect the industry during a slowdown in business.
  • Illegal is illegal… Enforce the rules or change them.
  • While I’m not sure whether there’s very much aerial “ride sharing” abuse happening now, it is ripe for abuse and will be very hard to stop if it really gets going.
  • Certainly for jets and large turboprops. For little guys, not so much.
  • Qualifying for a charter company is a daunting and expensive task, but for a reason. The aircraft, company and pilot must meet the requirements. With sharing the cost/Part 91 charter type of operation you don’t have any checks and balances for the operation. Cheaper for the customer, but at what cost?
  • FAA’s emphasis discourages doing favors for friends. FAA is overstepping; it needs to back off.
  • The cost sharing rules impede reasonable activities and the FAA is overly concerned about the issue. They should give this a rest, as you say; and, the rules should be changed to allow pro rata sharing with no further intent inquiry.
  • Inspectors need to have reasonable discretion. If a person gives a ride to a friend, no harm and no foul. If that same person gives a ride to a “friend”… well, that’s holding out and should be prosecuted. There’s no algorithm that will tell the difference, so the personal judgement of the inspector must be part of it.
  • They are the rules and the FAA should enforce them. If someone is unhappy with the rules, they should work to get them changed. Unless/until that happens, the FAA is right to enforce them. We don’t get to pick which rules to follow and ignore the ones we don’t like.
  • Having gone through the rigors of getting a 135 certificate and having the FAA do base checks along with taking check rides to keep that certificate, I say yes, the FAA needs to come down hard on illegal charter operators.
  • Rules and regulations, though needed for safety, have skyrocketed the cost of ownership. As a seasoned aviator with over 25,000 hrs. flight time, cost is still out of control to afford a fairly new aircraft.
  • Why does NBAA have a special carve out? Special privilege for wealthy corporations does not extend to the average joe.
  • I think safety would be better serviced by cracking down on airplanes flying out if annual and pilots flying without current medicals. Let’s start there.
  • There are other issues that are certainly more important.
  • I’ve seen way too many pilots fly Part 134 (you know, not quite 135) charters (wink, wink).
  • Rules is rules; either enforce them or abolish them.
  • Didn’t know it was a problem.
  • The FAA is NEVER right.

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  1. This is about the FAA cracking down on illegal charters. The current rules are confusing and leave gray areas for pilots trying to comply with them. “Common purpose” and “pro rata share” are the gray areas. Let’s examine “pro rata share” first. Here is a very real situation that many pilots have encountered.

    Suppose I call my friend and say “How would you like to fly to restaurant XYZ for lunch tomorrow?” He says yes and insists on paying his portion of the fuel to get there and back. So far so good with the rules. He wants to invite another of our friends to go with us and the friend says yes. However, the friend does not offer to pay a pro rata share of the fuel costs. Instead my friend says not to worry, that he will pay for both of them. I tell him that isn’t what the rules allow. We go on the flight and afterward my friend gives me a check for 2/3 of the fuel cost instead of 1/3. Our other friend doesn’t offer to pay anything. I object and refuse to accept the check. My friend is upset with me. This entire episode has no effect on the safety of the flight, which is the goal of the FAA rules. The goal is to prevent a reduction in safety by less qualified pilots who skirt the part 135 rules. The rules should be revised to eliminate the pro-rata sharing and just allow cost sharing between the pilot and passengers.

    Let’s look now at “common purpose”. What if my first friend had called me and said “Let’s fly to restaurant XYZ tomorrow for lunch.” I say “That’s a great idea. I’m up for it.” Now we are in a gray area of the rules since it wasn’t me who initiated the flight. Again, it makes no sense in terms of improving the safety of the flight. The rules should be revised to ignore whoever initiates the flight as long as all the parties share a common purpose. Now let’s think about the situation where the three of us take off and head for the airport with restaurant XYZ on the field. We get there and find out that the restaurant is closed because of COVID but they forgot to update the hours of operation on their website and no one answered when we called ahead. We take off to go back home and along the way my friend asks me to divert to an interesting airport that he heard had a restaurant within walking distance. I agree and we ask our other friend if he’s okay with that. He says that he doesn’t care and leaves it up to us. Technically we are now in violation of the “common purpose” rules. There should never be gray areas in the rules. If the FAA cannot write a rule that has no gray areas, then they should not write a rule at all. You can’t legislate absolute compliance because there are too many permutations. The lawyers who write the regulations are not computer programmers who know how to account for all permutations or error conditions and they are not motivated to do so.

  2. Perhaps part of the problem is that the FAA works from an assumption that hours flown have monetary value. This isn’t always true. If they were not allowed to use that falsity, the whole thing collapses on itself and could potentially become both simpler and more fair.

    Certainly, there are people who can be shown to potentially gain value from flying a subsidized flight, but most of us are simply losing money, and lots of it, unless we charged more much more than fuel and oil.

    The framework we have is a typical piece of federal muck built on a real need and then layered upon over decades to make enforcement of the original (poorly formed) rule easier or possible. Of course, the existing FAA is incapable of starting over with a rule written for the modern situation. So we are stuck with it.

    I would think a system where small fines or warnings could be issued in more border line cases with the requirements for a conviction on actually operating an illegal charter had a higher standard would be a good improvement.

    If A 55 year old millionaire has 2,000 hours and takes friends out for golf once a month, a proper rule shouldn’t touch him. He’s obviously not building hours to become an ATP, and he isn’t running a charter, and that should be obvious, but right now he is in violation.

    • Sorry, he is in violation if his friends pick up trip expenses such as green fees and food in excess of their pro rats shares.