AVmail: April 28, 2003
Reader mail this week about guns in the cockpit, the perils of GPS and more.
Guns in the Cockpit
While reader Boney's hypothesis [AVmail April 20] can't be disproven (that's the neat thing about hypotheses), the U.S. score at this point in the terrorist war is Suicidal Terrorists 19, Suicidal Pilots 0 for fatal cockpit insurrections. In the case of a single, armed pilot, the probability is at least 50% that (s)he will not be the suicidal one, and have a nearly 100% probability of dealing successfully with the hijacker as well. Keep your powder dry!
Why is no one up in arms about truck rentals in this country? Anyone with a valid drivers license can rent one with no background checks. And, unless I missed something, so far no GA aircraft have been used in terrorist attacks, but at least two rental trucks were used (first World Trade Center attack, and Timothy McVeigh's attack). Yet I hear no journalists raising the cry, "Keep America safe from rental trucks!"
And "King Richie" (Richard Daley) should tell the truth. He wants a casino where Meigs field used to operate. If he was really concerned for the safety of his citizens, he would carve up Gary, Palwaukee, Midway, and O'Hare, as they all pose just as large (if not larger) threats than does Meigs.
Unfortunately, it does appear that the terrorists are succeeding in taking away our way of living.
Perils of GPS
I think the dangers of flying without adequate preparation cannot be overstated. However I feel that the problem expressed in this article is relevent only to GPS receivers without an adequate moving map.
There are a lot of "old time" instructors and fliers who have expressed concern over the ability of the GPS to provide "push the button and fly" capability, and whilst this is never a good idea, it is much more relevant to the older style receivers.
Where the receiver has only a display of numbers and letters and perhaps direction arrow, the potential for a disastrous mistake is very high, especially if there is no inderpendent instrument cross-checking the navigation. I have personally fallen foul of this and thankfully discovered my error before it became fatal.
I firmly believe that this problem has been effectively solved by the use of the latest ground mapping receivers. The spacial awareness when competently used is almost as good as VFR, and this is particularly so with the integrated Nav/GPs units like Garmin's 430/530 series. The ability of the latest 12-channel receivers to hold onto the satelite signal has also lessened the risk of suddenly finding oneself without navigation.
When I fly VFR, my GPS has become my primary navigation tool, and my chart (which is always in my lap) my secondary. This definitely irks many who learned navigation before GPS, but then the VOR probably did the same to the ADF brigade.
Thanks for a wonderful magazine.
The problem detailed in this reprinted article has been created by the FAA and its lack of clear guidance to its field inspectors. For 20 years we installed LORAN systems with auto switching on shared indicators, so that selecting a localizer frequency on the primary nav radio switched out the LORAN and displayed the localizer as required. No chance for pilot error -- no action on his part required to get it right.
Then ... the FAA got into the act by issuing guidance for GPS installations that made auto switching at the option of the installer. This would be OK if the installer could discuss it with the end users (pilots and students) and point out the ramifications of each situation, but that doesn't happen in all cases, such as the one described in the article. It has been further compromised by FSDO field inspectors in many regions telling installers they may not connect GPS/ILS auto switching. It is a shame when the very agency charged with the safety of flying creates an unsafe condition, and then points the pilot error finger when an incident/accident happens that could have been avoided with a little common sense.
AVweb responds ...
If there is some safety reason not to have mandatory autoswitching, perhaps an AVweb reader, FAA or otherwise, could write and let us know.
Features and AVmail Editor
Hasn't JetBlue also been posting profits regularly? And aren't there a couple of other airlines that have been doing well? While the big hub-and-spoke carriers have been hemorrhaging red ink, it seems the carriers that aren't using that business model have been doing okay. Or is that not the case? Just wondering.
AVweb responds ...
Yes, it's true that some smaller carriers and regional airlines, including Jet Blue, are doing okay, but Southwest is the only major airline that's managed to remain profitable in every quarter since 9/11, and has avoided layoffs as well.
Senior News Editor