AVmail: July 7, 2003

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Reader mail this week about the plane crash after ATC denied clearance into the ADIZ, crashing into safe trees and more.

GA Security In Practice ... Pilot Crashes After ATC Denies Access

How much longer will the safety of government officals be put over Americans? The system pre-9/11 was there for our safety. You got in trouble, you called ATC and the system became yours to help you get down safely. Now, courtesy of Homeland Security, our safety no longer is of concern. If you're not in the system ... too bad, your on your own.

I was under the impression that the Department of Homeland Security was developed to protect all Americans, but instead it appears that this organization was developed to protect American politicians at the cost of Americans. How many more GA aircraft will have to go down and how many of us will have to die before they change their direction?

Write your polticians and demand that this department be changed to protect all of us.

Bob O'Hanlon

I found your headline of "Pilot Crashes After ATC Denies Access" misleading.

While I can empathize with this pilot's difficulties in obtaining a clearance to enter the ADIZ, this in no way excuses the pilot for running out of gas. This is a case study for Rick Durden's Project D.A.R.W.I.N.

Worst case scenario, it's called Declaring an Emergency. This guy needs a big-time refresher course in being Pilot in Command. Thank God he didn't kill any of his passengers or anyone on the ground. Can't wait to read the final NTSB report -- I would be surprised if any mention of contributing factors was the fact that ATC couldn't find the flight plan. Anyone ever thought they submitted a flight plan and it got lost, forgotten, deleted, timed out, or you forgot to "submit"?

Henry Brinck

It would be interesting to know if the pilot of the aircraft in this article filed via DUATS instead of with an FSS. It would not surprise me if the pilot filed with DUATS and DUATS mishandled it. I'm a computer operator with Flight Service at Fort Worth FSDPS (Flight Service Data Processing System). Having worked a number of years as a flight service ATC specialist, then moving into a staff support specialist position at DeRidder AFSS, I can't count the number of times pilots called DeRidder AFSS asking where their flight plan was that they filed through DUATS.

Now it's obvious all the facts haven't been fully revealed in this situation. And it's also true that FSS's lose flight plans, too. Using the FSS's current system, once all the flight plan blanks are filled in, the Specialist has to press a key to temporarily save the data. Then another key, called the "GI" key, must be pressed to file the flight plan in the mainframe computer. This final step -- GI-ing the flight plan -- is occasionally not done, and the FSS "loses" the flight plan. But if the ATCS or AFSS supervisor realizes the mistake, they can call us at the FSDPS. We can retrieve the data off the computer's history files and resend them to the AFSS.

And this can be done in a matter of minutes. That's the reason I suspect the "lost" flight plan mentioned in that article on the accident in Maryland was lost by DUATS.

But it's really interesting that people who file through DUATS turn to FSS when there's a problem with the flight plan not being available. Multiply the number of daily occurences times 61 (the number of AFSSs) and you've got lots of lost flight plans.

And just think: The FAA is pushing privatization (think of lots of little DUATS contractors) as a solution for getting the FAA out of doing flight services. Incredible!

Steve Collinsworth

Taking the "Search" Out of "Search-and-Rescue"

I think that you have a bit of incorrect information in your article on Personal Locator Beacons. I know that the Canadian government is not going to eliminate the requirement to carry an ELT in your aircraft. They are not going to require a 406 ELT; however, you have that option (to the tune of $3-4K).

Also, the SARSAT system will be monitoring 121.5 MHz until Feb. 2009. Once SARSAT is no longer monitoring 121.5 the existing ELTs will cease to be alerting devices, and will only be location beacons. This means that we'll be going back to pre-SARSAT days of only knowing someone is down by the expiration of their flight plan or itinerary.

Terry Cooper

Crater Lake Buzz Job

With regard to Mr. Parker's letter concerning the flight over Crater Lake and around Wizard Island: What regulation has this pilot broken? Looking at the terrain on a topographical map, it sure seems as if the pilot could be at a legal altitude that is below both the crater rim as well as the peak of the island.

He could have been engaged in aerial photography, habitat surveying, sightseeing or any of a number of legitimate (and legal) activities. Mr. Parker might consider the merits of defending these legal GA activities.

Ron Rosenfeld

AVweb Responds:

The AIM (Section 7.4.6) says, in part, "... Pilots are requested to maintain a minimum altitude of 2,000 feet above the surface of the following: National Parks, Monuments ..." Certainly there is the ongoing debate on whether the AIM contains "rules," (tell that to anyone who has lost their certificate for doing something different than the AIM says) and there are legitimate situations for a flight path like this.

Kevin Lane-Cummings
Features and AVmail Editor

Honey, We Have A Problem ...

In my book "Waldo: Pioneer Aviator," Waldo Dean Waterman relates that he used to instruct his students (ca. 1922) as to which type of trees to land on or crash into that would do the least damage to the airplane.

Jack Carpenter

Question of the Week -- Anti-Depressants

Flying is its own anti-depressant!

Why would anyone need to take a pill for that? Mood/mind altering drugs have no business in the cockpit.

Bob Ferguson