AVmail: May 24, 2004

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Reader mail this week about contract towers, firefighting tankers, noise lawsuits and more.

Contract Towers

Copy of a letter sent to Sen. Ted Stevens, Chairman, Senate Appropriations Committee

Dear Chairman Stevens:

As Congress begins work on the Department of Transportation fiscal year 2005 appropriations bill that includes FAA Federal Contract Tower Program, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization urges you to also initiate a total investigation of the FAA as to why this agency has refused to rehire the PATCO Air Traffic Controllers since the ban was lifted by President Clinton on August 12, 1993.

To date, and based on FAA current data, only 846 PATCO Controllers have been re-hired by the FAA, instead, this agency has been hiring younger, inexperienced controllers. I consider the agencies policies and practices of refusing to hire PATCO controllers “discriminatory and illegal” under the Age Discrimination Employment Act. I have hundreds of sworn affidavits substantiating the facts that fully qualified former PATCO controllers who have reapplied for positions within the FAA are continually refused employment. In addition, under deposition, an FAA Career Division official, admitted that PATCO controllers were considered “Best Qualified” but also admitted to “hiring quotas” in respect to employment opportunities available that applied solely to former PATCO controllers.

Since appropriations is the key word of this committee, then the FAA’s ongoing misappropriations of taxpayers monies should also be reviewed. It appears that the FAA is asking for an additional $7 million “to be used exclusively for the “ continuation of the contract tower cost-sharing program.” Either this program has some serious cost over runs or someone is doing damage control to keep this program afloat at any cost. I seriously doubt that any of these additional funds, as requested by the agency, will go towards increasing the underpaid salaries of the contract tower controllers, provide them with better benefits, more staffing or anything that might pertain to their working conditions, so who is making the bucks on this request?

I am confident that, as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, you will scrutinize and demand accountability for all funding requests of this seriously fragmented agency.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for your service and if I may be of any assistance to you or your committee, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Ron Taylor
President, Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization

Firefighting Tankers

AVweb did a good job reporting the air tanker situation in its May 16 edition (NewsWire). However, even though you accurately mentioned Air Tractor, I think it would have served your readers better to elaborate on the effectiveness of these aircraft.

It all goes back to not only safety (33 a/c grounded), but job security. The fires should never reach a point where anything larger than an Air Tractor is needed, with few exceptions. Although this aircraft carries 800 gallons in comparison to the 3,000-gallon heavy air tankers, it is more agile, can fly from shorter strips getting closer to the fires and ferry at equal to or higher rates of speed (error in your article). Also, the Air Tractor is more than proportionally more cost effective, e.g. four Air Tractors equal 3,200 gallons for less than 1/4 of the costs of the heavy air tanker and as a bonus, can go in four directions! Go figure!

Eventually, it will dawn on the U.S. government, SEAT (Single Engine Air Tankers) and helicopters are the way to fight wildland fires. Politicians should review other countries' practices, such as Spain's, where they have a fleet of Air Tractors, loaded, flying patrol on computer generated models of where the most likely place a fire could erupt!

Bill Lavender
Publisher, AgAir Update

Noise Lawsuits Against Pilots

I just read the article (NewsWire, May 17) about the noise lawsuits against pilots and I am fighting mad! I spent some 40 years (off and on since age 16) and several thousand dollars achieving my private pilot's license (issued October of last year) and I am not about to sit back and give up one of the few great joys of my life to a few sour grapes individuals and groups who want to grab a few quick bucks, just because they can't stand to see others doing something they don't like. But I would also like to offer my suggestion for a solution to the problem, and it's practicable. "Trying them in the court of public opinion" is fine, but why can't we take it a step further and try them in a court of law?

Would it be possible to counter-sue these individuals and groups? Are they, by trying to intimidate and extort (my belief) money from us, not at least indirectly attempting to restrict our licensed privilege to fly, and moreover, aren't they attempting to deny and/or infringe upon our constitutional rights to engage in free intra- and inter-state travel and commerce? If so, wouldn't this be grounds to sue both the individuals and their organizations? I believe these people should be confronted and taught a lasting and expensive lesson about interfering in other people's lives and business, simply because they don't like what we do, or because they were naive enough to buy property near an airport and now want to grab a few quick bucks from someone else. And, before you ask, the answer is yes ... I would be willing to contribute to such legal action, and so, I believe, would lots of other folks who might see themselves as the next targets of these greedy, anti-freedom, noise %$#@!

That's it. I've said my piece. Now I'm off to that Web site mentioned in the article to see what I can do to aid in the fight to maintain our ability to fly. I invite all of you readers out there, pilots and non-pilots alike, to join me. Either you help us stop them here and now, or you and your chosen recreation or, yes even livelihood, could be next!

Daniel E. Slocum

While I whole-heartedly support the fight against groups like Stop the Noise, they do have a point and we should pay attention. While I love airplanes, they are loud, as are snowmobiles and motorcycles, which I dislike intensely for that very reason. The latter two can be made quieter, so why are we not trying to do this for GA, too? Jet enines have come a long way in this regard. So instead of pouring money into the coffers of lawyers (who only want to see more of these suits), let's spend it on eliminating the noise. Seems this would remove much of the "natural quiet" issues for the Park Service, too.

Harold Moritz

Picture of the Week Photo Error

The second-place winner of this week's POTW was a photo of an aircraft identified as a C-195. Unless that C-195 is flying inverted (putting the high wing at the bottom), and had its fixed gear cut off, I think you've made a mistake in identification. That is undoubtedly a Spartan Executive ... a beautiful airplane no matter what you call it.

Cameron Fraser

AVweb Replies

Actually, the photo was taken from a C-195. We neglected to mention that the airplane is, indeed, a Spartan Executive.

Kevin Lane-Cummings
Features and AVmail Editor