AVmail: May 31, 2004

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Reader mail this week about FSS privatization, firefighting tankers, Capstone in Alaska, airport noise and much more.

FSS Privatization

I would appreciate you giving me the opportunity to respond to this letter (AVmail, May 17).

Mr. Jim Bemiss:

I am a dedicated and hard-working Air Traffic Controller at the Terre Haute, Ind., AFSS. I must say I was offended at your letter this month on FSS privatization. Yes, we are in danger of losing our jobs to the lowest bidder. At the same time we are required to continue to keep performing our duties with less staffing and to provide you -- the pilot -- all the new Temporary Flight Restricted Areas across this nation. I do not support any co-workers providing less than excellent service to the pilots. We are a service organization, and should be providing the very best service to our flying public. I will personally apologize for my brother and sisters in this agency whose attitudes should have been adjusted. However, did you report those controllers to management?

Please understand we deal with thousands of pilots daily, and we talk with pilots who seem to need attitude adjustments, but I for one will always treat you with respect, because I am here to serve you.

Please reconsider your stand on privatization, because next year you may be paying for your ATC services. You might ask your brothers and sisters who fly into Canada and Europe how that is working for them!

Name withheld by request

Grounded Firefighting Tankers

A correction to your intro of the USFS report on air tanker safety (NewsWire, May 16). You say it was prompted by the loss of two C-130A and a PB4Y-2 during 2002 fire season. I think the first C-130A was lost in 1993, with a C-130A and PB4Y-2 going down in 2002. The C-130As are interesting because they were two of three Herkie-birds that were reportedly heavily modified in USAF service as Compass Call sorta spooks and operated by CIA. Rumor has it that the mods resulted in the wingbox being penetrated or weakened, which eventually led to both tankers experiencing their wings folding up and departing the fuselage just prior to the airplanes crashing.

Personally, I'm hoping the air tankers are inspected and those that pass are certified to fly in 2004 fire season. I've written to all members of Congress from my home state -- California -- plus other western U.S. states where federal contract tankers are based. USFS and Interior Department bureaucrats have taken the easy way out: Their "risk management attorneys" must be in the catbird seat on this one. FAA can do inspections, even though they are trying to take a dive by saying, "We only inspect civilian aircraft." (The tankers are privately-owned and N-registered). Everyone is trying to stay clear of any controversy, while lives and property are in peril. Just wait until Sep-Nov when the western U.S. is burning (much drymass out there already) and watch Congress demand an investigation and heads of selective bureaucrats. Whole thing makes me ill!

Steve Nation

Has anyone looked at the fire-tanker operation in Canada? They, Canada, seem to have a very good record with flight safety. Oh, but wait: It's state-sponsored; someone must be in charge there! But on the other hand, the forest will grow back or be replaced with burbs and all the people can complain about overflights of small aircraft.

Britt M. Mulhollem

AVweb Replies

While Quebec and Ontario own and operate air tankers, the rest of Canada (and there's a lot of it) depends on contractors such as Conair, Air Spray and Flying Tankers (which operates two huge Martin Mars amphibs) to quench the flames. Ontario and Quebec frequently lease private aircraft; other provinces and states will lease the publicly-owned aircraft, depending on need. It's common to see them in the air together. While the safety record is enviable -- thanks to a relatively modern fleet of increasingly turboprop aircraft -- an Air Spray Electra and a light helicopter were lost during last year's monumental fire battles in Western Canada, killing three pilots.

Russ Niles
AVweb's Canadian Writer


I admire the man who's won the fight to get to keep the remains of the Brewster-built Corsair (NewsWire, May 24). However, if he does manage to restore it to airworthiness, it will probably be over-restored, from what I've read of Brewster's track record!

Paul Burch

Air Canada Didn't Stop Flying

Recently AVweb wrote (NewsWire, May 24):

"Air Canada could fly again. The airline has reached a tentative agreement with sales and service agents and crew schedulers. The agreement will allow the airline to save about $2 billion Canadian. With that behind them, Air Canada hopes to be able to emerge from bankruptcy this fall... "

I would like to point out that Air Canada has continued to fly a full schedule since it went into C.C.A.A. on April 1, 2003, and has never shut down during this period. Your reporting gives the impression that Air Canada ceased flying, which of course is completely inaccurate.

I (and I'm sure Air Canada's other approximately 30,000 employees) would appreciate you correcting your reports at your earliest convenience.

Captain H. Ian Smuck

AOPA's 65th

I hope you're not "dissing" AOPA (NewsWire, May 24). They do more for GA than you.

Jim Dennett

AVweb Replies

Many of us at AVweb are members of AOPA, and we know they do a lot of good things for all of aviation, and GA in particular. But we're just poking fun at them for making a big deal out of their 65th anniversary, just as we make fun of ourselves sometimes.

Kevin Lane-Cummings
Features and AVmail Editor

Roll Record

This is in reference to your article about Zoltan Veres attempt to set 70 rolls as a record (NewsWire, May 24).

Fifteen years ago, Robert Armstrong and I were on a trip from Georgia to Florida to attend an aerobatic contest when the idea of continuous rolls came up. He said, "You count 'em and I'll do 'em." From my Christen Eagle, I counted 107 rolls he completed in his Pitts S1C. To me, that is the record to beat. Robert -- as you may well know -- is an unlimited world aerobatic competitor having scored well in the last WAC (NewsWire, July 7, 2003).

Glynn Frets

AVweb Replies

We don't doubt that Robert did that many rolls, but unless a record attempt is performed with legitimate judges of a record-certifying organization (like the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale) in attendance, it isn't considered an "official" record.

Kevin Lane-Cummings
Features and AVmail Editor

iFly Air Taxi

I read with interest the articles in today's Business AVflash (May 26) about the start-up air taxi business, iFly. In the article, you describe the service as like the NASA SATS program vision. This appears to me to be a very significant exaggeration. SATS is a vision for highly automated, personally-flown aircraft that will use advanced technology for air-traffic management. The iFly business model appears (from other press reports) to be an air taxi service operated by professional pilots, using today's ATC system and technology. While it is possible that increased demand for air taxi services like iFly will place loads on the ATC system that may force it to transform to a more automated system, it is premature to tout iFly as either a product of, or a user of, SATS technology.

Steve Bussolari

Alaska Capstone

Nice report on Capstone (NewsWire, May 27) ... except for the details.

The YK Delta in the westen part of Alaska, scene of Capstone Phase I, and is extremely flat. Mountainous SE Alaska is the scene for Capstone Phase II, using a different avionics set and focusing on a low-altitude IFR infrastructure using GPS/WAAS and soon adding the ADS-B benfits from Phase I.

Dan Stapleton

AVweb Replies

I apologize for the sloppy error in geography. I know the Y-K Delta area is in the southwest but wrote southeast, anyway. Mea culpa.

Other details of the Capstone project can be read in this recently produced report (a 550 Kb Adobe PDF file).

Russ Niles

Airport Noise

Here is the rest of the story (NewsWire, May 27). One we pilots cannot be proud of!

Unfortunately, at least in the case of Iowa County Mineral Point (KMRJ), there are different views to the story. I have had the chance to look at both sides of this issue. (As you know there are always two sides to every problem.) Unfortunately, the airport manager, the airport commission and others on the airport have to share in the blame for probably the worst community relations in the state of Wisconsin.

I am firmly convinced 90 percent of the troubles now confronting our airport, and being given national notoriety, could have been avoided if the people responsible for the airport had involved the community and not just told them to "Go to Hell." Those pilots involved feel this is a "God-given right." Even many in the aviation community began to avoid KMRJ due to poor supervision of the aerobatics, with the location of the "Box" in the downwind pattern of two active runways.

Those who look for peace and quiet do not have a problem with the normal operations at the airport; in fact, they support them, even to volunteering to help at an up-coming fly-in. The opponents wonder why the pleasure of three or four people must be at the expense of hundreds?

This is a no-win, lose-lose situation for aviation even if AOPA and GALDF weigh in. We all lose, since no matter what happens, there will ultimately be more regulation and more negative adversity from the public regarding GA.

The public in this case has been left high and dry seemingly without recourse of any kind. The airport manager told them to go to hell, and the airport commission essentially said the same thing. Commissioners took an adamant position and even tried to order people off the airport who were pursuing peaceful activity.

Some local pilots created and distributed maps identifying homes of those who were protesting. Vandalism to property and buzzing of homes and cars has taken place.

The county board voted to stop the activity, only to be informed by the FAA they had no jurisdiction. The Milwaukee FSDO manager addressed the county board and stated they have no interest in community relations or noise, only factors regarding safety. The FARs did have a noise clause providing some control by the community; however, the FAA in the recent past removed all reference to the noise clause, disallowing any input from the community or the governing body.

There have been death threats made and we now have the FBI involved along with the rest of the law-enforcement community. All in the name of protecting our rights?

As a pilot, I hate to see any further restrictions or loss of privileges. (Yes, these are privileges we are talking about, not God-given rights!)

I do not wish to be associated with people who employ such tactics and harassment to further their cause. These people do irreparable damage to the image of general aviation. I have always considered pilots to be a cut above average and worthy of respect, but there are always a few rotten apples. Unfortunately at MRJ we have a surplus of such people.

What's the answer? This situation is a long way from being resolved. Telling people to go to hell and using subversive tactics is not very professional nor ethical. What are the regulations of this activity in Europe? (We probably don't want to know.) In this case, GA has to bear the bulk of the responsibility for a situation that could have largely been avoided with only a modicum of effort at compromise.

I would hope in all cases such as this that AVweb, AOPA and the rest would do a little research to get the entire picture before weighing in with a one-sided argument, which is why we have the problem to begin with! This is not what you are interested in hearing, but we need to do a little inward soul-searching. Pointing one finger leaves four pointing back.!

Hans Koenig