AVmail: Nov. 8, 2004

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Reader mail this week about VFR on top, golf course prices, new airport beacons and more.

VFR On Top

A word of caution to those flying VFR on top (NewsWire, Nov. 1): Using the cloudbank as the horizon can be misleading. All too often, you can encounter cloudbanks that are slanted significantly.

Joel Premselaar

Two ex-military pilots noticed a big, filed out nick in the prop of their Cessna before take off for a flight on top. Halfway there, the plane started vibrating hard enough to jar out their gold fillings. They called a military radar controller who guided them straight ahead and down through the clouds. They broke out at 700 feet and landed in a pasture. The tip of one blade of the prop had come off and the vibration had cracked 3 of the 4 engine mounts. Pretty lucky.

Lorrin Peterson

Ocean City, Md., Golf Course

My wife and I lived in Ocean City, Md., for the past two years (NewsWire, Nov. 1). My wife is also a realtor. I'm here to tell you that you cannot buy a trailer on one acre of land within 20 miles of Ocean City for $164,000. A golf course, essentially on the beach, in Ocean City is worth several million. There is no way it is worth 13 million but the market value is in the millions. The tax assessment is probably $164K but there is, of course, a huge difference between assessment and market value. I would be very interested to know who the appraisers are. Both sides are off the scale on their respective sides.

Keep up the good work!

Mike Orlowski

Airport Rotating Beacons

How about these new plasma bulbs being used in rotating beacons at small airports around the country? I first noticed them several years ago in southern Missouri, and have since seen them in Utah as well.

Did the FAA approve their use? What first called my attention to them was the fact that the green light beam appears blue, and the white light beam also has a distinct bluish cast to it. Since plasma light sources have a discontinuous spectrum, they do change the qualities of the light in a way that I don't consider particularly favorable.

In a similar vein, regarding the use of white strobe lights on obstructions and antennas where red incandescent lights were formerly expected: many of the short-duration strobes I have seen have such long intervals between flashes that, for me, I spend too much time away from the instrument panel waiting for subsequent flashes so as to determine just exactly where and what the source of the flash is.

I'd be interested in other pilots' comments on this. And again, what the FAA has to say about it. I don't recall seeing any notices prior to the implementation of these new light sources, although I was away from the active flying scene for a number of years in the 80's and early 90's.

Mac Hayes

Presidential Election Question of the Week

As has become fairly common, you present the choices such that none of them are valid (QOTW, Nov. 4). I voted for Michael Badnarik of the Libertarian party, probably the only candidate that does not support those huge moving presidential TFRs -- with little or no notice and a "shoot to kill" enforcement mentality. There were five candidates on the ballot in Kansas.

One hopes your planning for emergencies in flight is more inclusive of obvious possibilities than your apparent ability to present inclusive questionnaire choices.

I remember "the good old days" when AVweb QOTW was actually three questions, with a forum to express textual opinions. It was very illuminating. I remember also being promised by AVweb staff that it would be that way again. That was several years ago, before AVweb was "acquired."

I suppose I have no right to gripe about AVweb -- I get what I pay for. But since you solicit suggestions, you now have mine!

Bruce Liddel

AVweb Replies

And we do appreciate your input, Bruce. Sincerely.

You're absolutely right about the current QOTW. In hindsight, we should have included a response for AVweb readers who voted for a third party candidate. With Nader getting an "official" 0% of the vote in most states, we didn't expect to hear from many third-party voters and so we left the option off. But this is AVweb, not the electoral college -- and we should've allowed for every possibility in our poll.

In response, we have added a new option to the poll: "My candidate wasn't on the list! There are more flavors of democracy than Chocolate, Vanilla, and Strawberry, y'know." Too little, too late, perhaps -- but it will be interesting to see how many people choose this option in the next few days. (I placed one vote in that column to start us off, representing your vote for Michael Badnarik.) Of course, we'll report that this option was a late-comer and that the numbers are skewed because of it in our Thursday AVflash summary.

Again, thanks for taking time to drop us a note. There's always a place for attentive, constructive input -- in the air or on the ground.

If you haven't already participated in our "Question of the Week" exit poll, please click the link and tell us about your vote!

Scott Simmons
Webmaster and QOTW Editor

TSA Rules for Citizenship

I found the comments of Jane Pinto, of First Flight Aviation in Las Vegas, to be somewhat naive (NewsWire, Nov. 4). A federal agency has tasked citizens with determining the validity of a pilot's citizenship and has given no training in that function. I was a pilot examiner when the FAA started requiring picture IDs for all check rides. That's all well and good, but I was given no guidance whatsoever as to how to judge the validity of documents presented. The best I could do is order a book that bartenders have that shows what valid driver's licenses look like for the various states. When applicants provided foreign documents, I was totally without any guidance whatsoever. Flight instructors are being put in the same position now. Logbook entries are all well and good until there is a problem. What will be the TSA's position toward the CFI then?

Linda D. Pendleton

Read AVmail from other weeks here, and submit your own letter to the editor with this form.