AVmail: Jan. 3, 2005

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Reader mail this week about engine exchange policies, how low is a buzz, and ongoing controversy about controller and pilot retirement ages.

ATC Retirement Age

I think we are looking at an age-averaging game (Question of the Week, Dec 23, and AVmail, Dec. 27). Some individual will be past their prime before the mandatory age limit, but I believe this to be only a small percentage. To lose years of experience of both ATC and pilot personnel before their prime is a waste of quality that the system has to offer based on no scientific evidence.

There are many factors that must be taken into the ergonomics of the workplace and from what I have seen the systems -- ATC and flight deck -- are really in the dark ages and cause considerable operational stresses.

Ours and the world's radar systems are from the dark ages. Computer systems used by ATC and aircraft equate to the early days of hand calculators.

The military has demonstrated what can be done with drone aircraft and the ability to return home and auto-land.

The hardware and the knowledge is available today for newer systems that can reduce individual operator stress to guide aircraft through the skies as well as reduce the work load on the flight deck. The fly-by-wire systems used in the Airbus have demonstrated what can be done.

Today's radar should only be needed for weather observation, global planning and military defense purposes. Far superior tracking systems have been available for more than 10 years using GPS, LORAN and APRS high-speed communications, using computers that can easily determine any conflict situation. These systems are relatively cheap, take little individual human attention, and could be operational in a very short time if there would be some advanced thinking.

The Capstone APRS system used by the FAA in Alaska is only very small technical step. APRS (Automatic Position Reporting System) used by Amateur Radio for more than 10 years could easily be upgraded using conflict software to reduce ATC workload as well as personnel.

What I would like to see is a change in thinking where we could keep senior personnel to guide our systems and teach good judgmental thinking to up-and-coming individuals.

Ships captains should assume the roll of teacher if they so desire past the age of 60 and beyond if in good health. We know the airlines and the unions could agree to anything like this because they both have a different agenda.

ATC could advance if they were not caught in the political quagmire.

Not until we as a nation along with other nations rethink the whole system will there ever be an answer to these age situation questions.

No, I do not work for, nor have I ever worked for ATC or the airlines, so it makes it easy for me to think outside the box.

Bert Rathkamp

There is a difference in the stress level, as well as the work environment, for pilots and controllers. Try sitting in front of a screen for several hours. Attention deficits, eyestrain, and information overload all are significant factors that are more difficult to deal with as one accumulates years. Bravo for the individuals who think they can "keep up with the youngsters." Those are the guys who are driving long past when they should have turned in their keys. Age does affect each of us differently. Unfortunately, statistical outliers are not the source of major lapses in performance. I agree that controllers should find another career at age 56 (and that airline pilots should do something else at age 60). Hate to say it, you men and women of steel who can't bear the thought of forced retirement ... you are wearing out.

John Townsley

It seems a terrible waste to staff towers at many small country airports. Some of these have little en route and not much local traffic. Local examples are OWB, PAH and BMG. A little research could list many more. Perhaps we should re-think the need before deciding that we have a 12,000-man shortage.

Bill Kramer

Lycoming's Engine Policy

How well I remember Lycoming's "policy" on engine exchanges (NewsWire, Dec. 27). In the spring of 2004, when the engines on my Part 135 Partenavia P68C reached TBO, we figured it would be simpler to exchange them. Through a shop in Virginia, we did just that. The new engines were trucked to our hanger and the old engines sent back to Lycoming.

Several weeks later, we were informed of a charge-back. Both engines, according to Lycoming, had had case work done on them by an unapproved shop. Lycoming wanted $6,000. They got it - but I called Lycoming and said that, "since I had paid for the old cases, they are mine and I want them back." After a couple days of silence, Lycoming came back to say that the cases had already been destroyed - something, they said, which should not have happened. They offered a $6,000 credit, which I accepted.

Had I elected to have the engines overhauled at a non-Lycoming shop, the cases would not have been an issue. I told the Lycoming company representative at the time that their "policy" will probably turn around and bite them. Perhaps it has.

John B. (Jack) Meagher

Formation Flying, Not Buzzing

Shame on AVweb. You of all people, being aviation smart, should know that the formation of T-6's were not "Buzzing The Tower At AirVenture" (Picture of the Week, Dec. 30.)

Buzzing a tower is a violation of FARs. Flying in formation at controlled altitude is what was happening. Not Buzzing.

Love the Website ... but come on.

Tom Marson

AVweb Replies:

You're absolutely correct, Tom. My comment was intended as a light-hearted wink, but I don't think it comes across that way in print. Since we don't want to permanently associate the skilled team of pilots shown in the photo with my goofy banter, we've changed the caption.

Thanks for taking time to drop us a note -- and rest assured it's only a matter of time before one of AVweb's senior editors strings me up by my toes for using "buzzing the tower" in the first place ...

Scott Simmons
POTW Editor


As a volunteer leader in the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), and a mission pilot, I want to thank you wholeheartedly for your recent mention of CAP in AVflash as an opportunity for pilots and aviation-minded citizens to serve our nation (NewsWire, Dec. 30). As the Auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, we are extremely proud, and mindful, of the honor we have to wear the Air Force-style uniforms, and to support our country and local communities during these difficult times. With almost all of our members in the field being volunteers, recruitment and retention can, at times, be challenging, which is why your mention of our organization, and the opportunities it provides -- especially for our nation's youth -- is so valuable.

Thank you for your service to our aviation community through your newsletters and Web site.

Russell M. Opland, Colonel, CAP
Commander, Delaware Wing
Civil Air Patrol, U.S. Air Force Auxiliary

Thank you for mentioning us on your Web site (NewsWire, Dec. 30). We were wondering over in the last couple of days why our Web site had 4 times as many visitors. We found out it was because of your reference to us.

Caught us a little behind in having all the information about volunteering as a Sky Ark pilot, but we have about 80% of the information up now. Still have quite a bit more to program to make it more user friendly.

Your Web site has helped save animals and we thank you.

Mickey Russell, President
Sky Ark Inc.


The November 28 Bombardier 604 crash occurred at the Montrose, Colo., Regional Airport -- not Telluride as we reported (BizAv, Dec. 29). We apologize for the error.

Due to a math error, an early version of Question #8 in Brainteaser #89 indicated that the flight instructor was not legal to teach the next morning, although our answer indicated that the CFI could. The question has been changed to reflect our original intent.

Also, we changed some wording in Question #3 to avoid ambiguity. Take the test again to see. And thanks to observant (and probably frustrated) AVweb readers for pointing these out.

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