AVmail: May 2, 2005

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Reader mail this week about firefighting tankers, ATC privatization, the value of various aircraft and much more.

Firefighting Tankers

I recently was at the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center in Tucson. There is a whole line of C-141 and C-5 aircraft that are being decommissioned.

It would seem much more logical to convert a C-5 to a tanker rather than a 747 since the C-5 was originally designed as a cargo aircraft (AVmail, Apr. 25). In addition, the C-5s are government property, which could easily be transferred to the Forest Service.

The A-10s, while maneuverable, could never carry the payload of a C-130 or C-5. Where are the Mars Flying Boats when we need them?

Tom Donnelly

AVweb Replies:

The Mars flying boats are in Port Alberni, B.C., and are frequently contracted by American and Canadian authorities to fight forest fires. Only two of the original four Mars flying boats are still flying, but they are kept busy every fire season and are an incredible sight while they're working.

Russ Niles

I flew a DC-4 air tanker to wildfires some years ago, and the year after I stopped, that very plane crashed, killing its crew. My tanker flew the Hump in WW2, and also the Berlin Airlift. It was nice and stout, but way old.

The reason we used them is that they were cheaper and more effective than the alternatives. I watched the CL-215 try unsuccessfully to scoop seawater. They don't drop effectively, either, and are each as expensive as about a dozen converted Douglas freighters. Tanker loads are most accurately and effectively applied at low airspeed, but the faster they can get to the fire, the better.

In this observer's opinion, an ideal firefighting aircraft would be the A-10 Warthog. It's a single-pilot airplane that can carry as much retardant as my old DC-4 did -- 2000 gallons. It flies slowly enough to drop bombs or retardant accurately but gets there twice as fast. Forward-looking infrared viewing would allow these planes to be used in thick smoke or at night, which would then become the best time to attack wildfires, as they are less active at night.

There currently exists a large bunch of used A-10s; and if we don't have another war right away, maybe some of them could be so used to save lives and property instead of taking them.

Jack Romanski

Years ago, I listened sympathetically to contract pilots at the Porterville (Calif.) Air Attack Base shock me with news that they were being forced to pay for medical insurance and life insurance "out-of-their-own pockets" rather than have such safety nets be part of their U.S. Forestry Service and California Division of Forestry contracts.

I tried to close that shortfall through a California State Senator (now U.S. Congressman) Jim Costa. Yet I do not know if Jim was successful in doing so.

If that situation persists, it is a travesty for those placing their lives on the line for a few months of "combat operations" (during fire season) domestically.

David C. Phillips

ATC Privatization and NATCA vs. Nav Canada

AVweb wrote (NewsWire, Apr. 25):

"The House Aviation Subcommittee last Wednesday held a hearing on the commercialization of air traffic services..."

What else would you expect from an administration that is so unabashedly shameless in promoting the interests of the super-wealthy over everybody else? Making general aviation even more unaffordable than it already is to the average citizen means nothing to them.

Larry Pius

It's hard to know whether the U.S. will be better off with its current socialized ATC system or with a privatized one, but playing fast and loose with figures doesn't help encourage a fair and open debate.

John Carr, NATCA president, claimed that Cleveland handles more operations than all of Nav Canada (NewsWire, Apr. 25). Presumably, he meant Cleveland Center -- one of the world's busiest ATC facilities, covering a huge part of the northeast U.S. -- rather than Cleveland airport (though it doesn't hurt his cause if Congress misses that subtlety). But the numbers still don't add up: Cleveland ARTC handles 3 million operations per year; Nav Canada handles 11 million. Details here.

David Megginson

National Weather Service

After reading the article on the National Weather Service (NewsWire, Apr. 25), I am inclined to believe that we should modernize the description of Congress to restrict them from providing products already offered by the commercial sector and replace then with professional managers.

I suppose my trusty Doppler radar on cable will be taken away and we'll have to wait for the 10 o'clock news to get the weather, just like the old days before cable.

This is one of the worst pieces of legislation since doing away with most of the FSSs.

Don Colbath

Aircraft Value

I read with amusement as Mooney discovered their newfound value in their aircraft (NewsWire, Apr. 25). What really happened is they cleverly modified what some already consider an "industry standard" for aircraft value to benefit themselves. By conveniently removing aircraft volume from the equation, they have effectively placed themselves ahead of competitors such as Cessna, Cirrus and Lancair simply by ignoring a glaring reality: We all take cabin volume into account in addition to range and speed. A more realistic value index is speed x range x volume / price. Give Mooney's marketers credit: They found a way to highlight their aircrafts strengths. But buyers beware: You must do your homework independent of salesmen/marketers when conducting any big purchase.

Benjamin Quinby

Ongoing Meigs Saga

I must agree with others: Your poll question on Meigs was poorly thought out (AVmail, Apr. 25).

I have instructed all people within my company to avoid doing any business that involves staying within the city limits of Chicago because of the Meigs issue. Our two major, yearly meetings are now being held in St. Louis due to the fact that we need to accommodate both coasts. Chicago had better facilities and more accessible air transportation; but anything I can do to diminish Daley's revenue stream is my way of sending a small message of dissatisfaction. (Perhaps if enough businesses do the same, he'll suffer financial "death by one thousand cuts.")

I grew up in Chicago and still maintain a membership in a businessman's club located downtown in the heart of the financial district, but despite the cost to me, I do not use it out of spite for Daley.

Charles M. LaBow

International Dreamliner

It seems that most of the Boeing "Dreamliner" 787 will be build overseas. A detailed, two-part story on this is available here.

Ed Spencer

Clearance "Void" Time

In 40 years of flying this happened to me today. I filed IFR with a clearance void time of 9:40 a.m. During the runup, some missing and backfire took place, so the airplane was taxied to the shop for a look. About half an hour later, a Maryland State Police chopper landed looking for my airplane and me. I was under the impression that no action was necessary if you reach the clearance void time and do not take off. They expect a phone call. How many readers know that? Interesting.

Howard Weinstein

AVweb Replies:

According to the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM), Section 5-2-4(a)(1), "Failure of an aircraft to contact ATC within 30 minutes after the clearance void time will result in the aircraft being considered overdue and search and rescue procedures initiated."

If you don't contact ATC, then ATC has to assume you crashed on takeoff before you could even call them on the radio. One thing I've often heard as part of a clearance -- in addition to the void time -- is a time by which I need to call them if I'm not off the ground by the void time. That helps me remember to call them back.

Kevin Lane-Cummings
Features Editor

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