AVmail: May 9, 2005

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Reader mail this week about ATC user fees, radioactive instruments, FAA waste and much more.

User Fees

This week's Question is missing one important option (QOTW, May 4). I would support user fees in the form of license and registration fees if they provide me with some level of control of the FAA.

Proposal: Replace the FAA with a non-profit corporation with a volunteer board of directors that is elected by the stakeholders -- a stakeholder being anyone who pays a license or registration fee. A volunteer director is one who serves without a salary or any expenses being paid by the non-profit corporation. I suspect the alphabet groups would willingly support one of their employees serving on this board. Nine directors serving staggered three-year terms might make sense.

Nominal license fees (maybe $25) could be collected at the time of the medical. Nominal registration fees (maybe 10 cents per pound of maximum gross takeoff weight) would be at the federal level and should exempt aircraft from state registration fees, sales taxes, use taxes, and personal property taxes. In many cases, this could be a net reduction of expenses for the aircraft owner.

If maintenance facilities, manufacturers, mechanics, or air traffic controllers paid a license fee, then they would also get a vote in the running of the organization. Fuel taxes would continue to be a usage-based source of funding. Fees for service would not be imposed, as they are likely to reduce usage of services that promote safety.

The one other item of concern is lawsuits. This new corporation should be immune from all lawsuits. There should be no need for our fees to be used to pay attorneys. I still remember the article by Bill Kelly that appeared many years ago in either Aviation Safety or Aviation Consumer concerning the $5 million award against the FAA because a pilot died in a plane crash that was flown into a thunderstorm. The fact that the cause of the crash was a screwdriver left in the wing by the mechanic that punctured the fuel tank was irrelevant, since the FAA had more money.

In my opinion, removing the FAA from the DOT and from congressional control and placing it in the hands of its stakeholders, along with removing its revenue sources and expenses from the federal budget, has to be an improvement for the flying public.

Dean Hiller

It has been a reality in Europe for some time now that any IFR flight will produce an invoice for airway usage. Nobody likes it, of course, but everyone got used to it, and it's "business as usual."

The thing that annoys me much more is the way some airfields apply this. If you fly VFR into Lugano Airport in southern Switzerland, for example, you will not only have to pay a landing fee (which is standard on all European airfields I know), but they will send you to a separate office where, in addition, you have to pay an ATC fee. Yes, you are charged about US$25 of ATC fee for a VFR approach and landing. Together with the landing fee it totals to something around US$55 for an Aztec. And if you would like to improve your skills and want to do a few circuits, you will be charged landing fee and ATC fee for each approach and landing. In other places, you don't pay a separate ATC fee but the landing fee is even higher.

So, enjoy your system in the U.S. -- it's still way more user friendly than anything we have here.

Marc Meyer

Hazardous Instruments

The reaction by San Bernardino County officials to the Radium-226 painted instruments in one of their hangars appears to be an over-reaction prompted by fear and ignorance, and bears no relationship to the risk posed by these instruments (NewsWire, May 2). Radium 226 occurs naturally in the environment, principally from the radioactive decay of Uranium 238, which is plentiful in the earth's crust and occurs in most igneous rocks. It emits primarily alpha radiation, which cannot penetrate even a sheet of paper, let alone a metal hangar wall. Alpha-emitting substances are primarily harmful if they are inhaled or swallowed, and the emitted energy or particles directly impact living cells.

I doubt that anyone in the adjacent hangars was snorting ground-up instruments or crunching on them as a midday snack. And it doesn't matter how many instruments there are -- 200 have no more power to send alpha radiation through the hangar wall than do two. Surely somewhere in San Bernardino County there is a health physicist who could advise these over-eager beaver environmentalists? Or perhaps someone with a Geiger counter to verify that the radiation field in the adjacent hangars is likely indistinguishable from the normal background radiation in the offices of the bureaucrats?

Egon Frech

I am not an official spokesman for Preservation Aviation Inc. but am a good friend of Jeff Pearson and I cannot refrain from commenting on your article:

  1. Jeff Pearson is an avid aviation enthusiast, pilot and Cessna 195 owner.
  2. Jeff's love and life "passion" is antique & classic aircraft and warbirds.
  3. Jeff is not a kook who makes a hobby of collecting radioactive instruments.
  4. Jeff bought this business from a previous owner with the intent of supporting his passion and sport with his own business.
  5. Jeff's business has a incredible range of aircraft components including airframe parts & original instruments used in the Spitfire, etc.
  6. The previous owner had spent a lifetime collecting and selling aircraft parts with the similar passion as Jeff's.
  7. The instruments in question were sold to this company several years ago (prior to Jeff's purchase) by ... the U.S. government!
  8. Jeff had no idea that the "alleged" contamination existed until he was approached by the authorities.

Jeff's refusal to speak with you is probably at the advice of his lawyer. Sadly, this debacle will force this (another) risk-taking entrepreneur (scapegoat) into bankruptcy. God help him & his beautiful wife & daughter.

I hope you can now better understand the situation.

Jack Klein

FAA Waste

I get sick and tired of listening to FAA officials whine about money (NewsWire, May 2). I spent three years in Washington, D.C., in 1997 as an FSS union rep to FAA Headquarters. The biggest lesson I learned was that Washington is a "Giant Green Hole." Money goes in and is never seen again!

The FAA will do a hundred projects poorly, rather than 10 well. Take for example, the Advanced Automation System, STARS, and OASIS.

I told Jeff Griffith that if he gave me half the money that Air Traffic wastes on travel I could increase FSS briefer's efficiency, through training, by at least 50%. Well that didn't happen and neither did OASIS. Hopefully Lockheed/Martin can clean up the mess.

Joe Washington wants to keep FSS functions in the FAA. Why? Look at all the "dead wood" GS-14s and 15s that will be out of job in D.C., the regions, and facilities!

Terry Lankford

Aviation Oxygen

After reading Brent Blue's article about the E-Ox Personal Emergency Oxygen System, I had a question: Is there really any difference between "medical oxygen" and "aviation oxygen?" I can't find any documentation that one is drier than the other. Seems to me that if the both come from liquefied oxygen, they are indeed the same, as is welder's oxygen. Is the difference merely an apparent one; i.e., certification?

Peter Hackett

AVweb Replies:

The short answer is that all oxygen is now the same. The rules actually date from the 1950s. Prior to liquid oxygen, aviator's oxygen had to be certified "dry." This was due to the fear that water would freeze and block the oxygen plumbing in the aircraft.

At the same time, some medical oxygen was humidified by added water to the tanks. This was discontinued when someone finally realized it was a lot more efficient and effective to do it at the patient side.

Currently, all oxygen is from liquid sources. Medical and aviator's oxygen is exactly the same. However, to be called aviator's oxygen, the gas houses have to do an additional check for moisture -- an arcane regulation that has never been updated. Our supplier has never had a tank fail in 20 years of testing!

By the way, most welder's oxygen is the same, but some types are actually more pure due to very specific requirements -- mostly in the high tech industries./i>

Brent Blue
Senior Aviation Medical Examiner

Aging Pilots Lose Again

The pending bills -- S65 & HR65, I believe -- tie the retirement age to the age when one can draw social security benefits (NewsWire, May 5). That means that some active pilots, if the bills pass, wouldn't have to retire until 67 or later. You know one of the proposed fixes for social security requires people to work longer. I noted your article about Netjets pilots without a contract. The retirement age restriction doesn't apply to them. You fail to explore that aspect of this issue ... I wonder why? In that respect, organizations like yours are part of this labor injustice problem.

Lew Aaronson

Taildragger Currency

I am one of the respondents that is current in taildraggers (QOTW, April 27). The 61% response is great, but in my area (Reno, Nev.) I would guess that the great majority of (power) pilots that I know are not qualified to fly taildraggers at all. I'm always encouraging non-taildragger pilots to get checked out in taildraggers because I think it would make them better pilots in general.

Jim Hamilton

Lack of Insurance for LSA

We have a problem. Maybe someone out there has a solution. We are a flight school operating in Nebraska and we wish to start training students for the sport pilot certificate. One of our customers is willing and ready to purchase a new Flight Design CT airplane that is being marketed for that precise use.

There is no insurance for this airplane for flight training and rental. EAA Insurance has no coverage, and that is the case throughout the insurance industry. Our customer will definitely not buy the airplane if we cannot get it insured.

It is my opinion that the insurance industry is going to make this Sport Pilot industry crash before it even takes off.

David J. Silchman

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