AVmail: Nov. 28, 2005

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Reader mail this week about light guns, fuel prices, TSOs and more.

Lightgun Signals

I have never had occasion to respond to light gun signals while in a plane, either on the ground or in the air (QOTW, Nov. 17).

Once, however, at night I was walking on a taxiway in a non-movement area from my hangar to a friend's hangar somewhat further down, but still within the non-movement area. I was hit by a red light, which I saw was coming from the tower. So I stopped, and waved my badge toward the tower and the light stayed on me. In a couple of minutes the field security van arrived and informed me that people on foot inside the perimeter after hours were consider intruders who had scaled the fence (which is topped with concertina wire)! A car is considered OK, since presumably it would have entered through one of the controlled gates. None of this was, of course, in any ops manuals.

So if you want freedom of movement on the field at night, just drive your car (bomb-laden perhaps) through a remote weak spot in the fence, and then do your thing anywhere you want.

At least they drove me to my friend's hangar.

Charles M. Chambers

FBOs and Fuel Price

Thank you, Jeff Moody, for correcting an oversight in my previous remarks (AVmail, Nov. 14). I agree that some FBOs do price their fuel according to market with reasonable markups and it is unfair to lump them all together. I currently buy my fuel from such an establishment that has always done its best to take care of customers, and recent contract fuel arrangements have even cost them money. But you can't deny that there are some FBO operators out there that are less "honest" when it comes to their costs. One large FBO chain comes to mind that used to brag in industry magazines that they were the high "Price Leader" until a review by the holding company indicated that it was bad for their image. Unfortunately, that operator has no competition in many markets and is getting an average of right around $5.50/gal for avgas, at least in my state. And let's not forget the ramp fees and "handling" fees that are becoming more common for light aircraft.

Companies that gouge us and then boast about it publicly along with all the others that follow their pricing strategies are the ones contributing to the financial burden placed upon general aviation. I wonder what they will do if their volume drops? Raise the price to take care of the bottom line? Why don't we stand up for our rights as consumers, and buy from the companies that are working through this tough time with us and we'll see what happens?

Isaac Silver

City Will Need Meigs If Disaster Strikes

[Editor's Note: This letter was originally published as a Letter to the Editor in the Chicago Sun Times.]

Chicagoans are not safer with Meigs Field's runway destroyed. And it goes beyond having a police helicopter stationed there.

I believe the medevac community testimony that Meigs was a key part of their non-politicized disaster response planning for the central business district of Chicago. Meigs is merely 1-1/2 miles from the Loop. Its runway could accommodate a wide variety of aircraft routinely used by the armed forces for airlift purposes -- for example, C-130s and C-17 cargo planes. And, of course, it could accommodate the general aviation aircraft routinely available on short notice for auxiliary use during emergencies. Post-Katrina relief efforts included projects requiring the services of volunteer general aviation pilots and their airplanes. Meigs Field is also the only place near the central business district where the use of airplanes and helicopters could be coordinated.

In a disaster it is easy to imagine gridlock on the Dan Ryan, Kennedy and Stevenson expressways, making ground transportation from O'Hare and Midway to the Loop impossible. But flights of C-130s and C-17s could be possible directly to Meigs Field and between the airports. If the avian flu hits Chicago and a timely response is required, airlifting flu vaccine or Tamiflu to Meigs and setting up a vaccination center at the terminal might even be an efficient way to deliver these medications to Chicagoans living downtown.

Meigs' lakefront location is also an asset for disaster relief. If necessary, ships on the Great Lakes can even access downtown Chicago at Meigs, allowing the use of those ships for evacuation and shipments of supplies. The 727 jet at the Museum of Science and Industry got to that museum by landing at Meigs and being put on a barge for transfer to the museum.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Mayor Daley has acknowledged that ''Chicago is revisiting its disaster plan to make certain there are adequate plans in place to evacuate entire neighborhoods in the event of a terrorist strike, chemical spill or some other catastrophe that requires mass evacuation ...'' So if the federal and city governments are really going to be serious about emergency preparedness and disaster relief, it seems like now is the perfect time to repave and reopen Meigs Field.

Rachel Goodstein
President, Meigs Action Coalition

Type Standard Order?

This morning's AVflash made reference to "an FAA Type Standard Order (TSO)" (NewsWire, Nov. 24). I'm sure I won't be the only one to point out that TSO stands for "Technical Standard Order."

More importantly, readers should understand that not all TSOs are equal, as implied by your article. The TSO approval earned by the Aspen Avionics instrument is "TSO-C113, AIRBORNE MULTIPURPOSE ELECTRONIC DISPLAYS," which can be awarded to just about any electronic display. This is very different from an approval to TSO-C151b (TAWS) or TSO-C165 (Electronic maps), though a reader might be left with the understanding that the Aspen Avionics Instrument meets either, or both, of these other TSOs.

For your info, FAA TSOs are available here. Readers should also be aware that there can be a big difference between TSO approval of an instrument, and certification of the installation of that TSO'd instrument, normally done by an STC or, in the U.S., by a Field Approval on a Form 337.

I enjoy your publication, but hope you'll clarify such issues in the future.

Hugh Morrin
Flight Test, Aircraft Certification
Transport Canada

AVweb Replies:

First of all, I don't know how "type" got in there instead of "technical." And thanks for clarifying the status of these particular TSOs.

Russ Niles
NewsWriter, Editor

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