AVmail: Sep. 18, 2006
No matter what technology may be employed to bar unauthorized entry to the "front office," rest assured that it will be challenged by innovation on the part of the terrorists (AVwebFlash, Sep. 14). I wouldn't be surprised to see contacts that can foil retinal scanners and gloves that can do likewise to fingerprint set-ups. The best foil to wrong entry is a loaded pistol in trained hands willing to use it.
Michael F. Vandenberg
UAVs in U.S. Airspace
Col. Hazelwood is absolutely wrong when he states that he is "... not sure that I buy the argument that we can't fly in the National Airspace today" (AVwebFlash, Sep. 14). Making this statement based on the Class B-like environment around Baghdad is the most absurd claim I have ever read. There is no civil aviation in Iraq. The United States is not Class B airspace everywhere. There is no freedom left if "TFRs" are set up to run UAVs, since the circle on a piece of paper has proven to be virtually worthless: Worthless because there is no way to transmit these areas to each aircraft in real time. Not very many aircraft that fly every day are under ATC control like military aircraft or those on flight plans. If that became a requirement, the FAA would collapse under the weight. Egads!
What Is It?
I enjoy the Picture of the Week submissions every week. Usually I'm pretty good at identifying aircraft, but you really had me scratching my head last week (POTW, Sep. 7). What is it?
It's an OV-10 Bronco, although not outfitted with the same nose-mounted night observation equipment as pictured here.
There's actually one based on my field -- the forestry service uses it as a spotter for fire bombing operations (and it must be a blast).
We'll think about adding a "type of aircraft" field to the picture of the week submission page.
MU2 Crash Reporting
I am very frustrated by your reporting of the recent two MU2 crashes in this week's AVwebFlash (Sep. 11). You incorrectly gave your readers the impression that these airplanes are simply falling out of the sky. If you took the time to read the preliminary crash reports, you would have seen that in both instances the aircraft was flown into severe thunderstorms. The vast majority of the MU2 accidents are a result of poor judgment on the part of the pilot, not on a design flaw in the aircraft. Virtually every aircraft made has documented in-flight breakups after thunderstorm encounters. I have owned and flown an MU2 for 11 years and find it to be an excellent and well-built machine. It needs to be well maintained, and like any aircraft, the pilot needs to be well trained. It can be unforgiving if the laws of aeronautics are not respected, but so can any aircraft.
From a ramp rat's perspective, I can't stand the MU-2, but I still feel that Rep. Tom Tancredo's efforts to ban the aircraft is overkill. After a cursory search of the NTSB Database, 192 records were found, and I reviewed the most recent 100 incidents with some interesting results. Of the 100, 48 were caused by pilot error (loss of control, CFIT, inadequate pre-flight planning), 12 were caused by either mishandling by FBO personnel (mis-fueling, one torque-link reconnect, one tool left in a/c) or collision with vehicles, nine were still under investigation, and the other 30 were caused by mechanical problems of some sort. Of the 30, 18 were caused by improper maintenance (11) or in-flight engine failure (7-nonstructural causes). The remaining 12 were caused by legitimate structural failure during operation. Of these, the vast majority (five) were some failure of the propeller assembly due to fatigue cracking (which should have been noticed during maintenance), three were overstress failures (which are generally pilot-error during operation), two were structural failure inside the engine due to fatigue cracking, and only two were caused by a problem from the manufacturer. Both of those were failure of the nose gear from cracking due to an improper alloy being used.
So while the total number of incidents may be higher with MU-2s than other turboprops, I find it hard to believe that there is anything inherently more unsafe with them than other aircraft. Most of the incidents with causes were caused by pilot error, and most of these could have been prevented by more adequate pilot training.
Do Your Jobs (Crash at Lexington)
If the pilots of the Comair flight didn't read the rather large numbers indicating which runway they were departing, why would you assume a runway distance [marker] would have caught their attention (AVmail, Sep. 11)? The signs are large enough and, in case you miss that, they are painted on the runway. In the pre-takeoff checklist, especially when flying IFR, one of the duties is to ensure the runway heading and heading indicator correspond. Even in aircraft with EFIS, it is logical to assume these pilots would notice a difference, particularly one greater than 20 degrees. This accident is attributed to bad piloting. Tadpoles are taught from Day 1 of their private pilot license that the responsibility for the safety of the aircraft and those on board rests solely with the pilot.
As for the controller, I think a lot of them have forgotten why they are perched in a big glass room, five stories high. Let me help with that: So they can see outside. The air traffic control system has little margin for error. The big sky theory is no longer applicable in today's world.
If pilots would fly first and worry about their union contract on the ground, things would be safer. If controllers would do their jobs correctly instead of worrying about flip-flops, slacks, and how many grievances they can file in a given day, things would be safer.
The moral is this: Pilots, fly your aircraft to the best of your ability and leave anything not printed in the FAR/AIM at the gate. Controllers, control aircraft to the best of your ability and leave anything not in the 7110.65 at home. Both of you quit trying to find ways to get over on your employer and each other, don't worry about the score of the game, and do your jobs to the best of your ability. I know I would feel safer.