AVmail: Jul. 30, 2007

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Dwindling Pilot Population

EAA President Tom Poberezny is to be admired for his lobbying for the LSA regulations and support by the aircraft industry (AVwebFlash, Jul 22). However, one need not look any further than your fuel price report of $4.51 per gallon for a reason for a declining pilot population.

There is a point where the rock of oppressive regulation and fees on one side and the hard-place of fuel-price gouging -- as well as insurance and maintenance costs -- on the other will get to be just too much discouragement to bear.

Those of us with larger and older aircraft are seeing their values plummeting, and costs rising, leading to reduced flying.

What's more, Cessna's delay until 2009 for deliveries of the 162 suggests to me that they are really hedging their bets. They could have been in business this year or 2008 if they were really committed. What's more, Cessna selected the O-200 as their powerplant, but I'm wondering whether the cost advantage of MOGAS might drive people to look elsewhere for their LSA ride. MOGAS in the ancient Continental and Lycoming technologies will always be a kludge at best.

I've been a pilot for 45 years, but I have a hard time believing that AOPA's recent video series on flying in Europe is anything other than a pretty good indicator of where we are headed.

Sailing anyone?

David MacRae

Eclipse ECJ

Someone needs to actually say it out loud: The Eclipse ECJ is a marketing masterpiece that will keep the hard questions regarding the shortcomings of the Eclipse 500 from being asked at Oshkosh (AVwebFlash, Jul. 26).

I think the illusionists call it "misdirection."

Mr. Raburn has already moved on to the next "challenge." I'm sure in his mind that he has already solved all of the issues with the 500. Only time will tell if his dream or any of the others will be a true success. The concept of air taxi is still incredibly far from a certain thing and he and many of the other manufacturers are betting the store on the concept.

Keep up the good work.

Rich Gritter

Flight Service

I began working for FAA FSS in 1976, continued through Lockheed-Martin's (LM) takeover and quit about eighteen months later when I saw what a big mistake had been made. A pilot's interaction with a FSS specialist has always been a crapshoot. Some specialists and management are good, others are horrendous. And now with LM, the odds are stacked against the pilots.

Even the good specialists and management are struggling with what use to be routine, simple tasks. When a pilot contacts FSS, he has started a scary game of chance. His call may be routed, rerouted, and rerouted around the U.S. The term LM uses for a call being passed around is it "waterfalls" or “cascades.” What that means is a call, if completed, can end up anywhere in the FSS system. Specialists, who had been doing the job efficiently for 20, 30, or more years, are now scrambling to field request from who knows where.

LM is approaching another anniversary of running FSS. It is still not unusual for FSS nationwide to go down. Hardware and software failures are common. The result is a system that is patched together, propped up, and worked around. LM is having difficulties staffing even the three major hubs, let alone the lesser facilities. Some employees who have had long careers are quitting rather than put up with LM's mess. New hires are getting a fraction of the benefits that specialists had once expected. All of this turmoil is making for a tense, unhappy workforce.

There is no going back. Bridges have been burned. The FAA will not entertain turning back the clock. That will not happen. After working in an FSS system that ran safely and efficiently, I saw it deteriorate to become dangerous. If I were flying, I would try my best to not rely upon FSS for anything. I have seen the confusion on the FSS side of the telephone and microphone. I have worked daily beside some unbelievably bad specialists, supervisors, and management. Why would one risk one's life in LM's game of chance?

Glenn Baker

Question of the Week

Hey, I don't like Blakey either (I gave her an "F" too), but with the participation in this Question of the Week poll (QOTW, Jul. 19) drastically outstripping other weeks, it looks like there's a bit of ballot stuffing going on!

Tom Stepleton

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