AVmail: Dec. 17, 2007

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Environmental Impact of Flying

I was heartened to see how many respondents to the Question of the Week knew that flying is the most environmentally friendly mode of transportation (QOTW, Dec. 6). The worst thing one can do is to build a road. The road interrupts ecosystems. It also requires materials such as asphalt or concrete. One mile of runway is a lot less damaging than a huge network of highways. While it's true that we've already got the roads in many places ... but just imagine the damage to pristine wilderness if we had to build a modern highway to and from every village in Alaska and the Yukon. Imagine the howls of environmentalists ... and rightly so! The automobile is far worse than an aircraft in terms of the amount of land dedicated to it. Consider that half of the urban environment is paved over just to provide road surfaces. This is land that, if we had overhead transportation, would be converted to green space and pedestrian traffic. We could build our cities more densely, releasing land for farms nearby, which would in turn release more land for wilderness further away ... wilderness that wouldn't be crisscrossed with eight- lane highways. If people had to drive across country, instead of flying, we would have to have several-fold more highway capacity. The same would be true for trains. And just one of those roads -- with asphalt, concrete, or steel -- would require far more energy to build than building all of our airports combined. Of energy efficiency of per passenger per mile -- counting only the next passenger, not the energy cost of the rail or airplane -- only the train would beat the modern airliner ... and even then I think we could build airliners that would beat that, if we slowed them down a little bit. Even a light-sport aircraft might be better than a single-occupant SUV, when flown near its best glide speed. Yes, the airplane has the least environmental footprint, given that most of the trip creates no "footprint" at all. Candice Elliott
Questions like "Should recreational GA flying be restricted due to environmental concerns?" are nonsensical and counterproductive. Why would our hobby/recreational activity be constrained when driving to church or running a 200-hp bass fishing boat isn't? Questions like this only serve to encourage the loons who would like to limit the sky to airlines and military, since it serves to give them credibility. The same can be said of the contention that because the 9/11 attacks involved the use of airplanes, all airplanes are a potential terrorist threat. Yet there is limited effort made to demonstrate the potential of private cars, boats or commercial trucks for this purpose in spite of the fact that they are more accessible and have been used for that purpose, which GA airplanes have not. All questions don't deserve to be asked. Some are just stupid:
  • Do you think the stock market will go up or down next week?
  • Do you think the price of oil will reach $100 a barrel?
Why ask such silly questions for which no valid answer -- only an opinion -- is possible? Bart Robinett
Tell the EPA that when the brown cloud over Phoenix disappears due to the Agency holding the leaders of Arizona to the standards already set forth ... then they should begin to look at aviation. Barry J. Smith
It is certainly discouraging to see GA falling for the "global warming" lie ... hook, line, and sinker! The same clowns who now claim the earth is warming said that we were heading into another "ice age" 20 or 30 years ago. By the way, according to the options in the question posed, the only choice that I have is to stop flying, since I don't go anywhere, anyway, in my "big, bad, polluting C172." Good bye, GA, if we fall for this hoax! Walter Hawkins

Flight Instructor Shortage

A comment on the letter blaming the flight instructor shortage on the FAA (AVmail, Dec. 10). First, if a pilot is non-current for a biennial flight review, all he needs is a biennial flight review and to meet the currency requirements for the airplane he is going to fly to then go fly. There are no additional requirements as implied by the letter. As for airport fencing, the FAA does not, to my knowledge, dictate fencing requirements for any non-airline-served airport. The airport management determines fencing requirements. Blaming the FAA for the instructor shortage because of BFR requirements and airport fencing is a bit of stretch to me. As indicated elsewhere, pay flight instructors a professional wage and there will be more flight instructors. Scott Thompson

Shark Skin Research and Hail Dimples

Re: Rough surface for aerodynamics ... Back in the mid-'50s, we had a KC-97 in the 307th ARS that had been flown through some pretty big hail, leaving 3- to 4-inch diameter dents in that big, round nose. The rest of the damage was repaired or replaced. At identical power settings, altitudes and OATs, that airplane was 10 mph faster than any of the other "F" models we had. Dimpling works! Jack Frost

Rethinking Touch & Goes

As a long time CFI, I too have let countless students do touch and goes. About three years or so ago, the light finally came on: It just isn't a good idea for all the reasons mentioned in the article (Leading Edge, Dec. 10). I no longer let my primary students do them regardless of runways and conditions. The three things it is said that are most useless to a pilot are: altitude above you, fuel still in the truck, and runway behind you. 'Nuff said. Jud Phillips

XM Weather

A word of caution about XM Weather accounts. I recently changed from Aviator to Aviator Lite. I was billed for both services. XM claims they cannot credit my credit card with the extra amount, they only can give me a credit on my account with them. Look carefully at your statements. Mine was a quarterly statement and they are holding almost $150 without any interest. Marcia Gitelman

Kudos for A Pilot's History

This is a wonderful story ... I look forward to seeing what continues (A Pilot's History: Chap. 4). What a difficult time for mankind. Praise to Carl and the many like him that brought victory for us in this conflict. Glen Phelps
Your story is simply amazing! I enjoyed reading it immensely and I am very grateful that you have chosen to make such a clear and factual record of your experiences in WWII. You have my heartfelt thanks for your contributions and my admiration for your courage and skill. Jim Mitchell

Age 65 Rule Change

That's good news (AVwebFlash, Dec. 11), but I can't help wondering how many "earmarks" will be attached to it. Marv Donnaud
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