AVmail: Mar. 10, 2008

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ADS-B and Privacy

Regarding ADS-B (AVwebFlash, Feb. 27): Am I missing something here? I'll be the first to admit that I don't fully understand ADS-B, but some parts of the program make me really nervous. Not just because of the cost to a GA pilot, but because of the extraordinary surveillance capabilities it gives the government. Your N-number, altitude and position are sent out every second? When (and it is when, not if) this is mandatory for GA aircraft, how long will it take for the government to use this as an enforcement tool? Fly too low over a wildlife area and the penalty and certificate action will be automatically generated and sent to you. Fly to "suspicious areas" or land on remote airstrips that are also used by drug runners and the FBI will show up on your doorstep. I can imagine how I could use this if I was in charge of enforcement for the FAA or DEA. With tracking information and GIS, I could make the life of a GA pilot the most controlled one in human history. Nothing would be missed and nothing would be forgiven. Much of the program has promise, but in Alaska (if my memory serves me right) most of the safety came from sophisticated GPS use, not from big-brother tracking. There is another way this could be used against pilots: retaliation against "troublemakers," i.e., people who are fighting an enforcement or other decision by the FAA or other government agency, or who just tick off someone in the FAA. First thing that would happen is that all the stored tracks of the "troublemakers" would be reviewed with a fine-toothed comb and any infraction or possible infraction would be used to intimidate and silence. Not many people will speak out once a few examples have been made. I hope I am wrong, but if not, why hasn't anybody been talking about this? I'm all for this for commercial traffic because safety overrides any privacy issues, but for private individuals ... Alan Cossitt

Foreign Nationals In Flight Training

Really, who cares how many foreign nationals are being taught to fly in the U.S. (AVwebFlash, Mar. 3)? If they're not allowed to train here, they'll do it in another country. (Yes, other countries can train pilots too, [a fact that] your elected representatives may be surprised to learn.) This sort of scaremongering is pathetic and reprehensible, and those perpetrating it should be roundly condemned by AVweb and in every other medium. Ceri Reid

Military Foreign Aircraft

The KC-30 decision by the folks in the Air Force (AVwebFlash, Mar. 2) is not as unique as one might think. Just look at the current aircraft inventory at first blush:
Pilatus PC-12 -- Switzerland
T-6 Texan II (Pilatus PC-9) -- Switzerland and U.S.
H-101 (VVIP Helicopter) -- U.K. and Italy, fronted by Lockheed-Martin
C-27J -- Italy, Spain, and France
T-45 (Navy Trainer) -- U.K.
HH-65 Dolphin helicopter (USCG) -- France
KC-30 -- France, fronted by Northrop Grumman
One might say the "foreign aircraft" are those made in the good old U.S.A. We are lucky to keep the F-22 and F-35 stateside, lest it turn into another overseas bird. Look to more "U.S." wounds when the C-130 requirement comes up and Airbus wants that also ... and then the Next Conventional Bomber bid ... one could only hope we keep the Chinese and Russian out of that manufacturing bid. Ken Strafer

Lockheed-Martin AFSSs

I would like to see this question broken down to specifics (QOTW, Feb. 28). What is it that the pilots find good and what is that that the pilots find bad with the Lockheed-Martin (LM) AFSSs? As an FAA AFSS specialist in Alaska, we are getting more and more phone calls from the Lower 48. When I get a pilot from down South, I ask what it was that caused them to call long distance for a pilot weather briefing, to file and cancel both IFR and VFR flight plans. The usual response I get is the wait time. When it comes to the IFR flight-plan cancellation, I do not blame a pilot not wanting to wait 20 minutes to report his arrival. If the pilots do not advise LM or the FAA what their issues are, how can the system be fixed? Mary Ellen Cunningham

Air Traffic Controller Staffing

I couldn't agree more with the author of this comment (AVmail, Feb. 18). There was a potential short-term fix on Oct. 4, 2005. The FAA's brilliant (not!) plan to privatize the FSS system left nearly 2000 long-term, federal, FSS employees short of their federal retirement. Many of these folks had ratings (CTOs), were familiar with the National Airspace System, and were eligible (and qualified) to transfer as a federal employee to ATC towers and centers. The FAA imposed a restriction on level 6, 7, and 8 towers, and excluded the en-route option. After hundreds of applications, only a "token" 66 or so were picked up for the positions. Why you ask? Well, Lockheed Martin needed a work force to staff the new FSS system. They did not have a work force in place to take over the option. They needed the FAA to "help" staff these positions. In doing so, they changed rules, subverted regulations, "rebaselined" staffing requirements and plain broke their own rules. Then the systematically blitzed the media with spin even the current presidential candidates would be proud of. Bottom line: There was an opportunity to pad the ATC workforce with competent, eager controllers that surely would have needed far less time to check out. The pay situation, well, that's a whole 'nother story. This story is not going to go away. And I fear it will all come to a catastrophic head when two air carriers attempt to occupy the same space at the same time. Name withheld by request

Golf Course Landing

What if they had used a snowmobile to drive across the golf course to that tennis match (AVwebFlash, Mar. 5)? Would the police be astounded? Better yet, what if it were a helicopter? Would that have been "OK" with the police? So, why the concern over a ski-equpped plane? I think it's a clear case of overreaction on the part of the gendarmes. For what it's worth, back in 1949 (the year I soloed) my dad would land his Stinson 108-1 on the parking lot at Notre Dame Stadium. We'd park it on the south end of the lot and walk two blocks south on Twycenham to visit my uncle and cousins. No fuss, no bother and certainly no concern of the police. We had to stop doing it a year later when they put railroad ties in the parking lot to act as "bumpers" for parked cars. After that, we landed at Bendix Field in South Bend. Why all the fuss nowadays in Illinois when a ski-equipped plane lands on a golf course? And why does the FAA feel it's necessary to go on a witch hunt? Like I say, had it been a helicopter or snowmobile, it probably wouldn't have raised an eyebrow. Gimme a break! Carl B. Jordan

Aviation Headsets

Re: LightSPEED Zulu Headset Review (Feb. 18) In summer of 2004 I flew DHC-2 Dehavilland Beavers with Promech Air in Ketchikan, Alaska. It rains there plenty! During one of the rainy periods, there were approximately 20 of us seaplane pilots who decided to do a headset "study." We tried several different top brands of headsets in the noisy environment of the DHC-2. At that time, we found the quietest and best headset was the top-of-the-line Telex. Bose headsets didn't even come close! I had some LightSPEED 20XLs that were better than the Bose headsets. Since then I have switched to LightSPEED Zulus. There is nothing presently to compare, not even the top-of-the-line Telex. Anyway, I am a 42-year-veteran pilot, with in excess of 20,000 hours, and I depend on good headsets for our seaplane training programs. We need the best-quality headset to enjoy our training programs, and we couldn't be happier than we are with our LightSPEED Zulus. These headsets are truly remarkable! Rich Hensch
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