AVmail: April 30, 2012 »

Letter of the Week: How Much Rest? My answer to the " Question of the Week " on the crew rest issue is that personal sleep needs do vary, according to scientists. This is why they give a range rather than an absolute value. The challenge with the FAA (the regulator) and the industry (the certificate holder) is that both are looking for the absolute minimum versus the safest solution. Safety does cost. It is like the old motor oil commercial: "You can pay me now or pay me later." The FAA is afraid to institute the requirements that will ensure all pilots get proper rest, stating it is the responsibility of the pilot to report fit for duty. They bend to pressure from the airline and cargo industry who cry it will put them out of business. If the rules are the same for all, the cost is the same for all, so that argument is lame. Pilots will report for duty fit as long as reporting they are not fit doesn't cost them their jobs. Pilots don't make the schedules; the companies do, which is why the regulator is responsible for making sensible rules to guide these schedules. Put on your common sense hat: Do you really want to put you and your family on a plane flying over the Amazon in the middle of the night knowing that the pilots were not properly rested? The arguing point is whether four or 12 hours is enough rest to ensure that. Wouldn't you rather bet on the safe side versus the minimum value? Mike Michaelis Former National Safety Committee Chairman, Allied Pilots Association Click through to read the rest of this week's letters. More

AVmail: April 16, 2012 »

Letter of the Week: Proper Phraseology Critical The recent incident involving the missed emergency call in Denver is a classic example of why proper phraseology is so critical to aviation safety. The controller is expecting to hear an initial transmission that starts with "Denver Tower" or at least "Tower" (or "Center" or "Approach") followed by the company name and then the flight number. The first transmission from the radio operator in this case was a garbled "fifty-nine twelve." I listened to this segment of the recording five times and wasn't able to understand the "fifty-nine" part until the fifth try, and I was listening for it. The subsequent exchange only reinforces that the pilot clearly (but only) said "fifty-nine twelve" the second time but the controller was listening for a transmission that began with a company name, not a number. As a result, he was scrambling all over the place looking for a call sign ending in 12. Factor in the issue of the rogue radio operator in the area (these incidents are unusual but happened twice in two different locations during my tenure as a controller) and one might understand how this could further confuse the controllers. Had the radio operator in the aircraft been in the habit of initiating transmissions by stating the facility name first and/or using the company name in the call sign we wouldn't be writing this. Maybe if you are talking to a company dispatcher you can get away with flight number only but abbreviated IDs to ATC will get you in trouble eventually. Apparently United 5912 was inside the marker when all of this occurred, but I cannot find a complete recording so as to calculate or guesstimate the amount of time that transpired between the first emergency call and the last. The reason I bring that up is because a 7700 squawk would have alerted the whole world to the location of an aircraft with a problem, and the emergency equipment would probably have been rolling by the time UAL5912 touched down. Bob Merrilees Click through to read the rest of this week's letters. More

AVmail: April 9, 2012 »

Letter of the Week: Medical Exemption Restrictions Questioned I am a commercial, multi-engine, instrument-rated pilot who now flies totally for recreational purposes. I am a strong supporter of EAA and FAA's proposed exemption [to Class 3 medical requirements]; however, I feel that the aircraft limitations in it should be eliminated. The focus of this exemption should be totally on the pilot's medical fitness to fly recreationally, not the type of aircraft he flies. Recreational flying is recreational flying, regardless of the type of aircraft involved! Many of us, including me, fly two-place aircraft whose power far exceeds 180 hp. My current one is a Yak 52, which also has retractable gear and a constant-speed propeller. As the exemption currently reads, you would be eliminating almost all of the IAC aircraft and warbird operators, many of the thousands of Vans RV owners who employ the 200hp IO-360, and countless numbers of other experimental aircraft. Virtually all of these are recreational pilots. You would also be eliminating owners of aircraft like the Cessna 182. With respect to medical certification, I consider myself as safe in my aircraft as would be a pilot with lesser experience in, for example, a Cessna 172. If, under the current third-class medical certification process, I am fit to fly my aircraft, then under this exemption, I would certainly be as fit to fly the same aircraft. Nothing about my piloting qualifications would change, but I would be more fully aware of my medical condition and those factors affecting it. Eliminate the aircraft restrictions from the exemption, even if it means a tougher political fight with the FAA. George Lazik Click through to read the rest of this week's letters. More

AVmail: March 19, 2012 »

Letter of the Week: The Height of Fears Regarding the recent " Question of the Week " on acrophobia: It's often been said that "fear of heights" is really the distress that arises from the conflict between a very strong subconscious desire to fly, while at the same time being in a place (e.g., an apartment balcony, a cliff) where attempting such flight (with a certainty of failure) would be easy. So fear of heights is the result of the conflict between the desires to fly and to survive. Len Deighton, an author and pilot, mentioned this theory many years ago. And there is some (although conflicting) evidence Lindbergh experienced such a fear, at least in early years. As for me, I'm very happy flying airplanes, low or high, and even with the door off for taking photos but no use at all on the roof of a two-story house. Wayne Cochrane Click through to read the rest of this week's letters. More

AVmail: March 12, 2012 »

Letter of the Week: Of Glass and Steam Regarding the safety analysis of glass vs. steam panels: As an examiner for general aviation pilot certification, I get to see a multitude of different setups in many cockpits, from all analog instruments with simple radios to Garmin 430/530 multifunctional displays and the full glass panels of G1000 and such. There is no question in my mind that situational awareness information at your fingertips plus weather pictures with continual updates are far superior to what we used to have just our minds for the total picture and flight service for oral updates and the few airplanes with radar to show in a narrow band what is in front of us. However, having said all this, I find that many private pilots (as well as some instrument rating applicants) have little knowledge and understanding of how to fly their aircraft on pitch attitudes, power settings, and trim. It's a constant chase of airspeed, power settings that never stay at one place, and trim wheels that keep being rotated. Given that analog instruments give us a rate of change that is easier to interpret than the displays on glass panels hence the vector noodles and rate of change arrows I would lay the problem at our flight instructors' feet to teach our students how to fly our aircraft on pitch, power, and trim! It is so much easier and gets the pilots' heads outside the cockpit, where [they] need to be! Bert(il) Aagesen Click through to read the rest of this week's letters. More

AVmail: February 27, 2012 »

Letter of the Week: Gas Pains Regarding the most recent "Question of the Week" : I live in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso (West Africa). Avgas per gallon here varies from $13 (tax-free for international flights) to $17 when flying within national borders. This is triple the price for cars in Burkina. My hope for the future is locally produced bio-avgas like Swift is developing. Jan Van Der Horst Click through to read the rest of this week's letters. More

AVmail: February 13, 2012 »

Letter of the Week: Where's Our Trophy? Regarding the " Question of the Week ": How about a trophy for the average aviator? You know, the guys who drive 20-year-old cars so they can afford a 40-year-old airplane; who put up with ridiculous security regulations, crippling fuel prices, a progressively dumber society that doesn't understand aviation, and a President who castigates them for being "elite." These are the guys who give Young Eagles rides, take cancer patients to distant cities for life-saving treatments, and fly supplies into storm-ravaged Caribbean islands. They are the lifeblood of American general aviation. Where is their trophy? Glenn Juber Click through to read the rest of this week's letters. More

AVmail: February 6, 2012 »

Letter of the Week: In Defense of the FAA It is in the nature of pilots to complain about the FAA and the news about the temporary grounding of Operation Migration's aircraft, and its migrating whooping cranes in December sparked some strident criticism of the agency from pilots. As a member of the board of directors of Operation Migration (OM), an EAA member, and a private pilot, I'd like to set the record straight. FAA officials were not the bad guys in this affair far from it. They have long recognized the value and the uniqueness of what OM is doing for an endangered species and the high standards of safety that we have maintained in our flight operations. ... For the birds, David Sakrison Click through to read the full text of our "Letter of the Week" and other notes from AVweb readers. More

AVmail: January 30, 2012 »

Letter of the Week: The Case for Fuel Taxes Regarding aviation user fees : I assert that the "user" of the ATC system is not the airline or airplane, but the person traveling. The person traveling needs ATC to get him or her safely to his or her destination. If you want to charge per flight, you should charge per passenger on that flight. In that case, an airliner carrying 200 passengers should pay more than a corporate jet carrying four passengers. In fact, it should pay about fifty times more. In addition, you should charge more for longer flights than for shorter flights. A flight from New York to Los Angeles spends more time in ATC than a flight from New York to Chicago. Now, in order to collect this fee, a whole new bureaucracy will have to be developed. Who is going to track the fifty million individual flights each year? How is the money paid? Who will audit all of this? How do the many corporate jets figure into all of this? And what about air freight? Let's look for a cheaper way to fund ATC that is still equitable. It turns out that, when measured by passenger-mile, most airplanes get about the same mileage, about 60 passenger-miles per gallon. Now, there is a range, but it's not six passenger-miles per gallon, and it's not six hundred passenger-miles per gallon, either and it tracks reasonably close for a 737 or a Citation. Let's take a commercial flight of 1,000 miles with 200 passengers. That's about 200,000 passenger-miles. At sixty passenger miles per gallon, that's about 3,000 gallons of fuel. If you want to recover $100 from this flight, that's about three cents per gallon. At three dollars per gallon fuel cost, that's about one percent. Sure, people will complain. But it will be a whole lot cheaper with much less hassle than collecting this fee separately. Like everyone else, I don't like paying taxes, but I also believe that there are government services that need to be paid for, and they need to be paid for, directly or indirectly, by the people who benefit from the service. In this case, given a choice of fuel tax or [a] separately calculated and charged fee, I go with the tax. Reid Sayre Click through to read the rest of this week's letters. More

AVmail: January 16, 2012 »

Letter of the Week: Air Show and Air Race Safety Regarding the NTSB hearings on air show and air race safety: As an occasional air show performer during the summer months, I feel that I can say with confidence that every reasonable precaution is taken to ensure crowd safety. The regulations are thorough to the point of being onerous, and air show performers are uniformly diligent and professional in their approach to safety. Are new rules required? Absolutely not! I expect that there is more government oversight involved with me flying a loop in public than is required for a doctor to remove an appendix. My point is that professionals can be trusted to regulate themselves to some extent. Rob Erdos Click through to read the rest of this week's letters. More