Top Letters And Comments, February 8, 2019


Drone Hysteria V2.0

I thought the article was well written and informative, thank you.

One sector of aviation that seems to be mostly overlooked when Discussing drones is the Helicopter Air Ambulance industry.

As a Helicopter Air Ambulance pilot drones have become a big concern. Consider my daily scenario. We land/take off and fly between 300′ and 1000′ or more AGL over cities, most of the time at high speed. I invite you to use your imagination to consider all of the possible dangers that we have to manage risk for… then add drones.

Thank you for your great publication.

Tony Renner

Personally, I think the risk/concern about drone strikes might be somewhere between the hysteria that you write about, and your dismissal of it. The George Mason Univ. study that concluded there was essentially zero risk of a collision is ridiculous – birds likely try to avoid aircraft when they get close, and drones probably aren’t as good/interested in evading them. Also, and this is the big one I think – drone pilots are drawn to airports and flying things like moths to flame.

At any rate, since we have already had two known collisions, the GMU study is statistically totally blown out of the water. My final point relates to the Univ. of Dayton video of the Mooney/drone splat. That video would have been a LOT more interesting if they had shown a collision with an aircraft with a wet wing at the leading edge. A bird might have breached the fuel tank, but a drone would certainly ignite a massive fireball with its electronics, motors and Li-ion batteries going inside. In summary, I think dismissing the risk out of hand is a similarly misplaced approach.

Robert Connelly

Enjoyed your piece on drone risk at airports.

The county fairgrounds I manage falls within the drone sphere of influence of the local Class D airport. We are now explaining the requirements to fly a drone over a wedding reception or other event just about monthly. The airspace restriction comes in handy because our insurance agency wants them banned entirely due to fear of injury to someone on the ground, but frankly, that kind of ban just isn’t realistic. The latest proposal to allow commercial drone flight over crowds is going the other direction.

And every time we explain the process to get airport and tower approval, and that proof of insurance is required, there literally are eye rolls. The fact is, even the general public (sometimes not the wisest gathering of people), can figure out without any advanced calculations that the actual risk is pretty small.

While personally annoyed by drones over my head taking my picture, I recognize that the reality is that they are here to stay and of little physical risk. Risk from living in a constant surveillance state is another matter entirely. The reality is that the military is flying drones the size of a dragonfly, and if they aren’t already, other people soon will be as well. My guess is the hottest trend in drones will be towards that miniaturization (and secrecy too) which further reduces the physical risk.

So my answer to your hypothetical is always going to be “let’s go.”

Richard Persons

Sad Year for Airshows

Your article about the air show losses was nicely written and from the heart.

I was prompted to write because I casually knew Dan Buchannan. In fact, I have video footage of him circa 1985-86 performing with his hang glider in “The Silent Airshow” for hang gliders and gliders at Ed Levin Park, in Milpitas, (a suburb of San Jose), CA. I produced and sold 30 minute video programs of the Airshows for a couple years to pilots on 5 continents.

I also shared the same airspace with him at Fort Funston and IIRC Mount Tamalpais, with a landing on Stinson Beach.

Dan had a very positive attitude, great attention to detail and encouraged another paraplegic pilot, Bob Vogel. I had known Bob when we both learned to fly hanggliders while he was a professional stunt skier for Volvo. A skiing accident while performing rendered him a paraplegic, but like Dan, he didn’t give up flying and became a aerobatic pilot, too.

Last comment, I looked at one of my old video shows and saw another great aerobatic performer pilot, Dan Racanelli. For many years he held the record for 50 continuous loops in a hangglider. He was electrocuted when trying to rescue another hangglider caught in power lines. They were competing in a cross-country contest. The first pilot lost lift and landed, but didn’t see the wires. He was trapped above the ground. Dan, who knew high voltage procedures, saw the situation from above, flew down and landed safely. While trying to get the first pilot to the ground, a gust of wind blew the first glider into Dan, completing the circuit.

I appreciate that you care.

Kirk H. Knight

Passing of Rosemary Mariner

Please pass to Kate O’Connor that her sidewise swipe at revisionist history isn’t appreciated. Rosemary was the first female to become a Naval Aviator. The comment that she was in command of a Navy Squadron during Desert Storm is misleading at best. It insinuates that she was involved in combat operations. I believe her squadron remained in North America and did not operate an aircraft (EA-7L) that could drop or shoot any weapons in anger.

I knew Rosemary only in passing during my time in the Navy. All Naval Aviators are judged by this criteria:

How good are they behind the boat?

Can they fly the mission reliably, safely?

Can they take care of their wingman or crew?

In her case I have no first-hand knowledge of those facts.

I did one deployment in the same airwing with her husband Tut. To him I extend my sympathies and condolences. I always cherish the time we have with friends and family. Please be more careful of how you portray people and avoid insinuation of their accomplishments.

Tim Sparks

Deadly Efficient Planning

Thank you for this article. I agree with Armand’s reflection that the pilot should have obtained his clearance by phone, something we all used to do without thinking about it. It’s something that should be done at least once with present day instrument training.

Warren Webb Jr.

Winter Flying

Gave me a laugh!! When I was working on my commercial and needed the solo time, I joined the local chapter CAP. The L-16’s open T-hanger was located at Russell Field in Ft. Worth. We don’t get the low temps here, but 25 degrees is cold to this Texan. Lost count of how many times I pulled that prop thru; without even a hint of firing. Finally gave up and called it a day. That was 56 years ago.

Terrance Grimes