Letters

January 1, 1998

A swifter Swift

I enjoyed your article about one of my favorite aircraft (" Swiftest of the Swifts," November 1997 Pilot). I think that it is one of the few aircraft left that has, even in its modified incarnations, as much class as a Twin Beech or a DC-3. I look forward to its reemergence with the same anticipation as I do with the upcoming appearance of the new VW Beetle.

Stoney Truett AOPA 905905
Cayce, South Carolina

I read the Swift article with special interest because my father, Jack Steppe, left North American Aviation as project engineer on the P-51 Mustang to become Globe Aircraft's chief engineer and Culver's assistant general manager. He later was Globe's vice president in charge of production.

My husband and I live in the Fort Worth, Texas, area, so I have had the nostalgic pleasure of visiting the site of the Globe Aircraft Corporation. I was surprised to see that so many of the original buildings have survived — as well as the main entrance to the plant.

I have added your article to the others passed on to me, in hopes that my late father's contribution to the engineering and production of airplanes like the Swift will produce a link to him for me.

Jo Anne Steppe Hunter
Fort Worth, Texas

The Colonel

One of my latest pastimes involves holding down the fort on weekends at DeWitt Field in Old Town, Maine. Every weekend I witness firsthand the tenuous nature of keeping an airport alive. It is a tremendously expensive venture.

Two months ago, I had the pleasure of briefly chatting with Don Strout, a.k.a. "Colonel Klink" (" The Colonel," November 1997 Pilot) when he arrived early in the morning at DeWitt Field to see what was going on. Unfortunately, beyond providing him with a cup of fresh coffee and a few moments of introductory questioning, I didn't afford the venerable flyer the attention he surely deserves. Would that you knew who you were talking to before you started talking to him. The tribute to Col. Strout was wonderful.

Rolf Estela AOPA 1011661
Bangor, Maine

I particularly enjoyed Dan Namowitz's recent article about his experiences with "The Colonel." I've known Col. Don Strout most of my life. Twenty years ago I had the privilege of earning my private certificate under Col. Strout's tutelage in his little red American Trainer.

Strout's students learned very early in training that FAA performance standards were irrelevant. We had to meet his standards, which are invariably higher. For example, as I was getting ready for my written test, Strout advised me that most of his students score "up in the 90s." Because I was in college, he thought that I should do better than most and implied that he wouldn't recommend me for the flight test unless I scored at least a 90. I wasn't sure that he was serious, but I studied and scored a 94 just in case. My only regret in dealing with Strout is that I moved away from Maine before I had a chance to work on an instrument rating with him.

Bill Stickney AOPA 581592
Cresco, Pennsylvania

The lowdown on ELTs

The interesting article " ELT, Phone Home" (November 1997 Pilot) translates to "suspicions confirmed" for me. After literally saving up several years of lunch money to purchase a tired Aeronca Chief, it was very painful for me to have to put out another 10 percent of its cost for a newly mandated ELT in 1973.

Now I read figures that say my ELT has only a one-in-four chance of functioning properly and that I could expect quicker response by using smoke signals. I don't wish to deprive the commercial or deep-pocket flyers of every high-tech advantage that can be fitted into an airplane, but am I the only pilot who thinks that it is absurd to mandate an ELT in small private aircraft? I can file a flight plan or tell my friends where I am going and feel satisfied that a reasonable search will be initiated in case of emergency.

My humble background still prevents me from being overjoyed at paying $40 for $5 worth of flashlight batteries wired together. Even the Air Force couldn't equip a multimillion-dollar, bomb-laden fighter with a good enough ELT to locate it in less than two weeks! Isn't it time that this worthless mandate be downgraded to an option?

Leonard Uecker AOPA 156532
Quitman, Arkansas

Your piece on ELTs is quite interesting and largely accurate but fails to mention several important facts:

Even the 97 percent that you term "false alarms" must still be located and deactivated and, until found, are not known to be false signals; this requires considerable effort and expense. Of the 20 or 30 yearly incidents that we investigate in Nebraska, nearly all are located and silenced without much delay after the Civil Air Patrol is alerted. Although the crash activation rate is small, as you note, I am personally aware of lives saved because of location of the crash site via 121.5 MHz ELT signals. I most certainly would not agree to characterize the 121.5 MHz signal as "just about worthless."

In today's world, unless your 406 MHz unit is so good and broadcasts your location with such accuracy as to completely obviate the "search" from "search and rescue," you had better stick with 121.5 — at least in my neck of the woods. I know of no direction-finding equipment currently in use by the CAP that will even receive the 406 MHz signal; and even knowing the pilot's name, address, and tail number will not help you locate the crash without direction-finding equipment.

W.T. Burton AOPA 356274
Lincoln, Nebraska

According to NOAA Lt. Mark Moran, the 406 MHz ELT transmits on 406.025 MHz, reaching the Cospas-Sarsat polar orbiting satellites (altitude 540 miles) and even the Geostationary Operational Environmental satellites (22,300 miles) — and on 121.5 MHz, specifically for detection from aircraft or airport monitors — Ed.

Fee frustration

I must agree with Roy A. Goodart's criticism of Signature's ramp fees (" Letters," November 1997 Pilot). I have twice flown AirLifeLine missions to Washington National and blinked at the charges. Yes, the landing fee was waived, but we were whacked for a ramp fee, and the price of 100LL was much higher than at any other FBO I have visited since the gas crunch in 1973. Signature obviously aims at the corporate traveler who feels that such charges are simply the cost of doing business. It surely helps to be the only FBO, too.

John B. Meagher AOPA 399203
Closter, New Jersey

I read the letter bashing Signature Flight Support of Las Vegas and felt compelled to counter with a recent wonderful experience I had with Signature Flight Support at Boston Logan.

I, too, was on an AirLifeLine mission in mid-October. Signature personnel let me park my Aztec right at their front door and left it there for the three hours I was there. Seeing my AirLifeLine badge, they immediately told me that there would be no charges at all. However, I did purchase fuel, and they gave me a discount of 50 cents. During my stay I had access to all their fine facilities, and everyone I spoke to was helpful and courteous. Signature deserves some applause for that.

Doug Sce AOPA 1037487
Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania

I applaud reader Roy Goodart on his mercy AirLifeLine flight to Las Vegas, and I sympathize with his treatment by the Signature FBO. However, if he was intending to drop off passengers at the North Las Vegas Airport, he was at the wrong airport. There is no Signature FBO at North Las Vegas. I am sure that he was at McCarran International Airport.

This is the third time in the last year that the North Las Vegas Airport has been given bad press in AOPA Pilot. I am based there and can testify to the courteous and professional county staff. The airport has grown rapidly in recent years and is the forty-seventh busiest airport in the United States.

Joseph R. Maridon AOPA 637300
Las Vegas, Nevada

Lou Churchville, Signature's senior vice president for marketing, said that the company's handling fee policy specifically exempts air ambulance flights from the fee and that Goodart's payment has been refunded. Rol Murrow, chairman of the Air Care Alliance, suggests that pilots request fee waivers prior to each mission; ACA provides to volunteer pilot groups a faxable form that can be used specifically to notify Signature facilities of impending visits. For more information, call ACA at 800/296-1217 — Ed.

Taxi, or takeoff?

It was with considerable concern that I read the " Test Pilot" article by Barry Schiff in your September 1997 issue. In the piece, Schiff posed an answer to a reader's question regarding the issuance of an ATC clearance to "begin a high-speed taxi." His reply that the issuance of such a clearance would allow room for a departure between "an aircraft on short final and one that is slow to clear the runway" implies that such operations are authorized by air traffic control standards. This is certainly not the case.

FAA Order 7110.65, Air Traffic Control, establishes legally acceptable criteria for use by air traffic controllers in the separation of traffic. This order states that controllers are to separate a departing aircraft from a preceding arriving aircraft by ensuring that it does not begin takeoff roll until the preceding landing aircraft is clear of the runway. If controllers are instructing aircraft to begin a high-speed taxi from a "position and hold" posture on the departure runway, such movement has to be considered the commencement of that aircraft's takeoff roll and would be considered illegal if the preceding arrival is not clear of the runway.

I believe that it's the pilot's responsibility to taxi his/her aircraft at a reasonable speed that would allow the aircraft to maneuver among other taxiing traffic. If I were acting as pilot in command of a flight that received this type of clearance from ATC, I would seriously consider taxiing clear of the runway as an alternative to commencing a takeoff roll without a takeoff clearance.

Tony Ferrante
Washington, D.C.

The author is the FAA's manager of terminal and flight service station services — Ed.

Errata

The Web address for online registration of 406 MHz ELTs (" ELT, Phone Home," November 1997 Pilot) was incorrect; it has been replaced with a greatly simplified URL ( http://usmcc.nesdis.noaa.gov).

The band "Moonlight Swing" has not yet performed at the first Golden West Aviation Association EAA Fly-in ("Pilot Briefing," December 1997 Pilot); the event is scheduled for September 25 through 27, 1998.

Two sections of " Pilot Counsel: Minimum Safe Altitudes" (December 1997 Pilot) were transposed. "Sparsely populated areas" should follow "Populated areas."

Two Web addresses in the December 1997 Pilot were incorrect. The list of ICAO aircraft identifiers ("AOPA Action") can be found at www.aopa.org/whatsnew/icaoacdes.html and AOPA's publication on flying clubs ("Ownership Alternatives: Joining the Club") has been moved to www.aopa.org/members/files/guides/flyclub.html Frequent Web users should bookmark Pilot's new Web link directory ( www.aopa.org/pilot/links.shtml); this page will offer up-to-date links to all Web sites referenced in the magazine.


We welcome your comments. Address your letters to: Editor, AOPA Pilot, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland 21701. Send e-mail to pilot@aopa.org. Include your full name, address, and AOPA member number on all correspondence, including e-mail. Letters will be edited for style and length.