Letters

April 1, 2008

Gallery of legends

It is so rare to see such splendidly commanded writing, photography, and layout in an aviation magazine (“ Gallery of Legends,” February Pilot). Some would say the subject matter—the people profiled—would carry it, even in the hands of less skilled artists and craftsmen, but all I could think as I moved through it was, no, not at all.

Thank you for this story. Please pass along my earnest and sincere compliments to writer Al Marsh, photographer Mike Fizer, and the talented person or persons who laid it out for publication.

Jonathan Baron, AOPA 1310889
Charlottesville, Virginia

Graduate tool

I just read the article about the Piper Malibu Matrix (“ Piper Matrix: Graduate Tool,” February Pilot). Looks like a wonderful airplane, but Piper missed the boat. A six-place, single-engine, cabin-class airplane with only a 585 lb payload! And all for just under $1 million!

This is where the general aviation manufacturers let us down. Why put six seats in an airplane if you can only accommodate two average-size passengers and little baggage after the pilot gets in? I’ve owned several four-place singles and a light twin over the years and only one had a smaller payload—a 2000 Cessna 172R with about 100 pounds less paying load. It seems the newer airplanes are going in the wrong direction with load capability. And the response to all this is that most flying is done with two to three people anyway. Then why build four- or six-seaters in the first place?

John A. Brescia, Jr., AOPA 723756
Purchase, New York

Island time

Regarding Bruce Landsberg’s “ Safety Pilot: Island Time” in the February issue: In October 2004 I got checked out by Paul at Maui Aviators in a Cessna 172 while I was vacationing in Hawaii. The experience was so similar that Landsberg’s article seemed like he was using my notes.

I can’t imagine how many pilots take advantage of the opportunity to fly when they are in Hawaii, but it is an experience that should not be missed. I had the same issue with a strong trade wind (24 knots gusting to 32 knots—unreal conditions compared to the standard here in Southern California), but it didn’t interfere with the check out or my tour. It was scary looking at all of those fierce white caps on the windward side of Maui and Mokoki, and especially crossing the Pailolo Channel between the two islands, but the check pilot acted as if it was a day like any day (which it probably was) and signed me off and my flight went with out a hitch.

Tom Davis, AOPA 113262
Chula Vista, California

Lessons from the crash

I just finished reading the article “ Lessons from the Crash” (February Pilot). I was really moved by the scholarship of this article. I will from this day foreword listen to my inner thoughts and if the word “hope” comes up in my flight dialogue, I will immediately question all aspects of the flight. Thank you for precisely articulating an aspect of flying that sometimes eludes all pilots.

I would like to commend the author for presenting a highly emotional concept in a very concrete manner. I know he has affected my thinking on this topic.

Richard A. Bassotti, AOPA 1222182
Delmar, New York

Five more years

I read with particular interest the column about raising the mandatory pilot retirement age to 65 (“ Pilotage: Five More Years,” February Pilot). I was disappointed that it was such a one-sided article, and failed to give the opposing viewpoint.

Let’s start with the very name of the legislation—“The Fairness for Experienced Pilots Act.” I am a pilot for a major U.S. airline, who has sacrificed again and again to keep my company out of bankruptcy. I have more than 22 years of experience, including three airlines, and more than 12,000 hours of domestic and international flight time in everything from Cessna 150s to Boeing 767s.

I am presently a co-pilot in the Boeing 757/767. By the time I can hold a captain seat—the only meaningful increase in pay I will have for the remainder of my career—I will have 23 years at my company. Many of the captains who will benefit from this age change made that leap in as little as five years. These same pilots have benefited from the age-60 rule their entire careers. I am having a hard time seeing the “fairness” in this new law.

This legislation is only about money—not a “lack of experienced pilots.” The only pilot shortage there is in this country is the shortage of people willing to climb the ladder through military or civilian ranks, only to find out that the job of major airline captain is no longer what it used to be. This legislation gained momentum on the basis that age-60 retirement amounted to age discrimination. How is age 65 any different in that regard? In fact, there are people out there calling for the return of retirees, so they can finish out their careers with full seniority. What do you suppose that would do for the up-and-coming generation of pilots?

How about a follow-up column on the other side of 65? Could you please include some other perspectives on how this law could have been more fairly implemented? And please consider the massive transfer of wealth from the most junior to the most senior pilots. How do I explain that one to my kids? Is the gentleman quoted saying, “They’re just going to have to put up with me for another five years” willing to help with my kids’ education? My retirement?

Safety? Experience? Fairness? This legislation is about nothing but greed.

James E. Connors, AOPA 1027838
Leesburg, Virginia

Mark R. Twomby writes: I appreciate your comments about my column on the Age 65 rule. I can empathize with you about the rocky road you’ve had in your airline career, and how it appears that the age 65 rule has further delayed increased compensation.

If you take another look at the column you’ll see that my younger brother, Steven, flies for Delta. He, too, has given up significant pay to help keep the company going. Like you, he was a first officer on 757s and 767s, and to restore his pay he opted to bid for captain on an MD88. Not what he wanted, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

By contrast, my other brother has had a steady rise through the ranks at his carrier, FedEx, and now is a captain on an MD11, looking ahead with satisfaction at flying to age 65. What’s the difference between my two brothers? Seems to me it’s simply luck of the draw—and timing. One brother got lucky by being hired by FedEx. The other thought he was hiring onto the best of the best, Delta, but that turned out not to be the case.

There are no guarantees in any career. If you want to talk about years of toil without meaningful pay increases, try writing for a living. Or flying as a contract pilot. The only way I can make more money is to take on more jobs—work harder. Lots of us have sacrificed just to run in place—or even be set back by bad luck not of our own doing. I know this is a controversial topic, and that many pilots like you have been set back because of it. Certainly I wish that were not the case, but I do believe the rule makes sense on the face of it. Most pilots are still fit to fly at age 60, and should be given that opportunity.

Eye locator

What a very interesting device (“ Turbine Pilot: What it Looks Like—Eye Locator,” February Pilot). However, this is not a new pilot safety feature or concept. Back in the 1950s and ’60s, T-34 pilot trainees were told to always adjust the vertical position of the seat to the same and correct position prior to each flight. It was a simple method—place your closed fist on top of your head with your thumb sticking up; when the seat is the correct height, your thumb just touches the canopy.

David V. Webber, AOPA 1258388
Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania

Errata

In “ America’s Airports: In the Conch Republic,” (February Pilot) the photo of the lighthouse was misidentified—it is the Loggerhead Cay Light, just to the west of Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas. You may also have caught the error in the text that identified the Key West Naval Air Station as “an active reliever.” That also was incorrect. Pilot regrets the errors.

We welcome your comments. Address 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 number on all correspondence, including e-mail. Letters will be edited for length and style.