Regarding the article " Flight of Mistakes" (January Pilot), I found it both informative and interesting. If ever Murphy's law were to be validated, this series of events would do it. However, I must take exception to the conclusion that both pilots drew from this experience: "I won't ever fly without a GPS."
I am a retired Marine Corps colonel who served as a squadron pilot, an instructor pilot, and later as the commander of the Marine Corps' AV-8 Harrier training squadron. To the very last day I flew, I carried either an operational navigation chart or sectional chart for the area in which I was flying. I kept a running mechanical clock and consciously maintained a running mental track of the initial heading and time to my nearest divert in case I should have a mechanical or navigational failure. I never allowed myself to fly the system over terrain for which I had not done a thorough map study. In short, I never relied on the GPS. It was an aid. True, without it, mission training at low altitude at night was not a consideration. Many night combat missions cannot be accomplished without it. Nonetheless, I would not permit myself nor would I permit my pilots to become systems cripples.
The lesson to take from the article is not that one needs a GPS to accomplish a navigational flight. The message is that one needs to be competent with all of the flight and navigational aids that facilitate safe flight. I had two flights in my 27 years that necessitated my relying on a watch, a compass, an airspeed indicator, and a map because my navigational aids failed. If one does not prepare for such an event, the next time the GPS fails, one might find oneself either out of fuel and ideas or at the receiving end of a high-speed projectile.
Your article "Flight of Mistakes" was incredibly generous to two guys whose stupidity may well cost us all dearly. Regarding the FAA, an agency that we all love to hate, I can only say it has reacted with incredible forbearance. Both of these individuals should have their certificates revoked permanently.
This is an excellent example of the consequences of inadequate flight planning and not filing a flight plan. I compliment Troy Martin and Jim Sheaffer for sharing the details of their flight and hope that their story will prevent any repeat violations of the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). This article should be required reading by all student pilots prior to starting cross-country flying and all inactive pilots taking a flight review to get back into flying. I made two flights into the ADIZ this past summer, just weeks after Troy and Jim's flight. Both of my flights were completed without a problem. Prior to the flights, I completed the AOPA Air Safety Foundation "Know Before You Go" online course and called the Leesburg Flight Service Station in Virginia to make sure I understood all the procedures. With all of the resources available to AOPA members regarding flight into the ADIZ, I do not expect to see any further incidents by AOPA members.
I read your article concerning the infamous ADIZ bust. It reinforces my belief that Jim Sheaffer should be banned from the aviation community forever. As in the securities industry, when an individual commits an act that harms the fabric of the system, he or she is banned for life from ever working in that industry. I personally will write to the FAA enforcement division suggesting this action. I'm sure others feel the same way.
I'm writing to comment on the "Flight of Mistakes" article in AOPA Pilot, which I imagine is liable to evoke quite a response. I hope AOPA is planning to publish this feedback from members on this issue; it would be interesting to see where we as a group stand on this.
My personal opinion is that there is hope still for Mr. Martin, as he was a student pilot at the time of this incident, and perfection is not expected of student pilots. I am glad that he was not cited by the FAA. I hope he will take this experience to heart, and in the future will be more direct in voicing his concerns if he ever finds himself "going against the grain" ever again.
On the other hand, I have nothing but scathing words for Mr. Sheaffer, the so-called private pilot. In the interview he says that he didn't think the Department of Homeland Security would shoot down two pilots. In my view, there was only one pilot in that cockpit that day, the student pilot, Mr. Martin. It is my hope that Mr. Sheaffer will never be able to obtain a pilot certificate again.
Collected e-mails and online discussions on "Flight of Mistakes" are available on AOPA Online.
While, along with John Yodice, I abhor the thought of unwarranted government intrusion into my personal affairs (" Pilot Counsel: Pilots and Privacy," January Pilot), the examples Mr. Yodice cites are not particularly compelling. If a pilot has a record of driving under the influence (DUI) on a driver's license, I am pleased that that information would be considered by the FAA in granting a medical certificate, before letting him share the same airspace with me. And if a person considers himself to be sufficiently disabled to draw benefits supported by my tax payments, e.g., Social Security benefits or other disability benefits, then the consequences of that claim for disability on his eligibility for an airman medical should have been recognized at the time of filing for the claim. As long as my behavior does not impact others, it should remain private. But when my behavior impacts others, I should abide by my departed mother's admonition, "Don't do anything you wouldn't want to see published on the front page of The New York Times."
Thanks to John Yodice for his column "Pilots and Privacy." It is always a pleasure to read the words of Justice Louis D. Brandeis and Mr. Yodice is correct that his words cited are indeed a farsighted warning. The sad truth is that his warning was in a dissenting opinion, and the U.S. Supreme Court did not heed his warning. The Olmstead case was the very first for the concept of interception of citizen communications by the government, and the court ruled in favor of the government and not the citizen. The case came about in the enforcement of our noble experiment with alcohol prohibition.
The insidious encroachment of government into our private lives is a natural tendency of government, and it is the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights that provide us a measure of protection, but only if everybody plays by the rules. Not just the FAA, but all branches of government. As pilots first and citizens second, we do well to recognize the insidious nature of the FAA and Department of Homeland Security plan to make permanent the Washington ADIZ. Our right to fly is under the same threat as our right to privacy, and the government is attempting to fool the citizenry by offering up the excuse that it is trying to protect us.
One of my friends forwarded to me Thomas A. Horne's article " Pilatus Odyssey" (January Pilot). I am an aviation enthusiast from Prestwick, Scotland. I have been lucky to see many of the Pilatus PC-12s that have been delivered through Prestwick en route to the United States over the past few years. I was trying my digital camera for the first time the day Horne's journey brought him to Prestwick. This is the image I managed to get as Mr. Horne rotated off Runway 13 on August 31, 2005. I do not work in aviation; I'm just a keen "plane spotter."
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