One argument that might well be advanced in the user-fee debate is the degradation of air safety (" User-Fee Debate: Battle Brewing," February Pilot). I started flying in the days before flight service and flight plans. I wonder how many pilots, like me, would forgo using any of the services provided by the FAA should it start charging fees for those services.
Already, I have almost stopped using filed flight plans since the FAA did not wish to accept a long-distance, full-day flight plan with flight following and insisted I file three separate fuel-stop-to-fuel-stop flight plans.
I now plan all flights to avoid class B and C airspace (or fly beneath it) and additionally when possible, I make use of nontowered airports. Why put up with the frustration of dealing with crowded radio frequencies and circuitous routings when I can easily avoid them?
I write in reference to " Waypoints: GA's Next Challenge" (February Pilot). The first paragraph left me wondering whether Thomas B. Haines has ever really analyzed the aviation world outside the United States, to say, "General aviation of the future may look more like that in Europe today — where user fees have existed for years. There, only the ultra-wealthy fly anything. The wealthy fly microlights and none of them enjoy the robust infrastructure that we enjoy in this country."
I know you have an agenda to scare a rather gullible U.S. pilot community that the world is going to end, but to tell such patent untruths about the situation in Europe is wrong. Flying is not the preserve of the ultrawealthy. Ordinary working people fly as much as anyone else. True, flying is more expensive with gas at $9 a gallon but there are plenty of us at it.
How do we do it? Well, I own an aircraft with eight others. That shares the costs, and if you chose your partners carefully, there is little conflict over using the airplane. If I want it for a couple of weeks, I tell them and book it.
This works out at less than half the cost of renting. Apart from fuel, the only other major flying expense is landing fees. No airfields in the United Kingdom receive any grants or subsidies from the taxpayers, as they are all privately owned. In France, landing fees are a lot less because of subsidy.
How the user-fee debate turns out is a matter for the United States, but please don't misrepresent the world outside the United States in such a way. It not only diminishes your argument, but also diminishes you and AOPA.
Thomas B. Haines writes: Things are relative, of course. GA participation by Europeans is much smaller than in the United States — as a percentage of population. Also, wealth is a relative thing. You may not consider yourself "wealthy," but you are probably in the top 5 percent of wealth among those in Europe, almost certainly in the top 10 percent. See " FAA Funding Debate: Euro-Fees Fears," page 83.
Patrick J. Mathews' " Pacific Rescue" (February Pilot) highlights an unfortunate lack in the world's oceanic rescue arsenal: long-range amphibious aircraft capable of high-seas landings and takeoffs.
Hundreds of American and other Allied pilots and aircrews were plucked from the Pacific during World War II by PBY Catalinas and their courageous and resourceful crews — the Catalinas simply landed next to the downed airmen, loaded them aboard, and took them home. Crash victims' time exposed to the elements (not to mention enemy fire) was thus minimized.
Now, more than half a century later, the best we can do if the crash is out of helicopter range of the nearest base is orbit the ditching site using multiple land-based cargo aircraft (Lockheed C-130s) in shifts for half a day and night until a randomly available commercial ship can reach the victim at an excruciatingly low speed?
Mathews' report suggests that survivable oceanic ditchings are not uncommon events. Add to those the number of boat and ship rescues required worldwide and you have to wonder why the Coast Guard doesn't issue specs for, and then purchase and fly, a multiengine high-seas amphibian to replace its converted cargo planes for patrol and rescue missions. The technology was well known more than 60 years ago.
"Pacific Rescue" describes multiple, massive rescues by the U.S. Coast Guard of a small group of commercial aircraft ferry operators. What was the total cost to the taxpayers of these operations? To the commercial shipping operators who also participated? Given the fact that a safer, cheaper option (container shipping) is available, is taxpayer subsidy of this business in this fashion reasonable? One could argue that flying a Cessna 182 across the Pacific Ocean is not very smart.
Expecting the members of the Coast Guard to risk their lives and the taxpayers to foot the bill when things go wrong is just wrong.
I would like to tell you about my bout with severe/extreme turbulence (" Flying Seasons: Shake You, Break You," February Pilot). I was flying a Beech 18 mail plane over Peoria, Illinois, on a flight from Chicago to Quincy, Illinois. I had diverted from my intermediate stop of Galesburg because of weather in the area and was going direct. At this point, I had been flying the mail approximately two years and been through dozens of thunderstorms and I had received only a few shakes, a lot of noise from rain or hail hitting the structure, and gone on my way. This particular airplane had a vertical speed indicator that read plus/minus 6,000 feet per minute, the only one in the fleet of 15 airplanes. I was well-strapped down and was expecting a few bumps. Just over Peoria I hit turbulence like no other. There was no lightning or precipitation, just clouds. The vertical speed indicator (VSI) was pegging both up and down. The instrument panel was a blur. Power-off had no effect on the uplift. I was yelling to myself "attitude! airspeed!" nonstop with this bout. Thankfully the horizon didn't tumble. The airspeed stayed in some relative position, as did the attitude. I landed in Quincy approximately 30 minutes later. The box of chickens that was in the rear baggage compartment was up front on top of mail, which thankfully stayed in place. This was a life-changing experience that I survived. On the next inspection the airplane was found to have a frayed elevator cable. I don't know if this incident caused it or if it was there during the whole episode. What I find when I tell this story is that people don't believe such a thing could possibly happen. They explain away the VSI reading as a change in pressure. Believe me, it wasn't a pressure change shaking that airplane like a dog shaking a rat.
Although most of the past sweepstakes airplanes have been nice, I haven't lusted after them the way I do after the latest, the 1977 Cessna Cardinal (" AOPA's Catch-A-Cardinal Sweepstakes: A Family Project," February Pilot). I was part owner, then full owner of a 1969 C177B back in the 1980s, flew the airplane from border to border and coast to coast and can't think of better all-around cruiser for a person of ordinary means. I'm glad AOPA is giving the Cardinal some long overdue recognition, and will hope that, for once, my number comes up.
I loved the story on Lee Bottom Flying Field (" Keeping the Past Flying," February Pilot). The field holds a special place in my heart. The very first time my instructor pulled the power and said, "Now, where are you going to land?" I started frantically looking for a nice soft- looking spot. When I pointed to a farm within what I thought was gliding distance he just asked, "Why not land at this airfield that we are over?" I hadn't even noticed the orange-and-white-checked hangar that Fritz Hagemann had on the field then. That hangar is gone now, but Lee Bottom is still there, and is still a good place to land whether it's for ice cream or just plain fun.
The eleventh annual Wood, Fabric, & Tailwheels Fly-In at Lee Bottom Flying Field will be held September 29, 2007. For more information, visit the Web site or call 812/866-3211. — Editors
In the AOPA Airport Support Network section of the March Pilot " AOPA Action," Daniel Field and its ASN volunteer were incorrectly identified. Daniel Field is in Augusta, Georgia, and the Airport Support Network volunteer is Larry Garner. In " Pilot Briefing: First-Class in a Boeing 777" (March Pilot), the article states Boeing is discontinuing the 777 in favor of the 787. Continental will, in fact, receive only one more 777 after this one, but Boeing doesn't have plans to discontinue the 777 anytime soon. In the March issue in " Letters," the wrong Dave Miller was credited for a letter to the editor. Pilot regrets the errors. — Editors
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