As an airline transport pilot with about 10,300 hours and 179 ferry flights all over the world, I can say only that anyone who wants to change the system in the United States is either a crook thinking to make money or a fool (" FAA Funding Debate: Euro-Fees Fears," April Pilot). It is as simple as that. I am now flying a Cessna Citation on a contract in Denmark and you would be astounded at the prices we pay. I keep up my AOPA membership in the United States regardless of where I fly, so that AOPA can keep up the fight. And, as we continue to be battered in various countries (don't even get me started on Cyprus), everyone says, "This wouldn't happen in the United States; AOPA is strong enough to protect aviation."
I hope that they are right!
Thank you for your article on user fees in Europe. It is scary to know that this is the very system that is the goal of the FAA. Apparently the FAA did not do well in its history classes. We left the European system because we did not want to be subjected to the lack of freedom, lack of choice, and dictatorships. We have worked hard for more than 200 years to get where we are in this country. Many countries in the world dislike us because of our lifestyle. Too bad. We earned it. It is hard to believe that there is a group of people in the U.S. government enjoying the good life, but dedicating their lives to taking us back to the Stone Age with the Europeans. After I read the article, I was at my local airport where I overheard four young men talking in German. They were all pilots who came to the United States for training. I asked them a number of questions and they repeated exactly what you stated in your article.
Europe has killed general aviation. The fees that are charged in Europe are a joke. Europe has become a police state of the sky, engaged in the enforcement of collecting user fees (thereby adding to the cost of supplying aviation services to the public). I would bet that if a similar scheme was adopted in the United States, the general aviation population would diminish by 80 percent (we would ultimately see only one-fifth the private aviation usage that we currently see). So, who would be paying the user fees if most of the "users" find flying to be too prohibitive? It sounds like President Jimmy Carter's luxury tax on yachts, which killed the luxury yacht industry until the law was repealed. The enactment of this legislation would kill general aviation and would be doomed to failure. I guess the next degree of user fees will be to charge everyone for the air they breathe, and to devise a rate structure which charges more when people go jogging, because they breathe more air with an elevated heart rate.
As a longtime AOPA member I want to thank you for the exposure the association is giving to the American public about how we fare here in Europe. I'm 49 now and I have been flying since 1978, and what a change I have seen — especially these last few years. It's a rollercoaster of new rules and charges being thrown at us by overzealous civil servants of mostly leftist signature. Their love for bureaucratic interference, rule making, and red tape is unequalled and absolutely staggering. What we see now is that the ideal instrument to cover the Unified European market, the versatility of general aviation, is being ruined and suffocated by excessive rule making and ridiculous charges. Why? Why? Why? America, help! General aviation will die in Europe, and I don't want to think of the economic and social consequences.
Just wanted to let you know how much I am enjoying your Catch-A-Cardinal series online (" AOPA's Catch-A-Cardinal Sweepstakes: A New Spark," April Pilot). It's the first place I go when I log onto AOPA Online. I'm a brand-spanking-new pilot (who actually started as a student in 1980 and finally finished this last February) and I read absolutely everything I can get my hands on so I can hurry up my learning curve. When I read your columns about the 177's restoration, I feel as if I'm actually part of the crew. I have learned so much about the guts of an airplane. I've been waiting with bated breath to find out which color scheme you all chose for the Cardinal and was tickled...well, red, to discover that it was the design I'd voted for way back at the beginning of the year. It's going to be a beautiful bird.
A friend experienced a similar situation a few months ago (" Waypoints: Scary Stories," April Pilot). He flies a Malibu Mirage and was returning to Minneapolis-St. Paul. Climbing out of 8,000 he noticed the oil pressure dropping so he turned back toward the airport, declared an emergency, and did a precautionary shutdown before the engine seized. After he told the controller his intentions (Runway 4) he was told he had to make a base to Runway 31 because there was work being done on Runway 4. He replied he could not make 31, and that he would land on the taxiway for 4. On the way in he was harrassed by the controller that he had to go to 31, ATC would not notify the construction people of the emergency, and that he would be in violation if he continued as planned. He continued to 4, made the taxiway, and stopped among the construction equipment. No damage, no injuries. He called the tower after landing and discussed the situation with the supervisor who apparently was apologetic. Imagine the outcome if my friend had let the controller call the shots.
While it is clear that the ATC controller was wrong in not allowing the 17 Center landing, you failed to mention the guilt of the crew of the 757. The captain, as pilot in command should have informed ATC that he was declaring an "emergency for safety" and that he was going to land on 17 Center, period! That was not only his right as pilot in command, it was his responsibility as the person looking after an entire airplane full of people.
Returning to Massachusetts through the Dover, Delaware, airspace recently in the crystal clear air I listened to a pilot communicating with the Dover controller in a manner that does no service to general aviation pilots. The busy controller barely acknowledged us as he dealt rapid fire with a surprising number of IFR aircraft for such a clear day. We were IFR because we had departed the Washington, D.C. ADIZ and were headed through New York City airspace. Any reasonable pilot would understand that this was not the day to ask for flight following in the Dover airspace.
One aircraft, a Piper Navajo, was particularly insistent. After several attempts to receive flight following, he started asking the controller for the frequencies of other ATC facilities from whom he could receive the service. The Dover controller was the only ATC service available for the airspace through which the Navajo was traveling. The repeated requests, followed by requests for information the pilot should have been looking up or getting from FSS, did nothing to alleviate the busy chatter on the frequency. Finally giving up hope of receiving flight following, the pilot of the Navajo came on frequency and berated the controller for failing to "provide services he was entitled to" adding that the controller would be "forced to provide them once this pilot started paying user fees."
As I signed off with Dover I apologized to the controller on behalf of GA pilots. After being passed off from Dover I heard the pilot of the Navajo on frequency with the next controller where he did receive the flight following he so desperately wanted. I commented, on frequency, that his unprofessional communication to the Dover controller was an embarrassment. He and I then took the conversation to 122.75 to continue. He was of the opinion that since "everyone is better off with a code rather than squawking 1200 the controller was doing us a disservice." I reminded him that the Aeronautical Information Manual explains that VFR flight following may be provided at the controller's discretion if able. VFR flight following is not a "right." He suggested that he could have received the separation by filing an IFR flight plan, and we then discussed the requirement that IFR pilots are responsible to see and avoid when in VMC.
Sadly, I got nowhere with this pilot and expect he will continue to abuse the controllers verbally when they fail to provide the services he wants. The problem is that pilots who use the ATC frequencies to unprofessionally berate controllers are not doing anything to curb the advent of user fees, in fact, quite the opposite!
In " Positive Force," May Pilot, the author incorrectly identified blue line as V MC. V MC (minimum control speed with the critical engine inoperable) is marked on the airspeed indicator by a red line. V YSE is marked on the airspeed indicator with a blue line. Vortex generators lower V MC and stall speeds in many aircraft. Pilot regrets the errors.
We welcome your comments. Address letters to: Editor, AOPA Pilot, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland 21701. Send e-mail to [email protected]. Include your full name, address, and AOPA number on all correspondence, including e-mail. Letters will be edited for length and style.