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City lights Thanks for the article “City Lights” in the November 2008 issue of AOPA Pilot. I have been flying for 45 years and it has been a pet peeve of mine that we’re still using 1930s technology to help find airports at night.

City lights

Thanks for the article “City Lights” in the November 2008 issue of AOPA Pilot. I have been flying for 45 years and it has been a pet peeve of mine that we’re still using 1930s technology to help find airports at night. It seems that just when you catch a glimpse of a green or white flash in your peripheral view you turn your head and can’t find it because it is so slow to repeat or lost in other city lights. It seems to me that alternating green and white strobes would be much easier to find. The best thing to come along is the Garmin 396 (and perhaps others), which will give you a direct line to the airport and will put out green localizer-like feathers from the end of each runway when you get within about 10 miles. This makes it easy to line up with the proper runway when down at pattern altitude at a strange airport. 

Mike Gorno, AOPA 257005
Bonita Springs, Florida

I enjoyed your article on airports compatible to night landings. It has been a while but I recall landing a few times at night at El Monte Airport in El Monte, California (near the interchange of I-10 and I-605), a Los Angeles suburb. It is surrounded by residential housing and some industrial communities, a north/south runway (19/1) with many parallel streets, and there is a flood control channel right next to the runway. Not easy to find for a newcomer. However, they installed strobe lights at the threshold of Runway 19. With careful attention those strobe lights help to distinguish the runway lights from adjacent streetlights. There are not many flashing lights along city streets (except passing police or fire vehicles).

Herb Zuidema, AOPA 129628
Redding, California

Several years ago I found myself in a somewhat similar situation flying into Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. In this case I could not find the beacon. After a while I found a runway and turned into it, but it was the wrong runway. I turned in time and landed with more assistance from the tower. I learned two lessons from the experience: One, at a towered airport ask the tower for high-intensity lighting. The change in lighting will assist you. Two, dial the ILS or the VOR into your nav, and follow the CDI—or better yet, the HSI. Even a new pilot should be able to do that with minimum training. Then, for an ILS, just divert a bit from your approach, and when established on the final some distance away, descend and join the pattern, or at a towered airport simply ask for a straight-in. A GPS is a great help but I dial the approach and activate it even today in my SR20.

Shalom Wertsberger, AOPA 4644666
South Portland, Maine

200-hour challenge

I read “Waypoints: The 200-hour challenge” in the November 2008 issue and I am going to have to respectfully and professionally disagree with Mr. Kokai’s statements about “breaking the old mold that you need 1,200 hours” to fly for an airline. I’m a Part 121 captain for a regional airline here in the United States. I can only tell you that even though a person may have passed some exams and can repeat the lift formula to me, it does not make this person a competent pilot. Twelve hundred hours is a good minimum if a person has had experience in different aircraft and conditions.

Experience is key to safe operations and cannot be replaced by any type of training, even from the CAPT program. The graduates from this program have flown very little in actual instrument conditions. When I had 200 hours, I felt as if I was competent in some ways, but never would think I was ready to fly for a 121 carrier. These students aren’t either. If a first officer has 200 hours, he or she has no business being in that seat! Safety is paramount in the airline industry and 200-hour pilots flying for an airline are anything but safe. I strongly recommend that if you want to learn to fly, whether it be for pleasure or for a career, you go to the local airport and find a good flight instructor and learn under Part 61.

Abel Marowitz
Winter Park, Florida

I have often wondered why there is such trepidation in hiring 200-hour airline first officers. When I was flying as a radar intercept officer in the F-14 Tomcat in the early 1990s, I routinely flew with brand-new pilots who had 100 Tomcat hours and probably 200 hours total. And this with no stick in the back! These guys were expertly trained and rarely scared me. We have to remember that these 200-hour first officers will be under direct supervision from an experienced captain who can teach them how it’s done. I dare say that they will get much more real-world experience and stick time than a banner-tow pilot or CFI with 1,500 hours.

Louie Raue, AOPA 1420464
Prichard, Alabama

In today’s world of intensive, advanced flight training, producing technically proficient and qualified pilots isn’t the problem. It solves the airlines’ problem of filling seats, but does little to assist the captain in the cockpit. As we all know, you can’t teach experience. As a Boeing 747-400 captain, I have been working in Asia for more than six years now and have been flying with 300-hour first officers from training programs such as CAPT. In a word, I’m flying a 747 as a single-pilot operation! These first officers can recite chapter and verse from the company flight operations manual, the regs, and even have approach plates and center frequencies memorized. They can fly an approach as well as the autopilot but at decision height, well, let’s just say it gets
a little sporty and if something goes wrong, you might as well be there alone! It’s not their fault; they work hard, but again, there just isn’t any substitute for experience and you can’t teach airmanship. It’s a Catch-22. What can airlines in countries with few or no pilots and hundreds of aircraft on order do? So far, for better or worse, programs like CAPT are the only answer.

W.R. Miller Jr., AOPA 626369
East Orleans, Massachusetts

Attitudes to live by

I thoroughly enjoyed Barry Schiff’s “Proficient Pilot: Attitudes to Live By” (November 2008 AOPA Pilot) and after 34 years as a professional pilot, I could not agree with him more. No flight is so important to risk an incident, accident, or injury. I always have said the only time those risks are worth taking is if the bad guys are shooting at you or your colleagues, and that doesn’t happen too often, unless you’re in the military.

So what is the difference between me and the 200-hour pilots written about in Thomas B. Haines’ “The 200-Hour Challenge”? I’m sure with their young reflexes and vision they can control the aircraft every bit as well as I can, maybe better in some cases. I have come to believe the single biggest safety factor I have in my favor is the experience to know when to say no. In fact, I tell my other pilots that we are not paid to fly the airplane, but to say no. We are paid to be able to look the guy paying the bills in the eye and tell him I can’t get you where you want to go, and no, I’m not even going to try to get around those thunderstorms, or take a look at the bottom end of the approach with the weather below minimums. As a young pilot, no was one of the toughest things to say; pilots being goal oriented, you always wanted to get the job done. Fortunately for me my early mentor instilled in me this attitude and I hope I have done the same for others in my career. Missing a meeting is a bummer; missing your kids growing up is a real tragedy.

Dennis L. Taylor, AOPA 760650
Richboro, Pennsylvania

Goodbye, big blue?

I am writing to comment on Dave Hirschman’s article about lead-containing avgas in the November 2008 AOPA Pilot ( “Goodbye, Big Blue?”). First, attacks on avgas from the environmental community go beyond the two identified by Hirschman, the Friends of the Earth (FOE) lawsuit to compel a study of lead emissions’ impact on human health and possible changes to the Clean Air Act. Rather, there is another threat to avgas users: a regulatory petition—also by FOE—asking the EPA to specifically find that lead emissions from general aviation aircraft “endanger [the] public health or welfare” and an accompanying request “that EPA propose emissions standards for lead from general aviation aircraft” (72 Fed. Reg. 64570, November 16, 2007).

And although there is no dispute that lead in the environment presents a serious risk, efforts to regulate avgas as a source of that risk come from a seriously misguided and misplaced sense of priorities. The overwhelming health risk from lead comes from the 3-million-plus tons of lead found in the lead-based paint in U.S. housing stock. This is actual lead, in actual residences, potentially accessible to children and others in what should be the safety of their homes.

As for avgas? The environmental groups’ highest estimate of lead emissions from avgas is approximately 491 tons annually in the entire United States. Pilots should be appropriately concerned about lead and its dangers, with a healthy sense of proportion missing from the environmental groups’ initiatives.

Hirschman’s article reminds us that we must be vigilant against misguided attacks on general aviation as a source of lead-based health risks.

Flavio L. Komuves, AOPA 933045
Edison, New Jersey


In “Test Pilot,” December AOPA Pilot, question four, it was stated that the airline was Pacific Southwest; it was Pacific Air Lines. AOPA Pilot regrets the error, which was introduced in editing.

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