From the South Ramp

--Hank Bruckner: 

 February 2001

The Race is On!
 By the time you read this, we’ll be in the final preparation stages for the Great Hawaiian Air Race 2001, attending to the myriad last minute details and praying for favorable weather.  To accommodate the departures from HNL, our launch time from the Reef Runway has been moved up to 0730.  The three-day aviation fest will involve about 30 – 35 aircraft on a zig-zag course across much of the state.  Two nights in Hana, from which the Madam Pele Rally will be staged will be followed by the return leg to O’ahu, finishing at Dillingham International Airport and Rodeo, from whence a third race, the Mystery Race, will embark for those who haven’t yet pegged their Aviation Funmeter gauges.  Putting on one of these events takes a great deal of work and cooperation from a wide range of agencies, entities and folks.  This is our third such event and for all of them the assistance, help, counsel, and support we’ve received from the FAA and state DoT and Civil Air Patrol and Coast Guard Auxiliary have been outstanding. We’ve held our weekly planning meetings at the FSDO, and representatives from ATC and FSS have attended virtually every one. The state has been present in the form of the General Aviation Officer and the HNL Operations Officer.  All these busy people have taken time from their own full work days to contribute their expertise and kokua, and we appreciate it deeply.

 Similarly, most of the folks on the Race board are squeezing out the not inconsiderable time required to make all those things happen that have to happen from otherwise full schedules and lives.  Several are the same faces from the previous two GHARs, but we have new ones as well.  They are all volunteers and are giving of themselves freely for a great cause, and deserve our gratitude.

 The Great Hawaiian Air Race was originally conceived as a means to inject some life into General Aviation in Hawai’i.  Marrying it up with the Make-A-Wish Foundation added an important, tangible, and perceptible benefit to the community at large. Perception is important, because most of the community doesn’t understand how maintaining a strong General Aviation sector benefits everyone. Many still consider us at best a nuisance and at worst a threat to life and limb. 

Tellingly, about half the teams are from the Mainland or overseas.  While it is great to draw people to Hawai’i, I’m disappointed by the relatively low participation by local pilots.  I guess many of you who don’t go to the GACH fly ins also don’t care to race. We are very open to suggestions on increasing local participation in this grand event.  Call/fax/email me.

 For those of you not in the race this year, be on the lookout for aircraft all over, in unusual places and altitudes in the vicinity of all the major islands, especially Moloka’i, Lana’i, Maui, and the Big Island from February 16th through the 18th.  Expect more than the normal chatter on certain frequencies, especially 122.9 and 122.75 and expect lots of activity around Hana and Dillingham. 

Regardless how this GHAR comes off, we are in debt to everyone who has tried to ignite a spark and keep the flame alight.  A special, personal mahalo to Greg Marshall who’s been the driving force behind this effort.

In Your Face
I frequently have the opportunity to fly back and forth to Moloka'i  from O’ahu five or six times in a given day.  On a recent occasion, on three of the legs, I had opposite direction traffic at the wrong altitude.  On most days, that will happen at least once. Years ago, wise heads decided that the safe thing to do would be to separate traffic hemispherically down to the surface, rather than do that only at altitudes greater than 3,000 feet.  Thus, if you are eastbound, you should be at 500, 1,500, or 2,500 feet and westbound at 1,000’ or 2,000’.  These are recommended and not regulatory altitudes, but the reason was and is sound.  With 500’ separation between opposite-direction VFR aircraft, the chances of scratching the paint are reduced.  SFAR-71 muddied things up a bit by mandating a minimum altitude of 1,500 AGL for all tour aircraft, but that didn’t erase the long-standing practice of separate eastbound and westbound altitudes.  Nor does the practice apply when in the knowing embrace of the HNL Class B, since approach has the mandate to keep those little green returns from merging and will assign or grant altitudes as the traffic flow dictates.  The thing is, if you are not following the recommended procedure, you are upping the chances of a close encounter of the wrong kind.  Most mid-airs are not survivable.  Flight schools and instructors play a key role here:  you can make sure your students and renter pilots understand. 

Aviation Safety Program
I was recently given a very nice piece of engraved glass by the FAA for my efforts as an Aviation Safety Counselor at an equally nice gathering at La Mariana. That kind of attention from the FAA is very gratifying.  Looking around the room during the presentations, I was struck by the fantastic amount of talent gathered there from all walks of life, sharing the common bond of aviation.  It is both humbling and heartwarming to work with such people—you won’t find a better group of folks.  We all owe it to ourselves and each other to do what we can to increase the awareness and practice of safety.  A very good way to do it is to join the corps of Aviation Safety Counselors or at least attend safety meetings and programs. You’ll be working with some of the best in the business, and that’s a very good thing.   Contact Scott Allen at 837-8307.

Jim Phillips sent me a list of issues that are impacting pilots on the Big Island, and they sound disturbingly familiar.  These were formulated at the Hilo EAA chapter and I’ve taken the liberty to use them as a departure point.

Fuel:  Where you can get it, it is inordinately expensive due to the lack of competition. Century Aviation can get away with charging $3.25-$3.50 per gallon because there is no incentive not to. The process to obtain the right to dispense fuel at state airports is cumbersome and onerous.  Moreover, there appears to be a widespread misunderstanding regarding the use of auto fuel in aircraft.  Fact is, whether you personally like it or not, the use of auto fuels in certain aero engines is covered by the STC process and, thus, is approved by the FAA.  As such, airport management should not try to thwart its use.

Hangars:  There is a statewide need for affordable hangars that is perhaps most severe at Hilo. Airport master plans come and go, but hangars are just not getting built.  This is a major issue and must be addressed by the state.

Security Badges:  The process to obtain and maintain the badges is both time-consuming and inefficient.  Since the state owns all the airports, there is no reasonable explanation why one badge can’t be used for all airports.  Modern data bases and networking should make it a cinch to monitor and control AOA access at all locations.  It’s ludicrous to have to get a separate badge for every airport one uses, especially for non-commercial GA pilots who generally don’t have pin numbers and swipe access anyway.  Years ago, the Federal Security Manager hosted a meeting at OGG for all the airport security managers and various users, and we discussed these same issues.  Not a whole lot has changed.  Maybe we should do that again, with the intent of injecting some rationality to the process.

FSS Communications:  There are still gaps in comms with the FSS, especially on the Big Island.  Along those lines, as the comms are expanded, so should the Island Reporting Service, especially over that vast area from Captain Cook to South Cape to Pahala. 

Runway/Taxiway Markings:  Hilo taxiways into GA areas need centerlines painted.  Ramp areas at other airports should have markings updated to ensure they meet current standards.

Airport Access:  GA is largely banished to the hinterlands at most state airports.  At the very least, combinations to gates in the GA areas should be posted on the flight line side so that arriving pilots can have reasonable access to their aircraft.  Just takes a little effort on behalf of airport managers to ensure proper posting.

The state does a superb job of maintaining the overall condition of the airports in the system. Runways are in excellent condition and terminals are kept up well, especially those used by scheduled carriers.  GA however, just isn’t getting its due,  and no where is this as evident as on the Big Island. 

I’d still like to get more input on issues affecting us on all islands/locations in the state.  Please phone/fax/email or visit me. 

Radio Etiquette
We only have one major Common Traffic Advisory Frequency in the state:  122.9.  Use of the frequency is vital to maintaining situational awareness, especially near some of our busier uncontrolled fields, like Lana’i and Kalaupapa.  Short and succinct really counts.  When two or more of us are keying the mike at the same time, no one is heard, and possibly vital information is lost.  Seldom is an on-air life story of much use to the rest of us, either.  If I’m having one of those mental hiccups (or whatever), I try to unkey the mike until I’m ready to talk again, rather than try to compose myself on-air.  “Moloka’i Traffic, Twin Cessna 692, Ilio Point, Eastbound, one thousand-five hundred” is really all I need to say. Of course, it helps if I say that on the right frequency, but that’s another story.

Be careful out there.