From The South Ramp --Hank Bruckner:

Article from the March 1998 edition of the GACH newsletter

Sometimes flying immerses us in such a sensual feast as to blur and merge the border between fantasy and reality, often with wondrous results. Sculpted cloud shapes, dramatic lighting and unusual perspectives all contribute to the effect, especially at night. Night flight has inspired many an aviator and writer. My turn came while riding the jump seat in a DC-10 to Chicago. I was in the jump seat behind the captain, and in spite of the well-lit cockpit, I could make out Cassiopeia and Ursa Major through the huge window in the blackness that surrounded us, as we charged across the Pacific and much of the western U.S. mainland. As we neared OHare and prepared to descend out of FL 350, the captain turned off the cockpit overhead lights and a magical universe opened up. Above, the sky was so clear and the background stars were so bright and so many, that it became difficult to pick out Cassiopeia and the Big Dipper. Below, an undulating carpet of clouds hugged the ground, punctuated by the luminous glow marking an underlying town or city. The combined effect was surreal and breathtaking. The captain, a seasoned veteran, said, quietly and simply, "Does it get any better than this?" Back to reality. Kahului Airport has a history of being less-than-friendly to transient GA, with the exception of the Century Aviation FBO. Well, it's gotten worse. The old transient parking on the east ramp, south of Century has been eliminated and transient aircraft now have to tie down north of the fire station, beyond the T-hangars, and way away from everything, including the nearest phone or pick-up point. Whereas it used to be a five-minute walk from transient parking to the FBO, you now have to traverse half the east ramp. No notice, warning, or explanation was provided to the flying public. It's bad enough that business as well as pleasure flyers have to park on the other side of the airport from all services, we now are banished to the hinterlands. I passed all this on to Morris Tamanaha, our state GA Officer. He'll look into it...

Flight 2000 is still working its way through the labyrinth of funding and program management. Mr Tuttle, the FAA's Program Manager will be in Hawai'i for an update briefing. It appears to be the 18th, at 1900 (or 7 pm, if you prefer), and will either be at the HCC on Lagoon Drive. Call me for details if you are interested in going (email works, too). As you recall, Flight 2000 is to be the proof-of-concept test in Hawai'i and Alaska of the proposed Free Flight restructuring of our National Airspace System. The ultimate goal is to allow greater autonomy in route selection, providing the means to avoid traffic conflict within each cockpit. This, in turn, would save big bucks due to increased efficiency. Part of the program calls for the phasing out of ground-based navigation systems--NDB, VOR, ILS--in favor of the satellite-based GPS. The FAA is, however, having second thoughts about putting all our aluminum eggs in the GPS basket with no backup, partially prompted by NATA and other groups who would like to see some sort of redundancy, preferably with existing systems. Flight 2000, and Free Flight itself, will be reliant on Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) to provide precision-approach capability to GPS, at least to CAT I minima, and it is yet unproven. WAAS will involve a constellation of possibly geosynchronous satellites, and will need to be augmented by the Local Area Augmentation System (LAAS) to provide CAT II and III precision approach minima. What it all will be is expensive. Very expensive. True, projected savings ($650 million) from not having to maintain the extensive ground-based systems are supposed to be greater than the cost of building the WAAS system, especially if you factor in the $662 million that users are supposed to save, annually, from more efficient operations. Note, I've thrown in a lot of "supposed's". AOPA has recommended Loran be kept as the GPS backup, although it has already been decommissioned in Hawai'i. Where will all this money come from? Well, this Administration would like you to pay for it every time you fly. It's called user fees. Even though Congress has stated clearly that user fees were not the way to go, the Administration just won't give it up. We can see how successful the Europeans have been in fostering the growth of General Aviation with their use of user fees! Watch 'em like a hawk, folks, and write letters. And, although I still wouldn't go out and spend $3,000 on a new ADF for my airplane, I don't plan to throw away my VOR/ILS receivers just yet. We'll have more info after the next Flight 2000 briefing. Another major aviation icon has made the last great flight. Tony LeVier, usually mentioned in the same breath as Lockheed and their famed Skunk Works, recently lost his battle with cancer at 84. LeVier, inspired by Charles Lindbergh's epic flight, learned to fly, and began a lifetime career with Lockheed. He did much of the test flying on the P-38 during WWII. Later, he got into Lockheed's jets, making first flights in such aircraft as the U-2, F-104, T-33 and F-94. He became Lockheed's chief engineering test pilot and then their director of flight operations. After retiring from Lockheed in 1974, he founded the Safe Action in Flight Emergencies (SAFE) organization to train pilots to handle critical situations, and was also a founding member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. He and our own Don Frost crossed paths early in their respective careers, but I'll let Don tell you the humorous story (I'm sure he will). You really made a difference. Godspeed. Here is some good news. General Aviation new aircraft shipments increased 38.8% over 1996--1,569 aircraft worth some $4.7 billion. Production was up in all categories with 985 piston aircraft (905 singles and 80 multis) and 584 turbines. Piston engine shipments were up 64%; jets increased 44.4% and turboprops declined 18.3%. Cessna's reintroduction of the C-172 and C-182 certainly was a factor (360 shipped in 1997), but others showed strong figures as well. The New Piper Aircraft folks shipped 222 aircraft in '97, Raytheon (formerly known as Beechcraft) built 370, including 134 piston planes. Aviat (makers of the Pitts and Husky) shipped 61 aircraft, Maule Air made 54 of their birds, and American Champion (of Citabria and Decathlon fame) fashioned 46 aircraft. Finally on the rebound after years and years of decline, wouldn't it be criminal to decimate the industry with a mindless conversion to user fees to fund the FAA? Here is some more good news. The General Aviation accident rate for 1997 is the lowest it has been in a long time--in fact, since records were begun in 1938! Here are some specifics: In 1997, there were 1, 854 general aviation accidents in 24.7 million hours of flying, an improvement of 2.8% over 1996 (1,905 total GA accidents). For historical purposes, in 1947 there were 9,253 GA accidents, and in 1977, there were 4,079. Fatal accidents are also the lowest in history, with 350 in 1997, compared to 359 in 1996. Fatals are down 47% from 1977. Looking at the accident rates (accidents per 100,000 hours of flight) fatals are at 1.42 and total accidents at 7.51 (down from 7.91 in 1996). The airborne swapping of paint has decreased by 21% in the past year, from 19 to 15 in 1997. Personal flying rates have decreased by 3.7% in the past year, and business flying is down 14%. Here's the sobering one, though. Instructional flying accidents increased by 12.2% over the past year, from 246 to 276. In 1996, they represented about 12% of total accidents, but accounted for 14% of all GA accidents in 1997. What does it all mean? Basically, we're doing better in general, but by no means as well as we should. Fellow flight instructors: let's see if we can't reverse the upward trend in instructional accidents! Be careful out there.