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Sunday, June 1, 2008

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New and Improved?

Perhaps Mrs. McKenna has a point in her reluctance to use electronic methods of navigation ("New and Improved," January 2008, page 4).

In 1989, I was flying in a loose formation of three from Deauville to Ferté Alais, France. As I was in a poorly equipped Tiger Moth, I was the back of the formation with a paper map, the leader having a Loran (the GPS of the era, but less reliable), with which he was to lead us through rather tricky Paris airspace into the Ferté Alais airfield.

As the flight progressed, it became obvious to me that we were getting closer and closer to Orly, and I said so over my rather insufficient Tiger Moth radio. The leader either couldn’t hear me or trusted his Loran beyond my paper map, so I pulled out of formation and went on to Ferté Alais alone. Half an hour or so later, the Loran group arrived, having had a rather chastening discussion with Orly, whose airspace they had violated.

So, sometimes radio navigation can indeed be a distraction from the direct route! These days, however, I’m as obsessed as any other pilot by the GPS and hardly get into a helicopter without one.

Georgina Hunter-Jones London, England

A Little Shut-Eye

I just read Ernie Stephens’ column regarding sleep and the lack thereof ("Catching Some ZZZZs," May 2008, page 60).

A few decades ago, I was the chief pilot for a large charter airline operating piston-powered Lockheed 1049 Constellations and Douglas DC-8s on passenger charters between the U.S. and the rest of the world. I made sure that my policy was well known throughout the pilot group, even though I couldn’t publish it in pilot bulletins or manuals. During training or line checks, pilots were told that during the inactive portions of over-water flights, they should (that was "should," not "could") alternate up to 30-min naps if they needed to, provided there were no weather or mechanical problems.

The biggest problem? Helpful flight attendants offering coffee, food or conversation. It was difficult to tell a flight attendant to stay out of the cockpit because one of us was asleep. (These were pre-terrorist times when cockpit keys were plentiful and the only ones that asked permission to enter were brand-new flight attendants). Well, times and flight attendants certainly change, but I was pleased to see a modern-day chief pilot using common sense to enhance safety, even when the "regs" don’t. Keep up the good work.

Jack Selby Singapore

Having 11 years’ law enforcement experience, with the past four as a pilot, I’ve only dreamed of having a unit commander with the outlook Ernie Stephens expressed. Our chief pilot was awesome, but the fact that upper managers were not aviators made sleep issues a huge problem.

I fly EMS now and it is amazing to me that the mentality is the opposite. A lot of people disagree, but there are several very important similarities between law enforcement and EMS helicopter operations. If more law enforcement programs used EMS SOPs to run their air units, sleep would not be an issue. Crew rest is paramount in EMS.

Quite often, law enforcement aviation programs get a bad rap. I believe this is because non-aviation trained supervisors call the shots. Thanks again, Ernie, for your dedicated service and the article.

Aaron L. Brown Niceville/Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

Bring Back the Cheyenne

Regarding Steve Colby’s article on Piasecki Aircraft’s X-49A vectored-thrust ducted propeller, compound-helicopter demonstrator, why not ask to borrow the two Lockheed AH-56 Cheyennes at Fort Rucker, Ala.?

Those two aircraft have already flown at 244 kt with a pusher prop. Surely, with the money that has been given or is being given, you could enhance what has already been developed. Those airframes don’t have a whole lot of time on them and there’s not helicopter that compares them to this day.

Their problems were solved, but the U.S. Air Force didn’t want the Army to have a hi-tech, fast, close-air-support aircraft. I can’t believe Piasecki and the Army are going after what they developed. Bring back the Cheyenne or the Sikorsky Aircraft S-67!

CW4 Thomas Anderson, U.S. Army (retired) Conroe, Texas

"...sometimes radio navigation can indeed be a distraction from the direct route."

Progress at MD

I really enjoy your articles. I had to read the interview with MD Chairman and CEO Lynn Tilton twice to make sure I got it right ("Learning As You Go," March 2007, page 20).

Lynn has come a long way since taking over MD Helicopters. She hired a lot of the wrong people, as most investors do when they are starting out. However, Lynn is on the right track to turn the company around. She just needs some folks that know what they are doing to help her reach her ambitions.

She does not have a problem listening to other people for insight into this business. She just has a reputation for listening to the wrong ones. From everything I have read about her, she is a lady that is on a quest and I hope she makes it.

Gene A. Vaughn Warner Robins, Ga.

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