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Monday, May 1, 2006

Editor’s Notebook

James T. McKenna

What's on Your Mind?

There's plenty on your minds, readers. Of that I'm certain.

What with everyone from aviation regulators to major customers around the world pushing safety initiatives, with the pace of all kinds of operations seemingly on the rise, with new aircraft sales booming and the used market nearly dried up by high demand, if you build, own or fly a helicopter your mind just has to be racing these days.

What's the competition up to? Is the U.S. FAA driving you nuts? Where are tomorrow's mechanics and pilots going to come from? Is the general media completely off the mark on the progress of U.S. operations in Iraq? Is the industry's supply chain really broken?

Are unmanned aerial vehicles the future of aviation? Can they ever truly co-exist with manned aircraft, particularly in civil airspace? What will the next generation of rotorcraft look like? What about the engines that will power them? Is there really a future for tilt-rotors? Will Frank Robinson ever build a turbine-powered helicopter?

As Bob Uecker Said . . .

That is just a sampling of the questions I've heard some of you ask or address in visits to manufacturers and operators, at trade shows and in conversations with pilots, mechanics and others in the last several months. What do you think? Are those questions the most important ones on your mind--or are you just too busy flying at today's hectic pace (both commercial and military) to spend much time thinking about any of that.

We'd really like to know, and to share your questions and observations with Rotor & Wing's other readers. In case you haven't noticed (and, to paraphrase that giant of American baseball and filmmaking, Bob Uecker, judging by your responses, you haven't) we're looking explicitly for your comments. For the last few months on our Feedback page, which follows this editorial page and the advertisement opposite, we've featured a Question of the Month.

In March, we asked if your flight operation requires a flight-risk evaluation or assessment before launching a mission, and whether such procedures are worthwhile? In April, we asked about the importance of specific fuel consumption in helicopter turbine engines? This month, we've got another question on page 7. Perhaps it will provoke a response from you.

Our goal with these questions is to capture a bit of the conversations that go on in pilot lounges and back offices, on hangar floor--and maybe after work over coffee or a beer--and rope into them R&W's readers around the world. That would be another means for operators, manufacturers, suppliers, regulators and others to catch wind of your concerns, debate them, maybe even act upon them.

Perhaps that's a na�ve aspiration for a trade magazine. Maybe you don't have those conversations with anyone but friends and others you trust. Maybe you'd rather not risk having competitors catch wind of what you're thinking. Maybe I've just asked the wrong questions so far. Still, I'm willing to bet a few more score lines of type on the Feedback page that there's something on your mind that gets you worked up enough to write about (beyond last month's editorial, which we've already heard quite a bit about; more about that in next month's Feedback).

I'll even bet more than 60 or so lines of type. If there's something that really sticks in your craw about operations, operators, aircraft, parts, their manufacturers or regulators, so much so that you're spurred to write more than a letter, R&W will make this page available to share what we'll call your "Viewpoint" on an issue.

That happens every now and then, someone getting worked up enough to write a lot about an issue. In 2003, Col. Gregory P. Gass, then-commander of the U.S. Army's 101st Aviation Brigade (Attack), was so piqued by a Giovanni de Briganti column on the Apache's effectiveness in Iraq that he submitted in response "a cogent and candid assessment," as I called it then, that was so well organized and well written that we turned it into not one but two full-length articles in the magazine in October and November 2003. Last year, we did the same with a letter written by Bell Chief Flight Instructor Marty Wright on our coverage of autorotation training.

Shakespeare Need Not Apply

Don't be intimidated by those tales. You don't have to be Shakespeare to write a Viewpoint, or a letter to the editor. Just tell us what's on your mind. If the wording needs to be cleaned up a bit, we'll help you with that. We're editors; that's what we're here for.

Now this, by necessity, has to be a limited offer.

We can't open this space to promotional articles that talk about a pressing industry issue and how this one particular product is custom-made for addressing it. Nor can we allow someone to unfairly bash a competitor or an industry segment. But if you've got strong views or what you feel is a unique insight on an issue of broad interest to the rotorcraft industry, or even to just a small segment of it, feel free to let me know. If we agree, our soapbox is yours for a spell. As usual, you can reach me at jmckenna@accessintel.com.

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