Monday, May 23, 2022

What's Up by LeRoy Cook

The active movement of conflicting air masses last week thwarted  many cross-country flights. On Thursday, Springfield and Joplin’s forecasts both warned of strong winds at 2000 feet above ground level, out of the southwest at 50 knots, with surface winds only 20 knots, a setup for at least moderate turbulence. 

For local flights, there were good times between fronts. Some of the transient arrivals were an Army Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, a Piper Comanche 180, a Cessna Skylane, and a Cessna 172.  Among those mounting a defense against such intruders were Eric Eastland, giving student instruction in a Cessna 150, Randy and Betti Miller in the Cessna Skyhawk and ye faithful scribe in the 1946 Aeronca Champion.  

This being the final Saturday of the month, it’s once again time for the Fliars Club to assemble for fly-out deliberations over a breakfast destination. Those willing to arise early for a 7 a.m. gathering on the Butler airport ramp can participate as the spirit moves them. 

Sometimes, when a helicopter is seen flying down the runway and parking on the apron, I get asked “what’s he doing here; why doesn’t he land somewhere else?” I have to explain that airports are for the use of all manner of air traffic, fixed and rotary wing, light sport and jets, trainers and sprayers, even parachutes powered and unpowered. Helicopters must give way and avoid the flow of less maneuverable fixed-wing traffic, and out of courtesy try to minimize rotorwash. They may come in to refuel and pick up passengers or use other services. Although technically able to set down just about anywhere, helicopter pilots prefer to use pre-surveyed landing spots to avoid the risk of unseen obstructions. Also, in this excessively litigious world, landing a chopper in a backyard can raise the ire of neighbors, who may sue over the noise and nuisance. So, airports and charted landing pads are better choices.

Republic Airlines, provider of commuter-class airline service for short routes code-shared by major airlines, which aren’t profitable enough to warrant Boeing or Airbus airplanes, recently petitioned the FAA to allow them to use transport-pilot trained graduates from their own Lift Academy who only meet half the flight-hour requirement for an Airline Transport license. Their rationale is that the FAA already allows this for military-trained pilots, and their academy has equally as rigorous a curriculum, so why not? In truth, given the shortage of qualified pilots, it makes sense to get back to sensible hiring that was in place before Congress over-reacted to the Collgan Air crash years ago and forced all cockpit seats of airliners to be occupied by ATP-rated persons, which meant 1500 hours of often-pointless flying before the real on-the-job training could start. Many retiring airline pilots hired on as 500-hour commercial pilots, under the tutelage of grizzled captains, where they served as copilots while learning the trade. I hold two ATP ratings, but if I was to sit in a 737 cockpit I’d have to learn like any rookie.

Last week’s question was “what was the height of the record parachute jump?” It was 135,890 feet, set in 2014, when Alan Eustace jumped from under a giant helium balloon. For next week, we want to know the reason aircraft microphones are always to be positioned very close to the lips. Send replies to kochhaus1@gmail.com.

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