Bureaucracy On The Ground Could Kill You In The Air

CaptJax

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Bureaucracy on the ground could kill you in the air

Examiner Editorial 1/14/09

SAN FRANCISCO – Federal Aviation Administration chief Robert Sturgell does have a lot on his plate: Enforcing new rules that regulate the amount of rest flight crews must have during extra-long trips; preparing for the mass retirement of aging air traffic controllers; and dealing with accusations from his own inspectors that FAA supervisors were getting too cozy with the airlines they’re supposed to regulate. But that doesn’t excuse his agency’s inaction on a critical safety matter brought to its attention more than two decades ago.

As documented by our special report today, “Gliding Toward Disaster,” the National Transportation Safety Board has been after the FAA for more than 20 years to require all nonmotorized gliders or sailplanes, as they’re sometimes called, to be outfitted with transponders so that other pilots can detect their presence in shared airspace. The NTSB’s recommendations were based on accident investigations and a study that conclusively determined that the highest risk of midair collision occurs when pilots rely only on visual flight rules.

Since 2001, the NTSB has investigated 51 incidents in which the lack of a transponder to alert air traffic controllers and other pilots to an aircraft’s presence, or the failure to use the transponder if it was installed, was a significant factor. Nine people were killed in the most serious of incidents. And just last year alone, 31 near in-flight collisions were reported to the FAA. Since commercial airliners are often involved in these situations, hundreds more people were literally within seconds of becoming casualties. Since sleek, lightweight gliders are almost invisible to other aircraft while aloft, it is almost impossible for commercial and corporate jet pilots to see them in time. This is a major problem when you’re going more than 500 mph. Many pilots told the FAA in their near-miss reports that they had just seconds to avert a crash.

As our report noted, many glider pilots have voluntarily installed transponders on their aircraft. They are not the problem. The same cannot be said of those who resist doing so, often for perfectly understandable economic or technical reasons. Gliding is a recreational sport and people should be free to enjoy it with the least amount of government restriction, but not at the expense of other people’s lives and safety. The issue here is simple: There is equipment readily available that the FAA knows will increase safety in the skies; the equipment has been repeatedly recommended by the NTSB. The FAA’s duty is to make sure all pilots are using it. To date, the FAA has failed to do so.
 

CaptJax

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Gliding Toward Disaster

Examiner Special Report: Gliding Toward Disaster

By Examiner Special Report
- 1/15/09
Multiple deaths and injuries have resulted in recent decades as a result of mid-ar collisions and near-misses involving gliders or sail planes, with commercial jetliners, private planes and corporate aircraft. Pilots typically have only a few seconds to take corrective action, if they see the approaching aircraft. The leading cause of these mishaps is the absence in the gliders of transponders that alert other aircraft in the immediate vicinity, as well as the Federal Aviation Administration's air traffic controllers, of a glider's presence. Many glider pilots voluntarily use transponders, but a significant number do not and some turn the devices off when they enter what they believe to be uncrowded air space.
An Examiner investigation found that the National Transportation Safety Board has been pushing FAA to require transponders on all gliders during flight, but the federal agency responsible for air safety has resisted. This special report includes:
Gliding Toward Disaster: Tragedies and near-misses mount as FAA delays.
Visual flight rules aren't enough.
Warnings began years ago.
A timeline of key events.
What are gliders and sail planes?
What is a transponder?
For more information.
 

BeachBummer

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i ALMOST caught me a glider over JOT going into chicago back in 2004. He was wearing a yellow shirt and had grey hair. I needed a shorts change after that event.
 

ImbracableCrunk

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I am not sure what you want as replys to this, but I really think there is enough regulation on small aircraft.. adding a transponder to a glider would be a really useless considering that a glider pilot is always looking for thermals to climb in.. sometimes they can obtain several thousand feet/min.. further, not many glider operations are near major airports and they don't usually fly higher than 12 to 14K and only a limited time at that..

I climb profiles for most 121 ops and the desire of ATC is to get them high and do it asap.. as a GA pilot I rarely have any issues with commercial aircraft, I do have a transponder equipped aircraft as is required.. but lets not go further by adding this on gliders.. what will be next? sport pilots, ultra lights? Just how low do you fellas plan on flying??

The VFR charts do have designated glider areas, and I would high suggest that glider pilots use these areas..

JMHO
I'm guessing you've never flown in to State College, PA. On one side of the ridge is KSCE on the other is a busy glider port. On one of the two (?) approaches you go right over the top at about 2400'.

TCAS would really help out at that particular airport.
 

EatinRamen

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I was flying an RJ into Newport News and came really close to making breaking news after almost hitting an ultralight. ATC had told us to be on the lookout for a primary target at our 10 o'clock, which he figured was an ultralight. Sure enough, it was two of them. After calling them in sight, the controller cleared us to a lower altitude. As I reached over to change the altitude selector, I heard the Capt make a loud groan, and I looked up to see another glider right infront of us. I just barely had enough time to disconnect the auto pilot and enter a hard bank to the right and get out of his way.

I'm sure if the guy had had a transponder, we could have been better prepared to deal with the situation. I am all in favor for having the FAA mandate transponders on all aircraft.
 

be-400xpdriver

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I am not sure what you want as replys to this, but I really think there is enough regulation on small aircraft.. adding a transponder to a glider would be a really useless considering that a glider pilot is always looking for thermals to climb in.. sometimes they can obtain several thousand feet/min.. further, not many glider operations are near major airports and they don't usually fly higher than 12 to 14K and only a limited time at that..

I climb profiles for most 121 ops and the desire of ATC is to get them high and do it asap.. as a GA pilot I rarely have any issues with commercial aircraft, I do have a transponder equipped aircraft as is required.. but lets not go further by adding this on gliders.. what will be next? sport pilots, ultra lights? Just how low do you fellas plan on flying??

The VFR charts do have designated glider areas, and I would high suggest that glider pilots use these areas..

JMHO

http://www.businessjet.com/blog/2006/08/miracle-mid-air-between-netjets-hawker.html

http://ntsb.gov/ntsb/GenPDF.asp?id=LAX06FA277A&rpt=fa

This regulation is long over due. This glider pilot did have a transponder but was too lazy to turn it on. He was flying on in the middle of the arrival gate to RNO. He lived by parachuting to safety and the Hawker 800 landed gear up with a failed engine and the spar of the glider in the cockpit. If he had it would have prevented this accident.

A Great Job by the Hawker 800 pilots to land the plane.
 
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Donsa320

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I have had numerous close encounters on the arrival into SFO. Those guys really seem to enjoy licking the third rail. I'm a glider pilot too but I'm not happy with situations like that.
 

Be 23

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This glider pilot did have a transponder but was too lazy to turn it on.
Not exactly accurate. He made the conscious decision to leave it off in order to conserve battery power for his radio. Not the best choice for him that day.

The issue for many is that if a transponder is installed it is supposed to be on, regardless of battery power availability, until the battery dies. Then you have no transponder and no radio. So don't install it and there's no problem. What could possibly go wrong?
 

PeanuckleCRJ

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I almost took out a flock of gliders in a competition on approach to ELM a few years ago.

One of the few times you'll hear a pilot ask for ATC's phone number. I can still remember the color clothes they were wearing.
 

fly4surf

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When is the last time you pulled out a VFR chart flying 121?
 

rajflyboy

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I am not sure what you want as replys to this, but I really think there is enough regulation on small aircraft.. adding a transponder to a glider would be a really useless considering that a glider pilot is always looking for thermals to climb in.. sometimes they can obtain several thousand feet/min.. further, not many glider operations are near major airports and they don't usually fly higher than 12 to 14K and only a limited time at that..

I climb profiles for most 121 ops and the desire of ATC is to get them high and do it asap.. as a GA pilot I rarely have any issues with commercial aircraft, I do have a transponder equipped aircraft as is required.. but lets not go further by adding this on gliders.. what will be next? sport pilots, ultra lights? Just how low do you fellas plan on flying??

The VFR charts do have designated glider areas, and I would high suggest that glider pilots use these areas..

JMHO
Really??

I think you should reconsider this.

http://www.businessjet.com/blog/2006/08/miracle-mid-air-between-netjets-hawker.html

Every time you fly into Reno you are risking lives. That place is a glider fest and they fly right in the arrival routes into the big airport.
 

CaptJax

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FAA Drags Feet On Suggestion To End Gliders' Airspace Exemption

FAA drags feet on suggestion to end gliders’ airspace exemption

By: Barbara F. Hollingsworth
Examiner Columnist | 4/29/09 6:58 PM

Federal Aviation Administration officials’ insistence that a photo-op of Air Force One flying over the Statue of Liberty — which spooked half of Manhattan — was classified information that should not be made public beforehand is the latest example of the agency’s disturbing lack of common sense.

During the past two decades, nine people died and three were injured in preventable midair collisions between motorized aircraft and gliders. There have been dozens of near misses that could have taken many more lives.

The National Transportation Safety Board recommended twice — in 1987 and again in 2008 — that the FAA remove its “glider exemption” from a requirement that all aircraft in shared airspace above 10,000 feet carry transponders. But the FAA has inexplicably been dragging its feet ever since.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request by The Examiner, the FAA recently released dozens of crash reports and correspondence regarding the glider exemption. One was a Jan. 7 letter to Dianne Black-Nixon, chairman of the Soaring Society of America, from acting NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker.

Rosenker noted that “from 1988 to August 2007, 60 near midair collisions involving air carrier/corporate jet traffic and gliders were reported.” In the absence of FAA regulations, Rosenker urged members of the glider organization to “continue to promote the installation and use of transponders among its members ... to help mitigate the occurrence of future accidents.”

Rosenker’s assessment of the danger was echoed by a pilot with nine years of experience flying gliders and private aircraft.

The letter writer, whose name was redacted by the FAA, wrote following a 2006 crash over Smith, Nev., involving a glider and a Hawker corporate jet in which both pilots reported having less than a second to take evasive action. It was not enough.

The Hawker, with one engine disabled, managed to land at Reno-Tahoe International Airport and the glider pilot, who had turned off his transponder to conserve battery power, parachuted to safety. But they were lucky.

Identifying himself as a retired Silicon Valley executive who lives and often “soars” near the crash location, the pilot agreed that “it would be simply crazy to not fix this serious safety exposure.” He also pointed out that technological advances in glider design make the 1988 exemption obsolete. “All the original reasons to exempt gliders from the rule of mandatory transponders above 10,000 [feet] are now virtually irrelevant.” They include:

Weight: A 5-pound battery and a 2-pound transponder are “insignificant” on modern gliders weighing up to 2,000 pounds.

Space: Modern battery-powered transponders are more compact and “fit into virtually all modern gliders.”

Power consumption: Solar chargers and newer batteries that can “very easily handle the load for flights in excess of five hours” eliminate one of the main objections to mandatory transponders for gliders.

Cost: Modern gliders cost between $50,000 and $300,000, so adding a $3,000 transponder is not a primary barrier to ownership.

“See and be seen just doesn’t work,” the anonymous pilot added, noting that “there is no known practical mechanism to reasonably assure avoidance of midair [collisions] in high-traffic and high-speed air space without transponders.”

In other words, it’s not if such a disaster will occur, but when.

The Examiner is appealing the FAA’s redaction of the letter writer’s name.

Barbara F. Hollingsworth is The Washington Examiner’s local opinion editor.
 

Dornier 335

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SAT is another place to watch out for! The airfield where gliders get towed out of and (eventually) land is pretty much on the approach path to 12R.
 

CaptJax

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Subcommitte Should Question Glider Exemption


Subcommittee should question glider exemption, whistleblower pilots


By: Barbara F. Hollingsworth
Examiner Columnist | 6/7/09 11:19 PM

Sen. Byron Dorgan’s commerce subcommittee on aviation operations, safety and security will hold hearings this week and next that will reportedly focus on the Feb. 12 crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 in Buffalo, N.Y., that killed 50 people.

Federal Aviation Administration flight inspector Christopher J. Monteleon told National Transportation Safety Board investigators in March that egregious safety problems he observed at Colgan a year earlier were never addressed.

These hearings, to be chaired by the North Dakota Democrat, are a start, but the subcommittee should not stop there. The FAA is still ignoring legitimate safety concerns, while many whistleblowing pilots have been forced into retirement for offering similar warnings.

The Examiner has run several articles regarding the FAA’s so-called “glider exemption” that allows the aircraft to fly in shared airspace without transponders, making them invisible to other pilots. However, despite nine deaths, numerous near-collisions and two NTSB recommendations, the exemption remains on the books.

The FAA has not certified a $400 prototype device utilizing off-the-shelf electronic components that could conceivably eliminate the problem, even though its own study at Boston’s Logan International Airport found that even commercial and corporate aircraft with transponders routinely come within 20 seconds of crashing into each other.

Michael Schumann, a glider pilot from Minneapolis, has offered to testify before Dorgan’s subcommittee, but so far has not been invited.

“I don’t think they want to talk about collision avoidance,” he told The Examiner.

That would be bad enough if it were the only other aviation-safety issue that’s being ignored by the FAA. But I personally talked to four former commercial airline pilots who all said they were forced out of their jobs at major carriers for pointing out potentially fatal problems.

Under FAA Regulation 121.533, pilots are forbidden to operate aircraft they feel does not meet federal safety standards. But when they did their duty and reported their concerns, they were grounded and their medical certificates were suddenly revoked — even after decades of flying military and commercial aircraft without incident.

“They use the Employee Assistance Program [which provides mental-health coverage] to silence aviation-safety matters,” said one former Continental Airlines captain who was forced into retirement shortly after refusing to fly a plane from Paris that had sustained structural damage from an electrical fire. Four days later, he learned that same plane was still in service with neither the crew nor the passengers aware of the danger.

Another former Continental pilot told me he was grounded after a 17-year career when he complained about a colleague who ordered him to ignore an apparent malfunction of an aircraft’s automatic landing system, causing the plane to overshoot.

“I disobeyed him,” the pilot said. “Under FAA regulations, that’s part of the emergency authorization granted to the captain.”

He claimed his medical records were later falsified in retaliation.

A similar fate befell two other airline captains with military training, decades of flying experience and impeccable safety records. Both said they were forced out of their jobs at United Airlines and Northwest Airlines by trumped-up mental-health diagnoses after pointing out hazardous conditions they believed directly endangered the lives of their passengers.

I don’t know about you, but that’s exactly the kind of pilot I want in the cockpit. You’d think members of Dorgan’s subcommittee would be most anxious to hear from them as well.

Barbara F. Hollingsworth is The Washington Examiner’s local opinion editor.
 

WateryGrave

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Bunch of whiney pilots man. Open your eyes and look out the window when you start getting close to 10,000 feet. Do you guys have any idea what it would to do the soaring world to require transponders in every glider? Most (like me) would simply forget to charge the battery and just never turn it on. So we waste more money, and the result is???? WE STILL NEED TO LOOK OUT THE F***ING WINDOW FOLKS! Sorry, rant over. Enjoy the rest of your day browsing FI.
 

UALRATT

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Bunch of whiney pilots man. Open your eyes and look out the window when you start getting close to 10,000 feet. Do you guys have any idea what it would to do the soaring world to require transponders in every glider? Most (like me) would simply forget to charge the battery and just never turn it on. So we waste more money, and the result is???? WE STILL NEED TO LOOK OUT THE F***ING WINDOW FOLKS! Sorry, rant over. Enjoy the rest of your day browsing FI.
And WHAT WILL IT DO to the soaring world? AH, I have an idea! Add another element of safety to our already crowded skys? I’m pretty sure that all these "whiney pilots (myself too)" had their eyes outside of the cockpit dividing their attention between flying and traffic watching or the encounters would have been much more personal. If you don’t think your family and friends deserve the extra measure of safety, I apologize on your behalf but mine do deserve it. The extra cost of the chute on your back tells me you care.
 

WateryGrave

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And WHAT WILL IT DO to the soaring world? AH, I have an idea! Add another element of safety to our already crowded skys? I’m pretty sure that all these "whiney pilots (myself too)" had their eyes outside of the cockpit dividing their attention between flying and traffic watching or the encounters would have been much more personal. If you don’t think your family and friends deserve the extra measure of safety, I apologize on your behalf but mine do deserve it. The extra cost of the chute on your back tells me you care.
You could walk around in a giant bubble all the time to protect you from yourself and other people. I think that is the safest course of action. I don't wear chutes by the way... chafe too much.
 

Paul R. Smith

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I am not sure what you want as replys to this, but I really think there is enough regulation on small aircraft.. adding a transponder to a glider would be a really useless considering that a glider pilot is always looking for thermals to climb in.. sometimes they can obtain several thousand feet/min.. further, not many glider operations are near major airports and they don't usually fly higher than 12 to 14K and only a limited time at that..

I climb profiles for most 121 ops and the desire of ATC is to get them high and do it asap.. as a GA pilot I rarely have any issues with commercial aircraft, I do have a transponder equipped aircraft as is required.. but lets not go further by adding this on gliders.. what will be next? sport pilots, ultra lights? Just how low do you fellas plan on flying??

The VFR charts do have designated glider areas, and I would high suggest that glider pilots use these areas..

JMHO
I disagree.
 
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