Monthly Archives: May 2013

THE DRONE DRAMA INTENSIFIES

The issue of U.S combat drones wreaking havoc has finally emerged to the front-and-center status, as it should have been long before now. The recently released information that four American citizens had been killed by drones operated by the U.S. government got the media wheels turning to the point where President Obama immediately stepped forward to attempt to put out this brush fire that had rapidly grown to a raging inferno. He has been acting as judge,jury, and executioner of these potential war crimes of murdering people based on circumstantial evidence.

He hosted a press conference to address this subject and a heckler interrupted his speech with some vociferous anti-drone proclamations and her protest continued as she was being forcibly removed from the area. Most uniquely, President Obama was able to hear the entirety of her rant, as did the rest of the world, since several microphones recorded her verbiage. Barack Obama was so taken aback, that he made the statement; “You know, we need to listen to her.” This, possibly unprecedented Presidential response, was very appropriate.

The protester was a recently published author by the name of Medea Benjamin and her book is titled, Drone Warfare. It is a very insightful and well researched discussion of the use of drones by the U.S. It is very critical of the use of U.S. drones in the Middle East. It points out that much of the populace of several Muslim countries is traumatized by the drones. They have witnessed innocent civilians, including women and children, being killed or maimed, and they live in constant fear of these ubiquitous UAVs flying overhead. The obvious consideration is: Will the blowback from these often un-justified killings be more powerful than the possible counter-insurgency that they purport to effectuate? Furthermore, will the Sunday talk shows and
“mainstream media” discuss this issue? Perhaps, but in a very perfunctory manner.

President Obama’s speech was a breakthrough moment in that he presents an arguement that we must be more prudent with our use of military drones and he would use his leadership to bring about this proposed reduction in the use of U.S. Miltary and CIA drone attacks in the Middle East. It is likely that the ill will and animosity towards the United States as a result of these illegal and immoral murders is deeply imbedded in the psyche of the surviving family and friends of the victims. Journalists have reported that much of the populace in areas of drone attacks are shell-shocked with severe PTSD symptoms.

For additional discussion on the subject of drones please refer to a recent interview with a veteran pilot and drone expert by listening to the Ace Abbott Aviation Affair at http://webtalkradio.net/internet-talk-radio/ace-abbotts-aviation-affair/.

This blog is prepared by retired commercial pilot, Allen Morris/aka Ace Abbott, author of The Rogue Aviator (http://therogueaviator.com/) and Dead Tired (http://www.deadtiredpilots.com/).

SOLAR IMPULSE: WILL SOLAR POWERED AVIATION FLOURISH?

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The airplane with the moniker Solar Impulse left Moffett Field near San Francisco last Friday en route to Phoenix, Arizona. Will this be the first flight on a rapidly accelerating scientific adventure of solar powered aviation? Perhaps it will, but it is not very likely. This inaugural flight is the first leg of a planned cross country flight that will end up at Dulles International Airport after stops at DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth), STL (Lambert St. Louis International Airport), and thence on to Dulles. Each destination will provide a static display for those folks that want to witness this aviation anomaly, and identify themselves with this first-ever across-the-US, solar powered flight.
In interesting statistic relating to the inaugural flight from SFO to PHX is that the flight time was 19 hours (Its normal cuise speed is 40 miles per hour). Just a little shorter time frame than it took the enthusiastic soon-to-be gold digging pan handlers, also referred to as 49ers, to travel the same distance across the Rockies to San Francisco. It is believed that the Solar Impulse took a very circuitous route from SFO to PHX, and perhaps they took some time for a full viewing of the Grand Canyon. Based on the first flights total time it will take in the vicinity of 100 hours total flight time to get this monstrosity of an air machine all the way to Washington DC (Dulles).
If you have not seen it, the solar impulse has a wingspan of 208 feet, approximately that of Boeing 747. A Boeing 747 can carry as many as 500 people and the Solar Impulse can carry one person. Although the Solar Impulse will burn no fossil fuel during its flight, the ground handling functions to support it will likely burn a very large amount of gas or diesel fuel.
The lead character in this radical Odyssey is a Swiss psychiatrist and Aeronaut by the name of Bertrand Piccard. He has very aptly stated that the flights of the Solar Impulse will not pave the way for a future of solar powered flight. He states that he is hopeful it will provide more impetus and awareness of solar power for non-aviation purposes. Anyone who is not been living in a cave in recent decades is aware that greatly expanded use of solar power is an absolute must-do. Now we must convince the Luddite-like United States Senators and Congressmen that weaning ourselves from fossil fuels is critical for the future of our children and grandchildren’s survival.
This blog is written by a retired commercial pilot and aviation author, Ace Abbott. His books can be accessed at http://www.therogueaviator.com/ and his aviation talk show is available at http://webtalkradio.net/

IMPENDING PILOT SHORTAGE: MYTH OR REALITY?

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For several decades young aspiring professional pilots have been tantalized by the aviation oracles, as they were continually told that a pilot shortage is just around the corner. Once again, the impending pilot shortage discussion is intensifying. This time it could be for real. However, the next question is: are the young potential aviators listening or do they care? After a couple decades or more of pilot pay and benefits diminishing while training cost increased, far fewer young people are electing to commit to a career as a professional pilot.
Spending up to $200,000 for the required aviation credentials to be hired by an airline for a starting salary of $22,000 a year is not very enticing. Worse yet, the rookie pilot might be condemned to a job as a banner tow pilot, a pipeline surveillance pilot, or perhaps become caught in the ugly web of being a night freight pilot (often referred to as a “freight dog”). The lifestyle of a freight dog can be researched by reading, The Rogue Aviator; (http://www.therogueaviator.com/). While the brass ring is still there on the horizon it will only be grabbed by the more fortunate few. For every professional pilot making $200,000 a year, there are 10 professional pilots making less than $60,000 per year.
After the horrific crash of Continental flight 3407 operated by Colgan air in Buffalo, New York, a congressional subcommittee on aviation safety was immediately implemented. Everyone’s favorite pilot, Sully Sullenberger was in attendance. When asked what needed to be done to enhance commercial airline safety, Captain Sully of Hudson River fame, pulled no punches. He stated unequivocally that paying the pilots an honest salary was a critical element towards the long-term safety factor. Four years later, entry-level pilot salaries, and all too often salaries of more experienced pilots, remain embarrassingly low. “This too, shall pass.”
Now to the good news! This upcoming pilot shortage is for real. In August of this year, the FAA has mandated, with a few caveats, that airline pilots must have a minimum of 1500 hours total time and an Airline Transport Pilot rating to work for a FAR 121 (airline parameters) aviation company. Currently, the minimum requirement is 250 hours. On January 14, 2014 the long-overdue revised duty and flight time limitations for commercial pilots will take effect. The more restrictive limitations will require the airlines to hire more pilots.
The equally critical factor in this equation is that the inordinate number of airline pilots that will be forced into retirement by the age 65 rule, will open many doors for new hire pilots. Furthermore, corporate aviation is booming and those jobs with companies such as NetJets, Marquis Jet, etc. are becoming quite desirable for the professional pilot. Overseas pilot jobs, particularly in China, will be extremely plentiful. The pilot shortage will drive salaries skyward. Everything is cyclical and this current down cycle for the pilot community is destined to improve significantly. I will also state—after a 36 year aviation career that took me to 44 countries with 25 employer changes—that an aviation career can be an exciting Odyssey. Take your pilot passion and create for yourself an adventuresome career.