Vote…

…for change.

For the past six or more years, I’ve been watching my country — and my town — deteriorate as the result of bad decisions by our leaders.

We go to war in Iraq, spending $341.4 million per day. Thousands of people die — our soldiers and Iraqi civilians — and many thousands more are permanently maimed with lost limbs and worse. We lose the respect of many nations because of our arrogance and stubborn refusal to “lose” a War we can’t win and probably never should have started in the first place.

Our country is in financial meltdown because of bad lending practices and other policies of greedy financial institutions. The “flip this house” mentality has caused thousands of people to invest in properties now worth far less than they paid. Rather than pay mortgages they can’t afford, they’ve been mailing their keys to the mortgage holders, leaving them with properties they have to maintain and sell in a market they’re not willing to lend to.

Businesses have sent thousands of manufacturing and support jobs overseas, leaving fewer job opportunities at home for Americans. With the economy tanking, thousands of people are losing their jobs every month. People without jobs don’t have money to spend on the goods and services still offered in this country, so they’re not buying. Less revenue for U.S. businesses forces them to cut staff even further. It’s a vicious circle.

The country has split into two factions: conservatives, who strive to force their values on everyone, and liberals, who want the true freedom this country promises. Among those freedoms are the freedom of speech, so recently misunderstood by a vice presidential candidate. Yet when we speak out about what’s wrong with this country, we’re labeled as unpatriotic traitors.

Clearly, the country is sick and needs a cure.

I’m voting tomorrow and I urge every U.S. citizen reading this to do the same. It’s only by voting that we can make a difference in our country. Vote for a change. Vote to make things better. Vote because it’s your right and your responsibility.

And don’t let the polls con you into staying home. Your candidate needs your support.

Get out and vote.

Bail Out

So much for bail out.

Got this this morning from my friend Ray, who probably picked it up elsewhere on the ‘Net.

Back in 1990, the Government seized the Mustang Ranch brothel in Nevada for tax evasion and, as required by law, tried to run it.

They failed and it closed.

Now we are trusting the economy of our country to a pack of nit-wits who couldn’t make money running a whore house and selling booze?

If this is yours and it’s copyright protected, let me know and I’ll pull it immediately.

The Children of Men

Futuristic social commentary by P.D. James.

The Children of MenI just finished The Children of Men by P.D. James. James, who normally writes mysteries featuring her series detective, Adam Dalgliesh, wrote instead of a futuristic world 25 years after the birth of the last-born child. In the world of this book, there are no children, no babies, and no hope for new human life.

James paints a sad picture of that world. Schools are converted into housing for the elderly, colleges now teach courses of interest to adults who don’t have their time occupied by their offspring. Playgrounds are gone. The government is trying to centralize the population in big cities so it’s easier to provide services as the population dwindles and only a handful of elderly people are left.

[This might sound weird, but it reminded me a bit of the retirement town I live in. Of course, there are some children and young people here, but the majority of residents and voters are retired so there isn't much emphasis on things that would benefit young people. The local school board, for example, was unable to pass a school bond in the most recent vote -- people don't want to foot the bill for education when they don't have kids in the system. The local Center for the Arts released its 2007/2008 schedule last month, and for the first time since opening about 5 years ago, there isn't a single family-oriented program on the schedule. Are they giving up on children here in Wickenburg?]

The book has a hero: 50-year-old Theo. Theo is first cousin of the Warden of England, Xan, a self-made dictator first elected as Prime Minister years ago. Xan makes extreme decisions that benefit the apathetic public, by enhancing safety and reducing the cost and bother of supporting the aging population. But a handful of people aren’t happy with his decisions and want to stop him. They go to Theo, hoping he can convince Xan to change things. To say much more would be a spoiler, but I will mention that there appears to be hope for the world when a woman becomes pregnant.

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I enjoyed the book’s fast pace after its initially slow start. A lot of background information was presented in the form of Theo’s personal diary before a third person narrator stepped in and picked up the story. It wasn’t a long book — I read it over a weekend — and the pages turned quickly. Now I’m waiting for the movie based on the book to appear in a Netflix envelope in my mailbox. I have a feeling that the movie will be a lot more exciting than the book, focusing on the events that occur after the pregnancy is discovered, Hollywoodized for maximum visual impact.

Did I like the book? Yes, I did. It made me think. And in today’s world of eye candy entertainment, that’s saying a lot.

HAI — and General Aviation Pilots Nationwide — Need Your Help!

A call for help from Helicopter Association International.

As most pilots should know, the U.S. government is attempting to pass legislation which would, in effect, fund the repeated airline financial bailouts with money collect from general aviation pilots and operators. This will directly affect my business, as well as other small aviation operators. It will also raise the costs on many general aviation services, including, as HAI points out, EMS helicopter transportation and firefighting. These are the services that rush people outside of big cities to hospitals when they have heart attacks or serious car accidents and protect our homes from forest and brush fires.

Here’s an e-mail I just got from HAI. It not only explains the problem, but offers a toll-free number you can use to call your Senators and voice your opposition to user fees.

Congress has reached a critical stage in drafting a bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). U.S. Senate draft bill, S. 1300, establishes a new $25 per-flight “user fee” for all turbine powered planes as well as more stringent requirements for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) operators. The way the current draft is written, helicopters would not be exempt from this “surcharge”. This legislation will be considered and voted upon by the Senate Commerce Committee THIS WEDNESDAY May 16. It is critically important that you contact your Senator TODAY to tell them to support an Amendment to the Senate Commerce FAA bill to remove “user fees” from S. 1300.

Every voice counts, and your voice needs to be heard in Washington. You joined Helicopter Association International (HAI) for a reason. Helping you to sustain your operations and keeping you abreast of important legislative and regulatory changes is one of the most important jobs HAI performs as your advocate before Congress.

If you have never picked up the phone to make a call on an important issue, now is the time for you to start. HAI has partnered with the Alliance for Aviation Across America, and we’ve made it easier than ever to contact your Senator. The message you need to send to your Senator: ask them to support an amendment to the Senate Commerce FAA bill to remove “user fees” and “surcharges” from S. 1300. Tell your Senator you oppose a federal fuel tax increase for helicopters. Existing helicopter fuel fax exemptions for logging, firefighting, EMS, as well as offshore oil and gas exploration should be preserved.

Please call toll-free 1-866-908-5898 to be automatically connected to your Senator’s office. You may hear a few seconds of dead air while you are being connected. Keep calling. Tell your friends and business associates to call too. Senator David Vitter (R-Louisiana) serves on the Commerce Committee and it is especially important that he hear directly from HAI members and the families behind the 650+ helicopters in the Gulf.

There is still time for Senators to stand up for small businesses, small towns, and general aviation by sponsoring this important amendment and listening to the voices of their constituents and the helicopter operators affected by requirements contained in S. 1300. Every vote on our side at the May 16 Commerce Committee hearing brings general aviation that much closer to defeating this legislation. The big airlines’ lobbyists will succeed in pushing their costs on general aviation unless our industry acts.

Be informed. Check HAI’s website, www.rotor.com for important updates on the EMS requirements. HAI is working for you on issues of importance to our industry. Make that call today!

Personally, I can’t understand why the U.S. government continues to subsidize airlines that cannot remain profitable. Why is it that some airlines are able to be profitable and others can’t be? Could it be the top-heavy management and huge compensation packages? And why should U.S. citizens subsidize bad financial management with tax dollars?

It is unfair for the government to shift the burden of commercial aviation bailouts to small aviation operators and private pilots. Please — even if you don’t fly or know a pilot — please call or write your Senator to tell him/her that you oppose general aviation user fees and tax hikes.

Flying "Into" the Grand Canyon

A dialog about the idiosyncrasies of flying helicopters in certain parts of Arizona.

I just spent the last 30 minutes or so cleaning up my e-mail in box. I have the nasty habit of not filing or discarding messages as quickly as they come in, so there were over 300 messages to wade through. I’d read all of them and flagged some. I wound up deleting about 1/3 of them, filing another 1/3 of them, and leaving the rest for another day.

Among the e-mail messages I found was a dialog between me and another pilot, Robert Mark of JetWhine. He’d e-mailed me to ask a question and although I normally don’t answer questions sent to me by e-mail — I prefer using the Comments feature on this site so the exchange of information can involve and possibly benefit others — I did answer his. Although I’d like to get the exchange out of my e-mail in box, I want to share it with readers, since I think it has some interesting information.

So here’s the exchange. I’ve mixed Robert’s questions with my answers to make the exchange easier to follow.

Robert:

As a helicopter pilot out west, I wondered if you might be familiar with this Grand Canyon topic.

Do you know if it is correct that tour copters operated through the tribal reservation run to different standards than those that are based elsewhere?

The Chicago Tribune ran a story about the Canyon Sunday and claimed the tribal-operated copters can dip well below the edge of the cayone on a tour where others can not.

It sounded pretty odd to me.

Me:

Helicopters operating on tribal lands with appropriate permits can actually LAND at the bottom of the canyon. This, of course, is on tribal land belonging to the Hualapai and Havasupai tribes in the western part of the canyon — not in the main National Park area.

Please send me a link to that article if it is online. I’d like to read it.

Robert:

Just happen to have that link to the Tribune handy.

So then as a tribal copter, do their pilots train to different standards if they only fly there?

Me:

No, they’re not owned by the tribes. They’re owned/operated by other companies, like Papillon and Maverick, both of which operate in Vegas and at the Grand Canyon.

I worked for Papillon at the Grand Canyon. Training for GCW (Grand Canyon West) consists of spending a day or so with another pilot, learning the route and getting the feel for the density altitude situation. It’s hotter than hell down there in midsummer. Anyone can do it, but they don’t normally train women because of limited housing out there. That’s one reason why I never learned.

Don’t think it’s a big deal. It’s not. Each flight is about 6 minutes long and you’re doing ups and downs all day. The canyon isn’t as deep there as elsewhere in the park. And it isn’t as if you’re cruising up and down the canyon all day. You’re not. Just ups and downs on a preset route. Tedious stuff. Flying the South Rim is far more rewarding.

Thanks for the article link. I’ve flown out there in my old R22. The article describes the place pretty well. It’s unfortunate that many Vegas tourists think GCW is “The Grand Canyon.” It’s just a tiny part of it — and not even the good part.

Robert:

Sorry, but I’m kind of dumb on Native American issues.

Me:

Don’t feel bad. A lot of people are.

The reservations are self-governing bodies within the U.S. In a way, they’re like they’re own countries. They make their own rules, but do have to answer to the U.S. government for some things.

Robert:

So these are regular helicopter tour operators that ALL get a special exemption to do whatever this writer was talking about then? And that comes from FAA or is FAA essentially not involved because it is tribal land?

Me:

Yes, the helicopter operators get permits from the tribes. When I say operators, I mean the companies, not the pilots. They pay a fee to the tribes that’s based on operations (takeoffs/landings), facilities (like landing zones next to the river), and other stuff. Theoretically, my company could apply for (and get and pay for) a permit to do the same thing Papillon is doing. But since GCW is a 2-hour flight from where I’m based, I haven’t tried.

Closing Note:

Since the opening of the Skywalk at Grand Canyon West, I’ve gotten a number of calls from people interested in flying out there. It’s a two-hour flight from the Phoenix area and I’d have to charge about $2K round trip (for up to 3 people; not per person). But the alternative is a 5-1/2 hour (each way) drive. For folks with money to spend, I can turn a two-day excursion to the middle of nowhere into a pleasant day trip. Still, I don’t expect many takers. Not many people are willing to blow $2K+ on a single day of fun.