by Jim Hanson
Published in Midwest Flyer – February/March 2017 issue
As aviation consumers, all too often we complain when things go wrong – and we ought to complain. Sub-par service…dates, schedules, and budget promises not kept…indifferent treatment by corporate and governmental officials…there is no need to tolerate bad service. By voicing our discontent through the aviation media (including this magazine), we can improve the experience for all of our industry.
If we complain when things go wrong, however, we should recognize when things go right, and that’s the purpose of this editorial.
In a world where we are often disappointed, it’s nice to recognize when someone goes out of their way to make sure something is done right.
For instance, right after 9/11, we had a change to our local sectional chart. Someone, somewhere in the vast bureaucracy changed the name of our local lake from Freeborn (the name of the town and the county) to Freedom. A nice, patriotic gesture, but inaccurate.
Not knowing how to call attention to the problem, I forgot about it. The issue grew when the FAA established an aeronautical intersection over the lake and town with the five-letter identifier “FREED.” It continued to metastasize…a comment for a proposed windmill farm described it as “adjacent to the FREED intersection.” People started making radio calls over “Freedom Lake.”
I tried to right the wrong, but couldn’t find anyone to take ownership of making the correction. The FAA referred me to map publishers U.S. Coast and Geodetic (NOAA), who in turn said it wasn’t their issue since it was the FAA who established the intersection (there was no mention of the changed name of the lake that started all of this).
I was reading Aviation Week (there is a lot to be learned in aviation magazines, including this one!) on an unrelated subject, when the article provided a link to aviation charting firstname.lastname@example.org.
I dashed off a note to them explaining the circumstances, and received a note back several hours later thanking me for bringing it to their attention and telling me that the change would be made on the next printing. The writer of the note was:
FAA Aeronautical Information Services
Visual Charts Group
1305 East West Highway, Station 3655
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Thank you, Rick Fecht, for your prompt and courteous attention!
Now that you have the contact information, let’s help the FAA and our fellow airmen by letting the FAA know of any inaccuracies we may discover on our aviation charts…and don’t forget databases!
Here’s an example: Years ago, one of our pilots was flying a Citabria on pipeline patrol. The engine started losing oil pressure, so he hit the “nearest airport” feature, which directed him to an airport only two miles away. Try as he might, he couldn’t find the airport, even when he was right overhead. There was no other airport close by, so he elected to make a precautionary landing in the field below. After shutting down, he started wondering where he was when he spied a rusty old windsock frame. The airport had been closed some years before and the grass runway plowed up, but nobody had notified the FAA, so the strip still showed up in the GPS database!
In writing this editorial, I checked a current database in one of the aircraft GPS units, and found two local private strips that have been plowed up for years, and another that has had its runway significantly shortened. Though not depicted on aeronautical charts, they are included in the database.
We all have a stake in making accurate information available to pilots. If you know of an uncharted hazard that is not depicted on an aeronautical chart, do something about it. If you are aware of an inaccuracy on an IFR or VFR chart, let the FAA know. If you are the owner of a private airfield, let the FAA know if there are significant changes to your airfield. If your airfield isn’t listed in the FAA database, consider doing so – the Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF) has done landmark work to limit liability to landowners who allow others to use their strips. Go to the website http://theraf.org/ and click on advocacy, then recreational use statutes, which explains your limited liability as a private airport owner. You can find the link for the recreational use statute for your state at the end of the page.
Don’t have a private strip? Go to the RAF site any way. This is a great organization with an outstanding record of making back-country airports available to pilots.
Again, thanks to Rick Fecht of FAA Aeronautical Information Services for his quick and courteous service!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Jim Hanson is the long-time fixed base operator in Albert Lea, Minnesota. He has been in the FBO business for over 50 years, and has seen his share of people providing poor service—and wants to recognize and reward good service. If you know of an organization that gives better-than-expected service, let them know and let the rest of us know as well by sending an email to email@example.com.