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Freedom of the Skies for Private Airplanes

October 18, 1986

Regarding Charles Lane's article (Editorial Pages, Oct. 1), "Freedom of the Skies Is Costly," I don't usually take the time to write to a newspaper about its articles, but Lane's "solution" and "facts" to justify his position about general aviation were just too much to let pass.

I won't argue with the accuracy of the statistics that he used to support his position, but his basic premise is highly suspect. For example, he states that the airline passengers are subsidizing the private sector. However, he never makes mention that the very system that general aviation pilots are forced to use (towers, approach and departure controls, etc.) were put in place to primarily serve the airlines. We have to use them, whether we want to or not. We also subsidize these facilities far in excess of our need for the service rendered.

He also compares passenger miles flown by the airlines to hours flown by general aviation. What is the 1985 airline fatality rate per 100,000 hours flown?

For the "near-collisions" between general aviation and airliners, he neglected to make any reference to the "near-collisions" between two airliners (such as the one recently near El Toro).

As for private airplanes "congesting" Los Angeles International Airport, he should do some more research before he speaks. LAX has no real facilities to serve the general aviation community. While it is perfectly legal to land there, there is usually no reason to do it. Also, departure position is determined by air traffic control based on the aircraft's filed flight plan. It is hardly "first come, first serve" at major airports such as LAX.

Finally, Lane fails to address the revenue that general aviation generates. He conveniently "forgets" about the businesses that locate near an airport to provide a convenient means of transportation to support their operations. Also, there are the aircraft sales and service facilities, fixed-base operators, flight instructors, charter operators, etc., who also pay taxes into the system.

Not only that, but the aircraft are also annually taxed by the county in which they are based. How many jobs would be lost if we closed Van Nuys Airport (which has no airline service, but is one of the busiest airports in the nation)?

Maybe Lane is fortunate enough that he never has to travel to small towns not serviced (regularly) by the airlines. Maybe places like Lompoc, Pismo Beach, and Marysville aren't his regular haunts. But these smaller communities rely on the small aircraft for everything from carrying people, mail, banking papers and freight, to emergency medical transportation.

If Lane wants to do something to promote air safety, he might want to invest his energy in helping simplify the airspace around the major airports. The Los Angeles Terminal Control Area was an accident waiting to happen. Unfortunately it did.

ROBERT A. BERNSTEIN

Chatsworth

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