Our write-up last month on the move to require hunting and fishing guides in Alaska to fly by more restrictive FAA Section 135 rules (see pages 11) inspired subscriber John Lowery to fire off a note so provocative we can't resist the temptation to print it in its entirety. Fair warning, though, at this point we plan to end discussion of this issue in our pages because the whole thing is a done deal. Come hell or high water, by the end of 1999, all hunting and fishing guides in Alaska who transport clients will have to fly by the same rules as air taxi operators and other commercial operators. Lowery, who runs an aviation safety consulting company, thinks that is a good thing, too, as witness the following comments: "In your write-up last month, you defend the old way Alaska guides used to fly by saying `...it isn't paperwork or technical proficiency that helps you land on a hillside in blowing sleet to pick up a sheep hunter.' That statement actually illustrates just how complex the problem is, because doing something like that would be `careless and reckless operation' of an airplane, which is a violation of the old Section 91 rules pilots used to be able to fly under, never mind the new Section 135 rules.
Ultimately, so-called Alaska bush pilots have brought this on themselves. I have a file full of reports on accidents in Alaska that can only be classed as dumb. On a dall sheep hunt of my own a few years ago, my bush pilot asked me to sign off on his biennial flight review. He did so in spite of being unable to produce a medical, which he had lost two years prior due to a quadruple heart bypass operation. He was well past his mandatory flight review date. In short, he was illegal and unsafe to fly with. It's worth noting that he also told me about flying commercially for two years on a student license before getting his commercial. He also had removed the second control wheel so if he had experienced a heart attack........(continued)