Letters to
the editor

Accident in pilot training

As an RAAF pilot trainee at Point Cook in 1960 I witnessed the fatal accident referred to by Martin McKenzie-Murray in his “Danger and the minds of pilots” article on pilot training and safety (April 4-10). Practice engine failure in the single engine Winjeel aircraft was simulated by closing the throttle and not by switching off the engine. Instant engine recovery was always desirable and, in this reported case at low altitude immediately after takeoff, was essential. The trainee pilot killed in this accident was in the latter stages of his basic training and his training for possible “emergencies” would have been paramount. The most critical time to experience engine failure is immediately after takeoff when the engine is under full power and the aircraft is slow and low. Students were constantly warned to resist the impulse to turn back and attempt to land on the airfield because of the high risk of stalling and crashing. Unfortunately this student did turn back and the aircraft crashed and burnt on the airfield. The instructor was very experienced and highly regarded. To imply that the accident resulted from his turning the engine off is simply wrong. Since both pilots died the more reasonable scenario is the instructor properly simulated an engine failure after takeoff by closing the throttle, the student pilot reacted improperly by turning steeply, the aircraft quickly stalled and, for whatever reason, there was insufficient time to recover. A tragic accident. McKenzie-Murray’s father reminiscing over his brief RAAF pilot training might make for interesting anecdotes over the dinner table but does nothing for earnest discussion in a national newspaper or for the reputation of a long-deceased, but still remembered, RAAF pilot. 

– Anthony Wilkinson, Gowrie, ACT

Breaking the silence

In the 1970s I was approached by two pilots wanting to set up counselling services for pilots in TAA. They explained the sometimes chaotic lives of pilots, their schedules, relationships and sometimes dangerous ways of recreating as requiring counselling services for themselves and some of their peers. They said they had discussed the situation with the TAA doctor who told them he did his health checks of pilots but had his own shortlist of those with whom he would fly. Until it can be made equally or more rewarding, rather than shaming and causing financial loss, for pilots to declare they are having emotional problems, or for their mates to tap them on the shoulder, rather than denying and working on, the system favours dangerous silences. 

– Michael D. Breen, Robertson, NSW

Who’s Laffing now

Nice piece last week by Richard Farmer on the policy implications of a treasurer’s office stacked with bankers (“The bankers who run Hockey’s office”, April 4-10). So, no surprises in a tax discussion paper that calls for “lower, simpler, fairer” taxes. Yet, given its general tone, I’m flummoxed that “Re:think” did not feature the Laffer Curve. This curve was mythically sketched on a napkin by its namesake, Arthur Laffer, during a long lunch with Rumsfeld and Cheney in the ’70s. Describing an optimistic scenario whereby lowering tax rates actually increases the tax take, it became the inspiration for Reaganomics and remains an article of profound faith. Serendipitously, Laffer was in Australia last month intoning his low tax mantra for the neoliberal heartland. Joe’s “Re:think” is a chip off the same intellectual block, and, unlike the Rudd government’s tax white paper, whose centrepiece was the disastrous mining super profits tax, Hockey’s manifesto is unlikely to frighten the horses. 

– Dave Lisle, Mullumbimby, NSW

The hard sell

Clem Bastow’s ‘“I’m alright, Jill” (April 4-10) becomes clearer if you go back to first principles. Feminism as a political doctrine demands that women have power over their own lives and their own bodies. Clem’s examples of online “feminism” take place within the politics of consumerism, where people only exist as consumers of products or as commodities, and the value of ideas and discussion takes a poor second place to the emotional hook of personal experience as the primary commodity. Online lifestyle magazines sell celebrity and hold out the possibility of success as a minor celebrity by commodifying your own story. In this context feminism is just another way of framing personal struggle as heartwarming triumph against the odds. Just another way of giving credence to complaint, and adding value to the product; appealing to both narcissism and faux sisterly solidarity. Genuine feminism empowers. Consumerism just sells. 

– Lee Kear, Kambah, ACT

Adding to the understanding

I am saddened that Sophie Morris (“Losing it”, April 4-10) ) felt the need to defend herself against claims of self-indulgence in daring to write about her miscarriages. Miscarriage is a painful event in the lives of millions of Australian women and men. We must bring this issue out into the public conversation to help individuals understand their experiences. 

– Robin Shannon, Lyneham, ACT

Loss is never forgotten

I was fortunate to receive a subscription to The Saturday Paper from my three children for Christmas. These are the wonderful, much loved children I had following the stillbirth of my first child, 29 years ago in June. At that time it was just becoming acceptable to talk about infant death, although certainly not for everyone. We were lucky, we had time, although limited, with our baby and have treasured photos. My thanks to Sophie Morris for her article and bravery in writing it.

– Elizabeth Cusack, O’Connor, ACT

Letters are welcome: [email protected]
Please include your full name and address and a daytime telephone number. Letters may be edited for length and content, and may be published in print and online. Letters should not exceed 150 words.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on April 11, 2015.

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