More than a wake is at fault in tour boat accident

Regarding the Oct. 4 article, "Investigation of capsized boat focuses on wake": The Department of Transportation will be focusing on more than the wake, and now that they have retrieved the excursion boat, they will find out what happened in short order.

As a naval architecture student 35 years ago, designing a craft such as this one with enough intact stability to prevent a capsize was a routine, required exercise. There should have been enough intact stability provided to withstand the roll due to the wake with the entire passenger load shifted to one side and the application of a significant wind. This was standard practice a hundred years ago. What happened is an outrage; there is no deficiency in collective technical knowledge which would have allowed this to happen. There is a major design or operational flaw somewhere; the design firm, the operator, the Coast Guard surveyor - someone - is guilty of gross negligence.
Samuel Burkeen
Civilian engineer in naval architecture for the Naval Sea Systems Command (ret.)
Reston, Va.

[Editor's note: The original version misidentified Mr. Burkeen's vocation.]

Salary linked to safety in the skies

The Oct. 6 article, "A down-to-earth job outlook for airline workers," struck a real nerve, as my colleagues and I are at the epicenter of this transformation. The sad thing about what is happening in the airline industry is the total loss of experience.

As experienced pilots leave the cockpit, who replaces them? What would have been the outcome of the 1989 emergency landing of United Flight 232 in Sioux City, Iowa, without the seasoned experience of Capt. Al Haynes? Or the outcome of United Flight 811 in 1990, which literally came partially apart in flight, only to be safely flown back to and landed at Honolulu airport by the calm and experienced hands of Capt. Dave Cronin?

The bottom line is, you get what you pay for, and in the coming decades, America will pay dearly for not appreciating the aviation profession. It may not become immediately apparent, but over a period of time, safety will most assuredly decline. If a pilot cannot earn a salary commensurate with the responsibility shouldered each and every day, less and less qualified individuals will seek to make aviation their career.
Steve Derebey
Communications Chairman for United pilots, Air Line Pilots Association
Gig Harbor, Wash.

Religion makes G.I. drawdown difficult

There is much speculation about "the coming G.I. drawdown in Iraq" (editorial, Oct. 7). All this speculation is based on the readiness of Iraqi soldiers to fight insurgents and maintain stability, independent of American troops. I believe, however, that there is a huge elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about.

The big question has to do with the ethnic-religious identity of an Iraqi soldier and the ethnic-religious identity of an insurgent. I understand the willingness of an Iraqi soldier who is a Shiite to fight an insurgent who is a Sunni. I also understand the reverse of this situation. No one is talking, however, about the Iraqi soldier who is a Sunni and his willingness to fight the Sunni insurgent. Obviously, the Kurds and their degree of willingness to fight insurgents are also a huge part of this conundrum.

Americans do not really appreciate the intensity with which Iraqi citizens claim their various ethnic identities. Tragically, it seems to me, the primary objective of American soldiers now is merely to stave off a coming civil war. But there are many who believe that this civil war is well under way.
Mark A. Hector
New Market, Tenn.

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