It is truly amazing that The Post's op-ed columnists can, day after day, deliver their views with such confidence and certainty, irrespective of how ill-informed they might be. Take the July 21 column by David Ignatius on general aviation, for example.

He attributes to the owners of private aircraft a lot of political muscle that they use to get a free ride on the various services provided by the Federal Aviation Administration, pointing out that they contribute only $350 million in fuel taxes to the FAA's $9 billion budget. But why is this so? It is because the fleet of small aircraft fly relatively infrequently compared with commercial jets. A commercial jet will perform five to six flights per day and carry hundreds of passengers on each of these flights. A small aircraft might fly once a week. Is he suggesting that every aircraft registered in the United States should contribute equally to the FAA's budget?

Moreover, he seems to be uninformed about the relevance of the small-aircraft fleet to the U.S. aviation system. A commercial pilot who commands jumbo jets was not born with that skill. He learned it by gaining experience flying general aviation aircraft for thousands of hours before an airline would even consider him for employment. In truth, the aviation system now in place has been carefully constructed to provide for sustainability. Those rules governing flight and the balancing of costs and benefits have evolved over time to give each party to the system a fair return on his contribution.

LUDWIG RUDEL

Bethesda