Skywritings

February 1, 1993

The Cannibal Queen

By Steven Coonts

Who hasn't fantasized about flying all around the country in a Stearman, white scarf flapping in the breeze, maybe taking your kid along for the ride? Most of us will never manage to do it. Steve Coonts did, landing in every state, and his new book about the adventure, The Cannibal Queen, named for his Stearman, is a lot of fun. No navigational radios in this Stearman: It was compass, clock and map, and his 14-year-old son flew with him part of the way.

Almost every pilot will relate to some of the paths he followed, some of the airports, and some of the people he talked with along the way. Coonts has a great sense of humor, as well as opinions on almost everything. You might not agree with some of them, but they are still fun to read.

Coonts, a former naval aviator and owner of three general aviation airplanes, is famous for his high-adventure novels. Flight of the Intruder, his first, was a real thriller that later was made into a movie of the same name. After reading The Cannibal Queen, though, I got the feeling that this is a book he always wanted to write. It's a real pilot's book. It is that trip around the country we all dream about. $22. Pocket Books, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020. — Richard L. Collins

Soaring With the Schweizers: The Fifty-Year History of Their Aviation Adventures

By William Schweizer

The Schweizer Aircraft Company in Elmira, New York, is known for its gliders and sailplanes (gliders descend, sailplanes are designed to ascend). And well it should be. Thousands of U.S. soaring enthusiasts received their instruction in the simple but effective Schweizer 2-22 or 2-32 tandem trainers, then went on to the high-performance SAC 1-26. In all, Schweizer has manufactured 2,170 gliders and sailplanes, including 12 SGS 2-37 motorgliders. Yet the company hasn't built a glider or sailplane in a decade. So what are the people at Schweizer up to?

Turbine helicopters, for one. The Schweizer Model 330 is intended as a primary trainer for the Army, as well as a light utility helicopter for civilian duty. The 330 is graphic evidence of how Schweizer has weathered the ups and downs and changing character of aviation manufacturing since the first Schweizer glider flew in 1930.

William Schweizer, who along with brothers Ernest and Paul are the original Schweizers in Schweizer Aircraft, has recorded the history of the characteristically Swiss-conservative company in a book, Soaring with the Schweizers: The Fifty-Year History of Their Aviation Adventures. You won't find out much about the private lives of the main characters in this book, but Bill Schweizer has written a comprehensive and readable account of the founding and maturation of a small but very important and historic company in American aviation. It's a must-have for aviation history enthusiasts, especially those interested in gliders and sailplanes. 241 pp. plus appendixes, $24.95. Published in 1991 by Rivilo Books, 7307 Pinewood Street, Falls Church, Virginia 22046; 703/573-6211. Distributed by the Soaring Society of America, Post Office Box E, Hobbs, New Mexico 88241; 505/392-1177. — Mark R. Twombly

Low Level Hell

By Hugh L. Mills

There were no safe jobs in Vietnam. But for U.S. Army pilots flying low- level helicopter patrols, constantly exposed to potential ground fire in small, vulnerable ships, soldiering in Southeast Asia was perilous indeed.

Low Level Hell is the personal memoir of one such pilot, Hugh Mills, who spent a year living dangerously with the Aero-Scout Platoon of the 1st Infantry Division — the Big Red One. Flying their Hughes OH-6A light observation helicopters (nicknamed "Loach"), Mills and his comrades searched for enemy troops and directed attacks against them. They also aided downed airmen and performed other missions. Despite high casualties, the esprit remained high among the young pilots in the scout unit.

Dozens of books on the war have been published in the decade or so since Vietnam went from being a taboo subject to a pop-culture sensation. But few provide such a vivid inside look at the lives and mind-set of Army aviators. Low Level Hell should help add perspective to our understanding of how the best in men can be brought out under the worst of circumstances.

The 352-page book, which contains 32 black-and-white photographs, is available in many book stores. $21.95. Presidio Press, 505 B San Martin Drive, Suite 300, Novato, California 94945-1340; 415/898-1081, fax 415/898-0383. — William L. Gruber

The Pilot's Radio Communications Handbook, 4th Edition

By Paul E. Illman

In another of its long series of books for aviators, TAB Books has published a fourth edition of The Pilot's Radio Communications Handbook, a practical guide that "covers everything VFR pilots need to know to communicate clearly from the cockpit and use even the busiest of today's airports with confidence," according to the publisher.

The updated manual covers new subjects like the FAA's airspace reclassification plan, and includes additional material on proper com procedures, from routine flights to in-flight emergencies.

The 232-page volume is written in a straightforward style, with information presented in an organized, textbook format. It makes the text easy to get through, understand, and absorb. All told, it's a valuable volume for the beginning airman and for pilots who have allowed their radio skills to get a little rusty. Hardcover, $28.95; soft-cover, $16.95. TAB Books, McGraw-Hill, Inc., Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania 17294-0850; 717/794-2191, fax 717/794-2103. — WLG

The USA Today Weather Book: An Easy-to-Understand Guide to the USA's Weather

By Jack Williams

Fans of USA Today's weather page, you're in luck. Jack Williams, USA Today's weather editor, has come out with an impressive new book with an equally impressive goal — to explain the weather. In editorial and graphic style, The USA Today Weather Book is a virtual clone of the newspaper's weather page. This shouldn't come as any surprise because the publishers of USA Today lent Williams the newspaper's weather artists for the book's year-long gestation.

Those color graphics are a great help in understanding meteorology, and Williams tackles the subject sparing no efforts in the illustration department. The result is an easy-to-understand, super-simple textbook that continually asks journalism's holy "five Ws." What causes weather? Where is the coldest place on earth? When can fog form? Who is responsible for meteorological research and development? Why do hurricanes form? These and hundreds of other, similar questions are answered in bite- sized, cartoon-style messages.

Intended for a general audience, The USA Today Weather Book also has utility for pilots. It gives a thorough review of practically every weather phenomenon and is far more user-friendly than most other weather texts we're exposed to. While it dwells heavily on "sensational" weather extremes (floods, tornadoes, blizzards, hurricanes, etc.), the first few chapters provide a great review of such basics as atmospheric circulation, fronts, and air density — subjects that affect us every time we fly. The personality profiles are fun, too. Equally interesting are the sections covering ozone depletion and climatic change. For the true weather freak, there's an additional bonus — a state-by-state review of weather records from 1959 to 1990. 212 pp., soft-cover, $18. Vintage Trade Books, 201 E. 50th Street, New York, New York, 10022; 800/638-6460, 212/751-2600. — Thomas A. Horne

Human Factors for General Aviation

By Stanley R. Trollip, Ph.D., and Richard S. Jensen, Ph.D.

Pilot education traditionally emphasizes the theory and physical skills necessary for safe flying. Even though there's a substantial amount of evidence that human foibles play an equally important part in aviation safety, the subject of human factors is either tucked in the back of most textbooks or ignored altogether.

Human Factors for General Aviation helps to right this wrong. This is a book that goes beyond the usual lip service paid to human factors. In 10 chapters, the authors expose a wealth of information that every pilot and flight instructor should find of interest. The book opens with a succinct analysis of accident statistics, then relates it to pilot performance and information processing. There is a most interesting chapter on cockpit design and the man/machine relationship, followed by the physiological considerations that bear on the flight environment.

The effects of emotional stress and hazardous attitudes are also outlined, and the book gives special attention to cockpit resource management. The final chapter discusses the future of human factors as a growing element in pilot training and includes a very interesting discussion of the merits and drawbacks of automated cockpits and systems.

The book follows the classic Jeppesen text format, complete with questions at the end of each chapter. An accompanying instructor's guide is also available. This makes it a natural for inclusion in pilot curricula, and for that reason alone, we should all be seeing more of this very readable text. That, and the fact that this is one of the first concise yet comprehensive works dedicated solely to a subject as neglected as it is important. 280 pp., soft-cover, $34.95. Jeppesen Sanderson, Inc., 55 Inverness Drive, East, Englewood, Colorado 80112-5498; 303/799-9090. — TAH

When Paul M. McMinn ferried his surplus Vampire fighter jet across the Atlantic, he considered it "the epic adventure of a lifetime." In fact, McMinn had so many flying stories to tell after the flight, he decided to write a book about the experience. Vampires and Goblins Across the Atlantic recounts the frustration, humor, joy, and challenges encountered by McMinn and two other pilots as they ferried two ex-Swiss military Vampires from Great Britain to the United States. They were the first civilian pilots to undertake such a ferry flight (a squadron of Canadian military Vampires made the trip once, with a bomber to lead the way, according to McMinn). A resident of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, McMinn now flies his Vampire on the air-show circuit. At 400 gph, though, the jet guzzles a bit too much fuel for frequent sightseeing flights. McMinn also is working on a videotape based upon the book and utilizing the many hours of video he shot on the trip. Soft-cover, $19.95. LouMax Publishing, Box 280A, RD 3, Coatesville, Pennsylvania 19320. Make checks payable to Paul McMinn. — WLG

Tracking Mackenzie to the Sea recounts the month-long voyage of seaplane pilot Robert J. Hing, who in his float-equipped Cessna 140 traced the historic, 4,500-mile route of explorer Alexander Mackenzie across North America. Exactly 200 years ago, Mackenzie blazed the first trail across the continent. Subtitled "Coast to Coast in Eighteen Splashdowns," Hing's book presents a pleasing mix of history and bush flying as the author uses Mackenzie's own journals from the 1792 to 1793 expedition to rediscover the canoe trail that followed 17 rivers and scores of lakes and ponds to reach the Pacific. Much of the route across the unspoiled Canadian interior still is inaccessible by roads. Soft-cover, $19.95. Anchor Watch Press. Order from Bookmasters, Inc., 1444 State Route 42, Mansfield, Ohio 44903; 800/247-6553. — WLG

In his comprehensive textbook, Basic Flight Physiology, Richard O. Reinhart, M.D., covers just about every physiological factor that can affect pilots. In 15 chapters, Dr. Reinhart provides the basic knowledge needed to understand the body's functions, then goes on to apply that knowledge to common flying situations. The emphasis is on stresses and emergencies, but the chapters on health maintenance and hearing and vibration also contain advice of a preventive nature. As textbooks go, the material is easy to read and would make a great complement to any pilot training coursework. As an addition to any pilot's library, Basic Flight Physiology would also serve admirably as an authoritative reference. 248 pp., hardcover, $34.95. TAB Books, McGraw-Hill, Inc., Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania 17294; 717/794-2191, fax 717/794-2103. — TAH

Long the book to study for professional aviators, Aerodynamics for Naval Aviators is often hard to locate. Aviation Supplies & Academics, Inc., has solved that problem by gaining permission to publish the book, which is the cornerstone text on the fundamentals of aerodynamics. The book covers both theory and application and contains a detailed table of contents and a complete index to help the reader locate desired study areas. The soft-cover book is available at pilot shops and from the publisher for a suggested price of $15.95. ASA, 7005 132nd Place, S.E., Renton, Washington 98059-3153; 800/426-8338. — Thomas B. Haines

In sync with the FAA's biennial revision of flight test questions, Aviation Supplies & Academics has released its 1992-1994 private, commercial, and instrument test books. The test books include actual FAA test questions (for all aircraft categories), figures, and legends. The questions are followed by complete answers and explanations. The Private Pilot Test Guide costs $12.95, the Commercial Pilot Test Guide, $14.95, and the Instrument Rating Test Guide, $15.95. To help you prepare to correctly answer the questions in the above books, the company offers the private, commercial, and instrument test prep books for 1992-1994. These books are $12.95, $13.95, and $15.95, respectively. The books are available in catalogs, aviation book stores, and flight schools. ASA, 7005 132nd Place, S.E., Renton, Washington 98059-0128; 800/426-8338. — Mark J. Brockman

The Pilot's Medical Adviser: A Guide to Obtaining and Keeping Your Medical Certificate, by Ian Blair Fries, M.D., AME, and the editors of Aviation Safety magazine. Here's a very thorough compendium of medical information that's bound to interest any pilot curious about medical certification issues. The authors analyze medical application forms line by line and give highly detailed facts concerning each question. It's a look at the questions behind the questions.

Special issuances and medical waivers are also discussed at great length. However, the bulk of the book — and its most readable part — is the section titled "Commonly Asked Questions and Answers." Here, the authors delve into subjects like bad backs, diabetes, cardiac care, smoking, blood pressure, and aging, to name a few (there are 29 questions in all). Will dizzy spells disqualify you? Probably, if you're taking medication to control them. Can you legally fly if you have cancer? Maybe, maybe not. Most malignancies are disqualifying. Not until the malignancy has been eradicated, medication is no longer needed, and there are no residual disqualifying problems can you legally fly.

These and other questions — answered in great detail — make for fascinating reading, even if you aren't concerned about losing your medical. All that's needed is an above-average interest in aviation medicine or a case of hypochondria.

The book also incorporates the FAA's Guide for Medical Examiners, so you can get an inside look at the advice the Feds give their AMEs about how to evaluate an applicant. Another section includes those portions of the FARs that have a bearing on medical certification. Here, portions of FAR Parts 61, 67, 121, and 135 are featured.

Doctors, patients, and applicants alike will find this reference a valuable addition to their aviation libraries. For those nervous about asking their examiners about potentially disqualifying conditions, it's must reading. 316 pp., soft-cover, $36.95. Belvoir Publications, Inc., 1111 East Putnam Avenue, Riverside, Connecticut 06878; 203/637-5900. — TAH

At first glance, The Aviator's Guide to Alaska might seem like an airport directory, but the 500-page, loose-leaf book provides much more information than what you might expect in a typical airport listing. The guide is chock-full of informative articles for those flying up north, including lots of do's and don'ts for survival in the wilderness. It includes a detailed listing of airports of entry, aviation abbreviations, and contacts for equipment rental and purchase. Each airport or seaplane base is allocated at least one page, complete with diagram showing the runway layout and pertinent landmarks and terrain. The usual airport information is included, along with area accommodations and attractions. The guide is written by pilot Rich Moore, who set about putting the book together because he was frustrated by the lack of current, accurate information about flying in Alaska. To keep his book accurate, Moore supplies updates each spring for $15. $40 plus $5 shipping and handling, Hardcover. The Great White North Aviation Company, Inc., Post Office Box 140645, Anchorage, Alaska 99514-0645; 907/258-0025. — TBH