February 1, 1995

Taildragger technique

Barry Schiff is right on target ("Proficient Pilot: Taildragger Tango," December 1994 Pilot) when he lists the many reasons for learning to fly taildraggers. I agree with his point that it improves a pilot's ability to handle any airplane.

Having learned the art of taildragger flying a few years ago, I must say that I agree with the old saying that a taildragger must be flown from the time it leaves the hangar until the time it returns. One must always respect the taildragger, for sometimes it seems to have a mind of its own. I take pride in each landing, particularly when I've done a good job in a gusty crosswind.

James A. Shannon, Jr. AOPA 1043302
Charlottesville, Virginia

Barry states that "the landing must always be made with the stick fully aft." By that, I assume he insists that his students always execute a full-stall landing and never "wheel-land" the aircraft. I say that a pilot who doesn't know how and when to wheel-land a taildragger ought to go back to his Cessna 172.

I have flown taildraggers for more than 20 years and, in fact, learned to fly in a Cessna 120. I currently own and fly a Stinson 108-3 and almost always wheel-land it. Wheel landings are less stressful on the steel tubing in the tail area and on the tail wheel assembly itself. Forward visibility is another benefit of a wheel landing. Moderate to severe crosswind conditions are only one of the times when a wheel landing is preferred over a full-stall landing (much better rudder control).

There is something very satisfying about a well-executed wheel landing. The airplane just skims onto the ground. Passengers are always very impressed.

Anthony Wright AOPA 1008905
Meadow Vista, California

Barry Schiff said that he affirmatively and enthusiastically recommends checking out in a taildragger ... that it improves a pilot's ability to handle any airplane. However, the nose wheel was the greatest invention since the change from wing warping to ailerons. When progress is made, eliminating a nagging and useless set of circumstances, such as an aft CG slinging our tail ends all over the runway, merits thanking the engineers and moving on to the next invention of convenience. It is hard not to take pride in having overcome the difficulty of learning to fly taildraggers. Once having mastered the act, our effort is vindicated by recommending others rise to our level of expertise.

Hogwash. I'm glad he enjoys the challenge, but I enjoy all the genius that has brought our craft to a more manageable level. Visibility taxiing a tricycle offers safety, forward CG adds stability, and ailerons are better than wing warping.

Cyrus Wood AOPA 772457
Jacksonville, Florida

Barry Schiff responds: You might have taken my comments out of context. I never said that tricycle gear was not a wonderful improvement over the tailwheel. I certainly would not want to have to make crosswind landings in 747s and L-1011s equipped with conventional landing gear.

My purpose in writing the column was to convey that learning to fly a taildragger improves a pilot's proficiency even if he normally only flies airplanes with tricycle gear. This is because a taildragger pilot must fly with added awareness of exactly how the airplane is behaving during a variety of conditions that tricycle-gear pilots often take for granted — and occasionally get into trouble as a result.

Questioning medical changes

I am a pilot, an aviation medical examiner, and an AOPA member for 28 years. I am a staunch supporter of general aviation. However, I must take issue with some of Phil Boyer's comments on proposed changes to FAR Part 67 ("President's Position," December 1994 Pilot).

The prevalence of Alzheimer's disease beyond age 65 is about 5 percent; beyond age 70, 10 percent; and beyond age 80, 20 to 25 percent. Many other illnesses, such as stroke, also occur more frequently with age. Though I do support relaxed certification standards for younger pilots, such as a four-year interval for VFR-only pilots to a specified age as proposed by AOPA, I feel that an annual examination beyond age 70 is not unreasonable. In most cases, no additional cost beyond the exam itself would result.

No physician with current medical knowledge would advise that anyone should ignore a blood pressure of 170/100, the current standard for second and third class certification. Hypertension is indeed "the silent killer." Treated pilots may fly safely and reduce their medical risk.

I do not support all that the FAA proposes and realize that overregulation can further compromise general aviation in its current state of difficulty. I know that AOPA must support the pilot. Nevertheless, I feel that positions put forth by the association should consider current medical advances such as the realization that a blood pressure of 170/100 is not best for the pilot in the long run.

John D. Hastings, M.D. AOPA 333562
Tulsa, Oklahoma

It appears that the FAA has once again shown its true colors. While the FAA administrator grandstands with rhetoric in support of the Learn-to-Fly program, the federal air surgeon offers this new "Trojan horse" proposal. Touted by the FAA as a means of providing regulatory and economic relief to many airmen, it would result in exactly the opposite for the majority of current and potential airmen. Tighter restrictions in such areas as blood pressure will disqualify many prospective new pilots in the over-60 age group. This is, according to Phil Boyer, the age group that has experienced the greatest growth in recent private pilot certificates.

Under this proposal, those prospective new private pilots not medically disqualified will likely find a shortage of CFIs at their local airports. Many of these CFIs operate part time and barely break even financially. Their greatest reward is sharing aviation with their students. The added expense of biannual electrocardiograms will surely result in many terminating their service.

What is truly appalling is that this NPRM isn't a result of a misunderstanding of the demographics of the pilot population, or even of bureaucratic bungling. It is merely the latest salvo in a well- orchestrated campaign waged by the FAA to rid the skies of private aviation. Regardless of rhetoric by the administrator promoting new pilot starts, this NPRM is clear evidence that the FAA is no more a friend of the private pilot, or supportive of private aviation today, than it was after becoming "kinder and gentler."

Glenn R. Barney AOPA 980679
Dayton, Ohio

The "President's Position" on medical certification rules carries a consistent theme: make everything easier, looser, slacker. This is an inappropriate position to take for an organization dedicated to flying safety. The first rule should always be that no action taken should increase the risk to individual pilots, passengers, or the safety of the general public.

The major point I take very strong disagreement with is opposition to lowering blood pressure standards for a third class medical certificate from 170/100 to 150/95. Most physicians would recommend that an individual whose blood pressure is 150/95 receive treatment for his "borderline hypertension." The current standard which permits individuals with blood pressures of 170/100 to fly is patently absurd, and bad medicine to boot. An individual with a blood pressure this high is a time bomb ticking away in our airways.

The question should not just be economic relief, but also safety and good health practices. I do not believe that people with blood pressures of 170/100 — which, incidentally, would prevent them from driving a school bus — should be flying an airplane when there is a simple, safe, and cost-effective means of dealing with it.

Allen J. Parmet, M.D. AOPA 1195720
North Kansas City, Missouri

Prices for new Cessna singles

Mr. Howard Van Bortel believes that a new Cessna Skyhawk will be selling for around $90,000 to $100,000 ("Pilot Briefing: Effect of New Cessna Aircraft Production Analyzed," December 1994 Pilot). I can only imagine what the price of a 182 or a 206 would be.

I was angered by his statement, "Only if the Skyhawk was to sell for as little as $60,000...." I feel that if Cessna tries to overprice their line of aircraft after the efforts of so many pilots to change the liability law, this would be a slap in the face to many of them. One must realize that the Cessna line of 152s, 172s, 182s, and 206s — albeit a quality line — is really nothing but an engine pulling a piece of tin, and a Jaguar with all its intricate systems and luxuries can be bought for well under $100,000.

The whole idea for changing the liability law was to make aircraft more affordable to the typical pilot, and to make it possible for the aircraft manufacturers to make a realistic profit — which is understandable. As a pilot and a working guy, I feel very offended after my letter-writing campaign to my senators and congressmen. I hope for all pilots that Mr. Van Bortel is dead wrong.

Steven T. Hanley AOPA 1161072
Stroud, Oklahoma

Final flight

Mark Twombly's column about his father (" Pilotage," December 1994 Pilot) was superb...it brought a tear to my eye even though I've never met him or his family. The three-airplane flight to Buffalo and return was a magnificent idea and salute to your father.

It may have affected me a bit more since I was in Wellsville in August 1993 and could almost feel as if I were on that final turn over the city and on to the airport.

Jim Lounsbury AOPA 122671
Tucson, Arizona

I lost both of my parents, one at a time, in a medically quick manner. I have faced long-term illness in my wife's family; it continues. I assure you that quickly is better. The loss never gets better. You will just live with it better.

Please accept my sympathies and condolences. Ralph Twombly is proud and lives on in the lives of those he touched. He has left a legacy that will live beyond Mark, through him and those who read his words. Choose them carefully as he would have you to. I will read them and remember.

J. M. Loyd AOPA 623031
Perry, Arkansas

Insurance awakening

Ray Maule stated that he can't see why anyone would pick a Super Cub over a Maule (" Low-Ball Maule," December 1994 Pilot). I can't speak for new aircraft purchases, but when I was searching for my next airplane in 1990 I seriously considered a used Maule until I got a quote from my insurance company. My choice of a Super Cub would cost me less than $1,200 a year in premiums, whereas the Maule would set me back in excess of $2,500 a year. With limited finances, my choice was easy.

Robert te Groen AOPA 688158
Oak Run, California

More than a little luck

As a young commercial pilot aspiring to fly for an airline, I have the utmost respect for FAA designated examiners. Even so, I am having a hard time accepting the final analysis in "Little Things Mean A Lot" (" Never Again," December 1994 Pilot).

Flying a reciprocating twin into a 200 foot ceiling and 1/2 mile visibility with heavy snow is certainly legal and arguably questionable. Continuing an approach under such conditions with dimming lights and no glide slope (as a result of gear extension) warrants the same justification.

However, I have to ask why such an experienced pilot would turn right around and take off with three to four inches of snow on the runway and a worsening three-eighths mile visibility. I certainly cannot fathom the idea, and I can't find any of my airline buddies, who fly much better equipped heavy aircraft, who would.

The majority of accidents don't just happen. They are a culmination of missed opportunities to break an unfortunate and avoidable chain of events. This particular chain should have been broken by three to four inches of unplowed runway snow. A more appropriate title might have been "A Little Luck Means a Lot."

Kevin S. Ford AOPA 1219101
Aurora, Colorado

Buying the farm

The phrase "bought the farm" ("Letters," December 1994 Pilot) goes back to the often-expressed wish, "When I retire — or when the war is over — I'm going to get away from this and buy a farm." So the mournful comment when a plane went down was, "Old Joe finally bought his farm."

Bob Serling AOPA 082005
Baytown, Texas

I'll offer yet another explanation of the term "bought the farm." In World War I, when a pilot was shot down, his life insurance payoff was likely to be used by his family to pay off the mortgage on the family farm. Therefore, when he crashed, he indeed "bought the farm."

Scott A. Kilgore AOPA 816169
Alpharetta, Georgia

Flying's inspiration

I recently obtained my private pilot certificate and would like to share my story.

Ten years ago, I was introduced to general aviation by a gentleman named Ron Chandler, who at that time was my father-in-law. After my first ride in an airplane, I was always the first to volunteer as a passenger on his Saturday afternoon excursions. I was constantly watching him during his flights and was absolutely awestruck. From then on, I dreamed about doing the very same thing but knew that it was only a dream. The finances, time, and opportunity just were not there. Whenever I mentioned my desire to become a pilot, people just laughed and rolled their eyes. Eventually, with the responsibilities of a career, husband, and two children to take care of, the dream faded.

Two years ago, my marriage of eight years ended abruptly and unexpectedly. I was devastated, left with a home and two children to care for alone. The next year was filled with depression and a desperation to find something more to fulfill my life. Then, one day a friend called to tell me that she had a couple of friends who were pilots and invited me along to fly somewhere for lunch. I remembered my love for flying and accepted the invitation. I had no idea that that day my life would change the way it did.

After lunch, the owner of the airplane, who happens to be a flight instructor, put me in the left seat of his Piper Cherokee Six for the ride home. He told me that he was amazed at the way I handled the airplane for the first time. From that day forward, I was hooked. My instructor and I began to date, and he started putting me in the left seat of everything he was flying, including a 1946 Luscombe, Citabria, Zlin 242, and a Cessna 172 — which, on October 29, I used to obtain my private pilot certificate.

No dream or goal is ever out of reach. It may be hard work, but the outcome is well worth it.

Angela D. Chandler AOPA 1231518
Punta Gorda, Florida

Back to basics

The rules about VFR are so basic...and so ignored. Even thousands plus 500 feet headed west; odd thousands plus 500 going east. It's a basic rule most of us learned within our first 20 hours of flight. Why, then, the confusion by so many pilots who get it turned around?

Case in point — I am headed due west at 6,500 feet and VFR nearly midway in a flight from East St. Louis to Kansas City Downtown. The weather is clear and visibility is about 10 miles in haze. Flight following provided by Kansas City Center advises of traffic at my 12 o'clock, eight miles — two planes, both at 6,500 feet, headed toward me. "No contact," I tell Center. The controller replies with an urgent- sounding suggestion to initiate an immediate 10-degree climbing left turn to avoid the traffic. I pull back on the controls, and a moment later, when I am at about 6,700 feet, two single-engine airplanes streak directly beneath me. It was a close one, too close.

A few weeks later, I am returning home to Kansas City from Omaha VFR on a 150-degree heading at 7,500 feet. Center advises me of westbound traffic at my 10 o'clock, also at 7,500 feet, and four miles. I look over and see a Cessna 170 cruising west at the wrong VFR altitude, and I wonder what the pilot is thinking about. Probably very little.

Are these pilots aware of VFR altitude rules? Do they figure that on a nice day, they can cruise at any altitude they choose? Their carelessness endangers my neck, but what can I do about it? What can *we* do about it?

David Henderson AOPA 1127968
Kansas City, Missouri


Incorrect dates were listed for the FAA public hearings listed in " AOPA Action" (January Pilot). The hearings are as follows: January 26 — Radisson Airport, Orlando, Florida; January 31 — Double Tree Suites, Seattle, Washington.

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