August 1, 1997

The $100 hamburger

Phil Boyer's description of the airport restaurant closures (" President's Position: $100 Hamburgers," June Pilot) hit me right between the eyes. The Nut Tree Airport was an icon to the burger brigade and an enticement to thousands of other aviation enthusiasts and tourists alike. When I found out it had closed, I felt I had lost a longtime friend.

There is good news coming out of Northern California, however. An entrepreneur is taking a creative shot to revitalize the once-closed restaurant at Sacramento Executive Airport; the field will have its own restaurant/jazz club. This will be a win-win situation for the flying community and the local citizenry as well.

Perhaps this type of creative investment could benefit other airports as well.

John Tillison AOPA 573954
Sacramento, California

John A. Minkler, Sacramento Executive Airport manager, tells us that the Stick-n-Rudder Restaurant and Jazz Club opened on June 15. A $3.6 million airport improvement project is also under way — Ed.

Phil Boyer's comments on airport restaurants is unfortunately another example of how we in aviation just don't get it. Boyer and most of us in aviation believe that people should just keep spending their money at airports and on airplanes regardless of the quality and utility provided. Local airports are closing because very few people see any real value in them. The restaurants on those airports close years before for the exact same reason. If a restaurant survives at an airport, chances are very good that it would survive on Main Street.

Being on an airport does not void economic principles. Whether a restaurant, avionics shop, or FBO survives will depend on providing a product or service that the public demands at a price it is willing to pay. While we may all argue that many areas of the aviation industry are hampered from doing this by regulations, this is not the case for airport restaurants. No additional regulations exist for airport restaurants. If they are to survive, they must provide a desirable menu at reasonable prices in an atmosphere that makes people feel comfortable. Most airport restaurants do not do this, and the public is responding in turn.

If Boyer thinks that every pilot should support airport restaurants that fail to do what every other restaurant needs to do to survive, he is sadly confused. What pilots need to do is demand that airport restaurants serve good food at reasonable prices. If pilots want to support their local airport restaurants, they need to help create an atmosphere where nonpilots feel welcome and accepted. But that needs to happen in all areas of aviation, not just at the restaurant.

William Drury AOPA 612272
Somerdale, New Jersey

I certainly agree with Boyer that it's a real shame so few airports have restaurants; not just for local hangar flying, but also for traveling.

A friend and I returned Sunday from a trip from Washington to Indiana, Wisconsin, and places in between. About midday, after 500 to 700 miles, we'd plan on fuel and hope for lunch. We were certainly reminded of the lack of places to eat. A big airport wasn't always conveniently on the route and, if the FBO has a "courtesy car," it might well be in use or broken down.

In the Northwest, a series of restaurants have opened and closed at Bellingham, Washington, I am told, due to excessive charges by the airport management. Even at Boeing Field the restaurant closed and, as far as I know, there still isn't one. At Tacoma Narrows the restaurant was closed for 6 months this year.

Yet, where there are good airport restaurants, they are packed; for example, at Port Townsend, Washington, the Spruce Goose Cafe not only attracts pilots, but the parking lot is always full, even though the restaurant is quite a few miles from the city. I notice also that at Hoquiam, Washington, as well as at Arlington, Washington, and others, a lot of patrons are nonpilots. At Red Bluff, California, in the morning, when the airport looks empty, one can hardly get a seat. The evidence, therefore, suggests that airport restaurants are a good business and that the paucity thereof is due to the generally dismal business climate caused by airport management. I notice that my good places are all at relatively small airports, probably less burdened by bureaucracy, whereas the closures seem to be associated with bigger airports.

T. M. Green AOPA 1041655
Lopez, Washington

The restaurant at Frederick (Maryland) Municipal Airport is scheduled to reopen this month as The Airways Inn at Frederick. AOPA members are encouraged to post details of their favorite airport restaurants on the "Hops and $100 Hamburgers" message board on the AOPA Web site — Ed.

General aviation's future

Pilot Charles Barreras (" Letters," June Pilot) complained that he is not in a position to buy a new airplane, "or even a $20,000 used Cessna 152." He fears that general aviation is coming to a slow and inglorious death because we are pricing ourselves out of the sky. The point was well made. Not only is a new airplane priced in the category of a gold-plated Lamborghini, but that "$20,000 152" is likely to turn out to be an infinite money sink as you replace everything that turns, wiggles, or bends. Much of the cost of commercially produced airplanes is the result of multiply redundant testing, quality control procedures, and legal safeguards.

There are alternatives. An absolute minimum airplane (less than 255 pounds, stall speed of 25 mph or less, and so forth) is classified as an ultralight and exempted from most FARs. You don't need a certificate to fly one. If you desire more than weedwhacker propulsion, another solution is to build your own airplane. It is possible to buy a very decent flying machine in kit form for about the same price as an automobile.

I think that Barreras has shown excellent judgment, both in seeking his private pilot certificate and in joining AOPA. As a competent pilot, his next step is to decide which of the many facets of general aviation he desires to enjoy. In spite of airport closures, shortsighted regulation, and occasional witch hunts, GA will continue as long as there are people who want to fly. Welcome aboard, Charles.

David P. Armentrout AOPA 1156072
San Jose, California

Lived and learned

I enjoyed reading Charles Weems' " Never Again: Learn and Live" (June Pilot), as I have been in a similar situation before. Please pass this word on to Weems: If he ever has to land in Pageland, South Carolina, again, it will be a lot easier, given the fact that Pageland now has a paved and lighted runway with a rotating beacon and NDB and GPS approaches. Also tell him that he will not have to spend the night in his airplane; he can stay in my home, located on the airport.

Richard E. Edwards AOPA 400493
Pageland, South Carolina

Pat on the back

As director of the Alabama Department of Aeronautics, I am writing to thank AOPA for its endorsement of H.B. 212 (" AOPA Action," April Pilot). In particular, I would like to commend AOPA's regional representative, Bob Minter, for his diligence on behalf of H.B. 212. Although time ran out and the bill was not adopted during the 1997 regular legislative session, which ended in mid-May, Minter was instrumental in helping the Alabama Aeronautics Commission to gain unprecedented momentum for this measure.

The intent of H.B. 212 is to increase Alabama's aviation fuel tax revenue cap from $600,000 annually to $1.5 million and to repeal an exemption that allows two major airlines to avoid payment of the state's 1.3-cents-per-gallon jet fuel tax. The $600,000 cap has been in place since 1979 and is woefully inadequate to meet the improvement needs of our 87 publicly owned public-use airports.

As an indication of AOPA's effectiveness, H.B. 212 generated the second highest volume of mail for any single piece of legislation introduced during the 1997 regular session. Due in large measure to AOPA's endorsement, the Alabama Aeronautics Commission was able to obtain commitments of support from a majority of the legislative membership.

Because of increasing airport maintenance and safety improvement needs of Alabama's 81 general aviation airports, the Alabama Aeronautics Commission intends to vigorously pursue passage of H.B. 212 in future sessions of the Alabama legislature. As AOPA correctly observed, providing adequate funding for Alabama's airport infrastructure is absolutely essential if Alabama is to preserve and safely maintain our state's airport infrastructure.

John C. Eagerton IV AOPA 629540
Montgomery, Alabama

Autopilot anomaly?

I just finished reading " Ultimate Arrow: An Inside View" (June Pilot), and I have a comment concerning the statement that "because the S-Tec autopilots use electric turn coordinators, they are unaffected by a vacuum-pump failure." I have an S-Tec System 60-1, and when I had a vacuum-pump failure, the heading indicator rolled over, and with it went the heading bug, causing the airplane to bank to follow the bug. When I approached the avionics shop about this, no one had an answer. I still like my S-Tec autopilot and plan to upgrade in the future. I just wanted to let you know of my experience.

Vince Trupiano AOPA 663739
Weirton, West Virginia

The vacuum-dependent heading indicator is not part of the autopilot system. Electric turn coordinators allow the autopilot to keep the airplane's wings level in the event of a vacuum failure, but the heading bug simply tried to track the (tumbling) HI. In that situation, deactivate the autopilot's Heading mode and select the Navigation mode, which tracks a nav signal — Ed.

Night: the right time?

The article by Dan Namowitz (" Night Moves," May Pilot) included the suggestion that night flying by non-instrument-rated pilots should be discouraged. Many years ago, I encountered for the first time the reality of flying from a beautiful clear night into instant instrument meteorological conditions. It happened while entering the pattern at Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport. A crosswind entry northbound over Lake Erie provided the breathtaking experience of leaving the bright lights of downtown Cleveland for sudden and complete blackness. In retrospect, two things come to mind. First, I found out what it was like to fly part of a VFR traffic pattern on instruments. Second, I was grateful that I was IFR current and able to make the mandatory transition to the gauges, both with my eyes and my jangled nerves. We sure don't need more night flying regs, but the VFR pilot should carefully measure his or her ability to handle an unexpected entry into IMC, especially at night.

Bob Parry AOPA 593083
Columbus, Ohio

Squawk 7600

I enjoyed Alton K. Marsh's " Surviving Com Failure" (May Pilot) but it left me with an uneasy feeling. It occurred to me that Marsh never mentions one of the simplest and most important procedures for radio failure: squawk 7600. This lets the controller know immediately what's happening. If the pilot flying to Atlantic City had done this, the controller would have been saved all that screaming.

Adam P. Condron AOPA 1304937
Houston, Texas

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