December 1, 1998

Sounds of silence

The article on lost com strategies (" Instrument Insights: Too Quiet in the Cockpit," October Pilot) was excellent. The investment in an external antenna connection for a handheld is well worthwhile - otherwise you'd be lucky to transmit farther than five miles.

I wonder, though, how many lost coms are self-inflicted. My first came during a bumpy ride and some NDB idents. When I got back on the ground, I was embarrassed to find the "Auto" button on the audio panel unselected. On the typical Bendix/King audio panel, it sits next to the NDB button and is easy to release unintentionally. I've never seen anything written on this, nor was its value ever explained to me in training. Surely, auto should be the de-fault setting.

John W. Ward AOPA 1262326
Mamaroneck, New York

I enjoyed the article on lost com procedures. However, you forgot to mention one of the most common causes of lost communications: the stuck mic.

The stuck mic will broadcast to the outside world every comment a pilot utters in the cockpit, a potentially embarrassing situation, while blocking all reception. This can tie up an entire frequency.

If you suspect that you have a stuck mic, key the push-to-talk switch. If you hear a break in the static, you're OK. If you don't hear any change, check to make sure that your microphone plug is secure. You might also want to unplug it completely if you can't troubleshoot the problem.

David Thornton AOPA 1104019
Dewy Rose, Georgia

Marc E. Cook described a device from Radio Shack "that is, essentially, a short length of coaxial cable with a small bracket and a suction cup ..." that will allow you to remote the antenna from your handheld to the window." Could you please give me the name or part number for this device? No one I have talked to at our local Radio Shack has any idea what this item is.

Ross Tracey AOPA 1211448
Niantic, Connecticut

The Radio Shack item apparently is no longer available. However, similar antenna extensions are available from Sporty's Pilot Shop (800/543-8633, item 1654, $40) or Aircraft Spruce and Specialty (800/824-1930, part 11-18603, $34), among other vendors - Ed.

Old radios and flying

I really enjoyed Daniel Pimentel's article (" Papa Louie, the Old Radio, and Flying") in the October Pilot. I also have a connection between old radios and flying. I have been repairing and restoring antique radios for 23 years. I have always been interested in airplanes, but thought that they were only for the very wealthy. In 1991 a friend gave me an old copy of Trade-a-Plane, and I found that not all airplanes cost as much as my house. Since I enjoyed restoring radios more than owning them, I decided to try to sell my most valuable radios and buy an inexpensive old airplane.

By December 1992 my wife and I both had our private tickets - earned in our own 1960 Cessna 172. I keep my airplane expenses low by being involved in repairs and preventive maintenance. The small antique radio business keeps my airplane flying by providing enough funds to cover the costs. Now, if I can just figure out a way to fund the restoration of that 1952 Tri-Pacer sitting in my garage ....

Stanley Watkins
Charlotte, North Carolina

The low-and-slow life

I really enjoyed James Wynbrandt's article " Game Day" (October Pilot). Having a 90-horsepower Aeronca 7CCM (L–16B), low and slow is our way of life, and my wife and I have known the joy of spotting deer and bighorn sheep in our local San Gabriel Mountains and have observed herds of pronghorn on the high plains of Wyoming.

The article and photographs brought back great memories, but I can't help wondering about the legality of the markings on the North Dakota Game and Fish Department Scout, N93GF.

As I read the regulations for nationality and registration marks, the small numbers on the tail are OK, but there is a paragraph stating that it should display no other mark that begins with the letter N anywhere on the aircraft unless it is the same marking as the registration numbers. It seems that by that standard the marking of NDGF on the side is clearly outside of the "letter of the law."

Just a small nitpick on an otherwise great magazine.

Thomas B. Petry AOPA 887022
Montclair, California

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department's state-owned Scout falls under the FAA's definition of a public aircraft and is therefore exempt from that requirement of Federal Regulation Part 45 - Ed.

Commander clarifications

We appreciate the story on the Commander 114TC (" Commander 114TC: Capable Cruiser") in your October issue. The article was a comprehensive look at the many things we are doing at Commander to provide a first-class array of products, programs, and services for our customers and those interested in Commander. I would like to correct several points in the article to ensure your readers have an accurate understanding.

Commander is not considering the leasing program described in the article, or any other leasing program, other than those offered by institutions that provide purchase and lease financing for general aviation aircraft.

The statement that most Commander owners are "low-time pilots who want high performance and don't yet meet the insurance requirements…" is totally inaccurate. In fact, our owners are all types of individuals and businesses with varying degrees of flying experience and utilization needs. The one thing they all have in common is the desire to own an aircraft that provides the ultimate combination of performance, comfort, safety, and utility.

The article alludes to our turbo-charged 114TC as the follow-on to earlier Rockwell designs, completely omitting the fact that Commander Aircraft Company, incorporated in 1988, spent nearly four years and made a substantial investment to certify our company's Commander 114B, which has been in production since 1992. The normally aspirated Commander 114B includes new systems, interior, panel, and aerodynamic streamlining that resulted in a marked increase in both comfort and performance to the Rockwell design.

Dean N. Thomas
Bethany, Oklahoma

The author is Commander Aircraft Company's senior vice president of sales and marketing - Ed.

Wake, rattle, and roll

" Safety Pilot: Wake Turbulence" (October Pilot) was a great article, but in the congested skies of the San Francisco Bay area, even when I file IFR, approach routinely routes jet traffic above me when I cross the bay. The vertical separation is not that great, and when they call traffic, I immediately think "wake" and wait for the thump. This not only detracts from the IFR thought process, but it gets me into an aerobatic mindset should I cross the wake. There is no way around this in the Bay Area as we routinely traverse the final approach paths of San Francisco, Metropolitan Oakland, and San Jose international airports. I'm seriously considering a course in aerobatics. Would you agree?

Kevin Collopy AOPA 773180
San Carlos, California

Bruce Landsberg responds: A basic aerobatic course would be good; let the instructor know why you want it so that you can focus on that type of unusual attitude. Many corporate flight departments and air carriers now provide this training. You can also plan different routings to avoid being below a regular arrival or departure route. Finally, if you do have a wake encounter of any substance, advise ATC and file a NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System form. This will help us to monitor the problem - Ed.

Floats and boats

Thomas B. Haines' " Waypoints: Floats and Boats" (October Pilot) was good, enjoyable reading, but I think the author got it backwards when he said that a dirty configuration creates more wake turbulence than a clean one. The way I learned, it is the opposite.

Wake turbulence (a.k.a. wingtip vortices) is more severe at high angles of attack (AOA). For a given airspeed, the AOA is higher without flaps than with. By my recollection, the correct answer to the private pilot exam question to which Haines refers is slow and clean, rather than slow and dirty, as written in the article.

Flaps and landing gear may perturb the wake somewhat, but the dominant effect (and danger) is from the vortices that extend back from the tips of the wings, and these are reduced when flaps are deployed.

John Stephens AOPA 686015
Potomac, Maryland

The author is correct. However, we recommend giving any large aircraft ample separation, regardless of its configuration - Ed.

Doing the power stroke

I read with keen interest Peter A. Bedell's piece on the new lightweight two-cycle diesel engines (" Enginuity: Progressive Powerplant," October Pilot).

Having worked with diesel engines all my considerable life, I find the statement that "the mixture instantly ignites" a little misleading. The fuel has to enter the combustion chamber in a continuous metered stream. The abundant supply of oxygen mixes with the fuel as it is sprayed into the cylinder, and the compression and increased temperature cause each particle of the misted fuel to ignite instantly as it enters the chamber. The result is an even push downward on the piston during the power stroke. If all the fuel were to ignite at the same time, there would be no power stroke.

I feel that, at least in my experience, most people think that in a diesel engine the fuel explodes all at once. If it did, very little power would be developed and the engine would not last very long.

Herb Andersen AOPA 238587
Oceanside, California

Enjoying Gastons

It was great to see the beautiful photo of Gaston's Resort in north-central Arkansas on the 1999 AOPA's Airport Directory cover. My wife and I have been flying there for 26 years for lunch, nature trail walks, and overnights. The view from the restaurant overlooking the White River is terrific at any time of the year.

They recently added another nature trail, so there is a choice of the original, which runs along the river, or the new one, which winds up the forested hillside north of the resort. Gaston's is one of the best trout-fishing spots available, with many record or near-record fish caught on a fairly regular basis. This is a really special spot to fly in to.

Dwane Koppler AOPA 450816
Springfield, Missouri


Because of an editing error, a question in November's " Test Pilot" about static pressure was printed with an incorrect answer. The question and answer have been revised and are reprinted in this month's " Test Pilot" (p. 134).

Fiji was misspelled in " Proficient Pilot: Help from Above" (November Pilot).

We welcome your comments. Address your letters to: Editor, AOPA Pilot, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland 21701. Send e-mail to [email protected]. Include your full name, address, and AOPA member number on all correspondence, including e-mail. Letters will be edited for style and length.