June 1, 1999

Life in the slow lane

Like Stephen Coonts (" Come Fly With Me," April Pilot), I thought everyone else but myself had flown a Piper J-3. So I jumped at the chance when a friend called me and asked me if I wanted to go fly in his J-3 with him. After I put down the phone, though, reality set in. Wait a second, I hadn't flown a tailwheel in 15 years and was currently flying glass-cockpit Boeing 737-300s. Would I be humbled and embarrassed by this experience? No! The Piper Cub did not disappoint. It was a wonderful experience, flying low and slow with the window open. Slipping to wheel landings, it was pure and simple fun, pure and simple flying. Like Stephen Coonts, I anxiously await my next flight in the Cub.

Dean Chantiles AOPA 498440
Palm Springs, California

After reading Stephen Coonts' article on flying the J-3, I can relate to the question of why everyone goes gaga over a Cub. Being a Taylorcraft owner, I think it's unjustified.

The story he told, however, reminds me of the reasons why I love to fly. In these days of GPS, loran, flight directors, and loads of other high-tech and high-priced devices, the simplicity of the J-3, Taylorcraft, Aeronca, and other small planes is a peaceful way to enjoy the true flying experience. Bigger, faster, and more powerful, in my opinion, is not better when you're flying for fun.

Perry Virgin AOPA 1235630
Peru, Maine

"Like a custom Ferrari"

The day became much brighter when I opened the mailbox and saw the Bellanca Super Viking cover and the accompanying article by Marc E. Cook (" Used Aircraft Report: Valuable Viking," April Pilot). I admit some bias in favor of the aircraft, based on my owning a 1972 model for five years, but Cook fairly outlined the nature of this aircraft and gave good advice to potential purchasers.

I have fine-tuned my adjectives about the Viking, and now I just tell folks, "It's like driving a custom-built Ferrari." Two hundred miles per hour true airspeed at 6,500 feet (the earlier Vikings aren't as heavy) tells the story to most pilots. In addition, the purchase price and the reasonable upgrading that was necessary put most skeptics to bed.

Mike Bowers AOPA 737734
Santa Paula, California

I am the owner of a 1975 Bellanca Super Viking. I was disappointed to read that the average price of my machine is only $54,500. I have often considered the low price a lack of understanding about the care of wood. The prevailing fear is wood rot, but these airplanes do not fall from the sky with the main spar destroyed by termites. I recently saw an airshow routine flown by a fellow in a Super Viking — loops, rolls, the whole bit. I did not see any Cessna 210s doing this.

The Bellanca is a great value, considering the low initial purchase price; it does 150 KTAS on 15 gallons per hour, and it is easily flown on instruments. One does have to have it maintained by knowledgeable people, which is true for any aircraft. To me, its main drawback is the lack of cabin width. It gets mighty cozy in there at times. I have never had any type of cooling problems, with the cylinder-head and oil temperatures always in the green. Mine has no cowl flaps, as do the 1979 and newer models.

If I were to win the Lotto, I think I would keep my machine, renovate the panel with new radios and autopilot, repaint it, and keep flying.

Michael L. Walker AOPA 935654
Boyd, Texas

While reading the article "Valuable Viking," I was struck by the comment, "This Italian design ..." Giuseppe Bellanca did indeed emigrate from his native Italy to this country in 1910, but the Viking's design was done and executed here in the good old United States of America.

Mr. Bellanca's designs have been with us for many decades, with his first airplane designed and built in the United States in 1913. He designed and built many famous airplanes of the 1920s and 1930s. In fact, a Bellanca-designed single-engine monoplane built by his company, Columbia Aircraft Corp., was ready in 1927 to cross the Atlantic Ocean in pursuit of the Orteig Prize when Lindbergh made his successful crossing. Bellanca's plane made its successful crossing of the Atlantic only two weeks later, with Clarence Chamberlin as pilot and Charles A. Levine as the first trans-Atlantic passenger.

Bill Pappy AOPA 636171
Gainesville, Georgia

Notable performance

I found Barry Schiff's article, " No Go-Around" (April Pilot), about the NASA space shuttle orbiter to be extremely informative. I particularly enjoyed the specifications that you provided. As luck would have it, I am currently in the market for a used aircraft. The 0-foot takeoff roll and 0-foot takeoff distance over a 50-foot obstacle are just what I need, as I live at high altitude and summertime temperatures are frequently in the 90s. The rate of climb is simply outstanding and nothing in Trade-A-Plane can match its cruise performance. You have to admit that the one chance for landing is not a good selling point, but with that flight director, one should not need a second chance. I'm sure that if I drop a few pounds and leave a few family members behind, the useful load should work for most trips. Unfortunately, the $2 billion price tag is a bit out of my range. Is Rockwell planning a stripped-down version?

Paul Minne AOPA 1283294
Parker, Colorado

Situational awareness issues

As always, I enjoy reading each issue of AOPA Pilot. In the April issue Michael P. Collins mentioned a few thoughts about fuel awareness (" In-Flight Emergencies: What's Going On?"). The sentence, "Many lightplane fuel gauges are hideously inaccurate, although they do provide some information," caught my attention. This comment or similar ones are heard throughout the general aviation pilot corps. I would like to add another one: The magnetic compasses on our general aviation aircraft are hideously inaccurate. However, with our compasses we make compass corrections, and they become accurate. Might I suggest that the same should be done with the fuel gauges.

Of course, this takes a little doing — as does working with a compass rose — to make the corrections. One needs to have a dipstick, so that he can accurately measure the fuel quantity. To make a dipstick, drain all the fuel from the plane. On level ground, add the unusable. Then, as each five gallons is added, calibrate the dipstick as well as the fuel gauge. The stick can be calibrated in any gradation that you want. This procedure will enable the pilot to know about how much fuel is in the tank by observing the gauge with the plane on the ground. However, this doesn't relieve the pilot from using the dipstick before the flight. The dipstick is primary on the ground; the gauge secondary.

In flight, the calibration will be slightly different, especially if the plane is a taildragger. However, it doesn't take many flights to calibrate the fuel gauge so that you know what you have on board as your flight progresses. After calibrating the fuel gauges, one will find that they are very accurate in their inaccuracy.

George Fletcher Jr. AOPA 1353549
Waxhaw, North Carolina

Regarding the excellent article on situational awareness, although there may be no requirement for GPS training in the Private Pilot Practical Test Standards, isn't it true that an applicant for any certificate or rating is expected to be proficient on all equipment installed in the aircraft used for the practical test?

It seems to me that any CFI who sends a student for a practical test without familiarizing him or her with GPS (if installed) is doing the student a disservice. In addition, the CFI's pass/fail ratio may be at risk.

Most of my work in recent years has been in Part 135 operations, and I have not sent a student for a flight test in some time — but I would not consider leaving the (installed) GPS out of the training syllabus, requiring at least the same level of proficiency as for the VOR.

Maybe it's overkill, but I busted a Part 135 checkride years ago because the training I received did not include the autopilot. The designee was not at all interested in the company's explanation that this training should not be required since I would not be doing "single pilot/autopilot" operations. His position was, "If you have it, you must be proficient in its use."

Bill Pfeifer AOPA 365180
Knoxville, Tennessee

Although there is no specific requirement for GPS training, the applicant must demonstrate "knowledge of the elements related to navigation systems," and the examiner may ask the applicant to demonstrate the use of any equipment installed in the aircraft. If the aircraft is GPS-equipped, GPS training becomes a de facto requirement — Ed.

Puerto Rico's secret

You can't imagine what a pleasant surprise it was to see the aerial photo of Rafael Hernandez Colon Airport (" Postcards: Isle of Enchantment," April Pilot). My in-laws live just northeast of the airport, and we visit there just about every year. One of the many reasons why I'm learning to fly is to be able to someday rent an airplane and fly around that precise area of the island. My wife and I truly enjoyed the photo.

About the airport: There is a public golf course that you can see in the picture, and just south of that is a beautiful public beach. Also, I believe that there was an FBO operating there last year when we were there. Chris Hawley was correct in observing that rentals are not cheap over there. I believe that is partly because of high fuel prices.

Vic Goicoechea AOPA 1381517
Olathe, Kansas


Because of a clerical error, a news item about two proposed airworthiness directives (" Pilot Briefing," May Pilot) referenced old information and was printed erroneously. One of the notices of proposed rulemaking (NPRMs) cited in May's "Squawk Sheet" has already become Airworthiness Directive 98-19-02, which requires the removal from service of defective piston pins installed in Continental IO-360 engines. NPRM 97-ANE-42, which was published in February 1998, has not been issued as an airworthiness directive; it involves Superior piston pins sold between August 1993 and April 1996, and installed in Lycoming 320-, 360-, 540-, and 720-series engines. Pins sold after April 22, 1996, are not affected. According to Superior Air Parts, of more than 20,000 pins sold, 35 failed; the last confirmed failure occurred in December 1997. Pilot regrets the error.

An incorrect address for the Aviation Weather Center's Web site was published in "Wx Watch: Searching for Sigmets" (April Pilot). The correct address is http://aviationweather.gov

Because of a typographical error, an incorrect telephone number was published for Renaissance Aircraft (" Pilot Briefing," April Pilot). The correct telephone number is 410/357-5815.

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