Letters

December 1, 2000

Night shot

I had to wipe the sweat from my eyes and remember to breathe while I was reading " Night Shot" by Carl Pascarell (October Pilot). Any pilot who didn't get a visceral gut reaction from this article doesn't deserve to fly an airplane.

Bill Eburn AOPA 540924
Palm Bay, Florida

I just finished reading Carl Pascarell's article about nighttime carrier landings. There aren't too many articles that keep me so "in the moment" that I can't put them down, but Pascarell did it. I couldn't put it down until he was back on the carrier, safe and sound. My palms were pretty sweaty when I finished the article. I'll never have the opportunity to land an aircraft on a carrier, day or night, but I have always had a great appreciation for those who do, and now that appreciation is even greater.

Mike Baker AOPA 1384062
Cincinnati, Ohio

Carl Pascarell's "Night Shot" was extraordinarily well written—if not slightly overwritten—and a tasty morsel to digest for this old salt. He has the potential of becoming a great author. His colorful prose and detailed, accurate description of night flying off an aircraft carrier left nothing to desire except more. Memories of my 60 night-attack missions in Douglas Skyraiders (AD4NLs) off the straight flight deck of the USS Essex during the Korea "conflict" were resurrected by the wonderful read.

As a rear-seater in the Able Dogs, my experiences night flying were always salted with an overdose of adrenaline, and to this day I still seek anything that can equal the rush. One recovery was in the dead of night in winter hail while Mother Essex pitched, rolled, and yawed in semi-heavy seas of the Sea of Japan off the coast near Wonsan Harbor. We had been hit with a 40-mm and had immediately dropped our landing gear thereafter because we were losing hydraulic pressure. Without flaps for recovery we approached a little hot. We were truly in popeye weather (couldn't see), and I had to steer my pilot over the fantail with the APS-31 radar. It was a choice between that and ditching in the lethally cold sea. I had to mentally allow for the slant of the radar to report "over the fantail" and that was a loose calculation—or guess, if you will—at that. No meatball in those days. Just the LSO and his wands—if you could see him—against the chilling wind and bobbing ship.

We waved-off on our own at the first attempt, but made it to the deck on our second. Feeling the shoulder harnesses dig into my collarbones was the greatest feeling I've experienced. No angled flight deck; just other aircraft spotted forward on the deck, loaded for bear and the upcoming daylight missions. We caught the number-three wire and, as we taxied past one more of the 13 wires, our engine quit from fuel starvation.

Imagine almost 60 more night-flight missions off an aircraft carrier almost as harrowing, and you'll have somewhat of a perception of flying combat in naval aviation.

Thomas Thomson AOPA 091975
Tulsa, Oklahoma

Good old days

My hat is off to Stephen Coonts for articulating, so succinctly, the why and wherefore many of us fly—even if it is for a $50 hamburger (" The Good Old Days," October Pilot). Thanks, Stephen.

Bob Demming AOPA 862671
Lake Wales, Florida

Long, hot summer

Let me tell you about "our" summer. I am a volunteer firefighter and also a rural fire commissioner. One Tuesday in October, we were called to Newton County, Texas, to help with a woods fire that had been burning out of control for five days. On this day, a cold front had moved in to really set the world burning. We were in "big timber," 24 to 28 inches in diameter and 80 to 100 feet tall. This is completely unlike the terrain shown in " Long, Hot Summer" (October Pilot).

I have seen rotorcraft drop water loads of up to 2,000 gallons, but I cannot believe what the tankers described in your article can accomplish. Over the noise of five pumping fire trucks I heard the distinct props of a Beechcraft. I looked up and saw a Baron doing things through the smoke and fire that made me wonder if we also were going to have to contend with an airplane crash. The pilot made a duster turn and reversed direction (at 300 feet agl) for another pass. About five minutes later, I felt my fire engine begin to vibrate. I looked up and there was that Baron, with a four-engine transport 100 feet on its port wing at maybe 200 feet agl. They made unbelievably accurate drops to give us the time to extinguish some houses.

Without the help from these pilots and crew, we would not have been able to extinguish the fire. On behalf of all the firefighters that were on the scene, thank you.

Steve Seale AOPA 741055
Jasper, Texas

Michael Maya Charles in his fascinating story "Long, Hot Summer" lists many aircraft types being used for firefighting by dropping retardant. I was surprised to find no mention of the Douglas A–26 Invader aircraft. One such fleet is based in White Horse, Yukon, Canada. This powerful former medium bomber was built for the U.S. Army Air Corps in the mid-1940s and nearly 60 years later is still dropping "bombs," this time to battle forest fires.

Alan Bossinger AOPA 432630
Monroe Township, New Jersey

Cell phone phobia?

I thoroughly enjoyed John Yodices' " Pilot Counsel: Cell Phones and Flying" (October Pilot) . I chuckle every time this subject comes up because it points out to me how backwards our FAA and FCC can be.

In addition to my U.S. pilot certificate, I hold a pilot license in New Zealand. In New Zealand airborne use of a cell phone is required in case of radio failure in IFR conditions. If the radio fails down under while IFR, you simply call ATC (the numbers are listed in New Zealand's aerial publication) and continue on the flight. How much simpler our IFR lost communications procedures would be if our regulators would allow us the same common-sense solution!

The only enforcement action I ever heard the FCC take was a fine against Howard Stern for using words on the radio that have become common fare; I would be quite interested (and surprised) to learn if in fact there has ever been a single enforcement brought against anyone for using a cell phone in an airplane.

Thomas W. Tripp AOPA 1346500
Tequesta, Florida

"Pilot Counsel: Cell Phones and Flying" was timely and informative. However, the writer missed an opportunity to plug the value of a cell phone in certain emergency situations. While most areas we fly over are populated, it is still possible to go down in areas where a cell phone could be instrumental in getting early needed assistance. The cell phone or handheld radio will compliment a small survival kit. I will spare you my story, but trust me—it pays to be prepared.

Gerald Hurst AOPA 1355285
Jacksonville, North Carolina

Yodice stated that he had never heard of a problem using a cell phone in an aircraft. I never had a problem when using it to obtain IFR clearances at an uncontrolled field. However, one afternoon at a controlled field, at runup we had a fouled plug we could not clear. I contacted ground control and told them we had to taxi back. My passenger made a call on the cell phone to tell the party expecting us at the destination of our delay. At that time the radios were full of static. It took a few seconds to guess that the cell phone might be the problem. When I reached down and pulled the plug on the passenger's headset the static was gone.

That's the good news. The bad news was that ground was frantic. Ground had given a new hold short instruction which I had not heard for the static. Luckily I heard and responded before crossing.

Later we found that using the cell phone with the headset active blocked out the radio reception. It only occurred while the phone was very close to the headset. I haven't experimented to determine if this is peculiar to my equipment. I just am more careful if it's used in the aircraft on the ground.

Michael S. Lane AOPA 1084443
Port Orange, Florida

Avoiding bird strikes

Rick Phillips' skills required to safely land the Cessna 210 crippled by a bird strike (" Never Again: Buzzard at 12 o'clock," October Pilot) might not have been needed had his first instructor counseled him on avoiding bird strikes.

Phillips saw the buzzard way out in front of him riding on a thermal and thought that he and his airplane would pass just underneath it. The buzzard was soaring peacefully at best-glide speed, not far above a stall, and was startled by a threat approaching at around 250 feet per second. The buzzard didn't have time or enough information at that point to calculate a closest point of approach or a most effective evasive action. It couldn't climb or alter course significantly. It did what every soaring bird seems to do when confronted with a threat; it dove. The dive gives it a rapid increase in airspeed and maneuverability and the most distance from the point of threat.

Even the bird with high wing loading, like a duck or a goose in cruise flight, cannot climb or alter course radically. But they can dive fast and suddenly. Airplane drivers should try to pass above or alongside such traffic.

Bob Gill AOPA 1024808
Woodinville, Washington

Landing a record?

I enjoyed Barry Schiff's " Proficient Pilot: Upon Landing" (October Pilot) wherein he talks about the number of countries and airports he has landed at. I'm not even in the race in that category, but wonder how many pilots have achieved what my friend and I did on June 6, 1995.

Sam Anderson and I landed at 40 different airports in six hours, 41 minutes. We had to bypass a few because of low ceilings and visibility. We departed Salem, Oregon, in a Cessna 172 at 8 a.m., landed at 23 airports, returned to Salem where we changed to my Cessna 180, and departed for 17 more landings before returning to Salem.

Maybe we can start a little friendly competition out there.

Larry Larson AOPA 543735
Salem, Oregon


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