Hangar Talk

The story behind the story

December 1, 2001

The difference between thermal soaring and wave soaring is striking as Associate Editor Nathan A. Ferguson discovered over the Carson Valley in Minden, Nevada (see " In the Lee of Giants," page 78). Ferguson started chasing hawks in gliders when he was 13. He later made the transition to powered airplanes. "Thermal soaring is all work. You constantly calculate, look around, and plan your next move — a three-dimensional chess game," he says. "Wave, on the other hand, is less technical but certainly more awesome, comparable to climbing the highest peaks in bone-chilling cold."

"Being involved with the sweepstakes Bonanza project for the past 15 months has been a lot of fun, and a nonstop education," says Associate Editor Steven W. Ells (see " A Technology Bonanza," page 64). "At first I was afraid that the airplane I'd approved for purchase would, upon further investigation, turn out to be a corroded hulk that had been assembled out of four wrecks and a data plate. Happily for everyone, my fears were groundless."

N14422 and Ells were groundless as they took off and headed east in late September 2000 to Tornado Alley Turbo in Ada, Oklahoma, for the first of many facelifts for the Bonanza. Landing in Tucumcari, New Mexico, Ells borrowed the airport car and drove into town for lunch. "As I stopped, the town sheriff pulled up alongside me and we passed a few minutes talking about all the miles he'd put on the car I was driving. Then the Bonanza and I flew seven hours to Ada without a hitch," says Ells. "That trip was a harbinger of my sweepstakes Bonanza experience. I've met hundreds of people, the Bonanza has always shown off its good breeding and manners, and the finished airplane is a testament to the health and future of general aviation. We've worked together to save another good airplane from wasting away, and everyone who has been involved has benefited. Hurray for general aviation — and thank you, everyone!" The winner will be announced in February.

As he does research for his articles on antique and classic aircraft, regular contributor Rick Durden is continually impressed by the dedication of pilots to their historic airplanes. In preparing this month's story on the Piper Clipper (see " The Clipper Carries On," page 86), Durden was given a patient introduction to the delightful little machine by longtime Clipper owner Vern Johnston, the airport manager at Sparta Airport in Michigan. Durden says that he owes a debt of gratitude to the knowledgeable members of the impressive Short Wing Piper Club who pointed him to the immaculate Clipper owned by Jim Stoop of Belleville, Illinois, which was photographed by Mike Fizer for the article.

"I didn't think that sliding 20 feet into the water at a 45-degree angle would be a big deal," says author Barry Schiff (see " Improving Your Chances," page 73). "That was before confronting an anxiety about emergency water landings that developed when I actually experienced one in 1972. Looking through the 'windshield' of the 'dunker' brought a flood (no pun intended) of disturbing memories from that fateful day." After taking the underwater-egress course, Schiff says that he is more comfortable with the notion of a water landing because his chances of surviving a ditching are now vastly improved. "The short vacation this allowed in Victoria, British Columbia, was icing on the cake," he adds.