December 1, 2001

Flying the An-2

Back in the early 1980s, in another land, I had the opportunity to fly an An–2 from the right seat (" The Flying Bear," October Pilot). We had a full load of passengers in the back and the pilot asked if I wanted to do some slow flight and some stalls. At the stall we got a definite break and the giant lumbered off into an incipient spin, from which I was able to recover in about a half turn or so.

The pilot congratulated me with a slap on the back, but the folks in back were far less complementary. Incidentally, this particular operator wouldn't go in more than an 8-kt crosswind because of the high likelihood of a ground loop.

Hank Bruckner AOPA 576926
Honolulu, Hawaii

In 1996, I had a chance to fly the colossal An–2 in Budapest, Hungary. The airplane was just as you described it — big, simple, and strong. The air brakes and rudder bar stuck in my mind, as did the "switches" on the center panel. These were circuit breakers if I recall correctly.

The most impressive thing I remember is the aircraft's performance, which is backed up by the numbers in your article. We flew over the approach end of the runway at pattern altitude. Over the numbers, the pilot configured the aircraft and pushed the nose over. We came to a full stop mid-field. Incredible!

Jeff D. Mitchell AOPA 1005420
Leesburg, Virginia

Thanks for the memories! The photos and article sent me scurrying back to my logbook to look for a special entry. From 1994 to 1996, my wife and I lived and worked in the United Kingdom. One week an instructor at the local airport told me that an An–2 would be at an upcoming open house and asked if I would like to sign up for an hour of flying and instruction. She also said that it would seat 12 passengers and that I could bring a few friends along. I signed up immediately and put out the word at the office. On the appointed Saturday, the crowd from the office gathered, a little worse for the previous night's pub activities.

The size of this aircraft is unbelievable. Four of us wannabe An–2 pilots went through the half-hour ground school with a British check pilot and a Russian mechanic. After a short checklist, the thing was off the ground in less time than it took for me to get the throttle home. The instructor was busy with the cowl flaps, keeping that big radial engine cool.

We treated the office adventurers to a rare experience that day, sightseeing over towns like Guildford, Godalming, and Dorking. Landing was as simple as taking off. I just could not believe how easy something that huge with one engine could be to fly.

Gerald Delaney AOPA 1000645
Colmesneil, Texas

Your interesting article on the Antonov An–2 reminded me of the Ford Tri-motor, which by comparison was ahead of its time and also played a significant role in aviation history.

Even though the An–2 was built two decades later, it is outperformed by the Ford. Fords have a useful load of twice the An–2. Tri-motors were routinely operated in and out of short grass strips with 4,000 lb. They even carried 5,300-lb diesel engines into gold mines in the jungles of Nicaragua. Reputedly they would take off with anything that fit into them — I personally carried 26 passengers and their baggage. They did lack speed and allegedly would not exceed 125 mph straight down.

The Tri-motor's story is an interesting saga from its surreptitious origin to its significant role in aviation's sands of time.

David Ohlwiler AOPA 482324
Glenville, North Carolina

Decision making on the go

I thought the article on go/no-go decisions was excellent (" WxWatch: The Rolling Go/No-Go," October Pilot). But I would like to add one more guideline to your list: Make a decision, while you're still on the ground, as to what your minimum ceiling, visibility, or other conditions will be. Then, once you're in the air, stick to it. I'll fly my taildragger cross-country in some pretty lousy VFR weather, but if the ceiling or visibility drops a foot below my minimums, I find a place to land.

My minimums also change, depending on the terrain, the aircraft I'm flying, and other factors I encounter, but they're always established before takeoff. I will adjust my minimums upward in flight if I feel the need, but I only adjust them downward when I'm on the ground.

I also carry a tent and sleeping bag in my taildragger, in case the weather forces me to make new friends and experience locations and hospitality that I would miss otherwise. It helps minimize the get-there-itis.

David Andersen AOPA 1209610
New Ulm, Minnesota

Sudden silence

I read with interest the October Pilot¸article on engine failures (" Proficient Pilot: Engine Failure in Singles"). My experience has given me a different perspective than most — one that has led to many hours of safe flight.

During my instrument checkride many years ago, as I leveled off at 7,000 feet in a Piper Arrow, the prop rpm suddenly advanced, and I saw my left wing turning black with oil. I glanced from under the hood over at the right seat. The FAA designated examiner sat with his arms crossed and evaluated my reaction. The hood came off, I canceled IFR, and I landed at a nearby airport on that beautifully sunny day. The examiner's first question to me was, "What would you have done if the weather was 400 overcast and one mile visibility?"

I love single-engine piston flying in day VFR. I find it as challenging and rewarding as anything in the sky. However, until we develop an affordable single-engine jet, my personal envelope requires two piston engines during night or IFR cross-country flight.

Charles B. Cafaro AOPA 4158814
Hinsdale, Illinois

I never thought the time would come when I experienced total silence in the cockpit. But that day did happen about 10 years ago. My first thought was to fly the airplane and turn back toward the airport I had just departed. Fortunately, I did both of these simultaneously and avoided a certain collision with a fence at the airport boundary. I didn't make it to the runway but ended up in a plowed field just short of it.

This incident forever changed the way I approach flying. I always depart an airport in the direction that will give me the most options if an engine quits, traffic and winds permitting. My approach is always a little steeper than most people are used to. I do get a few looks for that. In both cases, the point is to minimize the risks, leave your options open, and fly the airplane.

Colin Liddle AOPA 1076724
Shingle Springs, California

I am a flight instructor at the University of North Dakota, and I recently had a complete engine failure with one of my commercial students. I ended up putting the airplane on a road with no injuries to me or the student. The airplane was undamaged except for the engine.

I just wanted to thank you for all your articles, especially the ones regarding engine failures in singles. I believe those articles, and good training, played a part in me getting the aircraft safely on the ground.

Mark Dusenbury AOPA 3401490
Grand Forks, North Dakota

The hazards of high flight

As a retired Air Force and airline pilot I think the information presented in " Safety Pilot: High-Flight Hazards" (October Pilot) will be very beneficial for many general aviation pilots. I can't count the number of times I received training in high-altitude chambers, and each time I discovered something new about myself and the effects of the lack of oxygen.

I noted that my tolerance to an inadequate supply of oxygen became less and less in direct proportion to my age. There was a big difference in what I could endure when I was 25 years old versus when I was 55. (This is something for older pilots to keep in mind and a good reason for having young copilots.)

The article is correct in stating that the FAA requires that quick-donning masks must be capable of being placed on the face using one hand, sealed, and supplying oxygen within five seconds. The FAA regulation also states that the certificate holder shall show that the mask can be put on without disturbing eyeglasses and without delaying the crewmember from proceeding with emergency duties, also within five seconds.

I can state from personal experience that it was impossible to don a quick-donning mask in five seconds, with one hand, and without disturbing my glasses. Time after time I attempted to accomplish this task in a simulator, but could not meet the five-second time limit. If I did not first remove my eyeglasses, I generally knocked them off with the oxygen mask. If I first removed them (the best solution) I could not accomplish the task with one hand. I recommend that pilots wearing eyeglasses practice donning oxygen masks in both the aircraft and the simulator. Much better to be aware of the problems on the ground than at Flight Level 350.

Louis J. Martin AOPA 8184626
Apple Valley, Minnesota


The answer to the third question in " Test Pilot" (October Pilot) stated that Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, is the only place name in the United States to contain an apostrophe. In fact, at least one other place name, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, also contains an apostrophe.

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.