March 1, 2001

Helio Courier mystique

I have loved the Helio Courier (" Helio's Macho Machines," January Pilot) since the first day I saw it, and have been fortunate to work around them and with them for about three years. The tricycle-gear Helio that Thomas A. Horne flew was in for repairs at JAARS (formerly Jungle Aviation and Radio Service) maybe two years ago; I though it was the oddest-looking thing.

I have about three hours logged in the Helio officially, one hour in an HT-295 and the other time in an H-391 — the only H-391 produced; it was Helio S/N 001, made in 1954. I have traveled to airshows in it and have done the narration part of the JAARS Helio Courier STOL demo flight. It has been one of the greatest thrills of my life.

I operate a 900-foot airstrip about 60 feet from my back door that JAARS uses to train its missionary pilots. It's a lot of fun to sit in the shade of a big oak tree and watch the show. I also have a Web page about the Helio ( http://members.nbci.com/heliocourier/). So far I have tracked down about 30 non-JAARS Helios. I'm always looking for more leads as well.

However, I must say that I disagree with you that the tailwheel Helios are horrible about ground looping. They are prone to ground loop only if you don't stay with the airplane, as is the case with any other tailwheel airplane.

Nathan Mackey
Heath Springs, South Carolina

I enjoyed your story on the HT-295. There are some aircraft that have a magic mystique, and the Helio Courier is one of them. Though not mentioned, many religious organizations used them to get missionaries and their supplies into South America and elsewhere. Their stories would stand up the hair on the back of your neck.

One story I recall was of a short strip hung onto the face of a cliff with a shear drop-off. On short slow approach a Helio Courier hit a downdraft. The pilot poured on the coal and crawled up onto the lip, where it hung broken. The pilots believed no other aircraft could have done what it did. Others would bring in the repair parts so it could go home.

I know that a taildragger is the configuration of choice when working in the rough, but the only reason I'd ever heard to support this choice was for prop clearance. It would seem nice to put some big tires on a trike and not have to worry about having the center-of-gravity issues of a taildragger. Is this just machismo stuff, or are there solid reasons I've missed for a taildragger?

Rick Hayward AOPA 737994
Spokane, Washington

A tip of the directory

I think the new approach procedures database link in AOPA's Airport Directory Online is great! Also, thanks for adding the airport search by area. I used to have three windows open looking for suitable airports for a given destination; now I can enter my criteria and find it immediately.

Terry Leitch AOPA 1381608
New York, New York

First we get good airport info online, then large-scale taxi diagrams, and now free approach plates? At this rate I am expecting that you will buy me a new airplane soon. Great work, and thanks.

Gregory A. McLane AOPA 3417851
Dallas, Texas

Newest CitationJet

I took delivery of our Cessna CJ2 almost two months ago (" Turbine Pilot: CJ2 Debut," January Pilot). We were the second one out of the factory. It is a fantastic aircraft that has exceeded our, and I think Cessna's, expectations. On numerous occasions I have seen more than 420 KTAS and have been burning around 800 pph, or even less. Our biggest complaint is that the aircraft will overspeed in cruise flight, even when running 1 percent to 2 percent under max cruise.

The aircraft takes forever to fuel, but Cessna tells me that it is hard at work coming up with a new filler neck to solve the problem. All in all we are extremely pleased with the new CJ2. It is a big difference from our old CitationJet. Cessna has really outdone itself this time. Thanks for the great article.

Mike Kavich
Nancy, Kentucky

In your coverage of the Citation CJ2 in the January issue, I think one thing needs further explanation. In your cockpit panel photo, there is a paint brush in the left seat map pocket. Is this on the minimum equipment list for the new jet, and what is it there for?

Brian Hershkowitz AOPA 3324487
Pasadena, California

The brush is for cleaning dust off the instrument panel's displays without smudging them. However, we don't believe that the brush is required equipment for flight — Ed.

"Turbine Pilot" kudos

Three huge cheers for the decision to include " Turbine Pilot" articles in all copies of AOPA Pilot. A turbine transition is one that I'm really looking forward to. If the stock market doesn't continue its Y2K ways, I may actually be able to afford the Eclipse I have on order and due into my hands in 2005.

Hopefully by then I'll have the time, experience, and ratings to keep me safe in such an aircraft. But even if this doesn't quite become a reality, I will benefit greatly from the exercise of getting ready for it — not to mention having a boatload of fun.

Kudos on your expanded distribution of "Turbine Pilot" articles. I'm excited about them.

Harry W. Schmaltz AOPA 1330016
Waverly, Pennsylvania

Animal experiences

After reading " Waypoints: Animal Tales" (January Pilot) I was reminded of my task to find others who had close encounters of the wild kind and fenced in their airport as a solution. But at our last pilot association meeting there were concerns about the problems of fencing, in addition to the animal problem itself.

The article offered good advice. Sometimes the simple solution is the best solution — vigilance. Oftentimes manmade solutions, such as fencing, can create manmade problems.

Steven Corwin AOPA 1168091
Montauk, New York

Visual descent points

Thanks for the helpful article on visual descent points (" The Point of No Return," January Pilot). I find it interesting that Julie K. Boatman used the GPS 33 approach into Buena Vista, Colorado, as an example. I have flown that approach in IMC three times and it is very challenging because it is out of Denver's radar coverage; it starts at 16,100 feet (Denver's lowest altitude in that area); often requires a descent in the hold at the IAF; requires one or two 90-degree turns depending on whether you start at TERRO; has multiple stepdowns; ultimately loses 8,150 feet to landing; has a nonstandard right-hand pattern for the circle — and, as you point out, has a difficult missed approach procedure.

I flew the approach in VMC before attempting it IMC. I also use it at my FlightSafety recurrent sessions.

George Mandes AOPA 1250390
Killingworth, Connecticut

I recently read your article about visual descent points in the January Pilot. I enjoyed the article very much. I have been searching for a good explanation of VDPs for some time.

I wanted to point out one technical error. In two instances you refer to altitudes at the minimum descent altitude (MDA) as feet above ground level (AGL). The altitudes to which you refer are actually above touchdown zone elevation.

The altitudes at the MDA and at all points along the approach path are a certain altitude above TDZE. Pilots should recognize this fact so they are not misled into thinking they have more ground clearance, especially at the MDA, than is actually available.

Neal Berniker AOPA 979878
Venice, California

Cellular mayhem

I read with interest your recent article and letters on cell phone usage, and I have to write to inform you of an occurrence that I experienced and should be brought to light in the interest of safety.

I was captain on a Cessna Citation en route from Santa Barbara, California, to Phoenix; our route took us over the Los Angeles basin. Cruising at Flight Level 350 and about 15 minutes into the flight, the radios started to become very staticky, and continued for the next 20 or so minutes. We (my crewmembers and I) thought it was a stuck mic, and most of the airliners were confirming a stuck mic. Air traffic control couldn't hear the static nor the conversation that was proceeding.

Over the course of the conversation, it became apparent it was someone in the back of an airliner using a cell phone to talk to her grandkids somewhere in the Deep South. We heard most of her side of the conversation through the static. It blanked out all conversation with ATC for the duration of her conversation, just as a stuck mic would.

I don't know the physics of radio waves, but I suspect that the fuselage of the airliner acted as an antenna, amplifying the waves off of the comm antennas of the aircraft. When she said goodbye and hung up, it became obvious which aircraft it was, because ATC had been trying to contact that aircraft with no reply. Most of the aircraft using that frequency could hear it was blocking out ATC transmissions and mentioned the stuck mic to them, but ATC was unable to hear anything.

Just a word in the interest of safety — use cell phones in flight only in an actual emergency. I would be interested in knowing if NASA has an Aviation Safety Reporting System file of reports on incidents regarding the use of cell phones.

Kent Musgrove
Tempe, Arizona

A check of the ASRS database report set titled "Passenger Electronic Devices" ( http://asrs.arc.nasa.gov/report_sets.htm) shows numerous reports of cellular telephones interfering with navigation and other aircraft systems. — Ed.


Because of an error by the Pilot staff, " High Economy" (February Pilot) contained some erroneous performance data on the Enstrom 480B helicopter. The maximum cruise speed is 130 mph (113 kt) and V NE is 144 mph (125 kt). Its range is 403 sm.

The answer to a question in " Test Pilot" (January Pilot) contained incorrect information about ASOS wind reporting. Both AWOS and ASOS units broadcast the wind using magnetic directions. However, METAR reports sent from the automatic stations to the national weather system report winds using true directions.

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.