December 1, 2002

Baron lite

Peter Bedell's article on the Beech Travel Air brought back great memories (" Beechcraft Travel Air: Baron Lite," October Pilot). I grew up in the backseat of a 1963 D95 Travel Air, traversing the country back and forth between Connecticut and New Mexico with my family each summer. We also went on trips as far afield as Mexico, California, and the southern Caribbean. When challenged as to why he didn't fly a Baron, my father would smile. (I knew it was the four-cylinder engines and 16-gph fuel burn in cruise.)

Peter Schwarzenbach AOPA 1058598
Marblehead, Massachusetts

I read with interest Peter Bedell's article on the Travel Air. Owning the first one sold (TD-2), I can say that it is a marvelous aircraft for two to three people. Four is crowded and reduces range significantly. The aircraft provides decent comfort. From our company headquarters in lower Alabama, we can fly nonstop as far out as Detroit, New York, and Dallas — 112 gallons of fuel at 18 to 19 gph goes a long way. (Longer than the passengers, unfortunately.)

Robert Rendzio AOPA 930350
Daleville, Alabama

Panic and the pilot

I read Steve Ells' article in AOPA Pilot and I wanted to congratulate him on it (" Panic and the Pilot," October Pilot). As an M.D. (U.S.-trained some 40 years ago), I can appreciate its completeness, preciseness, and analytical correctness. As a private pilot (not U.S.-trained!) of some years now with only 80 hours VFR solo time, I helped myself into fog one blue day and experienced the article.

The disorientation started very quickly. After a few seconds I thought, "This is it," and I had to use a tremendous amount of willpower to concentrate on the attitude indicator as I had been taught. It should be stressed that the actual experience is much more powerful than the one under the hood with an instructor.

Nicholas J. Blondeel AOPA 3532775
Sint-Truiden, Belgium

I was pleased that Steve Ells' article discussed psychological and neuro-biological factors affecting general aviation operations; it's certainly fertile ground for discussion, and is generally not discussed in the press. However, as a neuroscientist myself, and as the former science editor of a general neuroscience magazine, I think that the article conveys an erroneous impression about cognitive styles and decision making.

My main criticism of the piece is that it betrays a strong bias in favor of the field-independent cognitive style. Emotion in the brain is not strictly involved in qualitative response to sensation. It's not a case of, as you write, "the power of emotion over logic." Emotion plays a critical role in allowing the brain to react efficiently and correctly in situations where information is flawed or partial.

For instance, when your engine starts sputtering and you instinctively enrichen the mixture and look at the gauges, that's an emotionally conditioned decision. When you think you hear your call sign over a crackly radio and you suddenly become attentive, that's also an emotional response.

Most of the time in aviation, we are better served by emotional responses, which are quick and precise, than by logical responses, which are slow and prone to error.

I think people misunderstand what emotion is and the role that it plays in good decision making. Pilots in particular like to think of themselves as a logical group, reacting in a coolly efficient way to what is actually a very stressful activity. But it's emotion itself that really makes us efficient. Accepting that we rely on our emotions to guide us, and knowing that we can train our emotional responses, holds the key to better aeronautical decision making.

Ashish Ranpura AOPA 1348567
Toledo, Ohio

It was excellent timing that I read Steve Ells' article in the October AOPA Pilot magazine. I'm preparing for my flight review and found this information very helpful. Recently, during a checkride to qualify to fly Civil Air Patrol aircraft, I failed unusual attitudes in the flight exam. Granted, I had not done those maneuvers since my private pilot checkride two years ago, and I was confident I could do them again. I guess the lack of regular flying exercise had taken its toll on my skills, and I didn't do as well as I anticipated.

Anyway, this article helped to quantify how pilots process information, and how I personally fit into that processing scheme. Unusual attitudes, along with stalls, are about as close as I have come to emergencies in my various aviation experiences, except for an in-flight alternator failure long ago. Thanks again for a helpful article.

Bill Palmer
Bethesda, Maryland

Proverbial weather

I enjoyed reading Tom Horne's proverbial weather forecast in the October issue of AOPA Pilot (" WxWatch: Proverbial Weather"). I propose different explanations for two of your proverbs:

"Sound traveling far and wide, a stormy day will betide." The intensity of sound traveling in calm air decreases to the third power of the distance between the source and listener because of its spherical expansion. So, on a windy day you can hear faraway sound sources coming with the wind very well because of this effect.

"Birds flying low, expect rain and a blow." My proposal for an explanation is that most of the time flying birds are looking for and chasing insects. Before a rainfall, insects usually fly very low because they need immediate shelter on the ground when the rain begins. That's why: birds just follow their prey.

Rainer Wendeborn AOPA 3271567
Denzlingen, Germany

I know another weather proverb that was not mentioned, and it works. A turtle will crawl away from a creek when it's going to rain. Next time you see a turtle crossing the road, if there's a body of water behind the turtle, look for rain.

Darrell Crum AOPA 4338848
Palm Bay, Florida

Thanks for another interesting article. Lemme think about that: When your joints start to ache .... All the fluids in our joints are in the form of a liquid, and as you may remember from physics, liquids are incompressible and therefore (at constant temperatures) also cannot expand. Why the chronic arthritic joints hurt before and when the weather turns sour, nobody really knows. One explanation is that an increase in humidity decreases the insulating properties of air and decrease of the joint temperature causes vasoconstriction (constriction of the vessel) and subsequent relative ischemia (localized deficiency of blood) in the hyperplastic synovia (fluid surrounding the joint) in the arthritic joints.

John Hrdlicka, M.D. AOPA 1223788
Denver, Colorado

Overhaul options

Thomas Haines wrote an excellent overview of piston engine overhauls (" Waypoints: Overhaul Options," October Pilot). His admonition that "the type of overhaul is never an easy decision" is particularly true regarding the factory-remanufactured engine. The key is to fully comprehend that a zero-time engine has a new serial number with no record and therefore is zero time. In fact, many used parts exist, though all wearing parts are likely new. The factory-remanufactured engine is put together based on new limits. Could some parts have 10,000 hours or more? It seems very possible considering the age of used aircraft today. Get all the facts and talk to a capable and knowledgeable A&P.

Donald York AOPA 281243
Machesney Park, Illinois


I enjoyed Alton Marsh's article on Decathlons (" Avalanche! American Champion Super Decathlon," October Pilot). I have more than 2,700 hours flight time in Decathlons, more than 1,000 hours of aerobatic instruction, and currently fly airshows in these airplanes. The Decathlon does well all of the classic inside maneuvers such as loops, rolls, hammerheads, inverted flight and turns, as well as outside loops, outside snap rolls, and inverted spins. It has good flight characteristics without any idiosyncrasies and is well built and safe. Spin recovery is quick. The weak point is vertical performance. One vertical roll is about it. It's an excellent tailwheel trainer and will handle a stiff crosswind. For those wanting to expand their flight proficiency and experience aerobatics, the Decathlon is an excellent, fun, safe choice.

William Blank AOPA 372295
La Crosse, Wisconsin

Garmin GPS Map 196

I just wanted to thank you for the great review of the Garmin 196 in the October issue of AOPA Pilot (" Triple Play: The Garmin GPS Map 196"). I've been waiting to hear something about it, and your article sure answered a lot of questions.

Having used Garmins for quite a while now I have no doubts as to its capabilities in the airplane. However, I am truly interested in its capabilities in my car. I have always wished that a manufacturer would design a GPS that was equally capable in the air and in the auto. It looks as if this might be what I have been waiting for.

Dane Pedersen AOPA 1194022
Waynesboro, Pennsylvania

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