August 1, 2003
As a former T-37 ITI (instrument trainer instructor) with the U.S. Air Force's UPT (now known as SUPT) program, I can't tell you what a pleasure it was to read Julie K. Boatman's article " Top Sun" in the June AOPA Pilot. Reading it, I realized both how much has changed and yet how much has remained the same. And, showing the article to my wife, it was gratifying to hear her say so often, "You've told me about that!" (As if I would ever mislead her. Sheesh....) Thanks for the update.
Thom Flynn AOPA 2089237 Orlando, Florida
I was very pleased to see Julie K. Boatman's article on USAF SUPT. As a former USAF fighter pilot and T-37 instructor pilot, I must say the article captured much of the intensity that is SUPT. As a civilian I am a pilot for Delta Air Lines, a CFI, and very involved with the Civil Air Patrol (CAP).
You may be interested to know that the CAP has a Cadet National Activity, known as the Air Education and Training Command Familiarization Course, that allows CAP cadets and CAP senior member officer staff to experience SUPT firsthand. The program is conducted by USAF Reserve officers and is held at Columbus AFB in Mississippi and Laughlin AFB in Texas. I have been working the Columbus program for 14 years and can honestly say that it is the closest you can get to pilot training without being a SUPT student.
Richard Augur AOPA 2279483 Barnardsville, North Carolina
Steven B. Wallace is obviously a very loving father (" Fathers and Sons and Airplanes," June Pilot). A lucky guy, too. Just shows that an airplane is one more way for "bonding" to occur. Although I've never had a son to take flying, I've had the opportunity to take kids up and see nothing but ear-to-ear smiles. Never had one fall asleep, though!
Alan Jerram AOPA 1170885 Toledo, Ohio
I read Steven B. Wallace's article in this month's AOPA Pilot and I wanted to tell you that it was very eloquently written. The second to the last paragraph is the one that struck me. "He begins to wake up and puts his hands around my neck, the best feeling in the world." When giving joy and happiness to our kids, we get it back tenfold.
Wallace so illustrated the point in his steep turns with his son Baird. I have tried to give my kids an hour of my time before and after work with story-books. In addition, we do lots of other things together as much as possible.
Carl Swenson AOPA 1285075 Westfield, New Jersey
I would like to take a few minutes to say thanks for the excellent article by Thomas W. Tripp, " Riding the Wind" (June Pilot). It was great to see a story in the magazine about ballooning that I can relate to and understand.
I enjoy this magazine but I must admit that I don't know much past diddly about fixed-wing stuff. I always enjoy and understand the weather articles because as a balloon pilot, that is the one thing that can make us or break us when it comes to a safe flight.
I have to say Tripp ran into several crazy things in his adventure. I know of one person who also has set their hair on fire, and that's always a concern for us. Tripp's right, your crew will bail on you if they get set on fire. More often than not, they are the unsung heroes and real workers in this sport. We cannot fly without the crew.
Ballooning is not for loners. Fixed- wing fliers think we are the crazy ones, and I don't understand why they don't get more involved in ballooning. It's less maintenance and upkeep than an airplane, and we can set up nearly anywhere we have permission and drift away!
Landing can be interesting as well. I always tell people that sometimes we land like a cotton ball and sometimes we have to land like a safe. Sometimes the weather demands we land like a safe to keep from that 300- to 400-foot drag by "wild horses," as Tripp stated in his article.
I, for one, am proud to be an aeronaut. I started crewing in 1989 and got my certificate in 1998. At 50 years of age, one regret I have is not paying attention to aviation things earlier in life.
Bob Walker AOPA 1825327 Carlsbad, New Mexico
The photos accompanying Thomas Tripp's article on ballooning, while beautiful, are not from our training.
The photo of the inflation reminds us of those conundrums found in the comic section of the newspaper titled "What's wrong with this picture?"
As I'm sure Tripp would tell you, as would any student who has graduated from our school, pilot and all crew should wear long sleeves of nonflammable fabric, long hair should be restrained, and only shrouded fans should be used.
Brent Stockwell AOPA 818451 Chief Pilot, Balloon Excelsior Oakland, California
I agree with Rod Machado's advice given to an aviation university student regarding the possibility of getting a tattoo. Machado felt a tattoo would not be advisable to someone starting a professional aviation career ("License to Learn: Questions and Answers," June Pilot).
I am a 46-year-old tattoo artist with a Master of Fine Arts degree. I have been working for the past 12 years at a busy studio in northern New Jersey. I have offered similar advice to young people getting ready to enter a number of different professional career paths. Good judgment in regard to tattoos — as well as aviation — is critical and unforgiving.
I feel a tattoo should have a positive effect on the person receiving it. This should be something undertaken with concern and planning. It should fit comfortably within that person's lifestyle and career choice.
However, in the article Machado tried to justify to his father his desire to get a tattoo. The only reason he came up with was that he had seen a neighbor's tattoo and thought it was cool. Cool was not enough reason for Machado's father.
I am now an instrument-rated pilot. When I was at work one day I happened to be working on a nonpilot attorney. It came up in conversation that I was working toward my instrument rating. He wondered why anyone would spend so much time, effort, and money to do something so hard and dangerous recreationally. I thought of the first time my instructor and I had emerged from IMC and flown between cloud layers. "Because it's cool!" was all I could reply.
Sometimes with things you really love, cool is good enough.
Scott Lowe AOPA 1403668 Butler, New Jersey
Oops! I finally caught an error in your generally wonderful publication. In " This Month in GA," July Pilot, you refer to "Air Force Major" John Glenn. While I have a great deal of respect for Air Force pilots, I believe that you will find that Glenn was a Marine aviator. He did fly with the Air Force on an exchange program during the Korean War in an F-86. He's probably been called worse.
Roger W. Hansen AOPA 0692571 West Chester, Ohio
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