March 1, 2003

Becoming a real pilot

Phil Boyer's article " You're Not a Real Pilot," appearing in the January issue of AOPA Pilot, was "déjà vu all over again" for me.

Last year, after flying tricycle-gear-equipped aircraft for 25 years, I received my taildragger endorsement in a 1946 Piper PA-12 Super Cruiser. I had finally achieved a dream of many years by joining the special group of pilots who fly tailwheel airplanes.

I've flown a Beechcraft V35B Bonanza for many years and have thoroughly enjoyed every flying moment. Flying the Super Cruiser has added a new dimension to my flying and broadened my general aviation perspective.

Boyer's description of his taildragger 7raining experiences, which ultimately led to his Waco UPF-7 endorsement, were very familiar to me.

To those pilots who have yet to follow their dream of flying a taildragger, I say, "Go for it!"

Dan Mersel AOPA 902669
Rochester, Minnesota

I was taught to fly at the Wiggins Flying School in Canton, Massachusetts, in August 1941. I soloed a Piper J-3 Cub; I then moved up to the Waco UPF-7. The airport at Canton was a dirt field with two strips — one 1,800 feet long and the other about 1,000 feet long. The course given in the UPF-7 was called "confidence maneuvers." Today they call it "aerobatics." I remember learning slow rolls, vertical reversements, Immelmann turns, loops with a quarter roll, falling leafs, snap rolls, spot landings, precision spins, and chandelles. We made simulated emergency landings on the frozen ponds. Should anyone complete this course with this marvelous airplane, they certainly can be called an "all-around pilot."

I flew many aircraft during my career in the Civil Aviation Authority and later the FAA, but none could match the challenge of the UPF-7. She rolled beautifully, with those top and bottom ailerons, but a lot of rudder was needed at all times.

Phil Boyer's comments about learning the importance of "dancing feet" interested me. At the time I was learning to fly the Waco, every schoolboy in the suburbs of Boston was given a pair of skates and a stick. We played hockey every day the ice was hard, and skated marvelously well. I believe that is where I learned the rudder control needed to fly the UPF-7.

I loved the story — it gave me many pleasant memories.

Leo Marshall AOPA 522157
Jupiter, Florida

Skyhawk SP flies on

As a former owner of a 1998 Cessna 172SP, I particularly enjoyed reading " Skyhawk SP Flies On" in the January issue of AOPA Pilot.

In four years, I flew my Skyhawk all over the eastern and central United States, logging more than 550 hours. The SP is as capable of flying into Washington Dulles International Airport as it is comfortable landing at Mackinac Island Airport in Michigan.

The 1998 model was pre-multifunction display, so I added a WX-950 Stormscope to the panel. With the Nav II package and the Stormscope, I found the 172SP well suited to the kind of IFR weather Midwest pilots regularly experience.

Prior to the SP, I co-owned a 1997 172R, and I now own a 2002 Cessna 182T. While I am thoroughly enjoying my new Skylane, I believe the 172SP is an excellent balance between payload, performance, and price. It is an aircraft that is attainable by many, and it works well both as a business aircraft for short hauls and as an airplane for pleasure flying. The Cessna Cstar network is very customer-oriented for both sales and service and really makes the dream of aircraft ownership both a reality and a pleasure.

Kevin L. Alexander AOPA 760369
Toledo, Ohio

I just read Nathan Ferguson's article on Cessna's Skyhawk SP and loved it.

I learned to fly in late-model Skyhawk SPs and think very highly of them. They're stable, full of amenities, and the Cessna 172S has a noticeable sprightliness on the takeoff roll compared to the 172R.

Thanks for featuring this great airplane. My hope is to one day take delivery of a new Skyhawk SP myself!

Justin Moore AOPA 4260848
San Antonio, Texas

An extra dash of power

Good article on the MU-2s (" Turbine Pilot: An Extra Dash of Power," January Pilot).

I was an experimental test pilot at the factory for some years as well as a corporate chief pilot operating several MU-2s. I have flown all of the MU-2 models with one exception.

I especially liked Thomas Haines' comment that problems with the safety record of the aircraft are pilot induced rather than aircraft induced.

Right on!

C. Hall "Skip" Jones
Washington, D.C.

Staying centered

I would take issue with the theme of Barry Schiff's article " Proficient Pilot: Stay Centered" (January Pilot) — a theme we have seen several times in the recent aviation press. I offer that instead of "put it in the middle," a better admonition would be to "put it where you want it."

I will grant you that if you are putting a very large airplane down somewhere other than in the middle of something, you may encounter obstacle-clearance problems the designers didn't anticipate. But for most of the general aviation fleet, we are operating airplanes that can just about land 90 degrees to a large airport runway centerline on a day with a stiff wind and still get stopped in time.

It makes a lot more sense to pick the corner farthest away from the side of your intended turnoff and head for it, diagonally across a wide runway. Much has been said against the tendency for pilots to land to the side of the runway that is nearest to the side of the airplane in which they are sitting. This is perfectly normal as it provides much better peripheral vision cues.

We are conducting general aviation flights, not airline or USAF operations, and most of the time our facilities are as good as necessary and no better. Plopping it in the middle doesn't tell you how you will do when there isn't a lot of extra room.

Two cases in point occur in my local operating area, one of which is a small airport that (rather stupidly) parks a fuel truck alongside the approach end of the runway. Small airplanes can miss it easily, but good-size ones could whack it in a spectacular manner if they stuck to the centerline and didn't move well over to the left. I fly shy of the right with my twin because I don't think a Cessna tip tank would look very good stuck into the front of a Ford tanker truck.

Another example is a rather narrow but paved airport that is quite sufficient for Cessna 150s and 172s but too narrow for my gear width. I can put two wheels on the pavement but the offside one has to be well off into the grass. You really don't want to put any wheel into the area where the grass and asphalt meet if you want to avoid the old motorcycle-tire-in-the-trolley-tracks problem. Please note that these are not unusual airports for general aviation.

Getting into the average general aviation airport takes skills that will ensure you put the airplane down within a foot or so from the desired lateral point or you might not be able to and at all. When we come to a big-city airport and are chided for not using the centerline, we wonder what sort of pilot is doing the looking and how he would fare away from all-weather runway markings and miles of well-painted concrete.

Schiff's comment that an examiner should qualify his student by how well he sticks to the center of things shows that he seems to have forgotten that in the airplanes I (and I presume Schiff) learned in, you really couldn't see anything in front of the airplane anyway and all of your landing cues came from what you saw over the side, usually the left side.

Somewhere along the line, some people have come to think that it is OK to transfer responsibility for the operation of the airplane to the person who painted the line rather than the person with his feet on the rudder pedals.

Kerry Kyes AOPA 317872
Bothell, Washington

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