May 1, 2003

Heavy lifter

I have just read Thomas Horne's article in AOPA Pilot regarding the Piper Aztec (" Heavy Lifter," March Pilot). I'm the owner of a Piper Aztec C (PA-23-250). I found that this article depicted the Aztec very well. It gives pilots who have not had the chance to fly one a really good feel for the plane. I particularly like how Horne explained the history of the Aztec.

I purchased my 1965 Aztec about three years ago and love it. I bought this plane instead of a 1973 Beechcraft B55 Baron. The Aztec holds more weight and is more comfortable to fly with four to five passengers. I have loaded the nose compartment, tail compartment, and had six people in my plane. I can also carry 192 gallons of fuel with the extended fuel tanks.

As Horne's article stated, most Aztecs have been worked hard and put away wet. As stable as these planes are, it's crazy for pilots not to want to fly them.

I own a wonderful flying airplane that is reliable and trustworthy. I wouldn't want my wife and two children in any other plane with me.

Ray Briers AOPA 1381845
Missouri City, Texas

Grassroots flying

I just received the March issue of AOPA Pilot and really appreciated the articles " Waypoints: Feather-Bed Landing" and " Proficient Pilot: Three-Point Pilot." It's good that you remember the grassroots flying that many of us do.

As an engineering manager I understand computers, GPS, and man-machine interface, but I do not fly into New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles. I do not fly a Learjet, twin Beech, or Saratoga; most of my time is in my Dad's Piper J-3 Cub (yes, he is still flying them at age 83) or in my Super Cub.

Thanks for keeping us informed, those of us whose runways change color with the changing of the seasons.

Bob Stewart Jr. AOPA 1184378
Erie, Pennsylvania

I just want to congratulate you on a great issue of AOPA Pilot for the month of March. All issues are interesting, but March pushed all of my buttons. There were lots of interesting taildragger articles, and just great stuff on flying in general. The article by Bill Kershner (" Coincidences") was great. I've always been a big fan of Bill's. He's taken me from novice to aerobatics, all through his fine writing.

Keep up the great work. I'm proud to be an AOPA member.

Howie Burch AOPA 4135310
Kinnelon, New Jersey

IFR and out of date

Congratulations to Steven W. Ells on the instrument training he has completed and the great article on Professional Instrument Courses (PIC) in AOPA Pilot (" IFR and Out of Date," March Pilot).

I am a 55-year-old retired surgeon who has been a private pilot since the late 1970s. I had flown little from 1980 to 2001 because of my demanding professional and family life. After my retirement a year ago, I regained my currency and decided to pursue my instrument rating.

My instruction was obtained locally in the Minneapolis area, and I was taught by some nice and experienced instructors. However, there had been little to no organization to my instrument training, and I felt I was having trouble tying it all together before the instrument checkride.

In January 2003 I took nine days of training with PIC to help me pull the loose ends together before I attempted my checkride. I felt that what I paid PIC may be the best money I have ever spent for aviation training. Peter Dogan's book is excellent, and the PIC workbook is succinct, well written, and organized — and it has truly passed the test of time and served many instrument students well. And, my PIC instructor was a wonderful match for my personality and chemistry and, I suspect, will be a longtime friend.

John Overton AOPA 4253808
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Feather-bed landing

As chairman of the board of trustees of the Waco Historical Society in Troy, Ohio, I have been following the progress of the AOPA Waco with special interest. But what really caught my eye in the March issue was Thomas Haines's "Waypoints" article (" Waypoints: Feather-Bed Landing," March Pilot).

The name Don DeRuiter jumped off the page at me. A few summers ago I was determined to get my seaplane rating. I saw Don's ad in an aviation-related newspaper, gave him a call, and reserved some time. I flew my Cessna 210 up to Cadillac [Michigan] and pu$ myself in DeRuiter's able hands.

For the rating, I flew the same 90-horsepower J-3 Cub Haines flew, equipped with floats. DeRuiter is an excellent instructor, firm in his decisions and clear in his expectations. Like all students on the receiving end of instruction as good as his, I found the checkride to be easier than the lessons.

It was a couple of days of pure flying fun and a terrific memory. After getting my endorsement, I was preparing to fly back to my home field. In the flight school office, I was lamenting the fact I hadn't had a chance to get a picture of the Cub. DeRuiter got up and removed his own picture of the airplane from his wall and gave it to me. It still sits on my mantel.

Marla Simon Boone AOPA 789368
Covington, Ohio

Three-point landings

Well, I'll have to give Barry Schiff credit, he sure doesn't dodge the contentious subjects. His article " Proficient Pilot: Three-Point Pilot" in the March issue will undoubtedly bring forth all manner of comment, and here's mine.

On this subject, I really do think the FAA got it right. To meet the standards for a tailwheel endorsement, a pilot is required to show proficiency in three-point landings, wheel landings (if approved in the aircraft type), and crosswind landings. I am a firm believer that those who fly tailwheel aircraft should be proficient at both wheel- and three-point landings. Schiff refers to World War II fighter pilots performing wheel landings, but failed to note the reason they use this technique, which is better visibility over the nose. Crawl into a Mustang in the three-point attitude, and tell me what you can see out front. The answer, of course, is cowling.

The application of the wheel landing isn't relegated to those few pilots privileged to operate World War II fighters. When operating off-airport, or in confined areas, visibility over the nose is critical. If your landing area is sprinkled with rather large rocks or logs, or there's a 30-degree dogleg in the middle of your 15-foot-wide landing zone, being able to see over the nose of your Cessna 185 is pretty important. For us short guys, wheel landings are the only answer in these circumstances.

My advice to folks who I check out in tailwheel airplanes: Work to become proficient in both types of landing, learn where each is most appropriate, choose the one which works best for you in that airplane and that circumstance, and use what works best for you. Thanks for bringing up this rather contentious subject. It's always good for a debate.

Michael Vivion AOPA 604565
Fairbanks, Alaska

Sky artist

I'm writing to tell you that I enjoyed Alton Marsh's article on skywriting (" Sky Artist," March Pilot). I was taught to fly by an instructor named Tom Murphy. Tom was the skywriter for Pepsi, I believe, right after World War II ended.

When Robert F. Wagner Jr. won the New York City mayor's election, Tom took to the skies and wrote "Wagner" in script. When the photo appeared on the front page of the New York Daily News we took a ruler along the letters and you would think he had lined paper in the sky. It was a job of perfection.

Tom passed away a few years back and is sorely missed, but to this day I can hear his gentle voice guiding me along the skyways.

Ed McDermott AOPA 4627803
Smithtown, New York


I was thrilled to read Ray Jakubiak's article on Oliver Boyd Clow (" Pilots: Oliver Boyd Clow," March Pilot). I am a flight instructor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the name of Clow's airport, Clow International, has always been a humorous topic for all of us down state! I enjoyed learning how the airport developed and how the name of the airport was decided upon. The timing of this article was perfect, as one of my instrument students and I were recently practicing cross-country planning and we used Clow International as our destination. I am going to post a copy of this article in our ready room so that everyone can learn just how the airport got its name.

Thanks for a wonderful article honoring a GA legend.

James David LaRocca III AOPA 3516905
Savoy, Illinois


In " The Next Step," a feature story on earning a type rating in the April issue, Pilot erroneously reported that Pan Am International Flight Academy and SimCom, its business and general aviation division, do not use Level C and D simulators. In fact, SimCom utilizes full-motion Level C simulators for training in a variety of business jets. Flight training devices with high-fidelity visual systems are used for turboprop and piston training. The academy also offers type rating training in Level C and D simulators for numerous jet and commuter airline models. Pilot regrets the error.