Hangar Talk

The story behind the story

February 1, 2004

Michael T. Vivion serves as a wildlife biologist and airplane pilot for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, based in Fairbanks, Alaska (see " The Bears of Winter," page 68). When he's not annoying hibernating bears, Vivion devotes much of his free time to aviation endeavors, including conducting flight instruction in seaplane and off-airport operations. He is the vice chairman of the Alaskan Aviation Safety Foundation and the Northern Alaska Field Director for the Seaplane Pilots Association. While Vivion has spent 28 years in Alaska, his airplane, a venerable Cessna 170, arrived in Alaska a mere three weeks after its airworthiness certificate was issued in 1952.

"We always assume that every flight will turn out great. But what happens when it doesn't?" This is the question posed by writer Marc K. Henegar (see " But I'm Afraid of Flying ...," page 109). "Whether it's a training maneuver gone bad, an accident that almost was, or even an accident that was, sometimes things happen that shake our confidence." Henegar has been scared enough to question his life choices. "There I was, at 3,000 feet, my instructor and I watching the ocean spinning in the window. At that moment I didn't feel any training occurring. The only thing I felt was lunch trying to get a better look. I found out how scared I could get in a hurry. Having all of two hours in my logbook at the time, it took me a long time to get over it." We all have spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, relatives, friends, and other people who matter to us who are afraid of flying, Henegar says. He looks at steps we can take to help prevent fear or at least cope with it.

"When I packed my uniform overcoat for a trip in mid-July, my wife was puzzled. Why would I want that for a flight to South Texas in the middle of summer? She hadn't noticed my increased interest in The Weather Channel in the days leading up to this trip," says writer and commercial airline pilot Bill Kight. "There was a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico heading slowly toward Texas and my schedule had me traversing that state from the northeast corner to the southern tip each day for the next four. It seemed a sure bet that my path and the hurricane's were going to cross, and I knew I would need rain protection." Kight reflects on his use of the autopilot to get him and his passengers and crew through the storm (see " Flying Through Claudette," page 101).

The main allure of AOPA's annual sweepstakes is watching the metamorphosis of a well-used airplane. "It's the same with this year's sweeps airplane — a 1965 Twin Comanche," says Editor at Large Thomas A. Horne. "Its status right now may be that of a 'beater,' but in a few short months it will transform into a beauty." Horne hopes so, judging by his tale of a coast-to-coast crossing (see " AOPA Sweepstakes: Win-A-Twin Comanche," page 83). "I got used to the vibration and the out-of-sync props after a while, but the noise from the bad door seal really gets on your nerves after a couple of hours," he says. "I can't wait until spring, when the restoration of AOPA's first twin-engine sweeps airplane will be in high gear. It'll fly far, thanks to Osborne tip tanks, smoothly, thanks to the engine and propeller overhauls, and fast, thanks to its many LoPresti speed mods. I'd like to keep it, of course, but somehow I think the rules don't allow that."