September 1, 2004

Into the valley of fire

I just finished reading " Into the Valley of Fire" in my July issue of AOPA Pilot. What a fantastic story by Patrick R. Veillette. Two things: First, thanks to Patrick for flying such risky and important missions. Second, he left out the most important part: Was it a passing checkride? I certainly hope so.

Marty Blaker AOPA 998657
San Diego, California

Patrick Veillette writes: "As for the checkride, thankfully I passed! Ironically, before we could finish the debrief from this fire/checkride, the siren at the fire base sounded and we were dispatched to another incident. We finished the debrief several days later because of the wildfire activity."

Thank you for the July article on aerial firefighting even if it seemed condescending to those of us who have not chosen to fly overloaded, underpowered airplanes on hot days. Certainly the people who choose to do this do it voluntarily, and I think it's a great way to make a living compared to flying a desk in a nice air-conditioned office.

Terry Brisbin AOPA 502842
Mansfield, Texas

Finesse is best

Why do I enjoy reading AOPA Pilot? Because it takes integrity and mature reasoning to know when to reconsider a longstanding practice. One of your writers continues to display these qualities. Barry Schiff's article " Finesse Is Best" in July exemplifies the experience and maturity of a pilot, teacher, and writer. It would have been easier for Schiff to not consider a reader question about using the best angle of climb. To admit the question languished for "some years" before revisiting the question shows more courage than many of us demonstrate. Responsibly testing the variable of the question is also an interesting extension of a teacher. My compliments to Mr. Schiff for completing two major tasks for all pilots and soon-to-be pilots. He answered a question from his perspective and observation, and he did not let a "silly" question want for a well-reasoned answer.

Steve W. Smith AOPA 1263751
Boston, Massachusetts

I just finished reading Barry Schiff's article about flying the ILS and not using the rudder to make small corrections. My current place of employment had me correcting for small changes using rudder and it didn't feel "kosher." My training at Embry-Riddle never taught me to do that and when I came home a few years ago and worked on my CFII here, the examiner said to be careful because you can precess the heading indicator's gyro. Well, I found the technique to be OK but I noticed that if I taught students this technique, they would use way too much rudder and it did feel weird. I was taught this by our assistant chief pilot who has some military time, but I have found myself constantly disagreeing with all of his techniques — granted he has 3,000 hours of flight time, and I have only about 700. As I have pressed on, I still find my techniques differ compared to the assistant chief and it's fun to debate over right and wrong. I know that it is good to teach other methods to expand the students' capabilities, but they should be taught the right way the first time — ahh, the laws of primacy.

Mark Kobelin AOPA 1390474
Alta Loma, California

Regarding your point about using the rudder for heading changes, I wholeheartedly agree. For years I have answered such inquiries from friends and students with the same answer that you have given in the article. Of course you translate your thoughts into words with a much clearer manner than I could ever muster up.

Denny L. Sun AOPA 924376
Buena Park, California

Mr. Schiff's observation that a single-engine aircraft cannot be landed safely when an engine fails at V X would be contested by many pilots. At the 50 knots that he reported after recognition of engine failure, the airplane was already near a speed safe for landing (providing a few notches of flaps were pulled). Pushing the nose over heavily to try to reach best-glide speed prior to landing could be considered by many to be poor technique, and the use of flaps to reduce stall speed (easier done with manual flaps) was never mentioned.

Terry Van Blaricom AOPA 1388715
Sherman Oaks, California

Details, details

Permit me to make a comment concerning " Details, Details" (July Pilot). Like most pilots, I was taught to sump the fuel system during the preflight inspection, but to my surprise I have found that sumping after the flight is much more effective in removing contaminants. Having sumped fuel systems thousands of times during preflight I was surprised to find, quite by accident, that this is of very limited value.

I had purchased an aircraft where the auxiliary tanks feed into the main tanks, which in turn feed the engine. I had carefully sumped the fuel system, four tank drains, a belly drain, and a gascolator and found no contaminants anywhere. However, there was a stain near the drain for one of the auxiliary tanks. This tank was emptied of all usable fuel during the flight.

Immediately after the flight when I drained the remaining, unusable fuel, I found that it was contaminated with rust, crud, and water. I then poured some clean avgas into that tank and drained it again. This resulted in flushing out a surprising amount of additional rust, crud, and water. Observe what happens when you drain a bathtub or a sink. Neither the dirt at the bottom nor the flotsam on top of the water will be drained out until the tub is nearly empty. (The reason for this is that the component of the fluid velocity toward the drain is very small until the tub is nearly empty, at which time it increases greatly.)

John G. Lawton, AOPA 143108
Seville, Ohio

Liberty XL2

I enjoyed reading the article on the XL2 (" Liberty XL2: Give Me Liberty," July Pilot). I love the idea of the FADEC fuel control system. The picture on page 68 reminded me of an aircraft I flew in the military. It had "gun bay doors" that opened and looked about the same as the XL2 with its doors open.

Unfortunately the military aircraft (the old T-33) was uncontrollable if one of those gun bay doors opened in flight. There was an emergency procedure involved to try to get it to close, but the rumor among the pilots was that it was uncontrollable if the door(s) opened in flight or upon rotation for takeoff.

Edward Pekowski AOPA 669976
Lubbock, Texas

Think Canada

I had to laugh (not chuckle) when I read the " Think Canada" article in the "Answers for Pilots" section of the July issue of AOPA Pilot.

I have made a half-dozen or so flights to Canada. Try as I might to do things according to the rules, there was always something that a U.S. Customs agent found that I did not do correctly and they threatened to "throw the book at me."

Unlike the pilot in the article in AOPA Pilot whose plane was seized and whose wife was arrested by Canadian customs agents, I have never had any problem clearing customs in Canada. I have to admit that all of my "close encounters of the third kind" with U.S. Customs came before the wonderful AOPA Online Web pages that are available today.

I am planning a flight to Alaska this fall. I will do my best to figure out if I can overfly Canada and never leave the United States just to avoid another harassment by Customs.

Here is the point. Legal U.S. citizen private pilots trying to abide by, but unknowingly failing to obey, the law are being hit with $5,000 (and in some cases, more) in fines when crossing the border into their own country. Is there something wrong with this picture?

Donald H. Lambert AOPA 945084
St. Johnsbury, Vermont

Pilots: Richard Bodycombe

Let's get something straight once and for all. The U.S. Air Force was not established until 1947, so please inform everyone at AOPA Pilot to read the following from Air Force Magazine, especially the author of your last issue's tribute to the pilot displayed on the last page (" Pilots: Richard Bodycombe," July Pilot): "I can tell you that the U.S. Army Air Corps existed until 1947. When the U.S. Army Air Forces was established in June 1941, the Air Corps was subordinated to it. Personnel of the AAF were still assigned to the Air Corps; hence, most paperwork said Air Corps. Disestablishing the Air Corps required an act of Congress and that didn't happen until Congress passed legislation to create the U.S. Air Force on Sept. 18, 1947." That's a matter of record. There's no debate.

Thomas Thomson AOPA 91975
Tulsa, Oklahoma


The answer to question 14 in the August edition of AOPA Pilot in "Test Pilot" was inadvertently and incorrectly edited to imply that the altimeter hands vibrated. A vibrator attached to the instrument case prevented the hands from sticking. AOPA Pilot regrets the error. — Editors

We welcome your comments. Address your letters to: Editor, AOPA Pilot, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland 21701. Send e-mail to pilot@aopa.org. Include your full name, address, and AOPA number on all correspondence, including e-mail. Letters will be edited for length and style.