Hangar Talk

The story behind the story

July 1, 2005

When longtime pilot and author Richard Axelrod went to a warbird owners awards dinner, he was struck by the diversity of the people present. He decided to find out what, if anything, they had in common. Traveling around the country, it did not take long for him to find the answer: passion. The owners he met did not hesitate to describe themselves as "warbird nuts" and "bordering on the obsessive" and offer other pronouncements of deeply held emotions. The owners' feelings about their airplanes are the subject of Axelrod's article, " Flying With Passion," on page 81.

Not all information comes from press conferences, as was reiterated for AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton K. Marsh when covering the ninetieth birthday celebration in Atlanta of Gen. Paul Tibbets, commander of the first airplane to drop an atomic bomb on Japan (see " An Air Show for the General," page 84). There are things gleaned from watching, or from whispered comments of, those involved. First was the general's sense of duty. Tibbets arrived in Atlanta in a wheelchair, looking frail, but on the big day he walked to the microphone again and again to make speeches or blow out birthday candles. His former Boeing B-17 crewmates became his crew again (only one of them had been on the mission over Hiroshima), laughing at the dangers and hardships suffered in Europe before Tibbets was transferred to the Pacific Theater. "Many of us were successful in later life because of him," one former B-17 crewmember confided to Marsh. "He saved my life many times, including when we nearly collided with another bomber in formation," said another.

For more than 30 years Dr. Ian Blair Fries has treated patients injured in vehicular accidents. "As an orthopedic surgeon I see too many injuries that could have been prevented by proper use of restraints," he says (see " Proper Restraints," page 97). Fries serves as co-chairman of the AOPA Board of Aviation Medical Advisors and is on the AOPA Air Safety Foundation board of visitors. He is a senior aviation medical examiner. Fries soloed in 1975 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, in a Cessna 150. "The runway was so long I could land and take off three times in a straight line and so wide I never had to attempt crosswind landings," he says. He flies a Socata TBM 700, occasionally copilots a Learjet 35, and has since learned to land in a crosswind.

"I have great respect for thunderstorms. Always have," says AOPA Air Safety Foundation Executive Director Bruce Landsberg. "Whenever I'm bumping along at 8,000 to 10,000 feet in cumulus clouds, there is always that wistful feeling that if the aircraft were capable of going a bit higher I could see the buildups and thus more flights could be completed." But as Landsberg discusses in " Safety Pilot Landmark Accidents: Midlevel Mayhem," page 66, that's only partially true. Just as an instrument rating can get a pilot much deeper into a marginal situation, so, too, does a high-flying aircraft. His personal experience flying Cessna pressurized and turbo 210s made it abundantly clear that, unless you can get to high flight levels, the thunderstorm situation requires a lot of judgment and a cautious approach.