October 1, 2005

HondaJet: Behind the Curtain

Thank you for a very nice article on the HondaJet (" Behind the Curtain," August Pilot). Quite often, these first looks sound a bit like Harley-Davidson lovers discussing the number of rivets...or something like that. You gave a bit of history of other efforts, quite painstakingly executed by modern American standards, but typical of others; the example of the Honda Ridgeline, after 20 years of research, was a good one to highlight this point.

Howard Bunte AOPA 1044224
Claremont, California

It is very interesting to read about the HondaJet and Eclipse jet projects (" Exclusive First Look: Eclipse 500 Debuts," July Pilot). I am curious about the market, though. Will insurance companies permit rich owners to fly these single pilot (remember Thurman Munson), or are they intended as corporate or Part 135 transportation? If the latter, I would expect a crew of two pilots (again because of insurance), which would turn these into three- or four-place aircraft. Seems somewhat limited for the money.

It is nice to see new aircraft on the market but I don't see the practicality here at all. Why not buy something bigger with more useful load, because it sounds like two couples with baggage (plus crew) might max out these airplanes.

Dean Chantiles AOPA 498440
Palm Springs, California

With its bulging cockpit and unusual-mounted engines, paint the HondaJet black and it would be perfect for the next Batman movie.

Steve Allen AOPA 811158
Joshua, Texas

Depending on the timing, if Honda was to move forward to manufacture this jet, I think the manufacturer could kick some butt over here.

Patrick DeCallier AOPA 1240428
Indianapolis, Indiana

Bird strike!

Bird hazards have been part of my life since 1981, when we moved to the Newport, Oregon, coast and obtained a heliport on a cliff overlooking the beach (" Bird Strike!" August Pilot). It turns out that the sea gulls love to soar on the updrafts that result from the westerlies striking the cliffs.

Fortunately for me, I quickly learned that the sea gulls regard my Agusta helicopter as the biggest chicken hawk they have ever seen, so if they notice the 'Gusta, they soar away. So helicopters have an additional advantage over stiff wings, in that they can briefly hover on final approach, while the sea gulls clear out, before committing to land.

Unfortunately, a good friend of mine, farther north on the Oregon coast, at Astoria, did not come out so well with his Bell JetRanger. He managed to take one in the windshield of his helicopter, while in cruise, causing him a big problem — the sea gull had an even bigger problem.

C. Norman Winningstad AOPA 223635
Newport, Oregon

I enjoyed your well-written and informative article titled "Bird Strike!" in the August issue of AOPA Pilot. As a flight instructor, I tell my students to think of birds as "feathered bullets." Collision with one or two of these feathered bullets is analogous to flying through gunfire. The damage sustained by the airplane or helicopter, as shown in photos at the end of your article, illustrates this point. Just like hitting flak, the physical damage to the aircraft and pilot can be lethal. If a head-on collision appears imminent, I instruct students to duck under the glareshield to protect their eyes and face. Regarding a bird's response to an impending collision, for almost all near collisions I have experienced over the years while teaching and flying in Florida, birds seem to tuck their wings and drop like an elevator. This seems to be the prevalent panic response. In order to avoid a collision, I teach students to climb as quickly as possible without stalling the airplane.

Mike Banner AOPA 1281885
Gainesville, Florida

TEB for a day

I enjoyed " Pilotage: TEB for a Day" (August Pilot). I recall watching Arthur Godfrey on TV in the 1950s and hearing him sing Teterboro Tower. He is still famous among us old-timers in these parts. Legend says the hit song was the result of buzzing the tower in his Douglas DC-3. There may be more of us who would like to reminisce and read the lyrics. If you have the complete song, perhaps they might be printed in the "Letters" section.

Dwight Staehler AOPA 402191
Somerset, New Jersey

Editor's note: Here's what Mark Twombly came up with for the lyrics to the complete Teterboro Tower, which is credited to both Oscar Brand and Jac Holzman:

"Teterboro Tower, this is Piper Two-O-Two. I'm turning on my downwind leg, my fabric's come unglued. The stick is burbling in my hand, I think I feel a stall, and a bug's caught in my pitot, my gauges don't read at all.

"Now listen, Piper Two-O-Two, this is Teterboro Tower. I cannot raise the crash crew 'cause it is their coffee hour, and you're not cleared in the pattern, don't try a landing yet. Just circle for departure while I mooch a cigarette.

"Help, Teterboro Tower, this is Piper Two-O-Two. I'm sweating out this landing, I don't know what to do. My superhomer's on the blink, and your voice is fading fast. Please clear me on my final, or this flight may be my last.

"Now listen, Piper Two-O-Two, this is Teterboro Tower. I'd like to help you, buddy, but I just don't have the power. The FAA's your only hope, so if you've time to spare, just file a form in triplicate and sign the questionnaire.

"Teterboro Tower, this is Piper Two-O-Two. I'm in Secaucus Hospital and I owe it all to you. I'm sorry that I cracked her up and messed your pretty field. We'll try it once around again if ever I get healed."

Pilots: Skip Stewart

It is truly disheartening to read of a "rising young star" on the airshow circuit denigrating any flight format other than aerobatics (" Pilots: Skip Stewart," August Pilot). The irony in Skip's claim lies in the fact that his position as a FedEx first officer has probably funded his pursuit of airshow fame.

I am a retired Air Force pilot, have flown airliners in excess of 20 years, and strap on my Christen Eagle every chance I get. I've flown faster than the speed of sound and hauled rubber dog s#@t around the world, too. And I'm here to remove any doubt that, regardless of what you might fly or how you fly it, you are a brother to me. Aviation, in its purest form, knows no bounds. The same should apply to those who seek their way into the sky. Skip Stewart's star will surely rise only when he can appreciate the contribution that all aviators make to this wonderful field we love, albeit in different ways.

G. Bruce Hedlund AOPA 415620
San Andreas, California

The high and the mighty

I am always impressed with pilots who exhibit qualities that set them apart from all the rest — such as those with great landing skills and those who consistently execute tough approaches without getting rattled. Yet there are few things that impress me more than when a pilot of the caliber of Stephen Coonts executes, with precision, good judgment (" The High and the Mighty," August Pilot). It is refreshing to read that he, along with other respected pilots, is willing to concede that cloud flying is a venture best left to those who do it frequently, in airplanes that are equipped to handle the treacherous currents an opaque air mass can dish out.

Rod Machado addressed this issue in his July column ("License to Learn: Weather or Not: Is IFR or VFR Better?" July Pilot). For many of us, flying is something we do because it's fun. Flying over an early morning landscape to our favorite breakfast haunt is fun. Flying over glaciers and lakes is fun. But few think that flying into a cloud, with the threat of exiting it with a few less critical parts, is worth the price of the thrill one feels when meeting a cumulus plume at 200 knots.

Doug Atherton AOPA 5200727
Colbert, Washington

I just read Stephen Coonts' article about his decision to sell the Cessna 310. It was as though he was describing what is happening to me. I too have come to the realization that it is time to sell my 310R. Last year it flew about 20 hours and that is just not enough to justify the expense, let alone keep proficient enough to feel comfortable. I too have another source of fun, an Aeronca 7-AC Champ that my wife and I fly every good Sunday to a place called Middlesex up near Rochester, New York. It's a little grass strip down in a valley that slopes to the south and tilts to the east. Great fun, lots of taildraggers, and a café with a veranda from which to enjoy the beautiful view. And yes, this will be the last airplane that I own. Take all my other toys away but don't take the Champ. I may start looking for a Cessna Birddog, though. We'll see. The broker is calling in the morning and it is not going to be easy to pull the trigger on this deal.

Craig Johnson AOPA 299069
Caledonia, New York


In " Field of Influence" (September Pilot), the caption on page 86 identified the aircraft as a United 707. It is a Douglas DC-8. In " Airframe & Powerplant: Worn Out?" (September Pilot) we refer to a Cessna 160; this reference should have been to a Lockheed C-130 Hercules. Pilot regrets the errors.

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