Hangar Talk

The story behind the story

June 1, 2006

There has been a major upgrade to air route traffic control center radar displays in the last few years, and better communication should be more the norm. However, as AOPA Air Safety Foundation Executive Director Bruce Landsberg examines in this month's " Safety Pilot Landmark Accidents: Working a Hole," page 82, communication with ATC isn't always that simple, and a thorough understanding between pilot and controller is essential for safe flight in convective weather. The new equipment has limitations; controllers are varied in their skills as are pilots.

"A risk in flying an open-cockpit airplane is losing your baseball cap," says author Barry Schiff of his flight in the Curtiss-Wright Junior ( " Pretty Bird," page 74). "Forget to turn the cap backwards and a buffet of air is likely to wedge under the bill and flip it off your head and into oblivion thousands of feet below." Schiff reports that he had no such problem when flying the Curtiss-Wright Junior. "One does not even feel a waft of air when flying this airplane," he says adding that he experienced "sheer joy" operating this beloved, 1930 flying machine from its owner's pristine grass strip and verdant surroundings in northwest Washington.

"From the time I can remember I wanted to be a pilot," says author Mark Lavenson. "Watching the UH-1 Hueys blowing cut grass into the swimming pool at Fort Shafter in Hawaii when I was growing up looked to be more fun than jumping off the high dive. All the military pilots in the neighborhood had perfect vision and I grew up being told I couldn't be a pilot because I wore glasses. It was later in life, as a fisheries biologist in Alaska, that I realized I had been misinformed. Many of the pilots in Alaska wore glasses. I had an epiphany, sold everything I owned, and enrolled in a flight school. That was 22 years ago and I have never looked back with my corrected vision. I am now a happy poster child for EMS helicopter pilots with astigmatism." Lavenson takes us along on a rescue mission in the California hills in " Lifeguarding Through the Night" on page 68.

"Airplanes are an expensive habit," says Peter A. Bedell, author of " Extreme Makeover — Hangar Edition" page 97, "especially if it's an old twin." Bedell and his brothers, Bill and Rob, have co-owned their father's 1968 Beech Baron since their father's death in 1990. "Were it not for owner-assisted maintenance and a healthy partnership, we would never be able to afford an airplane of this caliber. Since my father died, we have all been very active in the maintenance of the Baron to keep costs under control." Faced with the first engine overhaul to occur on their watch, the brothers elected to take on the task in their own hangar under the guidance of their mechanic. Whatever money the brothers saved over the years was quickly spent completing this double engine and prop overhaul, which also included upping the Baron's power with Beryl D'Shannon's Raw Power conversion. The result is a better airplane and three brothers' renewed respect for the amount of work that goes into a maintaining a middle-age twin.