May 1, 2007
Rick Durden's article explaining the details and what it was like to check out in the North American SNJ/AT-6/Harvard was the best article of its kind I've ever read (" Taming the Beast," March Pilot). He made me feel that I was there in the cockpit with him. I could almost feel the airplane spin during his first stall recovery attempt. In my opinion, it was an outstanding description in all aspects. My one regret is that I wasn't there with him.
I'm not a letter writer, but the story "Taming the Beast" turned me on. Especially interesting was the ending comment that the SNJ was built for the "Greatest Generation." Mainly because I'm one of them. During World War II we not only flew the SNJ as an advanced trainer, but in fighter squadrons we used them for administrative flights, hood time, and for P-51 checkouts. You had to demonstrate that you could land the AT-6 from the backseat before you flew the Mustang. There were no dual Mustangs then. The AT-6 (T-6 in the Air Force) kept that same role throughout the Korean War. As to the Greatest Generation: I believe the present generation would do just as well under the same circumstances.
As a longtime restorer of old airplanes (mostly Cessnas) I agree completely with AOPA's approach to restoring an airplane (" AOPA's Catch-A-Cardinal Sweepstakes: Beauty From the Inside Out," March Pilot). I learned years ago that the only way to be sure there are no surprises during the project is to disassemble it completely, as AOPA is doing with the 1977 Cessna Cardinal 177B. After surveying a project in my shop, first-time visitors never fail to shake their heads in disbelief and say, "It'll never fly again!" A complete paper trail/accounting of all the pieces is also a must. Keep up the good work.
Thank you for your very informative article about the legislative process involved with the impending user-fee issue (" FAA Funding Debate: Point of Order," March Pilot). Thanks to your magazine, general aviators get a layman's view of how the legislative process works and what they can do to affect it. Members of AOPA need to be informed about this very credible threat to GA and I think you have scored, using the angle of educating the members. The next move is to call the members to action, at the right moment. I saw a letter from Phil Boyer that was very insightful about the timing of writing or calling your representatives on the Hill. Please continue to carry the flag on this issue. If passed, user fees will have a seriously detrimental impact on GA.
I just finished reading " Proficient Pilot: Turbulent Tales" (March Pilot). Thanks to Barry Schiff for sharing his experiences and the advice regarding maneuvering speed. I've been fortunate to experience severe turbulence only once here in Southern California, and one of those very hard, loosen-your-fillings bumps, just after passing through a hole in a line of thunderstorms near San Angelo, Texas. The strange and — in retrospect — frustrating thing about my incident near Mount Palomar was that I should have known to avoid it. After thinking about it occasionally throughout the intervening 37 years, I decided to write the experience down, reasoning that doing so might help me to understand how I could have made such a mistake (to be flying where I was), and to reinforce the knowledge gained to avoid other such experiences. Distraction and complacency seem to have been the culprits.
I read with interest the one of the letters to the editor (" Letters," March Pilot) regarding the article "Safety Pilot: Landmark Accidents: An Inconvenient Departure," in the January issue. The writer's feelings toward the controller are understandable and perhaps even normal. In today's FAA, air traffic controllers are working in a "blame and punishment" culture from their employer, rather than a "just" culture to promote safety. Look at the event from a different perspective before you promote the termination of this civil servant.
In this accident the controller was acting with the best intentions. The controller that day did not show up to work expecting to handle a fatal aircraft accident while on duty. Controllers are tasked with holding the system together after being handed a potentially dangerous situation. You do not hear about the outstanding efforts controllers make on a daily basis to enhance flight safety. In this accident, there were multiple breakdowns that led to the unfortunate outcome. Air traffic control is just one barrier in the safety equation. Safety breakdowns are the product of good people trying to make sense of an operationally confusing context, rather than the product of bad people making errors.
Controllers (humans) cannot be changed with a simple hard-drive upgrade, but are definitely required to make the system work safely. This air traffic controller and others who happen to be unfortunate enough to be wearing a headset at the time of an error or accident have the potential to become the best ambassadors for safety in the FAA.
We welcome your comments. Address letters to: Editor, AOPA Pilot, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland 21701. Send e-mail to email@example.com. Include your full name, address, and AOPA number on all correspondence, including e-mail. Letters will be edited for length and style.
FAA Information and Services,
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