Letters

October 1, 2008

Medically speaking: A second chance

I read the article about Skip Monaghan Jr. obtaining his medical back after his heart transplant (“ Medically Speaking: A Second Chance,” August AOPA Pilot). I congratulate him on this achievement. I know that it wasn’t an easy road.

I am possibly the second heart transplant recipient to renew his third class medical. The article reminds me how fortunate we are. There are very few heart transplant recipients who do that well after the procedure. There are many things that can happen. Out of those who do well, how many are pilots and want to continue flying? We are a rare group indeed. Good luck, Skip.

Stuart Willner, AOPA 493302
Farmington Hills, Michigan

Of all the advances in GA flying made in my 25 years of flying, I don’t rank either the introduction of GPS technology or the availability of the “glass cockpit” as the most important in my experience. The single foremost advance in my opinion was made with the dramatic improvements in the medical special issuance procedures (“ Medically Speaking: Never Give Up,” August AOPA Pilot).

Not only was I subject several times to the three- or four-month waits mentioned in the article, but in one year alone I was issued and reissued four third-class certificates only to have three of them recalled within a short period under threat of court action by the FAA. My long distance telephone charges talking to the top people at the FAA Medical section in Washington as well as the numerous interactions with my medical specialists, taxed my patience and enthusiasm, but I stuck with it. Even after that fiasco of confusion between Washington and Oklahoma City, the same “issue/cancel” treatment returned twice during following years upon my renewals.

Now at 77, I hope that I can continue my “special issuance” health status so as to enjoy the “new” FAA medical certification miracle.

Ralph J. Baron, AOPA 859920
Columbus, New Jersey

In February 2004, my third class medical certificate was denied because of a heart murmur caused by a mitral valve prolapse. During the following 16 months, I underwent numerous tests and corresponded many times with Oklahoma City. I think this was at the height of the backlog. It often took more than a month to receive a reply to my letters.

Finally, on June 19, 2006, I received a special issuance medical via fax. I went flying that afternoon—alone—for the first time in 16 months. The medical was good until my regular AME exam in March 2007.

On February 9, 2007, I underwent open-heart surgery to repair the mitral valve, which had finally ruptured the week before. On August 9, 2007 (the day my six-month waiting period expired), I visited my AME with a three-inch-thick notebook of all the hospital records. He completed his exam and forwarded the file to the FAA. Within three weeks, I was given a special issuance third class medical. The improvements instituted by Dr. Silberman during that time and described in your article were obvious to me. I have just started the process to again renew my medical. I am confident that Dr. Silberman’s changes may result in even faster response.

Thanks for the article—it contains a wealth of information I wish I had in 2004. After routinely receiving my medical certificate for 45 years, the sudden denial came as a shock and I had no idea what to do.

Jim Gates, AOPA 1274289
Redondo Beach, California

Showstopper

The final lines of Rick Durden’s excellent story about Stearmans (“ Showstopper,” August AOPA Pilot) sum up how I’ve looked at airplanes for as long as I can remember. I’ve always thought of them as born, not built, each with a soul and personality of its own. Most airplanes are much like horses or the family dog: capable, trustworthy, and loyal once we earn their respect and nearly all become the objects of great affection.

I am certain each of the four airplanes I’ve owned chose me and followed me home, very much like a cat that has decided it owns you. Even now, after 30 years of flying and ownership, I still take great pleasure in running my hand down the flank of my wonderful Piper Super Cruiser during preflight and never fail to give it a peck on the spinner and tell it what a good job it did before closing the hangar doors. The uninitiated may wonder about my sanity or ask how this fabrication of so many disassociated parts can know or care. I can only shrug my shoulders because I know without a doubt that it does.

Rob Coffman, AOPA 1333912
Rome, Georgia

Typed and tried

Thomas B. Haines’ article on the Eclipse 500 is absolutely, hands-down, the best piece of its kind ever to come out of AOPA, and one of just a handful of really top-quality pieces I’ve seen anywhere in the 40 years I’ve been reading such stuff (“ Eclipse 500: Typed and Tried,” August AOPA Pilot). Among other things, two qualities stand out—it provides the reader with all kinds of information everybody has been wondering about, such as real-world true air speeds, climb rates, fuel burns at other-than-optimum altitudes, etc. And then the gentle but pointed treatment about where the current airplane doesn’t make spec.

It’s an art to be able to write about shortcomings without coming off as sanctimonious, and Haines did that well. The airplane is extraordinary, after all, and when AVIO 1.6 gets certified, there will be simply no competition. I just hope they can keep their financials together long enough to get past this hump.

Pete Bernardin, AOPA 0364063
Seal Beach, California

Saving $4,000 in fuel

I read Thomas B. Haines’ most recent article regarding lean of peak (LOP) operations with a great degree of consternation (“ Waypoints: Saving $4,000 in Fuel,” August AOPA Pilot). As an owner of a 1968 V35A with a factory remanned IO-520BA, I constantly think about this topic. My mechanic tells me that I’m crazy, the factory doesn’t recommend it, Mike Busch says it’s the greatest thing since milk, and even the renowned John Miller (recently deceased) swore by it.

What’s a sane thinking guy to do other than give it a go and hope for the best? My mechanic makes the argument that you’ll end up spending the same amount of money because you’re flying slower and it takes more time. Moreover he constantly tells me that he does more top overhauls on engines that are run lean of peak (LOP)! Anyway best of luck and keep us informed.

John Coleman, AOPA 657183
Huntington Beach, California

Thomas B. Haines responds: I’ve heard from lots of other pilots who are concerned and get mixed signals, especially from mechanics. If your mechanic has first-hand knowledge and experience (not third-party, anecdotal evidence) with engines damaged because of LOP ops—when flown with tuned injectors and full-probe engine analyzers and by a pilot who understands what he is doing—I would certainly like to see that evidence. I hear lots of such anecdotal tales, but never any real proof.

As for his claim that you’ll spend the same amount of money because you fly slower, that’s rubbish. I flew to/from Georgia recently, burning about 12.5 gph over the course of about 7.5 hours. With climb, etc., I probably burned about 98 gallons. ROP at my usual 17.2 gph I would have flown maybe a bit faster—so call it 7.2 hours, so 18 minutes less but burned probably 134 gallons, including the climb. So a difference of 36 gallons, or about $208 at $5.80 a gallon. I don’t know about you, but I’m willing to trade 18 minutes for $208. I see only about a four- to five-knot speed decrease LOP.

It sounds as if your mechanic believes old wives’ tales. Challenge him to show you real evidence that he’s seen damaged engines. Lots of Continental engines have various cylinder issues, but how many can be traced to LOP ops? We’ve flown ROP for years with AOPA’s Bonanza and had many, many cylinder problems, so engine problems are not confined to LOP ops.

Errata

In “ Test Pilot,” August AOPA Pilot, the question and answer to number 10 were incorrect. Several airports share the distinction of being named after an individual. In addition to two airports named for Gen. William “Billy” Mitchell, there are multiple airports named for Charles Lindbergh, John F. Kennedy, Willy Post, Gus Grissom, and probably others.

In “ Showstopper,” August AOPA Pilot, it was noted that the original, Model 70 Boeing Stearman was tested to a load factor of 10 Gs. The article did not mean to imply all subsequent models of the Stearman were stressed for 10 Gs in use. For example, the FAA limited the Model 75 to plus-6.67 Gs and minus-2.67 Gs. Each model must be flown within its published limitations.

AOPA Pilot and the authors regret any misunderstanding.

We welcome your comments. Address 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.