Letters

July 1, 2009

I thoroughly enjoyed Tom Haines’ Goodyear blimp article (“ One Giant Icon,” May 2009 AOPA Pilot), which brought back the memory of my ride as a kid oh so many years ago. It was from the Goodyear base on Watson Island in Miami, I believe on the ship Mayflower. The four things I remember: the steep takeoff climb; looking over to see the pilot’s left elbow parked in the open window as if driving a car; the wince on his face just before touchdown—corroborated by Haines’ description of the challenge in landing; and the crew grabbing the lines and scrambling to tame the gentle behemoth.

Fred Robbins, AOPA 499622
Hopewell Junction, New York

Your article brought back many memories of my own lifelong love affair with airships. One of my earliest memories at age 3 is watching a Navy blimp patrolling the California coast over Los Angeles. My parents assured me those Navy blimps were protecting us from an enemy attack. Just one week later, I was sitting with my parents at a bus depot when panic swept the waiting room as they announced, “Japan has attacked Pearl Harbor.” In confusion, I asked my mother, “Didn’t they have any blimps?”

Sixteen years later I watched the Goodyear blimp Ranger soaring over Southern California, and the display flashed, “Ride the blimp…$5.” I made reservations for two as soon as possible and invited a gal pal to come along. She had never flown and I didn’t tell her what type of aircraft it would be. She was rendered speechless when I led her to the blimp. We had just taken our seats when the pilot turned and invited me up to the right seat. Basic airship controls appear unchanged except for digitalization and, as Haines described, it is unlike any other aircraft to fly. With engines at idle, we floated over Long Beach bobbing like a cork on the ocean.

I especially remember the finesse required in handling the elevator wheel. Over-controlling the elevator results in a track across the sky like a drunken porpoise. Since that day in 1957 I have flown everything from hang gliders to the F–4 Phantom, but nothing has surpassed the thrill of being tossed in the air by the ground crew with engines roaring and that famous 30-degree departure.

Vernon P. Wagner, AOPA 504827
Bakersfield, California

Ending up on top

“Ending Up on Top” (May 2009 AOPA Pilot ) was a wonderful article. Besides a heart-wrenching story, which showed us that we all need to recognize we are not invincible, the closing paragraph of this article was over-the-top great, including this line: “If you don’t make room for the people around you, they’ll move on.” Such clearly written truth! That last paragraph should be reprinted and shared for years to come.

Thank you, AOPA, for printing life topics that matter to us all, whether we want to believe it or not.

Danny R. Schnautz, AOPA 433760
Pasadena, Texas

Thanks for the interview with and article about Beck Weathers. It is easy for me to see why he survived the experience on Mount Everest. When he takes something on, whether becoming a physician, a mountaineer, or a pilot, Weathers is willing to do whatever it takes to be successful.

Sometimes the difference between a winner and a loser is that a winner gets up one more time.

David L’Roy, AOPA 3437247
Euless, Texas

Cockpit Buddha

Thank you, Rod Machado, for the inspiring article in the May 2009 edition of AOPA Pilot (“License to Learn: Cockpit Buddha”). In my recent training toward an instrument instructor rating, my instructor consistently enforced the mantra of always being aware of where you are, where you are going, and what you plan to do next during any flight operation. Machado’s article reinforced this concept of making a constant mental assessment of what is going on in the cockpit. Another point that Machado made that I take to heart is how the so-called enlightened individual has a dominant background awareness of gratitude. I have put this to practice in my own perceptions, with rewarding returns. I have found that by taking stock in what I have gained through experience, I can be better prepared to deal with any situation and also pass on my knowledge. In these slow times in general aviation, I don’t waste time lamenting on a lack of new students, but rather I use what I have gained to inspire someone new to aviation to want to learn to fly.

Scott Schuh, AOPA 1272976
Greenfield, Wisconsin

Wings Field

Great write up of Wings Field (“ America’s Airports: Wings Field,” May 2009 AOPA Pilot ). I have my Grumman Tiger based there. I couldn’t imagine a more accommodating airport to learn at. Their first-class demonstration of safety and efficiency serves as a paradigm for general aviation. It’s always uplifting to see positive recognition of Wings Field and its patrons amidst a constant barrage of opposition surrounding its existence.

Maxwell K. Bassman, AOPA 6545754
Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania

My late dad learned to fly at Wings in 1955 and Wings is where we scattered his ashes 50 years to the day of his first lesson. Wings is also where my two brothers and I took our first airplane rides. My brothers and I remain active pilots. It’s terrific to know that Wings has beaten the airport-closure odds and is still introducing folks to the wonders of flight.

Douglas H. Smith, AOPA 263699
Ellicott City, Maryland

We are regulars at Wings Field, and think highly of the personnel and their customer focus. On one occasion we asked how to get a cab. Airport Manager Tom Dougherty drove us to the house and wouldn’t accept any payment. Another time on a bitterly cold winter morning, I was having trouble starting my engine; Tom ran out to the airplane, asked me if it was my first startup of the day, and showed me how to start the engine; it fired right up. Wings and its people reflect the best in American general aviation.

Bob Fort, AOPA 934477
Virginia Beach, Virginia

The Philadelphia Aviation Country Club is not the last and only aviation country club in the nation. The Columbia Aviation Association, formerly known as the Columbia Aviation Country Club, is alive and well on the Aurora Airport in Aurora, Oregon. We are presently celebrating our sixtieth anniversary. Our congratulations to the PACC on its seventieth anniversary. We are hot on their heels in the race to be the oldest. Its 10-year head start will be hard to overcome, however.

Stan Swan, AOPA 513348
Portland, Oregon

Fuel, flying, and the future

I don’t know where Mark Twombly buys fuel, but at my base airport in Wickenburg, Arizona, it’s $4.25 per gallon (“ Pilotage: Fuel, Flying, and the Future,” May 2009 AOPA Pilot ). Yesterday, I paid $3.99 per gallon at Phoenix-Goodyear Airport. Over the past week, I’ve paid anywhere from $3.39 to $5.59 per gallon.

Twombly asks, “If avgas is so cheap relative to recent history, why isn’t general aviation flying more?” Is Twombly that out of touch with reality? Fuel prices are not that low. And, in case he hasn’t heard, there’s a recession going on with 15 million Americans unemployed.

Fuel isn’t the only cost of owning an airplane. Hangar, maintenance, insurance—are all out-of-pocket costs aircraft owners pay whether we fly or not. The 17 gallons per hour my aircraft burns is my third largest expense after insurance and reserve for overhaul. If you were uncertain about the future of your family’s finances, would you be blowing disposable income on $100 hamburgers or banking it for possible bad times ahead?

Maria Langer, AOPA 1414378
Wickenburg, Arizona

I had occasion to fly into Fort Myers this past winter and was completely shocked when I went online to check the fuel prices. I planned to take on as much fuel as possible for that price—less than $2.50 a gallon for 100LL. I have not seen fuel that cheap anywhere in my travels in quite some time. I am paying $3.90 per gallon self serve at my home airport and full service is 50 cents more. I did a little research and found that fuel prices range anywhere from about $2.96 per gallon all the way up to $7.70 at Hartsfield International (Atlanta). The cheapest was still Twombly’s home airport—he is one lucky guy!

Steve Everett AOPA 01240030
Quitman, Georgia

The response to Mark Twombly’s article propelled him to write a second column (see “ Pilotage: The Price of Fuel,” June 2009 AOPA Pilot).—Ed.

Erratum

The speed of sound through the atmosphere varies primarily according to the temperature (and to a far lesser extent the density) of air, and not by altitude. In Vincent Czaplyski’s article “ Turbine Pilot: Machmeter Matters” (May 2009 AOPA Pilot ) his reference to altitude was not meant to imply that the speed of sound varies because of altitude, but only that air temperature normally changes with altitude and therefore the speed of sound usually varies accordingly.

Thanks to reader Jon Long, president of Long Aviation Inc. & JCL Aviator Inc., for pointing out that certain jet aircraft routinely exceed critical Mach while maintaining a Mach speed less than M MO. AOPA Pilot regrets any confusion.

We welcome your comments. Address letters to: Editor, AOPA Pilot, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland 21701. Send e-mail to pilot@aopa.org. Please include your full name, address, and AOPA number on all correspondence, including e-mail. Letters will be edited for length and style.