Letters

June 1, 2009

Epic proportions

I’ve got a few hours flying the Mousquetaire in the French Alps, accompanied by a mountain flight instructor, and I believe that this activity is really one of the most enjoyable things to do when you’ve

got a pilot certificate. Reading Dave Hirschman’s article on Idaho backcountry flying pushes me to go further this way, and I plan to come to the U.S. Northwest and benefit from the magnificent landscapes there from 500 feet agl (“ Mountain Flying Adventure: Epic Proportions,” April AOPA Pilot).

Thanks for the great article, which is served with wonderful pictures. I’d like to have the magazine cover picture showing the yellow Husky landing above a wood fence—it’s maybe the best GA image I’ve ever seen.

Vincent Vagner, AOPA 6188812
Asnieres, France

Excellent article! It stresses so many of the critical points about mountain flying that too many GA pilots just do not have to consider or think about in their everyday flying. After more than 50 years of flying and some reasonable amount of mountain/high density altitude, it was very helpful and a real memory jogger.

Harold O. Bourne, AOPA 119645
Brown Deer, Wisconsin

Dave Hirschman’s article did more to pique my interest in backcountry flying than any others I’ve read. I’m still a low-time pilot, and have yet to brave any of our terrific backcountry strips, but I hope to get the airplane and the training sometime in the future.

That was really a great video for the article, too. Thanks so much for putting it all together.

Ken Reed, AOPA 3574874
Caldwell, Idaho

Lean of peak savings quantified

I could not agree with Tom Haines more (“ Waypoints: Lean of Peak Quantified,” April AOPA Pilot). It is not lean of peak but rich of peak that has the greatest potential to harm your engine. Rich of peak causes your engine to run hotter and build up more lead deposits.

Sure, I enjoy the fuel savings and the favor lean is doing for the environment, but I’d still run lean of peak if the only benefit was protecting my engine from high temperatures. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not getting your money’s worth out of your engine by throttling back to lean of peak and running a few knots slower. As Haines pointed out, the difference between rich and faster and lean for a 125-hour-a-year pilot is about 4.3 hours. Does that mean you are now 4.3 hours closer to having to replace your engine? It would if Part 91 pilots had to pull their engines at TBO.

TBO is simply the manufacturer’s estimate based upon running your engine at the highest rich of peak end of the manufacturer’s recommended power setting. When you run your engine lean of peak you substantially reduce the heat and pressure your engine must withstand over its life, prolonging your engine’s life. I cannot speak for all aircraft and all engines, but I’m with Haines that the engines in our Bonanzas are served well by LOP operation. I just replaced my 1,700-hour TBO engine after more then 2,000 hours and then only because I bought the airplane with a high-time engine and did not know the full history before my purchase. Many have seen oil pressure and compressions remain high well beyond 2,000 hours.

Tuned injectors, a good engine monitor, and a bit of study will pay big dividends. Fuel savings alone over the life of my engine covers more then half of the overhaul cost.

Ron Calugar, AOPA 5432200
Midlothian, Virginia

I respectfully disagree with the operation of running lean of peak. I am an A&P/IA, private/instrument pilot, and half owner of an M20F Mooney. I have had lots of conversations on this topic with pilots, fellow mechanics, and most important, all of my buddies at the engine overhaul shop. I have run lots of engines, but the guys at the engine shop see all the really interesting stuff.

I will agree that running lean of peak does provide cooler temperatures. Haines stressed that it must be done correctly, which if they must do it, I couldn’t agree more. The thing that most people don’t realize is that fuel also has a lubricity to it. That fuel not only cools the valves, but provides lubrication and cushion.

Yes, you can run lean of peak, but most of the people on the maintenance side of the fence will agree that you will not get the same longevity out of your engine. Whenever I have a customer ask me about running lean of peak, I tell them that I don’t run my Mooney lean of peak, and that fuel is cheaper than an engine.

If Haines gets longevity out of his engine, please let me know. I always like to learn more and hear input about something I might disagree about. Otherwise my company would love to do an engine change for him!

Timothy S. Tanner Director of Maintenance, Advanced Air, Inc.
Council Bluffs, Iowa

Just read Tom Haines’ article on LOP—what took him so long to try it? I have been flying a Beechcraft C33A LOP since about 1990.  Prior to that I experimented with it, but wasn’t happy with the speed loss. When I was told about running wide-open throttle and saw that I didn’t have to give up speed, I was converted. When I switched the engine it had about 700 hours and it was starting to use oil, which is not that unusual for a mid-time Continental. When I switched to full-time LOP, oil consumption dropped and compression improved. The engine went 2,000 hours with no top overhaul. I have about 9,000 hours on my airplane and so I have been through a few engines. The one I started LOP is the first one to make it to TBO without a top overhaul.

Nick Wilson, AOPA 0429494
Glenwood, Illinois

When birds strike

Bob Behren’s article recounting the nearly tragic event between his Aerostar and a turkey vulture brought back the many times I have experienced traffic problems between the aircraft I was flying and Mother Nature’s own (“ When Birds Strike,” April AOPA Pilot). In the early 1980s I was riding along with a CFI friend who was repositioning a Cessna 172 back to its home field for the owner after maintenance. I suddenly saw a glimpse of a large shadow out of my peripheral vision. Startled, I yelled, “Look out!” as the goose hit the windshield. I ducked and covered my head, but my friend wasn’t so lucky. After the enormous boom and pieces flying everywhere, the bird glanced over my back and went into the back seat area. My friend was unconscious and very bloody. He was quite cut up and I wasn’t sure of his condition.

As I regained my own composure, which took a few minutes, I tuned the transponder to 7700 and headed for an airport I knew. I contacted approach and explained what happened and that we would need an ambulance. I had the benefit of radar vectors and every other kind of help the FAA could find for me.

My friend survived. However, he spent two days in the hospital with a severe concussion, and he wore a neck brace for weeks afterwards. He also had a broken collarbone from the impact of the bird.

In my career as an airline pilot and corporate pilot, I have seen a very expensive dent in the leading edge of a Gulfstream III I was crewing on, not to mention an expensive repair to the N1 section of a right engine on a Learjet when we were hit on the ground while taxiing, and numerous other close calls and strikes while flying the line. In each one there was a common denominator—no one saw it coming until the last moment when it was too late to do anything about it. USAirways Flight 1549 proved this is still true today.

TCAS doesn’t work with birds, and the FAA can’t get them to use transponders as of yet, so the only recourse is vigilance. In this same issue, the article “Is HAL On Board?” gave another ominous warning—all those fancy boxes are fine, and by all means use them, just don’t become so preoccupied with them that you fail to look out the window, for your own safety.

Tim Gower, AOPA 5591508
Marathon, Florida

I am a nonpilot member. This is one of the most outstanding articles I’ve ever read. It’s been passed on to three active pilot friends of mine. I four-wheel in the Mojave and other deserts and have seen turkey vultures up very close many times. The look on that vulture’s and the pilot’s face as they meet must be beyond description. Thanks for the very important, real, excellently written article.

Reda Anderson
Beverly Hills, California

Letters

I respectfully disagree with Mickey Young’s letter (printed in the May issue of AOPA Pilot) regarding the slant of your magazine. It is certainly important to represent the average pilot, both through AOPA activities and magazine articles. I think you’re doing a good job of that.

I first joined AOPA in the early 1990s. I soon let my membership lapse because it seemed that both the magazine and the organization were focused mostly on high-end and business aviation, which was far from my interests and background.

When I rejoined AOPA in 2006, I was pleasantly surprised to see that focus had shifted. Now, I believe you do an excellent job of representing all aspects of general aviation, including those of us who are mere private pilots and fly VFR for the fun of it. Please keep up the good work and never forget that there are lots of pilots out there who may never own a high-end aircraft, but who love to fly regardless!

Christine Pulliam, AOPA 1077876
Marlborough, Massachusetts

Erratum

Molt Taylor received Aircraft Specification /Type Certificate # 4A16 for the Aerocar (“ Waypoints: From Highway to Airway,” May AOPA Pilot). However, the Aerocar was not the only (or the first) FAA type-certificated flying car. On August 18, 1953, Robert Fulton received AS/TC # 1A11 for his roadworthy and airworthy Airphibian. Details about it are available online.

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