Letters

Bound for the Bahamas

February 1, 2010

I read with great enjoyment your recent article ( “Bound for the Bahamas,” December 2009 AOPA Pilot). I first visited the out islands of the Bahamas in the mid-1970s as a fisherman on a budget, then in the mid-1980s as a corporate yacht captain, and from 1994 to 2002 as a private pilot flying a 1978 V-tail 35 Bonanza. I continue to visit adopted family there several times a year. In fact my wife and I returned from Abaco last night to find the latest issue of AOPA Pilot in the mailbox.

I have for years had people say to me they have visited the Bahamas and weren’t really impressed. When questioned further, 99 and a half times out of 100, they visited Freeport or Nassau, and usually on a cruise ship. As Tom Horne reported so accurately, those folks have never seen the real Bahamas. As I read Horne’s article, I was dismayed that his visit to Abaco was limited to Marsh Harbor and Hopetown. Hopetown is certainly a must-see, but Marsh Harbor is to the Abacos, what Nassau and Freeport are to the rest of the Bahamas.

Next time fly into Treasure Cay (MYAT). The runway is good, the traffic is nil, and the staff are delightfully pleasant. Hopefully while at Hopetown, Horne actually climbed to the top of the lighthouse. If not, he should go back and do that. It is well worth the view. Also, lunch at the Hopetown Harbor Lodge’s poolside restaurant is a must. Man-o-War Cay is a charming boat building community, steeped in seafaring tradition. Visit Albury’s Sail Shop just north of the boatyard for all sorts of canvas bags and hats. They make them right there as you watch. Green Turtle Cay is the gem of Abaco for a place to base out of for a week or two of fishing, swimming, and diving. The settlement, New Plymouth, was the heart of Abaco in the earliest days. It has been home to pineapple plantations, shark, and turtle fishing export business and remains vibrant. The Green Turtle Club has been around forever. Miss Pat in the kitchen cooks the best conch fritters and cracked conch in the world. No trip to the Bahamas is complete without one of Miss Emily’s goombay smashes.

S. Bruce Benson,
AOPA 1278245
Parrish, Florida

Making medical matter

What an incredible idea! Congratulations and thank you to Dr. Jonathan Sackier and AOPA for stepping to the plate in this capacity ( “Fly Well: Making Medical Matter,” December 2009 AOPA Pilot). While I agree that the pilot population as a whole tends to be very focused on remaining healthy, there is a counter productive relationship with my flight physical. I know that when I fill out my form, I will be reporting healthcare visits made since my last medical exam. Because of this, I suspect that there is a tendency to avoid visits that may have actually been beneficial. Perhaps this is based on a misunderstanding of what needs to be reported and how that may or may not affect my flight physical. I would love to know more about how the medical exam process works and what the FAA does with all of that information. I look forward to future articles.

Dave K. Purscell,
AOPA 889524
Owatonna, Minnesota

Congratulations on selecting Jonathan Sackier as medical counsel to AOPA’s Fly Well program. I just read his article in the December issue, and I’m very glad that AOPA has come up with a multifaceted approach for helping pilots to attain and maintain medical qualifications for flying.

I’m also particularly hopeful that the program will strongly emphasize a preventive approach to health, including practical guidance to your members about developing and adhering to behavioral lifestyle changes. I say that because—aside from being a commercial pilot who knows what it’s like to have a medically defined job longevity window—my graduate education in the health/wellness field has thankfully allowed me to work both in aviation and in health promotion. As a result, I’ve unfortunately seen countless scenarios where patients were told by their doctors to make behavioral changes, but then weren’t sufficiently guided through that change process. Without that guidance, the patients experienced a substantial amount of frustration, as they didn’t fully understand how to realistically “lose weight, be more active, eat better, stop smoking, lower stress levels.”

Please be sure to help AOPA’s many members convert their doctor’s medical advice into practical, everyday guidance for optimizing health and life expectancies. If you do that successfully, I’m absolutely convinced your program at AOPA will literally be second to none.

Dave Chong,
AOPA 6742628
Honolulu, Hawaii

Heart attack aloft

It is with interest that I read the “Never Again” commentary every month. I appreciate fellow pilots openly sharing their unpleasant experiences so that others may fly more safely. Tom Cruse’s article in the December issue of AOPA Pilot ( “Never Again: Heart Attack Aloft”) was instrumental in saving my life, yet, in my case, had nothing to do with flying.

I had read the article on November 30. In that article the author gave some pretty graphic detail of what he was going through physically while experiencing a heart attack en route. On December 2, two days after reading the article, I took my wife, Diane, out to dinner to celebrate our twenty-first wedding anniversary. I had experienced some relatively mild chest pains off and on for two hours preceding our dinner date. I was actually telling Diane about the interesting AOPA article over appetizers and a drink. Shortly thereafter, I became nauseous and I excused myself to go outside and get some fresh air. While sitting on a bench outside of the restaurant, I was slammed with intense pressure and pain in my chest, which radiated to my right armpit and both hands. A little incredulous, I sat there thinking about the article and I said to myself, “I can’t believe it, I’m having a heart attack.”

Like the author, I then spent some time in denial because I also exercise three times per week, watch my diet carefully, and at six feet, and 180 pounds, I have a body mass index well within the acceptable range, with no hint of any cardiovascular issues other than for high cholesterol, which has been controlled by a statin.

After a short period of time of persistent and ever increasing pain, I went back into the restaurant and told Diane to go and to pay the bill while I brought the car around to the front of the restaurant. After I brought the car around, I moved to the passenger side and waited for Diane. Fortunately, she had switched restaurants just before we left to eat and she picked one that was across the street from our local hospital rather than one that was 20 miles away. We were at the emergency room in short order.

Subsequently, I had an emergency angiogram to remove a 99.9-percent blockage in one of my arteries and I had one stent implanted to return blood flow to normal. The total time between my recognizing my condition and being wheeled into the ICU after surgery was about three hours. After three days in the ICU and one day in a regular room, I was released from the hospital. I’m recovering nicely at home and expect to return to work after the first of the year.

My cardiologist has indicated that I suffered no permanent damage to my heart. I’m looking forward to reapplying for my third class medical after the six-month waiting period.

If there is a history of heart disease in your family (there is on my mother’s side), it doesn’t matter if you are in great shape, you may have heart disease. If you suspect you are having a heart attack, call 911. If I had called 911 rather than driving across the street, the cardiac team that was on call for the hospital would have been called immediately upon my call. Instead, they weren’t called until I was in the emergency room, needlessly wasting precious time. Thanks, AOPA for the timely article!

Jim Doenges,
AOPA 1413656
Batavia, Illinois

In found the article “Heart Attack Aloft” very interesting. This article confirmed what I have long felt to be a major initiative for AOPA in 2010—expand the driver’s license medical to recreational pilot privileges. The pilot in the article had a battery of tests several months prior and had obtained his third class medical just the week before the flight. None of this detected or prevented his heart attack—as a matter of fact he indicated he feared taking medications that may have prevented a heart attack because of his concern over what he would have to go through to keep his medical. This is a concern that a lot of pilots can relate to.

I see no reason why a driver’s license medical should not be used for a pilot who desires to fly only recreational VFR. Flying 50 to 100 hours per year is a lot for someone who enjoys just flying around the local area. If you calculate the odds of a medical condition occurring while flying in those 50 hours, it comes out to only six-tenths of one percent chance based on the total number of hours in a year. I appreciate that AOPA’s new medical plan is designed to help pilots keep their medical, but it just confirms that the medical process is too burdensome.

If we want to increase the pilot population and retain many of the pilots we now have, we need to aggressively push the FAA to allow a driver’s license medical for recreational pilot privileges or at least expand the sport pilot weight limit to allow aircraft such as the Cessna 152 or Aeronca Champion Citabria to qualify to be flown as light sport.

Terry Onder,
AOPA 943354
St. Peters, Missouri

Comfortable and complacent

I read “Safety Pilot: Comfortable and Complacent” (December 2009 AOPA Pilot) with a great deal of interest and thought the title appropriate. In the United Kingdom we have an anomaly where all night flight is under instrument flight rules or SVFR in a control zone. Of course to fly IFR outside controlled airspace needs no instrument rating in VMC nor does it need a flight plan. But what flying IFR does for us means a) flying the appropriate altitude for the direction and b) flying at least 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within five nm. As the article suggests, it is surprising these pilots did not file IFR if only to ensure that these safety parameters and the extra sets of eyes were working for them.

Chris Blythe,
AOPA 5198042
Ascot, United Kingdom

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