Letters

Something to overcome

May 1, 2010

Kudos to AOPA for the article about how Tammy Duckworth overcame war injuries to fly again and for its magnificent title “Something to Overcome” (March 2010 AOPA Pilot). Dave Hirschman showed great respect and honor by viewing Ms. Duckworth’s handicap as she herself would…great empathy tinged with a positive outlook.

The ambivalence of the respect and love for her versus the hatred of the situation we are enmeshed in gives me much to ponder. I am reminded of Churchill, who said of the RAF, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Samuel Messiter, AOPA 516395
Pawlet, Vermont

I just got the magazine yesterday and read the article about Tammy Duckworth. I was glad to see such a great article about someone who has given and overcome so much. My wife was a Blackhawk pilot and served in the same battalion in Iraq and has been good friends with Tammy for many years. We spent several days in Washington, D.C., last Veteran’s Day to celebrate what she calls her “alive day” commemorating the fifth anniversary of her accident. She is truly an amazing woman (even more so the more you get to know her) and I just wanted to say thanks for highlighting such a heroic aviator.

Carl W. Lane
Valparaiso, Indiana

Thank you for your article about Tammy Duckworth. Reading her story brought tears to my eyes and gave me hope and inspiration for my future. As a pilot for 28 years, I have only recently learned that my partial paralysis from spinal cord injuries and surgeries does not keep me from doing one of the things I love the most in life—flying.

I got my first lesson in aviation sitting on my father’s lap and playing with the yoke when I was 2 years old and got my pilot’s license at the first opportunity I had when I was 20—the thought of giving it up because of injuries was heartbreaking until I learned otherwise. It was more heartbreaking than the knowledge that I’ll never run again, or the fear that I may never walk again without crutches or a cane. There isn’t much coverage out there about disabled people flying, because many probably give up like I temporarily did and falsely assume our flying days are over. Articles about others in my situation make that future look brighter—because it reminds me that I am still a pilot.

Jim Gonsalves, AOPA 1069194
Park City, Utah

Eyes in the sky

I’d like to express my delight that AOPA Pilot has begun to include articles about helicopters (“ GA Serves America: Eyes in the Sky,” March 2010 AOPA Pilot). A few months ago I had expressed my concern that I had rarely seen any helicopter articles even though I was a proud member of AOPA and only hold helicopter ratings. I was glad to hear that that might change in the near future, and to my delight I found two articles about helicopters in March’s issue. I can tell you that all the fellow helicopter pilots in my area are glad to see it come and hope to see more in the future!

Mike Rodriguez, AOPA 4645328
Glendora, California

Running on empty

I agree with almost everything in Dave Hirschman’s article “ Technique: Running On Empty” (March 2010 AOPA Pilot ) regarding fuel systems, but he repeats the assertion that: “FAA regulations only require that the gauges display accurately when the tanks are empty.”

This is not correct. CFR 23.1337(b) states: “There must be a means to indicate to the flight crewmembers the quantity of usable fuel in each tank during flight. An indicator calibrated in appropriate units and clearly marked to indicate those units must be used. In addition—(1) Each fuel quantity indicator must be calibrated to read zero during level flight when the quantity of fuel remaining in the tank is equal to the unusable fuel supply determined under [Sec. 23.959(a);]”

The first part of this section (b) is clear—the gauges must indicate to the crew the quantity of usable fuel and be calibrated in appropriate units. If the gauge isn’t accurate, then it’s not calibrated. Now, the accuracy level is not defined, but it’s not defined for any level of fuel—all it says is that it must be calibrated.

Subpart (1) merely defines what the zero level should be—not when the tanks are empty, but when the tank reaches the unusable fuel level. While this is commonly misinterpreted as being the only place at which the gauge must be accurate, this is a completely incorrect interpretation.

Marc J. Zeitlin, AOPA 2047549
Mojave, California

I enjoyed Dave Hirschman’s article about fuel management. It was thoughtful and clear, but there are two major points that he missed.

Point 1: When, and how, do you determine that your tanks are really full? Most airplanes are very attitude sensitive during refueling. Make sure that the airplane is on level terrain and that the refueling tech filled each tank to the overflow point (not just to the “gurgle” point). This takes a few extra minutes but can convert to an appreciable increase in your fuel capacity.

Point 2: How do you obtain your best miles per gallon? This is the simplest but hardest to sell of all of the ideas on this subject. You simply fly the airplane at the best L (lift) over D (drag) indicated airspeed. That means that you fly at the best rate of climb speed as listed in your POH. It’s that simple! Sure, the prop speed and manifold pressure will be quite low but the choice is yours to make. Does it work? Rest assured that during my 62 years as a military/private pilot I’ve used it many times. The last preplanned flight using this technique was a flight from San Carlos, California, to El Paso, Texas, nonstop in a 180 Comanche. That’s 907 nm in six hours and 35 minutes and landing with more than an hour of fuel remaining—48.1 gallons used.

William T. “Bill” Creech USAF (ret.), AOPA 674526
El Paso, Texas

The longest cross-country

I just finished reading Jill W. Tallman’s story and feel it’s one of the best articles I’ve ever read in the magazine (“ Fun to Fly Sweepstakes: The Longest Cross-Country,” March 2010 AOPA Pilot). What a terrific trip that would be! I am a commercially rated pilot and have decided to go by sport pilot rules now that I am up in age (75) with some prior minor medical problems. I praise Michael Combs for the way he is going from the bottom up. The way Tallman described Michael Combs makes me to believe he is one heck of a great guy.

Carl Tischer, AOPA 1494299
Bonaire, Georgia

Michael Combs’ intended 50-state cross-country is reminiscent of William F. Buckley’s attempt to fly a chartered SST around the world in less than 24 hours. In our world of finite resources, people out to “set a record” (dubious as the record might be) for no other reason than to stroke their ego by getting their name out there only goes to show they have too much money and time on their hands. So no one has ever flown a light sport aircraft to all 50 states. Who cares? “Our entire mission is to inspire people that it is never too late to follow your dreams,” Mr. Combs said. What a crock!

Scott Haycock, AOPA 1061573
Glendale, Arizona

Diving to great heights

I thoroughly enjoyed Jonathan Sackier’s article in the March issue (“ Fly Well: Diving to Great Heights,” March 2010 AOPA Pilot). I always felt that there was not enough written about the subject of hypoxia and its effect on us humans. I feel FAR 91.211 is quite liberal although I have read articles in FAA publications where it is recommended having oxygen available whenever the cabin is above 5,000 feet. While working for TWA, I was lucky to get into the FAA’s altitude chamber in Oklahoma City to learn my symptoms. It would be nice if everyone could have that experience.

Joseph Rizzo, AOPA 00526259
Long Island, New York

It might be worth mentioning that some hypoxia effects can be observed as low as 10,000 feet. I had to fly over some smoke and Santa Ana wind turbulence coming north from Van Nuys to Oakland, California, a couple of years ago. It was awesome to see the smoke from the brush fire doing the mountain roll as the wind went over the mountain range north of Santa Barbara. I decided the best bet was up. I caught an updraft and was easily doing 1,000 fpm. Besides it being pretty cold up there, I could definitely perceive my reaction to altitude and went down to 8,500 feet near Santa Maria.

Charles Warren
New York, New York

Poor judgment

I was amazed by the tales of ineptitude Barry Schiff recounted in his column (“ Proficient Pilot: Poor Judgment,” March 2010 AOPA Pilot ). To find out at the end of the piece that Schiff was the pilot in those incidents left me amazed and flabbergasted! Thank you, Barry, for all you have written for us all!

Gerry Jurrens, AOPA 803046
Kingston, New Jersey

I have been reading AOPA Pilot for more than 15 years and Barry Schiff’s article “Poor Judgment” was, in my opinion, the best article I’ve ever read in a magazinea!

John Mark, AOPA 3568765
Palatine, Illinois

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