Dogfight | For the holidays

December 1, 2011



Editor at Large Tom Horne and Senior Editor Dave Hirschman have a lot of things in common: lots of ratings, lots of experience in lots of airplane models—and lots of opinions (as well as similar haircuts). We last turned them loose on the topic of NDB approaches (see “Dogfight: NDB Approaches,” November 2011 AOPA Pilot) and the response to two different schools of thought on this topic garnered interesting opinions from a large number of readers (follow “Dogfight” on AOPA Online). However, this month the two veteran aviation writers put down their dueling pens and—in the spirit of the season—agreed to focus on what they both appreciate about general aviation.—Ed.

Dave and ThomasThis month, in the spirit of the holidays, we’re putting aside our petty grievances and stating our shared positions on some of the aviation issues about which we enthusiastically agree.

Technology and training:

  • GPS-derived synthetic vision is no gimmick. It’s a valuable enhancement to flight safety and pilot situational awareness, and we miss this technology acutely when it’s gone.
  • Simulator training is exceptionally valuable at developing pilot skills—and full-motion, low-cost GA sims have the potential to lower the cost of flight training and improve its quality at the same time. Also, the FAA should allow GA pilots to do full instrument proficiency checks (including circle-to-land credit) in nonmotion flight training devices.
  • A well-maintained piston single is safer than a poorly maintained piston twin.
  • Single-engine turboprops are as safe as — and more efficient—than multi-engine airplanes.

Keeping up with changes:

  • International GA flying makes pilots appreciate the freedoms we too often take for granted in the United States.
  • Eliminating the requirement for a third class medical for pilots flying recreationally will be a tremendous boost for aviation and will enhance, not compromise, flight safety.
  • User fees for ATC services would kill general aviation as we know it and must be defeated. And if user fees are ever allowed to start with high-end turbines, they will quickly spread throughout all of GA, with disastrous results.
  • Advancements in electric propulsion technology offer great promise for the future. And that’s the near future, not the distant one.
  • The ADS-B In portion of the FAA’s NextGen air traffic control system offers tremendous benefits for general aviation. Once we have it, we’ll wonder how we ever got by without in-cockpit weather updates and traffic warnings.

Air traffic controllers on the West Coast seem both happier and more accommodating than those on the East Coast.

The next generation:

  • Student pilots who learn to fly with analog panels can quickly adapt to glass cockpits—but those who learn in glass cockpits will never be as comfortable with round dials and a “traditional” instrument scan.
  • Young people today are as smart, motivated, and self-disciplined as any generation that has come before them. Their innate desire for flight is just as strong, and they make fantastic general aviation pilots.
  • Modifications to the G.I. Bill that offer flight training educational benefits to post-9/11 service members can provide a tremendous boost to flight schools and help expand the U.S. pilot population.

Support aviation by:

  • Being an AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer.
  • Flying Angel Flight missions.
  • Flying for Pilots N Paws.
  • Giving Young Eagle flights.
  • Being a mentor to a student pilot.
  • Providing a sincere, well-timed word of encouragement to a fellow pilot, or aspiring one, can help them in ways you’ll never know.

“Real” flying:

  • The Cessna 182 is the most versatile utility airplane ever made. (And the 2011 Crossover Classic is the best aircraft restoration AOPA has ever done.)
  • VFR flight following is great. But there’s no substitute, in marginal weather, for a real IFR flight plan.
  • As much instrument flight training as possible should be done in “actual” conditions.
  • Air traffic controllers on the West Coast seem both happier and more accommodating than those on the East Coast.
  • The best checkrides are boring.
  • Airshows are the aviation industry’s best and most time-honored method of reaching out and inspiring people.
  • Flying skills are perishable, and the skills pilots don’t practice are soon lost.
  • There’s no such thing as minor aircraft icing.

International GA flying makes pilots appreciate the freedoms we too often take for granted in the United States.

The “pinnacle” of GA flying is:

  • Hand-flying an ILS to minimums on a rainy night.
  • A crosswind landing at a remote, high-altitude airstrip in a Husky.
  • A well-flown aerobatic sequence.
  • Crossing the North Atlantic in a piston single.
  • A floatplane trip across Alaska.
  • A dawn, air-to-air photo flight in dissimilar airplanes.
  • Flying a biplane across America in autumn.
  • Taking a jet to FL450.

And one final thing...

  • AOPA members, working together, can do just about anything.

Email the authors at tom.horne@aopa.org and dave.hirschman@aopa.org.