Hangar Talk

The story behind the story

May 1, 2011

AOPA Senior Editor Alton K. MarshYou’ll find lots of detailed information on upgrades you can make specifically to a Piper Comanche, or just general ideas for upgrades, in “ Pimp My Plane .” Fortunately David Lessnick, the owner of the Comanche, rechristened the Vegas Viper, kept notes in greater detail than any owner Senior Editor Al Marsh has ever interviewed. Lessnick readily admits the refurbishment project grew and grew until all reason was pushed aside, and the quest for better and best ruled. It took two days for Marsh and Senior Photographer Mike Fizer to complete the story. Lessnick, a busy Las Vegas real estate businessman, simply scrambled his schedule to help get the article completed. The photo formation above the Hoover Dam and Las Vegas was led by Murray “Slash” Robinson, an F–16 fighter pilot now working for Air Combat Ace at Henderson Airport in south Las Vegas. It seems Slash was having a really good time at a concert one night, and jumped on stage to play guitar for a few songs made famous by “Slash,” the lead guitarist for Guns ’n Roses. Since then, Robinson’s fighter pilot moniker has been Slash.

Barry Schiff Author Barry Schiff reports that ideas for some of his articles unexpectedly pop up on his computer. Several months ago, for example, he received an email from Mike Storms, an employee of Hawaiian Airlines. It contained an invitation for Schiff to fly his airline’s very first airplane. “I’m not sure why, but I initially pictured a large airliner and asked myself why such an airplane would be of interest to AOPA Pilot readers,” Schiff says. That was before he learned that Hawaiian Airlines began operations in 1929 with a Bellanca CH–300 Pacemaker (“ Island King ”), the only single-engine airplane it ever had. “Flying the airplane,” Schiff reports, “meant having to endure a trip to Hawaii. I was willing to make the sacrifice.”

Senior Editor Dave HirschmanFor any company with a dominant product, the decision on how and when to replace it is tricky. Keeping the production line going maximizes profit—but a lack of new products and innovation also opens the doors to competitors. So Garmin’s launch of its GTN 600/700 series (the replacement for its popular 430/530 GPS/Comms) was done with a great deal of soul searching, and secrecy (“ Touching the Future ”). “Not even Garmin dealers knew the GTN was coming until the moment it was unveiled,” AOPA Senior Editor Dave Hirschman said of the March dinner at Reno, Nevada, during the Aircraft Electronics Association’s annual meeting where Garmin announced the new product—along with the news that the new gadgets were FAA-approved and in production. “The touch-screen GTN shows that Garmin has been accelerating its research and development during two extremely difficult years for the aviation industry,” Hirschman said. “The rapid rate at which customers are buying them is a welcome sign that better days are ahead—for Garmin and general aviation.”

AOPA Foundation President Bruce Landsberg“Typically, general aviation accidents are because of individual failures,” says AOPA Foundation President Bruce Landsberg. “The system is seldom involved.” However in this month’s “ Safety Pilot Landmark Accident: A Foregone Conclusion? ” Landsberg says it appears that the FAA did not exercise appropriate oversight of a pilot who had one accident and numerous incidents where skill and judgment both were in question. “How lenient should we be in accepting substandard performance?” asks the author.