Letters

Easy Flyer

May 1, 2012

 

Congratulations to Tom Horne. As a proud 97-year-old owner of my second Ercoupe (the first one perished after a night engine failure but without personal injuries) and having been flying regularly since 1938, I thoroughly enjoyed his article ( “Budget Buy: Easy Flyer,” March 2012 AOPA Pilot). Yes, with avgas prices climbing and an airplane that consumes around four gallons per hour, my 415C is the perfect solution to my need to keep doing what the Light Sport pilot rule allows me to do. Horne’s recognition of Fred Wieck’s wonderful creation is a fitting tribute and, I feel certain, is appreciated by all Ercoupe owners.

Herb Sloane, AOPA 601331
Montgomery, Alabama

I thoroughly enjoyed the article on the Ercoupe. I owned one (N99198, my first airplane) in 1971; unfortunately, my daughter kept on growing despite my efforts to teach her to smoke, so I had to sell it and get something that would carry all three (and later four) of us.

It was a bit of a hot rod among Ercoupes, having a 90-horsepower engine (apparently the result of some mix and match with top-end engine components and camshafts, which I was assured was perfectly legal). It was a two-control airplane, comfortable (my wife and I are both relatively small), and responsive if not exactly spritely. I thought it was a very cleverly designed and sensible machine with great cockpit visibility in all directions, and I hated to let it go.

Gene Olinger is quite right about its ability to handle crosswinds. All you have to do is fly down final in a crab—the stiffer the crosswind, the more you crab—and as soon as the mains are on the ground, the trailing beam main gear and basic physics combine to jerk the machine into running straight down the runway, and you plant the nosewheel (if the gear geometry hasn’t already done that for you) and drive it as you would a car. Just don’t try to hold the upwind wing down with aileron; the Ercoupe will promptly turn in the direction of the upwind wing and the turn may lift the upwind main wheel off the ground. I always thought the Ercoupe could handle more of a crosswind than its successor, a straight-tail Cessna 172.

Henry Gurshman, AOPA 268597
Metuchen, New Jersey

Tom Horne beat me to it! I was going to write an article about Ercoupes, except mine would not be nearly so nice. I have owned two of them.

In reality it’s a coffin with wings. Flying an Ercoupe is a bit like flying a kite—with you sitting on the kite. You are at the mercy of the wind, be it straight down the runway, crossways to the runway, or at altitude; the poor little things don’t have a chance with the winds. On crosswinds they have the nasty habit of lifting the upwind wing, which causes you to turn into the wind to lower the wing but that turns the nosewheel so that you go shooting off for the alfalfa. If the wind is
stiff straight down the runway you are sort of OK if you are really, really good, but as soon as you turn off the runway onto the taxiway you are right angles to the wind.

The Ercoupe has to be the only tricycle-gear airplane that can ground loop. I once learned this the hard way; when light on fuel and only me, the entire setup weighs next to nothing. And clouds! Boy, I’ve never seen an airplane that is so affected by up and down currents under those big fluffy clouds; it is not possible to maintain a constant altitude no matter the attitude of the airplane nor the power setting. And Horne is very right that you don’t want to be low and slow in an Ercoupe. A lot of Ercoupe accidents are power-loss events.

William C. Buhles, AOPA 5989360
Davis, California

I enjoyed the article on the Ercoupe and appreciated how well it was explained and how thorough the article was. However, there has never been a C-65. The first A engine, which changed to a C engine, was the C-75. The Ercoupe was an “almost” buy for me before the correct color Cessna 120 sought my company.

Neal F. Wright, AOPA 290365
Sunnyvale, California

Another day, another island

Dave Hirschman’s travelogue to the Bahamas ( “Another Day, Another Island,” March 2012 AOPA Pilot) sounded really serene, even idyllic. The vision of talcum-powder beaches and turquoise waters would make anyone yearn for a trip to the Bahamas as he described. Having flown to the Bahamas from my home base in Boca Raton, I can confirm everything mentioned in the article, from radio communications, to arrival paperwork, right up to the infectious smiles on airport workers’ faces. The thing is, I don’t fly to the Bahamas because it’s so darn expensive to leave the place. I would love to fly to the islands for lunch but with a $25 departure tax, it makes the trip prohibitively expensive, especially if I want to take my family ($25, $25, $25, $25). Who knew that gas and the meal would be the least expensive part of the trip?

I have written to the director of tourism, Greg Rolle, on several occasions requesting the government consider a modest, if not gratis, departure tax for those pilots wishing to fly to the islands for lunch (or toe dipping) and staying for four hours or less. Since all of the arrival papers are time-stamped (in triplicate), this would be very easy to administer. But my requests have fallen on deaf ears.

Having talked to many pilot friends on the subject, I know for an absolute fact that this proposal would be a winner for Bahamian restaurants and businesses located near airports. The single reason none of us fly to these island paradises for breakfast or lunch is entirely because of the departure tax. Remove the tax and the ramps would be filled every weekend.

Mr. Rolle, if you are reading this letter, I urge you to take up the subject matter with your ministers and really roll out the welcome mat to Florida pilots. You have done a phenomenal job at welcoming pilots once they arrive, now it’s time to increase the arrivals.

Michael Gordon, AOPA 789482
Boca Raton, Florida

Gas pains

I am writing in response to the article “Safety Pilot: Gas Pains” by Bruce Landsberg in the March 2012 issue. I am the nephew of Reese Dill, who is referenced in that article and whom I believe from the text was a friend of Mr. Landsberg’s.

Reese was a friend of many, which we’ve learned in no uncertain terms since his passing and working on his memories and estate. He was very much loved by his family; however, we all live in different states and didn’t see enough of each other. He was single and I feel bad that we often wondered if he was lonely. Turns out nothing could have been further from the truth. Reese had literally hundreds of people whom he was close to and felt a real kinship to in a variety of areas, but I think most notably in aviation. Reese was a great engineer, tinkerer, mechanic, but I think that if I had to pick one single word, I would choose aviator.

A friend of mine pointed out the article, which I would like to respond to. The report came out in late January and pretty well pins the engine failure on the carburetor float, indicating that fuel levels and fuel-use calculations were not a factor. Additionally, the report from the Boston medical examiner stated that Reese did not drown, but rather died of a head injury suffered on impact. The interior of the canopy had a fairly substantial roll cage in it and I suspect that the fatal injury happened during the rapid changes of direction on impact.Don’t take my comments as complaints, but as corrections. Everyone who knew Reese knew what a great aviator he was and his passion for doing the right thing.

Charlie Dill
Norwalk, Connecticut

Clarification

Despite assertions to the contrary in “Letters” April 2012 AOPA Pilot, Adrian Eichhorn was correct in interpreting the A/FD language at the time of flight in Thomas B. Haines’ story “Waypoints: Into the Night,” February 2012 AOPA Pilot. However, several months later the A/FD was updated to note that the airport is closed at night to transients.

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