Letters

October 1, 1998

Pay as you go

The article " Pay as You Go, Euro-Style," by Thomas A. Horne (August Pilot), should be an eyeopener to every general aviation pilot in the United States. Because of this hostile and strangulating environment toward aviation activities, and particularly toward general aviation, as a longtime pilot I come to the United States to do my cross-country flying of 60 to 80 hours annually — ultimately avoiding nearly all flying activities at home here in Germany and Europe.

My message to AOPA is, don't let the user fee bill succeed in the Senate or House of Representatives. Fight it out with the full force of your membership. You have my full support in that battle against user fees.

Hoshang Kharadi AOPA 1214175
Braunschweig, Germany

I just returned from Europe in my Beech A36 Bonanza, and the first magazine I read was the August issue of AOPA Pilot. In "Pay as You Go Euro-Style," Horne reveals some of the problems that we will face in the United States if we allow Congress to adopt a user-fee system to support the FAA. He is quite correct in pointing out the exorbitant fees that have been levied on general aviation in Europe. When you empower the bureaucrats with a new taxing methodology — and that is exactly what user taxes are, in fact — then, human nature being what it is, you get not what you pay for, but rather, inane fees (taxes) at every turn. At Templehof in Berlin we paid landing, communication, ramp, and fuel pumping fees.

In Santa Maria in the Azores, we paid all of the above plus a fee to have the airport runway lights turned on. In addition to what I paid on the spot, I was told to expect bills in the mail for the use of ATC, as well as for high-frequency radio communications. The only good news is that there is not a fee in place to use the bathroom — yet.

Robert E. Reiss AOPA 462101
San Diego, California

Congratulations on a brilliant column regarding user fees in Europe. I am a pilot in the United Kingdom who has to endure these ridiculous fees, but in reality I fly only enough hours to stay current, then use my vacation to fly in the United States for two or three weeks.

Just to add a few other interesting points, most pilots in Europe join a club to fly the club's aircraft, and that can cost between $100 and $500 annually. Try hiring an airplane when you're not a member. Also, because of the expensive nature of flying, the sport tends to be elitist, and some stuck-up instructors will claim that you don't get taught right by doing it "on the cheap" in the United States. These are the people who sit in their cozy clubhouses and fly around to a few airfields for coffee — when the wind is less than 10 knots, of course.

Nigel Rigg AOPA 1272351
West Yorkshire, United Kingdom

The Bathtub

No! Please don't call it "the bathtub" (" Call It the Bathtub," August Pilot). Not everyone used that derogatory term referring to that valiant and venerable old bird, the Aeronca C-3. Certainly not those who learned to fly in it or owned one and came to realize that cozy little cockpit was where they had the most pure fun flying.

I must say I was thrilled to see the cover of the August Pilot and the great pictures, but Rick Durden made it sound so bad that I simply had to respond.

My C-3 was a 1932 Collegian (we called them Razorbacks), which was purchased for $65 less engine and prop in 1950. I soloed in N13002 in 1951 and built most of my time for my private ticket — yes, cross-country included.

It had no brakes, and I never missed them — much. On a normal day I would break ground in five seconds — alone, of course. On two occasions I turned into a stiff wind, full throttle, and levitated from the spot. What a thrill.

Ugly? Look closely at how streamlined it is. The raised engine practically eliminated the landing gear. Slow? It was faster than its contemporaries. I sold ol' 13002 in 1961 for the princely sum of $1,000. Wish I hadn't.

Gordon White AOPA 082226
Hatboro, Pennsylvania

With reference to the lack of power for the Aeronca C-3, I will tell you of an incident that I witnessed just after World War II. As a teenager at the Hamilton, Ohio, airport, I watched as two young women went for a flight in a C-3. After takeoff they slowly made their way around the pattern, being passed by faster aircraft, and landed. After landing, I watched as they taxied to parking, found Art Hogan (one of the airport owners), and returned to the aircraft. After propping the C-3, Art shorted out one spark plug with a screwdriver, and the engine continued to run fine. When he shorted out the other spark plug, the engine immediately stopped. Those two women had made it around the pattern on one cylinder of a 36-horsepower engine. I conclude that the C-3 is not as underpowered as the author suggested.

Robert G. Henning AOPA 135940
Los Lunas, New Mexico

Schiff's retirement

As a writer, editor, and publisher for decades, I have never read a story that grabbed me without letting me go and then brought me to joyful tears as did Barry Schiff's " Sentimental Journey" (August Pilot). When I reached the paragraph where the fire trucks saluted the skipper, I lost all control over my emotion. I'm still misty-eyed.

As for the FAA's forcing Schiff's retirement, I can't help concluding how foolish (and possibly unconstitutional, to the legally erudite) is the age 60 rule. There are those people who haven't taken care of themselves who should retire from certain professions at ages as low as 50. Others at age 70 can give the best a run for their money. The point: Each pilot should be judged according to individual physical conditions. Personally, I'd feel safer with a Barry Schiff at the stick than with a 20-year-old greenpea, and the public would be safer for it.

Schiff's early retirement by the FAA brings up my fighting spirit and tells me that I'll decide when it's time for me to quit flying — and not the giant bureaucracy across the Potomac. I survived 60 missions over North Korea in the dead of night in Skyraiders; there is nothing the FAA can do to intimidate me. To the federal government I say, "enough already."

Tommy Thomson AOPA 091975
Tulsa, Oklahoma

I really enjoyed reading Barry's accounts of his last flight for TWA. The pilot profession surely has eroded over the years. It saddened me to read how much Barry enjoyed his flying career at TWA, even with all the troubles that that airline has experienced, and be forced to retire.

Although I don't agree with Barry's assessment about the age 60 rule, I do think he knows that he is just making room for another up-and-coming young pilot to take his place. And for that I hope that Barry realizes that he has indeed left his mark on aviation, helping other, less fortunate pilots to focus on their dreams. I know; I've been there. I'm now a captain for American Airlines in a struggle to preserve a once — and, hopefully, still — proud profession.

K.C. Ostronik AOPA 732003
Key Largo, Florida

Machado "pure genius"

The addition of Rod Machado's column "License to Learn" to AOPA Pilot was a great move on the part of the editors. But Machado's August column, "The Truth About Good Pilots," was pure genius.

Aircraft accident rates in Alaska are much higher than they should be because, as Machado puts it, in the decision-making process pilots often use their adrenal glands instead of their brains.

The process that Machado describes — developing a hypothesis, then testing it — is nowhere more important than when developing and honing one's skills for flying in the bush. Operating in remote areas where weather reports are nearly nonexistent and forecasts are frequently unreliable, Alaska's pilots can certainly stand to apply his approach in enhancing their skills.

Machado has offered a valuable insight into how those pilots who have operated in that environment for so many years without accidents have succeeded. We can all learn from these folks, by using our heads and an analytical approach to our flying.

Mike Vivion AOPA 604565
Fairbanks, Alaska

The author is vice chairman of the Alaskan Aviation Safety Foundation — Ed.

Tricks of the trade

As both a controller and a pilot, I have come to appreciate the usefulness of VFR on top (" Instrument Insights: Tricks of the Trade," August Pilot) regardless of what side of the mic I am on. Unfortunately, there were a couple of discrepancies in the article regarding VFR-on-top operations.

The article stated that VFR-on-top would allow you to fly at VFR altitudes above or between cloud layers. In actuality, there is no requirement for clouds. You could fly VFR-on-top below the overcast or on days that are CAVU. I routinely use VFR-on-top on clear days to obtain a direct routing in or out of complex airspace environments, without having to worry about Class B and/or C airspace and their associated entry requirements.

Also, the article stated that one of the catches of flying VFR-on-top is that the responsibility of seeing and avoiding other traffic falls to the pilot. This responsibility is always the pilot's, irrespective of the type of flight rules being flown.

Richard Cote AOPA 929260
San Ramon, California

One engine, or two?

Many thanks to Pete Bedell for making a boring old subject a little more interesting and reasonable (" Twins vs. Singles: The Great Debate," August Pilot). He correctly points out that it is unreasonable to assume that a twin is no safer than a single merely because it may be no safer than a single for the first few moments of flight. Beyond this, it is a matter of pilot proficiency.

Any purchaser of a twin should budget two or three times as much for training, just as he or she does for engine-related items. If unable or unwilling to do this, there is the perfectly honorable alternative to buy the Saratoga instead of the Seneca, the Bonanza instead of the Baron.

William Stowe AOPA 551042
Brentwood, Tennessee

The article did inadvertently confuse two formulas. An airspeed increase on the same airframe is proportional to the cubed root of the horsepower increase. The increase in drag is the square of the speed increase — Ed.

Respecting thunderstorms

Bruce Landsberg's " Safety Pilot: Deadly Surprise" (August Pilot), which provided examples of an air carrier crew and of a GA pilot running into thunderstorm cells, is a good reminder of the force of these storms. These two examples are also of interest because the airframes actually survived the encounter and remained flyable, which is not the usual case.

The aircrew were lulled into thinking that they could get through because another aircraft did so a few minutes ahead of them. But they apparently ignored what their own radar was telling them, as well as the communication of the other airliner. Would a Stormscope have helped them to decide to take another course? It may have confirmed, beyond doubt, that they had large cells ahead and altered their decisions. Would a Stormscope have helped the GA pilot? Almost certainly it would have provided unambiguous information that the open area between the rain on the radar was filled with a cell.

All pilots who use radar need specialized instruction in how to use it. But even then, based on my own experiences, radar should be supplemented by Stormscope.

Rudolf Mortimer AOPA 913901
Urbana, Illinois

Vectors to final

The review of the Northstar M3 GPS (" Pilot Products," August Pilot), regarding the "vectors-to-final" option, states that "The only other unit to offer such an option is II Morrow's recently introduced Apollo GX50/60 series."

Our Trimble 2000 Approach GPS, installed two years ago, has a mode called Final Bearing to Final Approach Fix. It provides the final approach course to the FAF as the selected course, and is intended for use with vectors. The unit also provides the ability to join any intermediate leg, as well as the ability to go direct to any intermediate waypoint. I have had occasion to need and use all of these modes.

Mick Ruthven AOPA 1126013
Sausalito. California

Making one's blood boil

With all due respect to the reader who sent in question 7 on the August " Test Pilot," I must beg to differ with his answer.

As a U-2 pilot, routinely flying well above 55,000 feet, I can tell you most assuredly that Armstrong's Line, where a pilot's blood will boil at 98.6 degrees, is known to be 62,500 feet. U-2 pilots wear a full pressure suit for protection in the event of loss of cabin pressure.

Another interesting fact in reference to high altitude physiology that is closer to home for those of us flying GA aircraft is that at 18,000 feet, the pressure on your body is one half of what it is at sea level. This is, incidentally, where aviator bends typically begin to occur.

Stephen Hoogasian AOPA 1109311
Beale Air Force Base, California

Errata

" Pilot Counsel: Unusual Regs" (August Pilot) incorrectly listed the five aircraft categories. They are airplane (not aircraft), rotorcraft, glider, lighter-than-air, and powered-lift.

Airshow performer Mark Pfeifler's name was misspelled in " Pilot Briefing" (September Pilot).


We welcome your comments. Address your letters to: Editor, AOPA Pilot, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland 21701. Send e-mail to pilot@aopa.org. Include your full name, address, and AOPA member number on all correspondence, including e-mail. Letters will be edited for style and length.