Letters: Traveling by GA

December 23, 2013

I just finished Chris Rose’s article on “Traveling by GA.” As a 30-plus-year pilot and airplane owner with more than 4,000 wonderful hours of air travel, I am pleased to say that, not only did I enjoy the article, but I learned something as well.

His pointers on soft bags are spot on; you would be amazed at how much stuff you can cram into a fuselage with these bags. Other very useful suggestions were made in the “after landing” portion of the article. Utilizing FBOs and their courtesy cars, hotels, et cetera, should be common knowledge, but the tipping part is something that is probably underutilized, and is huge in the thank you department. Thanks for the entertainment and knowledge. Keep up the good work

Ford Wilson
AOPA 761760
Oak Harbor, Washington

One trick I use all the time is to ask for air crew discount at hotels. It works 90 percent of the time and it can be interesting savings. The FBOs ask most of the time but not systematically. I even ask for it when not traveling by GA; sometimes they just ask to see my certificate.

Daniel Villeneuve
AOPA 5481658
Longueuil, Canada

I have been out of aviation for many years and just returned and purchased a Cessna 400. I appreciated the $20-tip suggestion for the hotel front desk. What about who/what amount to tip at FBOs? I would appreciate any guidance you have in this area. I have asked several people and not gotten any info that I can use. 

Pat O’Brien
AOPA 620577
St. Petersburg, Florida

Chris Rose responds: FBOs that cater to business jets will often provide similar services for transient single-engine aircraft. These can include having a rental car ready, warmed up, and brought out to your airplane for loading/unloading, fresh ice (dry/wet) for coolers, and even having sandwiches from the local deli delivered and waiting for your departure. I once tipped five pounds of salmon and $20 for an FBO to store 60 pounds of fish from a trip to Alaska for a week—they even handled the shipping to me complete with dry ice!

For most services, $5 to $10 will do the trick. Admittedly I tend to tip slightly on the high side at FBOs, mostly because I will probably see them again, and they’re looking after a large personal investment. As I’m sure you can imagine, FBO desk staff deal with a lot of, how should I say, strong personalities. So a smile and five bucks can go further than you might think. I always begin my request with I was hoping you could help me. Never I need or When you get a chance. My experience has been that people are far more willing to assist if they feel that they are doing you a favor rather than following a demand—regardless of a big tip or not. If you need a rough guideline, I usually figure about $1 to $2 per minute that they have to stop what they’re doing to fulfill your request.

“Would you please elaborate on the details of how to “tip smartly?” 

David Epperson
AOPA 975372
Tyler, Texas

All too often, we (especially in the United States) tip based on tradition and social norms rather than the quality or level of service. Meal and service great? Most tip 15 to 20 percent. Meal and service just so-so? Most still tip 15 to 20 percent. Why? Because it’s expected, and that’s the key to tipping smartly. Tip a cab driver, waitress, or hotel bellman (and we should), you are likely to receive only the service that you have already gotten. However, a tip given to someone who is rarely tipped (prior to a pleasant request) will often result in enthusiastic assistance. Most people actually do enjoy helping someone, and a well-placed gratuity is (and should be) a way of saying I value your extra effort. If I need to know where I can buy shaving cream at 2 p.m., a hotel concierge will be happy to assist for a couple of bucks. If I need to know where I can get a beer, a cheeseburger, and an iPhone charger at 2 a.m., five dollars to valet or maintenance staff might even get a ride to the store.—CR

Autobrain

Having recently transitioned to a G1000 with a GFC 700 autopilot, I offer the following advice to those new to this technology, especially occasional users and those using multiple platforms:

Always know what you expect the aircraft to be doing now (airspeed, heading, altitude, et cetera) and what you expect it to be doing next. This will put you in a good position to take over if the autopilot develops a mind of its own.

Use only the subset of autopilot modes you really need. Although it’s a shame not to use all the gee-whiz features, you can eliminate surprises by learning and practicing just the essentials.

Bert Love
AOPA 597891
Murphy, North Carolina

Coming to terms

I just read Tom Haines’ “Waypoints” article. I have flown in the Baltimore-Washington area for 26 years. Before the SFRA, it used to be fun. I didn’t have to talk to anyone on the radio. I didn’t have to file a flight plan. I could fly over the Chesapeake Bay and wave to the fishermen. I park my airplane at Lee Airpark. For many years, there were no tiedown spots available. Now, there are plenty. Pilots have moved outside the SFRA.

If I want to fly to Frederick, I fly to the northeast and outside the SFRA as quickly as possible. Then, I fly around the north side of the SFRA. That way, I only have to talk to Tracon for about 10 minutes. I have written the FAA and the TSA several times, to no avail. I didn’t get a reply of any kind.

The SFRA regulations absolutely stink, and I have actually given thought to moving out of this area. Not just the airplane; moving everything, into an area where they appreciate their citizens, and rely more on common sense than politics. I have lived here all my life, and I think I have just about had enough. Why not use the Baltimore-Washington Class B airspace as the SFRA?

It would make things so much easier for local pilots, and it would be much easier to manage. Assign each general aviation airport a specific squawk code. If you are coming into the area, or flying out of the area, from an airport inside the SFRA, you would use the squawk code for that airport. No flight plans. No need to call flight service, or the Potomac Tracon.

John Shoemaker
AOPA 956578
Arnold, Maryland

Just a little more than a year ago I purchased my first airplane, a 1963 Bonanza P35. Prior to my purchase I took the wise advice of AOPA and had a prepurchase inspection by Adrian Eichhorn. I had arranged to fly to Eichhorn’s hangar in Manassas, Virginia (HEF), for the prepurchase inspection—inside the SFRA! This was a little intimidating as I am a fairly new pilot, currently working on my IFR rating. I took AOPA’s online course on flying in the SFRA and my friend, a veteran pilot, and I made the trip after both passing the required course on flying the SFRA. My friend filed IFR and we had absolutely no problem. I left Manassas a proud owner of my first Bonanza. I plan on flying from Wisconsin to Maryland, my first solo trip out East, VFR. Although I can skirt around the SFRA, it will still be intimidating, but Tom Haines’ comments eased my fears.

Andrew W. Nahas
AOPA 7214586
Boscobel, Wisconsin

Power curve

Thank you for Tom Horne’s excellent piece “Proficiency & Efficiency: Behind the Power Curve.” It struck me that this might have been the exact thing that happened (plus the delay time it took to spool up the engines) on the Asiana Airways jet that earlier this year crashed at San Francisco International Airport and killed three passengers. All that I heard on the news would seem to have similar power curve results, along with the pilot error(s) that created the accident. The contunued loss of altitude and the increased angle of attack would seem to fit the power curve Mr. Horne explained. A follow-up article that shows the example of a power curve applied to a specific crash such as in a jet would be interesting.

Bill Riddell
AOPA 6921073
Jacksonville, Florida

We welcome your comments. Editor, AOPA Pilot, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland 21701 or email (pilot@aopa.org). Letters may be edited for length and style before publication.