It isn't too often that the exact airplane we are looking for lands at AOPA headquarters in Frederick, Maryland. Pilot Senior Editor Alton K. Marsh was sure he would have to search the nation when an assignment came through to write about a Stinson Flying Station Wagon. As luck would have it, though, Steve Harris, special assistant to AOPA President Phil Boyer, had just purchased that exact aircraft. It also happened to be one beautifully restored over a five-year period. Read about the restoration and Harris' flight in the airplane from the West Coast to Maryland in " Budget Buys: The Flying Station Wagon," page 104. The aircraft offers what you're looking for: a reliable and affordable family airplane.
Flying and athletics are two activities that require a lot of repetition in order to master the basic skills, says author and airline pilot Chip Wright (see " Practice Training," page 137). Even then, only regular use of each will ensure that proficiency is maintained. "A perfect analogy is the weekend pilot and the weekend golfer. Both might be able to get by and enjoy what they do, but put either in a pressure situation and the outcome might be ugly. The lack of practice affected my flying skills when I was a low-time private pilot and hours were hard to come by, but it was when I became a CFI that I really saw the difference between pilots that flew regularly and those that did not," says Wright. But even at the airline level, certain skills only get sporadic use, and whereas the CFI may have no problems with doing a go-around, airline pilots may only do one or two a year, and too often it shows. "In professional baseball, the skill that often shows an equivalent amount of rust is the pitcher trying to hit. He's usually the easiest out, no matter how good he once was."
NASA isn't in the habit of letting writers don one of their flight suits and join actual test flights, but it made an exception for Pilot Editor at Large Thomas A. Horne. Horne was expecting a typical visit to NASA Glenn Research Center — you know, a tour, some sit-downs with key personnel — but it didn't end up that way. Come dawn of the second day, Horne was strapped in the center's de Havilland Twin Otter — and flying in large-droplet icing conditions. You can fly along in this month's "Wx Watch" ( " Ice Flight," page 153) and peer into the arcane world of icing research. "But please, don't try this at home," says Horne.
Sometimes it takes guts to admit you're wrong, and even more intestinal fortitude to confess that you've lost the edge you once had. Partial score goes to Marc E. Cook, former Pilot Senior Editor who departed for the wilds of motorcycle journalism in 2000, for acknowledging that downshifting from 250-plus hours per year to 25 might just — only just — influence his proficiency (see " Knocking Off the Rust," page 113). "What a dolt," he says. "I thought my experience would carry me even without flying much." Fortunately, Cook got assistance from some old friends in the flight-training biz who helped him knock the rust off.