Last week I pulled out the latest issue of AOPA Pilot, and I saw the tail section of N143D on the contents page. I shouted, "That was one of my DC-3s!" (see " Douglas DC-3: Together We Fly," December 2005 Pilot). I flew for Academy Airlines from 1987 until 1991. N130D, N133D, and N143D were the backbone of the Academy fleet at the time. And flying the -3s was like a dream come true.
I have often wondered what happened to the airplanes at Academy Airlines. With 969.6 hours in Academy DC-3s, I should have gotten a type rating. Shortly after I was hired at Academy, the company's designated examiner lost his medical, and nobody got type ratings while he was without one. He got it back shortly after I was hired at American Eagle. I have often thought of trying to find out where I could get a type rating, given the experience I have with -3s. Knowing that they are training with N143D certainly answers that question.
Dan Gryder operates The AV NET, which provides DC-3 and other flight training, including initial type ratings and the new lower-cost second-in-command type ratings in the airplane. Visit the Web site or call 678/688-7069. — Editors
Your well-written article on the Douglas DC-3 brought back many good memories of that grand old lady of an aircraft. I came to Alaska in May 1957 and went to work as an aircraft mechanic with the Civil Aeronautics Administration, a predecessor to the FAA. In the early 1960s I bid on a pilot position, and was selected. At that time the agency had five DC-3 aircraft, two for logistics with the large cargo doors and three of the type two for flight inspection work. I flew in logistics for two years, flying the cargo DC-3s and the C-123 Fairchild cargo plane. In September 1973, I bid on a flight-inspection position with the European Region operating from Frankfurt, Germany, and was accepted. By the time I returned to the Alaska Region in 1980, the DC-3s and the one DC-4 aircraft had been retired. It's amazing that so many DC-3 aircraft are still being utilized all over this old globe, and I'm sure they will be for many years to come.
I just read Chip Wright's article about logbooks in the December 2005 issue of Pilot (" The Story of My Life [So Far]"). I am glad there is somebody else who thinks like me. The first page of my logbook has an entry dated August 26, 1952, and authorization to start my private pilot course and my first lesson. The last entry is dated December 3, 2005, a flight in my Skylane at Chino, California. In between are several logbooks of seven years in the Air Force and 30 years of airline flying. I also keep a photo album of several of the airplanes I have flown since they are not too well known — Percival Prentice, Fiat G-46, a copy of the AT-6 made of wood, Gloster Meteor Jet Fighter, and Focke-Wulf biplane. I call it my "pictorial résumé."
I share Chip Wright's preference for the paper logbook. A few centuries ago, one of my Chinese ancestors muttered something about a single picture being worth a thousand words (we invented paper too). This was the idea behind my version of "The Illustrated Story of My Life (So Far)." My first logbook photograph was put in volume 2 — a picture of me in formation in a SIAI Marchetti SF.260M during pilot training in the air force of a Third World Southeast Asian dictatorship in 1975. Thirty years later, I have just put in a picture of my own SIAI Marchetti SF.260C in America, in volume 5. In between these Italian bookmarks have been three decades of memories both good and bad that have paralleled the ink entries in my logs. They have been embellished with many pictures of a less-than-stellar but nonetheless full working career (so far). The pictures in my logbooks have made them bloat like overstuffed Subway sandwiches, but their contents speak volumes.
With reference to Chip Wright's article " Fill 'Er Up?" (December Pilot) this is one CFI who is not pleased with the automatic refueling of the smaller GA aircraft. The mindless and automatic topping off of an aircraft's fuel tanks at the end of the day or after each flight encourages overweight flying, poor understanding of fuel management, and pollution and is not in accord with FAA recommendations. There are very few GA aircraft that are "honest." That is, a four-seater with full fuel is unlikely to be within the envelope if four adult passengers are on board. Likewise, in a two-seat trainer, full tanks and two people will often put the aircraft overweight. And, as all responsible pilots know, flying an aircraft over maximum gross weight is a violation of FAA regulations.
While it is important to be mindful of the condensation factor, how many of you have ever calculated how much liquid actually condenses out? In a typical GA aircraft with half-full tanks, if the air cooled from 100-percent humidity to zero-percent humidity, there would be less than a teaspoonful of water — a good preflight that properly drains the fuel sumps easily takes care of this matter.
Advisory Circular 20-125 ("Water in Aviation Fuels") has the FAA recommendation: The procedure of filling the fuel tanks completely "may be only practical on a few types of aircraft, since the type of aircraft, length of proposed flight, number of passengers, and weight and balance limitations dictate the amount of fuel to be added."
It is wise to remember that the pilot in command of the flight is the one who is to determine the appropriate fuel load — not the last person who last flew the airplane. If you really want to keep your CFI happy (and/or yourself safe), dip the tanks for an accurate determination of fuel on board and do a weight and balance. The pilot who does this every time shows that he is aware of the operating limitations of the aircraft, proper fuel management techniques, and applicable FAA regulations.
Thank you for writing the " Flight of Mistakes" article in the January issue of AOPA Pilot. Although I can't condone the stupid actions the two pilots made on May 11, 2005, I have to give them some credit for sharing the details of their flight with the members of AOPA. As the publisher's note suggests, we as pilots have a morbid curiosity about the mistakes of other pilots. I can speak for myself that my curiosity is motivated by my desire not to repeat these mistakes. The more I study my mistakes — and the mistakes of others — the less likely I am to repeat them. Let us hope that this article will educate us all and prevent us from making the same mistake in the future.
As a Central Pennsylvania pilot, I was appreciative to have all sides of the story presented in a chronological format. I think most of us in the pilot community are careful not to throw stones at other pilots, and we all realize that we have much to learn from others' mistakes. However, I cannot muster up any morsel of sympathy for Mr. Sheaffer. Obviously he is lacking in basic piloting skills, not to mention common sense, but the kicker is that this guy thinks that it is reasonable for him to attempt to get his pilot certificate back. A private pilot certificate is a huge privilege in our post-September 11 world and anybody who can fly a perfectly operating airplane into the Washington, D.C. Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on a nice VFR day does not deserve any support or backing from any fellow pilot. Any average pilot could safely navigate that flight with dead reckoning only, and it bothers me that AOPA has not taken a hard stance against this guy.
Kudos to AOPA Pilot for the painfully revealing article about last year's notorious violation of the Washington, D.C., ADIZ. The piloting skills — or lack thereof — that you described will probably have all of the negative impacts on general aviation you predicted. I applaud Pilot for approaching this debacle head-on and printing the facts. Sadly, the facts don't make the event or its players any more acceptable, or even explainable.
These guys should never fly again. If the GA community does not support proper sanctions of such individuals, then we are all considered guilty by the nonflying public. These guys just extend the misconception that all GA pilots are unsafe and untrained and present a threat to the safety of others.
Join the discussion of "Flight of Mistakes" on AOPA Online and look for more letters about the story next month — Thomas B. Haines' January story has already generated the greatest number of reader responses in Pilot history. See his column.
In "SpecSheet" for the January story " Pilatus Odyssey," the rate of climb at sea level, flaps 15, should have read 1,680 fpm. Pilot regrets the error.
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