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The story behind the storyThe story behind the story

When the two pilots who last May mistakenly flew deep into the Air Defense Identification Zone surrounding Washington, D.C., were forced to land at Frederick, Maryland, AOPA's headquarters, the airport instantly became the focus of worldwide media and the two pilots became the two most famous — or infamous — aviators on the planet. Several AOPA staff members, including AOPA Pilot Editor in Chief Thomas B.

When the two pilots who last May mistakenly flew deep into the Air Defense Identification Zone surrounding Washington, D.C., were forced to land at Frederick, Maryland, AOPA's headquarters, the airport instantly became the focus of worldwide media and the two pilots became the two most famous — or infamous — aviators on the planet. Several AOPA staff members, including AOPA Pilot Editor in Chief Thomas B. Haines, were on a conference call with the two pilots the next morning, helping them deal with media inquiries and regulatory agencies. Wanting to make sure that no other pilots would face such a situation in the future, both pilots agreed to talk to AOPA Pilot once the dust settled. Haines conducted lengthy interviews with student pilot Troy Martin in September and with private pilot Jim Sheaffer in November. He wove their fascinating stories into " Flight of Mistakes" on page 70. In the end, both men recognize the mistakes they made and are anxious to help others avoid the same fate.

What takes 21.4 hours, six stops, and two and a half days? A delivery flight of a factory-fresh Pilatus PC-12, from Switzerland to Broomfield, Colorado. AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Tom Horne helped fly HB-FSS (the airplane's Swiss registration) — or serial number 658, the 558th PC-12 (see " Pilatus Odyssey," on page 62). "This was my twenty-first Atlantic crossing as a pilot flying GA airplanes," Horne says. "And while each one has a bit of procedural routine, each one is also very, very different. The weather is always a challenge, although I'd rather be flying at 24,000 feet than, say, 5,000. I'd rather look down on icing clouds than be snaking my way around them at low altitude." Even so, sometimes ice can't be avoided in those often-hostile latitudes, and so it was on this trip. But who would've thought a hurricane would cause it?

"I haven't played the role of roving reporter since I was right out of journalism school," says AOPA Pilot Managing Editor Julie Summers Walker. "I've been to several AOPA Expos and spoken to attendees but never to as many as I did this year." (See " AOPA Expo 2005: A Pilot's Oasis," page 79.) Between covering the story for the magazine and appearing on camera for AOPA Online, the author got up close and personal with members from all over the country, who flew, drove, or flew on commercial airlines to Tampa. "It seems impossible, but everybody, I mean everybody, I spoke to said they were impressed and overwhelmed by the offerings at Expo. And they all said they are planning to attend next year in Palm Springs — I hope California's ready for us!"

Selling agricultural aircraft — crop dusters — 30 years ago was another world, and a lot of fun, says author Ralph Hood. "It was airports with no tower, no unicom, no pavement, and no location on any map. It was navigating from Kansas to Mississippi and from Pennsylvania to Alabama with no radio at all and no — repeat, no — gyros. It was dealing with independent people who could rebuild airplanes, fly under wires, talk cotton crops with farmers, discuss bugs with entomologists, and argue engines with the factory tech rep. It was a world of tough airplanes and tough people, and I enjoyed them both." Hood's story, " The Bent Prop," page 95, is just one of many that he says he will never forget.

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