The article featuring the Ercoupe (" Budget Buy: Friendly Flier," March Pilot) is not only timely, informative, and brilliantly well-written, but also maintains all the integrity intended by Fred Weick when he designed the aircraft. This little gem has been, unfortunately, the victim of much criticism, mostly because the majority of Ercoupes are flown without rudder pedals, which to some translates into not being a "real" airplane. However, not only is it always fun and exciting to fly — a true show-stopper wherever it goes — but without question it is also the most relaxing and safest airplane I have ever flown and owned. Your sensitive treatment of this magnificent bird is refreshing.
My father invited me to fly with him in his Ercoupe to Ida Grove, Iowa, for a half-scale radio-controlled airshow. As president of the Ercoupe Owners Association, my dad had several friends with 'Coupes. Four others flew with us that day. When we arrived, in loose formation, we were given the front row of the static display. The five pilots buttoned up their airplanes and quickly walked away. I held back, even though I was not a pilot at the time. Soon there were half a dozen guys around asking about the airplanes and telling their stories of flying a 'Coupe. I noticed the five pilots laughing at me from a distance. I asked what was funny. They told me that everyone has an Ercoupe story and if you stayed by the airplane long enough you would never get your tent up or get to dinner. I think Pilot's story reveals that to be true.
What a delightful report on that handsome Ercoupe on the March cover. I'm probably only one of thousands of members who looked at that $2,665 price for a factory-new 1946 airplane and bemoaned inflation. According to the Consumer Price Index, that 1946 price would be around $25,840 in today's dollars. Wouldn't it be great to buy a factory-new, light-sport-legal Ercoupe for the price of a medium-priced pickup? Even one built to the original, no-nonsense design would have thousands of us in line to buy it — and I'd be at the front.
I really enjoyed the article on the Ercoupe family. Even though this aircraft isn't often thought of as racy, the legendary ace Greg Boyington is pictured boarding one in his autobiography Baa Baa Blacksheep. If it was good enough for a battle-proven Marine, I think the Ercoupes must be great airplanes.
A smile crossed my face as I read Mark Twombly's article in the March issue (" Pilotage: Answering Age-Old Questions"). At about Mark's age, I seem to get along with most controllers' instructions, with the exception of those who seemingly spend their time as auctioneers during their off-duty hours. In my case, however, I have found my nemesis to be instrument approach plates. Jeppesen does a great job of providing a well-organized format, but I can't remember the approach information to save my soul. While I can fly a variety of approaches safely, I find myself referring to the approach plate every few seconds because I can't seem to memorize the step-down altitudes, the minimum descent altitude, and the missed approach procedure. Other short-term information issues in business (and life in general) do not cause me this type of grief — only instrument approach plates. While this may be partially because of psychosomatic issues (wanting to nail the approach perfectly and some self-imposed pressure to do so), there may be an age-related catalyst in there as well. Mark is not alone in this short-recall information challenge.
Thanks for Alton K. Marsh's article in March's "Pilot Briefing" (" Talking in Fixes") on some of our more colorful fix names. I fly the panhandle of Florida frequently, and one of my favorites is HEVVN Intersection southeast of Tallahassee. Although I've never been through it, I've always fancied how nice it would be to have a controller clear me to HEVVN. Earlier this week on a trip to Orlando, I heard an Angel Flight departing Ocala check-in with Jacksonville Center. After radar contact was established, everyone on the frequency was delighted to hear, "Angel Flight 430, you are cleared direct HEVVN, direct." How appropriate.
"Talking in Fixes" got me wondering what music lover at the FAA charting office put the fixes KADIE and LANGE within three nm of each other just north of Van Nuys Airport, California.
If you fly the full RNAV (GPS) 16 approach into Pease International Tradeport in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, you pass through the following fixes in sequence (chuckling the whole way): ITAWT ITAWA PUDYE TTATT IDEED. Who says the FAA has no sense of humor?
In the article " Answers for Pilots: Military Training Routes" (March Pilot) the author made a common mistake. He stated, "Instrument routes are flown under instrument flight rules above 1,500 feet agl." He further stated that visual routes are flown under visual rules "on or below 1,500 feet agl." MTR operations are flown from the surface, up to the top of the route structure. So for a route with a 5,000-msl top, you could encounter a fast jet anywhere from 100 agl to 5,000 msl. The vast majority of MTR operations in fast jets occur from 500 to 1,000 feet agl in visual meteorological conditions (VMC) at 480 to 540 knots groundspeed. When the weather is less than VMC, operations on instrument routes (IRs) will be at the top of the block (or in the weather at low altitude using terrain-following radar). I suggest that readers log on to the AOPA Air Safety Foundation online course "Mission: Possible." It has a detailed section on special-use airspace and MTRs.
MTR altitudes are defined by number, not IR or VR. Pilot regrets the error. — the Editors
I read Tom Haines' article " Waypoints: Dream Job" (March Pilot). I get the feeling that Haines wonders what it would have been like if he had joined the ranks as an airline pilot. Let me point out the downsides so he can rest assured that his job is something I would describe as a "dream."
I loved to fly before I came to the airlines. Flying is now just a job and I dread going to work to push the same buttons all day long.
Haines wrote, "The average salary of a captain flying the largest airliners is $171,732, according to AIR, Inc. The captain of a widebody at United Airlines, for example, makes about $171,000." This is misleading. This job is yours after years and years of sacrifice, personal financial commitment, and, most important, a lot of luck. Thousands of pilots apply every year to the legacy carriers, and while financially rewarding in the long run, earning that interview is very costly. The average regional first officer makes less than $35,000 per year, often far less. I have friends making just more than $18,000 in pre-tax dollars in their first year with loan repayment in excess of $900 per month.
A new hire at a regional carrier can expect to sit anywhere from one to five years in the right seat before earning the chance to sit and log pilot-in-command turbine time, which is the only way to a major airline. You can be stuck in low-cost regional land for a long time.
I spent $62,000 for training, which is far less than most of my friends, who average $70,000 to $100,000 of debt. My monthly loan payment for that education is more than $500. I have moved four times (with money out of my own pocket) in order to keep my career moving forward. My monthly paycheck resembles that of a part-time high school student at McDonald's, and people in the back of my airplane think I am swimming in money.
I have never met a fellow airline pilot who didn't have a story about either a divorce, furlough, bankruptcy, personal debt, or relocation. This job took away my love of flying and that is the thing I regret. I remember what it was like to read Haines' articles every month before I wore the stripes, and no matter how many bad things people told me, I always thought I would have the "dream job."
Haines' job is the real "dream" (stable, still love to fly, get to talk about it all day, and get paid).
Tom Haines made some good points about aviation career paths in general but forgot about the corporate world opportunities. As a former major and regional airline pilot for many years, I finally found stability in the corporate world. After three furloughs in a 14-year airline career, I knew it was time to move on. The corporate world has many advantages over today's "Wal-Marts" of airlines. In many cases the corporate world has better aircraft, more interesting places to fly, fewer actual working days per month, and most large-cabin corporate pilots are making higher salaries than your average major airline captain.
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